The other day Damian Thompson published a candid history of the Catholic blogosphere, which covers its heyday during the reign of Benedict XVI to its subsequent decline in recent years. Thompson knows a lot about this since he was on the ground floor of the Catholic digital information explosion, having been the writer for the very popular and hard-hitting blog, Holy Smoke.
As noted here before, the information democracy of the Internet has largely served the interests of the more conservative minded, both within the Church and in the secular world, because the mainstream media (secular and Catholic) has long been dominated by the left. Thompson acknowledges this, and accurately situates the new informational freedom in the context of Benedict XVI’s reform of the reform. With papal power behind doctrinal and liturgical reform as well as unrestricted access to the public through the blogosphere, a large sector of the Church, formerly marginalized, now had an opportunity to further what they saw as the true Church’s agenda.
Thompson is honest enough to say that there was also a spirit of payback working among the voices in the conservative Catholic blogosphere. He says the bitterness of some of the exposition was a way of venting, and he even confesses to having even created obviously false narratives about a bishop—basically for the sake of ridicule. He it admits it was both obsessive and fun. But it seemed to him to be justified because it was done in the service of the true faith and liturgical sanity.
After all, Pope Benedict ransomed the traditional Mass through Summorum Pontificum, and brought back from exile those who had long been treated as lepers. But since Pope Benedict’s reform agenda was met by so much episcopal opposition, Thompson conceived of himself as a man on a mission, whose job was
Thompson never quite expresses regret for his excesses, but goes further in admitting that the antics of his commenters was far worse than his own behavior. He also admits that the “far right Catholics raging against the Jews and ‘faggots,’” were more reprehensible than the “sneering atheists” commenting on his blog.
But if this was the worst of it, it did not exclude dabbling of Catholic bloggers in conspiracy theories. In this regard Thompson only specifically mentions the accusations of the Vatican homosexual mafia whose existence was verified by the Vatileaks scandal. However, this instance is not really representative of conspiracy theory as such, since the accusations turned out to have some basis in fact. Conspiracy theory by definition deals in innuendo and plausible but unproven (and often uprovable) narratives that fit a certain selection and arrangement of facts or allegations, usually by people who have something to gain by convincing others that the man is out to get them.
The reality is that the Catholic blogosphere is a clearinghouse for conspiracy theory. The nature of the blogosphere itself contributes to this fact. What passes for a standard of evidence and an ethics of accountability on the Internet has always been woefully lacking. And those whose causes have benefitted from the destruction of the reputation of others have not been eager to be held accountable or to make a distinction between allegation and proof.
In fact, the tribes that have formed in the blogosphere do more to provide protection for their tribesmen, than hold them accountable for the honor the tribal name. The largest Catholic tribe on the Internet, and arguably the most vicious and vindictive, has been the conservative, which because of its previous marginalization has felt itself justified in claiming the status of victim.
While we can all admit that there is truth to the complaints that led to this behavior, it would be to ignore reality to define it as anything other than juvenile. But that is also part of the nature of the Internet. Perfectly responsible adults have a tendency to revert to immaturity when they sit down in front of a computer.
Thompson suggests Pope Francis has taken the wind out of the sails of the Catholic blogosphere. But is that really the case, or was the heyday of the conservative faction just too good to be true? Tribalism never succeeds in establishing the reign of light, justice and peace, and the dominance of one tribe never lasts for long. The liquidation of one faction hell bent on cleansing the world of evil is always followed by the rise and fall of a new (or old) zealotry, unless tribalism itself is repudiated.
But tribalism has not been repudiated, so in the wake of the Franciscan opposition to ideology, especially that of the right, the lefty tribesmen are back to the same old iconoclasm of the sixties and seventies. One good turn deserves another.
In this much, at least, there is little difference in the Benedictine and Franciscan papacies. Benedict had enough of the internecine wars in Rome. Francis, it seems would rather get it all out in the open. But neither pope seem to have had much stomach for the Catholic jihad or for the logic of one dominant force sticking to a weaker.
