Saturday, January 14, 2017

Called to be holy


I would like to conduct an informal poll this morning. By a show of hands, how many of you would say that you are a saint?

King Henry III was King of Bavaria in the 11th Century. He was a God-fearing man but the demands of being king did not leave him much time for his spiritual life. One day he got so tired of being king that he went to the Abbot of the local monastery and asked to be admitted as a monk for the rest of his life. The Abbot said, “Your Majesty, do you understand that you must make a vow of obedience as a monk? That will be hard because you have been a king.” “I understand,” said Henry. “But, for the rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.” The Abbott responded, “Good, here is what you must do. Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.” King Henry returned to his throne and he ruled his people with kindness and justice, in holiness. He was a saintly king.

In our second reading today St. Paul addresses us as those “who have been sanctified in Jesus Christ, called to be holy.” Paul is reminding us of that essential fact – we are all “called to be holy.” Now “holy” is just another word for “saint.” So if we are all called to be holy, my friends, we are all called to be saints! Holiness or saintliness is not a call that God places in the lives of just a few. Saintliness is not meant to be rare, but rather the norm for the followers of Jesus. We have been fortunate to live in an age of great saints – St. Mother Teresa comes to mind almost immediately to everyone just in the last few years, St. Pope John XXIII and St. Pope John Paul II were both canonized as saints.

Did you know that as Pope, St. John Paul canonized more saints than all popes before him combined? And he consciously canonized not just priests and religious, but he made saints of men and women from every state of life; every age group; every occupation; married, widowed, single. He did this for a reason – so that we might all be reminded when we look at the saints that they are like us and so we are called to be like them, “called to be holy”.

Like King Henry we sometimes believe that we need to run away from the demands of life and escape to a monastery, a convent or the desert, if we want to become a saint. But, as the Abbot reminded Henry, God expects us to be saints in the concrete situations of our personal, family and business or professional lives. Or stated another way, we are called to bloom where we have been planted.

As we leave Christmas behind end enter Ordinary Time, the Church reminds us that holiness is not meant to be extraordinary; it is not meant to be rare. Holiness is meant to be very ordinary, very common – it is meant to be in the reach of every baptized person. Let me ask a different question: by a show of hands, who hopes to get to Heaven? Many more hands this time, and yet, that is the very same question that I asked before. Who gets to Heaven? Saints do. Heaven is full of saints! We are all meant to be saints! While we may not feel like we are saints yet, that is the purpose for which God has called us. We are all called to holiness.

That God has called us to be “saints” doesn’t mean that we are called to be perfect and never without sin, it means that God wants us to be different than other people in the world. He wants us not to simply follow the crowd, but to blaze a new path – one that is marked by kindness, compassion, joy, forgiveness and healing. These are the tools of the saints, the tools of holiness. Our world needs holy parents, holy children, holy doctors and nurses, holy teachers, holy garbage collectors, farmers – wherever we find ourselves, whatever we do.

Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, the famous Trappist, Thomas Merton, was walking the streets of New York with a friend who asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic. “I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he wanted to be a good Catholic. His friend stopped him in his tracks. “What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!” Merton was dumbfounded. “How do you expect me to become a saint?” Merton asked him. His friend said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

My brothers and sisters, one last question today – how many of us want to be saints? I hope it is all of us! Here’s the good news: to be a saint is nothing more complicated than to be ourselves – to be the person God created us to be. God has called us to be saints. All of us here today are called to be holy. Let us each desire to live saintly lives and may God consent to make each of us saints.

You may remember that at his funeral Mass, the crowds cried out for St. Pope John Paul, "Santo Subito!" or "Make him a saint immediately!" Let us make that the mission statement of our own lives; let us all pledge to be on the road to holiness, on the road to sainthood today. Santo subito!

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Go home by another way


Today, of course, we mark our last Sunday of the Christmas season. It will fully come to an end on Monday with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Today, of course, is the Feast of the Three Kings which marks the first time the birth of Jesus is acknowledged by outsiders. These “wise men” have travelled from afar because they saw His star at its rising and have come to worship the new born King. We call it “epiphany” because this is a word that means literally “to reveal” and Jesus, the Son of God, has been in this moment revealed to the world.

