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advent-3

Advent 3: Stealing Beauty

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me to bring good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release for prisoners…’ (IS 61: 1, 2)

When life is firm, we need to sense its firmness; when it has no foundation, we need to know this too…The necessary condition for the fulfillment of Advent is the renunciation of presumptuous attitudes and alluring dreams in which we build our own imaginary worlds.’ Fr. Alfred Delp

Historically, our common enemy has done a masterful job of demonizing persons with gender and sexual problems, especially homosexuality, so much so that now we compensate for the damage done by refusing to admit a problem exists at all.

Thinking ourselves just, we actually are robbing men and women of the choice for healing the core issues that underlie disordered desire. Satan has changed his tactics and now captivates the Church with a weak, uninspired approach to sexual brokenness. Jesus no longer heals the brokenhearted; He confirms it as destiny.

For the Church of the 21st century, being ‘born again’ of the Spirit is apparently no match for being ‘born that way.’

We risk losing the power of Incarnational Reality: the truth that the God who became man invites us to partake of His divine nature. At our most recent Living Waters Training, team member Bonnie West made this connection for us. Because God lived a real human life in reliance upon a mother and father and had to progress (as we all must) up the developmental ladder in order to become a whole person, He is able to help us at every point in our own development. That means we can welcome the One who can free us from what has frustrated our maturity. He liberates us to become who and what the Father intends for us.

All time is present to Jesus, so He is not hindered by when the darkness fell; because He is God, He is not hindered by the depth or magnitude of that darkness. His divine power, working incisively in love, is able to meet us at whatever point we stopped becoming the man or woman of God’s design. His gentle, almighty Spirit embraces adult/children-in-distress and coaxes us to resume the journey.

This Advent, St. Paul implores us ‘to not quench the Spirit’ (1Thes. 5:19) while John the Baptist insists we ‘make straight the way of the Lord’ who comes to baptism us in His Spirit (JN 1: 19-28). Skilled caregivers, moving sensitively according to Jesus’ Spirit, can impart a depth of healing to the sexually broken in a manner that can only be attributed to Jesus the Healer.

We defy the power of His Spirit, and of the Incarnation itself, by vaunting the complexities of our sinful conditions over His healing hand. In so doing, we dehumanize the most vulnerable and leech the light from our Redeemer. We steal beauty from both creature and Creator; we unwittingly cooperate with a common enemy who came ‘to steal and kill and destroy.’ Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted, to release poor captives, ‘that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ (JN 10:10)

comfort-and-conviction

Advent 2: Comfort and Conviction

‘Comfort, comfort my people…in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord!’ (IS 40)

The fires of Advent convict us even as they warm us. His light blazes in our darkness, and we, no matter how dull and unresponsive, cannot quench its flames (JN 1:5). How grateful I am for the fire that exposes sin in order to consume it.

Isaiah grants us a glimpse of the fullness of Emmanuel’s love. He promises a double dose of comfort in exchange for our sins then rouses us to wax prophetic and raze everything that stands in the way of His Presence, His holy blaze. How nervy of Isaiah! He fuses the image of a tender Father restoring the sin-weary with the blazing Baptist who tears down mountains and raises valleys to make a way for God. Jesus is that Good Shepherd (40: 1-11). He leads us gently into a baptism of fire (MK 1:8) in order to burn off all that resists love in our lives. He comes to dwell with us, to make us as expansive and generous as He is.

Comfort and conviction express well the tension I feel during Advent. That Jesus came in history and we as the Church give a whole month to reflect on His entry can be the stuff dreams are made of: each of us, no matter how devout, remember the kindness of Christmas. Of course our own histories, safely edited by time, can lull us into a false peace. Advent gives us no such break. These four weeks are as much about fond recollections of the manger as they are about His second coming, which will be as violent and conclusive as His first entry was hidden and humble. Advent proclaims at once: Rejoice, He has come; repent, He is coming. Are you ready?

Lulled into a false peace, a friend of mine woke up a bit when I told him that Advent was all about repentance. He thought it was about a party-hearty countdown to Christmas, complete with a pop-open calendar…‘It’s about preparing your heart for Him, now and when He returns.’

Thinking myself quite noble, I drove home from the encounter and noticed an African-American woman walking alone on the side of the road in 18 degree weather. The Spirit prompted me: ‘Turn around and give her a ride.’ My spirit refused to be discomforted. Later that day, Annette expressed some need for me and I stiffened, quietly resenting a new obstacle in my course.

‘Thank You God for revealing what resists love. As we confess our sins, purge our hearts and console us with almighty mercy. Make us as expansive and generous as You are. May we welcome You and others more fully this Advent.’

