Sunday, February 20, 2011

Do You Love Me?

Do you wake up in the morning, longing to spend a day in his service?  Do you go to bed at night longing for the time that your exile on this earth will come to an end, he will welcome you into our eternal home, to be face to face with him, sharing in the unimaginable bliss and glory of his divine life, forever?  Are you so enthralled with him that his name--the name above all names--is always on the tip of your lips and you cannot help but tell others about him?

I found myself asking that question recently, on the occasion of a (very) rare morning where I did happen to wake up in that state of mind.  The reality, sadly, is that 90% the answer is no, I don't or no I'm not.  I wish it were yes, but I'm not quite there yet.  There are many days that I wake up with a thousand other things on my mind.  I've got a to-do list that's a page long before I even start writing it down, and the last thing I want to do is spend time in prayer and scripture, "being still and knowing that [he is] God."  Deep down inside though, I know that is what I need the most.  I need Him. No, more than that.  I need him as the center of my life, the center of my existence.  I want to be completely, achingly in love with him.  Sometimes I literally have to stop myself in my tracks, before being drawn into the morning routine, and force myself to sit down, like a child, to let that reality sink in.

The closing paragraphs of the Gospel of John, 10:15-19, contain a very powerful encounter between the risen Jesus and Peter, that show us the kind of love that Christ calls us to:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?"  He said to him, "Yes Lord; you know that I love you."  Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."  A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"  He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."  He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"  And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.  Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt to go wherever you wished.  But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.)  After this he said to him, "Follow me."

Three times Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me?"  And with each reply that Jesus leads him to, Peter affirms what he denied as Christ was enduring the trial of his Passion.  But why three times?  Wouldn't Jesus be satisfied with one sincere, heartfelt affirmation of Peter's love?  That's where a key subtlety of this passage, that is lost in translation, comes into play.

In the original Greek, there are three types of love: agape (unconditional love), filia (brotherly love), and eros (passionate love, as between lovers).  God, who is Love, encompasses all three, but here specifically challenges Peter to the highest and most difficult of the three: agape.   He asks Peter, "Do you agape me?"  That is, do you love me unconditionally?  Would you go anywhere and do anything for me?  Would you spare nothing, even your own life, for my sake?  Peter, even having witnessed Christ's Passion, death, and Resurrection, still does not quite comprehend what is being asked of him.  He replies, "Yes, Lord; you know that I filia you."  I love you like a brother.  Jesus challenges Peter a second time, probing deeper, " you agape me?"  Again, Peter either does not comprehend or cannot allow himself, because of the sin-weakened will that we all have, to go that far.   Still, with each reply, Jesus challenges Peter to do his work.  He loves Peter so much--unconditionally--that he trusts him, a sinful man, to take up his work of building the kingdom.

Jesus asks Peter a third time, but this time his question is different.  Just as he did in descending from Heaven to live and die to redeem us, in the third challenge Jesus lowers himself to Peter's level: "Peter, do you filia me?"  This third time, Peter replies the same way, but Jesus follows with a promise, " will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go."  This promise is a foreshadowing of Peter's martyrdom, but more importantly, it is a testimony that he will learn to love unconditionally, even though he is not capable of doing so right now.  His martyrdom will be the ultimate testimony of that love.   He will be fully redeemed.

Jesus asks the same of us today, "Do you agape me?"  Are you willing to give your life for me?  Even if it is not by shedding blood, will you give up your daily comforts, preferences, and anything in your life that distracts your gaze from me?  Will you deny yourself, sacrifice your own happiness and pleasure and use your time and energy to serve me by serving others?  I for one am more like Peter in this passage than Peter being led to his martyrdom.  But I also cling to the promise that he made to Peter and that he makes real by coming down to us and giving us himself--body, blood, soul, and divinity--in the Eucharist and in the Sacramental life of the Church.  By the power of his Spirit, he slowly but surely is making his agape fully alive and active in us.  He is giving us the promise and gift of his eternal life and unconditional love, so that we might learn to live and love in the same way, so that in the end we might say with the eternal life he has given us, "Yes Lord, you know that I love you."


Saturday, February 19, 2011

House Votes to Defund Planned Parenthood

Rep. Mike Pence, sponsor of the amendment
to repeal Planned Parenthood funding
This is huge, but still faces the hurdle of the Senate.  If you haven't already, please contact your senators to send them the same message that Lila Rose put forth in this article: "The case to cease funding is crystal clear.  But for any Senator who remains unsure, imagine explaining to your constituents that you voted to keep sending $350 million of their tax dollars to an ‘non-profit’ that puts young girls in harm’s way and made $63 million in profits by performing over 300,000 abortions last year. It’s time once and for all to stop financing these activities.”

