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Deacon-structing the Call: Conclusion part 2

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Last week I said that everyone gets called. But sometimes we don’t recognize it, because we’re distracted or ‘cause we’re not expecting it. But the call comes and looking at Scripture helps us recognize the Call when it comes.

First you have an encounter with Christ; an encounter with the Divine; then comes a calling. And it’s not we who encounter Christ; Christ comes out to encounter us. In every case, it’s God or Jesus who does the encountering (for more details on this first step, look at last week’s post).

Second: Just after the encounter, but just before the call, each person in Scripture had a profound sense of their inadequacy. They had a real sense of their uselessness and an awareness of their sinfulness. Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-2; 3-8) actually thinks that he’s going to die – that’s what happens when we’re in the presence of the divine- he says, “I am a man of unclean lips!” And Paul describes himself in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 as “one untimely born” or “abnormally born.” He is the “least of the apostles.” And he was; he used to persecute Christians. He was responsible for the arrest and even killing of some Christians. And Peter, when Jesus calls him in Luke 5:1-11, says “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man.” Each becomes aware of their sinfulness. This happens when we’re in the presence of God, but it happens before the call so that we know that whatever God is asking us to do, we will not do because we are so amazing; it is God who is going to do it through us. It’s also a good reminder of who gets called: Sinners. Sinners get called.

Last, just before the call, God asks us to do something strange or unusual. I think this is also so that we know it’s not us but God acting. Isaiah mouth is touched with a burning coal (not something I would recommend that you do at home). It makes no sense, but God says “trust me.” Paul is left blind and told to go to Damascus where Ananias will help him. Ananias is one of the guys that Paul was persecuting. “I know it doesn’t make sense; trust me.” And Peter, Peter is asked to take the boat back out. But it’s not the best time to fish and besides, there is no fish. Jesus says, “It doesn’t make any sense, but trust me.” And so, just before the call we have to trust and say, “Yes Lord, I will do what you are asking me to do.” Maybe it’s a bit of a test.

Then comes the call.

So, first you have a personal encounter with God; that encounter makes us aware of our inadequacy and last, that encounter involves trusting God. Then comes THE CALL. And this happens to everyone. God calls everyone. Everyone, at some point or another, especially if they are in a relationship with God, will be called. It’s not just for priests and people in religious life. This is one of the gifts of the Second Vatican Council: Everyone gets called. We’ve been sitting in the bleachers for way too long, it’s time for us to get on the ice!

And the call for everyone is holiness. We are all called to holiness. And we can best live our call to holiness in one of four main ways, called vocations: The single life, religious life; ordained life and married life. But it’s not our choice. They have been chosen for us. God has created us so that one of these vocations is our own personal and special way in which we can achieve holiness.

Some of you will be called to be holy through the Single Life. That’s good because not everyone is called to be married nor should everyone be married. And single people have a great gift of time – they don’t have the same family commitments and so they can serve.

And some people are called to the Ordained Life as deacons, priests or Bishops; or some are called to the Religious Life as sisters, brothers, monks, nuns, who live consecrated lives.

But most of us are called to the Married Life because that’s the way where we come closest to loving another person the way God loves us: freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally. (St. John Paul II says in his Theology of the Body that “…the consciousness of the ‘spousal’ meaning of the body—constitutes the fundamental component of human existence in the world.” That means that living “spousally” is considered the purpose of our existence – it doesn’t mean that everyone should be married in this life – but we are all called to Marriage in the next life, for we will all be Married to the Lamb. Marriage on earth only pre-figures, points to – and sacramentally also truly is that to which it points – the Marriage in Heaven. It does mean that we are all created for this type of giving as exemplified in Married Love.) It is no coincidence nor surprise that most human beings are married for that has been written into our bodies – that’s the spousal meaning of our bodies.

But don’t forget that Marriage (as is every Vocation) is our way to holiness, to sainthood. God has given you your husband, your wife to help you be holy! You job is to help your husband or your wife to get to heaven! That’s beautiful! That’s definitely one reason why the Church takes Marriage very seriously.

Is that how you see your Marriage? This is your call to holiness. Do you live your marriage as a response to a call? Do you live your marriage as a response to a personal encounter with Christ? Do you live your marriage daily, as a personal encounter with Christ? Do you live your marriage with a keen awareness that you can’t do it alone and that you have to trust God all the way? Do you live your life, whether you’re married, single, ordained or in religious life, as a response to a call to holiness?

Mother Teresa used to say that God does not call us to do great things, but to do small things with great love. Maybe you will be called to do great things, I don’t know, but if not, do you live your life, no matter which vocation you live, doing small things with great love? Can we say yes to God?

