Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Obeying Leaders Whom We Have Seen....

Note: This post is for mature, born-again Christian audiences only.
For decades I have imagined heaven. I don't mean that I have imagined an eternity of living in perfect bliss walking on golden streets, petting lions. I know this is paradise for many people. I focus on another moment.

This is what I have been living for, waiting for, longing for: the moment I can look into the eyes of God. That will be my eternity. If there is nothing of heaven but that instant, it will be the perfect eternity. I in His eyes and He in mine. There is nothing more I shall ever desire, for there is nothing greater.

At night, when all is dark and I am alone with that vision of seeing God face to face, I beg God that everyone see Him as I see Him in my heart.

"Why, oh why do You not reveal Yourself to everyone?" I plead ardently.  It has sorrowed my heart, wounded me. "Why can't we see You.. just, just for a glimpse?" Yet, decade after decade He is silent and unseen. 

 I have tried so hard to understand why God is invisible. For the world would instantly change if they could but see Him--look into His eyes.

Then suddenly, He revealed why this is. In a moment I understood. I want to explain to you what He explained to me, but it will take quite a while. Please be patient as I try and unfold for you what He revealed to me. 

It started in the Garden of Eden. Man was given dominion of the earth. 

And God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. " ….Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Gen. 1: 26, 28

Adam failed his task. Adam failed to take authority over the snake and rebuke him. (Wasn't the snake a creeping thing he was to take dominion over?) Now he lost his part of his authority over the earth. It would no longer obey him. Now, he would work for his sustenance on the earth. (Gen. 3: 17-19) 

God told Noah that he was to take authority over the earth. "The fear and terror of you will be in every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are placed under your authority." Gen. 9:2

Noah ended up drunk and Canaan, his grandson, was cursed. 

Genesis 23 tells the story of Jacob, who fled home after stealing from his brother, now was returning home, repentant and afraid. God sent an angel to wrestle with Jacob. (v. 24-30) 

"Your name will no longer be called 'Jacob,' but, 'Israel,' for you have fought with God and with men, and have prevailed," the angel said. Jacob was astounded and exclaimed, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved!"

God fought Jacob in order to make him a man.

The Bible is one long history of God trying to make men take their rightful place of responsibility and authority. Obviously that is not the main point of history, but if you look at scripture closely, it seems to be a definite subplot. Man, especially man, is to take his rightful place as king and judge. But He first has to make men, menmen of God.

When Moses didn't want to lead the people out of Egypt, God's anger was kindled and He told Moses that He would send Aaron, his brother, to be with him as he spoke to Israel and pharaoh.

"I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do…he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him." Ex. 4: 15, 16

Notice that Moses was constantly relating to God that His people were complaining. Finally, Moses tells the people that, "your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord."  When they spoke to Moses, it was as if they are speaking to God Himself. For Moses was in the earthly place of God for them. Ex.16: 8

I have never heard anyone ever talk about that last or the upcoming verse. But they prove my point. God places His leadership in His own place, for us to see Him. When we see God's leaders, we are supposed to be seeing Him. Read what happens next. It will shock you. 

After all the grumbling Israel was doing against Moses, the Lord told Moses to prepare His people for an event on Sinai. But why? Listen to what God said.

The LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever." Ex. 19:9

Mount Sinai was not only about giving the law to Israel, but about establishing forever Moses' authority. If there is any doubt of this, God shows us what happens if even Moses' siblings try and usurp Moses' authority.

Miriam began to talk against Moses because he had married a Cushite. "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?" She began to stir up mutant in Israel. The Lord appeared at the entrance of the Tent of Meetings and summoned Miriam and told them that Moses was more than a prophet, for He spoke to prophets in dreams and visions. But Moses God spoke face to face. Verse 9 records that, "The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them." And God inflicted Miriam with leprosy. Moses intercession saved her. (Num. 12)

Next we have Israel's kings:

King David was the youngest of the siblings. David slew Goliath. That is what men of God do. Finally, a man after God's own heart: fearless, a man of action, a man of compassion and even a man who respected the seat of the King's authority. For David would not touch God's anointed authority, King Saul, even as corrupt as he was. 

