Monday, October 26, 2015

On the Power of Words

This is a portion of my homily, formalized and edited, from this past Sunday. The readings may be found here for your reflection, but and not exclisivly necessary for understanding this portion.

I admit that if you are not Catholic and if you do not attend mass this will be somewhat nonsensical. But I encourage you all, first of all Catholics, to attend mass with a new zeal. And of course for you non-Catholics to become Catholic. Nevertheless, I hope this reflection encourages reflection for you.

When we pray before the altar of God, it can be an easy temptation to grow weary through repetition. We can repeat the proper response week in and week out during mass. Likewise we hear similar words nearly every week, and so we grow distracted and tired.

But I ask that we look to our own experience to correct our behavior: when we see a loved one, a family member, or a friend we can say “It's good to see you,” or “I've missed you,” or “I love you,” and each time these words produce a similar (if not the same) effect. These words, coming from someone who means it, never fail to hearten us and comfort us. Likewise, when we mean and say these words we too hope that they will do the same for our loved ones.

Yet how could we not trust the sincerity of these words?

Take this, all of you, and eat of it. For this is my body, which will be given up for you.

Take this, all of you, and drink from it. For this is the chalice of my blood. The blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.

Both times he proclaims, “Do this in memory of me.”

We ought to listen to these words anew and see them as coming from the heart of Jesus. He offers his very self to heal us, to reconcile us, and to raise us up to the Father. This is why the priest elevates the Body and Blood—it it not so that our mortal eyes might see it, but that our spirits might offer this perfect sacrifice to the Father.

Every prayer of our mass is an expression of God's love for us. Since God is love, it should not surprise us that the mass is that perfect expression of his love, because in it we receive both His word and His own Self.

Imagine, then, that the Father ever and always says “I love you” through his every action. Do we allow this to affect us as we stand, sit, and kneel before the Lord? Do our words of response express this same love? I hope they do, for God is always waiting and always listening to our response. Let our prayers, our actions, and out hearts speak in one voice at every mass, indeed every moment of it, and in our life.

In this way that which we hear and say will not leave us without having their intended effect.

Friday, July 31, 2015

"What is bad they will throw away"

[Originally a homily for 7/30/2015--I hope to have an audio version of this up soon, as an experiment working with audio on this site]

Most of us have had this experience of going to a grocery store or fruit stand, wanting to buy something. We look at, for example, and apple. It has an attractive exterior and so we go over and pick it up, hold it in our hands, and rotate it. After all, we want to make sure we don't waste our twenty hard-earned cents.

But then, all of a sudden, we feel a soft spot or we notice an imperfection of some sort. So we throw it back on the pile and never look at it again or think of it again.

This is the same image Jesus offers as when he speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven, and in this particular example, we are the apples. At the end of the age God will come by and look at all of us--people in these pews like apples on a rack. From the outside we dress ourselves nicely in business suits, beautiful dresses, habits, chasubles, or clerical shirts. Yet all God has to do is pick us up, run his hand over us, and rotate us, and he'll be able to feel all the imperfections. Then He will decide whether or not He wants to spend His hard-earned twenty cents.

So what are we to do? We look to ourselves and how critical we are of minor imperfections on fruits and vegetables. If God is the same, how can anyone be saved?

Unlike the apple, I would argue that we do have some say in the matter. God has taught us how to be acceptable in His eyes. We can clothe ourselves with fancy things or dress our image with pious words, but it is better than we put the armor of faith (cf., Eph 6:11) and our Lord, Jesus Christ (cf., Rom 13:14). By this I mean we must put on a pious inner conviction. It is my view that we do this by heeding the first words out of Christ's mouth in the Gospel of Mark: "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mk 1:15).

It is by putting on a spirit of repentance that we cleanse ourselves of imperfection, asking God always to forgive us our sins and faults. Likewise, we must put on faith in the saving work of Christ, giving thanks to Him always for His goodness.

Humbled by repentance and inspired to love by His goodness, we likewise go out, ready to forgive the faults of others and call them to a better and higher way of life by our words and deeds. In doing so, for "love covers a multitude of sins," (1 Pet 4:8), we may hope with a Christian hope that God, at the end of the age, will walk by and see us. He will hold us in His hand, feel us, and rotate us. He will find that we are good and take us home with him.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Catholic Schools Today Interview

I was recently interviewed as a newly ordained priest, asked about my experiences as a newly ordained and school's role in it. Fr. Regan and I are guests.

