Homily for St. Stephen

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! The day before yesterday, in the evening, and yesterday we celebrated Christmas, the feast of Jesus' birth. We contemplated the little child in the crib, sung "silent night", heard the tidings of peace for the world. And suddenly today, in stark contrast, we are clothed in blood-red vestments, we hear of the bloody death of Stephen, and of Jesus' warnings of persecution, death, and hatred for his name's sake. Is there a connection between Christmas and the martyr Stephen? How are we to understand this? Does it mean we shouldn't take the beauty and the peace of Christmas too seriously? It is a nice story, but the reality is different…?

This interpretation would be incorrect. The Church's long tradition of celebrating the memorial of St. Stephen after Christmas does not serve to demote Christmas, but to continue it, and to manifest more clearly an important meaning of the Christmas celebration. Jesus became man, became a child, so that he might also find a place in our hearts. We say that visually presented here, where the Christ child is lying in the heart… [regards the scene in the Church Cyrill and Method]. We fully understand Jesus' birth only in light of his being born in man's heart, in our heart. So after Christmas, the birth of the small Jesus, we contemplate also the birth of the Church, the Church as a child.

Now when Jesus comes to dwell in our hearts, that cannot remain without effect. It really makes a difference whether we let him in or not. When he who can do all things dwells within us, he transforms our hearts, and thus makes a difference in our attitudes towards one another and toward life. We see that in St. Stephen's life. As one of the first deacons he had a twofold task. He was assigned to the service of the tables, the "service of love" to the poor, so that the Apostles would have more time for preaching. But since he also the gift of preaching, he should also perform this ministry of truth. And Stephen, trusting in Jesus, devoted himself whole-heartedly to these tasks. He was stoned to death because his preaching of Jesus as the Son of God was considered blasphemy. Now, we might think that if Stephen, more considerate of the understanding and passion of his Jewish brothers for the oneness of God, had spoken more carefully about Jesus, he would not have been stoned, he could have continued to preach Jesus, he could have done more good….
But St. Stephen make no compromises concerning the truth. He proclaims the Jesus who revealed himself and whom he had come to know. But he does not proclaim this truth by way of violence or hatred, but in love and in self-giving. Until the last moment he forgives the men who kill him. As Jesus prayed for those who killed him, so St. Stephen prayed, "Lord, do not count this sin against them!" And his witness, his death was fruitful for the Church. The remembrance of this witness, for example, probably helped Saul later to accept Christ's message, and thereby to become the great Apostle Paul.

St. Stephen is an example to us of faithfulness to Jesus, an example of holding fast to the truth in love, of the way we all should and want to go. This way is not always easy. It is not always easy to avoid deviating too much in one or the other direction: to give up truth for the sake of love, or to give up love for the sake of truth. Sometimes one hears that faithful Christians, in order to be tolerant, must abandon the claim to truth, must not proclaim or hold the faith as truth or even as true, for that leads to intolerance and to hatred. But the example of St. Stephen shows us that the world needs the witness of the truth, and that it is possible to preach this truth in steadfast conviction and yet without violence, but in love and in self-giving.

Let us pray to Jesus, who came into this world as a child, that we have the courage and the wisdom to profess our faith in our family, in our workplace, wherever we are, in a convinced and convincing and loving manner, as St. Stephen did. Amen.

Summer Theology Program in Italy, 2012

The second summer program run by the Saint Albert the Great Center for Scholastic Studies will take place again in Norcia, Italy,  from June 18 to June 30, 2012.

The theme this Summer is biblical theology, focusing on the Gospels. Selections from commentaries by St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, and Joseph Ratzinger aim to lead to a deeper understanding of the Word of God and provide a starting point for discussion. Some lectures will be given on topics such as biblical inspiration, the use of the bible in the liturgy, and lectio divina. Again, a disputation in the scholastic style will be held during the program.

Holy Mass, the sung Latin Benedictine office with the monks, spiritual guidance and confessions are all readily available, and a number of optional excursions are offered.

Those who have or can make the time, and can afford the 675 Euro (at the moment just under $900 USD) plus the transportation to and from Norcia, are highly encouraged to consider this academic and spiritual program.

For much more detailed information, see the description of the program on the Center's own website.