There are wonderful Christmas hymns for this day, the best known, of course, is We Three Kings. But my favorite song for Epiphany is one you may not have heard of. It is by James Tayler and is called Home By Another Way. It is a song about the dream that the wise men had following their visit with Mary, Joseph and Jesus; the dream that told them to avoid King Herod and seek a different route home.

This notion of moving in a new direction serves as a good understanding of what Epiphany is all about. Epiphany is about our call to change course in our lives and set our direction to the star that is Jesus. Just like the Magi, we have seen the star that called us to move towards Him. When the Magi saw that star they had no idea who Jesus was or what He would mean to the world. They were literally far from Him and made a choice to move in His direction. We too might find ourselves in the same position. Maybe we have always desired to know Jesus more intimately, more powerfully, more personally in our lives and yet have not come close. The star again calls us today. Maybe we have been hurt, wounded, or are sad or grieving and feel a great distance from Jesus today. Again, the star calls to us. Maybe our relationship with Jesus feels stagnant, like it isn’t growing or moving or changing, and we don’t know what to do to make it better. The star calls to us today.

Jesus wants to reveal Himself to each one of us today, just as He did to the wise men so long ago. And, He wants that revelation to change our very lives. We have to do our part and alter our course towards Him. Whatever parts of our lives have been distant – perhaps we have been full of anger or fear, anxiety or judgment. Perhaps we have old wounds and broken relationships that we’ve not tended to. Jesus wants to be the healing for all of the broken places in our lives.

Pope Francis in his homily for today said, “[The Magi] had to discover that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere. In the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved. For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, is it possible to realize that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us. To realize that the gaze of God lifts up, forgives and heals. To realize that God wanted to be born where we least expected, or perhaps desired, in a place where we so often refuse him. To realize that in God’s eyes there is always room for those who are wounded, weary, mistreated and abandoned. That his strength and his power are called mercy.”

My friends, this is the “other way” that a living encounter with Jesus sends us. If we change our course to head towards the star, and there we encounter the real manifestation of God, we too will be sent home by another way. We too will be called to not take the road of self-fulfillment, but instead take the road of empathy, care and concern for others; the road of forgiveness, healing and hope.

Our beautiful manger scene is a perfect icon of this encounter. The manger reminds us exactly the way that God decided to come to earth and take on our human flesh. God chose to enter humanity not in a grandiose way, not with trumpet blast and glory, but in the simple way that you and I entered humanity - within a family. And, not only that, He chose to enter as someone who was homeless – they could not find a place to lay their head. He chose to enter as a migrant on their way to another land for the census. He chose to enter our world as a little baby, as someone who was helpless and had to rely upon the assistance of others if He were to complete His mission among us of spreading the good news and bringing His promised salvation.

God chose to enter our world precisely in the places and in the people and in the ways that we, today, so often struggle or even fail to see God. When we look at the immigrant, the refugee, the homeless, the helpless, what do we see? Do we realize that they too are icons of the very image of God as He was on that first Christmas morning; as He was as the Magi travelled to see Him? Every manger is an image of a homeless, migrant family who had no place to lay their heads. And all over our city, you can find a homeless woman or man huddled under a blanket or a cardboard box. As we pass them by, do we recognize that their image and the image of our manger are in fact the same? Do we see God present there when we see them? This is the new road our encounter with Jesus invites us to travel.

In a few days, our Christmas mangers will be carefully packed and put away for another year, but these urban mangers that surround us on our streets will remain in the men and women who live there. The star shines brightly today guiding us to change our course and head toward Jesus – here in this Church as He reveals Himself in Word and Sacrament. And, when we leave this encounter, Jesus tells us as a dream told the Three Kings to have the courage to go home by another way, to embark on the path that opens our eyes and our hearts, our minds and our lives, to the presence of Jesus that we will suddenly see is all around us.

Let us be mercy, the forgiveness, the healing, the joy and the hope that the Baby Jesus came to bring to our world.

Merry Christmas and may the Lord give you peace!

