Post 273

You Have 3 New Messages: Reflections on Keeping It Real

The problem with falling asleep in a wax museum is that you will look like one of the wax figures that they have of tourists sitting on benches who are also dozing off.

I once fell asleep at Madame Tussauds, a wax museum in London.

That was a while ago, back in the day when they used an apostrophe and wrote it like this: “Madame Tussaud’s.”

I recently learned that there is another Madame Tussauds location in Berlin, where, until early 2016, a wax replica of Hitler was included in the collection. On the day the wax museum opened, an unemployed former policeman ran in and decapitated the wax figure.

You can’t find this vandal’s full name online. It’s just “Frank L.” Apparently, he said that he was protesting the inclusion of Hitler in the wax museum, but I have also read that Frank had made a bet the night before. I’m betting that winning the bet was more important to Frank than making a statement.

I’m not a fan of wax museums, and I’m not a fan of Hitler, but it wasn’t right for Frank to damage property that didn’t belong to him. It’s wrong on several levels. I think of the guard who was injured when Frank charged in, and I think of the ruined work of the wax sculptor who had worked skillfully to make the sculpture, and of the government employees whose time was diverted to deal with the necessary prosecution of Frank when there were other, more pressing matters that deserved attention.

As I dozed off on the bench at the museum, I was suddenly awoken by a woman who had just poked me in the arm, testing to see if I was a real person or a very lifelike wax figure.

As it turns out, I was alive.

She and her fellow musuem-goers were startled, reacting in astonished laughter when I woke up and looked at her.

I bring this incident up because it still happens to me. I receive, from time to time, emails from those who want to see what will happen when they write to me. They say, “just thinking about you and wondering how the heck you are doing?”

(This is an actual quote. After a long time of thinking of me — so she says — that phrasing captured the flavour she wanted, I guess.)

In this case, I responded.

I responded that I’m fine, and that I’m currently up to this and that, and I reciprocated, asking how things were with her.

I’ve never heard from her since.

Sigh.

You see, when people write to you, saying, “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Birthday,” or asking you how you are, they don’t necessarily care about you. Some do care, but some don’t. Do I say something entirely shocking? I do not. The truth is that some are contacting you because they want something for themselves, and not your increased happiness or well-being.

They want:
(a) to see what happens when they write, in order to satisfy their curiosity
(b) to find out something about you, in order to satisfy their curiosity
(c) to feel good about themselves (“I’m a good Christian,” “I never forget a birthday”)

This is why some conversations never make it to round 2.

Though you are the recipient of a holiday greeting or a hey-how-ya-doin’ email, you are nothing more than the canvas that they use to paint a portrait of themselves. You are the mirror that they gaze into, in order that they can better admire their own image.

The proof of this is in what and how they write in the first place, and in what and how they write if you respond.

Sometimes I receive emails where the point isn’t even evident. A good email should have a point. Why send a pointless email? Why send an email which leaves the recipient scratching his head: “Is this supposed to be profound, or funny, or somehow of interest to me?” Why bother? Even spam is better than that; you know what they want you to buy.

Speaking of spam, a while back I got an email from Hollie, who wrote, “Hi Mena!” and then pasted a link to spam.

A future in white-collar crime is certainly not advisable in her case; the poor girl doesn’t even know how to create fake junk mail. (Don’t write the recipient’s name in the text portion, honey.)

Believe me when I say that my current views regarding past behaviour are confirmed by current behaviour.

A good greeting requires good intentions. Yesterday I received a Christmas card from Fr. Brian Inglis and another from Leah. The former was my spiritual director prior to being assigned to Hinton, and the second is a relative.

Both cards were nice, and both achieved their intended result. They were a way of saying, “Hello, I am thinking of you,” and they both provided a few words as a mini-update about their lives.

Sometimes Christmas cards contain updates, and these are fine, provided that one’s intention is good. Think about what you’re trying to do, beyond, “I want to include a newsletter.” WHY do you want to include a newsletter?

Do not send a newsletter to anyone who does not share your joy. Do not send a newsletter to someone who cannot rejoice with you at your successes. If you believe that your sister-in-law is competitive with you, then do NOT include your newsletter, which details your recent activities that turned out well, along with your husband’s promotion and the academic, social, spiritual, artistic and athletic achievements of your children.

Similarly, do not send a newsletter about the difficulties that you are experiencing, unless you believe that the recipient will sympathize with your difficulties.

(And obviously, do not divulge the difficulties experienced by your children or anyone else under your care without very careful consideration. Their struggles, both momentary and long-standing, are not to be used to make your newsletters more interesting. Guard their privacy. Be loyal. Do you want, in a decade or two, your children to tell their friends about the time you escaped from your senior’s facility and stole all the toothpaste from the convenience store?)

The act of sending a newletter or a card is supposed to be an act of community. We send them in order to connect in a way which is pleasing to both the recipient and the sender. The idea here is “with,” as in the Latin “com,” as in “communicate.”

The opposite of this is an ‘at’ situation, where you are just ‘talking at’ someone, to satisfy your own desire to feel a certain way (accomplished, witty, insightful, intelligent, friendly, holy). In this latter case, your intention is wrong, and it would be better for you to do something different. Go to the mall and buy some new socks, say.

In other words, the entire exercise of reaching out to another person deserves reflection, whether it’s a text, an email or a Christmas card. Contacting someone shouldn’t be a cold checkmark on a to-do list, marked as ‘complete’ regardless of outcome. Getting in touch should not be a reflexive and thoughtless action, as if the recipient is nothing more than a figure in a wax museum, there for your own amusement, to be prodded or bothered at your whim.

Greetings can be simple, but they should be meaningful. Questions and comments should be straightforward, so that the the purpose of these are evident to both sender and recipient, and the purpose should be a good one. Apologies should be sincere, and not burdened by excuses and more offense. Requests for favours and help should be made in a direct way as well, without padding and flattery and feigned friendship.

