Friday, January 28, 2005

Reading for (and from) St. Thomas Aquinas

Here are some words from the Angelic Doctor himself. They are taken from the Liturgy of the Hours, a book of prayers for each and every day of the year.

From a conference by Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest

The Cross exemplifies every virtue

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act. It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake. If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame. If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink. Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honours, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Santa Claus and the Dumb Ox (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Today is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas. Here is a bit of his writings:

Demonstration of God's Existence

I answer that, The existence of God can be proved in five ways.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence--which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

(Summa Theologica, I, q. 2, art. 3)

Here is a spoof, of sorts:

(from Joseph Magee's Thomistic Humor Page)

Whether Santa Clause Exists

We proceed thus to the third article:


It seems that Santa Claus does not exist; because Christmas gifts are able to be given by good elves. Therefore, Santa Claus does not exist.

Further, if Santa Claus did exist, there would be no narrow chimneys. But there are narrow chimneys, and sometimes there are no chimneys at all. Therefore, Santa Claus does not exist.

On the contrary, Kay Starr says: "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night."

I answer that, The existence of Santa Claus Can be proved in five ways.

The first and most manifest way is that taken from Christmas trees. It is certain and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are Christmas trees. Now no pine tree becomes a Christmas tree unless it is trimmed. Now to be trimmed means to receive ornaments from another. But this cannot go on to infinity in the trimming of Christmas trees. One must come to some first untrimmed trimmer; and this everyone understands to be Santa Claus.

The second way is from the nature of Christmas gifts. We see that in the world that Christmas gifts are given and received. Whoever, then, gives Christmas gifts either receives them from another or makes them in his workshop. If, however, no one makes Christmas gifts in his workshop, they are not given nor received. Therefore it is necessary to posit some first giver of Christmas gifts, who everyone calls Santa Claus.

The third way is taken from plastic images resembling Santa Claus. At all stores we see things of plastic that represent Santa Claus. These things are of such a quality that they are representations according to Santa himself or according to other images of him. But, it is not possible to proceed to infinity in images. Therefore, it is necessary to posit something which is resembling Santa Claus and hence Santa Claus exists.

The fourth way is taken from the grades which are found in Christmas spirit. Indeed, in this world, among men there are some of more and some of less Christmas spirit. But "more" and "less" is said of diverse things according as they resemble in their diverse ways something which is the "maximum." Therefore there must be something which has the most Christmas spirit, and this we call Santa Claus.

The fifth way is taken from the behavior of children. When Christmas day approaches, we see from their being good always or frequently that children, who lack understanding, are moved because of an end. But children would not be good because of the Nativity of Christ unless there were someone who strengthened them so that they were good. And this someone is known by all to be Santa Claus.

Replies to Objections:

Good elves, since they receive Christmas gifts from another, should be named the highest helpers of Santa.

It is not impossible that Santa Claus should use the door like everyone else.

* Also known in various places under the name of Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, etc.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Martyr to Liberty

In honor of today's holiday, I thought I would recall an essay I wrote back in college for the student newspaper, San Francisco Foghorn. If only we kept to the principles advocated by the reverend.

15 Jan 95

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr: A Martyr to Liberty

I have a dream ...

Thus spoke a man of the cloth, a martyr of liberty, delivering one of the greatest speeches in American history. As the country recognizes the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a national holiday, it is important to reflect upon what drove this man. What laid the seeds that grew and sprouted a dream which rang the bells of freedom? What kept the flame of this dream alive as it endured, burning throughout the showers of injustice, prompting this man to recognize that “social change cannot come overnight,” and at the same time persevere as he hoped it would cause “one to work as if it were a possibility the next morning”? What we find is a side, perhaps a deeper, more personal and spiritual side, to a man many may not truly know.

Through a reading of King's writings, we are led to the door of Truth and the Truth shall set us free. This door opens on the fundamental source of enlightenment for King. He tells us that this source is a law that binds all men. He appeals to this subjection to a law outside of man as he quotes Gandhi's affirmation that endured suffering will outlast inflicted suffering: "And in our winning freedom we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process." Whether one believes in God or not, it does not matter, for the law which he speaks is knowable to all men. Apostle Paul wrote that "what this law requires [of men] is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness." (Rom. 2:15)

It is this conscience that leads men to two civil actions: obedience or disobedience. The Reverend King believed in obedience to laws that were rooted in “the moral law and the law of God.” What to do if laws are not so rooted?

