21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

     Jos 24:1-2A, 15-17, 18B/PS 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21/Eph 5: 2A, 25-32/Jn6:60-90

     Do you believe the Bible to be true? Do you take Jesus at His word? Jesus tells us that we must eat His body and Drink His blood to have eternal life and so to be Christians, to be followers of Christ, we must profess that the Eucharist which we are about to consume is Jesus Himself, not some representation, some symbol or some simple remembrance, but Jesus Himself. Just after saying that we must eat His body and drink His blood, St. John recounts that many of Jesus’ disciples left Him and returned to their former way of life. If Jesus were just speaking figuratively don’t you think He would have called back those who were leaving Him saying something like “hold on, I was just speaking figuratively, it’s not really my body, it only symbolizes my body.” Well Jesus says what He means and means what He says. Today are confronted with the truth that the bread and wine, which will be brought up in a few short moments, will cease to be bread and wine and through the power of Christ Himself will become the Body and Blood of Christ. Are we going to run away with the others or take Jesus at His word and fall to our knees and profess our faith. If we take Jesus at His word and believe He is truly present in the Eucharist then doesn’t it demand a practical response in our lives?

     There is a tradition in the Catholic Church that a priest’s parents give him a chalice, the cup that is used to hold the precious blood at Mass, as an ordination gift. My mom, knowing that the chalice actually holds God Himself, insisted that she buy me the nicest chalice she could find. While I was shopping around, out of nowhere a box arrived for me at the seminary. When I opened the box I found a gorgeous 100 year old chalice and a note offering me the chalice with a request that the donors remain anonymous. Wanting the best care for the chalice I decided to send it the experts in New York to have it appraised and to have a family diamond attached to it. Not wanting to risk anything and unable to insure it without an appraisal I decided to fly with it to New York, to visit the store. I wrapped the chalice in a few fleece blankets and locked it in securely to my carry on case. Since I’m privileged to have Global Entry I thought nothing about going through security with it so tightly wrapped but, unfortunately TSA became suspicious of my bag, because of how it was packed, so they made me take out the chalice. The sight of the shinning gold cup with rubies on it caught the glimpse of the person in line after me and he asked me how I could spend so much money on a cup when there are so many starving people in the world. As I packed the chalice up and walked to my gate I continued the discussion by agreeing with him that all Christians need to do more to relieve the physical sufferings of others, but that we as Catholics believe the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ. Since Jesus Himself will dwell in this cup I told him that it only made sense that the chalice should be best that money can buy. After all doesn’t it make perfect sense that since Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, we should only use precious metals to hold Him? While Jesus will come and rest on the vessels of gold and silver, He will also come to dwell inside of us as well. If we should only use the finest materials to hold Jesus on the altar, then shouldn’t our bodies be the most pure possible receive Jesus?

     St. Paul reminds us that, “whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup,” [1] With this exhortation in mind, the Church reminds Catholics that they should not receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin. That is to say if we have committed a grave sin, that we knew was wrong, and we did it freely, we should not receive Communion until that sin is forgiven in the sacrament of Confession.

     While it is certainly sad when Catholics receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin it pains me just as much to see Catholics stay away from Communion when often times their situation can be rectified. Pope Francis has called for a year of Mercy, a year for us to come and experience the healing and forgiveness that God extends to His people in the Church. Perhaps you find yourself in a state of mortal sin and unable to get to the scheduled times for Confession, well call me and we will set up a time that works for you. Perhaps you find yourself hearing all this talk in the news surrounding the Synod in Rome about the Church and divorce and you find yourself in that situation. Well rather than listening to what non-Catholics are saying on the news, why not meet with me? While I can’t solve every problem I can promise you that I will listen to you without judgment and then do everything in my power and use every tool at my disposal to help rectify any situation you find yourself in.

     Jesus is a straight shooter and He is clear, unless we eat His Flesh and drink His Blood we cannot have eternal life. Every time we receive Holy Communion God literally comes to dwell inside of us. Are we prepared to receive Him? If not what do we need to do to be able to receive that essential spiritual nourishment?

[1] 1 Cor 11:27-28

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

EX 16:2-4, 12-15 / PS 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54 / EPH 4:17, 20-24 / JN 6:24-35

      I love food, but I learned the hard way sometime back that food is about more than simple enjoyment. In 8th grade, while playing goalie in a soccer game, I dove for a ball as the attacker was on a breakaway. As the striker unleashed a shot I grabbed the ball and his foot hit the corner of my jaw. Standing up and pulling dirt out of my mouth, because I couldn’t spit, I knew something was wrong, but the dentist father of one of my teammates assured my mom that I could not have broken my jaw.

