Comfort and Affliction

06/05/2015 Comments (5)

God often comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. For Israel, toiling under Pharaoh's lash, the revelation to Moses is good news indeed: "I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex 3:7-8). This Scripture has passed into the collective consciousness of Western Civilization as the archetypal word of comfort, hope and promise.

And yet, as the Israelites find out, these words of comfort are not to be taken for a moment as a promise of a free ride. The Israelites soon discover that God, unlike the jury that acquitted the Menendez brothers, is not about to let...READ MORE

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Laughing at the Devil

06/01/2015 Comments (7)

Some years back, my kids discovered the work of the great genius Weird Al Yankovic. Weird Al, for them what don't know, is a musician who has graced the pop music world with something it richly deserves and badly needs: parody. Weird Al takes the self-absorbed world of yer garden variety rock/pop artiste and knocks it down with gusts of laughter. Sent by heaven to shatter the mirror of Narcissus, Weird Al transforms tunes like Queen's elephantine opus "Bohemian Rhapsody" into a polka tune replete with accordion and banjo, Michael Jackson's "Beat It" into the truly memorable "Eat It" (a protracted lecture to a kid who won't touch dinner), or Sting's pretentious "King of Pain" into "King of...READ MORE

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Many of You May Remember the Reformation

05/25/2015 Comments (24)

Here is a big advertisement from last fall from something called “Paula White Ministries”. It has that sort of “Oprah” vibe to it that many non-denominational “women’s ministries” do. Unlike the martial vibe one gets from male-run Evangelical outfits that are about “Fighting for the Truth!” and “Making an Impact on This Generation for Jesus Christ!” Oprahfied non-denom women’s ministries tend to make you think of The View or “Cawfee Tawk” or Susan Powter—plus Jesus.

So what’s Paula all about? Well, in this ad, she is inadvertently illustrating that Catholic teaching is a boomerang. When you throw some of it away, it tends to come back and hit you in the head from unexpected angles. Permit...READ MORE

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The Benefits of Belief

05/22/2015 Comments (4)

Many people assume "true" Christianity is wholly and utterly altruistic and sentimental. Often, to illustrate this, Jesus' command to the rich young man ("Go, sell all you have, give it to the poor, and then come and follow me") is trotted out to support the notion that the gospel is a sort of dreary altruism. It appears that Christianity is, in Ted Turner's phrase, "a religion for losers."

Worse still is the contrast between this supposed goal of pure altruism and the stark fact that pure altruism is rare among Christians. Not only does Christianity apparently have an ideal of depressing and weary rejection of personal happiness, it also has a near zero batting average in achieving the...READ MORE

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When Judging is a Virtue

05/18/2015 Comments (42)

G.K. Chesterton once remarked that one of the principal disasters of the breakup of Christendom was not that it loosed Christian sins on the world, but that it loosed far more dangerous Christian virtues. For it is virtue, untethered from the governance of God and running amok which can do vastly more damage, since it is convinced of its own rectitude all the while it lays waste and destroys.

A case in point is the Christian virtue of forbearance, summed up in the famous text, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." For countless people in our culture, this is imagined to be the only thing ever uttered by Jesus of Nazareth and the only religious text in the world which remains out of the ruins...READ MORE

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The Future Isn't What It Used to Be

05/15/2015 Comments (14)

Here’s a really cool site called Paleo-Future, devoted to chronicling the History of the Future.  I’ve often thought such a subject would make a great book.  After all, people have been making predictions forever. So, it would really be fun to see how the Assured Prophecies of Yesterday have panned out.

Browsing through Paleo-Future, I note such prophetic insights as these from 1957:

Interplanetary travel will become "commonplace" in the next 50 years, World War I ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker predicts.

"In fact," he told an audience of Rotarians yesterday, "space ships in the year 2007 will be semi-self-sustaining planets in themselves."

Rickenbacker, who is now chairman of the board...READ MORE

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Why the Church Distinguishes Between Mortal and Venial Sin, Part II

05/11/2015 Comments (15)

Last time, in this space, we were looking at the question of mortal and venial sin and trying to understand how St. James  remark that "whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (Jas 2:10). Perhaps a useful analogy would be to say rather "Injury is injury, but there's injury and there's injury." Sin is fundamentally injurious. But it is tricky because it fools us into imagining some of the injuries we inflict on ourselves and others are "fun" (like lust) and some are "bad" (like murder). We console ourselves that as long as we don't commit the "bad" sin, it's okay to dabble with the "fun" ones. Indeed, we can even imagine that the lightweights and...READ MORE

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Why the Church Distinguishes Between Mortal and Venial Sin, Part I

05/08/2015 Comments (63)

Many supposed "theological differences" between Catholics and Evangelicals are, I think, founded in semantics rather than in substantial disagreement.

For example, when I was an Evangelical one of the periodic arguments I ran across against Catholic moral theology was that the concept of mortal and venial sin is unbiblical. Sin is sin, say Evangelicals, and there's no good in trying to make out some sins as "minor." To us Evangelicals such nice distinctions smelled a great deal like rationalization and looked like an escape clause from the commandment "Be holy, for I, the Lord, am Holy." After all, James wrote, "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of...READ MORE

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.