Thursday, October 30, 2014

LAMENT for Western Humanity

In Memory of James Foley
American Catholic Journalist, who prayed the Rosary, died to expose the suffering of the people of the Middle East and was  beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS)
By Lawrence Fox

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; 
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.”(Isaiah 53:7,8)

Messenger, your passion was for gathering, and war;
your empathy stirred, inevitably marching you toward peril -- both subtle and blatant.
Little did we appreciate the witness of your herald.
Valor impressed you, made you a magnet for dark ritual obsession.
Carnage, barbarity -- you relayed and became the story for our digestion.

Little did we grasp the deceit -- both subtle and blatant:
“It is a Religion of Peace!”
Colleagues, Citizens, and Politicians, so you persist at the gathering,
enthralled in a post-modern trance, digesting the horror
       without understanding the Islamist ritual context.

“Certainly theirs is not madness,” we pretend;
taking the Progressive Stance:
“Terror gestates only within the heart of heroic men --
seeking to redress injustices performed!”
But by whom and for what, and God knows when?

So, James, we rationalize the murderous atrocity,
missing what the merest Medieval knight understood:
Wrong reigns in a misguided Seventh Century religiosity.

Colleagues, Citizens, and Politicians alike ingest your ritual slaughter,
Frozen within a post-modern trance
(POTUS knew since January; CIA favored the Caliphate.)
No one admitting such butchery exceeds
Hammurabi’s eye-for-eye nor Shylock’s “pound of flesh.”
Your death is the natural conclusion of the Quran
Lies never subtle, always malevolently blatant.

Centuries ago in desert lands, James, your end was “divinely” ordained.
It is promoted and enshrined by the Prophet’s sirens;
never ending until the Truth is finally spoon-fed to their yawning hearts.

Your curdling sounds mixed with praises to the Prophet’s god,
their song – some think it lovely – is  relayed back for our consumption and,
your colleagues, citizens, and politicians persist at the gathering,
buried in a post-modern trance, refusing to grasp,
 “It is NOT a religion of peace.”  

Rest in True Peace beloved James Foley, Angel to Western Humanity, and pray that Rosary for us.

--edited by Susan Fox

To Understand this Poem You Might Enjoy Reading Another  Piece that Lawrence Fox wrote:THE GLORY OF ISLAM: Putting the Beheadings, Rapes and Crucifixions into the Context of the Quran

This is Lawrence Fox's latest piece: THE MIND OF ISLAM: On Family Life, the Messiah and How to Treat Non-Muslims

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Baptism by Water, Fire and Suffering: The Work of The Holy Spirit

By Susan C. Fox
I do a lot of walking in my own neighborhood. In passing my neighbor’s gardens, I have often noticed that God’s plan for
their life is revealed in the way they keep their yard. Some hunger for great perfection, real holiness, and this is revealed
Image of the Holy Trinity 
in the fact that not a blade of grass in their lawn is out of place. There isn’t a single weed. Others may have weeds, but to look on their flowers is to see a riot of color, revealing a love for Beauty that could only be satisfied in seeing the Face of God. Others, like me, plant nothing unless it is fruitful. Beauty is secondary. We plant tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and corn. These gardeners desire great fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit.

But have you ever wondered why people put those wishing wells in their garden? I did. And finally one day, I understood that my neighbors with wishing wells were hungering for goodness -- a goodness from another or a better time. Pure and simple, they were longing for the Goodness of God. Well, I thought, that settles that question.

Walk with God

But God wasn’t done with the garden image yet. Shortly after that, near Christmastime, I was walking past my neighbor’s yard, and I saw that he had displayed a very large Nativity scene in his wishing well. He stood Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus on the well. It was very clear that the goodness that he longed for was the Birth of Christ. But not just the
Birth. The Nativity scene represents the whole longing of humanity for the Incarnation – the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. My neighbor had unexpectedly put a face on that longing for Goodness with a capital “G.” He taught me that after the fall of Adam and Eve, the whole of humanity is groaning and searching to recover that beautiful relationship – that real friendship – that we had with God when we walked with Him in the Garden of Eden. Only Baptism in the Holy Spirit through the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of the Incarnation will restore us to God’s friendship and make us His children. Here the whole of salvation history was summarized by one family’s decision to put a Nativity Scene atop a wishing well, a decision I may well add, inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. 

The Holy Spirit is First to Welcome Us into the Kingdom of God

 It is interesting to note that the Holy Spirit is the first to bring
us to faith and to give us new life. This new life is to ‘know the Father and one whom He has sent, Jesus Christ.” (John17:3) For this reason, the Church calls the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. But He is the last Person to be revealed in Scripture, and often the most hidden. It seems like I am always noticing that He was there, not that He is here. I can see His effects, His work, but not His Presence. I was teaching my godson the catechism one day, and he said something so profound I knew the author was the Holy Spirit. 

I wanted to grab the Holy Spirit

I wanted to grab the Holy Spirit on the spot and hold onto Him, but the boy had already spoken, and there was only the echo of His words remaining in my heart. So also in Scripture we see the Author is almost silent about Himself. He reveals God and makes known to us Christ, His living Word, but the Spirit does not speak of Himself. The Spirit who has spoken through the prophets makes us hear the Father’s Word, but we do not hear the Spirit Himself. When the Father sends His Word, he always sends His Breath. The Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable in their joint mission of redemption. 