Write, speak and act as you genuinely think and feel; otherwise, remain silent. Let your words and outward actions match your heart. Be genuine. If you speak, let your words reflect who you really are. Don’t be fake, pretending you have concern where you don’t. Don’t be fake, pretending you care where you don’t. Don’t be a wax replica of someone else, no matter how good you think that other person is or was.

Be real! Be the authentic person that God made you to be. You are unique. Rejoice in that.

And if you are blessed with those who care about you, and who haven’t heard from you in a while, send them your nicest Christmas wishes. Christmastide lasts for weeks upon weeks, so you’ve still got plenty of time.

Tell them hello
Tell them what’s new
And if you like
Stick in a photo or two.

I’ll do the same over here. Brace yourselves, family and friends!

Family and friends
So faithful and true
Here comes your card
My greetings to you.

Post 272
(A guest post)

14. XI. 2017

I want you to be my voice. I want you to call out to the nations as I have called out to you. I want you to guide them [my people] as I have guided you. Do not be afraid, I will guide you. I will not let you lead them astray for they are my people, whom I have chosen. I have formed them [everyone] in my hand and in my own image. I have breathed the Holy Spirit into them and have made [caused] their hearts to pulse as the sun. Will I now forsake that which I have made? How can a father look on [upon] his child and not recall that time when, with an untouched [pure] soul, the child lay in the father’s arms trustful and yet unaware that he [the child] was trusting? Remember [be aware], my people, in whom you are trusting! Place your trust in him who cannot fail, who cannot forget, who cannot betray. Place your trust in Him who loves unconditionally. Place your trust in Him who is full of mercy.

Post 271
(A guest post)

November 17, 2017

. . . I am glad you are here; I have many things to tell you. Do not be afraid. I keep you safe from danger; I keep people safe from dangers that they are unaware of. Trust me; I will lead you. Even when you don’t know the way, I will guide you. Do not fear if you don’t know [the plan], for I do. Trust in me, for I led the people of Israel through the desert . . . A time of peace is coming . . . Just have faith in me. Place your trust in me; a father will not disappoint his children when they have placed all of their trust in him. The Father does not deceive his children. Indeed, it is the evil one who leads those astray . . . If you believe, it shall be fulfilled. I will protect you from evil. If you trust, nothing will harm you. The shepherd does not let his flock wander and get eaten by the wolves. As your Father protects you, so do I. I will guard you, and nothing will harm you . . . I see not only the mountains, but over them, beyond the human eye — as I know [the plan]. Even if you do not understand, even if you do not know, I know, and you will understand. I will lead you. You do not have to know the way, as long as you follow. I make the sunset, I create rainbows, I knew what you wanted before you knew.

. . . Those who work hard will be rewarded.

. . . Those who seek help shall be saved. Come and follow me, I will be with you all the way.

Post 270
(A guest post)

7. XI. 2017

Write this: I will guide you always. Never leave my love. Come to me often [in the Eucharist] and never leave. I will be with you, even to the end of the age. I want to work through you, and you to work in me [through me]. Trust in me, for I have a plan that is beyond this world. Remember this always. If you are ever alone [=lonely], remember that I am near. If ever you are hungry, know that I will be your food. If ever you are lost, I will be your guide. Never be afraid, because I am near. I am nearer than a child in its mother’s womb. I will watch over you, as a shepherd his flock because you are my people. I have chosen you and formed you as my own. You will be my testimony. You will be [the bearers] of my strength and I will lead you. I want you to spread the message of peace because I am coming to reign over you as the Prince of Peace.

I will make my covenant with you . . . Pray to my Sacred Heart and seek comfort within it. The souls who seek protection in my Sacred Heart shall not be turned away. Venerate my heart in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is my gift to humanity. It is also my promise – that I shall come again and walk among you. It is the manifestation of myself as God and as man. It is my gift, that all who hunger may be filled, and all who search may find. It is the fulfillment of my promise to be with you always and it is a reminder of my love. It is my testimony and example to the world because within it are written [enfolded, enshrined, ingrained] all the commandments, just as all the commandments are found in these two: love the Lord your God above all things and love your neighbour as yourself. He who loves the law will love [know, understand] these two, and he who loves these two of my commandments will love the rest. For just as one God made [placed, wrote] the stars in Heaven and then created man, so too does one God write [make] all the commandments and place them in the law.

 

Post 269

Because November is a Busy Month

I make hot chocolate frequently.

I grab as many mugs as I have takers.

I put one tablespoon of cocoa powder into each mug, followed by two heaping tablespoons of ordinary white sugar.

I add one or two tablespoons of milk, and stir it into a thick paste. My favorite milk these days is carried by Safeway: Natrel Organic Homogenized milk, 3.25% milk fat. It has a nice taste.

Make sure that all the cocoa powder is fully incorporated, because little balls of cocoa powder will taste rather bitter. You can use the back of a spoon to press any renegade cocoa bits against the inside of the mug.

Add enough milk to fill the mug.

Stir.

Microwave for a couple of minutes.

Remove and stir again.

Taste a spoonful.

Add more sugar.

Microwave for about 30 seconds more.

Add a small handful of mini-marshmallows for those who like them.

Serve.

Post 268
To Our Lady, who understands everything

November 23 & 24

This is the second anniversary
Of something sweet
The beginning of a new world
That turned some lives
Upside down and right side up
All at the same time.
Jesus, we trust in you.

This is the second anniversary
Of first secrets revealed
Of promises made
And companionship in the darkest hour

Two years filled to the brim
Of the unexpected, the undeserved and the extraordinary
Oh the thoughts of the dog!
The thoughts of the dog

Two years filled to the brim
Of spiritual stuff you couldn’t imagine
Of words you didn’t make up
Like the thoughts of the dog

This is the second anniversary
Of looking at the sky and looking at the sun
And the stars and the clouds and the moon
And wondering when
It would all come true

Oh Jesus, I trust in you!