But whether or not the heyday of the conservative blogosphere is over, there remains the larger issue of the methods of modern communication, whose exponential growth will only assure greater connectivity, interaction and virtualization. The trends Thompson identifies as part of a fading conservative blogsophere will certainly continue, even if conservatives do not especially benefit from them.
I have heard some saying for years that it is only a matter of time until the government gets total control over the Internet and silences the voices of opposition, but it is not the control of big brother or some darkly imagined conspiracy of a secret society that concerns me most. It seems to me that the more frightening consequence of the information “democracy” is that the many will continue to rule in the interests of a few—that more information really means more disinformation, and more self-serving manipulation—all for a good cause, of course. What concerns me is the rise of a machine inhabited by the soul of a mob.
Let us see what happens on both sides of the spectrum at the upcoming synod. Thompson writes of the ascendance of the Facebook and Twitter monitors of ecclesiastical affairs who provide “instant scrutiny” of what goes on behind closed doors. This does not inspire me with confidence. He also notes that it is not only a question of bloggers pretending to be journalists, but now the journalists rely on the bloggers, as do the episcopal crafters of favorable narrative.
The dominant tribe must now claim, not control over the means of communication, like big brother, but control of the narrative, which is not at all the same thing because the dominant narrative is that of the loudest and cleverest mob. It is the art of cutting and pasting, of provoking some comments and suppressing others, of linking and not linking, of keeping the chamber in a constant state of echo.
In fairness to Thompson, whose honesty is to be commended, I must note that the context of his remarks is a post about Father, soon-to-be, Bishop Robert Barron. Thompson has great hope for the future of modern communication because of the selection of this orthodox theologian/communications expert/popular preacher and evangelizer. I think his hope is well placed, because Fr. Barron does not seem to be a tribal loyalist.
As every conservative Catholic knows, it is holiness of life that changes both individuals and society. In the end our present crisis is really about a lack of sanctity—a problem for which we are all in some measure personally responsible. It seems to me that Fr. Barron has a sense that communication and virtue are integrally connected. (What a novel idea.)
I pray that by the grace of his episcopacy and the sanctification of his person and ministry Bishop Barron will help to raise up new saints, because in the end only saints will be able to save the Church from the rest of us.
Homily #150802a ( 09min) Play – This is a reflection given by Fr. Andre M. Feain on the readings for the Franciscan Solemnity of Our Lady of the Angels of Portiuncula, August 2nd 2015.
Some say that J. R. R. Tolkien is a black-and-white thinker who just pits the force of good against that of evil. However, his characters prove how Tolkien’s writing does not fall readily into such simple categories. The Istari (also known as wizards), for instance, reveal that things are no so black-and-white. Tolkien’s wizards illustrate how one may do evil even with the best of intentions, when one is seduced by the temptation to use an evil means to a good end.
The art of living is not always simple. The circumstances of life do not make it all that easy to live up to noble standards. To do so is a true art, because in moral life, just as in art, one eventually has to formulate a solution where none has existed before. Indeed, this line between good and evil at times can be highly ambiguous, and it is often very difficult to make clear moral choices in complex situations. Our counsels are not always certain.
This is where the temptation of the Istari comes in. The syncretistic meshing of good and evil is precisely the art of cold-hearted wizardry. It is shrewd, cunning, deliberate, foresighted and worst of all: it happens frequently in the real world. The cold-hearted wizard plays not only with fire, but with souls.
In the temptation of the Istari, Tolkien explores the sometime murkiness of the dichotomy between good and evil choices, particularly with regard to the means employed in reaching a specific end. He points out time and again: “You can’t fight the Enemy with his own Ring without turning into an Enemy” (Letter 81). By this he epitomizes the traditional theological maxim: bonum ex integra causa malum ex quocumque defectu [“An action is good when good in every respect; it is wrong when wrong in any respect”], according to which “a morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together” (CCC. 1755). Tinkering with the Ring is always risky business—even, and perhaps especially, for wizards.