Christ is Visible; The Holy Spirit is Hidden

But in the Gospels, it is Christ who is seen. He is the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals Him.       The Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life, is the same spirit of God who moved over the waters at Creation bringing everything into being. He is the Breath of God, breathed into man, making him into the image and likeness of God. And He is the Uncreated Gift, who now offers us the friendship of God through Baptism. 

Heart of Stone changed to Heart of Flesh

Ezekiel prophesized about this future restored friendship with God, when he wrote: “For I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all foreign lands, and bring you back to your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 37:24-28) With the prophets of the Old Testament, we can pray, “Oh Lord and Giver of Life, give me a new heart. Write your law of love upon my heart!” 

The Law of the Holy Spirit

This is the law of the Holy Spirit: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, with your whole mind, with your whole strength and with your whole being. And you will love your neighbor as Christ has loved you.” The Blessed Virgin Mary -- she who was full of the Spirit of God from conception -- had this law written on her heart. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, she exclaims mightily, “My whole being proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”(Luke 1:46) 

So in the entire Old Testament, the personality of the Holy Spirit is completely hidden. We see the Father clearly, shepherding His people, parting the Red Sea, bringing them out of slavery, meeting Moses in the burning bush. But the Holy Spirit and the Messiah are only hinted at. The biggest hint that both were coming and would have a joint mission of redemption is in Isaiah. Isaiah is sometimes called the Fifth Gospel, or the Gospel of the Old Testament. He wrote: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1-2) This is a veiled prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, the One who will be anointed by God Himself. 

The Anointed One

Jesus “is the Anointed One in the sense that he possesses the fullness of the Spirit of God.” (Dominum et Vivificantem by Pope John Paul II) The Spirit is the Anointing. The Father
does the anointing. And Jesus Himself will be the mediator in granting this Spirit, this Uncreated Anointing, to the whole People of God. That is why when Jesus was given the job of reading in the synagogue in Nazareth, he opened the book of Isaiah, and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant. All eyes were fixed on the Lord, and then He said to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 

Aha! He was telling them He was the Messiah, God’s Anointed One, the one in Whom the Holy Spirit dwells as the gift of God Himself, the one who marks the new beginning of the gift of life, which God makes to humanity in the Spirit. Later on Palm Sunday, the crowd would cry, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 19:38) The Pharisees recognized that this came from Psalm 118, which refers to the kingship of the Messiah. And they urged Jesus to silence his disciples. 

And Jesus answered that if they are silent, the very stones would cry out. What would the stones say? “Jesus is the Christ! He is the kingly Messiah! He is God’s Anointed One.”
The very stones would cry out!
And who would cause the stones to cry out? The Holy Spirit. It is His job to reveal the Messiah. St. Gregory of Nyssa said that the notion of anointing suggests that there is no distance between the Son and the Spirit. “Indeed, just as between the surface of the body and the anointing with oil neither reason nor sensation recognizes any intermediary, so the contact of the Son with the Spirit is immediate, so that anyone who would make contact with the Son by faith must first encounter the oil by contact. In fact there is no part that is not covered by the Holy Spirit. That is why the confession of the Son’s Lordship is made in the Holy Spirit by those who receive him, the Spirit coming from all sides to those who approach the Son in faith.” (De Spiritu Sancto) 

So my neighbor with the Nativity scene in his wishing well was wishing and hoping for the coming of the Messiah and His Holy Spirit. When the infant Christ was presented at the temple, the Holy Spirit drew the righteous and devout Simeon to the side of Mary and Joseph. St. Luke tells us Simeon was looking for the “consolation of Israel.” That’s an Old Testament code word for the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Catechism tells us: "Two prophetic lines developed in the Old Testament, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, and the other pointing to the announcement of a new spirit. These converge on a small Remnant of the Jews, the poor people of Israel who return from the Exile and await in hope “the consolation of Israel” and the “redemption of Jerusalem.” (Paragraph #711) 

My Eyes have seen Your Salvation

The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not see death until he saw the Christ, God’s Anointed One. So with the Holy Spirit upon him, Simeon took the baby into his arms, and said, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.”(Luke 2:29-30) 

Many signs accompanied the Birth of the Incarnation, and the beginning of his public ministry. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, St. 
St John Baptist
 John the Baptist foretold the mission of the Incarnation when he said, “I baptize you with water; he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16-17) In the Old Testament, God led his people at night as a pillar of fire. He appeared to Moses as a burning bush. On one occasion, the prayer of the prophet, Elijah, brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice of Mount Carmel. The Catholic Catechism tells us that this event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms
what He touches. And finally, when Jesus came he said, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled.” (Luke 12:49) He refers to the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit, which will burn and consume us until we are transformed through a new birth in Baptism into a new creation, remade in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

