Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving: Part II

Sorry....I wanted to post these last night, but it was taking too long to load.

For these things too I am THANKFUL.....



David Wales, Acutal WHales, & Chocolate Labs named "Count Chocula"

People who Eat Snakes
video


Happening Upon a small Chinese Village Celebrating their Annual Spring Festival & Being Absorbed into the Moment
video

I hope that was as Happy as an experience for you as it was for me.

Thanks.
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Also I forgot this:

Next Sunday's Gospel:

LUKE 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

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ALSO HAPPY ADVENT!
--------------------------------
ALSO........

Now that it is Monday I thought you might need a little encouragement to get the week going:

22
So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.
23
On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.
24
Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

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ALSO.......

PEACE.


Thanksgiving

Happy Belated Thanksgiving,


“What do you have that you have not received?”

-1 Corinthians 4:7


This verse came to mind this past week over and over.


Take some time and think about it....


Is there anything in your life that you have not, in some way....RECEIVED?


Did your parents consult you before conceiving you to make sure you were on board?


Did God consult you before gifting you with an immortal soul... capable of being filled with his Eternal Life and Love?


In light of these questions, we can respond in one of two ways:


1. Resent the fact that we had no say in the decision and lament forever this grave “injustice.” And commit ourselves to seeing each instant of our lives through this lens of being wronged.

2. Spend our lives being Thankful..to God and to others. And commit ourselves to seeing our lives through the lens of “Thanksgiving.”


I opt for number two. Or better yet, I am committed to opting to opt for this...every moment....of every day. It is always a temptation, it seems to me, to cry “Sour Grapes!” and fall back to number 1. However, number 2 is my goal.


In this number 2 spirit, this week I would like to take a moment and enumerate a few of the things for which I am THANKFUL.


Big Dad & Christopher Robin

A Big Rock That Looks Like an Elephant (Syracuse, Sicily)

Gino Pattugalan, 1st Communion (now Seminarian for Brooklyn & my classmate)
nice lace bro...... hahhahaha

Skeeter, Shanoon, Gross Goatees, & Headbands

Saddest Face Possible + 7 Chin-Scrunch (How many do you count?)

Mice named "Gus Gus"

Pictures with St. Peter's in the Background

Pat Arensberg and the Fact that He Seemingly Believes this Stone Guy is real


Doing a Push-Up on the Great Wall of China

Jennifer Dobbs & the Ugandan Child She is Holding

German Alabama Fan: I met Thorsten here on a flight back from the States last Fall after my sister's wedding. He went to High School in rural AL. His football coach shortened his name to "Thor" first day of school...and there was no turning back....yesssssss

Poppa Don (aka My Dad) & Castello San Angello

The Red Panda

Event T-Shirts

Sunset at the End of the World (Fisterra, Spain)

Alex Roche, Sandwiches, & Grizzled Looks

(NB: Last year I convinced my class that "Funny Facial Hair" was a MUST for any Mardi Gras Celebration)


Fred Gruber & Hilarious Mardi Gras Half-Beard

Daniel Kirk & Hilarious Mardi Gras Fumanchu

Our Chapel here at the North American College

Other People who have Mustaches, i.e. Tom "Teagles" Gallagher
(Tom Gallagher--->Tom Gall--->T-Galls--->Teagles)

Playing Soccer & My Legs which Constitute 95 % of my entire Body Mass

Candle Light Vigils

Sportsmanship

A Referee after You have won the game...

Prayer

Steven Vrazel & Uncle Sam & America

My Family (Mom's Side) on Thanksgiving Day in Myrtle Beach, SC 2009
(We have be doing this for over 15 years):

Grazing, Conversing, etc in Kitchen

Being Educated by Toad (our Granddad)

Ruthie (Grandma) and Chuck (little sister)

The Beach

Toad & Mark (Uncle) & all Father-Son Combos


Thank you God for these and all of our many blessings!

And Thank you for the person reading this right now!

May they be blessed this day!

Grant us the eyes to see everything as it is---GIFT.

Grant us the grace to be people of "Thanksgiving!"

Amen.

Peace and Love to All.

You have my prayers.