     Trusting the dentist and not wanting to waste a trip to the doctor my mom ignored my injury. After two days my mom noticed that I was not eating and decided perhaps she should take me to see a doctor. I remember sitting in the oral surgeon’s office listening to him tell me there was no way I broke my jaw, yet I was vindicated when he came back after reading the x-ray to humbly admit he was wrong, that my jaw was in fact broken. Sadly the joy of vindication was short lived because I was stuck on a strictly liquid diet for 6 weeks. At first I didn’t think that would be too bad, after all what 8th grader wouldn’t love to have milkshakes all the time for 6 weeks. Yet after a couple of days of only drinking milkshakes I knew I needed something else. No matter how many milkshakes I slurped down, I never felt full and no matter how many milkshakes I drank the hunger pains and headaches didn’t go away, so needing to switch to something more nutritious and I found myself reluctantly drinking meal supplement shakes. Now I don’t know if you have ever had that Ensure or Boost meal supplement stuff, but if you have, I think you would agree with me that while it comes in different flavors in reality it is simply different flavors of nasty. When I first began the liquid diet I couldn’t stand the supplement shakes but in time I began to warm up to them, because they began to taste better, but because of what they did for my body. Regardless of how bad those shakes tasted, they took away my hunger cravings and the hunger headaches allowing me to live my life to the fullest.

     You and I are composed of a body and a soul and thus it is essential that we feed both our physical bodies and our souls. While we are blessed to live in a country that enables us to have great physical foods, we are even more blessed that God Himself provides food to sustain our souls. God, our Father, provides the most perfect spiritual food possible, the very Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

     While at times all of us can be tempted to think that the Mass is boring, it is in this Mass that God provides for our spiritual nourishment. There are countless people who leave the Catholic Church because the preaching is better at the Protestant Church down the street, or they feel that they get nothing out of Mass. While they may be right, the preaching is probably better at the Protestant churches down the street and perhaps they feel like they don’t get anything out of Mass, to leave the Catholic Church is to run away from the only perfect source of nourishment for our spiritual lives, Jesus Christ Himself. After all no other Church can provide the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ and no other church even dares to claim that they do.

     If you read the Gospel account of the Last Supper you will notice Jesus did not say, ‘this is a symbol of my body or this represents my body,’ no, He said, “THIS IS MY BODY.” Likewise He did not say ‘this is a symbol of my blood,” but rather “THIS IS MY BLOOD.” To believe the Eucharist is simply a symbol of Christ makes absolutely no sense. After all even the Protestants agree that Jesus says what He means and means what He says. So if He says it is His Body and Blood, who are we to question Him? In two weeks we will hear Jesus tells us in the Gospel that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.”[1] Just after saying that we must eat His body and drink His blood, St. John recounts that many of Jesus’ disciples left Him and returned to their former way of life. If Jesus was just speaking figuratively don’t you think He would have called back those who were leaving Him saying something like “hold on, it’s not really my body, it only symbolizes my body.”

     Friends we can be tempted to settle for the spiritual milkshake, while God is holding out for us true nourishment. While, in 8th grade, I wanted the milkshake to nourish my physical body because I enjoyed it more, I came to realize that it didn’t satisfy me at all. So too in our spiritual lives we may feel tempted to turn towards a lesser form of nourishment, but in reality the only thing that will truly satisfy our souls is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, which we receive each time we receive Holy Communion. While those meal supplement shakes were boring, and I sometimes wanted a different kind of food, they provided the nourishment that I needed and while the Mass at times may seem boring it is the only sure way to nourish our souls on their journey to eternal life and over time, if we faithfully embrace the Mass, we will find great meaning in it just as I came to appreciate the meal supplements. My brothers and sisters it is really quite simple, if we take Jesus at His word in the Scriptures we have no choice but to admit that the Eucharist is truly His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and since we know that there can be no greater sustenance for our spiritual lives than the Body of Christ, we can find no excuse to skip Mass on Sunday, or worse to leave the Catholic Church, after all it is only the Catholic Church who claims to actually feed our immortal souls with the Body of Christ which Jesus tells us in the Gospel of St. John is required to have life inside of us. Even if at times we feel like settling for the lesser, more entertaining nourishment, we must come to the Catholic Church and receive our true sustenance in Holy Communion.

[1] Jn 6:53

HOW TO OVERCOME TIMES OF ABANDONMENT

     Anyone who is committed to living out their faith knows that sometimes are easier than other times. There are times when God feels close, often called times of consolation, and there are times when God seems distant, often called times of desolation. While ups and downs in the spiritual life are normal, it is important to know how to recognize the causes and be able to navigate through times of desolation. This short response aims to explain how to remain on the spiritual path when God seems distant.

     To navigate the spiritual journey in times of desolation it is helpful to know what causes spiritual desolation. Since times of consolation and desolation refer to a person’s relationship with God it is clear that there are two parties involved, God and the human person. So these moments of desolation can be either caused by God or the human person. To truly investigate the cause of a particular moment of desolation it is essential to have a clear understanding of God’s relationship with His people and an understanding of the human person.

