user
14/Sep/2019

Our Lord faced a great deal of opposition in His day. It wasn’t because He was a bad person… quite the opposite. They hated Him for his goodness. They hated the Truth He personified. We understand in the age of the Church that He came to die for our sins on the cross… the leaders of His day just wanted Him dead because His Truth was obnoxious and threatening to them.

Wisdom 2:12 Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.

13 He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD.

14 To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us,

15 Because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways.

16 He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the righteous and boasts that God is his Father.

17 Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him in the end.

18 For if the righteous one is the son of God, God will help him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.

19 With violence and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.

20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

It has always been that way. The spirit of lies in the world has always hated the Truth and those who speak it. Whenever the spirit of the world has authority, free speech is outlawed. Christians are not allowed to proselytize in Islamic lands. Catholics and Jews are murdered for their faith. “Polite society” isn’t allowed to discuss politics and religion. The end result is a disordered society where the Truth is never heard and interpersonal contact is stunted… by design. The Truth may be considered politically incorrect… but it is always correct.

Our First Amendment enshrines our God-given right to freely speak in the firmament of our laws. This isn’t the freedom to say what is approved–we don’t need laws to protect acceptable speech. Our Founding Fathers wanted to be sure we would always have the ability to speak our minds… and those who speak the Truth will always ruffle feathers and someone will take offense. In essence, our First Amendment protects our right to offend. That runs contrary to modern sensibilities.

The religious leaders in our Lord’s day sought ways to condemn Him. Since our Lord lived a perfect life, their only avenue was to find some way that they could charge Him with transgressing the laws of the religious authorities–their laws, not God’s. One method used repeatedly was our Lord’s works of mercy on the Sabbath. The religious leaders taught that nothing was to be done on the Sabbath… not even good works. What they missed was the whole purpose of their observance… they were supposed to be following God’s Will! Why observe the Sabbath at all except that it is God’s Will? Keeping the Sabbath holy isn’t just an exercise of inward reflection and self-denial, it is also an act of love. Through observance of the Sabbath, we express love for God and, by extension, to all of those made in His image and likeness. Can we not serve another in need?

Luke 6 On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there.

Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?
” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so and his hand was restored.

But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

In a modern world that tells us to keep our religion to ourselves, is it lawful to freely exercise our religion? We can’t shrink from the public sphere and expect the public to respect the Way of the Lord. The world falls into darkness when it no longer hears the light of Truth.


user
23/Aug/2019

Those who know me know that I really like superhero movies. A lot. When I was a kid, I watched Superman at least 50 times in a single Summer. I identify with him. He’s kind of the “speak softly” (Clark Kent) “and carry a big stick” (Superman) kind of guy. That’s me. Where most superheroes wear masks to conceal their human identity while they’re fighting crime, Superman’s mask is his human identity. He’s a fascinating character study… and it’s fun to imagine having his abilities.

What makes superheroes super? One obvious trait is their powers and skillsets are superior to normal human beings. Power itself doesn’t make them superheroes, though… the bad guys typically have comparable abilities for the heroes to overcome. The hero part is the unique trait. Who says the bad guys MUST be overcome? Who made it their job?

Heroes know right from wrong and must deal with the obstacles to doing what is right. This is the fun part for a comic book writer… coming up with the ultimate challenge for their character and then trying to write them through it. The comic book franchises test their characters repeatedly by putting bigger and more impossible obstacles in their paths. One thing a hero can’t do no matter how impossible the situation becomes?

Give up.

Those who don’t read comic books often assume they lack the depth of traditional novels. Perhaps the name conjures images of the Sunday funnies. Comic books are a genre of story-telling that is best described as graphic novels. There is depth in the characters and complexity to their interactions with the world. The characters are not just super, they have to deal with the consequences of their actions and identity. Some of these stories can be emotionally intense and some comic book titles have even earned literary awards.

The problem for movie studios? Fans already have a picture of their heroes ingrained in their memories. How can you match that image in a way that does justice to the fan’s interest and doesn’t come across as a live-action cartoon? Either listen to those who know the characters the best, the fans, or be a fan yourself.

Bringing comic book characters to the film industry has been a decades-long challenge for Hollywood studios. DC Comics hasn’t been able to successfully bring more than a trilogy together for any of their characters on the big screen. This is a sharp contrast to the Marvel side of the house. Marvel has been wildly successful in their recent offerings. What’s the difference?

Story-telling.

Both franchises have a rich history of stories but DC keeps starting over and trying to retell the same stories in new ways with new special effects and more drama. Each director adds a spin of their own and tries to remake the characters in their own vision. They refresh the characters with each iteration and show something new to existing fans. What they haven’t done well is listen to the fans. Batman keeps beginning and Superman keeps getting introduced to Lois Lane. When it doesn’t resonate, they start over again. They seem think comic book fans don’t want stories they love from the comics, they want something totally different. They don’t.

Marvel has been successful in translating their biggest story arcs to the big screen. They don’t keep rebooting, they move the story forward with situations and characters the fans recognize. They focus on the fans and their expectations. Their actors are encouraged to read about their characters in the comic books to understand their own mythology. Marvel has been so successful that the actors have become their characters to their fans. Can anyone argue that Robert Downey, Jr isn’t Iron Man, Chris Evans isn’t Captain America, and Chris Hemsworth isn’t Thor?

It’s that simple. Listen to the fans.