Until next week.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Papal Audience & Chariots of Fire

Good Afternoon, Morning, maybe even Evening depending on where you are and when you are reading this,


Weather here in Rome this past week has been nearly perfect. Around 70 each day, no rain, clear skies. Thank God for that. It’s amazing what weather can do for morale. I pray ya’ll have had a similar week weatherly.


This post, like others, is coming at you in two parts. First, I would like to reflect a bit about a Papal audience I attended this past Thursday. And secondly I’d like to share another “practice homily” I wrote this past week.


Part I:


Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI invited all students, living in Rome and studying at any of the many Pontifical Universities in the city, to the Paul VI Auditorium (a large meeting hall, inside the Vatican City, used for various Papal Events) for an afternoon of prayer, reflection, and blessing. Traditionally, the Holy Father celebrates a special Mass in mid- October to kick off the new academic year for all Roman students. However, due to scheduling conflicts, Benedict was not able to do so this year. Still wanting to meet with his many students, Benedict specially organized this mid-morning program.


Starting at 10:30 AM, the gates were opened and hundreds of seminarians, priests, religious and lay men and women streamed by the Swiss Guards into the Vatican City, each flashing their student-ID. Walking to the Auditorium was a moment of realization for me---realizing that I have, indeed, lived in Rome for over a year now. What really spurred this realization was seeing so many people that I now know--from classes, from different ministries, soccer games, visiting other Colleges, friends of friends, etc. These people are from all over the world. And a year ago, I had no idea that they even existed. I guess I am kind of stating the obvious. But all that to say, I feel so blessed to have this opportunity--to know more deeply the human experience, the diversity of life, the creativity of God, and the richness of creation. Already after just a year, my vision...my understand of “Church”....of “humanity” is so radically different.

Me: pre-game


Once in the auditorium, we had about an hour before the Holy Father came to join us. A classmate of mine from our College, went with me to the Audience--David Tedesche of Rochester, NY. Before entering seminary, Dave was a high school teacher for several years. More than anyone else in our class, this guy has a real ZEAL for learning. His passion is inspiring and humbling to me at the same time. Just to give you an idea, Dave taught himself Greek in his spare time a couple years ago. Now he pretty much just reads the New Testament in Greek. It is a real blessing to have him in my Gospel of Mark Seminar, for example, since he can always shed some light on the more precise meaning of the original Greek text in comparison to whatever English translation we are considering.


Meet Dave Tedesche

Also Dave and I share a similar passion--wrestling. Both us of wrestled throughout Middle and High School. Consequently you know when either of us are coming around the corner by the “snap-crackle-pop” sounding from our joints. Still though, we love to reminisce about the grueling practices, making weight, wearing our warms-up to school on game day, pre-game butterflies, and running out onto the mat to the sound of ACDC, Ozzy Ozborne, and White Snake. All things considered, we both agree that wrestling was one of the most significant schools of discipline, character, and perseverance in our adolescence.


You can see Dave below getting in a bit of reading between our reminiscing and the Pope’s entrance.



Also before Benedict arrived, the Roman Pontifical Student Choir sang a number of hymns and chants--really beautiful. In between the singing, a couple of spokesmen for the Pontifical University System in Rome gave some remarks. Largely they reflected on Wisdom...particularly Christian Wisdom...i.e. Jesus...the Second Person of the Trinity. Through this Wisdom all things came to be. By this Wisdom all things have their meaning...their purpose. For this Wisdom, we apply ourselves to study, prayer, and charity. With this Wisdom, we find the narrow, middle road leading to joy, peace, love, and ultimately our personal, eternal fulfillment in life.


These speakers stressed the Church’s belief that Christian Wisdom is, indeed, able to permeate ALL of Culture--of any time and place. This is the very way in which the Gospel is to transform the world---through relationships, art, language, music, literature, science, technology, media, food, sports, every facet of human living. This hope is firmly rooted in the Christian belief of the “Incarnation”--that God became Man and dwelt among us (John 1:14). This is such an intimate and personal knowledge--that God is not just some far off power, but rather in our midst...Personally desiring to fill our hearts, our time, our circumstances, our lives...our very flesh. Solid.


