Day23 Church Fathers Lenten Reading Plan 3/23/09
St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 21-30
Day 23 Lite Version
St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: 17-25
You don’t usually get to hear a Lutheran congregation holler an, “Amen” or “Preach it, Brother. ” Today was no different, but the minister seemed to want one. I was visiting with the Lutherans and the minister confessed that the one time he could remember that someone called out, “Amen, Brother”, it caught him so by surprise that it totally threw him into confusion. Now, however, Jesus was talking plain in the Gospel and the minister felt he could use a reminder from the pews to, “Make it plain; make it plain!” He was preaching John 3:16, “the Bible in a nutshell.”
The evening before, I heard a priest of the Roman Catholic Church preach it. He truly kept it simple. He said,
“Life is short. Hell is for Eternity. Think about it!” He sat down. That was it! Talk about nutshells.
My Lutheran friend said a bit more, before remembering his injunction to himself, “Make it plain!” The plain fact was that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The minister said that the love He bore us was not the stuff of “warm fuzzies” but “agape”, that to die for love that willing died for all mankind; sparing not a drop of blood, or leaving a breathe unspent.
The sermon in my head reminded me, Jesus plainly and emphatically proclaimed that verse, now made famous by placards at football games and verse17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” However, not many people finish the message. Jesus’ “make it plain” message, was also recorded by John in chapter 3:18-19.
No “warm fuzzies” here, either, only the uncomfortable part of the Truth, John 3:18-19.
“Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.”
Jesus spoke the whole Truth and so should we because: “Life is short. Hell is for Eternity. Think about it!”
Sorry, if this is too much Chaput for you, but the man/bishop has a message America and American Catholics need to hear. I intend to follow his lead and spread the message.
“Some Catholics in both political parties are deeply troubled by these issues. But too many Catholics just don’t really care. That’s the truth of it. If they cared, our political environment would be different. If 65 million Catholics really cared about their faith and cared about what it teaches, neither political party could ignore what we believe about justice for the poor, or the homeless, or immigrants, or the unborn child. If 65 million American Catholics really understood their faith, we wouldn’t need to waste each other’s time arguing about whether the legalized killing of an unborn child is somehow ‘balanced out’ or excused by three other good social policies.”
Offering a sober evaluation of the state of American Catholicism, he added:
“We need to stop over-counting our numbers, our influence, our institutions and our resources, because they’re not real. We can’t talk about following St. Paul and converting our culture until we sober up and get honest about what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. We need to stop lying to each other, to ourselves and to God by claiming to ‘personally oppose’ some homicidal evil — but then allowing it to be legal at the same time.”
Commenting on society’s attitude towards Catholic beliefs, Archbishop Chaput said, “we have to make ourselves stupid to believe some of the things American Catholics are now expected to accept.”
“There’s nothing more empty-headed in a pluralist democracy than telling citizens to keep quiet about their beliefs. A healthy democracy requires exactly the opposite.”
What’s in a word? Archbishop Chaput will tell you:
Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput delivered a speech on Saturday reflecting on the significance of the November 2008 election. Warning that media “narratives” should not obscure truth, he blamed the indifference and complacency of many U.S. Catholics for the country’s failures on abortion, poverty and immigration issues.
He also advised Catholics to “master the language of popular culture” and to refuse to be afraid, saying “fear is the disease of our age.”
Archbishop Charles J, Chaput, speaking in Toronto -excerpt:
The “separation of Church and state” does not mean — and it can never mean — separating our Catholic faith from our public witness, our political choices and our political actions. That kind of separation would require Christians to deny who we are; to repudiate Jesus when he commands us to be “leaven in the world” and to “make disciples of all nations.” That kind of radical separation steals the moral content of a society. It’s the equivalent of telling a married man that he can’t act married in public. Of course, he can certainly do that, but he won’t stay married.
More Archbishop Charles J. Chaput from his speech in Toronto. He is speaking as an American, a Catholic and a bishop about “Rending Unto Casaer”
Excerpt from speech:
Here’s the second point, and it’s a place where the Canadian and American experiences may diverge. America is not a secular state. As historian Paul Johnson once said, America was “born Protestant.” It has uniquely and deeply religious roots. Obviously it has no established Church, and it has non-sectarian public institutions. It also has plenty of room for both believers and non-believers. But the United States was never intended to be a “secular” country in the radical modern sense. Nearly all the Founders were either Christian or at least religion-friendly. And all of our public institutions and all of our ideas about the human person are based in a religiously shaped vocabulary. So if we cut God out of our public life, we also cut the foundation out from under our national ideals.
Here’s the third point. We need to be very forceful in clarifying what the words in our political vocabulary really mean. Words are important because they shape our thinking, and our thinking drives our actions. When we subvert the meaning of words like “the common good” or “conscience” or “community” or “family,” we undermine the language that sustains our thinking about the law. Dishonest language leads to dishonest debate and bad laws.
Here’s an example. We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty — these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it’s never an end itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil. Likewise, democratic pluralism does not mean that Catholics should be quiet in public about serious moral issues because of some misguided sense of good manners. A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive. Real pluralism demands that people of strong beliefs will advance their convictions in the public square — peacefully, legally and respectfully, but energetically and without embarrassment. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the public conversation.
Here’s the fourth point. When Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians in the Gospel of Matthew (22:21) to “render unto the Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” he sets the framework for how we should think about religion and the state even today. Caesar does have rights. We owe civil authority our respect and appropriate obedience. But that obedience is limited by what belongs to God. Caesar is not God. Only God is God, and the state is subordinate and accountable to God for its treatment of human persons, all of whom were created by God. Our job as believers is to figure out what things belong to Caesar, and what things belong to God — and then put those things in right order in our own lives, and in our relations with others.
So having said all this, what does a book like “Render Unto Caesar” mean, in practice, for each of us as individual Catholics? It means that we each have a duty to study and grow in our faith, guided by the teaching of the Church. It also means that we have a duty to be politically engaged. Why? Because politics is the exercise of power, and the use of power always has moral content and human consequences.