Transforming Suffering into Redemptive Love

And now we get to the heart of the Holy Spirit’s work in the crucifixion. For when we are baptized, we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. We are made priest, prophet and king. A priest is a sacrifice. So the next time they hold up one of those cute little babies at Mass and pray that he or she be made a priest, prophet and king, remember you are asking that the child be martyred. I don’t think most parents know that. In his encyclical on the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World (Dominum et Vivificantem), Pope Saint John Paul II speaks of the Holy Spirit’s work in the crucifixion, a work of transforming suffering into salvific love. The pope says, “In the sacrifice of the Son of Man, the Holy Spirit is present and active just as he acted in Jesus’ conception, in his coming into the world, in his hidden life and in his public ministry.” He cites the letter to Hebrews, where the author after recalling the sacrifices of the Old Covenant in which the “blood of goats and bulls” purifies man from sin, adds, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13) 

Specifically, in the fervent prayer of His Passion, Christ enabled the Holy Spirit to transform his suffering into redemptive love. There is a paradox at work here. We cannot say that the instruments of torture, the cross, the nails, the whips, etc. are the work of the Holy Spirit. These are a work of the devil. Sin has caused the suffering of Christ. In Christ crucified, there suffers a God who has been rejected by His own people. On the eve of His Passion, Christ speaks of the sin of those who do not believe in Him. He complains, “They do not believe.” (John 16:9) It is a distant echo of that earlier sin of man’s first parents, who through disobedience turned away from the truth contained in the Word of the Father. But from the depth of God’s suffering, His rejection by his creature, the Holy Spirit draws a blessing. 

In the Cross, Love is at Work

In the depth of the mystery of the Cross, love is at work. Love brings man back again to share in the life of God Himself. For, that is the gift that is restored to us through the cross. The Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, takes the suffering of God and restores God’s Life in us through Baptism. St. Paul said, “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Think of the freedom of the Immaculate Conception, who – without any sin or blemish – was free to say, “Yes!” when the angel invited her to be Mother of God. The Holy Spirit, through St. Elizabeth, cried out, “Blessed is she who believed that God’s promises to her would be fulfilled!”(Luke 1:45) Blessed is she who believed.

Jesus complains about the sin of those who don’t believe, but Mary, the new Eve, is the one who believed, and in the freedom of her faith, said “Yes!” Baptism is the means by which the Lord and Giver of Life restores to us the freedom of sons and daughters of God. Without it, Jesus said, we cannot enter heaven. “Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know when it comes or whether it goes; so it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8) 

That is what is meant when we pray, “Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.” Our new birth occurs when God the Father “sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.” Then we receive a spirit of adopted sons by which we cry, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6) Therefore, this new birth in Baptism, this divine sonship planted in the human soul through sanctifying grace is the work of the Holy Spirit. In Baptism, the Spirit, who gives life to man and the whole universe – visible and invisible – now renews the life of man through the mystery of the Incarnation. 

In the prologue of the Gospel of John, the Evangelist explains that the True Light, Jesus Christ, came into the world through the Incarnation. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) But “He was in the world that had its being through Him, and the world did not know him. He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him. But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, children who were born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself.” (John 1:10-13) That is the effect of Baptism in Christ Jesus. We have a new birth! We are purified, given a clean heart! Never let anyone tell you that the Sacrament of Baptism is not important. 

Never leave anyone with the impression that it is okay to let your children chose or reject Baptism when they grow up. Baptism is the seed of eternal life. It is the spring of living water welling up in your hearts unto eternal life. And God went to an awful lot of trouble to bring you Baptism. Remember Jesus said, “I am the vine. You are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. . . If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:5-13)

Love as Christ has Loved

Notice that Jesus does not say, love your neighbor as yourself. Now that you know Christ, now that you are baptized into his love, you must love as Christ has loved. You must have total self-consuming love that will even give its life for a friend. You must follow Him to the cross. This kind of branch is full of lots of green sap. Implicitly, the Holy Spirit is the sap of the Father’s vine, which bears fruit on its branches. The Father is the vinedresser. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes so it might bear more fruit. The Holy Spirit is the sap bearing fruit on the vine, and Jesus is the vine. St. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons of the Church, like all the martyrs of the Catholic Church, bore this kind of sap within him. 

The Acts of the Apostles describes Stephen as “full of grace and power” with a face shining like an angel. Despite the threat of stoning, he did not hesitate to tell the truth, to
declare to the Israelite people their whole salvation history, how they rejected the prophets and finally the Christ, the Righteous One, the Lamb of God sent to them to save them from their sins. This last One, the Messiah, they betrayed and murdered. You stiff-necked people ... you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it,” (Acts 7:51-53) Stephen told them. They ground their teeth when they heard these things. But St. Stephen, “full of the Holy Spirit,” gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55-56) And they stoned him to death. But as he died, he prayed that God would not hold this sin against them. A man named Saul watched the whole proceedings, and in his heart agreed to the murder of Stephen. But Stephen had prayed for Saul when he asked forgiveness for his persecutors. St. Augustine says that “if Stephen had not prayed to God, the Church would not have had Paul.” Saul became St. Paul and in the end enjoyed the same happiness as Stephen, the happiness of martyrdom for Christ. 

In our own time in China, a young 15-year-old girl named Anna Wang enjoyed a similar martyrdom for the faith. She was offered the chance to repent of her belief in Jesus Christ, or be killed. She refused, even though her step-mother urged her to renounce her faith. So her tormentors cut off her arm, thinking this would deter the girl from persisting in her faith, but still she refused to renounce Christ Jesus. She seems to have had a similar vision to St. Stephen’s for near the end she said, “The gates of heaven are open.” It was almost as if she were telling her tormentors that they, too, could have heaven. They were welcome. And then they killed Anna Wang. 

