Thursday, December 17, 2009

Will it ever end?

Every time I get to the point that I think society can sink no lower, someone takes up the challenge. Witness the following:

It was designed to provoke conversation with non-believers.

However, a risqu̩ poster depicting the Virgin Mary lying in bed with Joseph Рsuggesting they have just had sex - has sparked outrage with Catholics.

The billboard shows Mary with a disappointed look on her face, with a caption underneath stating: ‘Poor Joseph - God was a hard act to follow.’

The huge poster, referencing Mary's virgin birth of Jesus, has been placed in the centre of Auckland, New Zealand.

It was designed to catch the eye of non-believers, according to the St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican church.

Protesters have now painted over the faces of Mary and Joesph in outrage.

But the vicar of the St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican church, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, was unrepentant.

He pointed out that his form of progressive Christianity is distinctive and 'is one of robust engagement’.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Irony... no, we don't get that here

As a fan of irony, I am guilty of a self-righteous chuckle as I read a story on the environmental impact of the Copenhagen Climate Summit published in the Telegraph. (story here)
I suppose this is not much different from banquets held to raise funds to combat hunger, but I can't help but take a certain delight in this.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Homily 2nd Sunday of Advent

(delivered at the conclusion of a retreat with deacons and ministers involved in the pro-life movement)

I am fond of Pogo, the Walt Kelly cartoon character, best known for the quote “We have met the enemy and he is us.” That quote certainly applies to society today, however it is a lesser known quote that struck me in preparation for this talk. Pogo also said, “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”

I think that is the position we find ourselves in today. As we have noted throughout this weekend, we are in conflict, at war with the prevailing culture. This becomes more evident with each successive news cycle. We believe in the value of all human life. Society values some lives more than others and all life is secondary to personal comfort and convenience. Self-indulgence is valued over personal responsibility.

There was a brief time when we thought Catholics had come to the point where they could be accepted in American culture while retaining an authentic catholic identity. That ship has sailed. People are allowed to call themselves “catholic” and to remain active in the culture, as long as they are willing to redefine those values that have been held by the church from the beginning. Witness the exchange between Bishop Tobin and Congressman Kennedy, or Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that there is debate within the magisterium as to when life begins so her support of abortion does not put her in conflict with church teaching.

Do you remember the days when portrayal of Catholics in popular media was characterized by things like Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald in “Going My Way”, Karl Malden as the compassionate priest in “On the Waterfront” or films like “Song of Bernadette”? I cringe now days when I see there is the role of a priest in a movie or television production, because I know what is coming. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be held accountable for our sins, but that it is dishonest to pretend that some societal problems are strictly a catholic thing, or to convict an entire group for the sins of a few individuals.

We are at war with a culture. It is time to change the culture. That sounds like a daunting task, but it can be done. In fact, each of you here is already hard at work at that task. We change the culture by our willingness to stand up for truth. We change the culture through our public witness to our values. We change the culture whenever we act for the preservation of life. Our children are constantly bombarded with messages of self-indulgence, selfishness, unrestrained sexuality, materialism, and hopelessness. We change the culture when we teach lessons of responsibility, fidelity, chastity, restraint and moderation. We change the culture when we surrender to God in prayer.

Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. I recall so vividly as a child being taught to pray the rosary for the conversion of Russia. In the midst of the Cold War that seemed impossible. I felt that those prayers would be wasted. But the walls fell, religion is revived in Russia. Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, the action of the Holy Spirit, the culture in Russia was changed in part due to the efficacy of the prayers of millions of believers.

This weekend has been in part about challenging each of us here to continue our efforts in bringing about a change in the prevailing culture. Another part of this weekend is about celebrating what has been achieved and the work that continues to be done. It was so heartening to hear as the 40 days for life was coming to a conclusion that Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood center, left the organization after watching a baby being aborted, and is now working with those who prayed for her conversion. On Oct. 6, she quit her job as the Bryan center director. She walked across the street to the Coalition for Life, a pro-life group that was at that time joined with cities across the nation in a 40 Days for Life campaign.

David Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life stated: "From the first campaign in 2004, we've prayed for Abby -- and for all abortion workers -- that they would come to see what abortion really is, and that they would leave the deadly business. Prayers are answered.”
One of the goals of this weekend was to re-energize those who may have begun to experience fatigue in their efforts or their prayers. In the words of Isaiah, we wanted to “…speak to the weary a word that would rouse them.” The scriptures this second Sunday of Advent speak such a word.

We are the New Jerusalem whom Baruch commands to “…stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”

We look to the east for it is from the east that a new day dawns. The children we see are both those whom we have saved from the holocaust of abortion, and those whom we were unable to save but who are surely remembered by God. This vision of Israel’s return from exile speaks directly to the type of change we are called to bring about a return from culture of death to one of life and love.

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians resonates with us today: I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

God has begun good work in you. In my little way I am proud to partner in those efforts. We are all challenged to continue in that work until the day of Christ Jesus. To a society that deems some lives more valuable than others, we will continue to emphasize that everyone ­­saint and sinner, rich and poor, young and old, athletic and physically disabled, the unborn child and even the abortionist ─ all persons are children of God and deserving of our love and prayers. As Katrina Zeno told us, they are in the image of God and part of God’s self-revelation to us. The world doesn’t want to hear it, but it needs to be said. All life is important.

As Christians, we have the responsibility and the opportunity to continue to deliver that message. Pogo was right, “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.” As we continue with this liturgy and nourish ourselves with the life-giving bread given us by the author of life, let us recommit ourselves to surmounting the insurmountable.

Thank you for all that you do. May God bless you all in this Advent season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How's this for logic?

Fans of the University of Georgia and dog lovers everywhere were saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Uga VII, the university's beloved bulldog mascot. Though a replacement mascot might be in place in advance, the search for Uga VIII is expected to take a while.
In related news the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has written the athletic director of the University of Georgia encouraging him to "...honor Uga VII by choosing an animatronic or solely use a costumed mascot to represent the Georgia Bulldogs in the future." (story here)
I would have thought that PETA would encourage people to provide all animals with the type of pampered lifestyle that Uga VII enjoyed. Silly me. It seems that PETA would prefer that this particular breed, which they consider "mutated freaks" should not exist. In a logic that reminds me of Planned Parenthood's practice of defining some lives as not worth living, it seems in this case the "ethical treatment" of the breed would call for its extermination.
Curious world, isn't it?