Remedies for Gossip and Slander – St. Josemaria Escriva

Gossip and slander are frequently found even among those who consider themselves good Christians. Few things, however, are more harmful to a community. It can start innocently enough. One person makes a comment to a third person about something someone else did or said. Perhaps this first person doesn't even intend the comment to be negative. The person hearing the comment, however, sees it as reflecting badly on the person being spoken about. Instead of clarifying the situation, he passes on this juicy tidbit of gossip, possibly distorting it even more in the process. The telling of this rumor ceases to be merely gossip and becomes slander, that is, the making of claims detrimental to a person's reputation with reckless disregard for the truth, disregard for the fact that one possesses no substantial evidence for these defamatory claims. The whole process is deeply opposed to charity and very harmful to the relationships between people. The slide below illustrates the origin and spread of such malicious rumors:

Gossip turning into slander, causing mistrust

Such things are, regrettably, all too real and all too common.

 The biblical rules for dealing with the faults people commit are aimed to avoid this culture of gossip and slander.

 "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reprove him openly, lest you bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev 19:17-18)

When one sees or believes that someone has done something wrong, one normally must talk to that person, and tell him so; one ought, of course to be open to the possibility that one has misunderstood the situation, and that this person in fact did not do anything wrong, as well as to the possibility or even likelihood that even if he made a mistake, it was not out of malice. This open talk with the person whom one feels has done something wrong hinders the bearing of a grudge, a violation of fraternal charity. It also decreases the likelihood of seeking an outlet for one's grievance by unnecessarily making it known to third parties, gossiping about it.

Christ lays down a similar rule, and further clarifies the way to proceed in such cases:

"If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Mat 18:15-17 — The words "against you" are not present in a number of manuscripts.)

 To go to the person in private, if the situation can be then resolved, keeps other people from getting involved who do not need to know about the fault. It also avoids the danger of falsely accusing a person. When one goes to the person concerned, one may find out that one has misunderstood the situation. By going directly to him, one has avoided slandering him by passing on this defamatory misunderstanding to others.

Only if the situation cannot be resolved between the two persons should one bring others into the situation. And then one should if possible not immediately involve everyone, but bring only a third party or two in, who may help to bring more objectivity to the situation, at any rate as witnesses. Only if all such efforts fail need the sin be brought to the attention of the larger community to deal with it.

 Unfortunately, this rule of Christ, this rule of christian charity, is widely ignored. For various reasons (to avoid a confrontation with the person, to pass it on to someone more "capable" of dealing with it, to pass it on to an "authority", to feel better about one's own faults by talking about the faults of others, out of a pleasure in gossiping, etc.) most of the time people do not talk with the person they believe committed a fault, but talk about him to others. How can someone break this vicious circle of gossip? He can of course refuse to pass on such negative gossip himself, he can indicate disapproval of it, etc. But that often is not enough to stop the pervasive culture of gossip. Nor does it rectify the injustice (the damage to a person's reputation) of which he has become aware, at least not in most cases.

 St. Josemaria Escriva's advice

St. Josemaria Escriva proposes a radical method to counter malicious gossip: Tell the person who is spreading gossip that you will speak to the person concerned about it, and then go and do just that; and do not say "someone told me," but name that person, so that the one about whom such statements were being made can, if necessary, talk to that person himself.

"This is how you should answer a backbiter: 'I shall tell the person concerned' or "I shall speak to him about it."  (Furrow, 916)

"I can see no Christian fraternity in a friend who warns you: 'I've been told some terrible things about you. You shouldn't trust some of your friends.' I think it is not Christian because that brother has not taken the honest approach of silencing the slanderer first, and then telling you his name out of loyalty. If that brother does not have the strength of character to demand such behavior of himself, he will end up making you live on your own, driving you to distrust everyone and to be uncharitable towards everyone." (Furrow, 743)

This is illustrated by the following slide:

Breaking the chain of gossip

Of course, at this point the problems caused by gossiping are still not yet all resolved. Further steps would be necessary, such as e.g.:

Jen and Pat go on to talk to James, to clarify/resolve things with him.

Jen talks again to Randall, telling him he seems to have misunderstood the situation, and suggests Randall correct the mistake by talking to James and Pat and then to Tom to clarify Tom's statement that Randall had previously uncritically received (and possibly misinterpreted).

