Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Piety and Fraternity

A beautiful excerpt from Abba Father, by Bonaventure Perquin, in my continuing quest to get sued by publishers:

Although [the] knowledge and love of the Father is of its nature personal, it must never be thought of as excluding the knowledge and love of other persons, be they angels or men. For the adopted child knows and loves his Father not only as his own, but also as the Father of countless other children. The Spirit of adoption never allows us to forget the immensity of the all-embracing Fatherhood of God; he will not countenance anything like possessiveness. The Father's love is such that its immensity is perfectly compatible with its intimacy, for though he loves so many, he loves each one for himself as if he were the only child. In this the Incarnate Son is a perfect mirror of his Father, as in all else, because he loved all his disciples and yet his love was perfectly adapted to the needs and the aspirations of each one individually. Thus the inspirations that come to us from the Holy Spirit through the gift of piety give us a true conception of God's Fatherhood, and in this way he gradually widens our vision and our heart until they embrace the vast family of all the Father's adopted children. And in this same family we can include our Lady, while at the same time we love and honor her as Queen and Mother.

All these children who share the adoption are therefore brethren. What an inspiration, then, toward fraternal charity is the prompting of the gift of piety meant to be. How difficult it is to practice this vital commandment unless we really see our fellowmen as children of the same Father and have grasped something of the intensity of the Father's love not only for ourselves but also for them. Then we see clearly beyond any doubt how impossible it is to love that Father and at the same time to be indifferent toward or to hate any of his children. The commandment of charity is the inevitable outcome of the common adoption of countless children by one and the same Father.

"And everyone who loves him who begot, loves also the one begotten of him. In this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do his commandments (1 Jn 5:1-2)."

The passage is beautiful.

Any devotion, even to the Holy Eucharist or to Blessed Virgin Mary, that is, any outward display of piety, that does not at least gradually expand our heart to encompass those kneeling next to us, has had only a partial effect on us. In the event that we find ourselves practicing some devotion and not living a congruent charity, we should suspect ourselves of superficial or defective love of God. Such a defect is natural enough. All the same, instead of being contentedly self-satisfied, we should add to our devotion a prayer to better love our neighbors. A failure in the love of our neighbors certainly diminishes the credibility of our love of God, as St. John wrote, "If any one says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen," (1 Jn 4:20).

The Cardinal, the President, and the Babies

Check out this very interesting news summary of an interview between Francis Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago, and President Obama.

It seems the President has convinced himself that he is pro-life and agrees with the Cardinal on life issues. The Cardinal wasn't so sure. The Cardinal points out that he is, at the very least, intent on paying his political debts to the abortion lobby and just doesn't know what to do about the babies. Didn't Obama say once that dealing with babies was above his pay grade?

My speculation is not that President Obama thinks that abortion is swell (although he clearly cannot think it is that bad), but rather that he knows what is expedient, and is incapable of the risk of failure and rejection demanded by sustained sincerity. We have to remember that he is not the enemy of the pro-Life movement, nor of authentic Christianity, but is doubtless deeply in the thrall of our Enemy. Let's keep praying for him, and let's not forget the Cardinal, the babies, and those others on the frontlines.

Kinko's Sucks

So I am at Fed-Ex Kinko's right now, and I've just paid $16.00 and spent 17 minutes to print up a 10 page document that I cannot get to print up correctly at school. That sucks, and I KNOW Kinko's did not use to be so expensive... or slow. Talk about the slowest printers and internet connection in the world. And it's funny. You pay (steeply) by the minute here. Hmm... coincidence?

I am never coming here again. With three or four more trips, I could have bought myself an inexpensive printer.

The Teacher, the Lawgiver, and Notre Dame

Bishop D'Arcy is the diocesan bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, the diocese that includes the University of Notre Dame among its local Catholic institutions. Notre Dame decided some time ago to invite our nation's president to speak as commencement speaker and receive an honorary juris doctorate. In the resulting flurry of fury, laity have formed petitions, bishops have written positions, and Notre Dame has gone on the defensive. The university's president has tried some Nancy Pelosi-style scheistiness, i.e., redefining terms and pretending to teach the teachers of our Church.

Here is Bishop D'Arcy's response to Notre Dame's actions, firstly, its awarding of an honorary law degree of a man who advocates maintaining and advancing laws to permit and enable the murder of babies (and God knows who else) under the pretext of personal autonomy; secondly, mouthing off to our nation's bishops and telling them, in essence, that they didn't know what they meant when they wrote the document "Catholics in Political Life," regarding the relationship of Catholic institutions with political personalities.