Advent-1

Advent 1: Clearing the Cluttered Heart

‘Be careful that your hearts be not weighed down by the anxieties of life.’ (LK 21:34)

On the first week of Advent, Jesus deals with the ‘Martha’ in each of us by summoning her sister ‘Mary’; ‘Choose the greater thing…“Be watchful and alert” (MK 13:33) to my dwelling with you.’

No easy thing. I agree with Merton that we live in the time of ‘no room.’ We cram our hearts with more images and ideas than any sane person could savor. Fiendishly good at swapping opinions throughout the virtual universe, we are glutted by news but cannot glean the good news. As my pastor son recently sermonized: ‘I cannot hear God’s voice while surfing the Internet.’

Anxieties multiply and crowd out the One true thing. Global nightmares hypnotize us from screens we seem unable to turn off. We can smell the smoke and see the bodies; what once terrified us now becomes diverting. We seem to derive a strange comfort from connecting to others’ tragedies. Yet what displaces the drone of our real lives actually weighs us down and leaves little room for Him.

Off line, our real lives require more of Jesus than ever before. I just reread my prayer journals for 2014; I could hardly fathom the extremities I faced in my own little cosmos. Through it all, Jesus kept beckoning to me though His Spirit: ‘Stay free for Me… Don’t attach to that affliction or defeat or rejection or heresy… Entrust every fearsome to Me…’ Over and over, rest and peace and joy came only by following the words of St. Faustina: ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’

The enemy triumphs, not mostly through evident injustices, but through the roar of many little truths that crowd out the only Truth that matters. He came and is coming again. The cluttered, virtually addicted faithful run the risk of missing Him.

‘What can I say to the multitude of your thoughts? Don’t try too hard to heal your own heart, as your efforts might make it sicker…Keep Christ Crucified present to your imagination; in your arms and on your breast, and kissing His side, say a thousand times: “This is my hope, the living source of my happiness; this is the heart of my soul; nothing will ever separate me from His love!” ‘ St. Padre Pio

HURTING

November 23, 2014: For the Poor

“‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, a sick person or a prisoner whom we visited?’ ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of My brothers, you did for Me.’” (Matt. 25:37-40)

Today’s Gospel reading ends the Catholic Church year, and fittingly so. In the end, we are judged on the quality of our love, and in particular, how we loved the lost and the least.

It helps me to remember that beneath ‘gay’ advances, protests and parades lie hurting persons who have struggled most of their lives to feel at home in their own skin as male and female. That is real poverty: to be alienated from the sexual duality which defines us as image-bearers. Shame, loneliness, heightened fears, and a host of options as to how one might best resolve his/her ‘poverty’ adds confusion to the mix.

Not helpful is our indulgent consumer-driven culture; sex sells everything, not unlike Ezekiel’s description of Sodom, a city that was ‘arrogant, overfed, unconcerned for the poor and unwilling to help them, prone to detestable immoralities’ (16:49). Similarly, our young people grow up in a culture that discounts the real fragmentation that underlies same-sex attraction. Instead, most ‘experts’ glibly assert a ‘born this way,’ morally neutral condition.

Affording persons struggling with gender identity very few answers, we urge them instead to sexualize their distress. On the Internet, kids discover a ‘gay superhighway’ where they can conjure and connect with any ‘fantasy lover’ they desire.

We no longer advocate poverty for a wounded generation. We longer seek to understand what is actually going on at the core of same-sex attraction. Why does a growing boy refuse his maleness and yearn for completion in a more apparently realized masculine being? Why is a girl vulnerable to the sensual overtures of an older female friend?

There are answers but we no longer ask the questions. Instead, we cry ‘peace when there is none,’ and generate a host of sexual options for resolving what remains: a frustrated boy or girl working out deep needs and wounds related to his or her gender identity. In the end, (s)he is seeking a source of love that will confirm that identity.   

If we truly seek to be a community that goes after the lost and the least, we can begin by knowing that the ‘new’ answers about homosexuality are not working. No matter the new liberties touted by schools and laws and celebrities: kids that have grown up poor are not fooled. Gay identification and practice has not set them free.

The Church has the answers. We must activate them. Freedom for the gender broken can only come from a community of people who love them as they are while calling them to more—to Jesus’ generous self-giving. By confirming their deep need for love and healing, while helping them to live chastely, these young men and women can discover the gender integration that God wills for them.

I agree with Pope Francis: ‘What should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences is that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the light, strength and consolation born of friendship with Jesus, and without a community of faith to support them.’ (EG) Will we mobilize and become that community?

We at DSM/LW are witnessing a new rise of very young adults turning from ‘gay’ relationships toward Jesus. In His great love, God is freeing them to own their poverty. Let us the Church offer them the wealth of His love by loving them wisely and well. Their integrity as persons, and the integrity of the bride herself, depends upon it.       