     God, who is all loving, never turns away from His people. His grace is always being poured into the soul as long as the soul doesn’t reject it through sin. Yet God, in His infinite knowledge may decide to shield the rays of His love from a soul for a while, making it hard to recognize Him because He knows this will ultimately lead us closer to Him. This spiritual crisis is often called the dark night. In the dark night God permits a soul to feel no emotional satisfaction or consolation in prayer. By removing the consolation God purifies the soul leading it to an ever closer relationship with Himself. Through the dark night God purifies the individual soul so that it seeks not worldly or selfish needs, but only true union with God. Since God only gives His people what they can endure, this dark night usually only comes after the soul has an established a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of the great saints including Mother Teresa, St. Theresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross experienced a prolonged dark night, which they viewed as a gift from God because they understood, not only its purifying power, but also their close intimate relationship with Christ. They knew, after proper discernment, that their dark night was a gift from God, and that the infinitely bright light of perfect union with God was about to break through.

     While the dark night can be permitted by God for the good of a soul, people should not jump to conclusions that their desolation is in fact the dark night. Since prayer is relationship with God, the desolation can be caused by God or by the human being. Each human person is created by God with a body and a soul that is intimately united to each another. The actions of the soul deeply affect the body and the actions of the body affect the soul, so the times of desolation can either be rooted in the soul or the body.

     Since prayer at its core is, union with God, the way a person lives his life effects his relationship with God. Sin, the rejection of God’s love, turns a person away from God and can be the cause of desolation in his life. While a mortal sin immediately cuts the soul off from the body of Christ, even venial sins cause a rupture in one’s relationship with God. Desolation is most often caused by a wounded relationship between a person who has committed many venial sins or by a person who has cut himself off from by the Body of Christ through mortal sin. The first step for anyone who feels abandoned by God must be to humbly admit that he is probably the cause of that separation and he needs to make a serious examination of his life and go to the Sacrament of Confession.

     Created with a body and soul that is intimately connected, what affects the body often affects the soul and can lead to moments of desolation. Sickness, added stress, an unhealthy lifestyle, bad habits etc. not only effects the body but also the soul, because what is bad for the body is bad for the soul. For example if someone is suffering from exhaustion, they may attempt to pray, but their exhaustion will keep them from feeling any connection to God. Thus anyone who feels that God is distant should look at their lifestyle and see if there may be a need to a lifestyle change to allow them to more perfectly commune with God.

     Even after one has prudently discerned what may be causing the desolation and begins to make necessary changes like going to confession or reducing stress, the desolation may remain for a period of time. Regardless of the reason for feeling abandoned in prayer it is important to continue crying out to God. The temptation of someone in desolation is to pray more or to undertake a greater penance, but St. Ignatius of Loyola counsels against this, arguing that the person should focus on being committed to the spiritual practices that were already in place before the desolation began.[1] The ultimate key to enduring times of desolation is patience. Having made a prudent discernment, often with the help of a spiritual director, that the individual is free from sin and from other physical distractions he should place his complete trust in God and proceed with his spiritual practices knowing that God is sustaining the soul even in the darkness.

[1] St. Ignatius of Loyola. Living the Discerning Life: The Spiritual Teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Available at http://www.ewtn.com/series/shows/living-the-discerning-life/download/14rulesofIgnatius.pdf

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

     Ez 2:2-5 / PS 123:1-2, 2, 3-4 / 2 Cor 12: 7-10 / Mk 6:1-6

     Yesterday we celebrated the 239th birthday of our great nation. As I celebrated with family and friends I could not help but be thankful that we live in a country founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet as I celebrated the great freedom of our country I could not help but recall that those freedoms are not free. Like many of you, I am privileged to count among my friends many men and women who sacrifice so much, including some friends who have paid the ultimate price, to defend the freedom of our great country so that you and I might be free to come here and worship today.

     As I think of the countless men and women who have given their lives to protect our freedoms as Americans, I cannot help but pause for a moment to ask myself a very basic question. What is that wonderful gift of freedom that we are celebrating this weekend? Sadly many people in our society summarize freedom by saying something like “it’s my life, my body, I can do what I want; I’m free.” Yet if this is freedom our Founding Fathers created utter chaos and countless men and women have died to protect pure madness. For if freedom is the unbridled ability to do whatever we want then freedom leads to people killing other people, to people stealing others property, and to people oppressing others in every imaginable way. As Americans the true notion of freedom is engrained in us and deep down we know true freedom cannot simply be the license to do whatever we want, after all we don’t riot or protest when someone is rightly arrested for murder, theft, etc. Others want to limit freedom to the ability to do something as long as it doesn’t harm others. Yet even you and I know this still can’t be the true meaning of freedom. Why do we step in and have an intervention when one of our friends becomes an alcoholic, or an addict, why do we step in to prevent a high school teenager from continuing with her eating disorder, or to keep a depressed man from committing suicide? We rightly step in because the license to do whatever we want does not lead to freedom, it leads to the exact opposite, it leads to slavery. Ask any recovering addict if his unbridled ability to continue in his addiction was leading to freedom and he will tell you it was only leading to slavery.