Firstly, Bishop D'Arcy reminds Fr. Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, that according to canon law and the entire tradition of the Church, the local diocesan bishop (Bishop D'Arcy) and no other is the authoritative teacher and lawgiver, and thus interpreter of laws, for everyone in his diocese. Only to Rome can appeal be made. And the opinions of whatever canonists and bishops Jenkins claims to have consulted, well, are simply irrelevant. Bishop D'Arcy then recognizes that Notre Dame has pulled off a fait accompli without so much as consulting him, and officially advises the university that he isn't happy about it. At all. He lastly notes that a serious rift has developed between Notre Dame and the Church, a rift that is primarily Notre Dame's responsibility to heal.

The kicker in all this, it strikes me, is that the Democrats have been DYING to get someone in Catholic officialdom to support them so they can claim the moral highroad, or something. (I think, frankly, that their consciences eat at them, and they are desperate to soothe them.) Think of Nancy Pelosi trying to get a photo-op with the Holy Father, who very skillfully denied her the opportunity to appear with him in public. Now Notre Dame, one of the most prestigious Catholic universities in the world and certainly the country, has given this morally depraved rascal an honorary degree of law - which can be seen as nothing, if not an approval of his way of legal thinking.

Summer Jobs - Take the Money and Run

I've applied for a couple summer positions, and decided finally to apply for one with the pool company that employed me through high school and college, and sporadically since then. I have a good history of managing pools with them, and they've re-hired and -certified me before. I haven't worked with them since 2003, but just this past summer I was looking at their website.

This time around, though, nothing came up. At least, not at first. I couldn't find their website anywhere, but then I found some disturbing blurbs in the Post, inter al. Play the YouTube video below for a pretty good summary.

Whoa! That about blew me away. I found another story in which some interviewed Eastern workers said that it had been a great place to work as lately as 2005 or 2006, at about which time the company gained a new CEO or president, and perhaps owner(s) as well. That makes me feel a bit better. It still stinks.

I've put in a call to one of their competitors, a smaller, family-owned operation, and will put in more calls to other pool companies and restaurants in the next few days. Coincidentally, if anybody has any other ideas for summer jobs, please let me know.

Raining in Baltimore

That's a great song, melancholy without being depressing. That's kinda how I feel today: not depressed, but just a bit melancholy. That's OK, ya know. It's raining out, and grey, and we're allowed to just feel a bit sad sometimes. Our Lord thought so, anyway, "Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall be consoled," (Mt 5:4). The world's kindova sad place, lots of violence and all that. If we're a little sad, it means we're in touch with reality. I don't think the starving children in Africa are the reason that I'm sad right now. Maybe there isn't even a clearly articulable reason. Maybe it's a "just cuz" kinda thing. That's OK, too.

The New Man in Town

His Excellency, Timothy Dolan, was installed as the new archbishop of New York City, metropolitan bishop to the dioceses of New York state.

He is, by all accounts, a big man with a big heart, a sharp wit, and a passionate love of Jesus Christ and His Holy Church. He will be missed in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, where he has served the last several years, and where he did some pretty amazing things to repair harm done to Christ's flock there. His new see will provide him with a pulpit from which to preach to all of America, and put him on the front lines of some of our day's most important cultural battles. Given his history, we can be sure that he will provide excellent leadership and help to reinvigorate the Church in New York, on the East Coast, and in the USA as a whole.

Read his homily here.

God bless the Archbishop.

The Fulcrum of Reality

Our Lord was raised bodily from the dead, but we must not make the mistake of thinking that he was some sort of zombie. What Jesus underwent was not a mere resuscitation, although resuscitation was involved in a sense. The empty tomb is mentioned in all the gospels, in the Acts of the Apostles, and in St. Paul's writings. It was an important fact, and it cannot be minimized that a real, material body got up and left the tomb. The risen body was the same body that died, but now, at the resurrection, it was transformed into something new, a new kind of body. St. Paul calls this a spiritual body, writing, "It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body," (1 Cor 15:44). But we must not make the mistake of thinking that our Lord was a ghost of some sort, or that his body wasn't material. The word translated here as physical is psychikon in Greek, which normally refers to a human life, mind, or soul. The word rendered spiritual is pneumatikon in Greek, always refering in the New Testament to supernatural power - the life of God Himself. The sentence might be rendered better as "It is sown a natural body, it is raised a supernatural body." Evidence of this interpretation abounds in the resurrection accounts of the gospels. In John 20:19, we are told that, on the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." A few verses later, St. John tells us that Jesus appears again and charbroils real fish, and with his hands breaks real bread (John 21:13-14). Ghosts cannot do that.

