One Saturday, many years ago, a friend of mine visits from out of town. Looking for some prayerful encouragement and, probably, a kick in the rear to get himself to confession, he confides painfully to me that he had fallen into a pattern of sexual sin, about which he is understandably distressed and embarrassed. (Let’s just say that the particular sins burdening him went beyond the solitary sort which many men are prone to these days.)
During a frank conversation in which my friend is searingly honest with himself, I offer some advice and encouragement, after which we clamber into my car and drive to a nearby parish so he can receive the sacrament of confession.
His discomfiture at having to confess these sins to another man is palpable.
Promising him the meager benefit of my prayers for courage and trust in the Lord’s mercy, I kneel in a pew at the back of the church while my friend approaches the confessional.
The red light above the door indicates that a priest is waiting for penitents. Aside from my friend and me, the church is completely empty.
15 minutes pass. My friend exits the confessional and scuttles to a back pew in the shadows of the left transept, where he remains motionless in prayer, head bowed, his face covered by remorseful hands.
There are no other penitents.
5 more minutes go by.
The priest exits the confessional and walks toward the back of the church . . . where I happen to be kneeling.
The priest does not notice my friend kneeling in the transept.
The priest does, however, notice me.
The closer he gets, the more clearly I see the abashed look on his face as he recognizes me.
Although this priest and I have only ever exchanged but a few words in passing, he knows who I am.
“Awkward” is not a sufficiently descriptive adjective to describe the look we exchange as he passes by. Panicking, I realize the priest thinks he has just heard my confession.
“Oh, ho!” I imagine the good father thinking to himself. “What a fraud!”
Meanwhile, my friend remains conveniently engrossed in prayer for several minutes more, off in his wonderfully anonymous dark corner, unaware of the unpleasant little drama playing out as the priest whisks by me with that look on his face.
I admit, I am tempted to run after him and explain that he has it all wrong, that I am not that guy, that his new-found view of me is really just a case of mistaken identity. But I stay put.
Why? Because, in a momentary flash of (albeit dim) understanding, I am painfully reminded of my own lifetime-constructed ziggurat of sin and, 2) my savior, Jesus Christ, was wrongly accused of crimes He did not commit but for which He willingly suffered the penalty — for my sake. For my countless sins He suffered so that by His stripes I may be healed.
In the years that have passed since that day, I occasionally see that priest. In truth, I have searched for but never detected even a hint of “that look” on his face when he sees me. Perhaps he forgot what he heard in the confessional minutes later (many priests have assured me that this happens to them — a kind of grace of state that enables them to blank out any lingering memories of what is unburdened to them by penitents). Or maybe he is just a kind and compassionate man who would never even think of betraying the thought that he had been scandalized. I don’t know.
I do know this though: My sins may be different from my friend’s, or yours, or that priest’s, but I am a sinner in grievous need of God’s grace and mercy, just like my friend. Just like you. And I am so grateful to the Lord for his gift of the sacrament of confession. He knows how much and how often I need it.
I’m pretty sure that some, perhaps even many, of these poor, battered, starving North Koreans are only “weeping” because Big Brother is keeping careful track of who does and who doesn’t. Sure, some of them have no doubt been brainwashed to believe the Big Lie, but not all. Now that Dear Leader has died and gone on to his eternal reward, I hope North Korea can somehow rid itself of the atheist Communist cancer that has subjugated it for so long. Maybe a lot of them aren’t cyring for Kim Jong Il, but for themselves, as they reflect with fear and despair on their horribly bleak predicament.
The day I flew into LaGuardia Airport early this year, I missed this. From my vantage point above Lower Manhattan, I couldn’t pick out this tower from the among the other high-rises clustered around what, a little over 10 years ago, had been the World Trade Center. I wasn’t sure what to look for. Now I know. Since then, One World Trade Center has been going up so rapidly that it’s estimated it has reached the rapidity of “one story per day.” Impressive. And what’s beyond impressive are these recent images from the new edifice’s 90th floor. Wow. Just wow.
I admit, I can’t help but think about how utterly horrifying it must have been to fall from that height on September 11, 2001. May God rest the souls of all those poor victims of terrorism.
According to the Daily Mail:
When it is completed, it will be the tallest building in Manhattan and one of incredible poignancy for New York City. One World Trade Center reached its 90th floor this week – with just 14 more floors to go until the top. The structure can now be seen from all five boroughs of the city. Stunning pictures showed how the area has been reborn since the 9/11 attacks more than a decade ago where almost 3,000 people lost their lives in the worst ever terrorist attack on American soil.
Watching this short film will be 10 minutes of your busy life well-spent. One of my Facebook friends reacted this way: “If you do not have the time to make a three day retreat this advent, why not make it a ten minute retreat right here and now?” Personally, I couldn’t help but think of the reality that Jesus Christ is truly present to us in our neighbor, both when we serve Him (Matt. 25:31-46) and when He serves us (Luke 24:13-52). I would love to know your reactions to “Change.” Please watch. Please share.
