Jesus Doesn’t Save? Xi Jinping Does?

 November 14 at 6:59 AM

A sculptor works on statues of Jesus Christ in an outdoor workshop in the town of Dangcheng in Quyang county, 155 miles southwest of Beijing, in 2011. (David Gray/Reuters)

“BEIJING — Jesus Christ won’t drag you out of poverty or cure your illnesses, but the Chinese Communist Party will, so take down those pictures of Christ and put up a nice photograph of President Xi Jinping.

That’s what thousands of villagers in southeastern China have been told by local officials, in a sign of the growing cult of personality around the country’s powerful leader, as well as rising pressure on Christian worship.”

So begins the article in the Washington Post. As in other parts of the world the minions of Satan are alive and well in China. Crosses and Christian images are taken down, pictures of Xi Jinping are ordered to be put up. People are told their worldly problems can only be solved by the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi and, by implication, that he supersedes Jesus Christ.

The godless worldly materialism of Communism is only one of the attacks upon Christianity in a world awash in secularism and the multiple cancers of heresy. Yet the messages are so often much the same. Rely on government in whatever form to solve your problems. God won’t. Or rely on yourself, because neither God nor anyone else will solve your problems for you. Or, perhaps worse yet, rely upon one Deified person in whom you can place all your hopes. That is what is happening in China and Russia and what has already happened in North Korea. We want a god to take care of us but an easier-to-believe-in visible god rather than one who is invisible. We cleave to visible power, because the notion of an omnipotent all-loving but invisible God overwhelms our puny human intellect and thus our faith.

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. thus we know this is the last hour. 1 John 2:18 (NABRE)

Yet every Christian knows in faith that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world. We know because He said so. The kingdom of this world is the domain of the prince of darkness.

He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8: 44 (NABRE)

And so it is by lies that the faith and the souls of Christians are murdered going all the way back to the lies the serpent told Eve. The truths of Christianity are hard and not always easy to understand. Being a good Christian does not guarantee that you will not be poor or that you will not be ill or that your only child will not die in a car accident. If you’re looking for perfect justice in this world, you’re looking in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed for us. Romans 8:18 (NABRE)

Does this mean that God does not answer our prayers in this life? Does this mean God is not at work in the world? Certainly not. Of course He is, and He always hears and answers our prayers. But He just might not answer them in the way we want or expect or even recognize. He answers in the way that is best for us; and He knows far better how to nurture us than we do. We think as people think, not as God thinks. God challenges our faith at the same time He strengthens it.

So beware the lies of Satan, who sometimes wears a human face. His lies challenge our faith and understanding where they are weakest, in our desire to see justice, in our desire to do good, in our desire to work our will in the world, in our desire for health, happiness and a sense of self worth. In this life, in the infinite Wisdom of God, we might have all of these things or we might have none of them. Beware the mask of any false god who says he can provide you  with them better than God, because we know whose face is behind the mask.

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8 (NABRE)


Saving Treyden: Epilogue

Saving Treyden 3If the words Cassie posted on Saving Treyden at Facebook on June 7th are some of the saddest words I have ever read, these words posted yesterday are certainly some of the bravest:

June 13th
Today is one of the first times that I don’t have any words to say.. Treyden received his wings today, he was surrounded by nothing but love. Travis and I held him close and said our goodbyes. We will always be with you Treyden as you will be with us. Love you always and forever for infinity xoxo
Thank you all for your prayers and support for our entire family
Love always
Cassie, Travis and Treyden

No words? Really? What more could you possibly say, Cassie? In those few words, you said everything. In the midst of death you reaffirmed life and love.

Although so many people prayed for a miracle, there was no miracle. Or was there? I have little doubt that Treyden has received his angel wings. But what of the rest of us? We who are left behind must somehow come to terms with living in a fallen world that sometimes brings us disease, suffering and death. How are we to do this?

Two days ago I parked my ATV for a brief respite from my ride. Out of the grass came a piping plover, scuttering on her thin stick legs. She went about 10 feet when suddenly she flopped all askew and cheeped pathetically as if injured. Then she got up perfectly healthy, came over directly in front of me and flopped again. Then I understood. A ruffed grouse mother will do this too, pretend injury to lure danger away from her nest. In other words, this little mother was willing to risk her life for her little ones. Later, I took my wife for a ride and we parked there but this time a distance away. And there was our piping plover with her three little ones, watching them carefully, making sure they didn’t venture from the grass onto the lot. God has built this selfless protective instinct even into his creatures.

Human parents love their children insanely. When they are happy, we are happy. When they are in pain, we feel their pain acutely and ours as well. Like the piping plover, we are there for them, ready to risk everything for their protection. We would gladly suffer in their place. We would gladly give our lives in their place. I can think of no pain deeper or wider than the pain parents have for their children.