 

What do you think about this suggested procedure of St. Josemaria Escriva?

Ratzinger On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried

In 1998 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger introduced the volume entitled 'On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried', published by the Libreria in the dicastery's series. The third part of this introduction has been recently republished by the L'osservatore Romano. (Update: this part of the introduction is now available on the Vatican website: Concerning some objections to the Church's teaching on the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful). In outline, he makes the following points there:

(1) The possibilities of separation indicated in Scripture (the obscure case of porneia [Mat 5:32, 19:9], and division over faith [1 Cor 7:12-16]) do not justify relativizing Christ's restoration and elevation of marriage as a sign of the unconditional covenant of divine love.

(2) The patristic tradition clearly shows the teaching of the indissolubility of marriage, and does not supply grounds for a general pastoral practice at odds with this indissolubility.

(3) Epikeia cannot be applied to norms of divine law, and thus not to the indissolubility of marriage. Epikeia may, however, be applicable in the internal forum in some instances in which the external juridical judgment is mistaken (regarding, e.g., the validity of a first marriage). This question needs further study.

(4) The Church's teaching and practice is in full accord with and develops the teaching and personalistic orientation of Vatican II regarding marriage.

(4b) Further study is needed on the question regarding whether or not baptized persons who never or who no longer believe in God can truly enter into a sacramental marriage. "In other words, it needs to be clarified whether every marriage between two baptized persons is ipso facto a sacramental marriage." What is clear is that faith belongs to the essence of the sacrament. What remains to be clarified is what counts as an absence of faith that would hinder a sacramental marriage.

(5) A truly pastoral approach to marriage, including cases of divorce and remarriage, must remain faithful to the truth, which cannot be passed over or compromised. "In the end, only the truth can be pastoral."

Since this introduction is from Cardinal Ratzinger, at the time Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I have added this introduction to the timeline in the earlier post The Church on Reception of Communion by Divorced and Remarried Catholics.

Why is Hell Eternal?

There is general agreement among Fathers, Doctors, and recent theologians that those punished in hell are incorrigible. In cases where some allowed or allow the possibility of a certain soul's or person's conversion (whether that conversion occur through the first time meeting with Christ in the case of pagans who did not know Christ on earth, through a medicinal, purifying penalty, or in some other  way), they do not consider such a person doomed to everlasting punishment in hell.

However, there is less agreement on why those in hell are incorrigible. The common patristic account, when an account is given by those fathers who uphold everlasting punishment in hell, is that God has established this lifetime for grace and repentance, withholds his grace after death from those who died without charity, and therefore no conversion to God is then possible. Thus a person need not have fundamentally perverted their natural desire for good, need not be thoroughly bad, in order to punished in hell forever; it is enough to be overall more bad than good; one grave sin is enough.

The departed have not in the grave confession and restoration; for God has confined life and action to this world, and to the future the scrutiny of what has been done.

8. What shall we do in the day of visitation… when He will reason with us, and oppose us, and set before us those bitter accusers, our sins, comparing our wrongdoings with our benefits, and striking thought with thought, and scrutinizing action with action, and calling us to account for the image which has been blurred and spoilt by wickedness, till at last He leads us away self-convicted and self-condemned, no longer able to say that we are being unjustly treated — a thought which is able even here sometimes to console in their condemnation those who are suffering….

9. … [His right judgment] places in the balance for us all, our entire life, action, word, and thought, and weighs against the evil that which is better, until that which preponderates wins the day, and the decision is given in favor of the main tendency; after which there is no appeal, no higher court, no defense on the ground of subsequent conduct, no oil obtained from the wise virgins, or from them that sell, for the lamps going out, no repentance of the rich man wasting away in the flame, and begging for repentance for his friends (St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 16).

Recent theologians (possibly including Joseph Ratzinger), reluctant to affirm that the incorrigibility of those in hell is due to God's hardening their hearts in sin through a withdrawal of their grace, commonly hold that only those are in hell who have so distorted and perverted their will through deliberate sin, that it is impossible for them to convert, or impossible without a strict miracle. Thus only persons who became thoroughly bad in this life are in hell.