Precious in the eyes of God is the Death of His Saints

“Precious in the eyes of God is the death of his saints. Victory and power and empire forever have been won by our God and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor who accused our brothers day and night before our God has been brought down. They have triumphed over him by the Blood of the Lamb and by the witness of their martyrdom because even in the face of death, they would not cling to life.” (Revelation 12: 10-12) We have all heard there is one Lord and there is one Baptism, and this is the reason that the Catholic Church does not re-baptize Protestants converting to the Catholic faith. But in researching this topic, I actually found that Jesus talks about three kinds of baptisms. 

There is the Baptism of water and the Spirit, which each Christian receives in the Sacrament of Baptism. There is the baptism of fire and the Spirit, which each Catholic receives at Confirmation, and there is the baptism of blood and the Spirit, which the holy martyrs experienced at their death. All are works of the Holy Spirit, and all evolve from the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism means immersion in Greek. It means to “go under.” The first immersion we experience – most of us were baptized as children – is the immersion in the waters of Baptism. 

Water -- Outward Sign of Inward Grace

The water is an outward sign of an inward grace. Noah and his family escaped through a purifying worldwide flood to begin anew the human race as children of God. At Baptism, He, who is called the Spirit of Adoption, descends on us and makes us sons of God. We who were far away from Him because of sin are reconciled to the Father through the joint mission and work of the Spirit and the Son. This first immersion is the Baptism of water and the Spirit of which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus. Our Protestant brothers and sisters think of this as an emotional experience in which they are “born again” and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But it is not an emotional experience; it is a supernatural experience, a sacrament of the Catholic Church, a work of God the Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life. 

This baptism involves a purgation. The Holy Spirit’s job is to convince the world of its sin. This is a necessary step for salvation. If you confess your sin in human society, you are punished. But if you confess your sin to God, you are saved.
On Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles as tongues of fire, the apostles were confirmed in their faith, and were given the courage to proclaim it. Peter exclaims, “Let the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36) The crowds – through the power of the Holy Spirit -- were smitten with remorse, and they asked the apostles, “What shall we do?” And Peter responds, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) 

You Shall Be My Witnesses

Here we have the crowd on Pentecost invited to both the first and second baptism, and Peter has already received both. The second baptism is into fire and the Spirit. Jesus spoke of this baptism by fire when He said, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I long that it be enkindled.” And after the Ascension, while staying with the apostles, Jesus charged them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. “For, John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit ... You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:5-8)

It’s interesting, but one of the ways the Holy Spirit works in us is to clarify and prioritize. He calls us to a spirit of repentance and confession of our sins, but he also ends confusion. The miracle of Pentecost is that when the apostles preached, various peoples who spoke a multitude of languages understood them. This is the opposite of what happened when the languages were confused at the Tower of Babel, which was the punishment for man’s pride and infidelity.

Pentecost is the reversal of this confusion of tongues thanks to the clarifying grace of the Holy Spirit. Now this second baptism is given to us in the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Catholic Church teaches that our initiation into the Catholic faith is only completed once one has received this important sacrament, which confirms us in our faith, and gives us the courage to proclaim it. I wondered why it is that when we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation today, many times it seems like nothing. That was my experience. No one sang in tongues, and I felt very uncomfortable through the whole ordeal, and afterwards wondered what had taken place. My husband said the problem is poor catechesis. I think he’s right. People are not properly prepared for the sacrament, so very often the grace of Confirmation is recognized and understood later in life. 

The Baptism of Martyrs

The third form of baptism follows from the second. It is the baptism of blood and the Spirit. Jesus’ apostles were arguing among themselves as to who was greater in the Kingdom of God. James and John asked if one could sit at his right hand and the other at his left hand when He came into his glory. Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” He meant the cross. He was asking, are you willing to give your life? This baptism is the obedience unto death that Christ gave to His Father on the Cross. It is the complete submission of your mind, heart, and will to the Will of God. It is St. Paul saying, “It is no longer I that live, but God that lives in me.”

Out of this kind of immersion in the will of God, the Holy Spirit is revealed and made present as the Love that works in the depths of the Paschal Mystery, as the source of the salvific power of the Cross of Christ, and as the gift of new and eternal life (Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit). God offers us, who are less than nothing, the opportunity to associate ourselves with the Paschal Mystery through our death to self.

When Jesus died on Good Friday, it was the day before the Jewish Sabbath. And the Jews requested that the bodies of the three crucified men might be taken down from the crosses that day, so they would not remain up on the high holy day. “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him.” Breaking their legs insured their swift death due to suffocation. “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”

The Birth of the Church

St. Augustine comments that this moment actually represents the birth of the Church, the Bride of Christ, who will be revealed at Pentecost. “Here was opened wide the door of life, from which the sacraments of the Church have flowed out, without which there is no entering in unto life which is true life. . . Here the second Adam with bowed head slept upon the cross, that thence a wife might be formed of him, flowing from His side while he slept. O death, by which the dead come back to life! Is there anything purer than this blood, any wound more healing!” 

