Brother Paul’s Thoughts and Musings Regarding the “Signs of the Times”

Sunday, August 7, 2022
The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

As we begin the month of August, these days have traditionally been called “The Dog Days of Summer.” These are long hot days we just

try to endure. But many of us would attest to the fact that this summer, the Dog Days started much earlier than the outset of August.

What comes to my attention when I hear the Dog Days, is the origins of the religious life I live. I am referring to the “desert fathers.” The beginning of religious life occurs with the desert fathers in the late 200’s A.D. These were Egyptian Christian men who left pagan cities and the persecutions and distractions of life to live as hermits in the Sahara desert. Their motivation was to live a solitary life solely dedicated to God. Religious life has come a long way from this initial movement and in numerous ways is engaged back in society and service to God’s people.

I also mention the Desert Fathers because of one issue they faced in the desert – and that was facing the Noonday Devil. In brief, this refers to the temptation to become lazy and give up one’s convictions and values due to the discomfort of the noon day heat. It is a time when the elements effect people the most and they want to give up, and perhaps, to be very blunt about it say, “to hell with it.”

So, as we enter the Dog Days of Summer and consider the noonday devil both physically and symbolically, not just now but throughout the year, how well do we cope with these noonday devils or using another term, the “white hot glare” which comes our way in many different forms? Are we able to withstand the challenge they force upon us or do we “cave” and give up and say that what we stand for is not worth it? Does this call us to go off and hide and deny what we are called to stand for?

Our world and our times are problematic in many ways. The temptation to run away and deny may be very appealing. Today’s Noonday Devils make it quite inviting to forsake our values and become a part of the problem. How do we maintain our integrity under such pressures and resistance?

As we hear in the Gospel reading on the first Sunday of Lent every year, Jesus has a similar experience during his forty days in the desert. Satin is persistent in tempting Jesus who is hungry as he continues his stint in the wilderness. As we read in that Gospel passage, Jesus resists the opportunity to give in. In his Scriptural counters to Satin, he makes it very clear that he is value-based and knows who he is and what he is being called to. As a result, his time of prayer and fasting in the desert is successful and he is prepared to re-enter society and execute the mission his father has sent him for.

In the same way, during these Dog Days when our convictions may be placed in the crucible, may we have the same grounded belief, as Jesus did, in what we have been called to and withstand the Noonday devils of our time.

Sunday, July 31, 2022
The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

When you travel westbound on William Howard Taft and approach the University of Cincinnati campus, you will come to the intersection of William Howard Taft and Euclid. On the northwest corner of this intersection, there is a broken park/bus bench that as painted on it 2+2=5. Now, according to my first-grade math instruction by the good Sister Alyse, the answer to two plus two is four and that fact has stood over the years. So, where did this mathematical statement spring from? I did a bit of research on it and found out the following:

In 1984, “2+2=5” is a false statement created by the Party and an example of the many ways the Party controls people. In making people believe that a random, false statement is an objective truth, the Party distorts and claims control of truth itself. (Source Unknown)

I am not sure who the Party was in 1984, but this explanation sounds awfully familiar in our day and time.

I want to be clear as I continue to write today, I am not making any political references, but in recent years, we have seen many 2+2=5 – like statements which are just not true and blur our reality. It is a travesty that solid truth and facts no longer seem to exist, at least in many areas of social discourse. I think about Pilate as he interrogates Jesus before his death: “Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate asked him, “What is truth?’” (John 18: 37-38)

The truth is that there are many real and solid truths based in logic, philosophy, theology, science, mathematics, and we also find truths in the study of law. As we address what is truth and what is not truth, we need to do some good soul searching and discernment (there I go again with my “D-word”) and ask ourselves for starters as we take in information, do I want to be informed or affirmed? Do I want to be challenged and grow or do I just want to settle with what I am comfortable with? Such searches and exploration to gather valuable information from many sources will take time. It is important though as we quest to identify the truth and make the best judgements possible. But, perhaps, most importantly, this process calls us to prayer. Prayer where we ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance to lead us to the truth and to what are the Scriptural “fruits of the Spirit” as told in Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (5: 22-23). Let us always base our beliefs in the foundation of these gifts of the Spirit.

I found it ironic, as I mentioned at the outset, that the bench at William Howard Taft and Euclid was broken. It is only appropriate for the falsehood the bench proclaims. In the same way, let us quickly identify the broken falsehoods of our time and be able to name them and not be caught-up in believing them.