A middle position might be that in the moment of death God's love is so encountered that persons, depending on their life up till then and their state at that moment, necessarily either accept God's love, or so forcefully reject it that they thereby become thoroughly bad, even if previously they were not so, but had just failed to subordinate some true good to God.

It seems necessary to take one of these positions. Man's first, original will has to be good, since it is a natural will, from God, the creator of nature. And all man's particular choices and voluntary acts derive from this first original will for goodness, which must, just considered in itself, remain, as long as man's nature remains. Hence, man must remain capable of conversion to the true good, if guided through the right influences. Thus incorrigibility must be due either to God's taking away the possibility of those influences (a hardening of man's heart), or man's being in himself so set in evil that he is utterly closed to those influences that could otherwise draw him to good through his first and natural desire for goodness.

Luisa Piccarreta and the Divine Will

Luisa Piccarretta, who supposedly lived for many years on only the Eucharist and the Divine Will, experienced ongoing visions in which Jesus gave her an understanding of holiness that had not previously been granted to any saint, an understanding of holiness as being not only acceptance or submission to the divine will, but "living in the divine will", an identification with the divine will. When she asked Jesus how it is that till her time no saint had ever fully lived in the divine will, had never reached this degree of charity, she was told that it was because they lacked this understanding, that they could not love more than they understood. She was told that with this message of the Divine Will Jesus made her "Herald of the New Era" and had a vision in which the Blessed Virgin Mary was on Jesus' right side in heaven, while she (Luisa) was at his left.

When read charitably, taking into account both the mystical language and the imprecisions that can rightly be expected to arise when someone with very little education writes down 36 volumes of such visions, the essential message of living in the divine will seems to be none other than that contained in, for instance, the writings of St. Francis de Sales and St. John of the Cross on the union of charity. (If read with indifference or with antecedent suspicion as to the truth of the message, however, it might be equally possible to read her writings as affirming an identification of the human being with God that goes beyond, or is rather antithetical to the christian doctrine of deification and friendship with God.)

Nonetheless, some grave problems seem to be present in her writings with regard to the claims surrounding this message of holiness: the claim that  (1) this way of holiness is radically new and better than anything before it, that (2) Luisa herself surpasses all the previous saints in holiness, with the exception of the Virgin Mary, and that (3) this way of holiness depends upon "understanding".

(1) "My beloved daughter, I want you to know the order of my Providence. In every 2000 year period I have renewed the world. In the first period I renewed it with the flood. In the second 2000 years I renewed it with my coming to the earth and manifesting my humanity from which, as so many channels of light, my divinity shone. And in this third period of 2000 years, those who are good and the saints themselves have lived the fruits of my humanity, but have enjoyed my divinity scarcely at all. Now we are at the end of the third period and there will be a third renovation. This is why there is general confusion. It is due to the preparation for the third renovation." (January, 1919)

(1) "These writings cost me more than creation and redemption. They have within them all the value of My Will." (Vol. 23, March 8, 1928)

(1 & 2) "When you call my Will into you, you also do a unique act. Out of respect for my Will which inhabits you, I must pour enough graces and Love into you to make you surpass all other creatures."

(1 & 2) "It is certain that I have called you first over other souls. Because to no other souls, however much I have loved them, have I shown how to live in My Will, the effects, the marvels, the riches that the creature receives who acts in My supreme Will. Search the lives of the saints as much as you wish or in books of doctrine and you will not find the wonders of My Will working in the creature and the creature acting in My Will. The most you will find will be resignation, abandonment, the union of wills, but the Divine Will working in the creature and the creature in My Will, you will not find this in anyone. This signifies that the time had not arrived in which My kindness would call the creature to live in such a sublime state. Moreover, even the way I ask you to pray is not found in any other . . . " (Book of Heaven, Vol. 12, p. xix)

(2) "Now daughter, you, . . are unique in my mind; and you will be unique in history. There will not be—either before or after you—any other creature for whom I will obligate through necessity the work of my ministers. ., . Since I wanted my Mother with me as the first intermediary of my mercy . . . I wanted her on my right. . . . I wanted you [Luisa] as the first intermediary of justice. . . . I wanted you on my left." (Book of Heaven, p. 12)

(3) "It is true that there have been saints who always did my Will, but they have taken of my Will only to the extent that they understood it. They knew that to do my Will was the greatest of acts, the one which gave Me the greatest honor and which brought them their sanctification. They acted with this intention and so this is all that they received."

