"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union Address

Hello readers,

How did you all feel about last night's State of the Union Address. Four thoughts immediately came to my mind listening to the president last night.

1.) I cannot understand what the point of forgiving college debt after a certain time is. Where is the incentive for me to pay off my own? Yeah, it might hurt my credit score, but I will never have to pay off any more! Right now, I still owe about $11, 000 to Sallie Mae. I wouldn't mind saving that money. But if I do not pay for it, who will?

The only possible benefit I could see to such a program is that those whose debt is forgiven might spend their saved money, helping the economy to grow. Somehow I doubt that this will work out.

2.) Why on earth did President Obama call out the Supreme Court? It was a cheap political shot and frankly I don't blame Obama for looking away from the justices in attendance when he spoke. He should have been ashamed. The court's recent ruling, relaxing limitations on what corportations and unions can spend on election advertising, was an excellent one. No, I'm not a big fan of money in politics. It obviously has a corrupting influence. But as Obama said, the reason he opposed the ruling is because "elections should be decided by the American People" not corporations. Well, Mr. President, I certainly could not agree with you more. I fail to see how this ruling changes that, however. The only way this can be a game changer is if the American people are too stupid to realize when they are being sold propaganda in commercials and other advertisements. Besides, I have a hard time listening to someone lecture me on money in a political race, when he outspent his main opponent in the 2008 election by a margin of nearly 2.5/1. A whopping 730 million to ensure his election to the presidency. Yup, let the people decide.

3.) I strongly support a spending freeze like the one the president proposed. But what the president proposed last night was a spending freeze that does not include the military industrial complex, Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. Yet, in the same speech he spoke of the deficit that was created by two wars and an expensive prescription drug benefit from the Bush administration. He is right of course about the major source of our national debt but he is not really addressing the problem. We have to cut defense spending in our country. The pentagon must be reigned in. Secondly, medicare and Social Security are eating up our entire federal tax revenue. They are simply too expensive. Either the SS tax has to be increased, or the age for receiving benefits must be pushed back.

4.) I wanted to commend the president on the call to Congress to begin governing. I suppose you could blame the sound byte, sour grapes, partisanship, whatever you choose...but the current crop of Republican Senators and Representatives have largely been an embarassment. They have acted like stingy school children. Now, largely I agree with them on what they have said "no" to. But it might seem a bit more genuine if they had ever stood up to President Bush when he was spending us into oblivion. I generally hope, along with the president, that Washington can again begin, not necessaily to set aside differences, but to actually debate the merits of policy. That is what a deliberative body like the Senate is supposed to do.

Your thoughts?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cardinal Newman and King David

"Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions." (Ps. 25:7)

Many, if not all of us, have skeletons in our closets; ghosts in our past. It would be just as well if none of them ever saw the light of day. But all of these sins are rooted in the one great sin of youth, a character flaw of eternal consequence, pride. Learning humility is perhaps one of the greatest tasks of the Christian life. It is the example Christ set for us "who humbled himself to death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2)
This trait is seen, however, in some of the great saints of the Church. Showing us it is more than possible to emulate Christ in this regard. But it took many of them years of following Jesus and asking for his grace to even begin mastering their pride. One such saint is Cardinal John Henry Newman. Below are two verses of one of his great hymns "Lead, Kindly Light":

Lead, kindly light amid th'encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on.
The night is dark and I am far from home,
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see,
The distant scene, one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou,
should lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path but now,
the night is gone.
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will, remember not past years.

These two verses speak of two very different lifestyles. The second verse reminisces about the days when Newman did not seek God's guidance but preferred his own path to the Lord's. He even notes that this was despite the fact that he knew it was wrong (spite of fears). Pride kept him from asking for God to lead him in the way he should go.

But verse one is a reflection of the life he lives now; a life over which he does not attempt too much control; a life whose destiny is simply entrusted to his Father. He does not ask to see the distant future, just to be led step by step.