Post 267

Cutting it Close: A Recipe for October

Having said I’d give you a recipe per month, I can’t let this month end without providing you with one for October. This month has about two hours left in it, where I am. Most of the world is already in November.

This recipe is one of those that has a recipe inside a recipe, but sometimes cooking involves, well, cooking.

So I’ll provide both recipes that I use. Make the first recipe, and then when you read the ingredient list for the main recipe, you’ll say to yourself with satisfaction, “I have that so covered.”

When I make chicken pot pie, the crust that I use is this one from America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. In the margin, I have written, “Took me 17 1/2 minutes to get it into fridge.” How me, to write such a thing. I think I wrote it because I was getting lies that it would take me forever, and by actually timing myself and recording my time, I wouldn’t feel like making the crust was an insurmountable obstacle. But anyway, now it will be of service to you. Set your timer and see if you can smoke my time.

All-Butter Double-Crust Pie Dough

MAKES enough for one 9-inch pie

Freezing the butter for 10 to 15 minutes is crucial to the flaky texture of this crust. If preparing the dough in a very warm kitchen, refrigerate all of the ingredients before making the dough. If you don’t have a food processor, see Hand Mixing Pie Dough on page 360.

1/3 cup ice water, plus extra as needed
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and frozen for 10 to 15 minutes

1. Mix 1/3 cup of the ice water and sour cream together in a small bowl until combined. Process the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor until combined. Following the photos, scatter the butter pieces over the top and pulse the mixture until the butter is the size of large peas, about 10 pulses.

2. Pour half of the sour cream mixture over the flour mixture and pulse until incorporated, about 3 pulses. Repeat with the remaining sour cream mixture. Pinch the dough with your fingers; if the dough feels dry and does not hold together, sprinkle 1 or 2 tablespoons more ice water over the mixture and pulse until the dough forms large clumps and no dry flour remains, 3 to 5 pulses.

3. Divide the dough into 2 even pieces. Turn each piece of dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Before rolling the dough out, let it sit on the counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes.

Chicken Pot Pie
The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

SERVES 6 to 8
PREP TIME: 10 minutes plus time to make pie dough
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 10 minutes

If using a pie dough topping, be sure to make it first and allow the dough to chill while making the filling. If making a biscuit topping, mix and shape the biscuits after making the filling and just before baking the casserole. The filling must be hot when you top it or the pastry or biscuits will be gummy. For individual pot pies, instead of pouring the filling into a casserole, pour it into heatproof bowls or ramekins and top each with a single portion of pie dough or biscuits.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 ribs celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 onion, minced
Salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry [I usually skip this, just because it’s not available at the grocery store]
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth [I use regular, not low-sodium]
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 bay leaves
Pepper
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 recipe Double-Crust Pie Dough (page 593) or Cream Biscuits dough (page 515)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven [that’s just a pot with stubby handles on each side] over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes.

2. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the flour. Slowly whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, cream and bay leaves. Simmer until the mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes.

3. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Stir the chicken into the sauce and continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

4. Discard the bay leaves and stir in the peas and parsley. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

5. If using the pie dough, roll it out into a 11 by 15-inch rectangle, then drape it over the dish and trim, following the photos on page 357. If using the biscuit dough, cut the dough into eight 3-inch-wide biscuits and lay over the filling, following the photo on page 357.

6. Bake until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Now there are 90 minutes left in October 2017. Two months left in 2017. Then there will be two years left in the teens of 2000.

2020. Does that seem like a long way off? Where will you be then? Where will you be on, say, November 2, 2020, the feast of All Souls’ Day?

Tomorrow is All Saints’ Day — for me, anyway. In your part of the world, it has already begun.

Post 266

Even He: Reflections on Hell

Are you for Trump or against him?

It seems like a reasonable question, but the simplistic yes-or-no, all-or-nothing, heaven-or-hell approach, which is necessary to make a decision for voting (choose candidate A or candidate B), is a dangerous way to think about people the rest of the time.

A politician, is, after all, a person.

People are complicated.

People are multifaceted, torn between doing the right thing and the wrong thing, always. Choosing the right thing when well-rested, in a good mood and under close supervision, and choosing the wrong thing when hungry, irritated or in Las Vegas — that’s people for you, God have mercy.

While alive, people are constantly changing; they make new choices and decisions all the time. These variations in intention, both minor and major, have consequences. All of your changes in intention, both slight and significant, have the effect of reshaping the future — both your own and that of others.

People so often wish they could know the future. The thing about this is that the future is constantly changing. So even if you could see the future right now, in all likelihood, you would be seeing merely the future as it currently stands, and the future is very much contingent upon what happens between now and the future that you’ve been permitted to see.

What’s the advantage of seeing the future if it comes with fine print: “Subject to change without notice”?

God is very careful about not revealing the future, as a general rule, for the reason that most people would make worse choices by knowing it. If you knew you’d win the race, would you continue to train? If you knew you’d lose the election, would you continue to campaign?

Besides, as I said, visions of the future are unreliable because they are not guaranteed. This is what Jonah found out, according to Scripture. He could see the destruction coming for Nineveh, and he ultimately did deliver the warning to the people of Nineveh, that they must repent, or else. Being inspired, his words had an authority and weight that they wouldn’t otherwise have had. Jonah’s words struck fire into the hearts of the Ninevites, and they did the unthinkable: they repented.

So then what?

So then the future changed. Nineveh wasn’t destroyed, and the prophesy wasn’t fulfilled.

Jonah was bummed. He had chosen a spot, a good long way away, from which to eat popcorn and watch the destruction of Nineveh. He wasn’t happy that people had heeded his message; he would have preferred to have been right.

The point is that even a revelation from God can turn out to be ‘wrong,’ in the sense that it can be replaced by a new plan. God always has a plan, and within it, there are an almost infinite number of sub-plans, in the same way that white light contains a rainbow of colours.