After these comments we prayed Daytime Prayer together, listened to another hymn, and then welcomed the Holy Father into the auditorium. Below I am trying a video for the first time. It is not the best quality or footage...but it gives you a sense of what the Paul VI Auditorium looks like and the crowd’s reaction.


Video Experiment:


video


As far as the Pope’s comments go, I am pasting an article posted by the VIS--Vatican Information Service--that sends me emails every day stating what went down at the Vatican (look at the LINKS section if you are interested).


Zoom In: Pope on the Jumbo-Tron, reading his Address
Zoom Out: Pope giving his address

PROMOTING A KNOWLEDGE ILLUMINATED BY FAITH

VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2009 (VIS) - At midday today in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope received professors and students of Roman pontifical universities, and participants in the general assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (FIUC).


At the beginning of his address the Holy Father recalled how John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution "Sapientia christiana", the thirtieth anniversary of which falls this year, "underlines the urgent need, which still persists today, to overcome the separation between faith and culture, calling for a greater commitment to evangelisation in the firm conviction that Christian Revelation is a transforming power destined to permeate patterns of thought, standards of judgment and norms of behaviour. It is capable of illuminating, purifying and renewing man's conduct and his cultures, and must remain the focal point for teaching and research, as well as the horizon illuminating the nature and goals of all ecclesiastical faculties".


The underlying ideas of "Sapientia christiana", Benedict XVI went on, "still retain all their validity. Indeed, in modern society where knowledge is becoming ever more specialised and sectorial but is profoundly marked by relativism, it is even more necessary to open oneself to the wisdom which comes from the Gospel. Man, in fact, is incapable of gaining a full understanding of himself and the world without Jesus Christ; He alone illuminates man's true dignity, his vocation and ultimate destiny, and opens his heart to a firm and lasting hope".

Professors and students "must never lose sight of the goal to be pursued, that of becoming instruments for the announcement of the Gospel. ... At the same time, it is important to remember that the study of the sacred sciences must never be separated from prayer, from union with God, from contemplation, ... otherwise reflection on the divine Mysteries risks becoming an empty intellectual exercise".


Turning then to address participants in the general assembly of the FIUC, which this year celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of its canonical recognition, the Holy Father encouraged them to make "further efforts to renew your will to serve the Church. In this context, your motto also represents a programme for the future of the federation: 'Sciat ut serviat', to know in order to serve.

"In a culture which reveals a 'lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thinking capable of formulating a guiding synthesis'", he added in conclusion, "Catholic universities, faithful to an identity which makes a specific point of Christian inspiration, are called to promote a 'new humanistic synthesis', knowledge that is 'wisdom capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends', knowledge illuminated by faith".

---------------------------------------------------


My last thought, reflecting on Benedict’s address: What could we do that would bring upon us a greater dignity than welcoming the Living God to Dwell within us?...in communion with us? Than God Himself choosing to take on our very flesh?


Here are some pictures of the many different people in and around the event:


Vatican Police Force: Horse, Canine, & Foot Units


A Group of Tourists who decided to pose for me as I went for the "candid-pass-by-shot"




Part 2:


Link to the readings from this past Thursday on which this homily is based: READINGS


Please forgive the strange punctuation--helps me when I deliver it--- and sentence fragments--just because I can :) ---here and there.


In 1981, the movie Chariots of Fire won four Academy Awards including Best Picture. Dating back to the 1924 Olympics in Paris, it depicts the inspiring True Story behind Britain's famous team of sprinters. One of the main characters is a Scotsman named Eric Liddel. As the movie begins, we learn that Liddel is already a well-respected hero in Scotland. At once, Liddel is an all-star player on their national Rugby team and a Protestant minister, just coming back from a mission in China.


Due to a life-long friend, Liddel learns that England is doing their best to assemble the fastest group of sprinters in history to go up against the world-famous American Olympic Team. With a bit of prompting from his friend, Liddel decides to try out for the English squad and does, in fact, make it.


However, this decision did not come without its consequences. Feeling that Liddel has compromised his priorities, members of his very own Church community express their concern about this decision. More than anyone, however, Liddel has to confront the disappointment of fellow-missioner and girlfriend Jenny who just cannot understand this decision. “Do you believe in what we’re doing or not? I’m frightened for you...for what it all might do for you,” she says to him one day.