God blesses us with children not only to carry on in the world but to teach us about love. Not only how to love but to give us an idea, just an inkling, of how much He loves us. It is no accident that the Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father….” If we love our children insanely, He loves us many times that. God is love. Everything He does, He does out of love for us. Not the least of which was sending His only son to suffer and die for us. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He told us the world would send us tribulation but to take heart, because He has overcome the world. In His wisdom, suffering is part of God’s plan. St. Philip Neri once said “the cross is the gift God gives to His friends.” Or as St. Paul said, all things work together for good for those that love God.

There is so much more that could be said, but for now I’ve said enough. I would leave you with the following quote  and reflection from Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft, the opening quote from St. Teresa:

“Everything is grace.”

What do we do about that?

Not a passive resignation. For our activity too is grace. Our struggle against suffering and every form of evil, physical and spiritual, is part of God’s will for us and part of our growing. But at the same time as we thus say no to suffering, disease, death, and diminishments, we also say yes to God’s overall plan, which includes both our efforts and their failure to fully conquer…. Resignation to God but nonresignation to the world, not fighting God but fighting the evils of the world – that is our destiny.

This is what you will find at Saving Treyden, not just the nonresignation and courage of Treyden’s parents but the prayers, support and love of thousands of others, most of them strangers like myself. Cassie and Travis may not have been able to heal their son, but they have helped in the healing of many, many others. Perhaps there was a miracle after all. God Bless you all.

(If anyone would like a more personal visit with Treyden and his family, you can find them at:  and

Lourdes, Communion and My Conversion

Lourdes WaterAlthough I begin each day with prayer and try to keep every day holy, I must confess that I do not go to mass every Sunday. Or even most Sundays. Although I went through a painful annulment process last year, I do not receive communion as often as I should. However, this past Sunday did not begin like other days.

I was in an extreme amount of pain. I had been praying hard for healing of the Treyden Kurtzweil family (Saving Treyden on Facebook), people I probably will never meet. I too am a parent, and I am also a grandparent of a beautiful, healthy 8-month old boy. And even then it has been hard to imagine the grief Cassie and Travis must be experiencing. I have two vials of holy water from Lourdes that belonged to my mother. I had never opened them, not even when my elderly mother was dying. I did not feel that would have been right. God’s will trumps holy water. But Saturday morning I did open one, blessed myself with it and prayed for the healing not only of Treyden but especially for his family. Although I saw no moisture on the tip of my finger, it felt cool on my forehead, unnaturally so. Like alcohol evaporating. Except that the coolness lasted a long time.

I was disconsolate with grief. How could so many prayers from so many people go unanswered? My prayers and my grief had taken me out of myself for a change, and in so doing, I was able to step back and take a good, hard look. I realized that the person I saw was himself in desperate need of healing. How disordered and self-indulgent his life had become. He was only able to see this when he became concerned about someone else.

So Sunday morning I took the bottle of Lourdes water again and blessed myself. My prayers would not only be for the Kurtzweils but for my own healing as well. I was desperate. Let’s be clear about what happened next: I do not hear voices. But I might as well have, because my next thought came as a complete surprise. You anoint yourself with holy water when you could be receiving the body and blood of my son.

The power of this thought was irresistible. I would have to go to mass. Instead of finishing my usual prayers and the mass readings, I prepared myself for mass and receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

The opening hymn was “Jesus Christ, the Healer.” Tears began to well in my eyes, and I could not even choke out most of the words. The water from Lourdes had sent me exactly to where I belonged. I had not realized the daily mass readings would be about death and healing, about the sons of two widows being brought back to life. I had not realized the whole theme of the mass would be about Christ’s power to heal. I had not realized Father Andrew’s homily would be rooted in all the funerals he had attended and about grief and how shared grief brings us closer together. And most certainly I had overlooked the healing power of the Blessed Sacrament.

During the entire mass, I felt I was truly living something miraculous. The deep healing my soul needed so badly had begun. When we really need Him, God will be there for us.  If He can be there for me, I am sure He is there for Treyden, Cassie and Travis in their time of deepest need.

Saving Treyden: The Final Chapter

Saving Treyden 2These are some of the saddest words I have ever read, which appeared today on Facebook, Saving Treyden:

With a heavy heart I am so very sad to share that treydens MRI results showed something that none of us were expecting. There shows an extreme amount of leukemia in his brain and spinal cavity. The doctors told us there is nothing more we can do. Devastated doesn’t even come close to what we are feeling… I have no words we are currently in route to go back home and be surround by all the love that we all three desperately need.
I cannot thank you all enough for your love and support we will need it more than ever with the days to come
Much love the Kurtzweils

They are now on their way home from St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. These courageous people whom I have never met have fought so hard for their brave little man. So many, many good people have pledged their prayers for Treyden and his family. I simply could not let myself believe that God would not give us the answer we all sought. This without regard that the CCC clearly says “even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses.”

I still have faith that God answers all our prayers, although sometimes He doesn’t answer them in the way we would like or understand. He acts for our good. The wisdom of man is folly to God. Who are we to question His works?