This means that if you fall out of one plan that God has for your life, he’ll adjust everything so that he can ‘catch’ you on the next go round. If Sidney rejects God’s first plan for Sidney’s benefit, which consisted of early exposure to good values, then God will be waiting around the corner with a good friend who will show Sidney how to reform his life. If Sidney rejects that, God will arrange it so that an inspiring and transformative book falls across Sidney’s path. If Sidney rejects that, he’ll arrange it so that a TV evangelist is on air just when Sidney is laid up with two broken legs and the remote control batteries are dead.

I simplify, because I just don’t have the space to write about the lengths to which God will go.

You see, God’s real smart. He’s also resourceful, and he has as many ideas about how to captivate your heart as there are grains of sands on the beaches.

For this reason, an atheist has only himself to blame. Don’t tell me that God hasn’t reached out to him. Don’t tell me that God hasn’t tried.

I won’t believe you.

Why not?

I won’t because I know that God is good, and he’s not going to leave anyone behind. Anyone who chooses to remain as an agnostic or an atheist is making a choice. Such a person makes, in fact, a series of choices to continue in ‘doubt.’ The atheist makes a choice to ignore that “stupid coincidence” and makes a choice to reason away anyone who speaks well or poorly about such issues; indeed, believe me when I say that an atheist looks for reasons not to believe. Christians are cautioned about being a good example, and this is well and good, but it must be borne in mind that personal choice requires one to not be a ‘victim’ of the bad examples that are out there. In other words, at the end of the day, don’t imagine that it will be impressive or admirable or manly to say, at the end of your life, “The Christians I met were really dreadful, and no better than anyone else, so I decided to reject Christ.” Choose what is best, regardless of the examples around you. Blaming the poor example of those who should know better will only get you so far. When an atheist chooses to ignore the voice of conscience, and to mentally argue against those who make a case for Christianity, and to mentally argue against, in fact, every single thing that might be persuasive, from the beauty of nature to the writing of hundreds of intelligent and reasonable men and women, then that atheist makes a choice for himself.

And that’s my whole point — it’s a choice, not a random situation where some people are born with a genetic predisposition to believe while others are not. It’s true that the world has changed, but God presents himself as an option to everyone. He presents himself as an option to everyone every day. For this reason, the Catholic Church recognizes that there is such a thing as ‘baptism of desire.’ Even someone not exposed to Christianity can choose to live a righteous life, obviously. The Church knows this.

God’s methods, nevertheless, are often subtle, and he is, as C.S. Lewis said, “unscrupulous,” meaning that he’ll not limit himself to the usual and ‘legitimate’ methods of winning your heart. His methods are poetic and often humorous.

The dog winks at you, and you wonder whether there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Yeah.

So I’ll check back on you later, without worrying in the meantime about your soul. You may be stubborn, but God has time (more than you), and he hasn’t given up. He’ll bring about a change in the most unexpected and unpredictable of ways. He’s the indefatigable suitor, the persistent, witty and resourceful lover, the long-suffering and patient Father.

Did I say he was efficient? He is, and there is, in the end, no waste. His efforts are not wasted because everyone eventually comes home. The father of the prodigal son is not waiting for nothing. I’ll return to this point, but for now, let me continue with the theme I raised initially.

God knows the inner workings of every person. Every person is complex.

Nobody, not even Trump, is a caricature, or a symbol for something else.

Even Hitler, so often used as a symbol of evil, is not without some spark of goodness. People are complicated, and this is especially the case over the trajectory of an entire life. Was Adolf not, at one point, a toddler? Was he not, later, a boy, and then a young man of 12? Take the most evil ruler from Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and North America, and consider every aspect of his life. Will you fail to find one scrap of goodness? Will you fail to find one kind deed, one kind word? Will you find selfishness from birth until death?

Give me anyone, even the one with the bloodiest hands, say, Morgentaler or his type. Give me even someone like Margaret Atwood, who is, to my mind, in a worse class than many who destroy the unborn. Give me the most arrogant of archbishops or atheists or atheistic archbishops, and I will show you that even he is complex. Even he has a spark of good.

Even Judas.

Even Judas was not all bad.

And yes, I did just go and say that.

And I heard you just go and ask about the doctrine of hell.

Hell exists, sure. It’s not necessarily a physical place, but Christ didn’t lie when he referred to fires that burn forever.

As for the people, are there any who will burn forevermore?

Here’s Pope Benedict, in a Catholic News Agency article from February 11, 2008:

“Perhaps there are not so many who have destroyed themselves so completely, who are irreparable forever, who no longer have any element upon which the love of God can rest, who no longer have the slightest capacity to love within themselves. This would be hell.”

In other words, don’t get your hopes up, people at LifeSite News, that all of the ‘bad guys’ are going to hell. There are so many ‘good’ and ‘holy’ people who have been gnashing their teeth at the thought of people not going to hell. Ever since they heard or read that the 2016 Amoris Laetitia says, “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel,” they have been convinced that Pope Francis is Wrecking Everything.

They are like Jonah, entirely pissed off that Peter’s successor says God might not run hell the way they expect, the way they have understood the afterlife works. They make sweeping statements that Pope Francis has made sweeping statements. They’re not paying close attention, because, like atheists, they have made up their mind.

But I say to those who are scandalized at the words of Pope Francis, be thankful, for your own sake, at the wording used by Pope Francis’ predecessor, who is accepted by those who attack Pope Francis. Be thankful for the wording here. Notice how Pope Benedict writes that it’s pretty damn hard to be damned forever. It’s presented in many ways, and here I’ll ask you to note certain words:

1) “destroyed themselves SO completely”
2) “who are irreparable FOREVER”
3) “who no longer have ANY element upon which the love of God can rest”
4) “who no longer have the SLIGHTEST capacity to love”

Do you see? Most telling is the third phrase above. It’s saying that yes, if God can’t find anything about the person to love, then sure, hell would be the answer.

So you see.

Without saying it in an ultra-obvious way, Pope Benedict described the conditions for eternal damnation very strictly. Impossibly strict, as a matter of fact.