All That Glitters is not Gold
In Letter 156, Tolkien wrote that the task of the wizards in Middle-earth was principally to “train, advise, instruct, arouse the hearts and minds of those threatened by Sauron to a resistance with their own strengths; and not just to do the job for them.” Moreover, he also notes how “these ‘wizards’ were incarnated in the life-forms of Middle-earth, and so suffered the pains both of mind and body. They were also, for the same reason, thus involved in the peril of the incarnate: the possibility of ‘fall’, of sin, if you will” (Letter 181).
At this point in the same letter, Tolkien describes the nature of the “temptation of the Wizards”:
The wizards were exceedingly wise. They possessed knowledge of the first principles in a supreme degree. However, when it came to particular knowledge concerning ways and means, they had no natural pre-knowledge or expertise. For the ways and means to moderation are infinitely varied according to the affairs, circumstances, and especially where “other wills are concerned” (Letter 156), as Tolkien specifies. Like us, the wizards had to learn this through experience. Tolkien explained that the wizards had no more, if no less “certitudes, or freedoms, than say a living theologian.”
Since prudence, strictly understood, is concerned not with universal principles or the end, but with individual cases and particular means to be employed, it follows that the temptation of the Istari mainly consisted in a tragic flaw in the use of prudence. They knew what to do but not necessarily how to do it.
The Prudence of the Cold-Hearted Wizards
It is extremely significant how Tolkien depicts the way Saruman tries to persuade Gandalf to join him in his evil scheme:
Saruman assures Gandalf that the “high and ultimate purpose” will remain unaltered; only the means employed will have to change. But the end does not justify the means. Tolkien once wrote that wizards “could in various ways become self-seeking” (Letter 212). Here Saruman is so deeply inured in his egotistic plot that he can no longer conceive of any choice other than one of expediency. His wisdom remained deep, but his pride outgrew it. And as Chesterton says, “Pride is a poison so very poisonous that it not only poisons the virtues; it even poisons the other vices.” Pride tainted the correct use of prudence, blinding Saruman even to the possibility of choices that do not involve pragmatism, power or self-interest. In the end, he subordinates the end to the means.
Sheer cold-hearted wizardry exchanges the highest ideals for narrow interests. The constant temptation of the Istari, “to do, or try to do, what is for them wrong (and disastrous): to force lesser wills by power” (Letters, 156), implies the secret employment of evil means with the view to coerce others, and, thus, gain some type of advantage. It is the execution of an astute plan by words calculated to deceive or circumvent the rights of another person. All this is done in the name and under the guise of the true, good and beautiful. “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The “prudence” of the cold-hearted wizards is utterly wicked, for it is cold calculation that masquerades as the virtue of prudence.
Tolkien correctly suggests that right motives are not enough: they must be coupled with right means. He also explains how the Ring is a great temptation for anyone because it is so easy to assert that one’s intention is to use it for good. Those who operate in this manner, undoubtedly spurred on by the influence of the Ring, do not take into account the corrupting power of the very evil that is being employed in the service of a “just cause.”
An act can be said to be entirely good only when all its elements—its object, circumstances, purpose and means employed—are in conformity with the standards of morality. True prudence then is wise not only in deliberation, but in decision and in direction as well. It carefully considers the correct methods to be employed for virtuous choice, and draws right conclusions about the means to be chosen for virtuous conduct. It ponders on what to do, and how to properly do it. At times, this might require a good dose of wholesome wizardry.
The Voice of Cold-Hearted Wizards
In chapter ten of The Two Towers, Saruman makes his first real appearance. Here he is characterized chiefly by his voice. Like many contemporary cunning politicians, his main power is in his ability to deceitfully persuade. Tom Shippey calls him “the most contemporary figure of Middle-earth,” precisely because he personifies sly politicians, whose main concern is for themselves, but whose real intentions are cloaked in sweet, but deceptive language. Indeed, Saruman’s voice had the power to beguile and to persuade in unperceivable ways. The sound of his voice alone
As they approached the tower of Orthanc, Gandalf reminded Pippin that “Saruman has powers you do not guess. Beware of his voice!” Here, Tolkien, a man who passionately loved languages, was not unaware of its power and sought to emphasize the snares of sophistry. An explicit effort of mind and will are needed to escape its peril.