After some thought, Liddel takes her for a walk and tells her that he has decided, indeed, to go back to the mission in China.....after the Olympics are over. He explains himself saying, “I believe that God made me for a purpose...for China...BUT he also made me FAST...and when I run...I feel his pleasure. To give that up would be to hold him in contempt. You were right...its not just fun. To win is to honor him.”


With head down, Jenny thinks this over and then gives her support with a quick kiss on the cheek. For the next three years Liddel devotes himself fully to training...putting both “his rugby” and his formal ministry on hold.


Day after day, Liddel runs up and down the hilly terrain of his Scottish hometown....giving his all....to honor his God, his family, his friends, and his Country. Liddel dominates in the Olympic trials, impressing all in attendance by both the sheer force...and the untamed passion with which he runs. Finally, the Olympics come, Liddel joins his British mates, boards a ship, and sails to Paris.


Just upon boarding, Liddel learns from his lifelong friend...that his first heat is scheduled for that upcoming Sunday. Immediately, Liddel’s face drops. Three years of training....and it comes to this...running on the Sabbath! His friend reads this thought in his face and says, “It’s only a heat. Does it make all that difference?” Liddel responds with a sigh, “Yes. It does.”

It does not take long for Liddel to tell the British men on the Olympic planning committee that he will not run on the Sabbath. And as you can imagine, they are dumbfounded. Liddel is their star. He is their hope for victory against the Americans...and for HONOR for them and their country.


In a memorable scene, Liddel is called in by three English Noblemen and the Prince of Wales. They explain to Liddel that it would be a disgrace to England’s dignity to ask the FRENCH...to move his heat. After humoring him by lauding his principles and resolve...they inform him that he must be the one to compromise. To which Liddel responds firmly, “I will not run on the Sabbath and that’s final.” Still they try to persuade him.

One elderly Nobleman: “In my day it was King first, God after”

Another: “We are appealing to your BELIEFS---Your King, your Country”


Liddel responds, “God makes countries, God makes kings and the rules by which they govern and those rules say that the Sabbath is his...and I, for one, intend to keep it that way”

In a last ditch effort, the Prince of Wales appeals to Liddel citing the sacrifices men must make on behalf of their country. Suggesting that this was such a Necessary sacrifice.


Finally Liddel responds, “God knows I love my country..but I can’t make that sacrifice...”


In today’s Gospel, we encounter a scene that is strikingly similar. Here the king’s “noblemen,” humor Mattathias calling him a “leader, an honorable, and a noble man.” They promise him, his family, and his descendants the king’s friendship along with riches and gold.....all if he would just please the King...by sacrificing to his God. But Mattathias, like Liddel, is not seduced and responds with fortitude, “ We will not obey the words of the king nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.”


Now, if everyone honored God the Father with such valor...such resolve, I imagine Jesus would not be weeping in the Gospel today as he looks out at Jerusalem. Looking at Jerusalem, Jesus sees a place that his Father had made sacred. A place where his Father asked the faithful to build a Temple, where they may honor him, keep HIS Sabbath, HIS commandments and thus usher in HIS kingdom of Peace and Love into their midst. How sad it was for Jesus to see...that the people of Jerusalem were just not THAT interested in his Father’s Love..his peace.


But, as we know, these tears were not those of self-pity or despair. As we know, Jesus Christ too, was a man of valor, principle, and resolve. In the face of all temptation, we know well Jesus’ decision...we are reminded of it every time we see a cross.

So today, We pray to you Jesus, that in the face of the pressures...the temptations in our lives to put anything before our Love and Honor of God, Our Father....we too may be given the Strength, Courage, and Faith of Liddel...of Mattathias...of You, our Lord. For, in faith, we know, that any sacrifice...no matter how small...made in YOUR name....united to Your Cross...will INDEED bring us the fruit of Your RESURRECTION!


Amen.


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THIS WEEK’S LINKS:


Since I have shared about my summer in China, I thought I would post some links to a letter that the Vatican (specifically Cardinal Bertone) wrote to the priests in China this past week.