God gave His authority to His leaders in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word,  Radah, (meaning "dominion") is the same dominion God has over the earth and means to dominate, subjugate. Solomon was given this dominion over Israel (I Kings 4, 5, 9).

The Men of the New Covenant

Christ came to fulfill Moses authority and King David's. (Numbers 24: 14-19, "Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion…" See also: Judges 5: 13) This domination/authority was given by God to His Son, Jesus Christ, in the New Testament (Greek: Exousia. See Matt. 28: 18. Eph. 1: 21, Col. 2: 10).

Our Lord then passed on His authority to His twelve Apostles (Matt. 10: 1, Luke 10: 19).

And in obedient to faith in the New Covenant, we are commanded to recognize and submit to His appointed authorities. (Rom. 13: 1-3, 5, I Tim. 2:2, I Peter 2: 13, 2 Peter 2: 10, Jude 1:8, 25.) Especially to our spiritual authorities:

And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take note of that person; don't associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. 2 Thess. 3:14 
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Heb. 13: 17 (See also: I Cor. 16: 16, I Peter 1: 14)

St. Paul claims this authority (I Cor. 9: 12, "If others share this authority over you, don't we even more?" 2 Cor. 10:8, "if I boast some more about our authority, which the Lord gave…" 2 Cor. 13:10, "when I am there I will not use severity, in keeping with the authority the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down." See also Rom. 15: 18, 2 Cor. 2:9, Phil. 2: 12.)

Titus, as bishop, has this authority (Titus 2: 14, "encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you." Titus 3: 1, "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to obey..")

Everything in scripture is driving us towards being like God, with His authority. We are to be kings and judges. But, like Christ, we must first learn obedience. We must be perfect and that is by being obedient to our earthly authorities. The first being our human, biological father. Then our spiritual fathers. 

We cannot see God on earth, yet. Because if God were to have revealed Himself that clearly to our senses: our eyes, our touch, our hearing… we would not feel the need of being obedient to His appointed leaders. God has a system whereby we must be Him to the world. We are to represent God, we who are born again.  And yet the greatest responsibility is not just Christians, but those who are called to certain leadership: the men.

Fathers, pastors, priests, bishops, popes. We are to first be obedient to them. They must be seen first as authorities, then we can see God as our authority and obey Him. This is similar to what St. 
John warns us about with loving our brother. 

If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. I John 4: 20

Perhaps it is this way with God and His leadership. Perhaps until we can learn to obey our earthly fathers, physical and spiritual, whom we can see, we cannot obey God, whom we have not seen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Priests Going Rogue and Prayer For Our Bishops

I love being Catholic. 

That is because I love doctrine. I really don't get too upset about hypocrisy and people failing to live up to the things they believe are true. I don't look to people. 

To me, perfect doctrine, perfect TRUTH paints a picture of who Christ is and helps me to worship and know Him. Doctrine is my way of having a very close relationship with Jesus. Therefore, I love religion and its doctrine. I love a community of believers no matter how rotten, hypocritical, asleep, unrepentant and weak they are. They are my Christian family. I truly love religion and all its rites and rituals that God set up for us through our leaders! So what if we fail to be perfect. Let's all just keep walking together towards perfection!

(Here's just a glimpse of perfection. Just thought I would throw it in for.... inspiration.)

Therefore I am not spiritually ruffled by bad Catholics. 

And here's the big huge.... EXCEPT. And now I will complain, but for a moment:

I have been grieving since Sunday over what I see more and more occurring in my beloved Church! This is just the latest of a growing list of things my husband and I have been witnessing in Catholic Churches across the nation. 