Can we get on the holiness boat and set out into the deep?

Deacon-structing the Call: Conclusion part 1

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For the last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about Vocations. We’ve looked at what it means to be called and how to discern that call. We also looked at the Church’s four Vocations: Ordained Life, Religious Life, Single Life and Married Life. Vocation, ultimately is about saying yes to what you’ve been created for.

This week I met Sr. Monique Bourget of the Institute of St. Marcellina (marcelline.org). She is the first of many Perspectives interviews that I hope to do for the Year for Consecrated Life (which Pope Francis has declared 2015 to be). During the interview Sr. Monique said that as she was feeling the “call” as a young 18-year old while doing missionary work in Guatemala, she had to come to a place of surrender. She had to trust God. If God wants you to do something, then you have to trust. But in order to have that kind of trust, you have to have a relationship with God. Prayer is key.**

Last week we heard the Mark’s description of the Baptism of Christ (Mark 1:7-11). We can say that Jesus’ baptism was his “call” moment. He literally heard the voice of God saying, “You are my beloved.” His baptism was the beginning of his ministry. In the same way, everyone gets called by God. Isaiah got the call. So did Paul. This weekend (Second Sunday in Ordinary Time) we will hear John’s version of the Call of James, John, Peter and Andrew. The first reading is the Call of Samuel.

Are you thinking there’s something wrong with you because you have not heard the Call? I think the problem is that, either we don’t think we’re going to get called- we think that it’s only for prophets and apostles and saints – and so we’re not expecting the call. Or, even if we think that we may get the call, we don’t know how to recognize it, ‘cause we’re looking for something else; expecting something else. But the “call” stories from Scripture give us a few clues that will help us recognize the call when it comes.

First, the call doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It doesn’t happen out of context. We have to first have an encounter with God. Isaiah has a vision of God (Isaiah 6:1–8). He sees God in the temple, sitting on a throne in his majesty. There are angels flying around – seraphs, singing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (that’s what we try to re-create every Sunday). Then an angel touches Isaiah’s mouth with a burning coal. That’s an experience of the divine. Isaiah has an experience of the divine, before he is called.

The same happens to Paul (Acts 9:1-17). Paul has an encounter with Jesus that literally knocks him off his feet: “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And Paul asks, “Who are you?” “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Paul has quite the encounter with Jesus Christ. But his call comes much later. He doesn’t get called right away. He has to go to Damascus and was there, blind for three days – and still, the call happened years later.

Next Sunday (Third Sunday in Ordinary Time) we will hear Mark’s version of the call of Peter, Andrew, James and John. From reading Mark you may conclude that the disciples did not know Jesus when he called them, but according to St. Luke (Luke 5:1-11), Peter and the disciples had already met Jesus. Jesus had already healed Peter’s mother in law (Luke 4:38-39). I’d like to think that since these were such small towns everyone must have known each other. Jesus had been around for 30 years. Of course they knew him, if not personally, then at least they knew of him. And everyone was talking about his teachings and his miracles so when Jesus asks to get into Peter’s boat in Luke’s version (which I find most compelling), they are not strangers.

But even though Peter knew Jesus he still had not had an encounter with Christ. That’s the same with us sometimes: We may know Jesus and still not have had an encounter with Jesus. And in Luke 5, Jesus takes Peter out into the deep and there’s the miraculous catch of fish. That’s an encounter with the divine.

Come back next week to find out what Scripture says are the two other stages of the Call.

**We are dedicating some of our Weekly Edition of Perspectives [http://saltandlighttv.org/perspectives/] space to Consecrated Life. For the next months we will be speaking to many people from different backgrounds, who are living the Consecrated Life. The first episode, with Sr. Monique Bourget, IM will air on Friday, February 13th at 7 and 11pm ET / 8pm PT. Perspectives: The Weekly Edition airs every Friday and Sunday at 7 and 11pm ET / 8pm PT.

 

Deacon-structing Vocations: Married Life part 2

Marriage

Recently I heard a talk by Julie and Greg Alexander of The Alexander House which helps parishes strengthen their marriage ministry or to help build a foundation to create one. Greg says that the turning point for their marriage when it was in crisis was a priest who asked them to consider God’s plan for marriage. They had never thought about that.

In my experience, this is true. So many couples come to the Church for marriage without ever learning what God’s plan for Marriage and sexuality is.

Last time, we looked at God’s design for Marriage. The Catholic view of Marriage is a beautiful and unique one. For Catholics, Marriage is both a Vocation and a Sacrament. The celebration of Marriage between two Catholics normally takes place during Mass because of the connection of all the Sacraments with the Paschal Mystery of Christ. This does not mean that a marriage between a Catholic and a non-catholic is not valid, but for Catholics, it makes sense that Marriage should take place in connection with the Eucharist.