Sophists taught the skill to argue for any position, regardless of whether it was right or wrong. This was done through false but appealing arguments, quibbling, the confusion or entrapment of opponents, emotional appeal and slander, the shouting of opponents down, and the use of other rhetoric, such as sound bite slogans used by pundits in the media today. In all this, getting at the truth was surely not part of the Sophists’ agenda. It was in fact, irrelevant to their intentions. They were not interested in the truth, but in the execution of their plan at the expense of the freedom of others. This is a clear mark of cold-hearted wizardry.
“You have become a fool, Saruman, and yet pitiable,” Gandalf would later tell him. This applies to the ancient Sophists as well as to the cold-hearted wizards of today.
The moral framework of the modern world presents becomes even more complicated when we consider the means that technology presently offers. The modern Machine is a bull-horn for the shrill and cold voice of Saruman. It is not difficult to find “Sharkeys” surfing the Internet, who disguise their cause in fair words and present facts selectively to fit their agenda. Packaged in ear-tickling verbiage, cold-hearted wizards of the virtual world attempt to persuade others to actions inconsistent with sound moral principles.
The tools of technology are themselves morally indifferent, but in the hands of the acting person they assume the moral quality of a means to an end. The tools of modern communication, not only facilitate the immediate and constant connectivity of persons around the globe, as well as a newfound information democracy, but also the lowering of the standards of journalistic integrity and of personal responsibility. We do not have more transparency as a result but less, and while the quantity of information has increased exponentially, the quality has not, nor has our ability to discern the difference been aided by the growth in technology. Tolkien was quite deliberate in equating the power to quicken a desired result through magic with the potential evil of the modern Machine.
So the wizards of the virtual world get a free pass. The free market of ideas is held to be more important than accountability. In the end, this facilitates the methods of propagandists: deliberate misrepresentation, half-truths, selective reporting, etc. All this diminishes the legitimate freedom of others. The relative protection the computer monitor provides ought not to be a pretext for minimizing accountability. Man is always personally responsible for his acts, whether off or online.
Just as wizards were prone to “err and stray” as Tolkien emphasized, as Catholics we are also vulnerable to the seductive appeal of the Ring. It is possible for us to begin with a good intention, but then to act according to the logic of the Machine. We can taint a decent motive of choice and action by not attending to the order which supernatural prudence requires.
It should be evident, then, how the voice of truth can be drowned out by subtly deceptive language. One cannot build an ivory tower out of the rubble of Isengard. Universal truth is always sacrificed on the altar of narrow agendas, even if only in the sense that one comes to reject the universal truth that the end does not justify the means. “Proprium virtus moralis est facere electionem rectam” (S. Th., I-II, q. 65, a. 1). St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that the proper act of virtue consists in right choice, because true virtue does not stop at a good intention, but executes this good intention through morally right choices, namely, with choices that realize the initial virtuous intention. We have to know what to do and how to do it in the right way.
Gandalf as Ring-Lord: A Would-be “Benevolent” Dictator
When Frodo offered him the Ring, Gandalf rejected it and in the process defined clearly the temptation of the Istari:
Perhaps the most profound examination of the ambiguous treatment of good and evil in Tolkien could be found in Letter 246 where he hypothesizes what would have happened if Gandalf was to become Ring-Lord:
The same letter ends with this extremely interesting note:
Gandalf’s temptation would have been much more subtle. It is unlikely that he would have been an iconoclast, scandalizing others by flaunting his hypocrisy in public. Nonetheless, he would have been a self-righteous hypocrite as Tolkien points out; for he would have claimed that his knowledge of the universal principles (which would have remained great as Tolkien specifies) allowed him to manipulate things subtly so as to modify their structure without really changing them essentially. This would have been the subtlest form of the prudence of cold-hearted wizards.
