Monday, September 29, 2008

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time- "Fairness" vs. Mercy

I just wanted to reflect a little bit on yesterday's readings.

The first comes from Ezekiel:
Thus says the LORD:
You say, "The LORD's way is not fair!"
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed,
he does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
This calls to mind a homily that a heard years ago from the same priest at the Mass I went to yesterday. He said that of all of God's attributes (love, mercy, wisdom, etc.) one that is never listed is fairness. If God were fair, we wouldn't deserve our next breath. Given how much we offend God on a daily basis, wouldn't it be "fair" for God, who is all-good, to wipe out all of us who are wicked? But thankfully, although God is just, which isn't the same as being fair, He is merciful. And how great is that mercy! We hear about it in our second reading:

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Was the Cross "fair"? Of course not. Jesus was without sin and had done nothing to deserve the cruel death He suffered. The Cross was the result of our false concept of fairness, that those who pose an inconvenience for us should pay. But He endured it, not because we deserved to be saved, but because in His mercy He desired that we be saved.

We have our own concepts of fairness, of who is just and unjust, and who is worthy and unworthy. But we cannot see into a person's heart. Look at the example of this Sunday's Gospel:

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
"What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'
He said in reply, 'I will not, '
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father's will?"
They answered, "The first."
Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him."
Now, did the Pharisees think it was "fair" for Jesus to welcome tax collectors and prostitutes into His Kingdom? No. They felt that as strict observers of the Law they were above criticism, while those who broke the Law were inhuman. They could not see the wickedness in their own hearts, nor could they see the good in others' hearts. But God knows our hearts, and desires to show us mercy if we will just seek it. The Pharisees couldn't seek it because they didn't think they needed it. They didn't think the sinners Jesus embraced deserved forgiveness- and in that respect they were right. None of them did, nor do we. But God gave it to them, and gives it to us, in His infinite mercy.

No, God isn't "fair", or what we would define as fair. But as that priest who gave that homily said, "Thank God God isn't fair!" We don't need fairness- we need mercy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The False Idol of Convenience

In yet another attack on the sanctity of life, British moral philosopher Baroness Mary Helen Warnock said that elderly with dementia have a "duty to die." Her reasoning is that they are creating a burden on the health care system by using resources that could be used for others. In her warped view, ending these lives would help to save lives of those who are more "valuable" to society by freeing up more resources to them.

Leaving aside the issue of socialized medicine and its flaws, we need to examine what leads to a mindset like this. How do people cease to believe that a sick elderly person has dignity? How can we say that one person's life is worth saving while another's is not?

The answer is relativism. This mindset exists because the lines have been blurred. If you ask the question, "do you support ending the life of a human being because it poses an inconvenience?", any sane person would say "of course not." So how is abortion justified? The definition of when life begins is blurred. We say that that child in the womb is not a life, merely a blob of tissue, or even a "parasite", as I have heard some pro-choicers say. We blur the lines on what is human. As we begin more and more to value "convenience", we adjust our definitions on what is human to fit our concept of convenience. In a generation, abortion went from being outlawed to being allowed in the first trimester, then for virtually any reason at any time in a pregnancy, to the horror of partial-birth abortion, until we reach the point where we are now where a presidential candidate of one of the two major political parties votes against providing medical care for children born after a failed abortion.

In the same way, the lines have been blurred at the end of life. It used to be that a person was to be cared for until the very end. A false concept of mercy started the ball rolling down the slippery slope. People believed that mercy was the ending of a person's suffering, or inconvenience. And this has had disastrous results. It wasn't too long ago when Dr. Jack Kevorkian was seen as a lunatic, a killer, a monster for "helping" people to die. But as the concept of "convenience" gradually became more prevalent, attitudes have changed. This happened first in Europe but is spreading here. From assisted suicide and euthanasia, we moved to the killing of Terri Schiavo and Baroness Warnock's comments.

This is where we are now in our culture: the concept of the sanctity of human life has been replaced by the concept of the sanctity of convenience. Nobody can be allowed to inconvenience me, be it a baby or an elderly relative.

Maybe we should ask ourselves these questions:
  • Why is my convenience more important than the life of another person?
  • Will the lines continue to blur at the beginning and the end of life?
  • If so, what comes next? What will we accept in the name of "convenience" 10 years from now?
  • What is to stop someone from saying my life is inconvenient?

St. Januarius (Sept. 19)

Every year, the faithful in Naples gather in the cathedral to witness an astounding event: the liquefying of the blood of St. Januarius. Once again, the miracle has taken place this year. This repeated miracle amazes both believers and skeptics.

St. Januarius was martyred around the year 304. Numerous attempts were made on his life before his decapitation: he was thrown into a fire yet unharmed, then unharmed again when thrown to wild beasts. When the man who ordered his decapitation was blinded, St. Januarius healed him and thousands were converted before he eventually died. His relics, including his blood, were taken to Naples, and the miracle of his blood was first recorded about a thousand years later.