I tried to make this clear last time. In Marriage we come closest to loving another person the way God loves us. God gives himself totally to us on the Cross; that is the moment that is made present in the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist the memorial of the New Covenant is realized; the New Covenant in which Christ has united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved bride for whom he gave himself up. It is therefore fitting that spouses should seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving the Eucharist so that, communicating in the same body and the same blood of Christ, they may form but “one body” in Christ.

In Catholic teaching, Marriage is a serious thing. That’s why it is a Covenant and not just an arrangement or “contract.”

On the Sermon of the Mount, speaking about adultery, Jesus said: “I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)

On another occasion, his disciples asked him why Moses allowed for divorce. Jesus said, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? (Matthew 19:4-5). Remember that from Genesis 2:24? Jesus continues, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:6)

On these two occasions Jesus is speaking about the permanence of marriage: A marriage is forever, as long as both spouses are alive (on another occasion Jesus speaks about how there is no marriage in Heaven – see Matthew 22:30. As a point of clarification, let me add that this is why widows or widowers are able to re-marry in the Catholic Church).

But our society has “re-defined” marriage into a union that is not permanent. It can be dissolved. Divorce is so common that many people don’t even expect marriages to last.

My parents recently celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. A few months before the anniversary they were leaving the bank and a young woman helped them out to the street to get a cab. In conversation she asked my mom if the gentleman with her was her brother. My Mother said that he was her husband. The young woman looked confused and said that she had never met a couple that had been married for so long.

To add to the confusion, many people have heard that the Church offers Marriage annulments. They think that an “annulment” is Catholic “divorce”. But if it’s true that ‘what God has joined together, let no one separate’, then why are there annulments?

I heard a super homily once about that. A lot of people think that the Church says that once you’re married, that’s it, door closed, there’s no way out and people who are divorced or separated sometimes feel they are not welcome to the Eucharist. But that’s not true.

People who are divorced or separated are welcome to the Eucharist. This is one of the issues that was addressed at the recent Synod on the Family in Rome. Being separated from your spouse is not what breaks communion with God; committing adultery is. That is why the issue was always addressed as “Communion for divorced and re-married Catholics.” Divorced Catholics can receive Communion. The problem is when they are re-married, because getting married again, after a divorce is considered adultery in the same way that being in a sexual relationship with someone while you’re married to someone else is adultery. The Church doesn’t recognise a civil divorce. If you’re married and the Marriage is valid, then you’re married as long as you are both alive.

But that doesn’t mean that people who find themselves in abusive marriages or marriages that are destructive are trapped. The Church will be the first to say that if you’re in a dangerous relationship, you should get out. You don’t have to stay in that relationship. In some cases, if the marriage is deemed to never have existed in the first place (and therefore not valid), you can get an annulment. In other cases, even though the Marriage is not a healthy marriage, it may still be valid. It depends on whether the consent was valid at the time it was exchanged.

For example, if a husband has a history of abuse before the Marriage, or if you married someone not really knowing who they really are, or if you were too immature or were pressured into the marriage, those are all grounds for an annulment because the consent would not have been valid; it was not done in a free, faithful, fruitful and total way.

Annulments can be complicated, but they don’t have to be. My advice to married couples who are no longer together is to call the local Catholic Marriage Tribunal and find out what they can do to find out whether there is just cause for an annulment.

The better advice, however, is for young people before they get married. Why are you getting married? Do you really understand God’s plan for Marriage and sexuality? Do you understand fully what the Catholic Church teaches about Marriage and Family?

We spend four or more years preparing for a career; the Church prepares men for at least six years for the priesthood, but we offer young couples one weekend or two for marriage preparation. This should not be acceptable. All Catholic high schools should have on-going teaching of the truth about God’s design for sex, Marriage and relationships. All parishes should have on-going Marriage preparation and Marriage support for couples. Let’s not settle for the lowest common denominator; let’s strive for the ideal, which is that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” for the sake of holiness, so that we can fulfill God’s plan that we love another as He has loved us, freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally.

CNS photo/Daniel Karmann, EPA

What if Jesus hadn’t been born? Part 3

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In the past week, I’ve been trying to imagine what our world would be like had Jesus never been born. (Check out part 1 and part 2) It’s easy to say that The Church would not exist or that we would have no Pope. There would be no priests, deacons, religious sisters or brothers, nor there would be church buildings. But Christianity has permeated our culture to such degree that it’s really impossible to envision a world that is not influenced by Jesus and his life.

