A Drop of Agony

A Catholic acquaintance of mine mentioned on Facebook how none of the mainstream media were covering the murder trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.  At first, I thought it was just another doctor on trial for abortion.  Then I found the Grand Jury report.  (Apparently, a lot of people are trying to access the PDF document, now.  Fortunately, I got a copy of the report before the server crashed: Copy of Grand Jury Report on Kermit Gosnell Case.)  About an hour before I started writing this post, The Atlantic was the first mainstream outlet to write an article.  It’s tagline?  “The dead babies. The exploited women. The racism. The numerous governmental failures. It just is insanely newsworthy.”

An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in...
An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon, and like The Atlantic author, Conor Friedersdorf, I felt nauseated.  Yet, I felt compelled to continue reading the 281-page report.  It was written like a horror story, except it was non-fiction.  I kept asking God, “Why did you permit this?”  And as I was praying, I started thinking about Christ’s Agony in the Garden.  The night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed to God to let the cup of suffering past from his lips.  Tradition teaches us that Jesus, at that moment, was taking on the full weight of all of humanity’s sins onto his shoulders.  He saw all the atrocities men and women would commit throughout all of time, including the ones by Dr. Kermit Gosnell.  Christ was so distressed that he started to sweat blood.  The nausea I felt, the injustice, the sheer horror and incredulity that I felt about what Gosnell and his employees did was just a drop in a bucket compared to what Christ saw.  In my own small way, I felt united to Christ at that moment.

All afternoon, I couldn’t help but think of the babies in that report as my own children.  When I came home from work this evening, I went straight to my children, picked them up and hugged them.  I thanked God for them.  I thanked God on behalf of my children, that they were born to Anne Marie and I instead of to parents who have been brainwashed by society to view children as a burden.

As I rocked my baby to sleep this evening, I started to pray the rosary.  Being Friday, it was the Sorrowful Mysteries.   The first mystery was the Agony in the Garden.  My natural reaction to this case is disgust for Gosnell, his employees, and the whole pro-choice movement.  Praise Him, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I ended up praying for the murderers, instead.  As I went through my “Hail Marys…” I realized that the women and babies who died are now in a better place, but the souls of these murderers are still up for grabs.  The real enemy aren’t the people on trial, or the government officials who turned a blind eye, or people who advocate for abortion rights.  The real enemy is Satan.  The devil wants the souls of these murderers, the officials, and the people whose passion comes from love.  These souls are in greater danger than the victims.  So, I prayed for them.  I admitted to God that I felt they didn’t deserve it, but I also didn’t want the devil to win.

The evil that took place at the Women’s Medical Society will continue to haunt me, but now I can unite the drop of agony I feel to Christ’s agony when he prayed for all of us.

Repent from Your Good Works

Kunsthistorisches Museum
Prodigal Son (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was at a men’s bible study again this evening.  We’re diving deep into the story of the Prodigal Son.

Most people don’t realize, myself included, that the story was really a warning to the people who obey God’s rules diligently: “There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord.  One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good.”

Even a man who has violated nothing on the list of moral misbehaviors can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person.  Why?  Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son in the parable sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.

Harry Potter, Gay Marriage, and Social Media

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ...
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (soundtrack) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of my friends recently have come out on Facebook in support of gay marriage.  I suspect that my friends, like myself, are appalled by the persecution, demonization and condemnation of homosexuals in modern history.  It is our strong sense of justice and love of our neighbors, families, friends and co-workers who happen to be homosexual that stir us to stand by them as California’s Proposition 8 is being reviewed by the Supreme Court.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Lord Voldemort uses Harry and other people’s sense of justice and love against each other.  Lord Voldemort is the epitome of

evil and a genius at warfare.  Voldemort successfully convinced the magical world that he did not exist.  In the meantime, Voldemort quietly infiltrated all the institutions designed to protect the world from his return.  When the magical community realized that Voldemort indeed was alive, it was too late.  He was too powerful, and all the good wizards and witches went into hiding.

What if Satan was real?  Then, Satan would be our real-world equivalent of Rowling’s fictional Voldemort.  Satan would do well to convince the whole world that he doesn’t exist, that he is just a superstition of a bygone era while he quietly infiltrates all our public institutions designed to hold our society together.  What better way to destroy the fabric of society than by unraveling the very basic unit of community: the family?  What better way for Satan to get good people to fight for his cause than by appealing to their sense of justice, equality, and love of neighbor?

