All homilies posted here or elsewhere are written to be delivered orally, and thus do not represent careful writing technique. Please excuse any blunders and typos you may find. Any foolishness is exclusively my own.
Have you ever been truly amazed by something? I ask this question, because I think it’s easy for all of us to use that word causally: we might say we were amazed by a television show, or a movie, or a book, or a great meal: “that was amazing.” But was it really? Did it really bring us into amazement?
The word is a little less casual than we often make it out to be. To be amazed by something is to be awed by it, to be left not fully comprehending what we’ve seen, heard, or experienced. Many people find this sense of amazement in travel: it’s hard to look at the Grand Canyon or at a great mountain and not be moved into awe by the grandeur of God’s creation, and so we go and visit these things to take in what is beyond our Midwestern notion of flat, plain landscapes. I recently travelled out west to Glacier National Park, and in 31 years it was the first place I’d been that left me with a sense of profound awe at the Order of Creation.
But it’s not the first time I felt awe, not the first time I was truly amazed by something. I remember back when I was twenty years old, right around the time that I began seriously studying Christianity, when I encountered the Scripture passage we just heard. I was awed by it for a number of reasons, the first of which is that Christ tells us plainly, without parable, without metaphor, what this bread is. Christ didn’t say that the True Food and True Drink he’d give his followers was a symbol, didn’t say that this True Food and Drink pointed toward a larger reality. He made it simple: the True Food and the True Drink you consume is me.
It’s me. When you eat and drink the Bread and Wine from Heaven, you truly eat my Flesh and drink my Blood. Not a symbol. Not something pointing towards those things. You eat and drink me.
That, in and of itself, is amazing. As we look back at the Garden of Eden, where God walked and talked with Adam and Eve, it’s easy to see what we have lost. But here’s Jesus Christ, God Himself, taking it up a notch; true, God no longer walks among us in the material world, but what God now offers to those gathered around him that day, and to all of time, is something so much more intimate, something much more profound: he offers us a return to unity, where our flesh might be one with God’s.
That, in and of itself, is amazing.
In our first reading, we receive an invitation from Wisdom. Wisdom invites us all to eat and drink of the food and wine prepared for us. It’s a beautiful parallel to the Eucharist, a place where we can see the Old Testament intersecting with the New. And what we see is that when we consume the Body and Blood of Christ, we’re receiving the immensity of what God is. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive Wisdom Itself; we receive the Creator, the one who fashioned the entire universe; we receive God in his Fullness, in His inexhaustible goodness; in the Eucharist, we receive everything. Every single thing.
And that’s why we cherish it so. You know, I can’t help but get at least slightly annoyed when I hear about somebody who quits coming to Mass because they “don’t get anything out of it.” Certainly, the music might not always be great, the priest might stand up and croak out his chant like a bullfrog in July, and you might even have to sit through an insufferable homilist like myself; but the one thing you can’t say is that you don’t get anything out of it. By going to Mass and receiving Our Lord, the Church gives you everything, everything of this world, the world to come, and the immaterial we cannot quantify with mere words.
So think about it. Better yet, let us spend the rest of our lives thinking about it. Let us think about a God who loves us with such completeness that he desires to enter in to our bodies and become one in flesh and blood. Nothing else we will encounter in all of our days is more amazing than that.
All homilies posted here or elsewhere are written to be delivered orally, and thus do not represent careful writing technique. Please excuse any blunders and typos you may find. Any foolishness is exclusively my own.
The other night, I gave a talk on Faith and Reason and how the two are complimentary, how they match up. And at the end of the night, someone asked an excellent question: What do we do with Doubt? How do we view Doubt, when it comes to us and challenges us?
It was a superb question. Christ constantly meets Doubt in the Gospels, and today is no exception. From the very beginning, the people are murmuring to themselves about Christ’s claim that he is the Bread come down from Heaven. They are filled with Doubt, because Christ makes a claim that is hard for them to believe, hard for them to understand: how can this man, the man whose family they know, be equivalent with God? That’s really the claim Christ makes here, that he has seen the Father because He Himself is of God.
