This Week’s Posts

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Rules and Regs…

…do lawmakers (and that might include God Himself) think up rules and regulations, according to their best instincts, and then promulgate them for others to receive and obey?

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Dave O'Donnell
Dave O’Donnell

A Path, a Task and a Key
believe that everything Jesus claimed about Himself, applies to each and every one of us. It seems clear to me the Father gave Jesus the task to show us the way to travel, a path back to our Father in heaven.

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Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

TED Talk

What is it like to be an Arab woman in an Arab world and why would a Passionist Partner care about that?

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Rules and Regs—What do You Think?

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

There are two heroic-sized statues of the two great apostles at the far end of the huge piazza fronting the entrance to the basilica of St. Peter in Rome (the Vatican). One, of course, is of St. Peter, the other, of St. Paul. St. Peter has his right arm pointed downward toward the ground, while St. Paul has his right arm extended outward. Wags have interpreted the meaning of these two differing arm positions to mean: the laws of the church are made here (St. Peter), and these laws are kept there (St. Paul), meaning, respectively, they’re formulated in the Vatican but they are obeyed out there in the worldwide church.

That raises the interesting question about the role of law, whether in the church, or in society at large: do lawmakers (and that might include God Himself) think up rules and regulations, according to their best instincts, and then promulgate them for others to receive and obey? If so, there’s a possibility that there might not be a suitable “fit” between some laws developed by well-intentioned but out- of- touch with- the- real- world lawmakers and the law-keepers whose lives and mode of eking out their livelihood don’t correspond. So this results in these laws being disregarded and not kept, at least till the law-enforcers catch up with them. And this happens somewhat frequently. It’s the liability of arm-chair legislators being out of touch with the complications involved in obeying the law.

Thankfully, there are other types of lawmakers, both in church and civil society, who are more acquainted with the “real” world and know the challenges of formulating pertinent rules and regulations that are adequate for real life situations. And so their influence is felt in the laws they make and promulgate because, for the most part, they are humane and reasonable, and able to be kept by those inclined to be fair and open-minded. This is because this latter type of legislator just doesn’t “dream up” what he or she takes to be a good piece of legislation without sufficient concern for those meant to keep that law, but rather is well acquainted with those for whom the law is intended, and is aware of the burden involved in keeping the law.

The difference between these two types of legislators is that one does it from the top down, while the other does it from the bottom up.

Of course, there is another side to this picture. This regards those who are to keep the law.   Once again, they fall into two types.   There are those who tend to regard any law lightly: rules of the road, income tax procedures, city ordinances about property maintenance and upkeep, vehicle maintenance, animal care and upkeep, voting privileges, payment of fines, honoring public places prohibiting smoking, etc.   While some of these may seem insignificant, yet when many or even all of them are disregarded indiscriminately and habitually, such violators soon become pests, even a pain in the neck, if not worse, for at times such disregard can endanger others.

But, fortunately, there is a large category of law-abiders, the conscientious types who appreciate the rationale of good laws and statutes, and try to abide by them, at times at some inconvenience for themselves. They realize it makes good sense to abide by them, both for themselves and for the public at large. And when it happens that a particular city ordinance is poorly designed and crafted, they proceed to round up like-minded fellow citizens and work to change the rule or regulation. This type of citizen need not be blind before or indifferent to poorly crafted ordinances, and is willing to expend considerable time and energy to take the steps to change or rewrite it.

So, back to Sts. Peter and Paul. When Peter makes the point that the buck stops here because this is where the church law originates, he does so well aware of the earlier tiff he and Paul had back in the beginning when Peter was siding with the Jewish membership of the early church who wanted gentile converts to the faith to abide by many of their Jewish customs they continued to practice after becoming Christian. But Paul objected to this regulation, noting Peter’s inconsistency in this, since earlier on Peter did not insist on this rule. And Peter, good law-maker that he was, agreed, changed his mind in this matter.

And Paul too, as he went about the known world of his time, preaching the gospel in “pagan”lands, found himself before some ticklish situations, such as allowing new converts to the Christian faith to buy meat in the market place even though it had earlier on been offered up to pagan gods, or trying to reconcile an escaped Christian slave with his Christian master, or allowing a previously married pagan convert to the faith to remarry, as a Catholic, if his still pagan wife refused entrance into the church. Paul had to tiptoe around such delicate areas.

But the annals of early church history are replete with instances of many Christians of the early church refusing to obey the law of the Roman empire requiring worship of pagan gods, and so suffering martyrdom. So law-making and law-keeping is a demanding affair, keeping all of us sensitive to the issues at play.

A Path, a Task and a Key

Dave O'Donnell
Dave O’Donnell

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them… (MK 9:2-10)

I believe that everything Jesus claimed about Himself, applies to each and every one of us. It seems clear to me the Father gave Jesus the task to show us the way to travel, a path back to our Father in heaven. The Transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of Moses and Elijah show us that God provided Jesus with guides to assist Him with His task (teach us the way) on His journey to the cross.

 

The Father gave Jesus a Path (to journey) a task (to do) a cross (to overcome) and a key (to make it possible). The Key is Jesus’ consent—that only He can give—“Not my will but Thine be done”. (Jesus never left His source the Father)

 

God will never abandon us even when we abandon God. I believe God gives everyone of us a path, a task, a cross and a key and heaven is our home and destination.

