Tag Archives: unborn

Incarnations Among Us

Michelangelo CreationThe link between God and man has always been sacred. The glory of the Creator permeates his creation. His life pulses through us, from conception to death, and into eternity. God, our preacher reminded us yesterday, is incarnate within us.

Such incarnation – in the flesh – is the heart of Christianity. This mystery was revealed two thousand years ago, made perfect in God’s incarnation as Jesus the Christ, the Messiah. As St. John writes: 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (KJV)

This moment in history revealed to a barbaric world the innate natural law to honor the dignity of all human beings, regardless of gender, race, handicap, age, born and unborn. To be sure, before Christ, God led his Chosen People to this moment by giving them laws and judgments that taught the same respect, belief, and charity for one another and set them apart from other communities. But when God the Son entered humanity to live among us, he gave us incarnational means, sacramental means, to take part in his divinity through God the Holy Spirit.

The Church through the centuries has worked to make incarnation understood and experienced. Doctrines and dogma explain in words. Sacraments provide incarnate ways for God to enter his creation again and again in human time, hourly, daily, weekly. We receive his body into our body. We pray and praise, and his Spirit weaves among us, entering our hearts and minds. We, the created, are called to converse with our Creator, and he descends upon us, within us, filling us with his life and love. This is incarnation. This God in our own flesh.

Recently, at a concert at St. Peter’s, Oakland, “Bach Vespers, Cantata 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut” with soprano Juliana Snapper and organist Jonathan Dimmock of the San Francisco Symphony, I knew I was experiencing a kind of incarnation. For music c0mposed for the worship of God, as this was composed, is prayerful praise. It links us with God through our hearing and our singing. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), church organist, wrote this stunning cantata for a Lutheran Evening Prayer service (Vespers), weaving music through Scripture readings and prayers. The audience of varying beliefs sang hymns with the rest of us. The music danced around us, in, and through us.

I have often called for the return of the Judeo-Christian tradition to the public square, not as theocracy but to remind our culture of the roots of our historic belief in human dignity founded on the belief that God indwells in each of us. Here, in the nave of this Oakland church, the public square came to us, for it was a public concert reminding ordinary citizens of the roots of freedom, this God of revelation. It was a powerful moment.

And when I saw Pope Francis address Congress this weekend, the first pope to do so, I was encouraged to see that Christianity had entered the public square for a short hearing. The pope, to be sure, appeals to a broad spectrum. As Peggy Noonan writes, Pope Francis has two sides, a lovable one, preaching the dignity of human life, and a not-so-lovable one, preaching an economic theory long ago discredited as helping the poor, one that hurts the poor. He is a pope, she writes, who “endorses secular political agendas, who castigates capitalism in language that is both imprecise and heavily loaded… he doesn’t, actually, seem to know a lot about capitalism or markets, or even what economic freedom has given – and is giving – his own church.” Indeed, his own Argentina has fallen into poverty through socialist ideology. Hoover Institution economist Thomas Sowell weighed in this week: “The official poverty level in the United States is the upper middle class in Mexico. The much criticized market economy of the United States has done far more for the poor than the ideology of the left.”

But even with the two sides of this lovable Pope Francis, I rejoice in his presence, for he has brought the Church into America’s public square, and many are listening to his words spoken from a loving heart. He has reminded us of our Judeo-Christian roots simply by his white-robed incarnate presence among us, for he represents historic Christianity through the ages. His visit, in this sense, has been a sacramental journey, to America but in time as well, as all true pilgrimages are.

Saturday night, at my fiftieth high school reunion, I saw  schoolmates I had not seen since high school. I tried to match names and faces. I studied the class photos on the wall. And as we linked with one another, searching for recognition and trying to read name tags with our reading glasses, I thought how unique each one of us was, how we had all moved through our given time changed and yet unchanged. Each one of us, created in the image of our Creator, carried his life within, in varying degrees. We are neither God nor gods, but we carry God’s spark within us, and those who had fanned it into a flame with prayer and praise and Scripture and sacrament shone brighter than those who hadn’t. They lit the room with their quiet glow.