Article summarizing the Letter: CLICK


The Letter itself: CLICK (just scroll down a bit)


Father Tocarz' BLOG: Just discovered this BLOG this past week. This is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Mobile. He too studied here in Rome and is now a pastor in Mobile, AL. Previously he spent several years at St. Bede's Parish in Montgomery, AL...my hometown.


Historical News Network (HNN): This link is a tribute to one of my best friends here--Alex Roche of Scranton, PA. Alex double majored in History and Philosophy at William & Mary before entering Seminary. So...if you are like him and enjoy reading dense, academic reflection-articles about nuanced historical view-points....then this should be a blast for you! Roche describes this site as his "favorite historical article center." Get pumped!

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MUSTACHE SHOT OF THE WEEK:


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NEXT SUNDAY’S GOSPEL:


Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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Alright everyone. Have a great week! Just to let you know, I have started to pray for you and anyone else that may read this BLOG in any capacity. If you ever would like me and/or my seminary brothers to pray for something specific, just send me an email....we’d be happy to oblige.


PEACE.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Clowns, Justice, and Humor

Hello World Wide Web,


This week I would like to give you a bit of a “behind-the-scenes” look at seminary life. I thought that some of you may be wondering, “Aside from doing missions in China, serving Mass for the Pope, and talking about Saints...what do people do every day at seminary?” Sooooo....brace yourself for a unique look into my life at Seminary.


The drama of this past week could not have been scripted any better. It all started just over a week ago as we (the Mobile guys) rediscovered a concept called “Clowning.” We had all gone out to eat lunch together, and on the way back, I decided to trip one of the others in jest. After succeeding, he came back with a couple accomplices and succeeded in pulling my shirt up over my head. Upon the success, on of the guys spontaneously proclaimed his victory shouting, “Oooo Son! You just got CLOWNED!” This succeeded in sending us all into hysterics and “CLOWNING” was re-born.


Within less than twenty-four hours the whole Concept of Clowning really developed. Some standard practices we developed were hitting things out of people’s hands when they weren’t suspecting it (like books); pulling the hoodie of someone’s sweatshirt down over their face and holding it; and coming up behind someone and tackling them to the floor without having a chance to defend themselves. These small conquests, among others, gave one the right to justly say to another, “Oooo Man! You just got CLOWNED!”


For a couple days, this whole “Clowning Business” went along marvelously. New methods were developing all of the time, and everything seemed relatively under control. But soon enough, as is always the case, things got a bit out of hand....


One evening my entire class had a conference to attend in our student lounge. The presenter was confused about the location of the meeting, and ended up arriving about 12 minutes late. In the interim, I just could not resist this fortuitous moment to get a couple good Clownings in before the presenter showed. So I got the ball going by wrestling another seminarian down to the ground. Hardly before I had finished, a wave of Clownings shot through the room. All of a sudden, someone had stolen my shoe right off of my foot, another guy was trapped in his hoodie, and another got his ice-cream bar knocked out of his hands. The best, however, was yet to come. After the priest delivered his conference, a seminarian, now in cahoots with another seminarian seeking Clowning-vengeance, pinned the seminarian in front of him to the back of his chair...allowing me and another guy to come and jab his ribs. Just as we were about to shout out our well deserved “Clown-Jeer,” the priest who had just presented said to the Clownee, “Well, I am sure you did something to deserve this!” Hahaha. CLOWNED!!! The bliss of that moment cannot be related.


Despite my Clowning success, I began to hear rumbling amongst the ranks that they felt Justice had been compromised. I did not know the half of it until the following evening.


I was in my hall’s lounge fixing some coffee, when all of a sudden everything grew eerily quiet. The hairs on my neck stood up as I listened to slow, methodical footsteps coming down the hall. Then before I could put the pieces together, I was standing face to face with.....



THE EQUALIZER!


At the time, I did not know him by that title...I just knew that I had been incapacitated by 7 yellow, plastic, air-gun pellets. As quickly as he had come, he was gone. Stammering back to my room, I sat down at my desk to discover the following “Bulletin” in my email box just minutes later:


Today a Justice Hit in NAC hall mafia wars was carried out and completed upon Victor Ingalls and the target eliminated. This hit ordered due to extensive investigation into the recent hostile activities against one Mr. Joe Shmoe of 3rd Floor. Victor Ingalls found to be the prime contributing personage for instigating this event was hereby sentenced by the controlling NAC Hall Mafia. This in the interest of maintaining peace and Justice.