Marvel’s secret is telling the familiar stories in a familiar format and making the characters relatable from the comic books. The movies are made by comic book fans for comic book fans. Just like the comic books, each major character has their own title that comes together for the big issues they can’t handle individually–the Avengers movies. The studios have contracted with their starring cast for the anticipated number of movies in which they would appear. As the movies proved popular, they had big-name stars like Robert Redford and others requesting to be in them. Success breeds more success.

In the midst of the great stories, there is also great consistency. Kevin Feige, the Russo Brothers, and Jon Favreau had the overall vision and kept the plot moving forward through each character’s franchise. There are nods throughout to comic book fans’ expectations and Easter eggs hinting at upcoming story arcs. It was brilliantly conceived and exceptionally executed.

Spoilers beyond this point… you have been warned. If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame, don’t read beyond this point.

The anticipation for Endgame was palpable. Avengers: Infinity War set up the impossible task for the heroes to overcome and fans were in a frenzy trying to figure how it would play out.

One theory I read online (written before the movie premiered) identified each Avenger with an Infinity Stone. There are six original Avengers and six Infinity Stones. The theory was that the Infinity Gauntlet was too much for any one of them so each would handle a stone in defeating Thanos.

That got me thinking about what actually occurred in the movie.

I noticed the directors actually did something similar to the theory above but with a different twist. The fate of each Avenger at the end of the movie can be related to an Infinity Stone.

Soul: This one is fairly obvious. Black Widow sacrificed herself so the heroes could attain the stone.

Time: Captain America is referred to as the “man out of time” throughout the series. At the end of this movie, he returns to his own time to live out the life he missed.

Space: Thor was meant to be king of Asgard after Odin died. Instead, he takes a different path and joins “the Asgardians of the Galaxy” in their return to space.

Power: Hulk is referred to often as “the strongest Avenger.” Using the Infinity Gauntlet left him wounded and weakened.

Reality: When Hawkeye lost his family, his reality changed. He became Ronin, an assassin. At the end of Endgame, he is able to return to his former reality when his family is restored.

Mind: The time heist was a product of the mind of Tony Stark. More than this, his armor allowed him to steal the stones from Thanos, bear them, and use them. His fate is due to the products of his mind.

I haven’t seen this theory anywhere else and I salute the brilliance of the writers for their story-telling skills. There is depth to the characters and meaning to their stories. They successfully brought the best attributes of comic books to the movies.


user
21/Aug/2019

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard…” Matt 20:1-16

It can be difficult to separate ourselves from our work. Work is the source of our income, our sustenance, even our self-worth and, for some, our identity. We want to be paid commensurate with our effort… and don’t mind an additional tip, if offered. We like to be complimented on a job well-done and noticed for our diligence. Our sense of justice is offended when we see others rewarded equally to ourselves when we know our work was greater.

The parable of the landowner who pays those who worked all day the same as those who came late in the day is a reminder of God’s sovereignty. Though we pray in the Lord’s Prayer for God to provide our daily bread, how many of us truly see it as our Lord’s gift and not our due for our own efforts? After all, we contracted for our wages, we did the work, and we purchased the bread.

The truth is, though, that we who put our trust in God’s providence do so with our whole being. We recognize that the very air we breathe is a gift. The time we have is fleeting. The faith we share is through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Is there truly anything we do on our own?

Yes.

We obey the will of God.

He called us to work in His vineyard. We obey. We do His will. It doesn’t matter how long ago we were called. Our reward for faithfulness is His to bestow… and He is generous. Through our Baptism, we have been reborn into the very household of God, taking on His Name; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our reward is our inheritance… undivided and undiluted. We are not mere day-laborers. We are sons and daughters called home to share in the heavenly banquet. Older children are not more precious than newborns. We are family.

What made the blessed virgin Mary “blessed among all women?” Was it because she was greater than any other woman who lived or will live? Was it because she sacrificed more or gave more in her life than any other? Or was it simply because she was made for a special purpose, faithful to God, and He rewarded her as He saw fit. Call it the luck of our lineage… some are born into royal families while others are born on the streets. Each has been gifted with life and purpose by the same God. We tend to see with earthly eyes of envy when we see another blessed greater than ourselves.

Opening ourselves to the heavenly reality helps us realize that our Lord is the giver of all gifts, the granter of all stations, and the author of all rewards. We should rejoice in all of His works, especially when He raises up our siblings in honor as a model for our own faithfulness.

May His Kingdom come and His will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Amen.


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"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government." -- Thomas Jefferson
"The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; it is right [to do so].... There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man." -- G.K. Chesterton
"The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them." -- Thomas Jefferson
“If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?” -- Frederic Bastiat
"Although all men are born free, slavery has been the general lot of the human race. Ignorant—they have been cheated; asleep—they have been surprised; divided—the yoke has been forced upon them. But what is the lesson? ... the people ought to be enlightened, to be awakened, to be united, that after establishing a government, they should watch over it ... It is universally admitted that a well-instructed people alone can be permanently free." -- James Madison
"Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery." -- Thomas Jefferson
"I respect ordinary thieves more than I respect politicians. Ordinary thieves take my money without pretense. (They) don’t insult my intelligence by proclaiming that they’ll use the money that they steal from me to make my life better." -- Walter Williams
A democracy flirts with the danger of becoming a slave in direct ratio to the numbers of its citizens who work, but do not own / or who own, but do not work; or who distribute, as politicians do, but do not produce. The danger of the 'slave state' disappears in ratio to the numbers of people who own property and admit its attendant responsibilities under God. They can call their souls their own because they own and administer something other than their souls. Thus they are free." -- Archbishop Fulton Sheen
"A time will come when people will not listen to accurate teachings. Instead, they will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear." -- 2 Timothy 4:3
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