Incarnations of God are all around us, in every person we meet. We are born to love and praise God, and this is the good, the wondrous news of salvation. We need not despair, for he is with us if we desire him. But we must desire.

I look forward to more public square incarnations, to the fusing of our culture with the Judeo-Christian belief in a loving God who proclaims the dignity of each one of us, no matter what, no matter who.

Family Deficit

marriage and family

The future of humanity passes through marriage and the family. So proclaimed Pope John Paul II. When traditional marriage and family is threatened, damaged, and destroyed, so is humanity’s future. Many have written recently about the severe decline in birth rates that will soon cause a global crisis.

Today the Baby Boomer generation is moving into their senior years. Born in the post WWII boom, they comprise a significant percentage of the U.S. population. They will require massive care as they age. Where will that care come from? And with increased longevity, they will require such care farther into the future.

Since the second world war, we have lauded individual autonomy. In our pursuit of happiness we find we may have taken a wrong turn, have embraced self and mocked the authority of tradition, faith, and family to our peril. We have redefined and weakened traditional marriage through no-fault divorce, as we no longer recognize producing and nurturing the next generation as the primary goal of marriage. Birth control began the winnowing, and abortion killed the others who were unwanted. Children, as well as the elderly, have become inconvenient in their demand sacrifice of time and money. As we have sought our own way and individual happiness, we have been inevitably destroying the family and thus the future of humanity.

The world is soon to face a critical shortage of workers. It is ironic or perhaps an obvious result, that my generation of Boomers who failed to provide a substantial next generation, will now have fewer to care for them as they age. In addition, we have not produced the next work force that will manufacture goods, the next police force that will ensure the peace, the next military force that will defend our borders. For a sneak preview, read P. D. James’ dystopian novel, The Children of Men.

I’ve counted at least five trends that will probably coalesce in the next few decades: a worldwide (and massive) graying population, the destruction of the extended family that cares for the aged, the absence of a younger generation that will care for the aged (due to population decline), the increased longevity of the aged, and the culture of self over a culture of  self-sacrifice.

As Nicholas Eberstadt writes in the Wall Street Journal,

“Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But these voluntary changes have unintended consequences… by some cruel cosmic irony, family structures and family members will be less capable, and perhaps also less willing to provide… care and support than ever before… (which) promises to frame an overarching social problem…throughout the world. It is far from clear that humanity is prepared to cope with the consequences of its impending family deficit, with increasing independence for those traditionally most dependent on others – i.e. the young and old.”

We’ve been warned about the population deficit, that we will not have the numbers to support our economy or defend our borders. But it may come home sooner than that, as we age and become abandoned by our own society.

Some of us have family. Some do not. Digging into the deeper and better part of our human nature, we want to care for both groups.

It is no surprise that with a national health care system that is economically unviable, assisted suicide is encouraged. What committee will decide who lives and who dies? What pressures will be felt by seniors to end their lives for the convenience of their loved ones? What happens to the mind (and heart and soul) of the physician who has journeyed down that path… one that no longer supports life. And should those in the medical industry who support life be forced to defend themselves?

In the end, I suppose, we do reap (as a world, a nation, a family, an individual) what we sow.

If John Paul II is right, and the future of humanity is indeed passed on through the family, we are in trouble. As marriage and the family dies, so does humanity.

And as the family weakens, the wisdom and culture of the past is not passed on. We are left bankrupt not only in terms of matters of defense at home and abroad, matters of health care. We are left without the moral compass of over two thousand years of Judeo-Christian ethos.

Let us renew life. Let us fight for every unborn child. Let us revere and care for our aged as long as we can. Ancient societies understood this and so should we if it is not too late.

Let us support marriage and family life whenever and wherever we can.