     Our country was founded on a greater principle than simply man should be able to do whatever he wants. Countless men and women have died to protect the genius of the Founding Fathers that recognized man is meant to be free, free to live in truth and goodness.  What has made America exceptional is not that we are better than other people. But that for the first time, in a world that for the vast majority of its history had only known tyranny, servitude and serfdom, a system was established that allowed man the greatest opportunity to fulfill his potential as made in the image and likeness of God; and to allow this example to be a witness and call to freedom for mankind everywhere.  Look at the results!  Look at our unparalleled standard of living!

     Still, despite this offering of freedom that is the essence of the Gospel, many people continue to take offense at this Good News and reject it just as our Lord’s own people took offense to the truth and rejected Him in today’s Gospel. People continue to reject the call to holiness, which necessarily places limits on our human actions, because they are afraid that unless they can do whatever they want, they will not be truly free; but this way of thinking fails to understand that this idea of freedom does not make one free, but slaves, slaves to sin.  Slaves to the bottle, to lust and pornography, to drugs, food, anger, take your pick; every manner of vice and addiction has its roots in this false notion of freedom. It seems to me the most free people I have witnessed are those who live holy lives. I can think of no one more free than Mother Theresa or Pope Saint John Paul II.  True freedom, the freedom that God offers us, the freedom for which Jesus died to give us is the freedom to do good, to be unimpeded and unhindered in being who God created us to be, children of God in His own image and likeness, to be the most perfect self we can become.

     You see the principle of freedom does not mean that God has no place in this country. No our founding fathers knew that to remove God from the notion of freedom was to cease to have freedom at all. After all “the highest freedom is the yes in conformity with God’s will.”[1] Our Founding Fathers built a nation with the understanding that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[2] Freedom, must be something greater than the ability to do whatever we want. Freedom then, is nothing less than the call to greatness.

     God has abundantly blessed our country; more so than in other nation in the history of the world.  We owe it to God and to the rest of humanity to strive for goodness and excellence and to make that opportunity available to others.  If we want America to be great, then it starts right here, with individuals, with you and me.  Do we choose to become a better, my more perfect self, more holy person?  Do we choose to believe, to have faith that Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life?  Or do I take offense at Him?  For it is only through good and free individuals, that a society is good and free.  And it is only in God and His Freedom, that a nation becomes great.

[1] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010. Pg 62.

[2] Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

The Remarraige of Faith and Reason

     Real truth points to and is preserved by God such that faith and reason used together may discover truth. Faith and reason are “two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”[1] This paper aims to show that both academia and the common man have wrongly divorced philosophy and theology. Secondly it will attempt to show that there is a natural and necessary relationship between faith and reason. Lastly this paper will demonstrate that the unity of faith and reason, not the divorce, helps one see man, not as another beast, but as a man with a higher end in life.

     In recent times scholars have wrongly attempted to divorce philosophy from theology. There are many contemporary thinkers who hold that one’s religious beliefs are subjective and have no place in the objective world of academia. They hold that faith and reason are not compatible. This position results in an academic culture that rejects any notion of God for “[Academia’s] brand of scholarship forbids God access to the world.”[2]

     The Catholic Church, however, holds that faith and reason are compatible both faith and reason are rooted in God Himself, in whom there is no contradiction. “It is the one and the same God who establishes and guarantees the intelligibility and reasonableness of the natural order of things upon which scientists confidently depend.”[3] There is one God who is the Way, the Truth and the Life,[4] not a god of faith alongside a god of science.

     Taking as its starting point the fact that God exists, a point that can be demonstrated by reason without the aid of faith, the Catholic Church makes it clear that by leaving God out of academia, scholars run the risk of discovering either wrong or incomplete truths.[5] The Church does not promote fideism, the replacing of reason by faith. Nor does She promote scientism, “the philosophical notion which refuses to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences; and it relegates religious, theological, ethical and aesthetic knowledge to the realm of mere fantasy.”[6]

     Since God exists and is the source of all knowledge it is impossible for there to be a contradiction between faith and reason because this would imply a contradiction in the source of truth, God[7] “In God there lies the origin of all things; in him is found the fullness of the mystery and in his glory consists; to men and woman there falls the task of exploring truth with their reason.”[8] The fullness of truth resides in God and man comes to learn that truth through his God – given gift of reason. Reason assists faith and faith assists reason.

     The Church has no philosophy of her own. She promotes any line of thinking that requires both faith and reason working together to lead on to a more complete understanding of truths.  Yet the works of St. Thomas Aquinas and scholastic through are often taken as a guide because they are essentially tied to the marriage of faith and reason.[9]

     Those who wish to divorce theology from philosophy argue that one should use only his gift of reason with no assent to faith. These thinkers are correct in noting that it is not contrary to man for him to use his reason. What separates man from brute animals is his capacity for reasoning. All men should make use of their gift of reason.  “Reason is God’s greatest gift to man, and the victory of reason over unreason is also the goal of the Christian Life.”[10] These proponents of divorcing theology and philosophy, have, however, while correctly recognizing the capacity of man to reason, rejected a notion of metaphysics. For some of these thinkers only those things that can be empirically proven should be taken as true. They argue that the mathematical fact 2+2 = 4 is true because it can be empirically demonstrated while the existence of an angel is not true, because it cannot not be empirically proven to be true.

