Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Conversion of Heart

3 quick reflection points for today!

1. The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Saint Paul underwent one of the most dramatic conversions of anyone in the Scriptures. He went from killing Christians, to becoming one of Christ's most influential advocates. Traditional artwork depicts his powerful moment of transformation as literally knocking him off a horse whilst he was on one of his journey's of persecution. He immediately repented and dedicated the rest of his life to preaching peace, love, and that the name of Jesus Christ was to be honoured and revered above every other name. Our own conversions may not have been so dramatic but they are still important. In fact, everyday it is good to repent and reorder our lives towards Christ, turning away from evil and turning back towards the good.

2. Constant conversion towards Christ will ultimately have the effect of uniting us with a common purpose and breaking down any barriers of division, regardless of nationality, creed, gender, etc. And this is why the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul marks the end, or the culmination of the week of prayer for Christian Unity. What a scandal it is that Christ's body here on earth is so divided. While we may not, in our lifetimes, be able to surmount the differences that keep Christian churches apart, we may at least be able to work together with each other, not focusing on our differences, to bring the love of Christ more powerfully into this world.

3. Finally, today in Canada is a national day to raise awareness for mental illness, also known popularly these days as Bell Let's Talk. I mention this because it is both an issue close to my heart but also one not entirely unrelated to my previous two points on conversion and unity. In a time when mental illness and its effects seem to be on the rise in the form of suicide, addiction, and many other tragedies, it is increasingly important to not only be aware of mental illness but be actively engaged in helping those who suffer find help. Conversion in this sense means to learn and understand what mental illness is so as to break down the stigmas that surround it. It is not a weakness or a personality defect and someone cannot simply "get over it" or "snap out of it." Unity around mental illness means that it is not about an us vs. them, healthy vs. sick, but a "we." We are all in this journey of life together and it is essential that we work together to overcome anything and everything that divides us. Division leads to loneliness, which leads to many succumbing to the disease of mental illness.

We pause today and pray: what part of our heart needs converting? With whom do we need to be more united? And how can I reach out with more compassion?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas 2016

Christmas 2016

And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. Et Le Verbe s'est fait chair, il a habité parmi nous. John 1:14

This is what we celebrate at Christmas. The Word, Gods word, becoming flesh. His words are of a parent, of a Creator, of Love. At Christmas we celebrate that he spoke his word of love so powerfully that it actually took on the form of another person, the person of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us! Dieu avec nous!

Depuis septembre  j'ai été étudier français. This was not merely an academic pursuit. When you learn a language you don't learn only another form of communication but you learn how to speak with other people. In other words, you build a bridge that connects you more closely to the other.

This is why it is so significant that God spoke the word to us, he communicated himself to us, and God speaks all languages perfectly. God is the ultimate communicator. And he doesn't speak simply with mere words, but with his entire self, most especially with his heart!

We all speak a unique language , and I'm not talking English or French or German , but we all listen and communicate in a unique way. For example, friends of mine travelled to Africa to visit their daughter who became a doctor and desired to travel and aid those who have not the recourse to regular medical help. They arrived at the airport and jumped in a taxi, eager to meet their destination. It was a quiet ride and so, deciding to make small talk with the driver, they begun with a topic that all prairie folk would: so hows the weather? They were met with an icy glance and an enduring silence that lasted the remainder of their cab ride. Were they impolite? Did they use the wrong words? Nope. You see, weather, in much of Africa, does not change. It's hot, dry, and very similar from day to day. Extremely unlike Canada, there are very little fluctuations and so conversations about the weather are very dull and sterile. Hot yesterday, still hot today, that's all. It had nothing to do with a lack of linguistics, but rather a lack of understanding of a culture, of a people. In Canada, weather is livelihood, is money. Conversations about weather are conversations about the very well being of the family of the other. In other places, not so at all. One would do better speaking of kids or food or sports! 

This why, even when we can speak fluently the same language as the other, there can arise misunderstandings, hurt feelings, verbal fights, anger, unforgiveness, and all those wonderful things that can happen when families get together for Christmas haha. Because communication is so much more than the stringing together of words in order to create coherent sentences, but it is an expression of oneself, an opening up of our hearts and minds devant l'autre, making oneself vulnerable and then opening up our oreilles to recevoir les mots la coeur, the mind, and the very being of the other!

We know very well and we celebrate every year that God's greatest gift to us was himself. It is necessary though every year to remind ourselves of that and ask, are we listening? Est-ce que nous écoutons? Similarily the greatest gift we can give to each other, besides chocolate and Star Wars toys, is the gift of ourselves. This Christmas let us give to others the love of God that is inside us, and let us listen to others, not merely with our ears, but with our hearts!

Joyeux Noel! Et que Dieu vous benisse!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Homily 22nd Sunday in Ordiany Time year A

22nd ord year A

I love when I see my brother priests and they tell me I'm fat. Thanks for that helpful tip guys, haha.

Sometimes we are afraid to speak words of correction to each other, even our family. We fear that they won't like us or that we will hurt them.