When you look more closely at passages such as Matthew 25:41, (‘Then He shall say to them also that shall be on His left hand: Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels’) you’ll see that it refers to the fire itself being eternal, but not the punishment.

And it makes sense that Pope Francis would say that annihilation would follow death, rather than an eternal hell, because it is God’s love that keeps everything in existence. God’s love for Bob keeps Bob in existence; without it, Bob wouldn’t be anywhere — not even in hell. God’s love for Lucifer keeps Lucifer in existence; without it, Lucifer would go poof. Not existing is worse than hell.

So I believe in purgatory, heaven and hell.

It’s the tally, kept by Those In the Know, that I question. And just for a moment, let’s stop and think about what kind of person would be aghast at the thought of people not being tortured forever. Does this mindset not bring to mind the leaders of empires and -isms who ordered the imprisonment or torture or deaths of scores of people?

The words that God delivered to Jonah are worth seeing again:

And the Lord God appointed a plant, and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm which attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a sultry east wind, and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah so that he was faint; and he asked that he might die, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?”

And he said, “I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”

And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nin′eveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

– Jonah 4: 6-11

It is good news that we will all, ultimately, be together. It’s the fairy-tale ending that every good person wants. Yes, it can be confusing, because we thought we understood everything that there was to understand about the mysteries of heaven, hell and purgatory.

However, the words of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict remind us that these things are mysteries, and that what we knew before might not be complete. These words remind us that the future can change. God’s mercy extends further than you can imagine; it extends even to the depths of hell.

God can change the future.

Hell is a lot emptier than people think, especially nowadays. As a matter of fact, I said so in a post that predated the publication of Amoris Laetitia.

Indeed, I think hell is empty of human souls.

Satan is still there, of course, as are his support staff. He’s the administrator of the bonfire called hell, and he continues to spread his lies on earth, which are embraced by some.

One day, however, even Satan will be welcomed back into the flock. He’ll be last, of course, but he’ll be there.

As for the fire, it’ll never be extinguished, thank God.

We’ll roast marshmallows in heaven, together.

See you there.

Post 265

Here We Go Again?
Reciprocity Revisited and a Recipe for September

When two people enter into a relationship, there is, you could say, a sort of delicate dance of politeness and small exchanged pleasantries, smiles and kind words. Sometimes, this is where it ends, and the acquaintance, now formed, is not strengthened. Will these people meet again? Perhaps. If they do, the relationship will either progress or stay at this pleasant but superficial level. For whatever reason, at least one of these two people would prefer to leave things as they are. And indeed, there are many good reasons for some relationships to never progress beyond this. The handyman, as nice as he is, never needs to know Mrs. Customer very well. Let her remain a mystery. Similarly, the students should not feel compelled to befriend their teachers in order to get an A on their essays. Let the personal lives of the students remain a mystery.

However, sometimes there is more. Sometimes both parties are pleased to have the relationship advance. The pleasantries become more meaningful, and the topics and revelations become more personal. The kindnesses become more deliberate and labour-intensive or expensive.

It’s still a delicate dance, though, because there are steps. Unlike young children (especially girls), who say to each other in the school yard, “Do you want to be friends?” adults and older children show that they want a stronger relationship by their words and conduct. It’s a careful dance of reciprocity, because one knows to not greatly exceed the warmth shown by the other. You don’t buy a pearl bracelet for a person whose last name you haven’t learned, for instance, no matter how nicely they say “Good morning” to you every day at the bus stop.

There are positive actions and words which are chosen in order to advance the relationship. These are outward signs of positive feelings and intentions on the inside.

And so here’s where it gets complicated.

This inside-outside stuff often does.

Not all relationships are what they seem to be. Do you know for certain that the outward behaviour of your cousin or your neighbour or friend is a true reflection of the inward intentions and disposition? Alas, it is often the case that people who are in frequent contact with one another are going through all the motions of the dance without having the corresponding internal disposition.

I think you’re with me so far.

That clock on the mantle is ticking and working perfectly fine, but what is revealed on its face isn’t the truth. It’s been off for more than a month. But how would you know? Unless you have another clock with the accurate time, you won’t know whether this clock is feeding you a line.

With people, it’s harder; you don’t have a ‘double.’ You don’t have a version of Jim or Jerry or Jake that’s not a fake. You don’t have a version that you can use to compare. You don’t have a version that’s been calibrated and tested and verified and warrantied to be exactly what it should be, where what you see outwardly accords with what would make sense inwardly. All you have is the externals.

And the externals have been stellar – exceptional, with almost never a dropped line (other than that one time, and that other, and I suppose if you want to be picky, those other few times). Based on that, you have given and loved, with all your heart. You have admired and praised and felt entirely surrounded by people who are well-meaning, honest and fair, or even holy and good beyond compare.

Pagans of the very best sort.
Christians of the very best kind.

So it seems. Is it the case?

How will you tell whether your friend is a genuine friend? How will you tell whether your friend loves you as much as you love your friend?

I wonder. Do I recommend

That you never try to find out?

Maybe.

You may wish to carry on the way you carry on now. Don’t check and don’t wonder, perhaps. Don’t wonder whether your friend would always be there for you. Don’t wonder whether your aunt would do for you what you would do for your aunt.

Do you really want to know?
Do you really want to read his mind?
Do you really want to read her soul?

Years ago, I began writing a play; it was to be called “Filters.” The idea was that the audience would be able to read the thoughts of the characters, and some characters would speak in ways that were 180 degrees different from their thoughts, while others would speak more closely to how they actually felt and thought. We speculated what it would be like to know the thoughts of those around you. “You’d go crazy,” was one notion, but I said, “I think you’d get used to it,” with the idea that people can get used to almost anything.

As it turns out, the first notion is definitely wrong, because if God chooses to reveal to you the thoughts and intentions of those around you, then it is always for your benefit, and you won’t go crazy. He’ll reveal what you can bear, and often it will be amusing and astounding. As for getting used to it, this is partly true. Patterns appear and become less surprising because you’ve seen them before. Having said that, wasn’t Julius Caesar surprised that Brutus was no different from the others?