In large part, we know these things because they have become embedded in our culture. The majority of us who come to Mass on Sundays understand the fundamental principles of who Jesus Christ is as the Son of God, and yet still, there might be Doubt. I know that when I started getting serious about my faith a little over a decade ago, I had a plethora of doubts concerning Christ and His Church.
Notice something about the nature of the Gospels, though: the overwhelming majority of the time, when people doubt Christ, Christ rails against them. He rails against them because they’ve ended up questioning the Order of Truth, the divine logos, the Word Made Flesh; another translation of the word logos is Reason: those who deny Christ in moments like the ones we see today are those who ultimately deny Reason itself. The problem, these interlocutors would have you believe, is with Truth Itself. There’s no way this man Jesus, whose family we know, could be the Bread come down from Heaven.
But skipping ahead a little bit in the Bread of Life discourse which we’ve been hearing about over the past few Sundays, we see Peter. Near the end of John, Chapter 6, when Doubt has led many followers of Jesus Christ to turn their back on him, Christ turns to Peter and asks if he’s going to walk away too. Peter effectively tells Christ, “Where would I go? You have the words of Eternal Life.”
Peter in that moment doesn’t yet understand the Eucharist, because he’s yet to live out its full reality at the Last Supper. Peter hears all this, and it’s clear that Peter doubts. He hasn’t put it all together yet. But what Peter realizes is that the deficiency is ultimately with him, not with Christ. When I look at a math problem and fail to understand, the issue isn’t with the math problem; the issue is with me. I don’t quite have it yet. I haven’t quite put the process together. Christ doesn’t chastise Peter for his doubt, but rather draws him forward so that he might see more completely.
And so it goes in our spiritual lives. If we doubt in the way of those who murmur to themselves, we doubt Reality. Worse yet, in our pride, we suggest that we know or understand something more completely and more profoundly than God Himself. When we doubt as those who leave Christ’s side, we suggest that Christ is not who he says He is.
But if we see our Doubt as a deficiency in us, something we’re lacking, then we’re open to Christ. In our humility, we see that Christ and His Bride the Church are rational, reasonable, and we need them to fill a gap in us. If we view Doubt from this perspective, then we’re ready to pursue Reason itself, setting aside our own misconceptions and prejudices in regards to Christian anthropology and marriage, the absolute sanctity of human life, or any host of other hotbutton issues. In our humility, we see the way things are. We see that Christ is perfection; His Bride, the Church, teaches Perfection; I myself am not Perfection.
St. Peter remained open, and as a result he received more than he could have imagined, through the reception of Christ’s Body and Blood. If we ourselves remain open to the Word Made Flesh, to the God who is Reason, then we ourselves stand to gain exactly the same.
Here are the highlights, via Flickr.
A FRIEND OF MINE HAS TWO CATEGORIES WITHIN HIS NEWSREADER FOR CATHOLIC BLOGS: “Catholic” and “Catholic Noise.”
I too have become rather disenchanted by St. Blogs. It’s not what it once was: even the giants are looking a little meager these days, as my friend and I swap little bits of insanity — bad theology and (perhaps more inexcusably) bad reasoning — back and forth on a near-daily basis.
In an effort to puy my finger on why this is, I’ve developed what I call “The Fr. Josh Miller Theory of Bad Catholic Blogging.” I think it more or less sums up why we grow to hate the blogs we love.
Here’s the gist of it:
- New content builds and maintains the readerbase.
- The blogger wants to maintain and build his/her readerbase.
- Most commentators don’t have a level of expertise which affords them the sustained ability to generate new content.
- Repeating yourself gets old.
- And thus, the need to wander away from a field of expertise and into raw speculation, which usually attempts to pass off particulars as universals.