This third kind of baptism is closely associated with God’s plan for the life of the witness. St. John the Evangelist identified St. John the Baptist as the “witness to the Light.” Remember St. John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. For when Mary visited Elizabeth, she opened her mouth and spoke, and the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy. In the prologue to John’s Gospel, he says John wasn’t the Light, but came to “bear witness” to the Light. And, of course, we know that this witness – like St. Stephen’s – involved giving his life. For St. John the Baptist was beheaded. 

Faithful and True Witness

Jesus, the High Priest in the book of Revelation, is called the Faithful and True Witness, for he gave his life for his friends, all mankind of every generation and nation. And the apostles are called witnesses to Christ’s Resurrection. Most of them were martyred as well. The Church, as bride of Christ, is called to continue to witness to the Resurrection in every generation. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’” They say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” “And let him who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.” (Revelation 22:17) This witnessing closely mimics the work of the Holy Spirit. 

For, while John witnessed to the Light, and the apostles to the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit is also called a Witness to Christ. Jesus tells us that many times in the Gospel of John. And in fact that is why it is difficult to get your arms around the Holy Spirit because as soon as you reach for Him, He draws you to Christ and the Father. He is the Uncreated Witness to the Incarnation, which is His greatest work. 

Ironically, his holy spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary acts in an identical self-effacing way. You say, “Mary.” She says, “Jesus.” St. Louis Marie de Montfort declares that “because Mary remained hidden during her life she is called by the Holy Spirit and the Church, ‘Alma Mater,’ Mother hidden and unknown.”

To encounter the Uncreated Witness to the Incarnation is to go through a purification. This Witness draws us close to God, and on such a journey of longing we must decrease, so He can increase. The Holy Spirit inspired people to repentance at the preaching of John the Baptist, and made them seek baptism in the River Jordan. Going down into that water was a humiliating exercise as it meant that those baptized were admitting they were sinners. Standing in the confession line is the same kind of exercise, and it is the Holy Spirit who draws us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let Him draw you often to the waters of Reconciliation. 

That’s what happened to the woman at the well. Christ offered her a spring of water welling up into eternal life. But first she had to confess, “I have no husband.” (John 4:17) In fact, she had five. The Holy Spirit inspired people to repentance at the crucifixion. Jesus in his final baptism of blood, cried out, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46) And after this He breathed his last. When the Roman centurion saw what had taken place, he said, “Surely this was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54) And all the multitudes who stood around to see Jesus die, went home beating their breasts, a sign of repentance. On the way up to Calvary, the women wept for Jesus. This was a dangerous thing to do because it was forbidden to cry for a condemned criminal. 

It was the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Apostles, who brought the first converts to baptism on Pentecost. It was the Holy Spirit, who inspired my grandmother to urge my mother to have me baptized when I was an infant. I’m sure if you undertake to read the Gospels with the idea of finding the work of the Holy Spirit, you will be shown where He is hiding Himself. I’m sure if you look at your own life with the idea of finding where the Holy Spirit moved decisively on your behalf, you will also see the effects of his work, and perhaps along the way you will meet the Lord and Giver of Life, recognizing Him, as the disciples met our Lord, Jesus, on the road to Emmaus. 

Susan Fox
The second Vatican Council called for a new study of and devotion to the Holy Spirit as a necessary complement to understand the work of that council, which sought to explain the ever-new, but never-changing faith handed down from the Apostles in a way that the modern world could understand. May the Holy Spirit accompany you in that journey. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Want to learn more about the spiritual formation that led to this piece? Go to Disciples of Jesus and Mary

Enjoy this piece? A New Poem on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit is available to read at LESSONS THAT LEAD TO GOD

Monday, October 6, 2014

THE GODLESS DELUSION: Hear No Miracle, See No Miracle and Speak No Miracle

by Lawrence Fox

“It is more probable that a person died and remained in the tomb than for lead to rise suddenly in the air,” said 18th century Scottish Skeptic David Hume, mocking the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
 Jews and Christian would agree with David Hume on this point that dead people normatively do not emerge body and soul from the grave.
“No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony be of such kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish,” Hume laid out his criteria for recognizing a miracle. 
The philosopher and Scottish empiricist David Hume (1711-1776) argued that miracles were a violation of the laws of nature and evidence in support of miracles was always weak.  Hume argued that, men universally and overwhelmingly observe nature doing what it always does and nothing more or less.
All of Jesus apostles’ prior to the first witness of Mary Magdalene and Mary, wife of Clopas, would have said “Amen” to David Hume’s assertion. The apostle Thomas refused to believe Jesus had risen from the dead, saying, “Unless I see the nail marks and put my fingers where the nails were and put hands into his side I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

"My Lord and My God!" St. Thomas' response
to meeting the resurrected Jesus 
Thomas the apostle was an empiricist like Hume until the Sunday following the Resurrection when Jesus suddenly stood in their midst, and said to Thomas: "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." (John 20: 27) 
The four Gospels narrate the initial doubt and confusion, utter amazement, and eventual great joy of the events surrounding the miraculous emergence of Jesus of Nazareth from the tomb.  The narrators of the Gospels state that the apostles, saw him, heard him, touched him, and ate with him for forty days after His death and Resurrection. The apostles all surrendered their lives as a testimony that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried and rose again.
In spite of the credible testimony of numerous Jewish and Christian witnesses to the “great works of God,” Hume considered the “so called” miracles recorded within the New and Old Testaments and Catholic Church History to be unreliable.  Hume argued that miracles were attested to by an insufficient number men of good sense, education, and learning. This is purely a pejorative and non-historical statement.