Jesus' body after the resurrection, we begin to sense, is not less real than our own, but more real, because even his body is no longer merely material. We experience our bodies as limiting factors, especially in childhood and in old age. A little kid reaches up to grab something on a counter that is hopelessly too high, and that the child simply cannot reach. An old person finds that his body doesn't work as fast as his mind does anymore, and that he cannot run or swim as he would like. Even in the flush of virile manhood, some things are simply beyond reach, and one's appetites and bodily urges often overrule, or at least interfere, with one's better intentions. Jesus, on the other hand, after the resurrection no longer experiences limitations on his body. And that makes sense - God did not give us our body to trap us in death, but as a beautiful way of living life. Sin and death intervene and interfere, but in the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth, sin is vanquished and death is slain: "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (1 Cor 15:55). Time and space, dimensions that arise to accomodate our bodies, no longer bind our bodies or dominate them. In the body of Jesus of Nazareth, all that we "know" to be real is set aside, when it comes to "life" and "the way things really are," from unruly urges to hopelessness to death. Jesus of Nazareth changes all of that, and so we recognize Him as the Christ.

But Jesus wants to live with us, and knows we need to live with him, like we live with our family and neighbors and roommates. "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me," (Jn 15:4). Now Jesus did not come to be with us just to be with us, or rather them (the Apostles) for a few years and then to split, but to abide with us. Our God is NOT a deadbeat dad. Our God is a loving Father, more loving than any of us has experienced in human flesh. And he's not going anywhere, either. Jesus says to us, "I am with you always, to the close of the age," (Mt 28:20).

But how so. He certainly seems to have split, to have left the building, so to speak. Indeed.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Cor 11:23-26).

Already in just the decade following that in which our Lord suffered and died, St. Paul is reminding the early Christians in Corinth about the Lord's words. Jesus has left us his presence, not only spiritual, but physical as well, which is fitting, since he made us to be not only spiritual beings, but physical beings as well. We need both sorts of presence from the people that love us, and need to give both sorts to the people that we love. Nothing else will satisfy our whole person.

This explains the meaning of John 6. In that passage, Jesus multiplies the loaves and fishes to feed the masses. They want to make him king, because, hey, he can get the economy going again, right? Free food for everyone. You'll never have to work again. "Ugh," Jesus must have thought, and then set out to correct their mistake. He does not want to nourish them with ordinary bread. They can do that themselves. He wants to nourish them with himself. He wants to BE their bread. Think about it, our God loves us so much that he wants not only to be with us, but to be in us, to be united to us in every way - spirit and body. This is the manner in which he wants to abide with us for eternity. But how can that happen?

The resurrection provides the missing key. Because at the resurrection Jesus becomes unbounded from the normal rules of reality, time, space, and all that, Jesus can be anywhere and everywhere, all at once. Jesus can physically be in me, in you, and in the golden box on the altar, and sitting on a throne of glory in a realm we cannot attain by our own strength and senses - all at once. This is weird, and outside of our immediate experience, but it makes sense. Why should we expect the ordinary conditions of time and space to limit the Almighty who made them, or the weaknesses of a human body to cage him in, when even the tomb could not?

At the Eucharist, in the act of praising and loving God, those baptized into his body receive his body, and the new, spiritual sort of body is planted in us anew, and the new sort of life grows stronger and more vibrant in us, bit by bit, hindered only by our own willfulness and sin. Our ability to attain heaven, the life of God in perfect bliss, will not come in this life by the removal of exterior obstacles, but by the removal of the interior obstacles that prevent us from handling them in peace. The spiritual life begun in us by baptism will be awakened as we embrace it and make a concerted effort to learn to live it. On the cross, Jesus defied death to its face, and at the resurrection he overcame it. In the sacraments, Jesus has transmitted to us in bodily form this way of sharing in his bodily resurrection. The resurrection is the fulcrum on which the old "reality" is lifted and overturned, and the new one set in its place.

2 Cor 12:10

This woman is amazing. Listen to her speak at the provincial parliament of Victoria, Australia, on 10 September 2008, the night before that body convened to decriminalize abortion in its jurisdiction.

On 11 September 2008, the provincial parliament voted 47-35 to decriminalize abortion in the state.