In any case, if you’re inclined to test the quality of your friendships, there are various ways in which a friendship can be quickly tested.

Go and get hospitalized, or get diagnosed with something that’s potentially fatal. That will be an eye-opener for you, and will clear out some of the false friends. They’ll act in ways that you would never have predicted; some will suddenly be inexplicably busy. You’ll lose more of your fair-weather friends in proportion to the likelihood that you’ll be gone by next Christmas. By this, I mean that if they expect you to make it, they’ll sign a “Get Well” card. If they expect you to croak, they’ll be thinking about who’s getting your truck.

Another way to quickly test your relationships is to change the game. There are various ways to do this. Behind Door Number One: Say no when you are expected to say said yes. Assert your own preferences this time around, and say that no, you won’t in fact have bridesmaids at your wedding. Say that no, you’d rather eat at a restaurant than at their place. Say that no, you won’t take their photographs. Say that no, you won’t waive copyright. Say that no, you won’t make an exception this time round. Say that no, you won’t work at their book sale and no, you won’t help them move.

Behind Door Number Two: Challenge a lie or an insult or some very Curious Behaviour when you are expected to look the other way. Say that the story doesn’t add up, if it doesn’t, or say that you’re hurt, if you are.

The reaction?

What you’d expect?

Or not?

Hey, what’s with your eyes? Why did the whites go yellow and the irises turn red? And hey, what’s with your hands? Why are they all twisted and claw-like all of a sudden, Grandmother dear? Grandmother dear, why are your teeth so large and so long and so very sharp?

(Little Red Riding Hood was freaked.)

Now you’ve done it! Now you’ve asked! You were never supposed to notice!

Look out!
Back away!
Back away, little girl!
Open up that door and

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!

Things aren’t as you thought!
There was no reciprocity of heart!

Actions, yes — they were like yours
Words, yes — they were like yours
Smiles, yes — they were like yours

But it was fake!

It was all, so, so fake!

Run, little girl!
Run, Little Red Riding Hood!
Run to where you’ll be safe!

Run to the place
Where smiles are honest
Where tears are real
Where secrets are kept
Where love overflows
Where love is returned
Where love is unending

Indeed

Bear no more gifts to those
Who don’t love you back

Bear no more gifts to those
Who don’t have your back

My advice to those who have found, to their dismay, that a friendship or relationship was not what it seemed, is to proceed with caution. Do not dam up your love, for you can love from afar, and you can forgive while you’re at it, but you may want to reconsider your plans for the future.

I know that Grandma keeps calling and sending you cards. I know that she says she’s just as Holy as Ever, praying for you daily, yeah whatever. I know that she says she’s just Looking Out for You (“all the better to love you, my dear”),

But you may want to be careful, you know.

“Here, stick your hand in this blender. I won’t turn it on this time.”

You know what I mean?

So does it end here?

Can a relationship ever be rebuilt, when the trust has been broken? Can it ever be as good as it was?

I am sure that the answer is yes. I am sure that after an act of infidelity, a husband and wife can move on to have a relationship which is deeper and more authentic than the one they previously had. The grace of the sacrament of matrimony offers, as one of its great strengths, the ability to heal.

Further, I am sure that after a betrayal of any sort, two people can move on to have an improved relationship.

This is because God is good, and he can regenerate anything.

Nevertheless, there is a precondition. What is it?

It is simply that there must be a willingness, on both sides, to repair and restore the relationship, beginning with special attention to what went wrong.

Consider that the good Jesus could not ‘pass over’ Peter’s betrayal as if it had not happened.

He asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

Makes sense.

The repetition was confusing and hurtful to Peter at the time, but it makes sense. God is poetic. The three affirmations serve to undo, or at least address, the three denials.

And this is as it should be. Despite Peter’s enthusiasm and joy at seeing Jesus again (he jumped into the water and swam to the shore), the previous wrongs needed to be addressed first. That was a priority. The relationship had suffered a serious breach and both justice and naturalness required that what was wrong be righted.

In the same way, the Catholic Church will issue formal apologies when its members have failed a particular group of people, even if the wrongful behaviour was committed decades ago. This is healthy, and anyone who calls himself a Christian would be wise to imitate this example.

Sadly, we have a tendency to admit small failings (especially inadvertent ones) while ignoring and wanting to sweep aside large betrayals and wrongs. This is not healthy.

No relationship can continue as before after a large fall-out unless the people in the relationship are prepared to address what has happened. The Christian ideal does not involve turning a blind eye to betrayal or deceit. These things need to be confronted, not ignored in the name of peace, meekness, mercy or moving forward. Indeed, moving forward necessitates dealing with the reality and mercy does not begin with pretending that there is nothing to forgive. A judge does not grant a pardon to someone who has committed no crime.

Nobody was as peaceful, meek or merciful as Jesus, yet Jesus required that Peter affirm his love, three times. You see, by his betrayal, Peter had shown that his love for Christ was not as deep as he had professed. He had announced that he would never leave Jesus, but those were merely words. When the real test came, Peter showed that his heart did not correspond to his words. He lied three times and publicly detached himself from Jesus, in order to save his own skin.

For this reason, Jesus later questions Peter’s love, three times.

When Peter answers now, he can honestly say, “You know I love you,” because his love has been increased by his experience of his own sinfulness and his need for mercy. His love has been purified by observing the suffering and death of Christ and knowing that he contributed to Christ’s suffering. He has been changed by the experience and he can now better respond to Christ’s love for him.

In the same way, then, a broken relationship can be restored, but the first step is for the people involved in the relationship to address and repair the injury to the best of their ability. The dialogue must be authentic and open, not token and vague. It’s not terribly difficult to achieve this type of dialogue, provided the intention is there.

