Saturday, December 20, 2014

Receiving Our Lord

I recently saw a Facebook thread on whether people receive Hoy Communion in the hand or on the tongue. As you might guess (or not) it went the way of more Facebook controversial issues...

To most non-Catholics, it's a non-issue. Likewise to the 37% of Catholics who do not believe in the Real Presence. But for those of us who do believe, how we receive Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist is important. In fact it's supremely important, since this is the way in which we actually and truly meet Jesus, literally in the flesh. Think about it. How would you dress, how would you prepare, how would you approach Jesus if you knew you were going to see Him at church on Sunday? I bet you would want to treat Him with all the reverence you could show.

That's becoming harder and harder. When I was young, there was no controversy. We all wore our "Sunday best" to mass. Every church had an altar rail. At mass, we would approach the altar reverently and kneel at the rail. The priest, accompanied by a altar boy, would approach. The priest would announce "The Body of Christ" which we affirmed with an "Amen." The altar boy would place a paten beneath our chin to guard against the host or a piece of the host falling to the floor, and the host was placed on our tongue. We were taught not to chew the host, but rather let it soften and swallow it - so that morsels of the host would not become stuck in our teeth. Everything was pretty well thought out. You may not like the ceremonial aspects of it, but you have to agree it is reverent.

Now, in post Vatican II America, things are complicated. Most churches in the US have removed the altar rail, and the USCCB have said that they prefer communicants receive standing (although kneeling must be permitted according to the Church).

However, that's not the end of it. Priests on their own initiative, citing concerns about people tripping, have refused to give communion to people kneeling (in direct contradiction to Church rules). Also, most people receive in the hand these days (I'm sure there are parishes where this is not true, but I have not found one in New Jersey). And so, priests are not in the practice of giving Communion on the tongue.

Now, I would prefer to go back to the "old" ways, and receive kneeling, on the tongue. However, I receive standing, in the hand. I feel that given the problems I mentioned, receiving kneeling is more likely to provoke scandal (by the possibility of being refused and causing a scene) and receiving on the tongue is creating more of a danger of the host dropping to the floor or being mishandled. Thus, ironically, the most reverent way available to me is standing, in the hand.

I consider this to be discriminatory, as are most of the "inclusive" changes made over the past decades. For instance, allowing people to stand instead of kneeling may be considered inclusive (now there are 2 ways and you can choose) but in practice removing the kneelers means people who want to kneel can't easily, and ultimately means that they will be forbidden to kneel, as the practice has been discouraged to such an extent. It means only the ones who want to stand are accommodated.

Again, this may seem like a small issue to most, but when it comes to the way we approach God it becomes a matter of importance. I've been told it doesn't matter because "God knows what's in your heart" but it does matter. I would like to be able to do what my heart tells me to do. I don't know how many other people feel this way, but I wanted to share my views on the matter.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Moses Supposes his Toeses are Roses...

...but Moses supposes erroneously.  That's a line from a song in a movie I wish I had seen instead of "Exodus: Gods and Kings" today. Since everyone else seems to be reviewing it I thought I would too.

Upon the "curtain going up", we experienced 35 full minutes of trailers for other movies, some good, some horrible, all of which I wish I had seen instead of...well, you get the idea. I had skipped "Noah" after reading reviews that said it was wonky, but decided to give "Exodus" a chance after reading that it was boring because it didn't reinterpret the original story enough. Sounds like an endorsement to me!

However, I discovered that the people who said that the movie didn't reinterpret the Bible story enough probably never read the Bible. "Exodus" is a completely secular tale, and a bad one at that. One of my favorite Sci Fi movies, "Contact" has more religion in it than "Exodus." Both movies have a character who has a private encounter with the unknown which may or may not have been real, but at least "Contact" has a person in it who believes in God, and one who realizes that the world is much richer than she imagined. "Exodus" makes it clear that Moses is an atheist, and nobody in the movie experiences any change.

Spoiler alert. Well, there shouldn't really be any spoilers because we all know the ending, but here goes anyway. Note that I'm leaving out a lot, but I wanted to highlight some things that go terribly terribly wrong.

You may wonder how they pull the story off with Moses as an atheist. You see, Moses doesn't believe in the Egyptian gods (OK), but he also doesn't believe in the Hebrew God. He makes that clear when he climbs the mountain God has forbidden men to climb. Up there, he hits his head on a rock and starts talking to a "petulant" child (quotes are because that's what every other reviewer calls the depiction of the angel) who nobody else can see. Is it all in his head? Probably.