Victor Ingalls is out of any clowned action or further molestation of others for a period of 5 days due to the success of this hit operation. It was reported that Mr. Ingalls crouched on the floor and cried like a 5 year old girl.

Should there be any response to this Justice action there will be swift and sure punishment to the offender or offenders. As you know Justice only acts to correct severe injustices and quell any further hostilities caused by gross acts of Injustice. We do not act for simple "loot and pillaging" activities. These of course are acceptable. The investigation showed this to be an act of egregious circumstances and retaliation that followed although justified found to have possible lasting effects on allegiances and alliances.

Signed,

"THE EQUALIZER"



Just like that, I had been EQUALIZED. And now could not fulfill my urge to Clown everyone around me. The Equalizer’s presence now always had to be taken into consideration. You just knew he was lurking behind every cracked door.





You just didn’t want to be the next victim!



But...just when I felt all “Clowning Momentum” was screeching to a halt, along came an unassuming man named Corey Close of Davenport, Iowa. He came to me after classes one day wanting to understand “Clowning”--its beginnings, its parameters, and its current status--and what the presence of the Equalizer meant to the community at large. As I explained such things, a glimmer emerged and then set ablaze as the “Clown” was awakened within him.


Before we had finished walking home, Corey’s metamorphosis was complete--his mysterious-alter identity was complete---“The Circus.” “The Circus” vowed to bring “Clowning” back to the mainstream. To do so, he knew who must be his first target--The Equalizer.


Although, the identity of the Equalizer was, is, and assumedly will always be unknown, “The Circus” had to settle for someone known to be the Equalizer’s most loyal disciple and informant--Mobile’s very own...Phil Halladay.


Pictured below, Just take a look at how happy Phil was.


This face was unmarred until waking up to find this, taped onto his bedroom door along with a sheet of newspaper:



Such a finding, left Phil feeling sad and confused.


There was only one thing to do, bring the evidence to the Equalizer and demand justice! In a blink of an eye the Equalizer was on the case. Nobody was above suspicion. Nobody was above being EQUALIZED. Every minute that passed, the Equalizer moved closer to finding the man behind this “grievous offense.” But the investigation did not terminate...before others found themselves “Circus Bound.”


Now, take a gander at the gleeful Steven Vrazel of Mobile, AL.


As “King” of the College’s Student Body, the “Circus” targeted him next to really send the Equalizer a message. The following bulletin was found by King Vraz in his room:


See how quickly his glee morphed into devastation.



Finally, we look to the “Circus” third and final victim--Pat Arensberg (another Mobilian). Having spent the summer in China with me, the “Circus” knew that Pat had to be “Clowned” before my probationary time was up. Again, notice the general positive aura about Pat, Pre-Clowning.



Now...the Clowning.


Now the Post-Clowning.



The contrast could not be sharper!


But as the third man was coerced into the “Circus,” the Equalizer made his move. After analyzing the ink samples from the “Clowning Images,” the tape used to post the Clowning images, and interrogating 95% of the seminary population...the Equalizer had narrowed his investigation down to about three main suspects.


The Equalizer was faced with a decision. Either he acted now, or was sure to watch more innocent people roped into the “Circus Life.” Just as he was on the brink of making this historic move......


We all lost interest and dropped the whole thing!


hahahahahhaha


What Drama! What Pageantry! What Suspense! What Vengeance!


In the end it was Boredom...and not Vengeance that brought about Justice! Who would have ever guessed?!


As I now transition, let us gaze once more upon that infamous...disturbing face....


------------------------------------------------

As absurd as that sub-current was in my life this past week, it really gave a lot to think about. Especially as a couple other sub-currents ran parallel to it.


It just so happened that throughout this past week, in my Canon Law class, we treated the subject of “Justice.” As the Equalizer was bringing about "justice" at the NAC, we were learning about “Evangelical Justice”--born of the Gospel and structures all Christian living.


Our professor showed us how Christ, in fact, is the foundation of True Justice. Jesus came and led his disciples beyond a “justice of vengeance”...a simple tit-for-tat retributive form of justice---in which I will pull your hair if you pull mine.