Since our priest was on vacation, a fill-in priest came and gave the mass. During the homily, he calmly told the parishioners that a group of "celibate, old men" had no authority to make rules for married people. He
described a man who, after a divorce, committed suicide because he could no longer receive the Eucharist. (I think the guy was contemplating remarriage or something like that... the priest was mumbling at this point.) Then, very clearly, he told anyone sitting there who had been denied communion because of a divorce to come and receive the Eucharist. 

After church in the foyer a lot of people had the shocked look of, "did he just say what we think he just said?" Others were just livid..."YEAH!! HE DID!!" 

To make absolutely certain that the priest didn't misspeak (or was on some type of medication) my husband followed him back privately and asked him to clarify. Well, the priest felt free to become emotional and with scorn told my husband that the Curia was the group of those "old, celibate men" who had no right to make any rules that deal with marriage. Then he began to list all the Catholic abuses of power including the idea of mortal sins. He, point blank, told my husband that there was no such thing as mortal sin. 

Well.... I need to take a breath here and finish. 

I have repeatedly written bishops when priests seem to go rogue. I did this time too. 

Instead of just becoming discouraged, I have started a page of prayer for our bishops. It's rough out there.
We need to be holy for our bishops and pray for their courage to fight for the faith at this time. Please join me. Click the link below:


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

When Everyone Knows and Everyone Knows that Everyone Knows

July 4th, we were at Thomas Jefferson's scenic, historic vacation home, nicknamed by our third president: Poplar Forest.

Celebrators were assembled listening to a Virginia politician, in 17th-century garb, dramatically reading the Declaration of Independence. As his voice shot past all the strollers and little children holding small US flags, across all the moms in floppy straw hats and dads in cargo pants to the thick green foliage edging the back lawn, the moment was electrical. And it made me start to think. 

I had just read the Declaration of Independence a few weeks prior while doing some research. This was vastly different from my personal reading. 

Public vs. Private Reading

I realized that there was a critical dynamic that had changed inside me at the hearing of the public words in comparison to those I read comfortably at home. And it was the same about everything I read alone versus something I heard in public. Something happens when truth is read to a listening crowd. Something more than when it is read alone. It is mystical, like a birth.

As we silently read, vulnerable and infant concepts inside our brain-womb, are protected from sight. Insulated, hidden facts and their interpretations shape and reshape first inside our heads. Then, even though the facts are in black against the white page, we are unsure who, if anyone else, knows about this information. And those who do know them, do they care? The insecure doubts press us to keep quiet about what we read. Mostly the information remains pliable inside our head.

But when said aloud in public, those ideas are thrust from their isolation into reality and born into the world. When reading-infused thoughts are voiced publicly something fascinating happens.  

When we can see the whites of the eyes of a crowd, an idea morphs into something solid. It become immovable, not because the thoughts are of themselves brilliant and immovable, but because they quit being our own, locked secretly inside our brains but are now out there....unable to be withdrawn back into silence. What was before between the reader and the piece of paper moves from the subjective realm to the objective realm. The most shocking of all is:

The thought is now known. We now all know.

Not only that but we all know that we all know. 

The information is now vulnerable, exposed and unable to hide from judgment. And since we look around and the information is out and everyone knows that everyone knows, we now share the responsibility for the information. 

Examples of the Dynamics:

Someone suspected of smoking marijuana reads in a local newspaper that the city is going to crack down on pot users. He may react with irritation, but knows now to be more careful. But if a city council member unexpectedly announces it a big high school sporting event where the user is with a crowd of his family and friends, he may feel exposed and uncomfortable. He may wonder if everyone is looking at him. 

What if there is an undercurrent of sexual promiscuity in your church's youth? Compare the reaction of a worried parent who leaves a book on chastity for their teenager to privately or if his parent were to read it aloud to the whole youth department. This isn't about the embarrassment of the teenagers (although there would be a roomful of that) but the dynamic of the group to the information that is now so real. 