 

 

Through the Lens of a Camera

What is it like to be an Arab woman in an Arab world and why would a Passionist Partner care about that? In today’s TED Talk, Laura Boushnak gives us an idea of the answer to that question. She also gives us a simple way to respond non-violently to the violence we witness in our world. She does this imaginatively through the simple use of a camera and challenge a to be who we are. Think I’ll have to try that. Thanks Laura!

 

 

 

 

This Week’s Posts

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

An Ounce of Prevention

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of these United States of America, would seem to support this arrangement of having Ash Wednesday follow Mardi Gras, because he authored the well-known aphorism

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Dave O'Donnell
Dave O’Donnell

The Meaning of Shekinah

The Hebrew word, Shekinah, means presence. The Presence is revealed by glory for: “The glory is the presence of God” Rabbi Heschel explains: The whole earth is full of His glory (Isaiah 6:3)

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Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Let Go and Let God

Have you ever heard of a company where the cleaning lady is allowed to sit and vote on the Board of Directors? Do companies really need headquarters? What would happen if we asked children to make their own rules at school

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An Ounce of Prevention

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Ash Wednesday always follows on Mardi Gras. Perhaps suitably so, since a recovery period is usually needed to offset a period of over-indulgence. This arrangement is certainly preferable to having Mardi Gras follow on Ash Wednesday.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of these United States of America, would seem to support this arrangement of having Ash Wednesday follow Mardi Gras, because he authored the well-known aphorism: “An ounce of prevention Is worth a pound of cure”. It is probably those suffering on Ash Wednesday from over-indulgence on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) who come to appreciate from personal experience that Ben Franklin’s observation makes a good deal of sense.   They might even take it further and propose that Ash Wednesday should precede Mardi Gras to the point where the misgivings and afflictions following the aftermath of Mardi Gras in the present arrangement would give way to a more sensible kind of enjoyment that is more than worth any effort involved in moderating our celebratory mood.

Of course, ole’ Ben Franklin was not the first one to formulate a memorable reflection on this matter. Someone earlier, in fact, Jesus Christ, taught us this in His prayerful reflection: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.   This is an even more venerable admonition about the worth of an ounce of prevention, since avoiding temptation as a more religiously tempered way for achieving prevention is likely more effective than the sheer will-power of deciding to engage in prevention. As we presently do it, of course, Ash Wednesday follows on Mardi Gras when, for many, the damage has been done, and Ash Wednesday simply serves somewhat to offset it.

There is a variation on the parallel of prevention-cure, or temptation-evil, and that is the contrast: feast or famine. But this contrast seems starker than the other two since both feast and famine seem quite extreme in expressing the admitted contrast that terms such as prevention/cure or temptation/evil bring to mind.

One of the arguments used to promote the acceptance of the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) proceeds along a similar line: easier access to medical attention leads to earlier diagnosis of potential health problems and, presumably, to earlier treatment (a version of Ben Franklin’s “prevention” or the Lord’s prayer: “lead us not into temptation”). It is an effort to forestall delays in seeking medical intervention, which is considered a “prevention” approach to health care. Whereas delays can lead to a serious medical conditions developing, early detection can prevent this. As a result, the trips to the emergency room in order to treat medical problems that have developed over time, because undetected, prove, in the long run, to be more expensive than early detection and prevention would be: an ounce of prevention…

But most of us prefer the present arrangement, having our Mardi Gras first, and, then our Ash Wednesday observance, which, as a matter of fact, may at times involve an ambulance trip to the nearest E.R. But ideally an early expenditure of time and effort to avoid the unpleasantness of recovery on an Ash Wednesday seems preferable to a possibly later expense in time and money for gaining a recovery. Foresight in these matters is better than hindsight.

Jesus Himself gained an invaluable lesson, at the very beginning of His public ministry, by spending forty days and nights in the desert, fasting and praying. For there, when approached by the wily evil one and tempted by him, He learned the techniques of survival, and, indeed, victory, that would serve Him well in the three years to follow, and the devil himself came to realize what he was up against in trying to tempt this Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus would indeed enjoy His feasts and banquets in the three years to follow but only because He had learned early on the value of fasting and abstaining. It is not inappropriate to refer to the meals He attended as His Mardi Gras experience, since they were tempered by an Ash Wednesday experience in the desert where He learned the value of an ounce of prevention and gained insight into the workings of temptation.

The Meaning of Shekinah

Dave O'Donnell
Dave O’Donnell

For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,

that he might lead you to God. A man without sin died that we might find God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. (1 PT 3:18) That is the path we all must follow, i.e. the death of the ego (flesh) to find life in the spirit.

 

What does life in the Spirit look like? It looks like a person who feeds the hungry, helps the needy, sees the problems of the world and offers his talents to help; a person who recognizes the radical interdependence of the individual to the all—no one is excluded and no one feeds on himself. We all feed spiritually, psychologically and physically on the other.

 

The Hebrew word, Shekinah, means presence. The Presence is revealed by glory for: “The glory is the presence of God” Rabbi Heschel explains: The whole earth is full of His glory (Isaiah 6:3) Yet although the Shekinah, the Presence is everywhere, the experience of the Shekinah is always somewhere.

 

The Jews had in or near the doorway to the Holy of Holies, the bread of presence. Jesus, a good practicing Jew knew that and realizing who he was could not help but see himself as the bread of life, as are we all.