Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Poem to Judas from Jesus

I was listening to EWTN on Sirius satellite radio a couple days ago and caught the tail end of one of Fr. Leo Clifford's shows. This one was on the Mercy of God and he read a poem by an unknown Christian about Jesus addressing Judas from the cross. (Remember that from his despair at betraying our Lord, Judas hung himself) I was really struck by it but forgot Fr. Leo's name and couldn't find the poem anywhere. After some investigation I finally found one Google search result (One!) with the text of the poem.

Listen to the 10min. "Mercy of God" talk and others online here.

The text of the poem:

Judas, if true love never ceases
how could you, my friend, have come to this:
To sell me for thirty silver pieces
and betray me with a kiss?
Judas, remember what I taught you,
do not despair while hanging on the rope.
It's because you sinned that I have sought you;
I came to give you hope.
Judas, let us pray and hang together,
you on your halter, I upon my hill.
Dear friend, even if you loved me never,
you know I love you still.

I used it to close a homily on last Sunday's readings about the connection between leprosy and sin, about the shame that each produce, and about the courage to approach Jesus with humility and to hear him say "I do will it. Be made clean." Sorry, no text, I decided to experiment this time and try to just preach from a few notes rather than a full text. I think it went pretty well.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Homily 5th Sun Ordinary Time Year B

Below is my homily on the readings for the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B. It's a bit of a short one this week.

Our world is so full of suffering that all of us, to one degree or another, can identify with Job’s cries today. “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings?” he asks with despair. We strive to grow in holiness only to fall to sin time and time again. We work so hard, day in and day out for money to support our families, only to have it taken from us. We raise our children the best way we can only to see them leave the faith. We exercise and eat healthy foods only to be stricken with a debilitating disease. Even our nights provide no rest. “The night drags on,” Job laments, “I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.” Surrounded by sin and death we are tempted to utter again with Job “I shall not see happiness again.” What’s the use?

My dear brothers and sisters, if you have uttered these words before, I am here today to tell you that there is indeed hope. That you will see happiness again for happiness is your destiny, the very thing for which you were created. This happiness is found in the Word of God, Jesus Christ the Lord. And perfect happiness will be found in Eternity with Him.

Notice how our readings today bring together the trials and sufferings of life with the preaching of the Word of God. We have in the same Mass the despairing cries of Job alongside St. Paul’s zeal for preaching. And we find Our Lord “preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” I believe this is to remind us that the Word of God is inextricably linked to every aspect of the healing ministry of the Church, physical and spiritual. There is much wisdom in this; we must not take it for granted.

In Masses where the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is celebrated, readings from Scripture are there. In the celebration of this sacrament in a hospital, readings from Scripture are there. In Visits to the Sick with Holy Communion, readings from Scripture are there. Even in the beginning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – when the greatest sickness of all, sin, is healed – the priest is encouraged to read some passages from Scripture. The Church, you see, is not a haven for the perfect and healthy; it is a hospital for sinners. Our Lord is the Divine Physician and His Word is our medicine for everlasting life. After all, the word “doctor” comes from the Latin word docere, which means “to teach.” And in our Responsorial Psalm we sang, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Remembering then how necessarily linked the Word of God is with both physical and spiritual healing, we are given both a consolation and a challenge. How often, when we suffer, do we look to everything but the Word of God for relief? In a world that has no tolerance for suffering and refuses to find meaning and redemption in it, we are tempted to turn to Christ, if we turn to Him at all, only when all other avenues have been exhausted. We try all the latest medications and remedies. Or we medicate ourselves through impulsive buying or thrill-seeking or lustful passions or simple denial. St. Paul captures beautifully in our Gospel what is at the root of all of these: “Rising very early before dawn, [Jesus] left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’” Men seek happiness and relief from their suffering in a myriad of ways but, actually, “Everyone is looking for you.” Although in the midst of our trials, our Lord may seem to be “off to a deserted place” he is always very near. When we are tempted to look to worldly things to find what only He can provide, we must remember that he is truly found in His Eternal Word. This then is our consolation and challenge.

Perhaps today you yourself are suffering even while you listen to me. Or perhaps a friend or a relative or a coworker you know is suffering today. St. Paul challenges us with full zeal and piety: “If I preach the gospel,” he says, “this is not reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” Woe to us as well if you or I fail to preach the Good News to those who are sick in body or soul, if we fail to give them this greatest of medicines. St. Mark likewise challenges us but in a subtler way. He says that Simon, Andrew, James, and John “immediately told [Jesus]” about Simon’s mother-in-law who lay sick with a fever. We must not hesitate to tell our Lord in prayer about our own trials or those of our relatives and friends.

We see that upon hearing their petition “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” Furthermore, St. Mark continues, “When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.” Perhaps you, or someone you know, are looking in all the wrong places for the comfort we can only find in Jesus. Perhaps you, or someone you know, are possessed by the demons of addiction or despair. Today let us resolve, if we have yet to do so, to gently take them by the hand and bring them to Jesus. If we have already begun this journey, let us resolve to persevere for as our Lord himself said, he wishes to “preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” We need only to “gather at the door.”