In all, what is written here is something with which all Christians struggle. It is impossible, and undesirable to try and control everything about ourselves. Too many things are uncertain. Yet ceding control over our lives to Another, is most difficult and scary. This is not a fear that can be overcome by anything natural. Rather it is only the life of faith which frees and liberates us. It is the life of faith which allows us to say "keep my feet...direct my path...it is too dark for me to see on my own...lead Thou me on." If you have not let go of the pride with which you were born, the pride that has led to the sins of your youth, pray that God will grant you the faith to simply say "I trust in you." Pride is the fruit of original sin...and itself the chief of all sins. Pride says "my way is best and I'll choose my path on my own." The humility to completely entrust our ways, our lives, our whole selves to God..."the distant scene", is the fruit of faith.

"A man's heart devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps." (Prov. 16:9)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Undoing of the Curse: Jezebel and Eutychus

The Recapitulation theory of the Atonement states that Christ's death undoes all of what we got wrong. This view sees many New Testament figures and events as being the anti-type of their Old Testament counterparts. Hence, Christ gives the law again on a mountain; the New Moses. The miracle of all hearing the gospel in their own language at Pentecost is the undoing of the curse placed on the people of the world at the Tower of Babel in Genesis. Many, many other examples could be cited.

A thought came to my mind Tuesday night though of what might potentially be another example. Many know the story of the evil queen Jezebel. The wife of King Ahab, Jezebel was a hateful, adulterous woman. She murdered Naboth, was an idolater, and was responsible for the slaying of many of the Lord's prophets. ( I Kings 18:3 ) As a punishment for her sins, several eunuchs toss Jezebel out of a window later in II Kings, and she is trampled underfoot by a horse and was nearly completely devoured by dogs. Death by window.

Wouldn't you know it, there is a case in the New Testament of a man falling out of a window and dying. At this point I should inform you, my readers, that I originally had intended this to be a somewhat funny post...one that played off my friend Father Peter's idea that a "little bit of levity, leaveneth the entire lump." But as I thought about it there may be something much more significant at play. In Acts 20:9 it is recorded that a man named Eutychus fell out of a window three stories high while listening to Saint Paul preach. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

In other words, we have in the story of Jezebel a woman who would not listen to the prophets of the Lord who were calling her to repentance. In fact, she aggressively sought to snuff them out. While Eutychus was not as malicious, he too did not find the Word of the Lord or the prophet of the Lord stimulating enough to listen.

But here is the twist. Whereas Jezebel was left for animal food, Eutychus was raised from the dead by Paul in the ensuing verses. It is important not to violate a text of Scripture by seeing things that are not there. But it really is a wonderful picture of the powerful grace of Christ, poured out in the New Testament, to restore one who failed to hear his prophet. Perhaps, than, the story of Eutychus stands to us as one of the great "undoings" of the curse in the Old Testament.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

As With Gladness Men Of Old

It's a few days after the Epiphany, but still well within the octave. I thought then I might post a small meditation on one of my favorite Epiphany hymns. It's not that this hymn is musically anything special and as a whole the text is not as good as a few other hymns for this season. But the last verse is special. Read these words:

In that heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light.
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown
Thou its Sun which goes not down.

Jesus is the Light of this world, but he is also the light of heaven. He will one day perfectly shine on us the glory of the everlasting Father. As Malachi prophesied ages before, he is the "Sun of Righteousness." His purity and perfection radiate throughout the celestial city, granting unfading light. Ephiphany has to do with the manifestations of Christ. He appears to the Gentile wise men. He manifests portions of his identity at his Baptism and then at the first miracle which we performed at the wedding in Cana. But his final manifestation to his people will show that he dwells in, and is, Light. While on earth we did behold his glory, but the entirety of this was hidden, save the moment of Transfiguration, which only three saw. In heaven, we will behold the full glory of our Redeemer-not darkly, as through a glass, but face to face. We will, as St. John confesses, see him "as he is."

"There shall be no night there; and they need no candle, nor light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light." (Rev. 22:5)