 David Hume stated that gullible men with primitive knowledge about nature and material things promote and accept the evidence of miracles as a result of their ignorance. Miracles are accepted due to a lack of independent scientific inquiry. He felt miracles were nothing more than fabricated events used by religious movements as propaganda to control the superstitious masses.
David Hume’s arguments resonate with atheists living the mantra “see no miracle, hear no miracle, and speak no miracle.”  The mantra is based upon two presuppositions, which the modern atheist holds dearly:
Ø Materialism – the notion that all things can be reduced to a material cause. There are no animating forms and no final cause for things. There are no spirits, no souls, no creator, no intelligent design and no universal wisdom by which all things are ordered. All things are the result of randomness even human choices. Nothing has an intrinsic purpose beyond itself. Nature evokes no intelligibility; it simply needs to be controlled. As an example, the materialist reasons that marriage between a man and woman is not meant for bonding and babies and the preservation of the human race. They believe the state has the right to redefine marriage, and the right to control human fertility by advocating the use of the pill and abortion to satisfy the desire of the populace and implement efficiency. Children cost too much is the propaganda, and the absence of children reduces the economy to mere personal consumption.  The things of worth are technology, invention, and efficiency. Happiness, goodness, beauty, justice, and truth are equated with the possession of material things.
Ø Scientific positivism or empiricism – the notion that only those things, which can be dissected, experimented upon, measured and quantified can be known with certainty.  Statistics, poll numbers, and strategic advertising determine happiness, goodness, beauty, justice, and truth.
 Within this materialist paradigm of reason and inquiry, credible witnesses to the supernatural are suspected as being psychotic, hysterical, simplistic, and forgers. For example in Richard Dawkins’ Materialist Tome, The God Delusion, he introduces a section on miracles, albeit in a negative manner.  One such “alleged miracle” that he focuses on derives from the events that took place between May 13th and October 13th 1917 in Fatima, Portugal.
As a side note, Ian and Dominic Higgins recently directed a feature-length film titled, “The 13th Day,” on the same Fatima events. The film is based upon the memoirs of Sister Maria Lucia Jesus do Santos and publicly-recorded eyewitness accounts. It is an excellent production and in the words of the directors, “visually speaks to a film savvy and modern audience” about something widely witnessed, historically significant, and materially unexplainable.  
Richard Dawkins dismisses the recorded events at Fatima employing David Hume’s methods. The “so called” recorded Fatima miracles “violate nature,”
 according to Dawkins.
Dawkins knows his readership – largely anti-Catholic people -- will reach his conclusions with very little persuasion.  He writes: “It is not easy to explain how seventy thousand people could share the same hallucination. But it is even harder to accept that it really happened with the rest of the world, outside Fatima, not seeing it too.” He is referring to the overwhelming number of witnesses to the recorded miracles at Fatima.
70,000 people witnessed the Miracle at Fatima 
For those who have not heard the story, it is at first shocking.  There are religious, secular, and government records -- all contemporary and in print -- available for the world to read. These state that seventy thousand people gathered on October 13th, 1917, at the Cova da Iria in Fatima, Portugal. They experienced what they all described as the “miracle of the sun.” 
It all began when three very young children, Francesco (age 9), Jacinta (age 7), and Lucia (age 10), informed their parents that they witnessed a vision of a beautiful lady – later identified as the Virgin Mary - in the Cova. The Virgin Mary spoke to the children telling them to come each month on the same day and pray for the conversion of sinners.  
Portugal was a Christian land once ruled by Islamic Moors. Fatima is the name of one of Mohammed’s daughters. Mohammed (631 - 671) was the founder of Islam; one of many violent opposition movements to Christianity along with the Roman Empire, Modernism, Fascism, Communism, and Materialism.
David Hume argued that the evidence against miracles is always stronger then the evidence for miracles since contradictory religions present the specter of miracles as evidence of their divine origins and soundness of doctrine. “It is absurd to believe in a God who would set a people apart as his own special people,” wrote Hume as a rejection Israel’s History. He argued that miracles are the foundation for religious contradictions.
David Hume was mistaken when he identified miracles as being the foundation of all religions. The Koran does not attribute any miracles to the prophet Mohammed, “The signs are only with Allah, and I am only a plain voice. Is it not sufficient for them that We (Allah) have sent down the Book (Quran) which is recited by them?” (Surah 29:50-51)
For all intent and purposes, Islam is simply a natural religion woven together with some Arabic Pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic overtones. Buddhism and Confucianism are not religions of miracles but philosophical systems. Buddhism does not teach that a personal God exists.  Paganism by definition is the worship of nature.
The so-called supernatural behind Polytheism and Paganism is not the work of God, but magic and the manipulation of matter. Magic does not give nature existence.  The inability to distinguish between the supernatural in the Old and New Testaments and polytheistic systems is lamentable and evidence of an unwillingness on the part of the commentator to truly engage the subject matter.
Apparition at Fatima to three children
In 1917, Europe was engulfed by the horrors of World War I and Portugal was under the rule of a “modernist Republic” which eschewed the Catholic Faith. The beautiful lady informed the children that unless men’s hearts changed, an even greater war would follow. 
Thomas Merton the Cistercian Monk stated that violence was the result of fear in human hearts. John the Evangelist writes, “Love overcomes fear.” and “Whoever loves his brother – and we are all brothers – lives in the light and there is nothing in him that makes him stumble.” (1 John 2: 9)
World War I brought about the death of close to 20 million people through bombs, bullets, poisonous gas, and disease. World War II brought about the death of close to 50 million people. The beautiful lady informed the children that Russia would become the cause of great evil throughout the world and universally persecute the Church. To prevent such horrors, the beautiful lady asked the three children to pray and offer sacrifices and to spread the message of repentance and prayer. It was a very simple and prescient message, but tragically not universally lived.  Still the country of Portugal, which did adhere to the message, escaped the horrors of both wars and Communist oppression.
Why would the Mother of Jesus be the one sent by God to appear to the children at Fatima? The Catholic Church professes -- based upon sacred tradition (oral and written) -- that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was assumed body and soul into eternity. Jewish tradition (oral and written) identifies that Elijah and Moses were also assumed body and soul into eternity. And it was Moses and Elijah who appeared and spoke to Jesus while on a high mountain with Peter, James and John, as He was transfigured. (Mark 9: 2-8)
Historical documents narrating various Marian appearances in places like Fatima, Portugal; Lourdes, France; Knock, Ireland; Nakita, Japan all convey a consistent Biblical pattern: Mary the Mother of Jesus encourages members of Jesus’ Mystical Body to “do whatever He tells you.” (John 2: 5)  Her messages convey exactly what the disciples heard on the mountain of transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, Listen to Him.”
The families and peers of the young Fatima visionaries rebuked the children. They were imprisoned and threatened with torture and death by the local “progressive authorities” unless they recanted and confessed that their visions were nothing but a hoax.  
Nothing in the children’s story changed.  Their demeanor demonstrated great courage and indifference to threats of suffering and death. What the three children witnessed at the Cova da Iria changed them dramatically. The children held fast to their visual, auditory, and oratory experiences even in the face of rebuke and punishment.
The local Catholic pastor was originally convinced that the children observed something supernatural and that it was not from Heaven.  The oldest girl Lucia recounts that she suffered greatly from the rebukes from her mother, the pastor, and peers. 
She decided she would not to go back to the Cova da Iria. “But the lady was so beautiful, so good. I had to see her face again and feel the love of her smile,” wrote Lucia. The people demanded the children to ask for a sign from the lady as evidence that their “visions” were not a hoax or the result of fantasy and hysteria.  Such a sign would represent empirical evidence.
The children informed the people that on October 13th a sign would be given so that they would accept, repent, and live the messages. And so, seventy thousand people gathered in the field of the Cova da Iria on that date.
 Some prayed, many were skeptical, and some simply came to mock the three children who were on their knees praying in the rain and mud. It was recorded in the newspapers along with photographic evidence that the people and the land were drenched with rain. All those gathered then experienced the sun in the sky spin, dance, weave, and then descend towards the earth. The people panicked believing the falling sun would consume them.
And then the event was over. The once drenched population was now dry, and so was the ground. Skeptics became believers and others reported physical healings.
Atheist Richard Dawkins 
Richard Dawkins does not disprove the narrated events in his tome. He shrugs it off, arguing that there are always numerous unverifiable and unexplored alternative explanations to the recorded events. His indifferent shrug has been repeated for the past 97 years by atheists and materialists. But no one – as far as I know – has ever concocted a viable and verifiable alternative explanation.
Dawkins muses that people staring at the sun would see strange images. His statement is true and at the same time cowardly. He has an unwillingness to dig into the events for fear where they may lead him.
A person’s optical nerves after staring directly at the sun for ten minutes would be jeopardized if not permanently damaged. There are no records of eyewitnesses experiencing temporary or permanent blindness, the destruction of retinas, or images of sunspots being seared into their eyes. A person staring up at the sun for 10 minutes with no evidence of optical damage is an unexplained phenomenon. Dawkins dismisses the testimony of numerous eye-witnesses since astronomers, cosmologists, and news agencies around the globe did not report solar activity on October 13, 1917, “…which would have certainly been observed if the sun was physically pulled towards the earth.”  
Dawkins holds fast to Hume’s criteria that a miracle must be universally witnessed, “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony be of such kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.” This is pure sophistry since it argues against the universally recognized method of discernment within a whole array of human matters. Criminal investigations and judicial systems all around the world are based upon the testimonies of credible witnesses.
By disparaging the witness as “hallucinating,” Dawkins shares the same psychological moorings of the now deceased Christopher (Christ bearer) Hitchens (1949-2011), who argued, “that a materialist does not prove the non-existence of the supernatural. He simply demonstrates the non-necessity of the supernatural in relation to how one chooses to live one’s own life.”
 Fundamentally, Dawkins argues the non-necessity of the events. His tragic decision and conclusion – mirrored by the millions living in materialist denial – guarantees that tragic events in human history will repeat themselves  since nothing has been learned about the human heart and conditions leading up to World War II.
Paradoxically, if the whole world experienced solar flares and a dancing sun on October 13th, 1917, the materialist would have every right to identify the event as natural -- something which could be measured, quantified, and empirically explained. Instead David Hume and Richard Dawkins opine, “That which is universally observed is natural and that which is not universally observed is natural hallucination.”
 In both cases, the non-supernatural explanation is posited since uneducated humanity is – according to David Hume - incapable of deriving a proper understanding of events based upon personal experience. He just doesn’t believe anyone.
 The fact that the three children, who were not meteorologists, astronomers, or forecasters, identified the day of the miracle in advance gives credence to their story. Given the fact that materialists have not demonstrated “its falsehood” after 97 years makes their story credible.  The story is further credible because the three children’s moral and psychological character was thoroughly investigated and documented as sound.
The children did not recant in spite of persecution and threats to their lives. In the midst of World War I, the three children foretold a subsequent horrific war that would convulse the world, and predicted that Russia – which at the time was an Orthodox Christian nation – would persecute the Church.  That all these statements came to pass gives credence to their story.  
 It is interesting that in a court of law, the badgering of witnesses is considered contempt for the universal practice of law and the implementation of human justice. Contempt is what Dawkins demonstrates when rejecting the testimony of the children and thousands of witnesses as simply hallucinations.
Francesco and Jacinta died in less than three years after the apparition in heroic fashion. Their story never changed even on their deathbeds. The older sister, Lucia, chose to become a consecrated sister and a cloistered Carmelite nun. Her decision to enter the religious life resulted from her experience of the events, which took place between May 13th and October 13th 1917. She was directed by her superior to record the events for posterity. I believe she began to write her memoirs around 1937 while in religious habit in keeping with her vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty.   