     Even some thinkers who believe in the existence of God claim that philosophy and theology are two separate subjects and as such should never interact with each other. This claim is absurd because all sciences interact with each other. Medicine, for example, requires the science of chemistry to assist in fighting diseases with drugs and physics requires the use of mathemetics for its theorems.

     It is proper for the science of philosophy to accompany theology and all the other sciences because it is the science of first principles and ultimate causes. “Philosophy is the science which by the natural light of reason studies the first causes or highest principles of all things, in other words, the science of things in their first causes, in so far as these belong to the natural order.”[11] Since philosophy is the study of things in their first causes it is proper for philosophy to accompany theology. “It is the particular responsibility of philosophy to accompany critically the development of individual academic disciplines, shedding a critical light on premature conclusions and apparent certainties.”[12]

     While the supereme being, God, is studied in both theology and philosophy, it cannot be forgotten that theology and philosophy are distinct subjects, each with their own distinct procedures which must be followed. One should not use the procedures of philosophy to do theology and vice a versa. “Even when it engages theology, philosophy must remain faithful to its principles and methods.”[13]

    Philosophy and theology are two distinct sciences which are united and necessarily relate to each other. Simply because philosophy and theology are distinct sciences should not imply that their fields cannot including the subject matter of the others science while respecting the procedures of each science. Faith and reason have reciprocal relationships; truth is discovered by faith and reason working together. Pope Benedict XVI is correct when he claims “reason and faith need one another in order to fulfill their true nature and their mission.”[14]

      Since both theology and philosophy are the study of one and the same truth, there is an inseparable correlation between faith and reason. Pope Benedict XVI summarized this correlation between faith and reason best when he claimed “I believe in order to understand and I understand the better to believe.”[15] Theology and philosophy, while separate sciences matters, are so closely linked in their subject matter. It is impossible to do theology without philosophy and impossible for a truth of philosophy to contradict a truth of theology.

       Through one’s use of reason, his faith is nurtured through every one of his experiences. “Let your faith mature through your studies, work, sport, and art.”[16] One’s relationship with God, faith, is also either nurtured or hindered by one’s everyday experiences. “The ultimate purpose of personal existence, then, is the theme of philosophy and theology alike.”[17]

     Theology and philosophy are enhanced when they are accompanied by each other. Pope John Paul II correctly claims that one cannot discuss theological issues without the assistance of philosophy. “Without philosophy’s contribution, it would in fact be impossible to discuss theological issues.”[18]

     For philosophy and theology to mutually benefit each other it must be shown that what Pope John Paul II teaches dogmatically in his encyclical letter Fides et Ratio, namely that there is no contradiction between faith and reason is true. “This truth, which God reveals to us in Jesus Christ, is not opposed to the truths which philosophy perceives. On the contrary, the two modes of knowledge lead to truth in all its fullness.”[19] The pontiff says faith and reason are not opposed to each other, rather they are complimentary, and further he warns that  they ought not be separated from each other for this would deter the discovery of truth. “Therefore, reason and faith cannot be separated without diminishing the capacity of men and women to know themselves, the world and God in an appropriate way.”[20]

     Reason assists faith by purifying and structuring her message. “Religion must continually allow itself to be purified and structured by reason.”[21] Philosophy specifically serves theology through the study of the structure of knowledge and personal communication by enabling one to speak about the issues of theology in a universal way. Philosophical thought enables one to truly understand what is meant by faith because nature is the first stage of divine revelation.[22] While God clearly places within every human heart the desire to know Him and reveals Himself to every human person, the human person first comes to experience God through the senses. “This is to recognize as a first stage of divine revelation the marvelous book of nature.”[23] Everything that we know is first known through our senses. Philosophy grasps the truth by assisting in the understanding both “the logical and conceptual structure of the propositions in which the Church’s teaching is framed.”[24] Through the use of reason one is able to understand more clearly the messages of faith.

     The claim that philosophy aids the study of theology is not a claim that truths revealed to us by faith are created by human reason. “The truth made known to us by reason is neither the product nor the consummation of an argument devised by human reason.”[25] Faith, unlike reason, is not of human origin, it is not an innate capacity. It is a gift of God.

     Faith also assists reason while remaining loyal to its own science of theology. “It (faith) does not replace reason but can help to make essential values more evident.”[26] Human reason without the aid of faith, still comes up with an incomplete or wrong truth. “Philosophy has good reasons to be willing to learn from religious traditions.”[27] Faith supplies the element of truth, which can then be used by philosophy to give a greater understanding of the article of faith. “Not only is faith the mother of all worldly energies, but its foes are the fathers of all worldly confusion.”[28] Much of the confusion in the world of academia stems from the rejection of faith.