Or maybe we are on the other side, maybe we love correcting people, telling them what Is wrong in their lives. This gospel may seem right up their angle!

In today's Gospel, Jesus was actually being merciful. It was the practice of the time that if anyone did anything wrong they were brought to public humiliation. It's kinda like the news media today. Can anyone explain to me how it benefits society to know that Joe smith murdered somebody?!?! Sure it's good for us to know that someone died, was murdered even, but smearing the murderers name all over the country changes nothing. This needs to be between the family, those affected and God, and that's all.

So Jesus was firstly condemning public shaming. He teaches us to quietly, and in a loving way, speak one on one to the person. He didn't say to gossip or talk behind their back, but to talk to them. Then, if they don't listen, sit down with a couple people. It's like an intervention haha. This is the year of the family. How often in our families do we sit around at the dinner table and truly talk about what's going on in our lives. This is what Jesus meant. Conversion first happens at home. And finally it says come see the pastor. Talk with each other, talk with family and friends, and finally, come see me. And I hope you can feel comfortable enough to come and speak with me. Not because I have all the wisdom and can fix everything, but for two reasons: it's good to have an outside perspective. Someone who is neutral and not involved. Second, because I'm there to represent God and the Church. And ultimately this is all about us growing together in our love relationship with god and growing closer as church.

The Gospel ends by saying that if nothing changes, let that person be to you as a sinner and tax collector. So what does that mean? Do You cast them out of your family or church? NO! How does Jesus treat sinners and tax collectors?! He loves them for who they are and doesn't try to change them. He knows that their faults will only lead them to unhappiness but he doesn't force anyone to change. He loves them, and it is love, that ultimately causes people to change.

Finally, something we don't want to face, is that often we are the one who needs to change. People tell us and we just don't listen.

Let us pray for hearts, open to God's voice of love, calling us closer to himself. And let us pray for the courage and strength to be that voice of love to others, calling them to a closer relationship with God.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Star Wars is Christian

This is a pretty cool article about Christianity and Star wars!

   I’m pretty pumped. Star Wars Episode VII is in the works. I’m super excited, but I know that not everyone shares my geeky expectation. Some folks have serious theological disagreements with Star Wars. We’re going to try to rescue Star Wars today using a little Thomas Aquinas…
Star Wars VII is going to be directed by JJ Abrams (new Star Treks, Super 8) and will include the original cast with the likes of Harrison Ford, Mark Hammil, Carrie Fisher, and even new faces like Andy Serkis (the actor who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings).
andy serkis as gollum
Hopefully Andy Serkis was not cast for the part of Jar Jar Binks. Just sayin’.
Christians (both Protestant and Catholic) have over the decades expressed concern that the worldview of Star Wars does not conform to the Christian worldview. I want to look at this concern, and then try to rescue Star Wars for all you Christian Star Wars fans (yes Greg Willits, I’m looking at you).
The mistake that people make when getting all down on Star Wars is that they make this equation:
  1. Christians have God
  2. Star Wars has the Force
  3. But the Force does not map on the biblical doctrine of God.
  4. Therefore, Star Wars teaches a false worldview, a false theology, and must rejected as evil!
Let’s take a look at this in more detail.

May the Force be with you: What the heck is this Force?

Let’s start with what the Force is not?
  1. The Force is not a personal God to whom one prays.
  2. The Force is not omnibenevolent or ‘all good.’ There is a ‘dark side’ to the Force.
  3. The Force is not just for good guys. Bad guys use it, and apparently use it more powerfully than the good guys.
It seems that the force is really an impersonally energy source. You can seem immediately that this does not jive with a Judeo-Christian understanding of the universe…or does it?

Christian Star Wars fans: Do not fear!

Let’s look again at the anti-Star Wars argument:
  1. Christians have God
  2. Star Wars has the Force
  3. But the Force does not map on the biblical doctrine of God.
  4. Therefore, Star Wars teaches a false worldview and false theology, and must rejected as evil!
Let’s flip this around. Let’s say that the Force stands for something other than God. Perhaps the Force is neither a spiritual entity nor a divine essence. What we need is to find in the Force an analogy to our current Christian worldview.
Pause: I realize that we don’t even really need to do this. It’s a fictional movie saga that’s fun and mythical. But to appease those that want to have a philosophical justification, here goes.
There is one thing in our universe that maps perfectly with the Force. I’m going to go down the Thomas Aquinas trail, so please follow me.
According to Thomas Aquinas (and the Catholic tradition), humans and preternatural spiritual beings (angels and demons) have a power that stretches beyond the faculties of all other natural things and species. This special faculty shared by angels, demons, good men, and evil men is called intelligentia.This word comes from two Latin words:
inter + legere
inter means “between” (like interstate) and legere means to “choose, pick out, or read.”

Intelligence, then, is the ability to choose between or to discern.