The last item is really the kicker, and the point at which a good blog goes bad. Running out of things to say, the Catholic blogger turns to things he probably shouldn’t say. And because at this point it’s really about keeping readers rather than exploring Truth (which is motivated by ego, money, or both), the Catholic blogger adopts the position that either you’re a) with me, in which case you’re cool, or b) not with me, in which case you’re a terrible human being and obviously a poor Catholic to boot.
The bit about universals and particulars is also important: as speculation increases, and — in an attempt to stay relevant — the blogger attempts to show how Catholic Principle X (the universal) most certainly applies to this or that situation (the particular). Neverminding that the distinction they’ve made is likely arguable by people of good will, the Catholic blogger then entrenches him/herself into the position, come what may, and the level of discourse erodes from there.
BUT LEST I SEEM LIKE I’M MERELY TAKING A SHOT at St. Blogs, I offer these as suggestions:
- It should be about Truth. So make it about Truth.
- Similarly, don’t make it about your own ego.
- Write on what you know. And regardless, take your opinions with the seriousness of Chesterton, who was never afraid to laugh at his own precious darlings scrawled out before him.
- Don’t be a jerk: the blogs with a charity problem in the comments section don’t exactly get that way because random trolls just start showing up to pick fights.
- Don’t feel compelled to write when you really have nothing valuable to say.
While using my tablet moments ago, I had an idea for a blogpost.
Good deal. It’s been a while. I’d like to get back to blogging. So I put the tablet down, and picked up my MacBook Air (buy an ASUS Zenbook, folks: they weren’t out when I absolutely needed an ultra thin, ultra powerful computer, and I regret not waiting. But that’s neither here nor there). Since I was planning on writing a blogpost, I needed to find some way to do it that wouldn’t absorb more focus and energy than the content of the post itself.
And therein lies the problem with tablets: content generation. Tablets are excellent for content consumption: nowadays, I read blogs almost exclusively through my aging Acer Iconia A500. But when it comes to actually doing something worth doing – becoming a producer instead of a consumer — the A500 is worthless to me.
I’ve never really understood the iPad and why people buy them. They’re certainly great for playing iPhone games on a larger screen, or browsing the web (as long as you don’t need flash, which is a huge chunk of the web nowadays), or reading books. But when’s the last time you saw someone with an iPad using a docking keyboard? One gets the sense from the way they’re marketed that the iPad is this stand-alone device, suitable for all of your basic computing needs while lounging at home, or at the beach. Certainly, there are keyboards out there for my A500, but they’re put out into the market as an afterthought.
Try writing on a keyboardless iPad (or any tablet for that matter) while you’re sitting in a chair or on the couch. Try responding to that latest email, without feeling like a seven-year-old learning to type all over again. Try mastering the angle at which you need to hold it on your lap, all while attempting to maintain fluency of thought. Typing shouldn’t be this difficult. You shouldn’t have to watch your hands. Even with the iPhone, I pay no attention to my thumbs, but that’s because I can get a solid viewing angle on the smaller screen. The iPhone is ergonomically perfect, but the iPad makes me feel like flinging the thing across the room.
The bottom line: the iPad is, like many of its competitors, a broken idea because of how it hampers your ability to produce content.
The ASUS Transformer Prime was never meant to be a standalone device. You can, of course, simply pick up the tablet and browse, but ASUS seems to have acknowledged the inherent problem with tablets by putting great emphasis on the keyboard itself. With the pending release of the T700, ASUS brings hardware comparable to the iPad, though it remains to be seen whether the quality and clarity of the screen matches the Apple giant. The app selection won’t be as great, but I have yet to find something on the iStore I couldn’t find in Android’s alternative. Also, since the keyboard’s extra, you’ll also likely end up paying more for the Prime.
Now, why write this post to begin with?
It certainly isn’t to bash the iPad, which is great at what it does. But if you’re in the market for a tablet, I think it’s valuable to ask yourself what you expect to get out of it. If you’re satisfied with consumption, consider the iPad. But if you want more usability, think Transformer.
