A blessing and a curse. These were the words that accompanied Moses return with the Commandments. This view can be taken on many of the readings at mass. During the season of Lent we engage this. We cut back on indulgences and often time reflect. It is easy to see why certain aspects of faith can be a curse. So, is ignorance bliss? I often find myself wondering, why do we avoid sin? Is it because of the fear of eternal suffering, or the desire to spend eternity with God. Does this outlook matter? The outlook that we take on a matter tends to determine whether or not it is a blessing or a curse.
At first glance at today’s reading, the most notable thing is that one must do a lot in order to reach God. Yet, we can reach him, though grace. If we see the Gospel as a burden, then faith is a burden. Lent is not a time to go without meat or give up things, it is a time to appreciate. Not to appreciate all the physical goods we have, but all the grace we have received and have been offered. During Lent we push aside physical things for spiritual grace.
Today I got word that my cousin committed suicide. From what I gather it is common for a suicide to come out of nowhere. I did not know this cousin all to well, we meet once or twice a year, as kids he nearly drowned me. However, as he and I grew he changed. He was very family friendly, often watching over the younger children. I can hardly imagine what caused him to commit suicide. A suicide is a difficult and complex thing. What possible blessing can be seen in such a tragic act? Grace. A young man has been offered the grace of God and we are forced to reflect. To see the blessings we have, the ones that Christ offers us in scripture.
Over the last few weeks, I've begun to notice a common refrain from my Hebrew Scripture and New Testament students. Very often, they will say things like, "Yeah, Mr. Duns, Catholics don't take the Bible literally." So, then, how do we take it?
You see, the trouble is that the students are not making a very important distinction (If they did this already, I'd be out of a job!). The distinction is between a literal and a literalistreading of Scripture. Allow me to put on my teacher hat and help to bring out the importance of this distinction.
Catholics associate a literalist approach to the Bible with fundamentalists. On this view, if the Bible says that the world was created in six days then it was created in 144 hours. If the Bible says that humans were present at the very beginning of Creation, then the entire fossil record that shows no presence of human life for millions of years must be false. One might summarize the literalist position by saying: "The B…
I had the occasion recently to chat with a former student whose family I've come to know rather well over the years. Our conversation ranged over a number of topics and eventually I asked him about the campus ministry program at his university. His vague and somewhat stuttering response prompted me to ask, "Well, do you ever go to Mass on campus?" His response was disappointing but not surprising, "No, not really. I just don't get anything out of going any more."
I've written before that I think it one of the salutary features of the Mass to be boring. From morning to night, I am bombarded by a constant stream of texts, Tweets, Facebook messages, phone calls, and emails. I turn to edit an article and find myself moving the cursor to my web browser and reading an article; I decide I want to pray for fifteen minutes and discover that I waste the time looking for a perfect piece of music to accompany my meditation. I go for an evening stroll, deciding to …
As I settled into bed last night, consoled and joyful at the beauty of the Vigil Mass, it occurred to me that what I most value in a homily is the preacher's understanding of a question that rests upon my heart. The most meaningful homily, in my experience, is the one that elevates a question that has been burning within me and addresses it in a clear and moving manner.
This got me to thinking about how I would explain Easter to someone who asked about it. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I began to wonder how I'd explain it to my niece Emma who will turn five in August. Emma knows a lot of things: she knows about Dora, how to count in English and Spanish, her colors, her shapes, and she is starting to read. On any given day she is a princess and an explorer, a dancer and a cook. She loves Disney movies and believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and she knows nothing of the United States Tax Code. Her life is, indeed, charmed.