Pope John Paul II meets and talks
with His assassin Ali Aga in prison
During the course of the events surrounding Fatima, there was one revelation the two younger children took with them to their grave, and Lucia did not reveal it to anyone until she confided it in Pope Pius XII. It was the revelation that there would be an attempt on the life of a pope in the future. Dates and time were not given.
 In Lucia’s lifetime, the attempt was made. Ali Aga shot Pope John Paul II on May 13th 1981, the anniversary of the first Fatima apparition.
 John Paul II, who visited Sr. Lucia after the assassination attempt, saw the preservation of his life as an intervention by Our Lady of Fatima to whom he had a great devotion. John Paul II and Catholic Christians share a common 
Pope John Paul II felt Our Lady
saved his life on May 13, 1981
understanding about God’s care for the world.  We do not live under the law of statistical coincidences. We live under the Law of Divine Providence. As requested at Fatima by Our Lady, Pope John Paul II consecrated the world, including Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was not long afterwards that the Iron Curtain fell.
Final Personal Thoughts
I you ask a Christian what distresses the world today, he would answer, “The world has plunged into an ever increasing ‘culture of death’ and a ‘culture of jihadist Islamic terror.’” Both forms of death are everywhere. The Virgin Mary warned the children in 1917 that human sin would lead the world into two great conflicts:
Ø World War II and
Ø the persecution of the Church along with the annihilation of whole peoples and nations at the hands of atheistic and materialist Communism flowing out from Russia.  
Warnings given in Fatima in 1917 are related to what is taking place today. Human existence has entered another frightening phase of death and terrorism, and the message of Fatima is prescient again. Unless the human heart trapped in the godless delusion changes, the results will be the same. Tragically, since so many Christians live and think as materialists, the spiritual resistance to evil is small within Western Society. 
The Virgin Mary stated that in the end, her Immaculate Heart would triumph and an era of peace would be granted to the world. Her promise was an invitation for the faithful remnant to participate in her message of hope by engaging in prayer and sacrifice.
Responding to such an invitation is an expression of love towards all of humanity, which is “lost in a lost world” of materialism. (Moody Blues)
If mankind does not shake off the shackles of materialism, the horrors of the 20th Century will be repeated over and over again leading to a final horrific climax.