Gandalf would have certainly given his subjects what they needed and not exactly what they wanted. But no matter how benevolent his dictatorship it might have seemed to be, it would strip his subjects of the necessary interior condition of liberty to adhere to the good. Gandalf would have overstepped his competence as a moral force, which, based on freedom and responsibility, is meant to guide the energies of all towards the common good.
This is not to say that legitimate authority is without the power to coerce within the limits of law (divine, ecclesial and human), but that the nobility of the end does not bring a proportionate increase the power to coerce. Nor the “benevolence” of the authority, or the evil of the times authorize a power to violate basic human freedom. Gandalf was eminently good, he cause was supremely noble, and he confronted the greatest evil. He still would not touch the Ring.
Had it been otherwise, he would have “benevolently” imposed the good in a subtly despotic manner. In this way, the climate of genuine freedom would have been contaminated by the stench of the Machine. It would have been a very subtle form of coercion of the will inspired by the logic of the Ring. It would have been sheer wizardry—sheer cold-hearted wizardry.
No wonder Tolkien says that Gandalf would have been far worse than Sauron. Gandalf, the Ring-Lord, would have so integrated good with evil means (subtle coercion of the will in the name of good), that the distinction between good and evil have become confused. It would have become a case of beauty in the beast, in which the good becomes detestable. This is the art of sheer cold-hearted wizardry at its worst.
In reality, it is only by authentic freedom that man can turn himself towards what is good. Man’s dignity requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses of the passions nor by the mere constraint of cold-hearted wizards.
Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward towards his goal by freely choosing what is good, and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suites to his end (Gaudium et Spes, 17).
In fact, when uninhibited by disordered passions, human nature, elevated by grace enables us to judge correctly about the universal principles of right and wrong. So also, when judgement is to be made about a particular line of action, as a man is, so he judges. The licentious man judges for pleasure, the cowardly man for neglect of duty, the cold-hearted wizard for apparent good. Thus emerges the necessity to cultivate true virtue. The end does not justify the means (CCC. 1753). Or as Tolkien would say, “You can’t fight the Enemy with his own Ring without turning into an Enemy” (Letters, 81). No good can come from the Ring. Even in the hands of a benevolent master.
All that glitters is not gold. And all that is gold does not glitter.
As Catholics we are “mortals hemmed in a hostile world” as Tolkien would say. Our Lord exhorts us to be as innocent doves and as wise as serpents (Mt. 10, 16), not as calculating as cold-hearted wizards. Evangelical “wizardry” teaches us the logic of the Cross, not that of power and domination. The Cross of Christ does not glitter: it saves. Our Lady’s mediation of divine grace does not glitter: it sanctifies. The untarnished keys of Peter do not glitter: they illumine. The wisdom of the Gospel, “source of all saving truth and moral discipline” (Dei Verbum, 7), has been a stumbling block not only to Jews and foolishness not only to the Gentiles– but it been also a stumbling block and foolishness to the cold-hearted wizards of today.
Ave Maria Meditations
The month of July has traditionally been consecrated and devoted to the Precious Blood of Jesus. To learn the telos (the ends) of the Mass would be a great resolution for this month. To reveal those goals, I want to show the prayer that every priest (before Vatican II) would pray before the Mass. It’s in Latin, traditionally, but with the English there, too. I give here my translation a bit more word-for-word: I will to celebrate Mass and to confect the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the rite of the Holy Roman Church, unto the praise of the omnipotent God and all the Triumphant Church, for my good and the good of the entire Church Militant, for all who have commended themselves to my prayers—in general and specifically, and for the happy state of the Holy Roman Church. May the omnipotent and merciful Lord grant us joy with peace, amendment of life, space for true repentance, consolation of the Holy Spirit and perseverance in good works.
Jesus offers Himself in the re-presented sacrifice of Calvary in the Mass. The prayer tells us, in order of importance, the telos of the Mass, taking the italics below from the prayer above.
Here’s the top seven goals of the Mass according to that prayer:
1) The Blessed Trinity: Unto the praise of the omnipotent God.
2) The priest: For my good.