Click to enjoy the James Taylor song:

The real electoral problem may lie within us | Sr. Joan Chittister | NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

By Joan Chittister | Jan. 5, 2017 | NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

We're in the middle of it now. But where it's going in the end may be to the wrong place entirely.
The election is over but we are up to our ankles in the detritus it leaves behind. The new issues that have emerged in this election — the Electoral College, the media, the fake news, the hacking — are serious ones, yes. And yet, I do not think that these are the most important elements to be addressed in this term's electoral autopsy.
Yes, we now have a minority president who skated into the White House on a system meant, some point out, to correct the democracy the founders purported to set up. The Electoral College, some argued, would balance the numerical disadvantage of the less populated Southern slave states with the larger, immigrant-populated Northern states by counting slaves as part of the population though they were counted for absolutely nothing else. Or, as others say, the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College in order to save us from "the tyranny of the majority." So now, with slavery ended, we are apparently meant to believe that some voters know better than others though we have yet to be told on what grounds that correction should occur.
And all of that would be problem enough surely.

But the real problem is that we are also left with something even more dangerous than an archaic political system. We now have an electorate for whom facts have no meaning and programs apparently have little value and generate even less interest. And we have a word for it now: We have become the 'post-truth' generation. We rely more now on the kinds of feelings that can be generated in the electorate than we do on the kind of facts that once shaped decision-making in this country.
For instance, no major news media devoted time during this electoral cycle to teaching the American public the advantages or disadvantages of any single political promise. Hillary Clinton kept saying she had a plan and we could find it on her website. In Clinton-land there were plans for everything. But no major networks bothered to create a series of programs to evaluate any of them, let alone all of them. Ideas, it seems, do not get the media the kind of ratings that bring in ad income, and so are now being routinely ignored.
From the Trump campaign, on the other hand, assertions — and often downright lies, not plans — were the coin of the realm. There were no details to chart, let alone compare to other plans around them.
Instead, though the media struggled mightily to expose the constant stream of lies that were the pillars of Donald Trump's campaign — Mexico is forcing criminals into the U.S.; Hillary is the most corrupt politician of all time; there was voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California; there are 3 million criminals in this country illegally; and "In many instances, [people's] health care costs are more than their mortgage costs or their rent" — the lies fell on deaf ears. One lie after another; 25 pages of them all neatly archived now but apparently without any importance whatsoever to the voting public at the time. Instead, name-calling and assertion became the coin of the realm. Vice President Joe Biden said that the details of Hillary's campaign "got drowned out by the most vicious campaign, the craziest campaign I've ever witnessed."
So, the political autopsy is in full swing and the focus now is on why the Democrats lost the election.
But I do not think that party politics are either the real question or a substantial answer to the question of how and why a national electorate simply ignored the name-calling, the lack of plans, the din of vague accusations and the myriad shifting promises of a candidate for the highest office in the land.
Nor was there any explanation of how it could be that the ill-advised use of a private email server by one candidate could possibly outweigh all the outright lies of the other.
Nor was there serious mention of the Constitutional crises the Electoral College was charged to deal with concerning the kinds of conflicts of interest that ought to preclude a candidate's qualifications for presidency.
Instead, it's becoming plain, the real electoral problem may actually lie in us, in the electorate. Why didn't we insist on some kind of public consideration of these issues before the election? Why didn't we demand answers and data and the public analysis and discussion of programs and plans, and of the advantages and disadvantages of each? What happened to serious examination of serious questions? One candidate won all three debates, the process designed to do just that, and lost the election regardless.
So, what is missing? Not in the political campaigns but in us?
I've considered two possibilities. The first thought that came to mind is that this country's easy dismissal of liberal arts in education may have finally come home to roost.
Our colleges, in large part, have become extensions of U.S. business. We teach our students how to make money, how to build corporations, how to compete in the marketplace, how to win in a digital world, and how to "brand" something. Do we require courses on government or the history of ideas anymore? How long has it been since we heard about anyone taking courses on the Great Books as part of the core curriculum? When did we stop wondering which of the great philosophers really told us the most about what it means to be good, to be happy, to be beautiful, to be truth-tellers? How long has it been since we have had a good discussion on the purpose of a university?
Why is it that the first things to be cut in response to our shrinking education budgets are courses on world history, philosophy, logic, ethics, great literature, music, and the arts? How much time do we spend these days teaching things that concentrate on the development of the human spirit, the definition of the truly human, human being. How often do we ask whether what can be done ought to be done?
The question is a simple one: When will we again give as much attention to stretching the thought process and nourishing the soul of the society as we do to increasing the earning power of part of the population?
Or second, when will the Hastert Rule — institutionalized by Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House from 1999-2007 — be seen for what it is? Hastert allowed only those bills that were known to already have the support of a majority of the majority party to be brought to the floor of the House for a vote. It is a strategy that smothers the democratic ideal. It makes partisanship the unwritten law of the land. It is the creation of one-party rule in what is meant to be a democracy of conscience.
It all but silences the thinking of the minority party by refusing to submit for consideration the contribution of the minority voice to the legislative development of the country. It is a crime against the democratic commitment to work for the common good.
From where I stand, it seems that we ignored the evaluation of ideas in this election for at least two reasons: First, we no longer put much emphasis on idea development and critical thinking. And second, we long ago abandoned the hard work of working through ideas together, even at the highest levels in the land. What we have learned is to let other people do our thinking for us. Then, the rest of us can simply sit by, make up false news, and substitute name-calling for thinking, for public planning, for the Constitution.
But that's not what we call democracy. That's what's we call oligarchy and plutocracy — rule by a few. Both of which systems failed. We'd all recognize it quickly — if we ever learned about the effects of something like that to begin with.