This is a power (or might I even say force) given to us by Almighty God. Your dog, cat, fish, and cactus plant do not have it. We do have it. You guardian angels also  has it.
Since we have intelligence or rationality, we can manipulate our environment, manipulate nature, manipulate objects around us, and manipulate other people. Our influence over creation through the reign of rationality can be really good, but it can also have a dark side…

The Passions and the Force of the Intelligence

According to Thomas Aquinas, there are eleven passions. Emotions like fear, joy, and anger. Because of original sin, these passions interfere with our rational intelligence. We eat too much ice cream, scream at other drivers, and cry over silly things. The passions twist and thwart the force of our intelligence so that we do dark things.

The Dark Side of the Force

We have perceived that the myth of the Force in Star Wars is not God or the Holy Spirit, but instead it is the shared experience of human and angelic rationality. This is why evil characters try to get good characters over to the dark side of this force by moving them to passionate anger, rage, covetousness, or lust. We see that the Sith Lords even overtake the entire Empire by manipulating others through this force of rationality. It happened to the Empire in Star Wars. It has happened to every human society. The only way to have the “Empire Strike Back” is to rule the passions rationally through right reason and prudential thinking. So being trained in the force is really just using the intellect to habituate virtue in ourselves and in society.
The dark side of the force is like the dark side of human rationality. Rationality is a good, but it can be twisted and abused for evil – always through the corruption of the passions/emotions.

Reassessing the Force as a Christian Analogy in Star Wars

Someone might say, “Yeah, but Yoda can move rocks with the Force and Luke can stand on his head with the Force. What does that have to do with rational intelligence?”
I answer, “Right you are. Yessss.”
But there is more to it. We humans have used our minds to accomplish all sorts of impossible things like fly in airplanes, walk on the moon, split atoms, and explore the ocean floor.
Battles, scientific miracles, healing – all these are accomplished through the force of right reason.
The lesson is that it is intelligence rightly used that accomplishes great things. In Star Wars, we see that the Force is the power rightly used to bring a civilized society into a civilized society. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Aquinas would applaud George Lucas’ depiction of “the Force” as the only power to order society – because all these philosophers realized that it was true rationality that provided humans with law, order, and civilization. Even natural law requires rationality to see it.
Star Wars actually gives a pretty accurate political picture of how human intelligence can be thwarted to accomplish society evil. Evil politicians are always flexing the force of their intelligence. When men appeal to the “dark side” you have bad things happen like this:
So next time somebody at donut hour after church says, “Yeah, I used to love Star Wars, but I don’t let me kids watch it. It’s so unbiblical,” brush off your philosophy skills and go to work. Remember: Force does not equal God. Force equals human rationality.
And remember, next time you turn into a rage monkey and start living according to your passions, you’re becoming more and more like Darth Vader. Don’t do that! You may not have a death bed conversion where someone takes off your helmet and give you a last chance.
Want to learn more about Catholic philosphy, theology, and Thomas Aquinas, join the New Saint Thomas Institute and take classes online: New Saint Thomas Institute Waiting List.
Please share this post with your friends on Facebook by clicking here.
Question: Okay, let’s talk about it. Do you think rationality or intelligence is the right lens through which to analyze Star Wars? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Copyright © 2014 Taylor Marshall, PhD, All rights reserved.
Howdy! You are receiving this email because you opted into my Catholic website:

Our mailing address is:
Taylor Marshall, PhD
800 West Airport Freeway Suite 1100
Irving, TX 75062

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Valentines Love Story

I am hopelessly, romantically, in love. With the Church. Gee, what were you thinking? And so here is my valentines story.

Once upon a time in a small humble parish there was a lady who imagined church as place where young people needed to be. But alas, there was nothing for them.
So she started a youth program with just a few friends and their kids
nothing fancy, mostly just games.

But friendships were formed and relationships built.
Quickly, some parents arose and took leadership roles.
This group of youths expanded; the meetings more regular, more structured became!

Soon, some of them were leading teachings and prayers; and the parents, planning sessions.

Memories were made and good times were had; a couple families have moved so it wont be the same. But we continue to try and to learn and to serve.

Most recently these youth hosted a Valentines supper; spaghetti and salad, and the dessert was to die for. They served and they bussed, they laughed and enjoyed. The couples there present were unusually happy; from the newly engaged, to the faithfully aged.

Thrilled as they were to be served from these kids, more thrilled were the kids to be doing such things. After the eve whittled down to a chatter, still some of the couples and families still gathered; being with each other, is all that does matter.

Our young folk were asked what they liked what they'd change; none responded with a negative. In fact, most now want to work in a restaurant; servants, for sure, is what Christ called us for.

Two stories emerged that make me so proud; of the kids and their parents, of the St. Michael's crowd.
First, one lady, as touched as she was, made mention of how much the dinner meant to her. Emotional she got as she shared with the church; its amazing, the lives that we touch.
Second, another (among many) testimonials was offered; one kid was tipped, so excited she was, she didn't even look at the bill! She could have been handed a $5 or $100, what mattered to her was that people cared. It made the mans day, that she was so earnest. They were there for service, not personal gain.
My story does end here but it also goes on. This is my love life, my church and my God.