In fact, precisely these claimed new aspects (a radically new and essentially better way of holiness, a holiness that depends upon understanding, etc.) are not new claims in the history of the Church. The early Church had to resist gnosticism, which in its own way made perfection dependent upon understanding, as Luisa seems to. Joachim of Fiore proposed a third era of the history of God with his people, as Luisa does. If these claims are taken as part of the message itself, they are signs that it is not from God. The rule of faith, the rule of the Church, since the beginning in fact sees this kind of radical novelty as a sign of heresy.

But while these problems could be taken as an indication that the visions were not from God, but from self-delusion or a demon, they do not necessarily imply that. It is also possible that she had a true experience in which God really revealed himself and a message of holiness to her, yet her perception of this was distorted by an ignorance of the writings of the saints and doctors, so that she pereceived it as radically new, and unconsciously imposed this perception on the vision itself, by a desire for an end to suffering, so that she imagined a "new era" on earth in which suffering would be no more, an so on.

Private revelation, precisely insofar as it is divine revelation, must be true. However, quite unlike the content of Sacred Scripture, the concrete communication of this revelation is not guaranteed free from error, even substantial error. This is sometimes overlooked in discussions of various private revelations, and the assumption is made that either the experiences are from God, and the writings in which these experiences are communicated are all true, or that the experience are not from God. The third logical possibility, however, that the experience are from God, but the communication of these experience is mingled with the recipient's own ideas and influenced by the recipient's own desires, may be a common, or even the usual case. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, indeed, implies that there is always some influence of the recipient's own background. Speaking about Fatima in particular, but also visions in general, it affirms: "Such visions therefore are never simple "photographs" of the other world, but are influenced by the potentialities and limitations of the perceiving subject. This can be demonstrated in all the great visions of the saints… the images are, in a manner of speaking, a synthesis of the impulse coming from on high and the capacity to receive this impulse in the visionaries." (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Message of Fatima, 2000)

Will Those Who are Saved Be Few?

From Augustine's Commentary on Psalm 47 (48)

"We have received your mercy, God, in the midst of your people." [Augustine's text is "in medio populi tui", though The Hebrew, Greek, and Vulgate read "in your temple"  rather than "people".] Who have received, and where have they received? Is it not the people itself that has received mercy? If your people has received mercy, how have we received mercy, and in the midst of your people, as though distinct persons: those who have received, and those in whose midst they have received? … All who bear God's sacraments are counted as God's people, but not all reach his mercy. All who receive the sacrament of Christ's baptism are called Christians, but not all live worthily of that sacrament. For there are some of whom the Apostle says: they have the appearance of piety, but deny its power.

He lives worthily of God's mercy, who hears and holds and does what the Apostle says: "we warn and entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor 6:1). Therefore he who has not received the grace of God in vain, has received both the sacrament and the mercy of God.

"We have received your mercy, God, in the midst of your people." In the midst of your people who do not receive mercy we have received your mercy. "He came into his own, and his own did not receive him. But as many as received him, he gave power to become children of God."

At this point a question will occur to anyone thinking about the matter: That people who in the midst of God's people have received God's mercy, how great a number will it be? How few they are! Scarcely anyone such is found; can it be that God will be displeased with all the rest, and destroy so great a multitude? They tell this to themselves, promising themselves what they have not heard God promise. And indeed if we should live wickedly, if we immerse ourselves in enjoying the delights of this world, if we are slaves to our lusts, will God destroy us? For how many are there who keep God's commandments? We hardly find one or two, at any rate very few; will God save those alone, and damn the rest? "By no means!" they say. "When he comes and sees such a great multitude at his left hand, he will have mercy, and will grant indulgence."