     Faith serves philosophy by challenging the philosopher to move beyond the natural to demonstrate the truth found in God, to not stop short of the whole truth by accepting only what is visible to him. “Of itself, philosophy is able to recognize the human being’s ceaselessly self-transcendent orientation toward the truth; and with the assistance of faith, it is capable of accepting the foolishness of the cross as the authentic critique of those who delude themselves that they possess the truth.”[29] Because in God rests the origin and the fullness of all things without faith, the philosopher cannot do philosophy to its fullest. “[Faith] impels reason to extend the range of its knowledge until it senses that it has done all in its power, leaving no stone unturned.”[30]

     While it is true that reason alone can demonstrate truths about God, by reason alone one cannot come to the whole truth about God. “Reason therefore needs faith if it is to be completely itself.”[31] Aristotle for example was able to prove the existence of God. Aristotle, however, was unable to come to the whole picture about God, for example the Trinity. While reason can begin to explain the Trinity, by demonstrating the existence of a God, it cannot demonstrate the existence of the Trinity. Aristotle was able to prove God’s existence through reason, but unable to prove how many gods there were, let alone that there are three Persons in one God. While later philosophers may have been able to prove the existence of a monotheistic God, it is impossible to demonstrate by reason alone the existence of the Trinity.

    The unity of faith and reason, not the divorce, helps us see man not as another beast, but as a man with a higher end in life. This relationship between faith and reason is seen clearly in the question of whether or not virginity is a virtue. The debate about the virtuosity of virginity is a strong example of how philosophy helps explain truths of the faith and how articles of faith give insights into philosophical truths. Virginity is “continence whereby integrity of the flesh is vowed, consecrated and observed in honor of the creator of both soul and flesh.”[32] It will be shown that attempting to answer this question about the virtuousness of virginity, with only the use of reason brings us to a wrong conclusion, while answering this question with reason in the light of faith brings one to a conclusion that is both logical and true.

     The Bible mentions that virginity is a virtuous act. “With respect to virgins, I have not received any commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who is trustworthy, thanks to the Lord’s mercy. It is this: In the present time of stress it seems good to me for a person to continue as he is.”[33] While the Bible clearly teaches that there is at minimum nothing wrong with virginity some thinkers see a contradiction here between faith and reason. Many fundamentalists argue that virginity is sinful because goes against the law of nature that man is ordered to procreate.

     A recent online petition, asking Pope Benedict XVI to lift the ban of priestly celibacy is a strong demonstration of the errors that can arise when faith and reason are not applied properly to each other.[34] This petition misrepresents St. Thomas Aquinas’s doctrine of natural law and tries to assert that all men should engage in sexual activity if they desire to follow the natural law. While the author of this petition doctors up St. Thomas’s teaching on natural in pseudo academic way he never does demonstrate exactly how it is that living a celibate life goes against the natural law.

    St. Thomas, a Catholic philosopher, who recognized the vital role of faith in the pursuit of reason, was in fact, able to demonstrate that virginity is not immoral and is not opposed to the Bible. St. Thomas agrees that things are wrong if they go against right reason, but demonstrated virginity does not go against right reason because it is ordered towards a supernatural end which is possible because man is not merely a natural creature, but possesses a soul which is supernatural.[35]

     Using Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, St. Thomas demonstrated that the  good for a man is threefold, the good of external things, bodily goods, and goods of the soul. These goods are hierarchical because the external goods are ordered to the bodily goods, and the bodily goods are ordered to the goods of the soul.[36]

       The purpose of celibacy is not simply to abstain from sexual intercourse for the sake of abstaining from sexual intercourse, but rather it is ordered towards an end, that is the good of the soul. Celibacy is to be undertaken for the sake of the kingdom of God. “Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.”[37] Man understands well the idea of forgoing lower goods for higher goods. An athlete, for example, forgoes the good of certain foods which would hinder his athletic performance.

     The kingdom of heaven, an eternal good is greater, than the good of the world. It follows then that a man or woman who gives up his ability to love in the exclusive way that marriage requires out of love and sacrifice for God is living a life that is perfectly ordered, and is doing a virtuous act.

     Without faith in the kingdom of heaven, one is unable to come to the understanding that virginity is good. Thinking simply with human reason, a reason that is restricted to this world, leads one to the wrong conclusion because it leaves out an important variable, the supernatural variable, the kingdom of heaven, that to which the soul is ordered.

     To believe that faith and reason are opposed to each other is to settle for incomplete truths or even falsities. In the case of virginity, without an article of faith that the soul will live on after the death of the human person, one arrives at the false belief that virginity is not a virtuous act. “Of itself, philosophy is able to recognize the human beings ceaselessly self-transcendent orientation toward the truth; and with the assistance of faith it is capable of accepting the foolishness of the cross as the authentic critique of those who delude themselves that they possess the truth.”[38] With faith and reason working together properly one comes to an understanding about the beauty of virginity.

     Philosophy itself is only able to go so far without the assistance of faith; however with an understanding of faith the truth is a reveled. Through the correct use of mans abilities for reason and the gift of faith one is able to comprehend the truth. When faith and reason are divorced the door is opened to error. By using both faith and reason one comes to understand the beauty of virginity.

[1] John Paul II, “Encyclical Letter on the relationship between Faith and Reason” Fides et Ratio (14 September 1998), Greeting.

