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The Epic Battle

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This week had me pondering the epic battle of good versus evil. For me, the devil is real. The devil is not a person or living thing. The devil is an embodiment of all things that are the opposite of God. It is a detail of a bigger picture, a detail found in how people treat one another. I came to appreciate the reality of the devil not through folklore and scary stories, but through deeper understanding of free will and sin. I always tried to help my students understand that God created all things with love and goodness. All things are inherently good. He gave us everything we need to be good and do good. He gave us grace, reason, and a conscience. He even gave us His son. But beyond that, He loves us so much, that He also gave us free will. We are not bound but free to do what we wish even though His greatest wish is for us to be with Him. We can choose good or evil. We are always being pulled in one direction or another. The measure of those decisions is our closeness or distance from God and one another. The devil would prefer us to be separated from God. One can’t help but see how our world is falling farther and farther away from God as we live in the post-Christian era of modern times and the effect it is having on our way of life. We are growing more suspicious, distrusting, selfish, angry, and all manner of other disagreeable adjectives. With this, I turn to Scripture. In the temptation of Christ in Luke 4: 6-8 , the devil takes Jesus and shows him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant and says, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me” and Jesus says, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” Jesus turned down the offer. This means the devil is in charge and remains in charge except for those who ally themselves with God. The devil is real. Jesus does not need the devil. Jesus is all-powerful and mighty. Good does prevail. Always. Jesus gave His life to make sure of it.

St. Michael, the archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him we humbly pray,
And do you, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God,
Thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits,
Who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Posted by Jill Fischer
Tags: jesus, god, evil, devil

The Chosen

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A few months ago, I was needing to let my brain quiet down for a bit and started looking for a brainless show to watch on TV. I recalled hearing about the series called “The Chosen,” so I searched for it. I watched the first episode, then the second. I am now in love with this series. For those that do not know what the series is, it is about the life of Jesus. As a child, I grew up watching the TV mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth,” which was the quintessential telling of the life of Jesus at the time. My brothers and I watched it every time it was on even though we knew how it would go. We even recorded it on our VHS so we could watch it whenever we wanted. (I know, I am dating myself terribly there and sounding like a total nerd.) When I began teaching, I took those VHS recordings to school and shared them with my students during Holy Week. I loved that I could quote Scripture while watching the Gospel come to life. “The Chosen” captures me in an entirely different way. The gospels scripted “Jesus of Nazareth.” It isn’t the same with “The Chosen” even though the gospel is there. It is more of the inspiration and guide than it is the script. I am finding myself falling in love with my faith all over again by watching it. The cast of characters that we all know have become so real, so human. I find myself laughing and crying while I watch. I am completely captivated by it all. What I am seeing is exactly how I imagined things to be when I take time to ponder the gospels. I am transported to a different place and find myself desperately wanting to be with Jesus. Is that weird? I am falling deeper in love with Jesus because of this show. My faith is being reinvigorated and restored. I highly recommend it.

Posted by Jill Fischer

The Tenth Commandment

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The Tenth Commandment, reads almost exactly the same as the ninth. “You shall not covet…anything that is your neighbor’s…You shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbors. (CCC # 2534)” We have traditionally taken the Ninth Commandment to mean not coveting your neighbor’s wife and the tenth as not coveting your neighbor’s goods, but it is quite obvious that God felt he needed to be very clear and specific and say it twice. In fact the Jewish Ten Commandments incorporate our ninth and tenth into one. I do not know the history of how the differences occurred except to say, isn’t that just like religions, they can’t even agree on the same Ten Commandments.

If the Ninth Commandment speaks to the deadly sin of lust, this commandment speaks to the deadly sin of greed-with a side of envy. They are not so far apart in their sinfulness. Wanting is wanting, whether it be person, place, or thing. Both these two commandments come around to remind us of the first three. “Where our heart is so will be our treasure (Matt. 6:21).” Anything we want besides God becomes idol worship. God is not admonishing us by this commandment as much as warning us. We will not be satisfied with “stuff.” Wealth never sees enough wealth, there will always be someone who has something more. For me, it was always my distain that I was never the smartest. In grade school, high school, college, medical school, and even in seminary, I wanted to be number one…I was always about number sixteen.

Someone was kind enough to give me a one year subscription to the Wall Street Journal. I like to read newspapers, and I have been so disappointed with the content and the cost of the Milwaukee Journal that I took to reading my sister’s Wall Street Journal. One of the more interesting features, which I think is on Friday, is subtitled ‘Mansions.’ It lists some very high end homes for sale, in the 35 million dollar range. It must feed many people's desire for want, under the cover of, “I was just curious.” I get reminded of my sin every Friday.

I like Fr. Richard Rohr. He wrote this about the Tenth Commandment. See if you agree, “We can’t possibly preach on, 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods' because Western society is based on this. It is called capitalism. Mass advertising tells us we need things none of us need. It sows confusion about what’s important for life. The level of need has moved to such a level of illusion and sophistication that what were once ultimate luxuries have become necessities…The affluent West has made happiness impossible. We’ve created a pseudo-happiness, a pseudo-success, a pseudo-security that will never satisfy the human heart.”

I quoted him extensively because I want you to spend some time on his words. I know my definition of success was money, a career, “running with the big dogs.” But as I may have said before, God gave me a king’s ambition with a jack’s ability, so I was always just off the mark. This led to a dissatisfaction with my work, and then the death of my wife, and the walls of what mattered came crashing down all at once. It took a spiritual car accident to get me to wake up to God’s voice. Our struggle is not with others, our struggle is within ourselves. The need to matter, outside of mattering to God, seems to drive these desires. We try to prove we matter by accumulating stuff. We are all guilty of this desire. Even now as I write this, I still have about fifteen pair of Allen Edmond shoes from my past life still neatly tucked away. If you saw my black and whites for Christmas, you were privileged to see a pair from my collection.

So here is my debatable point. Lust, greed, and envy, are products of our brokenness, our Original Sin. We can never, even with the grace of God, be freed from these temptations, because they are a part of our broken humanity. They are the reality we carry in our hearts that we are not masters of the world. If we were to be freed from them, we would believe we were gods. So what we need to do is harness the energy of these drives and direct them to good and moral ends. We must use our “lust energy” to build up other people rather than satisfying ourselves. We must use or envy to support those who have fallen instead of stepping on them to get higher. We must use the energy of greed to give from our need. This is how I view this commandment, not as something we should constantly judge ourselves in what we do and not do covet. Rather, I see this commandment as a reminder, as means of using what we would do for selfish motivations, are channeled into self-less caring. Now that takes the grace of God and you know what …he knows it, because he is the one who made this commandment in the first place.

I have had a personal experience which convinced me, and I can tell you as fact, that nothing we have here matters. What does matter is the love and goodness you have built up by practicing the challenging of our brokenness with the grace of God into service, and then God alone will be our only desire. St. Theresa of Avila said that is the Way to Perfection. 

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