King writes that disobedience is morally justified since “there are two types of laws: just and unjust laws.” Our conscience is not the standard and authority on such a matter, only the medium. How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? King answers, "A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law." He quotes St. Thomas Aquinas by stating that "an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law." In addition, he praises measures taken by Christians who are “called to obey God rather than man.”

Understanding the necessity of law, King explains how and when one is to break an unjust law. He writes, "One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law." (Emphasis added.)

He was disappointed, however, by Christians who didn't heed the call. He urged a return to the traditional Judeo-Christian ethics. His warning was strong as he observed, "If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century."

The nonviolent civil disobedience that King advocated was nothing new. He tells how "it was 'illegal' to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers ..."

This extremism, of sorts, was also nothing new. King identifies his brand of extremism—civil disobedience—with Jesus, Amos, Paul, John Bunyan, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. The question, King says, "is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be." If a man is not willing to act on his love, then is it love? "To suffer in a righteous cause is to grow to our humanity's full stature." To what point do we struggle? King tells us that if a man "has to go to jail for the cause of freedom, let him enter it in the fashion Gandhi urged his countrymen, 'as the bridegroom enters the bride's chamber'—that is, with a little trepidation but with great expectation."

Without such love, there can be no struggle resulting in joy and liberty. "There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church; I love her sacred walls. ... Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists." His deep love is not only for the church and ethics set down by the two Covenants but for humanity and natural rights (especially those reaffirmed in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence).

Phaizon Wood, Director of Multicultural Student Services, recently reminded us in USFnews that Reverend King was deeply concerned "about a capitalism without a moral center." A moral center? Yes, King did profess a strong belief in what he deemed "the moral way." Such a way is pursued through dreams. Not unattainable dreams, but dreams that take us to the mountaintops. Dreams that cause us to look from the heights of the land into the stars and proclaim, as King did, "I've seen the promised land." It is a dream that, despite the conditions and limits of man, is limitless. It is like a rock that stabilizes the passions and frustrations of a people as they see around them a world parading liberty, while the homeland of such a possession floated in the pools of injustice saying, "Wait." King voices this frustration from a Birmingham jail as he reminds “fellow clergymen" that "the nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter."

It is a dream that, amongst the strife, tension, and injustice of his day, instilled a happiness with no worries: "But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God..." As the Psalms sing of trust in God despite the wickedness of man, "I praise your promise; in you I trust, I do not fear. What can mere flesh do to me?" so does King, "I'm not fearing man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Without these dreams rooted in the "moral way," our ethical center rots. If we separate ourselves from the center, from what King called "the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage," then we will, as other societies who have neglected such permanent things, fall into "a descending spiral ending in destruction for all.” Whether intentional or not, King here reminds us of a vision from Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

King calls on us to reclaim our center: to wake from our moral slumber, break out of the nightmares of immorality, and carry forward the dream of our forebears, "a dream deeply rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed--we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

King’s dream contains a "promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." A dream that yields "a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

It is a dream that "the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together." This glory is manifested in the faith that instills in man "a stone of hope" transforming "our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood." "With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning--'my country 'tis of thee; sweet land of liberty; of thee I sing; land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride; from every mountain side, let freedom ring;--and if America is to be a great nation, this must become true."

King's remembrance of the bells of freedom stirs what he says is a people "seeking to save the soul of America. They are taking our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers," as these "architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence."

This ringing, which resonates a thundering sound of sweet liberty through the hearts and souls of all men, is grateful not to a law, not to an ideology, not even to man, but to God Almighty:

And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants—will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Global Warming Games

Games people play. Or perhaps I should say, "Games others play."

Posted by Hello
(Click picture to see in larger format.)

Sometimes, others will go out of their way to fool the rest of us. As Thomas Sieger Derr has recalled, there are those in the global warming fear-mongering crowd who will do just about anything to fool the rest of us. Stanford University's Steven Schneider is one such character. He is on record (in Discover magazine, 1989) as acknowledging:

To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. (Emphasis added.)

Being honest is an option? Being effective is a justification for lying?

Good thing so many of us trust scientists as much--or as little--as we do.

For more on this and further problems with the arguments that suggest/proclaim "global warming" is a real threat to humanity, check out this article, "Strange Science."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

New WMD's: Global Warming?

Whose on trial? Humanity? Are we really "attacking" the earth? Or is this just another episode of life in Bizarro land?

Posted by Hello

An article by Duncan Maxwell Anderson, aptly named "The Emperor's New Climate: Is Global Warming Real?," counters many of the charges brought against humanity--including one by a Brit scientist who says that global warming is "a weapon of mass destruction"--and highlights some of the many problems with the unfair and in all likelihood ineffective Kyoto Treaty.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Peggy Noonan: Writer, Mom, Person

Peggy Noonan.