And yet the suffering of innocents remains one of the most difficult issues for Christians to wrap their arms around. We have faith that God is infinitely good and infinitely powerful. He could grant Treyden a healthy life in a twinkling. But it appears He will not. Surely He will welcome Treyden with open and loving arms. The suffering of that small child will be as nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to him. Treyden will serve his Lord and Creator in Heaven rather than on earth. The Lord has His reasons.

Unfortunately, for those of us left on earth, His reasons will remain a mystery. Oh, the suffering of his parents, past, present and future is so very real. I wish I could wash away their pain with my tears. I wish I could mend their broken hearts with my prayers. I do not ask for whom the bell tolls. I only hope that this sad event will not lead them to question their faith.

I will try not to question mine, but suddenly that has become ever so much more difficult. At the moment I have been muddling through Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft. After that I will re-read The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis. I need to get a better handle on the world’s suffering. I need to strengthen my faith. Many, many others who prayed for Treyden will be doing the same. I hope none of them decides that their prayers fall upon deaf ears. I hope none of them loses heart. I will pray for that too, along with that gift of the Holy Spirit called understanding.

God does hear our prayers. God does answer our prayers one way or the other.

He does.

Postscript: None of this is intended to deny the occurrence of miracles. They happen. It would be contrary to my faith to deny them. One should never, ever give up hope. I still pray for a miracle. Continued at Saving Treyden: Epilogue.

Saving Treyden

Saving TreydenI have never been very successful trying to understand the pain in this world. Yes, I try to understand what Pope John Paul II said in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Dolorus and in his Letter to the Sick at the National Cancer Institute. This is not easy going. I’m not as concerned about my own salvation as I am about those who suffer, animals and human.

We were on our way to Texas for my mother-in-law’s funeral. My cellphone rang. A call from the animal hospital where I was boarding my cat, Sonny. There was a lump on his hip. Should they take a sample and send it to the lab? “Why, yes,” I said, “of course.” I didn’t even ask about the expense. Animal or not, Sonny was my friend and I would take care of him like any friend.

Next day a call from the veterinarian, the cells looked funny to her and the lab. Although they could not be positive they were cancerous, she thought it would be best to remove the tumor. I did not hesitate to say yes. Damn the cost. I had already lost one dear feline friend and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with Sonny by not getting him care.

The tumor was successfully removed, and I was grateful. It was an aggressive, malignant sarcoma. But a month later he fell ill. Even though he was in the house, we could not find him for hours. When we did, I could see how sick he was. I had watched my other feline friend die an agonizing death, perhaps because I did not get him the medical care he needed, and if given a second chance I would not let that happen again. It was an awful night. Sick as Sonny was, he came to the bed to say good night in his way, as he often did. I too was sick, sick at heart. I could never understand why animals had to suffer. Oh sure, I’ve read that they do not comprehend pain as we do, but the fact of the matter is they do feel pain. And they are innocent. They are without sin. Yet they suffer for our sins.

I too was suffering, full of anguish and worry, and it made me reflect upon suffering and pain once again. It was always easier to understand my own suffering than it was the suffering of others. The worst of suffering was never physical pain, but the suffering of anguish and worry and loss. Of watching and trying to comprehend the incomprehensible suffering we see all about us. I think it was Percy Bysshe Shelley who once said he was like a nerve “over which the else unfelt oppressions of this earth do creep.” Yes, I was feeling pain and anguish for Sonny, perhaps comprehending life without him coming to our bed at night. But what I was thinking went a lot deeper than that.

The Catholic Church teaches a couple of things in relation to animals. First, we should not spend money on them that should as a priority go to relieve human misery. Well, that wasn’t going to stop me from taking him to the animal hospital and letting them put him on an IV and anti-biotics. That’s what I did and once again I didn’t ask about the expense. Sonny was a better friend to me than many people had been. Perhaps the message to me in this was that I should also give more money to human causes.

The Church also teaches that while it’s OK to love animals, we should not direct the affection toward them that are due to human beings. Well, of course not, but that did not prevent my empathizing with his suffering or my anguish at the thought of losing him. He had done nothing to deserve his suffering, much less death at a relatively young age. Was I wrong to pray for him? If God knows when a sparrow falls from the sky, surely He knew that Sonny was sick as well.

After a night in the hospital, Sonny fully recovered. Prayers answered? I don’t even think about that. I’m just grateful to have his friendship back. But that’s only the lead-in to why I came to write this post. My daughter-in-law has been posting and sharing entries from a Facebook site “Saving Treyden.” Treyden is a baby. He is very sick. His parents are going through a hell no one deserves. Until this time, I had thought very little about these posts. To be honest, I still have not read them in great detail because I simply cannot bear it. See, Treyden being a baby, he too is innocent.

Being a parent and a grandparent of an infant grandson, I simply cannot comprehend the agony his parents are going through. I don’t need to read their posts to pray for them and for Treyden. It’s all we can do to pray into the darkness of this fallen world and pour some light into it. It’s all I can do. That, and ask anyone else who reads this to pray for Treyden and his suffering parents. They all need the strength that only God can give.

Please take an extra moment today and pray for them. God Bless You.

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