‘How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’
Ps 82: 2-4

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Ministries of Pastoral Care (ministriesofpastoralcare.com): For wisdom and fortitude for their board members Anjonette Baum, Michelle Keil, Jed Taufer, Cesli Vaccaro, and board president Gino Vaccaro as they strengthen the foundations of MPC to reach this broken world.
  2. COR Project: For financial provision and creative inspiration and fortitude for Christopher West.
  3. Gianna Catholic Center for Women, Dr, Anne Mielnik Nolte- Director: Expansion of these vital Catholic centers for women’s health.

“Courage for Pope Francis, Reverend Justin Welby and Pastor Phil Strout, that they would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 20, 21, 22, 23

lie

November 22, 2014: The Lie of ‘Gay’ Love

‘That evil appears in the form of light, of beneficence, of faithfulness, of renewal, that it appears in the form of historical necessity, of social justice, is for the commonsense observer a clear confirmation of its profound evilness. We experience and recognize ethical reality not by craftiness, not by knowing all the tricks, but only by standing straightforwardly in the truth of God and looking to that truth with eyes that it makes simple and wise.’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today’s western culture has been captivated by the lie of ‘gay’ love. Out of the idol we have made of sexual expression, empowered by injustices we have committed against persons weak in gender security, our common enemy devised one of the most divisive strategies of our century: the ‘gay’ way or the highway. 

A western citizen is today considered ‘enlightened’ if (s)he embraces homosexuality as inborn and unchangeable, its expression worthy of all privileges accorded marriage and family. For upholding marriage, and disagreeing with the ethical good of ‘gay’ practice, that same citizen is judged at best as ignorant and worse as a bully, a bigot, and a ‘hater.’ Criminal charges may apply: anyone not on the ‘gay’ bandwagon will lose reputation and may lose his or her business for not cooperating with ‘gay’ weddings.

Seeking relevance, the Church at large has been reduced to silence then slow concession to what is a fierce yet well-cloaked ‘gay agenda.’  (I have witnessed this ‘agenda’ since I came out of homosexuality in the late seventies: even then, it was apparent that wealthy gay politicos were aiming at the gold ring of ‘gay marriage.’) The tactic is simple and goes something like this: “‘Gay’ people are loving and wounded. How can we further wound them by not giving them what they want? We believe in the pursuit of happiness for all, don’t we?”

Seeking to be ‘loving’, the Church bows to such superficial questions with superficial answers. I was shocked by an interview with Cardinal Schonborn (whom I deeply respect) after the Synod on the Family when he said: ‘I know a marvelous ‘gay’ couple in my diocese who really care for each other…’ On that basis, Schonborn encouraged radical (and I believe false) changes in the Catholic Church’s approach toward persons with same-sex attraction.

The new enemy of the Church’s clear understanding of sexual humanity is ‘nice.’ Without doubt, many persons with same-sex attraction (I do not use the language of ‘gay’; it is a socio-political identification that hinders persons from resolving the attraction) are kind and loving and capable of committed friendships. Not the question. The question remains: what is our sexual humanity for?  If we as Christians are not clear that the purpose of our engendered self is to mature into whole-enough gifts for the other so that we can create new lives together, then we have lost our way. We do no-one any favors to alter the boundary lines to include sexualized same-gender friendships, just as we did an earlier disservice by accommodating extramarital sex on the basis that ‘Christians do it anyway.’

Our young interns and I recently studied ‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’ (Abingdon Press, Dr. Robert Gagnon), the best and most scholarly approach to the subject. Without doubt, Scripture from start to finish prohibits all homosexual acts on the basis that gender ‘discomplementarity’ is an act of treason against God and one’s fellows. Period. Our ‘loving’ hearts deceive us. An ‘agenda’ has deceived us. A common enemy has deceived us.

It may be too late for our nation to take marriage back from that agenda. But Jesus Himself will not allow His bride to be deceived. We must wake up and repent. It is not too late to forsake our ‘nice’ concession to ‘an enemy who came only to steal, kill, and destroy’ lives. (JN 10:10) In concert with the One who came that ‘all may have life and have it to the full’ (JN 10:10), let us open wide the doors of our hearts and churches and provide a merciful womb in which all may repent of the deception that is destroying them.

‘In the last days there will be scoffers who follow their own ungodly desires. These are men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained with corrupted flesh’ (Jude 17-23).

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Church Unity/Ecumenical Spirit : Unity in the body of Christ as Living Waters is offered in both Catholic and Protestant churches. Also for an ecumenical spirit to be strengthened and encouraged throughout each community running Living Waters.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Southern California, Los Angeles area, Maria, Pilar, Zefereino and team: for discernment and wisdom as far as the best church covering for upcoming Aguas Vivas group.
  3. Encourage:  Bob and Susan (National Overseers): For grace to equip and unify chapters of   Courage around the country. KC Courage and Encourage : For an increase in local KC chapter of Courage/Encourage.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 20, 21, 22, 23

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