And what is intention? Intention is desire and decision. If the intention to revive the relationship is mutual, then honest dialogue will break through all barriers and the relationship will advance to a new and improved level, with greater understanding of the other.

Sadly, however, the intention is often not what it should be. Instead of having, in the aftermath of a breakdown, an intention to truly heal the hurts of the other, an intention which is in itself one manifestation of love, some people have something else: an intention merely to return to how things worked before, an intention to return to the way things appeared to be before.

In this case, there has been no transformation, enlightenment or desire to be better. The internal disposition is no different, and what is sought is merely that external appearance of reciprocity.

Let’s dance again, they say.
We’ll talk the way we used to talk.
We’ll act the way we used to act.
It’ll be just like old times.

However, following a break or a problem of any significance, things cannot return to being the way they were. They must be better, or they will be far worse.

After all, Little Red Riding Hood is older now.
All grown up.
Gig’s up.
You blew it.
She knows it.

Your lines about her welfare
Your lines about how much you care

All designed
To mislead
To deceive

You wanted to look good
You wanted the goods
The attention
The admiration and respect
The cookies in that basket
The heart of the girl
And more

But she’s escaped
With her heart
And her cookies

So there

And here

And here
Is a recipe
For you

Because
Because
Because

I still love you
From afar

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies (from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

MAKES: about 20 large cookies
PREP TIME: 5 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 40 minutes plus cooling time

Quick-cooking rolled oats can be substituted for the old-fashioned oats here; however, they will have a little less flavour.

11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
11/2 cups raisins

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. Beat the butter and sugars together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.

3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the oats and raisins until just incorporated.

4. Working with 1/4 cup of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 21/2 inches apart. Flatten the cookies slightly using your palm. Bake until the tops of the cookies are lightly golden but the centers are still soft and puffy, 22 to 25 minutes, rotating and switching the baking sheets halfway through baking.

5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Post 264

A Plea from the Pew: Reflections on Homilies

There is a moment during the Mass which occurs after the Gospel has been read. By this time, the congregation has sung (or heard, at least,) a few songs and heard the Mass readings read aloud. By this point, even the most distracted of parishioners probably has a few words, ideas or images in his mind that are worthy.

At this point, everyone is seated and waiting for the priest to begin his homily.

One hopes, at this point, that the priest doesn’t blow it. I often hope this.

After all, the very air is permeated with so many good ideas! Regardless of the visual setting for the Mass, the words we have heard sparkle and glimmer like many-sided gems. So many interesting themes! Three readings and a psalm to work with! Lush fruit hanging down, within easy reach and ready for the picking!

Now it’s time for a multiple choice quiz. What do you think is the best way for a priest to begin his homily?
a) with a joke
b) with a story
c) with a prop
d) with the Word of God

WHY, oh WHY, do priests insist on beginning their homilies with EVERYTHING OTHER THAN the readings?!?! They are given these beautiful words and treasure chests full of ideas and the first thing out of their mouths are references to — smartphones! Really! I kid you not.

Oh please, Father! Come on! Stop trying to “meet us where we are”! Stop trying to “get our attention”! You have it. Do you doubt this?

When a priest begins his homily, he has the attention of the congregation. The first five seconds are guaranteed. The priest is not a busker in a subway station, trying to grab the attention of commuters rushing for a train. The priest stands, generally, on a raised area, akin to a stage, above a group of people who are looking at him, and waiting for him to begin (and finish) talking. They are not even on their phones.

And indeed, the congregation is not only attentive, but has just been fed with the Word of God. It’s ‘prime time,’ you could say. The congregation is, figuratively, at the top of the mountain, or, at least, the top of the hill, depending on each listener’s personal disposition. Some people, you could say, are even in the clouds, in a good way.

Why, then, bring everyone down to the ground? Why begin by returning everyone to the everyday world of movies and work jokes and Reader’s Digest type anecdotes and Chicken Soup for the Soul stories? Why are you trying so desperately to talk about everything else other than the readings?

I know. I know why. You believe that we laypeople are in a different world and you will ‘break into’ that world by showing us that you are really kind of just like us. Sporty, like us. Connected, like us. Fun, like us.

Man.

STOP TRYING TO BE JUST LIKE A LAYPERSON!!!

Be different.

Be like, say, a priest. A priest should pour out of himself a love of Christ. His love for Christ should be almost contagious. It should radiate outwards and make him eager to seize every opportunity to tell everyone how sweet Christ is. It should make him eager to seize every opportunity to tell everyone how merciful and noble and loving and strong and brave and admirable Christ is.

Tell me, please, about Christ.

Tell me, please, why I should love him.

Remind me that he is the Light, the Truth and the Way.

Please.

Don’t begin your homily by wearing sunglasses. That’s just painful. Don’t begin your homily by whipping out your cell phone. That wasn’t pretty either. You don’t need props, Father. You don’t need to go for shock value or drama. You’re not an actor. You’re not, in fact, on stage. Further, this is not an interactive type of moment, in the sense that it’s not time to ask the congregation to repeat after you, to raise their hands or to take out their smartphones and look at their apps.

Most of the parishioners are at Mass because Sundays are days of obligation. You will not find most of these same parishioners at Mass on other days. This does not mean that they are bad people, or that those who attend daily Mass are holier than those who do not. It’s not as simple as that.

My point is that those people who feel drawn to Mass (or obligated to attend) will be there, and they’ll listen to the homily. You’ve already got a subset of the population that is ready to accept a homily about God, Jesus, the Blessed Mother, saints and angels and demons and Satan. It’s okay to go there. It’s okay to start there.

Why start with some “cute” story about a little boy who whatever and whatever?

How many stories have I heard about ‘little Johnny’ or ‘little Tommy’?

Enough, already!

You don’t need a new story when you’ve got the readings of the day. Let’s start there. Get on with it.