Imagine a singer, Madonna Louise Ciccone. Had Jesus never been born, her parents would not have named her Madonna. In fact, had Jesus not been born, there would be no references to Mary in our culture. There wouldn’t be a song by the Beatles called Let It Be, nor there be other songs such as Virgin Mary by Joan Baez, or Lady Writer by Dire Straits to mention a few.

In fact, the name Mary wouldn’t be a popular name. Nor would be Joseph, or Peter, John, or James. Had Jesus never been born, you wouldn’t have any friends named Elizabeth, Madelaine or Veronica. You wouldn’t have any friends named Gloria, Christian or Christina. Imagine a Latin America without the thousands of men born on December 25th named Jesús, or anyone named José María, or Marie-Josée. I guess they would still exist but their names would be Quetzalcoatl, Yupanqui or Summer.

Had Jesus never been born, we would still have the Sacred Jewish Scriptures, but would they have any references to a Messiah, a Saviour or a “virgin birth”? I guess it would depend on whether the Jesus-event was still possible in this made-up world. I suppose had Jesus not been born, we could still be waiting for the Messiah.

I can’t proceed without stating that had Jesus not been born some historical events would have been avoided: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch hunts and even anti-Semitism (at least the post-Christian kind). However these guys would still have been around: Caligula, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, Castro, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, Suharto, Ho Chi Minh, Chiang Kai-shek, Francisco Franco, Reza Pahlawi, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Pol Pot. Would they still have committed all the atrocities they did? Likely,  except that none of them could have persecuted, tortured, murdered or disappeared Christians.

What year would it be had Jesus not been born? 2014 CE? Would it be the Hebrew year 5775? Maybe it would be the year 6 billion.

Could you argue that, had Jesus not told his disciples to “go and spread the good news to all creation,” no religion would have spread throughout the world? Would Judaism still be the small monotheistic religion of a few hundred thousands? Would Judaism have survived the destruction of the second temple? Would Islam even exist? What would the Qur’an look like without its Christian references?

Had Jesus not been born there would be 120,000,000 less websites on the Internet. You could argue that since without Christianity the printing press would not have been invented, perhaps our reading habits would be quite different. Would there be libraries full of books? Even our language would be quite different. We wouldn’t say things such as “someone was a good Samaritan”, or “he’s the prodigal son” or the “lost sheep”. We would not have teachings that have entered our every-day speech such as “turn the other cheek”, “go the second mile,” “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “carry your cross,” “washing your hands of something” or “love your enemies.”

It’s really not that easy to imagine a world without Jesus – whether people acknowledge Him as the Christ. Sure John Lennon would’ve never said, “we’re more famous than Jesus Christ” and Mel Gibson wouldn’t have made $300 million after only two weeks in the theatres, but also, there would be no great books like The Lord of Rings trilogy or The Chronicles of Narnia and Dan Brown would not have sold 40 million copies of “The DaVinci Code.”

More than that, our world would be very lacking. You could argue that there would be no charitable organizations, no public education, no universities* or even the concept of a liberal arts education. You could argue that there would be no hospitals (definitely no publicly-funded ones) and perhaps not even (ironically) no civil rights league. In fact, without Christianity, human beings would probably have no concept of civil rights. Without Christianity we would have no concept of social justice and we wouldn’t have women’s rights. We would also not have a Just War Theory and our concept of Law would be very different. In fact, our idea of equality and human dignity would be quite different. (I’ve even heard it argued that without Christianity there would be no United States of America.)

Without Christianity, cannibalism, slavery and infanticide would still exist (I guess infanticide still exists). Had Christianity not spread around the world people would still be offering human sacrifice to the gods.

Without Christianity the lives of many people would have been quite different. Consider Francis Bacon; Charles Darwin; Cecil B. DeMille; T.S. Elliot; Judy Garland; Thomas Jefferson; C.S. Lewis; John Locke; Van Morrison; Georgia O’Keefe; F.D. Roosevelt; Eleonor Roosevelt; Teddy Roosevelt; Alfred Lord Tennyson; George Washington; Oscar Wilde; Tennessee Williams; W.B. Yeats; Charles Dickens; Duke Ellington; Florence Nightingale; John Milton; John Newton; Laurence Olivier; Lewis Carroll; Madeleine L’Engle; Madeline Albright; Natalie Cole; W.H. Auden William Shakespeare; Abraham Lincoln; Jimmy Carter; Alexander I; Nelson Rockefeller; Roy Orbison; Kris Kristofferson; Louis Armstrong; Chuck Berry; Gladys Knight; John Grisham; Gene Roddenberry; Ava Gardner; Kevin Costner; Anne Bancroft; Stephen Baldwin; G.K. Chesterton; Bernardo Bertolucci; Bono; Jim Caviezel; Frank Capra; Nicolas Copernicus; Galileo; Bing Crosby; Marie Curie; Salvador Dali; Leonardo DaVinci; Edgar Degas; Francisco De Goya; Rene Descartes; Albrecht Duher; Federico Fellini; Mel Gibson; Galileo Galilei; Graham Greene; Alec Guiness; Bob Hope; Gene Kelly; Grace Kelly; John F. Kennedy; Guglielmo Marconi; Henri Matisse; Michelangelo; Napoleon; Pablo Picasso; Arnold Schwartzenegger; Martin Sheen; Oscar Wilde; Andy Warhol; Voltaire; Johannes Keppler; Blaise Pascal; Louis Pasteur; Isaac Newton; George Frideric Handel; Antonio Vivaldi; J.S. Bach; Lech Walesa and Georges Lemaitre, all Christian. Even if none of them practiced their faith (and we know many did), it’s impossible to assume that Christianity did not influence their thoughts, their writings, their work and their actions.