[Joan Chittister is a Benedictine sister of Erie, Pa.]

"Kindness to all" | Cardinal Joseph Tobin | AMERICA MAGAZINE

NOTE: I have been a big fan of Cardinal Tobin's for some time. I recall being at a keynote address that he gave to vocation director's about a year before the election of Pope Francis. He gave an exegesis on the term "pontifex" as "bridge builder". I can only hope that his voice continues to grow stronger with in Catholicism, especially American Catholicism. I think in so many ways our faith in the public sphere has been reduced to a sort of baptized political polarization that is more about what the Cardinal dubs "hot button issues" than it is about the core of our faith. Let's get back to what we are about - "See how these Christians love one another" and the rest will follow. - FT
Cardinal Joseph Tobin used his installation Mass as archbishop of Newark on Jan. 6 as an opportunity to call on Catholics to move away from rancor over “hot button” issues and toward contemplating how to live out their faith in a more holistic way.
Standing before a massive crowd inside Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which included scores of clergy and local officials, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Cardinal Tobin said he was recently asked which issue worried him most about the future of the church.
His answer? What he dubbed “the chasm between faith and life”—and not the culture war issues that “dominate the discourse, both inside and outside the church,” he said.

“As noisy and divisive as those questions might be,” he continued, “they don’t worry me as a growing trend that seems to isolate us, convincing us to neatly compartmentalize our life, subtly seducing us to go to Mass on Sunday and for the rest of the week, do whatever we think we need to do to get by.”

He said that Christians must be marked by their willingness to show “kindness to all: to the searching young and the forgotten elderly, to the stranger and the voiceless, to the powerful and the cynical.”