Evidently the serpent also promised this to the first man; for God had threatened death, if he tasted of the fruit, whereas the serpent said: by no means, you will not die the death. They believed the serpent, they found God's threat to be true, the devil's promise to be false. So also now, brethren, put the Church before your eyes. See how it is an image and likeness of Paradise: the serpent does not cease to suggest what he then suggested. But the experience of the first man's fall should avail to warn us not to imitate his sin. He fell so that we might rise. Let us answer such suggestions the way Job did. For the devil tempted him through a woman, as through Eve, and, overcome in paradise, he overcame in the dung. Therefore let us not listen to such words, nor let us think that those [who keep God's commandments] are few; they are many, but they are hidden among an even greater number. For we cannot deny that the wicked are many, and so many that the good are not apparent among them, as a seed is not apparent on the threshing floor. For whoever sees the threshing floor can think that the chaff is alone. Send an inexperienced man, and he will foolishly think that oxen are sent and man sweat there in the heat in order to crush the chaff; but there is in fact a mass to be purged by exposure to the wind. Then an abundance of grain appears, which was hidden in the abundance of chaff. And now you want to find those who are good? Be such, and you will find them. Therefore against that despair see what follows in the psalm. For when the psalmist had said: "we have received your mercy, God, in the midst of your people," he indicated that that people, in the midst of which some receive God's mercy, was not receiving God's mercy; and lest men should get the idea that they are so few as to be almost none, how he has consoled them with the following words? "As is your name, God, so is your praise unto the ends of the earth." (St. Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 47 (48))


The argument "How many are there who keep God's commandments? We hardly find one or two, at any rate very few; will God save those alone, and damn the rest? By no means! When he comes at sees such a great multitude at his left hand, he will have mercy, and will grant indulgence." is not altogether implausible in view of the fact that eternal punishments are threatened in order to restrain persons from doing evil and thus lead them to God. If the obligation of the commandments, the breaking of which is punished by hell, were to have as a consequence that more people were ultimately separated from God than would have been in the absence of those commandments and threats, then the commandments and the threat of hell would seem to be counterproductive, something for which God would not have a motivation.

Augustine does not directly address the plausibility of this argument. One, could, however, answer it in several ways: (1) in fact many persons are restrained from evil and begin the path to good by reason of the fear of hell; Augustine's answer goes somewhat in this direction, inasmuch as he says that there are many persons will be saved, they are just many less than those who will be damned; (2) the obligation of the commandments and threat of hell does not imply that anyone will go to hell (be separated from God) who would not have in the absence of the commandments, but only makes explicit the separation from God that is already attendant upon a will that bears nothing but hatred for God and goodness; this view seem to be suggested by Pope Benedict's portrayal of hell in Spe Salvi: "There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves…. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell." In this description of hell, it seems no one would ultimately go to hell for failing to meet a high standard of love, but for utter depravity, a possibility of separation from the ultimate good, God, that would have equally existed had the commandments and threat of hell not been explicated.

Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

We are all invited to work in the Lord's vineyard. But the Lord does not force anyone. He only invites. If someone doesn't want to work, or wants to only under his own conditions, he does not have to do so. In the Gospel we heard a parable about persons who wanted to work only under the stipulation that they themselves would dispose of the vineyard and its fruits. When we hear this story, we might think, how could they be so stupid? How could they think, if we just kill the owner's son, he'll have to put us in his son's place? What kind of madness is this?

It may be easy enough to criticize the men in this parable at a comfortable distance. But I think Jesus is here pointing to a real danger, a danger also for us. When we really want something, we want to see it through. And it is good that way. We shouldn't be like jellyfish, unable to stick to anything with firmness. But this desire to see things through carries a danger with it, that we become blind to reality: we see only the way that we imagine for ourselves, the way on which we have decided—whether or not that way is the right one. Let's imagine the tenants again, with a bit of imagination: they thought to themselves: "It is unjust for the owner to take such a portion of the fruit for himself, though he hasn't been around working on the field, harvesting the grapes, etc." And when he sends his servants to get his portion, they think, "We must be strong. We must resist, in order to get our rights." And they beat the servants. When the owner sends still more servants, they think, "He is simply deaf. He won't accept that the fruits belong to us." And they are completely confident, they have to just resist still more steadfastly. Finally, when the owner sends his son, they think, "If we kill him, then the owner will have no other choice. He'll have to make us the heirs, if he wants to keep the vineyard running." All quite logical. But a view of the whole is lacking. They are not the only ones who have to live from the fruit of the vineyard. And everything does not depend on them.