To Love Less is to Live Less

"Even suffering is part of the truth of our life. Thus, trying to shield the youngest from every difficulty and experience of suffering, we risk creating, despite our good intentions, fragile persons of little generosity: The capacity to love, in fact, corresponds to the capacity to suffer, and to suffer together."

~ Pope Benedict XVI

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."

- C. S. Lewis

"The great project of the Enlightenment is to separate love and sacrifice, but it cannot be done. To love in a fallen world means to suffer."

- Fr. Ron Gillis

Ah, all so true. The trick is learning who one is, and isn't, and what one can and cannot do, humanly speaking, so that one can protect oneself from abuse without forgetting to let down the barriers and love. The hard part is when we have to protect ourselves from loved ones.

Strange Bedfellows

What do Iran, Comoros, Peru, Poland, Ireland, Chile, Malta, and Saint Lucia have in common? (Click here for newslink.) In the recent negotiations at the UN's Commission on Population and Development, they have all worked together to block expanding acceptance of abortion. Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) frequently make maneuvers to insert into UN documents ambiguous language that can later be construed to mandate member nations to legalize abortion. These countries have worked together, and often with the Holy See, to find and remove such language from such documents for a variety of reasons: the language would interfere with national sovereignty, abortion is repugnant to the national culture, abortion kills children, abortion harms women, and so on. The reasons are pretty commonsense. They are like little Davids, mostly non-powers on the world scene, banding together to withstand Goliath. Let us each do likewise in our neighborhoods and states, finding creative ways to oppose abortion, and to make such opposition more commonsensical to a world that is losing its mind.

Coincidentally, Malta is a really cool little country. Check it out on Wikipedia.

Golly, it's hard...

... to study when the weather is like this...
I mean, it's even tempting to mow the lawn!

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Today the Church marks our blessed Lord's entry into Jerusalem. Over the preceding months and years, he had developed an enormous following. According to St. Matthew's account, Jesus tells his disciples that they are going to go to Jerusalem so that he can be killed, and after doing so, he leaves Jericho with the apostles (cf. Mt 20:18 ff.) and heads toward Jerusalem. A large crowd follows him (20:29). Along the way, people start calling him Son of David (20:30), a royal title. When he gets to Jerusalem, people crowd around him and start hailing Him as king - the phrase "hosanna to" is a tip-off. "Hosanna" is an Aramaic word meaning something like "God save..." and "to" is the writer's attempt to translate an Aramaic particle that doesn't really translate, and might as well in this case be translated "the" because it really just marks the object of the sentence. "God save the Son of David!" might be the best, though untraditional, rendering. God save the King. The crowds lay down palm branches so that even the donkey he rides won't have to get its feet dirty or muddy. "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," is a reference to the Messiah whom they had been awaiting for generations. This is it. He's here: the One who will unite Israel, as it hasn't been since the time of King David and his son, and drive out the foreign oppressors, as David had. At last, Israel will have its freedom and glory! The expectation was immense. Jesus goes into the Temple area and casts out those swindlers who had overrun the public sections so they could rip off the poor masses (21:12). Those who had been forbidden by the Temple authorities from entering the Temple, the blind, the lame, the 'defective', not begin pouring in, and Jesus heals them (21:14). He begins to teach in the Temple (21:23 ff.), and his teachings are, to put it mildly, offensive to the religious authorities (ch 23). He predicts, menacingly, that the Temple itself will be destroyed (24:1). As he overturned their tables, to all appearances it seemed as though he was overturning the old order. It becomes clearer why the Jewish authorities became murderously hostile, overcoming their mutual differences in order to agree on a plot to get Jesus.

It also becomes clear why everything came crashing down so suddenly. A traitor appears unexpectedly (26:47), the night before Passover, with a large group of soldiers (26:52). They seize Jesus, who, despite being at the pinnacle of his earthly "power" doesn't even seem to care enough to fight (26:52). The new king is arrested and taken into the power of his enemies. It is hard, really, to blame the disciples for scattering (26:56). Jesus' behavior was incomprehensible. To many of us today, it is still incomprehensible.

We have as hard a time with Jesus' message of redemptive suffering as the apostles did at first. We often nod and say, "...because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world," and like Peter, promise never to abandon Jesus (26:35), but to follow him with our own crosses. And yet, at the slightest pain and suffering, how many of us flee?! I know I do, often as not.