I wrote this article 20 years ago to give an overview of some of the biblical aspects of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Pius IX, who defined this dogma, declared that Our Lady, “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin” (Ineffabilis Deus, 1854).
His face stiffened, and his eyes narrowed to slits. Until now the Calvary Chapel pastor had been calm as he “shared the gospel” with me, but when I mentioned my belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception, his attitude changed.
“The problem with you Roman Catholics,” he said, his forefinger stabbing the air a few inches from my face, “is that you’ve added extra baggage to the gospel. How can you call yourselves Christians when you cling to unbiblical traditions like the Immaculate Conception? It’s not in the Bible–it was invented by the Roman Catholic system in 1854. Besides, Mary couldn’t have been sinless, only God is sinless. If she were without sin she would be God!”
At least the minister got the date right, 1854 being the year Pope Pius IX infallibly defined the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, but that’s as far as his accuracy went. His reaction was typical of many Evangelicals. He was adamant that the Catholic emphasis on Mary’s sinlessness was an unbearable affront to the unique holiness of God, especially as manifested in Jesus Christ. . . . (continue reading)
I bet you can’t. But here’s a hint: It’s in your home right now. In fact, a batch of it is very probably within 3 feet of where you are seated. It’s vastly more expensive than gold. And guess what else: You go to a store routinely and pay for it. Can you guess what it is? By now, you probably can.
P.S. For more examples of shockingly high mark ups you pay on a 9 other common items, be sure to press the “next” link just below this part of the article.
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:28-33).
Then you haven’t seen this. For me, the best part of this show (if “best” can properly be used as an adjective in this case, which I don’t think it can) is the sustained expression of disbelief and consternation on the faces of the show’s judges. Oh, and I like the music.
Blessed Miguel Pro is a prominent example of Christian heroism in the twentieth century. The indefatigable Jesuit priest was martyred by the Mexican government in 1927 for performing his priestly duties.
Born on January 13, 1891, Miguel Pro Juarez was the eldest son of Miguel Pro and Josefa Juarez. His birthplace, the humble central Mexican village of Guadalupe, was especially fitting in view of his intense, lifelong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.
Miguelito, as his doting family called him, was, from an early age, intensely spiritual and equally intense in his mischievousness. From the time he could speak he had the reputation of being a motor-mouth, frequently exasperating his family with his humor and practical jokes, a trait which remained with him into adult-hood.
As a child he had an unbridled precociousness that sometimes went too far, tossing him into near-death accidents and illnesses. On regaining consciousness after one of these episodes, young Miguel opened his eyes and blurted out to his frantic parents, “I want some cocol” (a colloquial term for his favorite sweet bread). Cocol became his nickname, which he would later adopt as a code name during his clandestine priestly ministry. . . . (continue reading)
“Amish Haircut Attacks.” One might assume it is the name selected by an imaginative garage band or perhaps it’s a lost-in-translation title of a Pennsylvania-German language B movie. But one would be mistaken. In fact, the “Amish Haircut Attacks” in question were a real and quite bizarre series of depredations involving “forcefully cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women.”
Several members of the group carried out the attacks in September and October by forcefully cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women, authorities have said. Cutting the hair is a highly offensive act to the Amish, who believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.
The attacks struck at the core of the Amish identity and tested their principles. They strongly believe that they must be forgiving in order for God to forgive them, which often means handing out their own punishment and not reporting crimes to law enforcement. . . .
Aside from the Associated Press article’s clumsy and potentially misleading word order (Amish women don’t have beards), another weird element of this sad story is that the surname of one of the principle suspects is, get this, Mullet.
—The door to the vault must have accidentally been left open by the cleaning woman.
—The guard must bend over to tie his shoes and somehow he gets all the shoelaces tied together. He can’t get them apart, so he takes out his gun and shoots all his bullets at the knot. But he misses. Then he just lies down on the floor and goes to sleep.
—Most of the customers in the bank must happen to be wearing Nixon masks, so when we come in wearing our Nixon masks it doesn’t alarm anyone.
—There must be an empty parking space right out in front. If it has a meter, there must be time left on it, because our outfits don’t have pockets for change.
—The monkeys must grab the bags of money and not just shriek and go running all over the place, like they did in the practice run.
—The security cameras must be the early, old-timey kind that don’t actually take pictures.
—When the big clock in the lobby strikes two, everyone must stop and stare at it for at least ten minutes.
—The bank alarm must have mistakenly been set to “Quiet.” Or “Ebb tide.”
—The gold bars must be made out of a lighter kind of gold that’s just as valuable but easier to carry. . . . (continue reading)