Rather, Jesus offered his disciples something Positive rather than negative. Something more oriented to the good of the Community rather than the individual. Something that pushes the limits of Self-Giving as opposed to fixing strict prescriptions as to what one is entitled. Something rooted in Perfect Charity rather than in Vengeance. Something not solely bound to the “letter of the law” but to the establishment, perseverance, and deepening of Loving Fraternity among men and women.


This True Justice we may call Evangelical Justice (EJ). Ultimately, this EJ aims to bring people into Communion with God and his people..i.e. your neighbor. This EJ does not operate according to the wisdom of this world. We must only look to the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, to see how the “sense” behind EJ is something radically different (SEE Matt 20:1-16).


The interpretive key to this parable and arguably the whole “sense” of the Gospel is GIFT. Only when we ask ourselves as St. Paul, “What do we have, that we have not received?” can we realize that everything is GIFT. Our very lives have been given to us freely. None of us asked to be here...None of us did anything to merit our very existence. So everything in our lives must be understood under the over-arching concept of GIFT. At our core, we are GIFT. And God is GIVER.


In the Parable cited above, the vineyard owner gives a denary (or a day’s wage--the minimum amount with which one could pay for their daily need of food and shelter in Biblical times) to both he who worked one hour and he who worked all day. The one who had worked all day felt that the owner treated him unjustly and thus grumbles against him. The owner responds in this way:


“My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?

14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?

15(Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?'

16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.


Why should we be upset when someone is given food and shelter to make it through the day? Why should we be upset with a wealthy man who decides to be generous with another in need, who does not happen to be us? How much sense does it make for us to grumble against God, who is the very reason that we even exist in the first place? How can we begin to split hairs with a God who has bought us with a price more precious than we could ever repay--the blood of his Son?


All things considered, we are given another image of EJ as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:


Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

9

The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, (namely) "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

10

Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.


(Changing gears but bear with me...)


You know, of all the creatures in the world, only human beings laugh. Because only they have the ability to realize the incongruity between two things. Only humans can see the irony between the way something is and the way something ought to be.


This reflection came to mind as I juxtaposed what I was learning in class about EJ this past week with the Drama of Clowning, Vengeance, Equalizing, and Circuses back at the College. I realized why the whole ordeal was so Hilarious to us--because it was sooo contrary to the kind of Justice that we have discovered in Christ! The contrast between Perfect Charity and Vengeance was so stark that it was just...Silly to us....thus the laughing.


I don’t know how a Christian (or anyone for that matter) can get along in this life, without a sense of humor. Think about it:

We are finite beings yet we have an infinite desire to be loved and known.

We are sinful yet called to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is Perfect.

The Cross--a brutal instrument of execution--is the sign of our hope, joy, and salvation.

Our weakness is our strength.

The first shall be last.

We are something and yet God made us out of nothing.

We are in control of our choices but at once not in control over the sum of our lives (i.e. when we are born, when we die).......


If I couldn’t see the irony in all of this...If I couldn’t just sigh and laugh...I don’t know I would make it through the day.


One last thought for this week. This quote came to me in an email this week as well:

“A man without a sense of humor is an unreasonable burden on the people around him.”

--St. Thomas Aquinas


Lord, in the face of the Infinite Mystery of Your Love, give us the courage to trustingly laugh as we confront our limits and to abandon our lives into your hands. May your Justice...your Perfect Charity guide all things in our lives. And may we become more and more faithful as your servants each day. We love you and adore you.


Amen.

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NEXT SUNDAY'S GOSPEL:


John 18:33b-37:


Pilate said to Jesus,
"Are you the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?"
Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?"
Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here."
So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?"
Jesus answered, "You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

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THIS WEEK'S LINKS:

Cullman, AL SPECIAL: For any of you entrepreneurs out there who are looking for a new angle on your product, this is a MUST SEE. Also, if you are from Alabama, or have ever heard of "Alabama," I would also recommend this video.

Pictures from our College: There are several photos archived on my College's website. They are all organized by year and event. So, feel free to check these out as well as the many other resources on our site (www.pnac.org)

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Roll Tide! 10-0!


Have a Blessed Week!


Peace.