This image is perhaps a bit fantastic. Nevertheless I believe the core is true, and a real danger. They wanted to push themselves through, and became blind to the reality, to the actual situation with the owner, the vineyard, and the other persons involved. And we are all, without exception, tempted in this or that field to push our own will through, instead of listening to Jesus's will, and are in danger of losing sight of the reality that is expressed in this divine will. We see this perhaps more clearly in larger, tragic cases: perhaps someone enters into an ill-advised marriage against the advice of parents, friends, and spiritual father, and winds up unhappy, or someone gets involved in drugs despite knowing it's not really the right way, or the insistence on the right to dispose of one's own body and to determine one's family as one wills leads to a father and mother killing their own child. These are the more obvious cases. But we are all tempted to it in smaller, daily cases.

To take this attitude to its ultimate completion is the worst thing that can possibly happen: that instead of us saying to God with joy and without reservation, "Thy will be done!", God has to say with sadness, "Thy will be done. You do not want to live for my kingdom. You do not have to, and if you do not want to, you shall not." This outcome at the end of today's Gospel reading, "The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you" (Mat 21:43), is like God's "last resort", what he does when everything else is in vain. Only when God has done everything, and we still refuse to accept his will, would he say to us, "Thy will be done." The reverse side, or the opposite of this terrifying possibility is presented to us in the Letter to the Philippians. If we do not lose sight of God, but place everything before him, all our concerns and our worries, and listen attentively to him, his peace will fill our hearts. Someone makes a sacrifice for his family, sticks by a friend in a difficult period, gives up his own will to serve and to do God's will, and finds therein deep peace. In this celebration of the Eucharist let us make especially consciously this prayer, which we pray frequently in the Our Father. "Thy Will be done!"

Website hacker, vandalism

Inmotion hosting, the company where this site is hosted, was hacked yesterday, September 25, and pages on many of the 700,000 sites hosted by this company were replaced with electronic graffiti boasting of the hacker's accomplishment. Here a series of announcements from the company on the matter. The hacker is apparently the hacker who through DNS hijacking intercepted the local domains for google, microsoft, yahoo, and others, instead sending a similar hacked page to internet users' browsers. (http://thehackernews.com/2011/09/inmotion-hosting-server-and-trinity-fm.html) The blog on this site was defaced for around 20 hours, as some readers noticed. The hacked page was not itself dangerous to computers or browsers viewing the site. The pages have been repaired, and the company says that it is acting to close the security vulnerability issues that allowed the attack in the first place.

Puzzle About Happiness

The following puzzle compares the happiness of a man who thinks some of the goods he generally seeks in life are realized with the happiness of a man in the case where those goods are realized, but he thinks they are not. Besides being an interesting thought exercise, it might be helpful for shedding some light on what is involved in the notion of happiness. Warning! The scenario presented is not a pleasant one! A nicer scenario that would so starkly focus on the same issues did not, however, occur to me.

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Twenty years from now, two twins, who are both happily married and love their families, have had a falling out with a extremely brilliant, wicked, and rich scientist, who determines to destroy their lives. He kidnaps them, locks them in separate rooms, and offers each of them the choice between the following two options:

(1) I will kidnap your wives and children, and torture them for the rest of your life in the most horrible ways thinkable, but by careful use of precise memory-altering drugs, planted evidence, false witnesses, etc., I will see to it that you are convinced without the slightest doubt that your wife and children died a a heroic or a peaceful death.

(2) I will kidnap your wives and children, and by the use of precise memory-altering drugs so that they no longer remember you at all, arrangement of circumstances, etc., I will do my best to see to it (there's a 95%-99% chance of success) that they are quite happy in their new life, but by use of similar drugs, falsified evidence, etc., I will ensure that you are convinced that they are being tortured and suffering horribly.

The first of the twins chooses the first option, while the second chooses the second. The wicked scientist keeps his threats and promises. Five years later, the first man is still convinced that his family died heroically, though they are in fact still suffering. The second man is still convinced, and reasonably on the basis of the evidence available to him, that his family is suffering, though they are not.

The questions for you, dear reader, are the following: on the basis only of the statements provided: (1) at this point in time, five years after the deed, which of the two men is happier? (2) Taken as a whole, whose life is happier?