So Moses goes back to Egypt and becomes a guerrilla fighter for the oppressed, Che Guevara style. It is here that we discover that ancient Egyptian buildings were filled with high explosives, and that almost everything in the ancient world was apparently soaked in gasoline and would burst into flame at the slightest spark.

What is he fighting for? Religious freedom? No, he wants Pharaoh to pay the workers a living wage and grant them citizenship (ala President Obama). Pharaoh says this will cause economic chaos (are you listening, Mr. President?) and offers to do it, but over the course of a generation. God says He can't wait, and Moses is tossed aside as a failure.

How 'bout them plagues? Well, you see some giant CGI crocodiles stirred up some red mud, which made the water look like blood and killed the fish, and chased the frogs onto the land, where they died and bred flies, which bred disease. At least that's the scientific explanation given by Scotty - I mean the Egyptian scientist (who has a Scottish accent for some reason).

Of course Moses is mad at God because all these plagues are affecting the Hebrews too (what?). So God sends locusts and hail (or maybe it's all just natural phenomena, we're not sure) and Pharaoh says "I'm a god and I'm going to kill all the Hebrew children not yet walking." Strong words from someone who's just finished cutting down his own starving people in cold blood because they tried to steal his grain (which of course bursts into flame at the first spark).

So Moses tells the Hebrews to put lamb's blood on the door posts (nothing about eating the flesh of the lamb, of course - that would be too Catholic), and all the Egyptian children die, but none of the Hebrew children. Well, perhaps there is a God, you might think, but note that it is all children, not first born - soooo could be some natural phenomenon once again.

Pharaoh goes out to the Hebrews and gives Moses a somewhat ironic speech about how can the Hebrews worship a God that would kill innocent children (hellooooo Pharaoh - didn't you hear yourself the day before when you said the same thing?). So Pharaoh says "go" and they go.

Moses leads the people out to go to the Red Sea, which he found a way to cross at low tide on his earlier adventures, but Pharaoh has changed his mind and now wants to kill the Hebrews (Moses knows this because his riders spotted the Egyptian army's chariots just behind them). So bumbling Moses takes them by a shortcut to escape the army and gets them lost. They wind up at the Red Sea, but in the wrong place to cross.

Moses prays, but nothing happens and they all lie down on the beach to await death. But wait! The next morning the water is all rushing to one end of the Red Sea and they can cross!

Meanwhile Pharaoh has been riding his chariot at a gallop for two full days (and all night - they try to tell him to rest the horses, but he says "no"). After two full days of galloping the horses are almost in sight of the 400,000 men women and children on foot (with all their animals). But as luck would have it, the path that the 400,000 men women and children plus animals crossed is too fragile for chariots, and collapses, destroying 90% of Pharaoh's forces. The other 10% push on!

Apparently the Red Sea is only a few hundred feet wide, by the way, because Moses turns with a small group to fight the Egyptians, just as the water comes rolling back in. He sends his troops back to the far side as Pharaoh's troops abandon him for the near side. The Hebrews all make it, while the Egyptians all drown (probably because the horses were tired from 2 days of full gallop). Moses and Pharaoh are caught together in the middle, and both are swept to their respective sides alive.

The movie ends with Moses back on the mountain, watching the Hebrews worshipping a golden calf while talking to his imaginary friend, while chipping the Ten Commandments into stone tablets. After all, the written law will replace human leadership, or so sayeth God.

Obviously this is a very abridged synopsis, but I think it gives the feel of the overarching story, which sadly takes pains to avoid mentioning God, or any belief that He actually exists outside Moses' imagination.

I won't comment on the lack of acting, unfulfilled subplots, etc. that all the other reviewers have spoken of. They are correct, but I wanted to focus here on how a Biblical story can be so unbiblical. Yes, I have heard all the theories about the plagues and natural disasters. That's not what bugs me. It's that in a Biblical story, at least the people involved should themselves believe in God, even if we, the viewers, are led to a different conclusion. In removing that aspect of the story, nothing Moses does seems genuine or believable, and the story is, like all works without faith (or faith without works), dead.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Joke

A couple were Christmas shopping. The shopping centre was packed – as the wife walked through one of the malls she was surprised when she looked around to find that her husband was nowhere to be seen.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday Joke

At Duke University, there were four sophomores taking Organic Chemistry. They did so well on all the quizzes, midterms and labs, etc., that each had an “A” so far for the semester. These four friends were so confident that the weekend before finals, they decided to go up to the University of Virginia and party with some friends there. They had a great time—however, after all the hardy-partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn’t make it back to Duke until early Monday morning.

Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed it. They explained that they had gone to the University of Virginia for the weekend with the plan to come back in time to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final.

The professor thought it over and then agreed they could make up the final the following day. The guys were elated and relieved. They studied that night and went in the next day at the time the professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet, and told them to begin.

They looked at the first problem, worth five points. It was something simple about free radical formation. “Cool,” they thought at the same time, each one in his separate room, “this is going to be easy.” Each finished the problem and then turned the page.

On the second page was written: “(For 95 points): Which tire?”

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Joke

A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to "clean up" the bird's vocabulary.

Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. John, in desperation, threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John's outstretched arms and said: "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior."

John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Death of a Hunter

Disclaimer: I am not a hunter, nor do I play one on TV.

I read today about a man in Windsor NJ who accidentally shot himself while duck hunting. The man was 45 years old, out hunting with his father, who is 75 years old. Both men were licensed experienced hunters.

While many people responded sympathetically, the anti-gun/anti-hunting people had some very unkind things to say.

What's really sad is that the the guy who wished the family would die in a car accident got 17 "likes."

What is the world coming to when we can't even have sympathy for a tragic accident? And even those who don't make fun of or wish ill upon this poor man's family are using the tragedy as a bill board to call attention to their agenda. On twitter I read:

Man shot dead in West Windsor (NJ) hunting… || #GunFAIL 29th hunter shot, 9th hunting fatality this month.

But is that true? I went to the web site of the Committee to Abolish all Sport Hunting, which maintains a national list of all hunting accidents as an argument against hunting. For this month, nation-wide, they reported three this month, in MN, ND and LA. I guess four if you include this incident in NJ.

But let's say for the sake of argument that 9 hunters died this month. Does that mean we should abolish hunting? Approximately 3,000 people will die in car accidents this month, yet I don't see the same level of public outcry against owning and driving automobiles, or even against racing them. If the argument was against accidental deaths then we should go after the things that have the highest accident rate first.

New Jersey is in the midst of a hunting crisis. Game animal populations are so high that entire ecosystems are threatened. Every winter I watch out my back window as more and more deer destroy trees trying to forage for food. Later in the winter I see them trudging at all hours of the day and night, searching for food that's all been eaten, their ribs clearly visible.

With no natural predators, they overpopulate the area until there is no food left, and they are wandering onto the road, causing accidents, sometimes fatally. Yet those deaths are ignored in the hunting debate.

My anti-hunting friends suggest that we should put out deer food laced with contraceptives, Of course, this ignores the harm done to the environment by contraceptives in the water supply, and the effect it will have on other animal populations. Others say catch the deer and surgically sterilize them, but this is expensive, time consuming, cruel, and ultimately futile as a method of controlling deer population. And it's not just deer. Squirrels, rabbits, ground hogs, and other animals are severely overpopulated, leading to stress and disease among animal populations.

What's wrong with allowing people to kill and eat those animals? Hunting not only controls the animal population, but provides a food source, not only for the hunters themselves, but often for the underprivileged in society.

That's not to trivialize this story either, merely to point out that this man did nothing wrong (except to break the rules of firearm safety). Painting him, or other hunters, as evil is itself depraved. To the man who died, and his family, my heart goes out to them.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Joke

There was a poor old Irish cobbler whose shop was next door to a very upscale French restaurant.

Every day at lunch time, Mike, the Irish gent, would go out the back of his shop and eat his soda bread and maybe a kipper or piece of Irish blue cheese while smelling the wonderful odors coming from the restaurant's kitchen.

One morning, the Irishman was surprised to receive an invoice in the mail from the adjoining restaurant for "enjoyment of food"

Mystified, he marched right over to the restaurant to point out that he had not bought a thing from them.

The manager said, "You're enjoying our food, so you should pay us for it." The Irishman refused to pay and the restaurant took him to court.

At the hearing, the judge asked the restaurant to present their side of the case. The manager said, "Every day, this man comes and sits outside our kitchen and smells our food while eating his. It is clear that we are providing added value to his poor food and we deserve to be compensated for it."

The judge turned to Mike and said, "What do you have to say to that?" The old Irishman didn't say a thing but smiled and stuck his hand in his pocket and rattled the few coins he had inside.

The judge asked him, "What is the meaning of that?"

The Irishman replied with a mile wide grin, - "I'm paying for the smell of his food with the sound of my money."