The Pastor of Saint Agnes writes a weekly bulletin article. They are reposted here.
A tale was told about cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin – the first man in outer space – after he returned from his expedition in April 1961. During the state celebration, Nikita Khrushchev asked him, “Tell me, Yuri, did you see God up there?” Gargarin paused for a second, then replied, “Yes, sir, I did.” Khrushchev pouted and said, “Don’t tell anyone.” Shortly afterward, the Russian Orthodox patriarch pulled Gagarin aside and asked, “Tell me, my son, did you see God up there?” Gargarin haltingly replied, “No, sir, I did not.” The patriarch said, “Don’t tell anyone.”
Religious talk often flows from premises and reports like those parodied in this Russian joke. Question-begging questions (Did you see God up there?) can provoke baseless discussions and debates in theology classes, Bible studies, scholarly reports and coffee klatches. Whether it’s a book purchased on Concourse B or a college class, religious discourse can be like having a bad meal at a bad restaurant: if you think the food is bad, wait until you see the kitchen. When we talk about religion, it’s helpful to first establish underlying premises (what I mean by “see the kitchen”). What do we presume about human...Read more
It’s a privilege to accompany a dying person. Whether it’s a peaceful or painful death is not the issue. It’s a privilege to pray with, listen to, comfort or just be present with a dying person. We need not be scandalized by the indignities of a failing body. We will face the same fate. So we must patiently “do unto others” as we would have others “do unto us.” A Christian ought to understand this: death and the stench of death are the wages of Adam’s sin and every sin thereafter. Pleasure and the blossoms of youth are fleeting. “Today, while the blossoms still cling to the vine….” They are relics of a shipwreck, said G.K. Chesterton. We ought to be grateful to God that a few barrels of wine have washed up on the shore of this savage desert island. But where sin and the wages of sin abound, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20). Hence, a Christian doesn’t resent suffering. Nor resent God. Death, we know, is a mystical moment – for the dying person and the loved ones. Christ died to conquer death – our death.
Once upon a time, people would gather...Read more
The windblown rustling of November’s fallen leaves whispers to us like a prophecy. Along with the Preacher, it says: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The end is foretold. What we think important is often but a game we play.
“The young things the spring brings / Snow covers over / And they're only the toys in time's great game / Time gives and time takes away.” (“Toys of Time” sung by Linda Ronstadt and The Stone Poneys)
Fall’s tail-end evokes a sense of foreboding. What was fresh last Spring and lush last Summer – not all that long ago – now gives way to the chills of death. But it’s not a sense of despair. November is not only tinged with the prospect of a forthcoming Spring, but with the hope prophesied in the Church’s liturgy. Advent and Christmas are not far off. But we must prepare, lest we become nothing more than the “toys of time.”
We prepare for many things — careers, job interviews, college, exams, weddings, graduations, vacations, vocations and celebrations. Though important, these things are only about time and its toys. As...Read more