3.) All the Saints: All of the Triumphant Church.
4) All the Catholics on earth: The good of the entire Church Militant.
5) Those who have generally given themselves to the prayers of the priest: For all who have commended themselves to my prayers—in general.
6) Those who have commended themselves specifically to that priest’s prayers at Mass: For all who have commended themselves to my prayers…specifically.
7) For the happy state of the Holy Roman Church.
In the last part of the prayer before Mass, I ask God to “grant us joy with peace, amendment of life, space for true repentance, consolation of the Holy Spirit and perseverance in good works.” (more…)
Homily #150729n ( 04min) Play – The Kingdom of Heaven is worth every work, sacrifice and suffering we are called to. It takes everything, this one thing only is necessary. And is it through this sacrifice, being “violent” to our self-centeredness and passions, that we grow closer to God, preparing for the day we will be called to spend eternity with Him in heaven.
Ave Maria Meditations
Keeping the Commandments
The Decalogue, the “Ten Words” or Ten Commandments, which comes from the Torah of Moses, is a shining star of faith and morals for the people of God, and it also enlightens and guides the path of Christians. It constitutes a beacon and a norm of life in justice and love, a “great ethical code” for all humanity. The Ten Commandments shed light on good and evil. on truth and falsehood, on justice and injustice, and they match the criteria of every human person’s right conscience…
The Ten Commandments require that we recognize the one Lord, against the temptation to construct other idols, to make golden calves. In our world there are many who do not know God or who consider Him superfluous, without relevance for their lives; hence, other new gods have been fabricated to whom man bows down. Reawakening in our society openness to the transcendent dimension, witnessing to the one God is a precious service…
The Ten Commandments call us to respect life and to protect it against every injustice and abuse, recognizing the worth of each human person, created in the image and likeness of God. How often, in every part of the world. near and far, the dignity, the freedom, and the rights of human beings are trampled upon! Bearing witness together to the supreme value of life, against all selfishness, is an important contribution to a new world where justice and peace reign, a world marked by that “shalom” which the lawgivers, the prophets, and the sages of Israel longed to see.
The Ten Commandments call us to preserve and to promote the sanctity of the family, in which there personal and reciprocal, faithful and definitive “Yes” of man and woman makes room for the future, for the authentic humanity of each and makes them open, at the same time, to the gift of new life. To witness that the family continues to be the essential cell of society and the basic environment in which human virtues are learned and practiced is a precious service offered in the construction of a world with a more human face.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Homily #150727n ( 04min) Play – Blessed Mary Magdalene of Martinengo was a noble woman who became a Poor Clare at seventeen. However, even as a child she delighted in penance and austerity out of love for Jesus. Jesus tells us that we cannot expect to save our souls unless we do penance in this life (Luke 13:3). As it said above the front door of the friary where Padre Pio did his novitiate: Penance or Hell.
Homily #150726n ( 17min) Play – Today’s Gospel reading is a prefigurement of the Eucharist, Father Matthias tells us. Our Lord taught that He is really present in the Eucharist, and didn’t back down when challenged. Likewise, the Church has never backed down on her teaching of transubstantiation, that after the consecration, only the appearance and physical attributes of the bread and the wine remain. The Eucharist is like spiritual food, it sustains and heals us much like physical food sustains us physically, but much more profoundly. A dead body cannot eat normal food, likewise, someone in a state of separation from God (mortal sin) cannot benefit from receiving the Eucharist, but must first receive the Sacrament of Penance. Two practical conclusions of this consideration is that it is better to receive on the tongue and not to receive communion in the hand. The Church’s preference is for communion on the tongue, and communion on the hand is only a concession to widespread disobedience. Also, we should make a thanksgiving after Holy Communion of, preferably, at least 15 minutes, for until the host dissolves, Jesus is really and truly within us. Let us not invite Him in only to ignore His abiding presence.