Historic amendment to defund Planned Parenthood passes overwhelmingly in House (

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

LifeSiteNews is being sued by a "pro-choice" priest

LifeSiteNews, which is so tirelessly dedicated to working against the culture of death, is being sued for $500,000 by a self-proclaimed "pro-choice" and pro-homosexual activist priest, Father Raymond Gravel.  This is absolutely sickening.  They--and all who work tirelessly for the protection and promotion of a culture of life--need our prayers for spiritual and legal protection against this evil.

LifeSiteNews is being sued for $500,000 - this could shut us down!

This program is from

Friday, February 11, 2011

Faith and Firearms, Part 3: Double Effect

Part Two of "Faith and Firearms" left off with a discussion of exactly what constitutes "legitimate defense", and a few statistics to highlight the reality that law enforcement cannot be everywhere at all times to protect us in the critical moments of a violent encounter.

My apologies for the delay in being able to get out this Part 3; as always, life is happening and when it comes to spending time with our precious Abigail or blogging, her smile and laugh takes the cake.

But, now that I'm actually here, I wanted to return from the practical to the philosophical with a brief recap of the  doctrine of double effect.  I emphasize the word brief because this doctrine has been explored and pored over by moral philosophers for centuries, and could be the subject of extended discussion.

The doctrine or principle of double effect was introduced by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica (II-II, Qu. 64, Art.7).  His doctrine makes the point that, as with all of our actions, the lawful, natural, and right action of defending one's life against the unjust action of an aggressor often has more than one effect.  In the case where lethal force is used, the secondary effect could very well be--and often is--the death of the aggressor.

Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. … Accordingly, the act of self-defense may have two effects: one, the saving of one's life; the other, the slaying of the aggressor.”

His discussion continues with the follow-on assertion that such an action is justified, provided that the primary effect--protecting one's own life--is justified, but that the justification of such an action also comes with conditions:

“Therefore, this act, since one's intention is to save one's own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in being as far as possible.  And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful if it be out of proportion to the end. Wherefore, if a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful, whereas, if he repel force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.”
In other words, it is permissible to use as much force as is necessary to repel or stop the intended aggression, but anything more (excessive force) renders the act unjust.  A second, equally critical condition is that the act may not be committed in anticipation of unjust aggression.  The act of aggression must have already begun in order for it to be justly and lawfully repelled.  This puts the defender at a distinct disadvantage, because the aggressor more often than not has the elements of both cunning, skill (violent criminals are often repeat offenders), and surprise.   This is where the importance of being aware of surroundings, being selective in personal associations, and following your gut instinct come into play.  Violence, just like with sin, should be avoided at all costs.

It is just--and in some cases an even a greater good--to forgo one's right to self-defense for the sake of charity.  Christ himself, who is the personification of charity, modeled this most perfectly by refusing to defend himself from the most heinous of violent actions, and clergy are called to model this same charity.  However, as I discussed in Part Two, there are other situations and offices where a person's duty or obligations require the defense of either themselves or of another person, for example a father to defend his children or a husband to defend his wife.

So how does this all relate to "keeping and bearing" a firearm?  The stark reality is that violence is not always avoidable.  Sometimes the aggressor finds us regardless of our intention to avoid them, and in those situations we must be prepared to respond according to our responsibilities.  As Cody Alderson, the author of a thought-provoking article entitled, "It Bothers Me," (Concealed Carry Report, February 2, 2011) put it,

Unfortunately, the force needed to put a criminal into a condition of not being able to continue their heinous crime of rape, maiming, or murder can very well cause loss of life to the criminal. We have no reliable system or tool to render rapid and total incapacitation that can be used by the public in defense against crimes of violence other than the gun. It is by far the best available tool for a victim to be able to use to deploy enough force to rapidly incapacitate a violent criminal.

That's it for "Faith and Firearms" for now.  I may revisit the topic sometime in the future, as the Spirit prompts.  In the mean time, for a more in-depth discussion of the Catholic teaching on self-defense, visit New Catholic Encyclopedia, "Self-Defense."  A deeper philosophical discussion of double effect can also be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.