What do you think? Can you think of another way that our world would be different had Jesus never been born?

I think that had Jesus never been born, we’d be missing a lot more than trees decorated with lights at this time of the year. Truly, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “without Christ, this world would be always winter, but never Christmas!”

Go now and proclaim the Good News to all creation.

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*All but one of the first 123 colleges in colonial USA were Christian institutions. While these universities have lost their Christian identities, it is interesting to read the founding statements of these schools. Harvard, for example, was founded with the intention of training Christian ministers. Their motto was “Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae” which means “Truth for Christ and the Church.” Harvard’s first point from their “Rules and Precepts”, stated: “Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3).

What if Jesus Hadn’t Been Born? Part 2

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Last time, I was imagining a world without Christmas. That would mean no Christmas music and no Christmas movies.  But a world without Jesus would mean much more to our popular culture. After watching the screen adaptation of Les Miserables two years ago,  I couldn’t help but thinking that this novel would be very different had Jesus not been born. Perhaps Victor Hugo never would have written it. If so, there wouldn’t be a musical called Les Mis, and this movie would not have been made. And all those wonderful songs would not exist.  But had Jesus not been born, there would be many other songs missing from your playlist:

  • Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode;
  • Hey Jesus by the Indigo Girls;
  • God is Love by Lenny Kravitz;
  • Forgiven  by Alanis Morisette;
  • Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones;
  • One of Us by Joan Osbourne;
  • God or Imagine by John Lennon;
  • I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2;
  • Jesus by Queen.

That’s just off the top of my head.

Had Jesus never been born, we would also be missing a lot of great (and not so great) films from our video libraries. There would be no:

  • Jesus Christ Super Star,
  • Godspell,
  • Jesus of Nazareth,
  • The Passion of the Christ,
  • The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ,
  • The Nativity Story,
  • Mary of Nazareth,
  • The Life of Brian,
  • Ben Hur,
  • The King of Kings,
  • Salome,
  • The Robe,
  • Barabbas,
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told,
  • The Gospel According to St. Matthew,
  • Jesus of Montreal,
  • Mary, the Mother of Jesus,
  • Jesus (the mini-series)
  • The Bible Mini-series (would be missing the whole second part which was turned into the film Son of God) or
  • The Miracle Maker

 We’d also be missing: The Sound of Music, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, The Hiding Place (the Corrie Ten-Boom Story), Lilies of the Field, The Miracle of the Bells, The Mission, Dead Man Walking, The Singing Nun, Sister Act, Bless the Child, Bonhoeffer – Agent of Grace, The Nun’s Story, The Shoes of the Fisherman, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, Romero, Chocolat and Agnes of God.  It’s also doubtful that all the angel movies would exist. Think of Angels in the Outfield (1994), Michael (1996), The Preacher’s Wife (1996) and City of Angels (1998), to mention a few.

How about: The Age of Innocence (1993) by Martin Scorsese; Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) by Michael Curtiz; The Assisi Underground (1984) by Alexander Ramati; Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987) by Louis Malle; Babette’s Feast (1987) by Gabriel Axel; Bachelor Mother (1939) by Garson Kanin; The Bicycle Thief (1947) by Vittorio De Sica; Blue (1992) by Don McKellar; Casablanca (1942) by Michael Curtiz; The Champ (1931)by King Vidor; Chariots of Fire (1981) by Hugh Hudson; El Cid (1961) by Anthony Mann; City Lights (1931) by Charlie Chaplin; A Man Escaped (1956) by Robert Bresson; Diary of a Country Priest (1950) by Robert Bresson; Going My Way (1944) by Leo McCarey; La Grande illusion (1937) by Jean Renoir; The Grapes of Wrath (1940) by John Ford; Groundhog Day (1993) by Harold Ramis; It Happened One Night (1934) by Frank Capra; A Man for All Seasons (1966) by Fred Zinnemann; North by Northwest (1959) by Alfred Hitchcock; On the Waterfront (1954) by Elia Kazan; The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) by Carl Theodor Dreyer; Pickpocket (1959) by Robert Bresson; The Quiet Man (1952) by John Ford; Quiz Show (1994) by Robert Redford; Rome, Open City (1945) by Roberto Rossellini; The Sign of the Cross (1932) by Cecil B. DeMille; The Song of Bernadette (1943) by Henry King; Therese (1986) by Alain Cavalier; 3 Godfathers (1948) by John Ford; You Can’t Take It With You (1938) by Frank Capra; Vertigo (1958) by Alfred Hitchcock. All these have either references to Christ, Christianity or exist in a Christian world view.