Cardinal Tobin’s appointment to Newark came as something of a surprise, given that Pope Francis announced in October that the then-archbishop of Indianapolis would be made a cardinal in November. Just weeks after that announcement, the Vatican announced that he would be transferred to Newark to lead the archdiocese’s 1.5 million Catholics.
Outgoing Archbishop John J. Myers, who welcomed Cardinal Tobin to the cathedral at the start of Friday’s Mass, has faced criticism for his handling of instances of clergy sexual abuse and accusations of lavish spending on a retirement home.
Archbishop Myers is seen as a church traditionalist. He released a memo in 2015, for example, reiterating the church’s ban on divorced and remarried Catholics being able to receive Communion, just as other bishops from around the world were discussing the issue in Rome at the behest of the pope.
Cardinal Tobin, by contrast, is a member of a religious order and is viewed as someone open to dialogue and discernment.
“I think Redemptorists always like to look on the other side of the tracks and care for people that maybe the church isn’t able to care for,” he told America in October. “Our founder spoke of the most abandoned poor and that can take different form in different areas. The way I hear it, and the way I would speak of it when I was superior general, was basically we must go where the church isn’t able to go.”
He is also willing to take on difficult political questions, as evidenced by his 2015 refusal to comply with then-Gov. Mike Pence’s request not to resettle a family of Syrian refugees in Indiana, which brought him national attention.
In a speech at the University of Notre Dame last October, he said Catholics must “urge public officials to avoid reactions that politicize events abroad, or in this country, and to avoid misplaced blame that creates an atmosphere of fear.”
Ordained a priest in Redemptorist order in 1978, Cardinal Tobin, who speaks five languages, worked in parishes in Detroit and Chicago. By 1997 he was head of his religious order, based in Rome, and in 2010 Pope Benedict XVI promoted him to archbishop, assigning him the task of managing the Vatican office that oversees religious life.
Around this time the Vatican had launched two investigations of Catholic sisters in the United States, apparently the result of the dissatisfaction among some church officials at what they saw as a drift away from traditional church teaching on contentious social issues among U.S. women religious.
For his part, then-Archbishop Tobin emerged as an advocate for the sisters, ruffling the feathers of some church leaders. After serving just two years of a five-year term, he was appointed to serve as archbishop of Indianapolis, traditionally not a premier post in the American church.
Then, with Pope Francis, he was named a cardinal and sent to Newark, a meteoric rise after falling out of favor during a previous pontificate.
And he echoed the words of the pope during his homily, laying out his vision for the church.
Speaking to an audience that included six other cardinals and more than 60 other bishops, he said the church is “neither an elite club nor static container of truth,” calling it instead a “place where believers speak and listen to each other, and it is the community of faith that speaks with and listens to the world.”
Using language borrowed from the pope, he said “the church senses a responsibility for the world, not simply as yet another institutional presence or a benevolent NGO, but as a movement of salt, light and leaven for the world's transformation.”
“For this reason, our kindness must be known to all,” he said.
Michael O’Loughlin is the national correspondent for America and author of The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

'Rogue One' and the Return of Reverence | First Things

By Mark Barnes | First Things | January 3, 2017
Star Wars is—or should be—a religious franchise. The Jedi are a monastic order trained in contemplating and manipulating an omnipresent Force, and in fighting against those who use the Force for evil ends. The crucial question for every character is always spiritual: whether one will choose the “light” or the “dark” side of the Force. Their character arcs involve taking a religious stance toward this mystical energy field.

At least that's how it was in the three original Star Wars films (1977-83). In the originals, access to the Force occured on the basis of faith and asceticism. Luke Skywalker had to cease trusting his physical eyes and take on the eyes of faith; he had to train his body and mind extensively before he was capable of the same feats of Force as Yoda.

By contrast, the Star Wars prequels (1999-2005) departed from this religious heart, by making the Force something embedded in the natural world:
ANAKIN : Master, sir … I've been wondering … what are midi-chlorians?
QUI-GON : Midi-chlorians are a microscopic lifeform that reside within all
living cells and communicate with the Force.
ANAKIN : They live inside of me?
QUI-GON : In your cells. We are symbionts with the midi-chlorians.
ANAKIN : Symbionts?
QUI-GON : Life forms living together for mutual advantage. Without the
midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the
Force. They continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force.
In the prequels, the Force is a part of the biological world. It is accessed not by the mind or spirit but by microscopic organisms. This view renders the Jedi religion superfluous—one either has a “high midi-chlorian count,” or one does not. The prequels rewrite the Jedi’s disciplined access to the mystical life as something determined by a blood-test.

This secularization of the Force coincides with its most grotesque, irreverent use. The Jedi of the originals were concerned with not using the Force, with the profound need for being “ready” to wield it. Yoda told Luke he will be able to discern the ways of the Force “when you are calm, at peace. Passive.” He restricted its use: “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” He warned that the “quick and easy path” is precisely what makes one an “agent of evil.”

But in the prequels, the Force loses its sacred status and becomes a magic weapon. Yoda—who trained Luke Skywalker by saying “Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things”—draws his lightsaber by sucking it from his belt to his hand. He uses the Force to jump higher and fling things at his opponent, while dropping one-liners: “Not if anything to say about it, I have.” The all-pervading life-stuff of the universe becomes a mechanism for heavy-lifting. This is antithetical to Yoda’s original description of the Force, which is an “ally” not because it is a cool weapon, but because it is sacred: “For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” The Force is used so often, and for so many purposes, throughout the prequels—from eating pears to throwing people—that it loses its religious valence and becomes just another technological element: blasters, lightsabers, X-wings, Force.