Back when I was a child and learning to read, I sat down with a copy of Stevenson’s Treasure Island intended for young readers. I thoroughly enjoyed it: the characters came alive, and I got the basic narrative.
A couple years later, I sat down with the original, unabridged book, and fell in love with it to an even greater degree. The characters were even more complex, and the story was more detailed and complete. There is a depth of meaning in the original that cannot be matched by a summation of ideas and themes.
I’ve spent considerable time with the new translation, and I could have told you before yesterday that the translation would benefit all the faithful in regard to its literary merit. Translation though it is (all translations being imperfect), that the revision seeks to stick as closely as possible to the Latin text allows us to maintain a poetic quality we simply didn’t have before. I could write another post on the concept of “dynamic equivalence” through which our previous translation came to us, but suffice it to say that whenever we isolate one meaning in the name of clarity, we cut out other potential realities.
The old translation was always meant to be a transitional one, and now it’s as if the English world has taken off its training wheels. The new translation assumes that we’re mature and smart enough to handle elevated, poetic language, and I cannot help but wonder why the typical wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth crowd misses this for the liberation it is.
Again, I could tell you all of this before yesterday.
What I could not tell you before yesterday was just how beautiful it would be to publicly celebrate this new translation. No one is able to anticipate beauty, and the act of anticipation in this regard tends to end in something short of awe. I went in expecting an edifying experience through the language, and left struck by the grandeur of God. The elevated language combined with the chant contained within the Roman Missal — and we’re using that chant liberally from here on out at my parish — was like receiving a breath of fresh air. As one Traditionalist friend in his mid-twenties said after Mass, “It felt like I actually went to church today!”
Of course, as is the case with anything new, there’s a tendency for us to become overly excited by a break in the routine. Undoubtedly, the new translation will become old hat very quickly. But again, that’s where the language comes in: if we pay attention to its depth, to its multitude, we will continue to see the beauty of the Church’s prayer.
I’m back! And hopefully for good this time.
Truth be told, my writer’s itch gets scratched through weekly homily composition. Writing a homily is a lot like blogging: they both center around fact-analysis in an attempt to relate something the writer deems important enough for the audience to hear. Plus, giving a homily is more immediately gratifying, as reactions to what you say prove whether or not you’ve missed the mark.
Homiletics makes it difficult to blog. Before all, blogging should be fun, and one should have some latitude to write on whatever he or she chooses. But as a priest, I feel like my blog should have theological content above all; and yet, at the end of the day I don’t feel like writing about theology, since I spend all day surrounded by it either in private study, prayer, ministry, or homiletics.
So, as a sort of Advent resolution, I’ve resolved to just plain write on whatever. Writing is good for me, no matter how it comes or where it goes.
At any rate, I am — once again — back.
BONUS! BONUS! BONUS! ARTWORK! ARTWORK! ARTWORK!
In recent years, many have eulogized the “death of the narrative” in an age where cinematic focus has shifted from story to CGI-driven action.
It strikes me as a fair charge, given the major movies I’ve seen this summer: both Captain America and Conan the Barbarian utilize narrative to bring the viewer to the point of action, rather than the other way around. (And really… Who goes into a movie like Conan expecting anything less?)
On Monday evening, I was expecting more of the same with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. My expectations for the latest Planets installment ran low, as I expected a similar breed of mindless action that drove the the 2001 remake.
I left the theater pleasantly surprised. Rise avoids the camp of the originals, and it does not lean heavily on action to hold the audience. What action there is, is there for a reason.
Since I run the risk of ruining the movie by commenting further, let me simply end by recommending this movie to all. Even if you despise the Planet of the Apes franchise, give this one a try.
Planet of the Apes: “A”
Captain America: “C+”
Conan the Barbarian: “B”
Cheers: The Chromebook
I’ve been doing a lot of tech reading recently, as I’m particularly interested in cloud technologies as a potential solution for one of the biggest hassles I deal with every day: data access across multiple systems.