You could even argue that films (and novels) such as Star Wars and Harry Potter would also not exist (or be very different) since, had Jesus not been born, the concepts of salvation-through-love and self-sacrifice are very specific to the Christian world-view.

How about TV shows like Stairway to Heaven, Touched By An Angel, 7th Heaven and Joan of Arcadia? How about any TV shows that deal with concepts of redemption, salvation, forgiveness or self-sacrifice? They may still exist, but I would argue they’d be considerably different.

Had Jesus never been born, we’d also be missing a lot of books. Other than the fact that the number-one top selling book of all times, The Bible would be missing some books, we’d also be short on many great works of spiritual nourishment and fiction. I’ll let you figure out which books would not exist. Personally, I have a whole bookshelf by my bed, which would be empty.

Had Jesus not been born there would be no sacred music; there would be no Handel’s Messiah or Bach Chorales. There would also not be any sacred art; there would be no Sistine Chapel, no Pieta and DaVinci would not have painted the Last Supper. I could probably fill a whole book by just listing all the works of art, music and literature that would be missing had Jesus never been born.

It’s clear that, had Jesus never been born, our world would be much poorer. Can you think of what other songs, films, novels or TV shows would not exist?

Next time, I will conclude my imaginary picture of what our cultural world would be like had Jesus not been born.

What if Jesus Hadn’t Been Born?

Baby Jesus1

While I dislike having to listen to Christmas music as early as November 25th, I do like that once a year radio stations all over don’t seem to have a problem playing music that mentions the name of Jesus or that glorifies God.

This year, listening to Christmas music early in December I found myself thinking what it would be like if there was no Christmas. I have a Cuban friend who grew up in Cuba with no Christmas. She had never seen or heard of a Christmas tree. But had Christ never been born, the implications would be much worse than not having Christmas trees. Just think of the music we’d be missing!

 Other than all the obvious religious Christmas songs that would not exist: O Come Emmanuel; Coventry Carol; Oh Little Town of Bethlehem; What Child is This?; Silent Night; Away In A Manger ; The First Noel; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; O Holy Night; Twelve Days Of Christmas; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Angels We Have Heard on High; Joy to the World; Here We Come A-Wassailing; Mary, Did You Know; the Carol of the Bells or We Three Kings, we also would not have these timeless Christmas recordings:

  • The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole
  • Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy by Bing Crosby and David Bowie
  • White Christmas by Bing Crosby
  • A Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives
  • My Little Drum by Vince Guaraldi (from A Charlie Brown Christmas)
  • Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town by Bruce Springsteen
  • Christmas Shoes by Newsong
  • Last Christmas by Wham! (as much as you may hate that song)
  • Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley
  • Winter Wonderland by the Eurythmics
  • Happy X mas (War Is Over) by John Lennon
  • Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Johnny Mathis or Andy Williams
  • Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt
  • Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms
  • Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney
  • Home For The Holidays by Perry Como
  • Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by U2
  • Baby It’s Cold Outside by Ray Charles and Betty Carter
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by the Pretenders
  • Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano
  • Merry Christmas Baby by Bruce Springsteen
  • Silver Bells by Johnny Mathis
  • Angels Among Us by Alabama

PLUS: DrivingHome for Christmas by Chris Rea; Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee; Santa Baby by Macy Gray; Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song) by Amy Grant; Joseph’s Song by Michael Card; Do They Know It’s Christmas Time by Band Aid; Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Mannheim Steamroller; Rockin Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee; Nuttin’ For Christmas by Barry Gordon; You’re a Mean One Mr Grinch from How the Grinch Stole Christmas soundtrack; Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer by Elmo and Patsy; Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M; Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) by Trans Siberian Orchestra; Please Come Home For Christmas by the Eagles; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan; Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby; Oh Come All ye Faithful by Luthor Vandross; I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas by Gayla Peevey; Christmas Time Is Here by the Peanuts Cast/Vince Guaraldi; It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – by Amy Grant; The Chipmunk Song by the Chipmunks; All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth by Spike Jones; I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by John Mellencamp or Aselin Debison’s The Gift (the Very First Nightingale’s Song)… phew!