Atheism often seeks a replacement for religious reverence in a certain “awe” before the physical universe: Richard Dawkins’s “Science is Magic,” Alain de Botton’s “Atheism 2.0,” and the vague “space-theism” wherein internet-plebeians fill the need for the Absolutely Unknowable Other with Not-Very Knowable Things—dark matter, black holes, the multiverse, and so on. All these recommend themselves as methods of retaining some degree of reverence in a cosmos without God and without transcendence.

But the prequels give us a lesson that life repeats. No matter how amazing something is, if it is susceptible to our power and manipulation, it gets boring. Flying was once an exciting new possibility. But we’ve perfected it and commercialized it, and now we fall asleep, bored some 39,000 feet above Earth. Mars is exciting. Wal-Mart plans to subsume it under human use, where it will grow tiresome. In a thousand years, children will whine about going to school on the light-travel bus. There is no part of the physical cosmos that we cannot sap of its significance by making it a part of everyday existence—a thing we use, a thing we ignore. Only that which is not “currently” out of reach, mysterious “by the research standards of today,” can be approached with reverence.

Reverence is an emotion that responds to the presence of a value higher than ourselves—a value that exists in its own right and does not need us. Reverence is not oriented toward the useful, no matter how awesome the use. Only something that is by its very nature unavailable to being used by human beings can assert itself as worthy of reverence—of a continued, trembling respect for that which exceeds us. The prequels irreverently secularized the Force, making it a controllable entity, measurable and understandable, infinitely use-able.

But in the new Star Wars movies (2015-), something else has been happening. In The Force Awakens, Han Solo derides Finn’s blithe mechanization of the Force as an easy answer to the problem of how to disable some shields: “That’s not how the Force works!” This shut-down of Finn’s use-the-cool-Force attitude indicates a shift in the new Star Wars movies, a certain return of the religious dimension that fueled the originals—a return to reverence.

This turn achieves its maturity in Rogue One. If the prequels scooped the sacred from the Force by biologizing and technologizing it, Rogue One returns it by spiritualizing and refusing to use the Force. Physical sight can no longer behold the Force. Its main adherent is Chirrut Îmwe, a blind warrior-monk who believes in the power of the Force. Îmwe’s temple has been destroyed by an imperial power, and thus, deprived of any obvious geographical site of the sacred, he must carry the evidence of the Force that “binds the galaxy together” by his own prayer and upright action.

Barring a few from Darth Vader, Rogue One contains almost none of the technological “uses” of the Force that marked the prequels. There are no Jedi driving the action. Instead, we have a believer who trusts the Force, not as a power to be manipulated, but as an object of prayer: “The Force is with me and I am one with the Force.” Îmwe “prays” as he walks through the field of lasers, but we don’t see bolts careening off by the swipe of an unseen hand. It is Îmwe who must change in accordance with the Force. It guides him, not vice versa.

Similarly, there are no magical “saves” in Rogue One. The Force is not manipulated for human ends; rather, the human end of “avoiding biological death” is subordinated to the Force. The main characters die believing, but without “getting what they want” via that belief. The film embodies that fundamental religious recognition—that there is a life greater than biological life, and the true influence of the supernatural is to help us cast off our lives for this greater life. Martyrdom, by which one can willfully give up biological life for some higher value, is the true gift of the Force.

The religious emphasis of the film is not how to use the Force, but how to conform oneself to something that is beyond use. We do not hear the iconic line, “Use the force,” in Rogue One. We hear a reverent one: “Trust the force.” The difference between use and trust sums up the difference between magic and religion. Magic wishes to use supernatural powers for material ends. Religion wishes to subordinate material ends to a good and wise supernatural power. Rogue One elevates the disciple over the magician and the saint over the technician.

The Force regains its power to inspire reverence. It is inscrutable, the other that measures us. This is the religious conviction, that only what exceeds human manipulation can outlast the human capacity for boredom. Rogue One, by allowing the Force to remain beyond sight, allows it to exist beyond boredom.

Marc Barnes is a student of philosophy at the Benedict XVI Centre at St. Mary's University, Twickenham, and the author of the blog “Bad Catholic.”

Changing the impossible

HOMILY FOR THE 2nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, January 20, 2019: When my parents got married more than 50 years ago, my Mom came from a pract...