Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Wine That Dazes

While speaking with a dear friend recently, I found myself sharing some of my personal experiences growing up during the 60’s and 70’s. I lived my grade school, high school and college, during the great movements and turmoil of that time: the civil rights movement with its urban riots, massive and active anti-war, anti-establishment activity especially on the campuses, women’s liberation, changes in the Church with Vatican II and shortly thereafter, the exodus of thousands of Priests and Sisters from their vocations. I vividly recall the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, from the impressionable and uncomprehending perspective of youth. My friend asked what I thought, out of all that, had had the greatest impact on our culture, our society today. While there is a case to be made for the progress we’ve made in civil rights, and while I believe the Church has been tremendously blessed by Vatican II (yet is also still reeling from the effect of the thousands who left their vocations,) I responded without hesitation that the sexual revolution, to my mind, has had the greatest impact on where we are today.

In the Divine Office, which Priests, Religious and many Laity pray daily, there is a psalm that speaks about what happens when God’s people are unfaithful. Psalm 60: 5 says:

“You have inflicted hardships on your people
and made us drink a wine that dazed us.”

But then it says:

”You have given those who fear you a sign
to flee from the enemy’s bow.”

I was moved to ask what is the wine that dazes us? It clearly seemed to me that the wine we tasted in the sexual revolution was the wine of sexual permissiveness. And now we crave this wine. We, as a people, have become addicted to this wine and over these last decades have brewed some very potent varieties of it. Some are so potent that they say one taste (pornography comes to mind), immediately hooks you.

In the space of a relatively short time, we have become like the chronic alcoholic who rationalizes his use and denies the devastation and destruction all around him, because he wants free and unfettered access. Never mind that marriages and families are destroyed, babies aborted, children traumatized and stripped of their innocence. Never mind that violence against women increases, along with every other imaginable form of degradation and perversion. Never mind that disease, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, can be directly traced to the devastating effects of this addiction. We just have to have it. We tell ourselves this makes us free, adult, normal, uninhibited. Exactly what the alcoholic says.

Our denial with regard to what we are drinking is so strong now, that we are blind to our own enslavement, except when the despair this creates in us sometimes seeps through to the surface and we experience that sin has it's own punishment built into it. We can no longer help ourselves. And because we do not want to be judged, we try to convince everyone else this is a good thing. “Try it, you’ll like it.” Thus have we exported the wine of our own lewdness to the nations, as the book of Revelation puts it. (Aren’t we the biggest exporter of pornography in the world?)

This is one addiction that also helps paralyze this country, that makes it passive, indifferent in the face of the grave moral challenges we face. We complicity acquiesce to the sin of others so we can be left alone with our own sin. “As long as you leave me free to do what I want, go ahead and do whatever you want.” That seems to be the thinking of so many. It accounts for the apathy that exists in place of a vigorous defense of justice and right and all that is good, truly good. How can there be moral indignation in a people who are not living moral lives? Could this be why so many people are silent in the face of the gross attacks on human life and dignity that exist in our world today?

Psalm 60 says that God gives those who fear Him a sign to flee from the enemy’s bow (the fiery darts St. Paul talks about). Perhaps one sign can be found in the Wedding Feast of Cana.

Jesus wants to give us a different kind of wine, the wine from this wedding feast. This wine is given to those who are rightly ordered in the gift of their sexuality and who celebrate it in the context in which it was given to us by Our Heavenly Father. This wine, the best wine, fills us with love for life, excitement at the promise it holds, joy in the divine love it expresses. It is a wine which is available to all, and which can be had by following Our Lady’s counsel: “Do whatever He tells you.”

This is the wine the world truly craves, the wine we were created to drink freely. This is the wine that will not enslave but will bring all of us into the true freedom of the sons and daughters of God. May the Most Holy Trinity and Our Lady heal us and bring us to be worthy to receive this wine.

March 5, 2013

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Price of Our Ransom

The Price of Our Ransom

What does God think of humanity?  What does God think of us?  There is plenty of evidence to suggest that what we think He thinks, and what He actually thinks, are often two very different things.

The bloodshed in the last century alone causes devout people sometimes to feel God should intervene, and perhaps, just as in the time of Noah, start over with a remnant.  After all, wars and ideological struggles, the persecution of Christians in various parts of the world, genocide, tyranny and intentional famines, homicide and  the holocaust that is abortion have been responsible for the deaths of 1.5 - 2 billion people in only one century of time.   There is not a place on earth that has been unaffected by senseless bloodshed, a situation which at times seems almost hopeless, even to people of strong faith.

Yet, If one could look from some distant point in the universe, at all the suns birthing worlds, all the planets spinning through space, at nebulae and quasars, pulsars, comets, moons and asteroids, the prodigious wonders of galaxies coming to life and others passing away, there would be one spot in creation more beautiful, more blessed, more full of light than all the rest!  And it would be our own earth.

This is not because of those who inhabit this world.  In fact the inhabitants of our particular world are often so caught in quagmires of darkness that they cannot be said to be responsible in anyway for this beauty.  Yet exceptional beauty there is because of God's personal presence among us.

God's interventions in human history are respectful, astounding and full of a wisdom we do not readily comprehend.  Most of the things we attribute to God, war chief among them, are really just the consequences of our own sins catching up with us. But from the beginning of time, God's response to our sin, after pointing out the consequences which logically flowed from them, was to promise a Redeemer.  The first sin led all of us into captivity.  But God was immediately prepared to pay the ransom.

Historically the amount of ransom demanded is determined by the value placed on the person held.  The largest ransom ever paid was by the Incas in  1532, to Francisco Pizarro for the release of their leader.  The amount of gold given him  would be worth about $2 billion in today's markets.  Pizarro took the ransom but did not honor the agreement.  He executed the Incan leader anyway.

The ransom paid by God for us is infinitely beyond any sum, no matter how great.  That in itself tells us something of the value God places on each one of us.  St. Peter says:

"You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot."  (1Peter 1:18-19). Jesus gives His very life, down to His last drop of blood, in order to redeem us.

July is a month which the Church dedicates to honoring the Precious Blood of Jesus in a special way.  Why the Precious Blood?  Because the Precious Blood of Jesus is the price of our salvation.  It is God's answer to our sin.  It is the ransom He freely and willingly gives as an expression of His unfathomable love for us.

And this ransom, which is of infinite worth, has been paid once and for all.  It may be claimed for anything and anyone, for salvation, conversions, protection, liberation from bondages, reconciliation, purification, healing, restoration of relationships with the Trinity, the saints, each other, for the souls in Purgatory, for advancement of the work of the Kingdom.

How do we access this ransom that is ours?  Most easily through the sacraments, through the Mass, through prayer.  St. Paul says that where sin abounds grace superabounds.  (Romans 5:20). He can say this because of the ransom which Christ has paid!  We are entitled to all the good things of God because of this ransom.  And we are left all of the channels in the Church by which we may acquire them.

Who doesn't want to be saved?  Saved from despair, saved from meaninglessness, saved from a life without love, saved from our own narrow, selfish desires and compulsions, and from all the captivities the world so easily lures us into?  Is there anyone who does not want to be saved from illusion?  Saved from sin?  Is there anyone who does not want to be saved from death?  Really?

St. Pope John XXIII stated, "The world can still set itself right and always will be able to, because the voice and Blood of Christ cry out for pity and mercy... Devotion to the Precious Blood is the devotion of our time...It is devotion for all souls, for the whole world."

If you really want to know what God thinks of humanity, what He thinks of you, ponder well the astounding price Christ has paid for you and for all of mankind, and let your heart respond unceasingly with awe and overflowing gratitude!

June 2, 2014