Currently, the situation is too often something like this: You show up at the dentist’s office. You are greeted by the receptionist. You sit down in the waiting area. You stand up again and go into the dental chair. You are given a bib, and possibly some sunglasses. You submit to x-rays. The dentist arrives and he asks you to open your mouth. You open your mouth.

He says, “You know, I went canoeing for three days, down the North Saskatchewan. “

Huh?

Is this what we’re here for?

Or – you go to the symphony. You take your seats and you are so thoroughly bored already that you turn to the program booklet as a means of some relief. The pianist enters. You clap. The pianist takes his seat at the bench, flipping the tails of his tux away as he does. His fingers are in position and he nods to the conductor. The conductor raises his baton in the air and . . .

. . . and suddenly turns to face the audience, saying, “A survey that was done recently showed that many teens want to become bloggers when they grow up.”

Wait a sec. Where am I again?

My point is that people who go to Mass are wanting God, in the same way that people who go to the dentist are wanting to have their teeth checked or repaired, and in the same way that people who go to the symphony are wanting to see and be seen.

It is a misguided notion that in order to ‘connect’ with the congregation, the priest should give the congregation more of what we already have — more references to the signposts of our everyday life, more reminders of the news or the tabloid headlines or the Hollywood products or celebrities, more topical topics about nothing.

Totally misguided.

It is, further, a misguided notion that in order to ‘connect’ with the congregation, the priest should become personal, and tell us what he did lately. Part of the problem with doing so is that these tidbits are almost too interesting, and distract from the liturgy. So if you’ve gone camping or shopping or travelling and didn’t wear your clerical collar for two weeks (is that like a married man not wearing his wedding ring?), tell that to me in a chat after Mass; the story about how for the last two days you didn’t get a good sleep because you were at two retreats, the first one being the priest’s conference and the second one being a retreat for the next World Youth Day to be held in Panama, because it was “too hot and too cold and too hot and too cold” and sometimes it was too noisy because people were walking around and that as a result you were awoken every hour, and a lack of sleep can make you feel grumpy, is a story which is not actually going to illuminate the readings of the day. It might help us get to know the priest’s personal life and personal preferences better, but since when has this been the goal? No matter how great the priest is, Jesus is better. Let’s get to know him instead.

The homily is a chance to talk about the supernatural world, using the readings as the starting point. We’ve just heard the readings, so now let’s talk about them. We’re prepped. We’re wearing our bibs and we’re tuned in.

It’s your chance.

Tell me what the readings mean. Tell me what they show, prove and suggest about God and Jesus and supernatural things. If you do it well, you’ll make me fall in love with Jesus all over again. I’ll be full of ardour and eager to receive him in the Eucharist.

You see?

It’s like a date, and you’re the matchmaker. Tell me why God is worthy of my time. Convince me that God is good and that God has a plan for me and my life. Tell me that God loves me (even if you don’t). Tell me that heaven is real and tell me that Mary is my mother. Yes, I know it, but remind me. Remind us. It’s only once a week, and Church is the one place we can go to hear it again.

Show me that this week’s readings are beautiful because they show the mercy of God, or his generosity or his justice. Show me that Christ is loveable and that he’s the best friend in the world. Bring me into the readings in a deeper way. Don’t tack them onto your blog-post style homily as an afterthought or cleverly work them into an unrelated topic, such as why I need to give 10% of my income to the Church (seriously – a priest referred to “our tithing,” as if it were a given). The readings themselves are supposed to point the way for the homily. They are the jumping-off point. Moreover, the readings are connected to each other; often the New Testament readings clarify or answer questions raised by the Old Testament reading. They aren’t placed together randomly. Show us themes in the readings, if you can. But no matter what, show that the readings are an invitation or an appealing challenge to do better, to be better, to refresh our relationship with our Maker.

Today’s readings, for instance, were very interesting. The first was about the prophet Ezekiel. He was told that if he knew of wrongdoing, then he must speak. If he knew of wrongdoing, and did not speak, he was partly responsible.

The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, warn them in my name. If I say to a wicked man: Wicked wretch, you are to die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked man to renounce his ways, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, however, you do warn a wicked man to renounce his ways and repent, and he does not repent, then he shall die for his sin, but you yourself will have saved your life.’

— Ezekiel 33:7-9

The second reading was about true love, which suggests to me that true love has to do with telling the truth. After hearing the first and second readings, I thought to myself, I wonder what the Gospel reading will be? Will it run parallel to what I’ve already heard, or will it run perpendicular, seeming to ‘contradict’ what we’ve already heard?

Well, how about if you take a look? The Gospel reading today was this:

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’

— Matthew 18:15-20

Do you see? The theme is there. In this case, the theme has to do with being responsible to your brother by calling a spade a spade. The Gospel repeats, with emphasis, the notion of speaking up in the face of wrongdoing.

As Christians, this is more important than ever, in light of everything that the Catholic Church has learned from the scandals she has endured. Shame on us if we are afraid of saying that a sin was committed. Shame on us if, out of fear of offending those who are ‘holy’ or ‘good’ (which is often another way of saying ‘powerful’ and ‘connected’ in Catholic circles), we silence ourselves, afraid to question words or conduct that is suspicious or obviously wrong. Indeed, silence in the face of sin is the basic recipe for what ultimately becomes a scandal. Consider every scandal the Catholic Church has had. In how many cases were there others, both clergy and laity, who noticed that something was amiss but who closed their lips? How many innocent people were harmed due to the shortage of people willing to speak out and challenge those “good” priests? The Catholic culture cannot and must not be a culture of silence, where we tremble to say that something isn’t right. If it’s not right, it’s not right, and those who say so should not be intimidated into silence. In the first reading, God says that Ezekiel is “the watchman,” (or “the sentry,” depending on the translation used) but the Gospel expands this, and says that we are all called to challenge our brother. We are all asked to take the position of Ezekiel, to warn and admonish our brother when warranted.

That was the theme for today.

In other words, the theme for today had nothing to do with camping.

The camping Gospel comes later, on The Feast of the Transfiguration:

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

— Mark 9:5