[2] Ratzinger Joseph Cardinal, On the Way to Jesus Christ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), 63.

[3] Fides et ratio, §34 (Boston: Saint Paul Books and Media, 1998), 47.

[4] Jn 14:6

[5] For Philosophical proofs for the existence of God see St. Thomas Aquinas’s 5 proofs found in the Summa Theologica Ia, q. 2, a. 3.

[6] Fides et ratio, § 88.

[7] For a philosophical proof for the existence of God please see again St. Thomas Aquinas’s 5 proofs for the existence of God found in the Summa Theologica Ia, q. 2, a. 3. For an explanation of how it is that God is the source of all knowledge please see the section on St. Thomas in Pasnau, Robert, “Divine Illumination”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/illumination/&gt;.

[8] Fides et Ratio, § 17.

[9] Fides et ratio, § 49-56.

[10] Spe Salve, § 23.

[11] Maritain Jacques, An Introduction to Philosophy (Lanham: Oxford, 2005), 69.

[12] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Jurgen Habermas, The Dialects of Secularization On Reason and Religion (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 57.

[13] Fides et Ratio, § 40.

[14] Pope Benedict XVI, “Encyclical on Hope” Spe Salve  (18 March 2011), §23, at The Holy See, http://www.vatican.va

[15] Ratzinger, On the Way to Jesus Christ, 158.

[16] Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the youth at the vigil with the young people during World Youth Day on July 19th  2008 (18 March 2011), at The Holy See, http://www.vatican.va.

[17] Fides et Ratio, § 15.

[18] Fides et Ratio, § 66.

[19] Fides et Ratio, § 34.

[20] Fides et Ratio, § 16.

[21] Ratzinger Europe Today and Tomorrow  (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 80.

[22] Fides et Ratio, § 5.

[23] Fides et Ratio, § 19.

[24] Fides et Ratio, § 66.

[25] Fides et Ratio, § 14.

[26] Ratzinger, Europe Today and Tomorrow, 66.

[27] Ratzinger and Habermas, The Dialects, 42.

[28] Chesterton G.K., Orthodoxy (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007), 132.

[29] Fides et Ratio, § 23.

[30] Fides et Ratio, § 14

[31] Spe Salve, § 23.

[32] Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 152, a. 1, in Summa theologica: Complete English Edition in Five Volumes, vol. 4, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Notre Dame, IN: Christian Classics, 1981).

[33] The New American Bible. Catholic Biblical Association of America, ed. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1970. 1Cor 7:25-26

[34] The petition can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/celibacy/

[35] ST, II-II, q. 152, a. 2, trans. English Dominican Province.ST II-II 152.2

[36] ST, II-II, q. 152, a. 2, trans. English Dominican Province.ST II-II 152.2

[37] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 1619.

[38] Fides et Ratio, § 23.

Response to the Supreme Court Ruling on Homosexual Marraige

     As a man of faith I believe that every human person is deserving of love, justice and equality. Yet it is precisely because I believe in love, justice and equality for all that watching the legalization of homosexual marriage in our great country tears my heart apart. Love, justice and equality must be rooted in truth and today’s decision by our nation’s highest court has attempted to warp our nation’s founding principles of justice and equality for all by twisting the truth of what marriage is.

     While I recognize that two people of the same sex can love each other very deeply, marital love is more than just a deep love between two people; it is a union which expresses the highest form of love available to mankind. Justice Kennedy is correct that “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.”[1] Yet to truly meet that strict criteria, marriage must be a union of a man and woman that is open to life. Through this marital union, a man and a woman, who because of their biological composition are different from each other, bring together their unique qualities for the good of their family, the good of our country and the good of the world. Men and women, while both equal in dignity and deserving of equal rights, are simply different yet designed to be complementary to each other. When a man and a woman join in marriage they bring together their differences to form something greater than they were apart, a fuller love which is simply not possible when two couples of the same sex attempt marriage. After all when two members of the same sex attempt marriage either the genius of the feminine or the genius of the male is missing from their marriage and thus there is something about their marriage that is incomplete. A homosexual marriage, then, is clearly not the highest form of love possible because part is missing. If our country, rightly wants to value the importance and dignity of each individual man and woman, how can we exclude either a man or a woman from the family unit and consider a family complete or whole with one of the two genders missing?

     SCOTUS, in attempting to define what marriage is has tried to lower the standard of love that exists in marriage. They have tried to redefine how human beings interact with themselves at their deepest level. This ruling has effectively washed away the history of our great country and attempted to redefine the future. By redefining marriage, our nation’s highest court, from a legal standpoint, seems to have reopened the gates to the wild west. After all what now keeps our country from legalizing marriage between a person and his pet, or a person and her Barbie Doll?