However, The Chanukah Song by Adam Sandler would still exist.

Think of it: Had Jesus not been born there would be no Christmas movies either. There wouldn’t be movies called A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer nor the classics It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street.

Also:

  • All I Want for Christmas (1991)
  • An American Christmas Carol (TV) (1979)
  • Babes in Toyland (1934)
  • Bad Santa (2003)
  • Bells of St. Mary’s, The (1945)
  • Best Christmas Pageant Ever (1983) (TV)
  • Bishop’s Wife, The (1947)
  • Black Christmas (1975)
  • Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988) (TV)
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
  • Christmas Eve (1947)
  • Christmas Gift, The (1986) (TV)
  • Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
  • Christmas in July (1940)
  • Christmas Mountain (1980)
  • Christmas Romance, A (1994) (TV)
  • Christmas Stallion, The (1992) (TV)
  • Christmas Star, The (1986) (TV)
  • Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, The (1966)
  • Christmas to Remember, A (1978) (TV)
  • The Christmas Toy (1990) (TV)
  • The Christmas Tree (1969)
  • Christmas Vacation ’91 (1992)

PLUS: The Christmas Visitor (1987) (TV); The Christmas Wife (1988) (TV); A Christmas Without Snow (1980) (TV); Christmas With the Kranks (2004); Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966); Elf (2003); Ernest Saves Christmas (1988); Frosty the Snowman (1969) (TV); The Fourth Wise Man (1985) (TV); The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story (1983) (TV); Guess Who’s Coming for Christmas? (1990) (TV); A Hobo’s Christmas (1987) (TV); Holiday Affair (1949); Holiday Inn (1942); The Holly and the Ivy (1952); Home Alone (1990); Home for the Holidays (1972) (TV); The Homecoming – A Christmas Story (1971) (TV); The House Without a Christmas (1972) (TV); I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1988) (TV); It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (1984) (TV); It Happened One Christmas (1977) (TV); Jingle All the Way (1996); The Kid Who Loved Christmas (1990) (TV); The Lemon Drop Kid (1934) ; Love Actually (2003); The Little Drummer Boy (1968) (TV); The Man in the Santa Claus Suit (1978) (TV); The Man Who Came to Dinner (1941); Meet Me in St. Louis (1944); Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1984); A Midnight Clear, (1991); Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962); Muppet Christmas Carol, The (1992); National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989); The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey Nestor (1977) (TV); The Night Before Christmas (1906 and 1993) The Nutcracker (1982 and 1993); One Christmas (1994) (TV); One Magic Christmas (1985); Pinocchio’s Christmas (1980) (TV); Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952); The Polar Express (2004); Prancer (1989); Prancer Returns (1998); Santa Claus (1959); Santa Claus, The Movie (1985); Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970) (TV); Scrooge (1935); Scrooge (1951 and 1970); Scrooged (1988); Silent Night, Bloody Night (1973); Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984); Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990); Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1992); Silent Night, Deadly Night III – Better Watch Out! (1989); Silent Night, Deadly Night Part II (1987); Silent Night, Lonely Night (1969) (TV); Smoky Mountain Christmas, A (1986) (TV); ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1914); U.F.O. Blue Christmas (1979); A Very Brady Christmas (1988) (TV); White Christmas (1954); The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) (TV); Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus (1991) (TV). Did I miss any?

Not to mention all those Osmond Family and Anne Murray Christmas specials!

Truly, our world would be quite different if there was no Christmas.

Next time, I’ll continue to look at what kind of cultural world we’d live in, had Jesus never been born.


Photo Credit: (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Deacon-structing Vocations: Married Life part 1

Marriage

So far we’ve looked at the Vocation to the Single Life, the Vocation to the Religious Life and the Vocation to the Ordained Life part 1, part 2 and part 3. Let’s look at the other Vocation that is also a Sacrament: Marriage.

The majority of people are called to married life. Remember that for Catholics, Marriage is a Sacrament. That means that a married couple makes Christ present to each other and to the world – what a perfect vocation that is!

I would say that Marriage is the sacrament of Sacraments. All the Sacraments point to the Eucharist, but, St. Pope John Paul II calls marriage the “Primordial Sacrament” because it existed before all the others. In fact, it existed before the Fall of Adam and Eve. The first thing God does after He creates Adam and Eve is create Marriage.

I also say that Marriage stands apart because, as I said last time all the other Sacraments are a marriage. A Sacrament is a marriage of the human and the divine, so in marriage, we live exactly what a Sacrament is: the relationship between God and humans.