"Lost In A Lost World" written by Michael Pinder
Sung by the Moody Blues

I woke up today, I was crying
Lost in a lost world
So many people are dying
Lost in a lost world

Some of them are living an illusion
Bounded by the darkness of their minds
In their eyes it's nation against nation against nation
With racial pride

Sad hearts they hide
Thinking only of themselves
They shun the light
They think they're right
Living in their empty shells

Oh, can you see their world is crashing?
Crashing down around their feet
Angry people in the street
Telling them they've had their fill
Of politics that wound and kill

The seeds of evolution
Revolution never won
It's just another form of gun
To do again what they have done
With all our brothers' youngest sons

Everywhere you go you see them searching
Everywhere you turn you feel the pain
Everyone is looking for the answer
Well, look again, come on my friend

Love will find them in the end
Come on my friend
We've got to bend
Down on our knees and say a prayer

Oh, can you feel the world is pining
Pining for someone who really cares enough to share his love
With all of us, so we can be
An ever loving family

Have we forgotten we're all children?
Children from a family tree
That's longer than a centipede
Started long ago when you and I
Were only love

I woke today, I was crying
Lost in a lost world
So many people are dying
Lost in a lost world

So many people, so many people, people
Lost in a lost world
So many people, so many people, people
Lost in a lost world
So many people, so many people, people
Lost in a lost world

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