One of the best writers and essayists around.

Here is a great article with and about Peggy Noonan, one of my favorite essayists.

She was a speechwriter to President Reagan and, prior to that, wrote for CBS's Dan Rather.

Here is a taste:

And then, miraculously, the White House, writing speeches for the president she so admired: the Challenger speech (“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”), the D-Day anniversary speech (“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent.”) and many others.

Enjoy the rest of the article by going to Crisis Magazine.

As well, check out some of her books:

When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

On Speaking Well

A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag : America Today

What I Saw at the Revolution : A Political Life in the Reagan Era

"Kierkegaard for Grownups"

I recently came across a helpful article on Soren Kierkegaard. It is written by Rev. Richard John Neuhaus. A good intro to Kierkegaard's thought and significance.

Here is the intro paragraph (I like the O'Connor reference):

That extraordinary writer of stories about the "Christ-haunted" American South, Flannery O’Connor, was frequently asked why her people and plots were so often outlandish, even grotesque. She answered, "To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you have to draw large and startling figures." I expect Søren Kierkegaard, had he lived a century later, would have taken to Flannery O’Connor and would have relished her affirmation of the necessarily outlandish. But then he would immediately be on guard lest anyone think that he does not really mean what he says, that he is anything less than utterly, indeed deadly, serious. He exaggerates for effect and witheringly attacks his opponents who suggest that his exaggeration is anything less than the truth of the matter. He writes, as he repeatedly says, for that one reader—the singular individual who has the courage to understand him—while at the same time describing in detail, and often with hilarious parody, the many readers who refuse to take him at his word. Kierkegaard was keenly (some would say obsessively) attentive to the ways in which he was misunderstood, even as he persistently and defiantly courted misunderstanding. This, as readers beyond numbering have discovered, can be quite maddening. It is also at least part of the reason why Kierkegaard is so widely read.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

24 24 Jack's Back 24 24

Jack's back. That's right. The best television show on the air is back. Tonight is the season premiere of 24, the show which set new standards for television drama.

Jack has been fired, but when terrorists strike, can Jack let it go? Can Jack stay away? I don't think so. Jack is back. And he is back with a mostly new cast. New boss. New U.S. President. New love. No more daughter (who always seems to get herself kidnapped). New agents. But the same annoying Chloe working at CTU.

Since he was fired for drug addiction, how does he make it back in?

Terrorists strike. Islamist terrorists strike and threaten more. Remember the Nick Berg slaughter? Well, these Islamist terrorists threaten a similar evil.

See it tonight, Sunday, at 8 pm. See more tomorrow, Monday, at 8 pm.

That's right. Two hours tonight. Two more hours tomorrow.

Thereafter, 24 will be on Mondays at 9 pm.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Sick Loved Ones and How To Help

There has been a lot of illness and sorrow in some lives lately. Two men are in need of prayers, my dad Leon and a friend Tom (who is still in ICU). Each time I pray I am brought back to the story of the Healing of the Paralytic. You can find it in a few of the Gospels. Here is Mark's version (RSV):

Chapter 2
1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them.

3* And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.

5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."

6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 "Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question thus in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say,' Rise, take up your pallet and walk? 10 But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--he said to the paralytic-- 11 "I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home."

12* And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"

Now, what strikes me each time is signified by the choice of words. This choice on Jesus' part displays utter beauty and mercy on his part. And, let's add, a reason to hope. What am I talking about?

A man is paralyzed. Does he suggest going to Christ? No. His friends do. Man is sick. Friends take him to Christ. Simple. However, they can't get in. The house is packed. The place is full. Do they give up? Do they say, "Well, we tried"? No. They persist. Without ceasing, they--in a sort of prayer--continue to get their friend to the One they believe in. Does the friend say anything? Does the friend say he wants to go to Christ? No. The friend is sick and paralyzed. For whatever reason, he is quiet, as if he cannot talk, as if he is too sick to communicate his desires or voice his protests. Yet friends are friends. They will not be turned away. They will continue to do for a friend, for a loved one.

The friends raise the paralytic up to the roof and lower him down through an opening, which they had to make on the spur of the moment.

Now, the key, the word that always grabs me: "... their ..."

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."

We all remember that Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic. As well, he soon heals the man of the paralysis. That is rather what we have come to expect from Jesus. But why? Why did Jesus do it?

Why did Jesus heal the paralytic? The text reveals the answer: "And when Jesus saw their faith, ..."

Their faith.