Lord Jesus, as we enter into the commemoration of your passion, give us, we pray, the good sense to seek your Cross, and trust in your plan for the Kingdom, rather than seeking the glory and leaving the Cross to you. Amen.

Democracy, Greeks, and Global Affairs

So the word democracy comes from two Greek words. The first is deme, meaning a district, together with its dwellers. The second is kratos, meaning rule or authority. A place is a democracy to the extent that it is ruled by the people living there. The United States is an indirect, or representative, democracy because we elect people to represent us for the purposes of governance and rule. We feel ourselves to be rather egalitarian on top of it all because we don't have very clear, rigidly defined social classes. A man might be born of two beggars, and yet end up with billions. The opposite of an egalitarian democracy would be something like an oligarchic (Greek, again, for "leadership by the few") aristocracy.

Many of the world's nations are democracies in some way, shape, or form, and the United Nations (UN, or ONU in the romance languages) is ostensibly a democracy. Many Americans don't like our country being a part of it because they feel it interferes with our national self-determination. Interestingly enough, many people in smaller and less-developed countries feel likewise.

Well, to see whose sovereignty is more imposed upon, or at least to see who is making out better in this whole international way of running things, it is hard not at least to consider who's got more, and who's getting more. I don't mean that I am richer, dear reader, or that you are. Times are hard, sure enough. But does any of us in the US honestly think for a moment that we'd be doing better in Mogadishu or Brazil? Up until the last couple years, most Americans had more and more - more food, more clothing, bigger houses, and we are only now starting to think about ways to economize, to make do - and that's something 5/6 of the world's population has had to do for as long as anyone can remember.

The funny thing is that tonight, while working on my Greek, I came across the word aristos (Mt 22:4) and didn't know what it meant, so I looked it up. It means feast. Aristocracy, then, literally means rule by the those who feast. In the global economy, which is staggering everywhere, have we been the global aristocrats without even really noticing it? It's a old jibe (and wives' tale, in my experience) that even our convicted prisoners have cable TV. Whether it's true or not, it is telling. A friend of mine once powerfully observed that the West is like a great big shopping mall, with the rest of the world standing outside, looking in the windows, and we only letting them in to mop the floors.

Aristocracy, rule by the elite, by those who feast, should naturally disturb a Christian and leave him disquieted. Is it not so that we Christians worship a king who was poor?


I love Spanish. It is a beautiful language that has arisen from and connected an array of complex and diverse cultures. It is a language that can be both forceful and direct, and yet sustains rich nuance. There are an array of local dialects because of different regional influences, primarily native American indigenous. But even the core language has some interesting twists. Like all the modern Romance languages, it has a latinate core vocabulary with a germanized grammar, and its inflection has been moderated over time. Because of the seven centuries of foreign domination by the (peace-loving, of course) Muslim Moors, its vocabulary also has a good deal of Arabic influence, which is somewhat unusual in the Romance languages.
Its writers have opted for the phonetic approach to spelling. That is, when absorbing a foreign word into the Spanish vocabulary, they have changed its spelling to make it conform to the Spanish phonetic system, so spelling is generally an easy task. The other basic approach, the philological approach, preserves foreign spellings of words as the words are introduced into the language, so that the language becomes an apparently unruly hodgepodge of rules and exceptions. English is the best example most people run into.

But what is bothering me right now is that I cannot find my Oxford Spanish Dictionary, last seen in the hands of one of my roommates (maybe), and AWOL for six months or so now. It's funny though, because it just occurred to me to pray St. Anthony to find it. If anyone sees it walking around without me, please scold it about the dangers of booknapping, and send it right home. Thanks!

AIDS Worker Says Africans Don't Need Condoms

I just picked up on this awesome article in Zenit's newsfeed from last week. Thanks to Dara for posting it herself.

I've heard the AIDS worker from Meeting Point Kampala speak. Her name is Rose Busingye and she is a part of the Communion and Liberation movement. She is amazing, and so is the work of Meeting Point. These people know what they are talking about. It is a little reported fact that of all African countries, Uganda, with its Christianity-friendly government, has led the way in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. In fact, in Uganda, the disease has been brought almost to a standstill, not by condoms or other prophylactic measures, but by chastity-related education.

Stupid Pharisees

The Gospel reading for today (Wed after V Sunday in Lent: Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95, Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56, Jn 8:31-42) is among my favorite passages. Jesus' discourses have caused many to come to believe in Him (Jn 8:30). He adds to those who have started coming to faith, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free," (Jn 8:31). But at these last words, his hearers choke.