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


I've always considered Fox's hit TV show House to be a guilty pleasure of mine. I'm actually a huge fan and have seen every episode of all 5 seasons so far - either through Blockbuster Total Access or iTunes. I say "guilty pleasure" because the docs on the show aren't exactly paragons of virtue and Dr. House is a complete mess. I like it for its straight-talk, its non-PC, and the return to paternalism in health care that has moved too far toward the patient-autonomy philosophy (patient requests it - patient gets it, no matter what). Even though its a medicine-driven show with less soap opera than E.R. or Scrubs, the characters are still fairly deep. Plus, there's just no one like House. Also, I've been keeping a tally and I think across all five seaons so far the show is 5 for 5 pro-life, with five episodes in which the docs perform abortion or euthanasia and 5 when they tell the patient to do otherwise. And check out the first 1:20 of this fan video for one of my favorite House moments.

Anyway, I was deleting some old email and came across an article from Zenit on the bio-ethics of House that I sent my philosophy professor a couple years ago. Maybe House isn't such a guilty pleasure after all?

On Fox's "House," Bioethics Meets Television

Life Academy Member Offers Critique of Series

ROME, SEPT. 13, 2007 ( The Fox Broadcasting Company's series titled
"House" reflects the existence of good and evil and the need to choose between the two, says a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Dr. Carlo Valerio Bellieni is director of the Department of Newborn Intensive Therapy of the University Polyclinic Le Scotte in Siena, Italy. He told ZENIT that the series "shows something interesting."

He explained: "The show seems to be an apology for separation and absence: It tells the story of a misanthrope and harsh doctor, Gregory House, who doesn't want any contact with patients."

This separation, however, caused by his existential and physical suffering, is only apparent. While remaining surly and anti-social, each time he insistently tries to understand the depths of the person he is caring for.

"He is able to recognize suffering in others because of his own suffering and it is because of this that he can see things that may escape others. "

It is even more strange, and interesting, that the 'non-politically correct' actions and judgments, with some exceptions, come from a character who is in constant struggle with the world."

A doctor's role

The series debuted in November 2004 and stars British actor Hugh Laurie.

House "doesn't follow the crowd when it comes to ethical relativism in medicine -- the autonomy of the patient, the doctor as a 'provider of a service' that has lost the ability to give moral judgments on the practice of medicine," Bellieni continued.

The pontifical academy member explained: "He speaks harshly with his patients to persuade them to accept a cure, not to give in to their wishes. He knows that there exists a good medical practice and a mistaken one and he wants his patients to choose the good one. But also because in the patient's answer he is trying to find an answer for himself."

Bellieni said this "is much better than those who leave the patient alone in the face of a diagnosis of words and numbers, only 'free' to choose to live or die."

He explained: "To put it another way, the writers of the series paradoxically seem to tell us that often words, and certain sweet and pious expressions that are fashionable, serve to cover up distance between persons. "

This is wonderfully underlined by the soundtrack, full of music with a religious tone or that shows the dissatisfaction of a life without meaning, like 'Desire' by Ryan Adams or 'Hallelujah' by Jeff Buckley."

"We observe two clear points by the creators of the series," continued Bellieni. "First, that the doctor is not a 'provider of a service' to whom every request is equal, but he knows how to recognize a good answer from an evil answer and how to find the strength to not give them the latter."

Second, the doctor-patient relationship is never a one-way street: There is not only the one who gives, the doctor, and one who receives, the patient, but the doctor either finds himself in the position to learn strength from the patient, his way of communicating and his hidden signals … or he gives an ineffective treatment."

"House," Bellieni explained, "goes to the depressed manager who is waiting to be placed on the heart transplant list and screams at him saying 'Do you want to live? Tell me, because I don't know if I do!' and he doesn't do this so he will write a 'living will,' but to reawaken in him, and in himself, a love for life. "

House is certainly not a saint and he sometimes makes bad moral choices. But if he were a saint, would it be so surprising to hear him cry out, as sometimes happens, against drugs or incestuous sex or in vitro fertilization?"

Finding humanity

The fourth season of the series is set to begin in the United States on Sept. 25. Laurie was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series in 2005 and this year.

Bellieni said: "House knows how to astonish: He makes mistakes, grinds his teeth, but he knows how to recognize what is human when he sees it."

"This is the important point, often overlooked in medical practice: amazement at the mysterious humanity of the patient."

"House," Bellieni remarked, "lets the little girl with a tumor hug him, whose life he prolonged by one year, and impressed with the moral strength of the little girl he begins to change his way of life."

"In the same way," he continued, "he is amazed by the little hand [snope?] of the fetus as it comes out of the womb during surgery and grasps his finger. For the rest of the day he continued to look at his finger, asking himself who is that life that no one considers human, maybe not even himself, but that touched him. "

His amazement is the foundation of his curative ability."

"House never seems to be there for his patients," concluded Bellieni. "He is not a good doctor, he is full of pain; but he is rich with a meaningful question, which does not lead him to despair. "

For this reason he is impressive, in an age in which nothing seems to have value except one's own whims, especially in medicine."