Three Essential Questions

I agree with Phil Bloom. I agree with the reflections and meditations and homelies found in the magazine today. They are well thought out and underscore the spiritual depth of the authors. I appreciate them all. They make me think and they make me reach out to God Himself. In that sense, I know that it is going to be a good weekend. I am going to add something to the weekend because I hardly ever am given the opportunity to meditate on the impact that the geography of the Gospels has on what it is that God is trying to tell us. Homelists don't consider it important, I guess.

This is the second Sunday that important revelatory spiritual events take place. None of them occur in the "Holy Land" but in ghe territory of the pagans, the "others", like the Greeks and the Romans. Last Sunday we heard the story of the Canaanite woman with the daughter possessed by demons. This Sunday we hear the confession of Peter. Next Sunday we are going to hear about Peter begging Jesus not to go to Jerusalem. Jesus is then going to tell Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan." Whoa! Where did that come from?

In these three Sunday stories, geography is important. Jesus is spending some time in the mixed territory of the Greek and Roman empires. There are very few Jews here (Hebrews). Jesus and His people are over 100 miles to the north of the spiritual heart of the Promised Land. The Temple is 4 or 5 days of foot travel away. The people who are approaching Jesus are "foreigners", not of the chosen people, yet they confess His Divine Power in front of His Jewish disciples.
These disciples who are Orthodox Jews (Hebrews) of proper religion and blood. The "foreign" people stand up in front of Him and ask for what they need. They bargain with Him and they get what they request. Next Sunday, Peter, the tough guy, the ONE who has been told that he is the Rock, the foundation of the new community is going to act just like a real Jew, he is going to say, "Don't talk like that, nothing like that is going to happen to you." Yup, this is the same Peter who asked to walk on water but who doubted once his feet got wet. This is the same Peter who heard the Syro-Phoenician woman tell Jesus, "Even the dogs eat from the droppings of the king's table."
All this is happening in territory that is not spiritually orthodox. Did Jesus make a mistake by coming here? NO. Jesus is the quintessential missionary. Son of David, Son of God does not camp out in Jerusalem (City of Peace), he grows up and preaches in the land of Israel, not in the land of Judah. He goes to Jerusalem to fulfill the law that says that all Jewish men must go to the Temple to pray at least once per year.

The rest of the time He operates in the North, in Galilee. He spreads the message to the Chosen People and the "foreigners" in the North showing them that He is sent by the Father to EVERYONE, not just to the sons of Judah but to all the people of God. He shows them that the fisherman takes all that he catches on board and sorts it out when he gets to the dock. He teaches them that God chose them for a purpose, and the He is among them to teach them what the purpose is.

Finally, at the end he goes to Jerusalem and meets the rabid community of the Chosen People around the Temple. They capture Him and do Him in by using the Roman military to carry out the deed. This fulfills the history of the prophets sent by God to the Chosen people...they preached and were killed because of the hardness of heart of the people.

These Gospel stories are geography lessons. They are stories of revelation. They are also history lessons of where the Chosen People of God settled and how they related to Him. The people of the North (Israel) were considered to be hicks and red-necks by the snobs of the South (Judah).

Listen to the stories that are being recounted at the Sunday Masses this month. Matthew is telling us a lot. He is telling us that the revelation of God is not meant only for a select few, but for EVERYONE, circumcized or not; born in Judah or born in Syria; Phoenician or Roman.

If you want to have a better understanding and a greater appreciation of the revelation contained in the Sacred Scripture, read the map every time you read the Bible. Try not to die before you get to meet Jesus on His home turf.

Remember that you heard it here. It will help you to hold back your tears at my funeral.

Paul Dion, STL


Abortion as an Elections 2008 Catholic Issue

Editor's Note: In an email exchange, I shared with my friend Alan this article by Pat Buchanan, "A Catholic Case against Obama."

Alan responded with the following email. My response to him is below. Please feel free to share your thoughts with us regarding this exchange.

This is where the line is drawn. I personally doesn't condone late term abortion, but I am also for separation of church and state. I believe that government should not based its legislation from the bible or koran or from the book of Mormons, this is a thin line to theocracy and democracy. Because if we do, we might as well ban divorce, ban sex unless its purpose was for pro creation only, and maybe make it mandatory for all Christian to attend the weekly services and legalized work on Saturday and Sundays (depending on which Christian denomination). The list is long but if we need to be consistent to the teaching of the church, we will do it all the way, and not just be selective.

Here's my response to Alan


Even Jesus said we should give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. The Catholic Church is not for a theocracy. God, through our Catholic Church, tells his people to live their lives according to His will. We know His laws, we know His love for all of us. He also gave us individual free choice to do what we want. And we will have to reckon with Him at the end for the choices we make.

That being said, Catholics should strive to live their lives the way they are expected to do so by God. But we're not perfect and we all falter. We become weak many times and sin against God. Or we become totally insidious to God's love and refuse to admit that something we want is against His will. And in the end, it's still always our choice.

The teachings of Jesus are clear. The Church has never wavered in preaching what God wants his faithful to do. The Catholic Church – the bride of Jesus on earth – will not compromise despite pressure from individuals who want the Church to change based on their personal whim and convenience. That is not the way of God. He is a loving God but He is God, not us. Many people have chosen to leave the Catholic Church in their search for the faith that they think is convenient for their personal beliefs. That is their personal choice to walk away from God and His church. God gave them that choice.

The world challenges our faith everyday as Catholics and these 2008 presidential elections are no different. America will never be a theocracy as you fear even if Catholics are in charge 100%. Jesus' teachings on that are very clear. The Church's teaching on this is best summarized by Cardinal Mahony in the quote I place below:

"While we acknowledge the right and the need for our government to enforce the law, we must remind our fellow Americans that man-made law does not permit the violation of God's law. And by repairing the law, we are better able to enforce it in a humane manner."

That is the Catholic position. It is a position of Love according to God's will, not man's nor any individual's. We can choose to ignore Him and do our own will. We can choose to ignore Him and find another Church. But that does not change the fact that He is God and our Catholic Church is his vessel on earth.

As the Archbishop of San Fernando in the Philippines said, this week, "If you are Catholic, you should behave like a Catholic. Otherwise you are not what you profess."

It is a challenge not just to me and you but to all Catholics. It's a personal discussion you will have to have with our God. We all have choices to make. And God is not in the way. But He would like to help us make it to Him in every way possible.

Food for thought, my friend. Our ParishWorld theology editor keeps reminding me that our faith is not an intellectual exercise. It's a matter of faith, Alan, and where you stand with regards to our faith. I choose to believe.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief


"Stop making it so good!."

I hate it when I open and can't get it out of my system. This week's number captured me and I have to leave now for an appointment and, heaven forbid, I wish it were in hard copy so that I could carry it with me. But I'm also glad that it is electronic because I know that it will be here waiting for me when I get back. There is no crossword puzzle, not a bridge column by Charles Goren that someone else can rip out, but then again, it won't have any wrinkles in the middle of it so that it is forever mine, world without end. Amen.
I have only one piece of advice for you, Mr. Publisher, "Stop making it so good!."