     In issuing their ruling, the Supreme Court has failed to realize that marriage is about a whole lot more than the romantic relationship of two individuals. Marriage is an institution centered on the procreation and education of the next generation of citizens. Only a man and a woman are designed by nature for the teaks of bringing new children into this world and we know that children receive something biologically, parentally and socially unique from both their father and their mother. In the words of Pope Francis “we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.”[2] What right does a state have to tinker with what has proven over millennia to be the best atmosphere for children, a loving stable family with both a father and a mother? Who is standing up to promote love, justice and equality for children raised a homosexual marriage?

     Our great country was founded by families seeking the freedom to exist beyond oppression. In hijacking love, justice and equality, SCOTUS has effectively extended its oppressive will to all corners of our great nation. Each and every American should be shaken to the core at the flexing of such unprecedented power.

     What comes next? Will my Church who refuses to perform same-sex marriage be stripped of our tax exempt status and sued. After all if a baker can be sued for refusing to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding what is stopping people from suing churches who recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman? As a Catholic priest, will I be arrested, charged and imprisoned for standing for my religious convictions that are millennia old? Will a nation founded under God systematically root out all vestiges of religion under the empirical rule of the Federal Justice System? I don’t know what the future holds for our country, but today I am deeply sadden that the highest court in our land has tried to erase the past and redefine the future. I love our great country, but I cannot violate my own conscience. So while I love all people, want all people to feel welcomed loved and appreciated at my Church and I despise any form of authentic injustice or inequality, I cannot agree with the court and change the definition of what marriage is because after all it’s not up to you, I, a country or the Supreme Court to define what marriage is.

[1] Supreme Court Justice Kennedy in his majority opinion for Obergefell v Hodges issued on 6/26/2015. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf . Pg 28.

[2] Pope Francis. Address to the members of the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE). April 11th, 2014. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2014/april/documents/papa-francesco_20140411_ufficio-cattolico-infanzia.html

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

     JB 38:1,8-11 / PS 107: 23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31 / 2 Cor 5: 14-17 / MK 4:35-41

     A Happy Father’s day to all of our dads. Like most people, when I was younger, I believed my dad was superman. I thought he was the world’s strongest man, he was smarter than anyone else and he was the best athlete in the world. Like many children, anytime I felt threatened or scared I ran to my dad for protection.  Yet, as I grow up I now realize how truly special my dad is, but I have been forced to face the reality that he is human just like the rest of us. While my biological Father may not actually be the world’s strongest man, or the smartest, nor the best athlete in the world, our heavenly Father, who is divine, is truly all knowing, all powerful and all loving. Just as biological Fathers, in their love for their children, seek to provide them with all they need so too does our Heavenly Father desire to provide for our every need.

     In many ways today’s Gospel is a perfect parable for our life journeys. All of us, at times, find ourselves in the midst of the violent storms of life, we find ourselves in the middle of the sea on a boat that is in real danger of sinking and we become so desperate we are willing to try anything to stay afloat. Yet so often it seems that the harder we try to navigate the stormy seas of life, the worse the storms get. I think our lives, at times, continue to spiral out of control because we look inward on ourselves and think we have to control the situation, when in reality, often times the storms of life require the assistance of others. When we were little how many of us never hesitated to run to our dad for protection? Even if it was in the middle of the night and we had to wake him up, wasn’t he often our first choice for protection? Why not become like that little child in our faith lives and run to our heavenly Father in times of need? Why not be like the apostles in today’s gospel and turn to God, who alone has the power to calm the stormy seas?

     While we can easily be tempted to believe we can take control over every aspect of our lives, nothing could be further from the truth. Note that in today’s Gospel, St. Mark gives us the detail that Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat. He was asleep in the back of the boat where the steering is controlled. The disciples had been trying to take control, but in reality it is Jesus who sits at the controls and only when we turn our lives over to Him in complete trust and abandonment and only when we let Him take the controls can we be sure that we will pass through the storms of life unharmed.

     The early Christians saw in the image of the boat a symbol for the Church. The lesson they saw was clear. While the boat, in today’s gospel, was being tossed around, the disciples really had no other choice but to stay in the boat because if they would have jumped out of the boat they would have surely drowned. While storms will come in our lives we must remain right here in the protection of the Church. For when we remain in the Catholic Church, in this parish community with Jesus as the head we have the assistance of a 2,000 year tradition of teaching, we have the assistance of Jesus, the saints and our community to sustain us. Friends “the Church is ‘strength in weakness’ a combination of human failure and divine mercy”[1] and we know that by remaining in the protection of the Church “God makes use of evil in such a superb way and with such skill that the result is better than if there had never been evil.”[2]

     While “it is true: God disturbs our comfortable day – to – day existence,”[3] just as any good Father He is always there to be our protector and our guide, if only we are willing to turn to Him. As we gather this weekend to celebrate our Father’s let’s not forget to honor the Father of us all, God the Father. Let’s once again find the innocence of being the spiritual child of our creator. Why not be united with Him at all times in our thoughts and in our hearts so that when the storms do come we are ready and strengthened to weather them?

[1] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger .Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 223

[2] Wilfrid Stinssen. Into Your Hands, Father Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2011.Pg 15.

[3] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part III. San Francisco: Image, 2012. Pg 103.