Ave Maria Meditations
A El Camino Prayer of a Pilgrim on the Way to St. James
A Pilgrim’s Prayer to St. James
This is an ancient prayer that comes at the end of the Pilgrim Mass said along the Camino de Santiago:
“O God, who brought your servant Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans, protecting him in his wanderings, who guided the Hebrew people across the desert, we ask that you watch over us, your servants, as we walk in the love of your name to Santiago de Compostela.
Be for us our companion on the walk, our guide at the crossroads, Our breath in our weariness, Our protection in danger, Our albergue on the Camino, Our shade in the heat, Our light in the darkness, Our consolation in our discouragements, And our strength in our intentions.
So that with your guidance we may arrive safe and sound at the end of the Road and enriched with grace and virtue we return safely to our homes filled with joy.
Homily #150723n ( 04min) Play – Father gives us a short biography of St. Bridget, showing the truth of what today’s Collect prayer tells us, that St. Bridget is an example for the single, married, or consecrated life.
Ave Maria Meditations
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, Lord.”
“Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again!”
(Chapter 8 of St. John’s Gospel)
In the Sacrament of Penance it is Christ who forgives.
They placed her in the midst, says the Gospel. They have humiliated her and shamed her in the extreme, without the slightest concern for her. They remind Our Lord that the Law imposed the severe penalty of death by stoning for this sin. “What do you say?”, they ask him, disguising their ulterior motives so that they might have some charge to bring against him. But Jesus surprises them all. He does not say anything; He bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
The woman is terrified by them all. The Scribes and Pharisees go on asking questions. Then, Jesus stood up and said to them, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone”. And once more He bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
They all went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest. Not one of them had a clear conscience and they were trying to set a trap for Our Lord. All of them went away. And Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Homily #150722n ( 06min) Play – The parable of the sower and the seed is read in today’s Gospel and as we remember Saint Mary Magdalene, Father Maximilian tells us that we may know the Gospel, but do we live it? Or are we withered by the sacrifices it calls for and choked by the distractions of the world. For an example, he presents St. Mary Magdalene who had lived a life of sin, but came out of it and loved Our Lord so much that His first recorded appearance after the Resurrection was to her. If she can go from a life of sin to being a great saint, we also can go from sin and mediocrity to great sanctity. In both her and us, Jesus casts the seed of the Gospel, but it is we who must respond. Let us respond with a love and generosity like Mary Magdalene’s, go to the Cross, search for Jesus at the Tomb, and here Him call us by name.
Ave Maria Meditations
When Christ decided to give site to a man blind from birth, He placed mud on the man’s eyes, an action that was much more suited to blinding those who see then to giving sight to the blind who could not see. So, too, the passion and death of Christ was more likely to destroy the faith of those who believed that He was the only begotten son of God, as was clear in the case of the apostles and disciples, then to command faith to nonbelievers. And yet He says: “when I lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to Myself.” (Jn 12:32)
…After the cross, after the suffering, after the disgraceful, shameful, repulsive death of the cross, I shall turn the world to faith in Me, so that the world will believe that I am the Son of God, the true Messiah…
We see with other clarity that this is what has happened. Christ came into this world to do battle against satan, to do away with idolatry, and return the world to faith and piety and the worship of the true God. He could have accomplish this by using the weapons of His might and coming as He will come to judge in glory and majesty just as He manifested himself and His Transfiguration. Who would not then had believed in Christ?
But in order that His victory might be more glorious, He willed to fight satan in our weak flesh. It is as if an unarmed man, right hand bound, where to fight with his left hand alone against a powerful army; if he emerged victorious, his victory would be regarded as all the more glorious. So Christ conquered satan with the right hand of His divinity bound and using against him only the left hand of His weak humanity.
St. Lawrence of Brindisi (Doctor of the Church, Feast Day is July 21st)
Homily #150720n ( 06min) Play – St. Apollinaris is a martyr from the early Church–he was martyred in 79AD–and Father Joachim tells us about his life and sufferings for Christ. Following Jesus involves risks, even of our lives, but, as Father reminds us, we will all die and appear before the Lord. Remembering the sufferings of the Martyrs will give us the courage and strength to make the small, daily sacrifices of the Christian life.