This annual miracle is a reminder to us, not only of God's power, but of the fact that the saints are alive in Christ. St. Januarius is more alive today than the time he walked the earth, because in Christ we experience the FULLNESS of life. May we all strive to enter into that fullness!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act

Glenn Beck interviews David Freddoso and discusses the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, and Obama's opposition to it. Click here for the interview.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

St. Robert Bellarmine

Today is the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine. St. Robert was a Jesuit cardinal who took the controversies of his day head-on. He delivered a series of lectures that reverberated throughout Europe. He served on the commission to revise the text of the Vulgate, dealing shrewdly with errors initiated, but not officially promulgated, by Pope Sixtus V. St. Robert had one of the most brilliant minds the Church has ever seen and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931. He is the patron saint of catechists.
What we can learn from St. Robert is fearlessness in proclaiming the truth. St. Robert was not afraid to deal with the controversies of his day, but met them in a spirit of both charity and intellectual honesty. St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I'd never vote for him, but I'll show Ralph Nader a little love. Probably about the most bizarre political ad I've ever seen. Right up there with Mike Gravel.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fulton Sheen on False Compassion

In my post Utilitarianism vs. the Culture of Life, I mentioned the false compassion that is prevalent in today's society. Here's the great Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the subject:

I'm a big fan of Fulton Sheen (I hope he'll be beatified soon) and may post more from him in the future.

Powerful New Ad on Born Alive Infant Protection Act

Life is precious.

Hear her story:

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. We recall how Mary suffered with her Son at the foot of the Cross. This was predicted by Simeon at the Presentation of the Lord: "And you yourself a sword shall pierce." (Luke 2:35) Imagine her sorrow at seeing her Son stripped, beaten, mocked, scourged, crucified and killed. Imagine the pain in her heart as the spear drove through the Sacred Heart of Christ. Imagine her holding her dead Son in her arms, looking upon His bloody face, and recalling when she cradled Him at Bethlehem at looked upon His face for the first time. Does not this sorrow also pierce our hearts? And that is the point of this feast- we are all called to share in the sufferings of the Cross. To unite our pain with Christ's pain, to suffer with Him. Why? Does God like to watch us suffer? Of course not. Christ wants us to love as He did. But true love always involves sacrifice. A love that is not willing to suffer for the beloved is not really love at all. That is what this feast is about. If we unite our sufferings with those of Christ, as Mary did, we are united with Him in love. And remember: after the Cross comes the Resurrection. So to love Christ in this way is to enter into new life in Him.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Utilitarianism vs. the Culture of Life

The nomination of Sarah Palin has raised awareness of the issue of children with disabilities and of the sanctity of life in general. Pro-lifers were inspired by her refusal to have an abortion when informed that her child had Down Syndrome. This was a strong affirmation of the most fundamental tenet of the pro-life movement, namely that all human life has great value. In other words, she refused to see her baby as a burden but as a blessing.

Contrast this with the attitude of Barack Obama. He famously said that he didn't want his daughters "punished with a baby." More importantly, he voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act- denying medical care to babies ALREADY BORN after a failed abortion attempt.
Apparently, convenience is more important than life.

This great divide was further evidenced in two stories this past week relating to children with disabilities. In one story, a man named Thomas VanderWoude jumped in after his son with Down Syndrome fell into a septic tank. VanderWoude held his son above his head for twenty minutes before help arrived. By the time it finally did arrive, VanderWoude had died, but his son survived.

On the other end of the spectrum, there was the case of the woman in the UK who drowned her 4-year-old daughter in a bathtub because she was "embarrassed" by her child's cerebral palsy. Again, this shows an attitude that favors "convenience" over life, that views children (particularly disabled children) as a burden or a punishment.

How have we come to this point, where whole groups of people are seen as "inconvenient"? How have we decided that certain lives are not worth living? Occasionally, you will get an answer like, "who are we to let these children suffer?" But this is a false compassion. Everybody suffers- it doesn't make us less human. If anything, it makes us more human. We've gotten to the point in this culture where we want to eliminate all suffering, all inconvenience. That's why 90% of children diagnosed in the womb with Down Syndrome are aborted. That's why some who support abortion think Palin made the wrong choice in keeping her son Trig. These people cannot see the value in these lives. Perhaps it is because their measure of a person's worth is how much money they can potentially make, or how good-looking they are, or other superficial criteria. Certainly, in their viewpoint, someone like Terry Schiavo had no worth. What was she able to contribute to society?

But those who support life know that a person's worth is based on the fact that they are made in the image and likeness of God. Millions of us were touched by the story of Terry Schiavo, just as we are by that of Trig Palin. Even if a person is in such a state that they are unable to show love to others, they are able to BRING OUT the love in others in a special way, by virtue of their humanity, by virtue of their being children of God.

Whenever we say that any human life is inconvenient, or undesirable, it is a dangerous road to walk down. People should know- we walked down this road before in the 20th century, and saw the greatest horrors in human history. We need to celebrate life. ALL life. Because it all has value. America has an opportunity to look at herself and see this, and thus become an example to all the world. Here's hoping we open our eyes.

UPDATE: This T-Shirt demonstrates what I'm talking about from those who do not respect life.


Hey, everybody, and welcome to my blog! Here you'll find my thoughts on what's going on in the world these days. A little bit about me so you know where I'm coming from on these musings:
I'm Catholic, pro-life, and conservative. I'm a big fan of the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls, as well as being a fan of the Duke Blue Devils. The title of the blog comes from a comic that I drew back in school called the Hobbly Wobbly Zog. It was pure weirdness, which you will see from me occasionally in this blog. Anyway, enjoy!