Jesus saw their faith and was moved. Jesus saw what they had done. Jesus saw that a group of believers in him loved a friend. Jesus saw that this group did not let crowds or a full building get in the way of transporting their friend to him. Jesus saw that this group risked to get their friend to him. They raised him up to the roof, made an opening, and lowered their paralyzed friend down into Jesus' midst.

They hoped for a healing. They got that and so much more.

Jesus was moved by "their faith." Because of their faith, he turned to the paralytic and forgave the man his sins. Jesus did not forgive him because of anything he (the paralytic) had said or done. No. Jesus forgave the man because of the man's friends. More precisely, Jesus acted because of the faith of the man's friends.

So, a group of believers took a sick or injured friend to Jesus and because of their faith, Jesus forgave the man his sins and then physically healed him.

Because of their faith, Jesus poured forth his mercy and graces upon the sick and injured.

We can help our friends and loved ones by carrying them to Jesus, not letting obstacles of whatever sort get in the way. Find another way when blocked. Find another means when things hinder you from bringing someone to Jesus. Raise him and then lower him onto the lap of Jesus. Lower him into the presence of the Lord. There, because of your faith, may Jesus see the sick and injured. May Jesus see and have mercy. May he save the sick and injured brought to him. May he even hear our prayer for physical healing. We may not get that one answered in the way we would like and when we would like, but in the end all mysteries will be made clear. On the more important note, Jesus has forgiven and saved the injured and sick brought to him by friends or loved ones who believe in his power, who believe in his mercy, who believe in his compassion, who truly and wholeheartedly trust and believe in Him.

Thus, we truly become "co-workers" with the Lord. We bring to him those in need of his grace. We bring to him and thus help him in the work of salvation, in the work of saving souls.

This is his beauty, his goodness, his mercy.

For those unable to do so on their own, Jesus leaves the sick and injured with friends and loved ones to intercede on their behalf, to be "co-workers" with him.

Because there are those who are unable to seek him on their own, Jesus leaves the sick and injured with us, with you and with me. To work, to pray on their behalf.

When petitioned out of hope and love, Jesus sees the faith of friends and loved ones who bring to him someone in need of the Lord's care. Because of this, "their faith," Jesus--we pray--will turn to the sick and injured, those who cannot come to him on their own because of their weak and frail state, and he will forgive them their sins, saving them, and then--in all hope and yet acceptance if it does not happen--he will once again utter those sought after words, "I say to you, rise, ... and go home."

Please pray for my dad Leon and friend Tom as they both struggle and fight to recover from serious illnesses, that they both may soon rise and come home. May God bless them and their families in these difficult times.

Ethical Living, Week 1

Finished week one in The Book of Jewish Values. (See below.) Well, it is a good read and recommended. Some highlights that I have not shared as of yet:

"What Would God Want Me to Do?" Day 4

"... Jewish tradition teaches that offering one's time and one's heart represents the highest type of giving.

"... be on the alert for opportunities to perform deeds of kindness. Do you see a frail person in the street carrying a package that seems too heavy for the person to manage? Have you come across an acquaintance who seems upset and distracted, and is in need of someone to speak with? Do you spot a neighbor who is recuperating from an operation and needs a companion with whom to take daily walks to build up her strength? ... before you rush away, ask yourself the question, 'What would God want me to do?'" (8-9)

"Be Generous Even When Your Instincts Are Lazy" Day 5

"Withholding goods from others because of laziness is selfish." (9) Where are all those old clothes?

"When You're Tempted to Cheat" Day 6

This one speaks for itself.

"Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov ... once hired a wagon driver to take him to a nearby town. The two men soon passed by a field filled with luscious produce.

"The driver stopped the wagon, turned to the Baal Shem Tov--whose identity he did not know--and said, 'I'm going to get us some good vegetables from that field. You be the lookout. Call out if you see anybody coming.'

"As the driver bent down to pick up some vegetables, the Baal Shem Tov screamed, 'We're seen! We're seen!'

"The frightened man ran back to the wagon and raced away. After traveling a short distance, he turned around and saw no one behind them.

"'Why did you call out like that?' he angrily castigated the rabbi. 'There was nobody watching.'

"The Baal Shem Tov pointed to the heavens. 'God was watching. God is always watching.'" (10-11)

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Plato?! How was I supposed to know?

Aside from my daughter's cards, this is one of the best birthday cards (Off the Mark cards) I have received. Thank you, J. It so fits me, though let's hope I'm one with a book.