"WHAT?!" they demand, "We're not SLAVES! We're sons of Abraham! How can you call us slaves?" (Well, that's my paraphrasing. It actually says, They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, 'You will become free'?" Jn 8:32).

This snippet of their exchange needs years of delving. Let's try something brief though. The descendants of Abraham, just three generations after Abraham, went to Egypt for help during a famine, and got ensnared in the Egyptians' social structure and were pushed into a slave class. They escaped under Moses' leadership after 400 or so years of oppression. After settling in back home, they repeatedly came under the domination of neighboring civilizations, most notably the Philistines. They were only able to escape that domination by taking for themselves a king, against God's expressed preference on the grounds that their kings would come to dominate them as well. That's what happened, in fact - one king more domineering and harsh than the last. It culminated in the sacking of the northern half of Israel by Assyria, and the southern by Babylon, so that half the Israelites were hauled off into captivity in those kingdoms, and the remainder lived as subjects of them in their own homes. When Persia conquered Babylon, the Israelites there were "freed" to go home and live as obedient vassals of Persia. Then Alexander the Great came through and conquered the place, and the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties of Greek rulers that came after him began to treat the Jews more and more brutally. The Jews were finally able to get the Greeks off their backs by enlisting the Romans to come in and help. Only, the Romans never left, and it is under their oppression that the Jews labored in the time of our Lord.

It is purely self-righteous stupidity, defensive unto blindness, that lead Jesus' listeners to cry, "We have never been enslaved to anyone." It would have been better if they had asked, "When have we NOT been enslaved to someone?!"

Interestingly, Jesus brushes all this political oppression aside and makes it clear that He means a much more universal sort of slavery: spiritual slavery caused by sin: "everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin," (Jn 8:34). That's a funny thing for us to hear. In fact, it probably bounces off most people's ears as one of those things that Jesus said that doesn't really make sense (anymore?). That's because we have a warped understanding of freedom that essentially says, "Freedom is being permitted to do whatever you want." So a law against using marijuana makes us less free, most Americans would agree, and it is only a question of which freedoms are good or bad.

The traditional Christian understanding of freedom is much more comprehensible to a recovering cocaine addict than to the typical American. I'm not being smart here, but very serious. I, who have never used a narcotic, am free of their power. I can choose to use a drug, or can abstain. It's all the same to me. Not so with someone in the throes of a deadly addiction, though. A chronic drunk cannot choose to abstain from alcohol - at least not for long. He is a slave to booze in a way that most people are not. After we sin, we either repent of the sin, or else rationalize it, make excuses for it, and thereby begin to incorporate it into the structure of our life. Slowly but surely we become dependent on it and cannot imagine life without it, and the thought of breaking with it becomes repugnant. Whether it is telling lies, looking down on people, using narcotics, fornicating - whatever - we begin to defend it as if it were part of ourself. It becomes first part of our lifestyle, then part of ourselves. This addictive quality of sin is what our Lord is getting at.

Jesus makes an offer, though. He says that slaves don't really have a place in the household, and will be tossed out eventually. But a son has a place, and if a son of the household frees the slave, they can have a shot at freedom, and even getting to be part of the family. This reference might be to household slaves, especially nannies, tutors, physicians, who might be freed and adopted by the family. He is hinting that the Jews could lose their place in God's household if they don't take up his offer of freedom from sin - just being a physical child of Abraham isn't enough (Jn 8:39-40).

Now the listeners, who were friendly at first to his message, but when it was clarified for them became hostile, set up a precedent followed by heretics ever since. Heretics are those in the Church who rebel against her teachings. When Jesus questions the usefulness of their bloodline, the unhappy hearers growled, "We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God," (Jn 8:41). From that time onward, heretics have always taken shots at Mary. By defending the social legitimacy of their birth, which had not been questioned, they are calling Mary a fornicator, and Jesus her bastard. Them's fightin' words.

As the story continues, after the conclusion of the passage read in church today, Jesus basically says, "If you were from God, you'd recognize me..." and then, "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies," (Jn 8:44).

So it is to this day. Heretics the world over, throughout history, in their self-righteous pride, have opposed their teacher, the Body of Christ on earth, and have as a rule found a bone to pick with His Mother, as well. Consequently they stay bound in innumerable sins - first and foremost, pride. They've got entirely the wrong attitude. If we can humble ourselves to the teachings of Christ, He will set us free from all manner of sins, addictions, and oppressors.