Satan_at_the_Holy_Land_Experience

Back in high school, I competed at the National Championships in forensics by playing a homosexual character.  It was Harvey Fierstein’s Torchsong Trilogy, and I played the part of Arnold Beckoff and my partner played Ma Beckoff, Arnold’s mother.  It’s funny now that I think about it: a Chinese-American teenager play-acting as a gay, adult Jewish man arguing at the gravesite of his murdered lover with a Latina from Alhambra who is supposed to be a typical Jewish mother.  We were good enough to go to Nationals, though, and I really got into the part.  From that point forward, I was always sensitive to the persecution of homosexuals.  Why can’t two committed gay men or lesbians get married?  Who are you to tell others whom they can love?  Promiscuous heterosexuals are no less immoral than promiscuous homosexuals, but if two people want to be in a life-long commitment, why should we stop them?  A child growing up in a loving household of two gay men or two lesbian women is just as good as a loving household with a father and mother.  Studies that show differently probably can find cause from the child being bullied for growing up in a different type of household.

I was so convinced by my sense of justice, so disgusted by religious people violently condemning homosexuals like the Pharisees who were ready to cast the first stone.  Even if homosexuality was a sin, where was their compassion for the sinner?

Fast forward, I became a Catholic.  I never even tried to reconcile what the Church and God teaches about homosexuality, until recently.  My friends on Facebook forced me to look at my internal contradictions.  Why did I have a change of heart?  The most compassionate explanation of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality came from this segment produced by Catholic Answers.  Still, it wasn’t enough to explain why I so quickly adopted God’s teaching on homosexuality.  Even the non-religious arguments against gay marriage, although compelling, did not explain my change of heart.

After much reflection and a meaningful conversation with my wife, I’ve come to understand my change of heart is because of Lord Voldemort — Satan.  I believe that the devil exists and that he is actively trying to unravel the very fabric of our society.  It’s crazy, I know: how can any person in this day and age still believe that the devil exists?  It was easier for the Ministry of Magic to refuse to believe the return of Voldemort than to acknowledge the existence of someone so evil and so powerful.  Just as Harry’s sacrifice at the end of the book protected his friends at Hogwarts, so Christ’s sacrifice on the cross inoculated us from the worse effects of Satan’s powers.  But, we’re not completely immune.  Just as I know the Harry Potter series ends happily, I know the war ends in Christ’s victory, but all the battles in-between are undetermined; my soul and those of my friends and family are still up for grabs.

How does changing the definition of marriage affect society?  I’m not smart enough to foresee the consequences.  I just get the stinking feeling that our real-world Voldemort is trying to use our love for each other against us.

New Men’s Prayer Group

A new prayer group started tonight.  It’s just men.  Although everyone who came tonight works at the Embassy, there will be others who will come from Aric’s church.  We will read Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God.” 

It’s really nice to do this again.  The men’s group that I was a part of in Shanghai did a lot to improve my spiritual life.  I pray that this group will help all of us to grow stronger in the faith, too.

Layers of Distress

A newborn baby in the intensive care unit is very scary for parents.  I empathize with my friends whose newborn son is currently in NICU for bacterial meningitis.  I prayed throughout the day yesterday when I heard about it.  My wife couldn’t sleep because she kept thinking about it.  We have a 3-month old girl, and I can imagine my own despair if she also had to battle meningitis.

My preconceptions are challenged because I take for granted that God will protect newborn babies.  I imagine a force field of grace surrounding an infant, reinforced by the parents’ diligence and love.  Life is a lot more fragile than that.  I take for granted that our children will be strong and healthy, but so many souls these days don’t even make it out of their mother’s womb.  Those that do have to confront a hostile world: pollution, disease, social unrest…  Even in happy and stable homes, newborn souls can still be attacked by forces beyond a parent’s control — like by meningitis.

There are layers to my distress.  In addition to worrying about my friends, praying for the baby’s recovery, and thinking of ways to protect our own children, I feel hopeless to take any effective action.  What can I do to fight something I can’t see?  What can we do about a bacteria that exists even in healthy people?  Prayer works at a level beyond conscious perception.  I have to have trust in that.  I have to have trust in God.

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