Or what about a terrorist threat? The information is far more concrete when a mayor announces it at a city gathering rather than a citizen reading on the internet.

Our perceptions of information fundamentally change when everyone knows and everyone knows that everyone else knows. There is no more sheltering of fact. They are no longer shadowy wonderings and the realization of their realness can be terrifying. 

God Desires Everyone to Know that Everyone Knows

I bet you didn't expect this twist---but this post is about God and His desire for words to come to realization through community readings. 

Yes, God isn't concerned about anyone's feelings of embarrassment when it comes to the public exposure of what is truth. He knows that Truth is going to hurt some people, but His ways demand that we not only have private understandings of what we read, but there should always, first and foremost, be a public reading of His Truth in the assembling of His people. It is important to God that everyone knows the truth, but it is also vital that everyone knows that everyone knows. Truth must be utterly public. This cleanses us of deception, excuses and makes us each responsible. For it takes truth from the private isolation of our imagination and makes it concrete to the group. 

We can prove this in the history of God's people. 

Israel didn't have personal scrolls of the Torah or Writings. They didn't sit by themselves at night reading by firelight. The Torah was kept in the tabernacle and read liturgically by a lector to a congregation during a Temple or synagogue service. This continued with the early church. 

The first passages of Revelation tell us that he (singular) who reads (lector) the words of the prophecy and those who hear (congregation) are blessed. The context is public reading, not private.

American's Need for Everyone Not to Know that Everyone Knows 

This is America's nightmare. We value our privacy so much that we have made a right of it. Our motto is, "Stick your nose out of my

business." But this attitude bleeds over into our spirituality. We read our Bible independently, personally and conclude that our private interpretation of God's words and sins are no one's business but our own. It's between "Jesus and me". Don't judge. This is part of the American need for control. 

God wrenches that control from us with communal hearing and the dynamics of understanding that God's Word is not private, nor to be privately interpreted. Truth is not to be trapped inside your head, never to be born into reality. Truth cannot ever mature if it is only inside your imagination and subject to your personal judgement.

A huge difference between the Protestant worldview and Catholic is that, although we encourage individual reading of Bible, we put an emphasis on the liturgical reading of scripture in mass. Truth is communal so that everyone knows that everyone knows. That is a call for action on everyone's part. No one can excuse themselves for not knowing. For everyone knows that you know. You cannot hide.

Good and Evil are Known

Isolated individual have small world views.   Knowledge, education, and various levels of spiritual maturity influence the reading of scripture. Interpreting spirituality inside our heads continually causes us to search out affirmation outside of it. We tend to congregate with people who see things like we do. And our group springs from the source of truth inside our individual heads rather than the group springing from the truth outside of us that we accept into our heads.  

Personal consciousness need to develop through community consciousness. Our interpretation of truth needs to be ripped of its vulnerability by exposure. For that is how we move from an imaginary God to a God outside our manipulation, a God stripped of the embarrassing sins we excuse and assume He approves of, stripped of our own design and making, stripped of our control and put outside of ourselves. A God whose commandments are not secret, whose people are not invisible, laws are not ephemeral or vaporous, whose truths are inflexible, absolute and not relative to the thoughts of the individual. 

God wants everyone to know His Truth, and know that everyone knows that everyone knows.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Five Days Prostrate

 I was researching the writings of first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, and came upon this story:

Now Pilate, who was sent as procurator into Judea by Tiberius, sent by night those images of Caesar that are called ensigns into Jerusalem. This excited a very among great tumult among the Jews when it was day; for those that were near them were astonished at the sight of them, as indications that their laws were trodden under foot; for those laws do not permit any sort of image to be brought into the city.

Nay, besides the indignation which the citizens had themselves at this procedure, a vast number of people came running out of the country. These came zealously to Pilate to Cesarea, and besought him to carry those ensigns out of Jerusalem, and to preserve them their ancient laws inviolable; but upon Pilate's denial of their request, they fell downprostrate upon the ground, and continued immovable in that posture for five days and as many nights.