I think a Chromebook is in my future. The battery life is incredible. Everything’s done on the cloud in ways that are not OS/software dependent, which means I can slide easily from one system to the next. It certainly seems like the best solution for me at this point, rather than using drop boxes or constantly retrieving files manually across multiple systems. Do it in the cloud, save it in the cloud, print it from the cloud.
Mind you, I’d never dream of using such a device as my primary computer. I wouldn’t even think to use it as my primary laptop. But as a tertiary system — which isn’t so far-fetched in the age of tablets — it would do nicely for basic tasks. Combine an incredible battery life on the Samsung model with an 8-10 second bootup time, and it’s looking a lot like a feasible alternative to a netbook or tablet.
But what about network access?
The only consistent criticism of the Chromebook is that it is a “brick” when not connected to the Internet. Setting aside the fact that offline access to Google Docs is on the way, I have a sincere question born out of nearly 30 years of computing, 17 of which have been spent on the Internet:
Nowadays, isn’t any computer pretty much a brick when it isn’t connected to the Internet?
Sure, you can fire up a quick game of solitaire, or work on a project through your word processor.* But think about how, for the past ten or so years, your life has come to a halt by network outages in your home. Do doors open? Do family members yell to one another about the Internet being down?
Think about how booting up your device without Internet access makes you feel like the computer is somehow missing something absolutely essential to its function. I started out with computers in an age where only my fellow hardcore nerds were really interested in them; PC use didn’t really “mainstream” until we started getting all of those AOL coasters in the mail, opening the door for an (albeit stunted) introduction to web browsing and email.
All of that aside: it’s a computer for the cloud. Shouldn’t we expect it to be severely handicapped when disconnected from the cloud?
Likewise, shouldn’t we expect something with the name iCloud to… actually operate in the cloud?
Let me be clear: with the exception of making your pictures accessible across devices (for 30 days, and then only 1,000 of them), Apple’s iCloud does nothing in the cloud.
The concept of a cloud is rather simple when we’re looking at user-end data. I upload something and it sits in the cloud until I need it again, either on this or another device. When I need it, I copy that file to the original or alternative device.
Easy as that.
But that’s not what iCloud does for music. Software scans your music collection against the iTunes server, then allows you to access your music collection by re-downloading it from the iTunes store. That’s not a cloud: that’s a sync. And they’ll be charging you $25 a year for the honor of doing something iTunes should have been capable of years ago, all licensing worries aside.
I’ve been an iTunes user for at least ten years. I have a great collection of classical CD’s I transferred to MP3 format some time ago, as well as a roaring collection of Grateful Dead bootlegs. And because these songs aren’t available on the iTunes music store, “iCloud” cannot accommodate my needs between PC and iPhone.
One can’t help but note the irony, however: Apple is masterful when it comes to keeping things proprietary (which is why their devices work so well), and even with the concept of the cloud, they’re continuing that tradition.
Goodbye iTunes (and eventually the iPhone). Hello Google Music and Android.
* All of which Google’s Chrome OS can already do, or will be able to do in the near-future.
Awesomeness. I actually saw the Tweet “live,” or about as live as it gets. Which is amazing, since I pay attention to Twitter just about as much as I do wheat commodities.
At least one of the papal grunts saved the Holy Father from the terror of actually typing out that message on a tablet of any kind.
…has, over the past couple of years, become one of my favorite writers. Mind you, when I say “favorite writers” I think of people like William Blake. Bl. John Paul II. Oscar Wilde. Flannery O’Connor. You get the picture: Scalia is just plain good.
Check out her latest, “Illuisions of Equality,” to see what I mean.
She maintains an uncanny ability to exist within the world of St. Blogs (and the blogosphere in general) without becoming insufferably negative about her particular hobby horses (which we all have). Scalia can take a decision or issue she clearly disagrees with and cut to the heart of the matter, displaying both her knowledge and tendency toward prayerful contemplation. We don’t always agree on everything, but I always love the way she says it.
So consider this a fan letter should you ever see it, Elizabeth, and keep writing for yourself and for us!