Hmmm? Wonder what happened to the other funny cards. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Saw this in the paper the other day and, since I have been trying to come up with a finalized essay for a philosophy class, I thought it kind of captured my mental state as of late. ... Or does it...? Posted by Hello

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Go USC! Go Oklahoma!

Now that undefeated Auburn has won (albeit not as convincingly as I had hoped), it is time for USC and Oklahoma to tie. Why? So that the BCS is shown to be inadequate, once again. Get rid of it. Have a playoff or return to traditional bowl games. BCS cheated Texas the past few years. This go around, it cheated Auburn out of a chance to play for the so-called "national title."

And if someone is going to win, let it be the team from Pac-10, the west coast, California: USC.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Being Honest

In The Book of Jewish Values,

Week 1, Day 2

"'Let Your Fellow's Money Be as Precious to You as Your Own'"

Rabbi Telushkin comments upon an often neglected aspect of honesty. The point he makes here is that we should be honest in our dealings with other people. Honesty is so important it is compared to observing the Bible itself: "honesty in one's dealings with others is equated with observance of the whole Torah." (p. 5)

In fact, he points out, Jewish tradition teaches that "the first question one will be asked by the heavenly court [for judgment] after one dies is not 'Did you believe in God?' or 'Did you observe the Jewish holidays?' but rather 'Did you conduct your business affairs honestly?'" (5)

Was I just? Did I give what was due the other person? Did I give what belonged to him? It either belongs to him because of his nature as a human or it belongs to him because of some agreement or arrangement. Either way, it belongs to him. Did I cheat someone? Or did I treat him honestly? Did I treat him the way I would want to be treated?

How we treat our neighbor is important. It is not just what we say we believe or make ourselves do as far as religious observances are concerned. It is those, but it is also, perhaps moreso, how we treat others. This command is so important, one rabbi offers the following guideline: "Let your fellow's money be as precious to you as your own...." (5)

Why is money so important? It is not a good in itself. As P. J. O'Rourke says, you can't eat it. You can't drink it. You can't wear it. (Well, maybe I'll leave that one alone.) It is a tool. It is used for other things, to get other things. Moreover, it is used for productivity and increasing more wealth. Anyhow, before I get too far off course, let's close that parentheses.

How we treat others in dealings is very important. Do we cheat them? Do we give them the same respect we would want? Do we let them know what is really going on? What the true value is of something we are exchanging with them? Do we give good reason for the warning, caveat emptor?

Do we return money when we find it and we know whom it belongs to?

Dealings with money are so important that one rabbi concluded, "Only he who is reliable in money matters may be considered pious." (6)

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Don't Mess with TEXAS

Just in case you did not catch the news item of the weekend: University of Texas Longhorns outlast Michigan to win the Rose Bowl in their first appearance in Pasadena. With the game coming down to the final seconds, Longhorns field goal kicker hit the ball just hard enough and without too much curve to take the lead from Michigan and win the game, 38-37. Like the folks say, "Don't mess with TEXAS."

Living Ethically

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin has a book called The Guide to Jewish Living. It is a "Day-by-Day Guide to Ethical Living." I am enjoying it immensely. There is an entry for each day of the year and a special one for Shabbat of each week as well as a helpful glossary of Jewish terms.

Week 1, Day 1 (Today)
"On Hearing a Siren"
What do you do when you hear a siren? Rabbi Telushkin, in citing other rabbis, suggests we say "a prayer that the ambulance arrive in time. ... that the [fire] trucks arrive in time to save the endangered people and home. We should also pray that no firefighter be injured. And when we hear police sirens, we should implore God that the police respond in time to the emergency." (p. 3)

Why pray? Basically, he says, it makes us better persons, partly by developing empathy. "Furthermore, imagine how encouraging it would be for those being rushed to a hospital to know that hundreds of people who hear the ambulance sirens are praying for their recovery." (3)

Recalling a time he suggested this in a talk, Telushkin comments about one particular woman who was moved by what he had said. "When she was ten, she told me, she had been awakened from a deep sleep by passing fire trucks. It was almost one in the morning, and now, twenty-five years later, she still remembered her first response: it was so unfair that her sleep had been ruined.

"The next morning she learned that her closest friend, a girl who lived only a few blocks away, had died in the fire. Ever since, she told me, whenever she hears fire trucks go by, she prays that they arrive at their destination in time." (4)

There is much wisdom in the practical situations Rabbi Telushkin discusses. It is not just for Jews either so don't fret because of the title. It is a good book, especially one to start today, the first day of the first week of this new year. Rabbi Telushkin is a good author who knows how to write for the everyman. He has many books, one of which I like a lot (Ten Commandments of Character) and another (Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews) I hope to read soon.