From The Wars of the Jews by Flavius Josephus Book II section 169

Even though nothing is told of this story in the gospels, the incident took place sometime after Christ's 26th birthday. Most probably Christ was not a part of it, as he was in Galilee, but we cannot know for certain. 

What struck me is the zealousness of the common Jew for the law of God. At the time of Christ, Christians assume that the Jews were lukewarm and the leaders were white-washed tombs of hypocrisy. This story shows the opposite. The Jews were in no way passive. Many were martyred for defending Jerusalem against setting up an image inside its walls. 

As a Catholic, this story makes me a bit ashamed. Where are the tens of millions of Catholics and Christians outside of the US Supreme Court camping out night and day against abortion? Where are we when our modern-day Pilates on both the federal, state and local level enact laws that place the state above God or that go against the very laws of nature? 

Where is our passion for Christ and our passion for righteousness? 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Many Protestants only knew Catholicism through the camera lens of Hollywood in movies like Boy's Town, The Bells of St. Mary, The Sound of Music or San Francisco. We assumed Father Spencer Tracy typified the priest: stubbornly involved in each parishoner's life with gentle wit and inexhaustible wisdom. And that every country pastor flowed with the strength of a Victor Hugo novel:

We admired the movie priest, even if we didn't admire Mary-worshipping, works-righteousness Catholicism. 

Then when our Protestant theology collapsed, when our monotone daguerreotype spirituality became a confusing cyclone and God plopped us down in the technicolored Kingdom of God, we felt a bit like Dorothy opening the door into Oz.

From that first child-like, wide-eyed step in, we believed we had discovered the perfect kingdom over the rainbow. Jesus' church. We were home. Home sweet home. That is the idealism most Protestants find themselves in after they have discovered the Catholic Church. 

We tend to be drawn to the ancient rites and rituals. We are the veil wearers, those who kneel to partake of the Eucharist on the tongue. (Or at least want to.) The Gregorian chants fill us with awe and we rarely want anything that reminds us of our Protestant church services. We don't just want something different, we want something that binds us to our mysterious, Jewishy and bishop-obeying, ancient Christian Church. 

And no matter how much our head warned us that the Catholic Church wasn't perfect, our hearts were sorely disappointed when the priest snapped at us for innocently bringing up the name of Michael Voris or when the media told us the pope was a radical Marxist liberal bringing change to the church on everything from not wearing red Prada's to gay marriage.

Everyone seems to be applauding the change except converts. We came into the church because it wasn't supposed to change. We wanted Father Flannigan and habit-wearing Sister Mary Benedicta in a incense-filled, reverent and Latin singing holy church. What we didn't realize is that we were like Jerusalem pagans converting to Judaism in AD 67. Things don't look so good. The flock seems to be wandering aimlessly with absentee bishops and bedraggled priests. 

The problem is that our expectations were from Hollywood and not scripture. Real life spiritual fathers are no different from real life family fathers. They are imperfect.
And how many of us would look at our fathers and demand that since they were not perfect that God put us in an untrue family and we should convert to another true family. We don't often argue that our biological fathers aren't really who God wanted as our fathers and perhaps the whole system of fatherhood should be tossed out because he was rotten. There was some mix up and we are supposed to leave our family because it isn't as good as the family across the street looks. 

If God appointed our often immature, biological father to be our authority, we have to give our spiritual fathers the same benefit. A perfect church, in fact, wouldn't be the Church Christ started because He compared His church to a net with bad and good fish, a flock of goats and sheep that would be separated, a field of wheat sewn by the enemy with tares. There will be seeds that are weak and seeds that produce fruit of thirty, sixty and a hundred. 

Bad leaders with bad fruit, even wolves and yes, even the antichrist are found within the true church in positions that can be as high as the pope. 

God didn't say follow a perfect church, no He said follow His church. Look for His true, not the perfect.