Remember that a Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give Grace. For many of us, this definition doesn’t really mean much. I mean, there is such a distance between God and me: I am physical and God is Spirit. I am visible and God is invisible. I am temporal and God is eternal. I am human and God is divine. But in the sacraments I am able to encounter the divine, eternal, invisible God in our own temporal, physical and human world. Through the sacraments we can see this invisible God, we can touch him and we can be in communion with him. God meets us where we are as earthly, bodily creatures. It’s like in the Sacraments the human and the divine kiss. Sacraments are a marriage between heaven and earth where God and humanity become ‘one flesh’.

The first chapter of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman in “his image and likeness.” He then says “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:26-28). He is creating marriage. This passage tells us that it is in the fruitful and total union that can only take place between one man and one woman that we come closest to being an image of God. In Marriage we come closest to being an image of God because in Marriage we are able to love another person the way God loves us: freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally.

Of these four qualities, the first three (free, faithful and fruitful) are necessary for all types of love. But the last – the “totality of love” – is unique to the way God loves us and is only necessary in the kind of love that a husband and wife are called to have.

In Genesis chapter two, after God creates Adam and Eve, it says, “therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

In Marriage, the husband and wife become one flesh (that’s the mystery or “metaphysical occurrence” that takes place). Have you ever wondered why it’s necessary for the husband and wife to become one flesh? Our sexuality (which belongs in Marriage) is unitive because of the children (which are the fullest expression of the fruitfulness of the sexual act). The Church doesn’t say that there have to be children, but the couple has to be open to children. This makes sense; otherwise there is no need for Marriage.

God said, ‘be fruitful and multiply’. In order to do that, we have to procreate. But to procreate is not just making babies. Procreation is also bringing the children up. Do you think that it’s an accident that you need a male and a female to procreate? You need a male and a female to procreate because you need a male and a female to bring up the child.

This is difficult to say because we all know children who grow up in single parent homes and are fine, but can we deny that the best place to bring up a child is in a loving home, with their biological parents who are healthy and functional and who love each other freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully?

That’s what marriage is: an institution created by God, where two people can love each other freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally in order to safeguard our sexuality, where we come closest to being an image of God. This institution provides the best environment where parents can bring up children the best way possible. The nature (God’s design) of Marriage is that it is unitive and procreative. The unity is necessary for the children that are procreated to be brought in the best way possible.

Next time, let’s look at what makes a Catholic Marriage.

The “O” Antiphons: O Emmanuel…

o_emmanuel

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 23, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23 and 1 Timothy 4:9.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectratio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domines, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come, save us, O Lord our God.

From Evening prayer
O Emmanuel,
king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people:
Come
and set us free, Lord our God.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 1:
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Emmanuel
Emmanuel means “God-with-us.” In the Old Testament, God dwelt with his people in the temple at Jerusalem. At the temple sanctuary He received their worship and conferred His mercy and blessings.

Christ is “God-with-us” in a far more intimate way. He is one of us since his birth on te first Christmas. He dwells with us in His Mystical Body, the Church. He embraces us in the holy Eucharist. We pray Him to come with His all-powerful grace this Christmas to save us, our neighbours and everyone.

-
(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O King…

O_King

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 22, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 2:4; 11:10, Psalm 47:8; Jeremiah 10:7, Daniel 7:14; Haggai 2:8, Romans 15:12 and Ephesians 2:14, 20.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of all peoples and their hope, cornerstone uniting Jews and Gentiles in one people: Come, and save man whom You formed from the dust of the earth.

From Evening prayer
O King of all the nations
the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man:
Come
and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 7:
O Come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven’s peace.

King of All Peoples
By His word, God made the first man, from whom all men and women have been born – people now divided into many peoples and nations struggling against one another.

In Christ, the Word incarnate, God gathers all who are of good will again into one, in the unity of His Mystical Body; and thereby He fulfills the desire of mankind through the ages for true union and peace. We beg Him to come and save our warring world, to re-establish all things in His love.

-
(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O Dawn…

o_dawn

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 21, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 9:1; 58:8; 60:18-20, Malachi 4:2, Luke 1:78-79, John 8:12 and Revelation 22:16

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Dawn in the East, splendor of the everlasting Light and Sun of Justice: Come and give light to those sitting in darkness, in the shadow of death.

From Evening prayer
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come,
shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

From O Come, O Come Emmanuel:
Verse 6:
O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.

Dawn in the East
We pray our Lord to give us light of His revelation and life to all mankind, to lead everyone on earth out of spiritual darkness into the glory of a life unending.

-
(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)