What's the danger in being a half-hearted Christian? Word On Fire blog contributor Fr. Michael Cummins tells us precisely. In light of the recent Good Shepherd Sunday, an inauthentic approach to an authentic relationship with Christ can be just as damaging as no relationship at all. Here he explains.
Pope emeritus Benedict often remarked that he thought it was not so much atheists who damage the Christian faith as it is the "practical atheists" who do the real damage. The "practical atheists" are those who profess themselves Christians but who then live as if God does not exist. At the heart of this practical atheism, which is very present in our day and also very easy to fall into, is an inauthenticity of relationship. We say one thing yet we do another and we convince ourselves that no one is the wiser; including God.
I believe that Good Shepherd Sunday, which we just celebrated last Sunday, calls us to reflect on authenticity of relationship. This last Sunday we proclaimed the truth that the risen Lord is indeed the good and beautiful shepherd who came to seek out and save the lost. But here is the rub: we cannot reflect and proclaim the Lord as “Good Shepherd” and ourselves remain inauthentic in relation to him. To proclaim Christ as the Good Shepherd demands an authenticity of relationship on our part. This authenticity of relationship is witnessed to us in Sunday's gospel (Jn. 10:27-30) - the relationship of us and the Lord and the relationship of the Son and the Father.
Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me..." The movement of authentic relationship begins with our Lord. When we were lost in the darkness of sin and death, God came to us. God became incarnate and took on the full weakness and suffering of humanity. God took on everything except sin. "I know them...", says the Lord. Christ can authentically say this because it is true.
"My sheep hear my voice ... and they follow me ..." There are two parts for authenticity of relationship on our part. One, we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and two, we follow. To say we hear the voice and then live as if the voice does not matter is not authentic. To proclaim Christ as the Good Shepherd means we must continually "tune" our ears to the voice of the Good Shepherd, we must trust and we must follow...
The human body is an offer of Divine Grace. Sure, but this body? With its flaws and aches and less-than-perfect aesthetic value? Yup, that very one. Word on Fire contributor Ellyn von Huben draws upon the great lessons and legacy of Flannery O'Connor to illuminate just what it is about the body that works to reveal that most sacred gift.
Domestic violence is not entertaining. And I don’t spend my time scanning news sites looking for more sadness than that which usually jumps out at me when I check the Chicago Tribune each morning. But… there was an incident that caught my eye on a popular news/chat/gossip site a few days ago. And my first response was to send it to a friend with the brief comment, “Hulga’s revenge?”
Flannery O’Connor fans know who Hulga is. A joyless woman, possessed of a degree in philosophy but little common sense, Hulga - née Joy - lost a leg in a childhood accident. She lives with her mother on the family farm, where her position is, in today’s parlance, resident “Debbie Downer.” In a tragi-comical turn of events, Hulga seduces a Bible salesman whom she takes to be an innocent rube, and instead winds up as his victim. The Bible salesman is not what he appeared to be and Hulga, in her haste to shame him, allows herself to be shamed. Not only is Hulga shamed, she is left in the loft of the barn while salesman takes quick leave of her – carrying her prosthetic leg as a trophy. (This is better told by Flannery herself. If you don’t have a copy of her collected works I would advise that you find one. And make “Good Country People” one of your first choices.)
How could Hulga not come to mind when I read of a woman in South Carolina who stabbed her boyfriend and then threw his prosthetic leg into the yard to keep him from chasing her? And this woman was thorough! She didn’t just through his leg out in the yard; she tossed his spare leg, too. I wonder if any other fans of Flannery and “Good Country People” also saw it as some sort of turnabout on Hulga’s tale. (That is all I know of this sad story, except that it coincidentally took place in the south, reminding me of what the great author said about that, “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”)
The frailties of the human body show up frequently in Flannery’s work. As a Catholic, she knew the importance of the human body as being an offer of Divine Grace. Each human body. In the Resurrection, it will be our bodies, glorified, that will rise. God himself became human, incarnated in a body of flesh and blood – bones, tendons, corpuscles and muscles. It is easy to see to make a connection to the divine if one looks upon a body in its prime – adorable babies, Olympic athletes at the peak of their fitness, gorgeous women on the covers of popular magazines, men so good looking they must be deported...
Today is the Feast Day of St. George, patron of seemingly innumerable places, people and professions. But his most storied legacy seems to be that of "dragon slayer." Word on Fire contributor Jared Zimmerer takes a look at the legend of St. George, and finds why the lore of this mighty deed has been such a lasting one.
In Selena, Libya, there was a lake that was inhabited by a fierce and ravenous dragon. To appease this terrifying dragon, the townspeople would feed it sheep, yet after some time the sheep would not do as the dragon became hungry for human flesh. Through a lottery process, children would be chosen as a sacrifice to this dragon until one day the king’s own daughter was selected. George, by providence, rode past the gruesome scene of the trembling princess waiting to be devoured. As the princess unsuccessfully beseeched George to leave her be, the dragon appeared in all of its demonic grandeur. George then made the Sign of the Cross and leaped upon the winged-worm crying to the princess to give him her sash. George tied the sash around the dragon and it obeyed him with a pet-like submission. Leading the dragon back to the town, George behooved its citizens to convert to Catholicism and he would slay the dragon. Fifteen thousand men converted that day and George fulfilled his promise by way of his famous sword, Ascalon, slitting the fowl throat of the terror.
Or so the legend goes….
St. George has been a man of many names: Hero, martyr, saint, patron, legend, soldier, knight. While the legend may bend the truth in many aspects, the Catholic Church holds that there seems no ground for doubting the historical existence of St. George. However, what we know as fact or fiction leaves room for debate. What we do know is that this man was someone who left a deeply stowed impression of knighthood and bravery. Oftentimes he is known as the icon of the knight. Bravery, truthfulness and gallantry seem to radiate from his legend. There are many historical figures that history has tried and failed to attach the person of St. George to. Many refer to Eusebius and his historical fight with Diocletian. However there is little factual evidence to back that link...