The link will be a direct stream of the show in .mp3 format. We come in at about the 30 minute mark.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fourth of July Homily

[A homily given on the fourth of July. Some of the more "philosophical" elements, as opposed to the pastoral/moral ones, were added after the fact. This is not a verbatim homily, but rather an approximation]

Brothers and sisters,

On this feast day for our nation we are confronted with many troubling things. The Supreme Court's ruling on marriage, the issues of abortion, contraception, and health care (who provides it and how), are among the many things that affect our hearts and minds. Yet we must be careful, because it is all too easy to focus on ideologies and people.

Archbishop Cupich said it well, I think, calling all of us to respect our brothers and sisters and love them, whoever they are. This love and respect must be "real, not rhetorical." He also says that we must proclaim and preach the Gospel, "hold fast to an authentic understanding of marriage which has been written in the human heart, consolidated in history, and confirmed by the Word of God."

Gay marriage and abortion are contrary to Catholic faith and teaching, but proclaiming the Gospel with respect to life and marriage should not allow us to lose sight of the people to whom we preach.

For we know that there are many homosexuals who are abandoned, mistreated, bullied, and shunned for who they are or what they struggle with. Moreover, many homosexuals who are Christian, who seek to live chastely and grow in holiness are rejected both by Christians and this or that gay community.

Similarly, women who seek abortions are often times scared, coerced, abused, or abandoned.

People such as these need the Gospel as much as we do, and we are called to be Christ to them in a real fashion, not rhetorically.

On this Fourth of July, we celebrate the birth of our nation. It is our home, where our father and mothers of ages past came to seek shelter from persecution, to seek a better life, or to raise their families in peace. We know that just as our homes are not perfect, our home is not perfect. In Scripture today, we see that even the descendents of Abraham were far from perfect. Jacob tricked his father Issac into receiving his blessing, depriving his brother Esau from his birthright (cf., Gen 27:1-29). Esau hunted and exiled Jacob, but later, when Jacob (now Israel) returned, his brother reconciled himself to him. Through our many difficulties we too much seek peace and unity.

Thus, though we disagree with what our country calls justice and equality, we must love our country for our sake as well as theirs. Only love brings forth reconciliation, peace, and truth. Truth cannot be purchased in any other way. Nevertheless, we also recognize that there is no justice, faith, or love without God. We have already learned, again and again, that the justice of our nation is not Justice.

Our laws, Constitution, and courts interpret each other. The notion of equality is not dependent upon them but upon their interpretation, which comes and goes with the tide. We Christians must, all the same, strive for love, faith, and justice that is not temporary, but firmly rooted in God. We must do this is a real, and not rhetorical way.

This is done by concerning ourselves with those who are weakest among us, the sick, the elderly, the imprisoned, and the abandoned. The only equality and freedom that lasts is freedom in the love of Christ.

May God bless us all this day, and may we, His children, strive for unity and peace which can only result from a genuine and real love of Him who loved us first.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Response and Reflection to NY Times Article (Catholic Countries Support Gay Marriage)

You can find the aticle here. Non-Scripture quotes are from said article. 

This is sad for a number of reasons:
"That’s because “Catholics” includes not just worshipers who attend Mass weekly and perhaps tilt in a more conservative direction but those who go less frequently and those for whom Catholicism is as much an ethnic as a religious identity."

Catholics who identify themselves as cultural and claim that their views are inspired by their Catholicism, when really its inspired by pluralistic influences, should not say "because of my Catholicism."

 Not participating in the sacraments whatsoever and no taking even the slightest time to understand what the Church teaches (or read Scripture) is doing a disservice to one's conscience.

In that same vein, (2):

"We journalists too often use “the Catholic Church” as a synonym for the pope, the cardinals and teachings that have the Vatican’s stamp of approval.
But in Europe and the Americas in particular, the church is much more fluid than that. It harbors spiritually inclined people paying primary obeisance to their own consciences, their own senses of social justice. That impulse and tradition are as Catholic as any others."

Primary obedience to one's conscience is not a blank check to do and act as you please, but a right given to all to exercise their free will to the best of their ability and knowledge.
One's conscience formed by his or her own convictions and preferences is not a "Catholic Conscience," but a "church-of-me" conscience. The Church can and won't infringe upon anyone's free will, but she does reserve the right, by virtue of her teaching and authority, to say if a given claim is erroneous, heretical, or schismatic to Catholicism and truth. So it is with myself or with anyone else who says they are Catholic, we must be humble in light of what is taught and obedient to the Church through a conscience formed by the Cross, a daily incorporation of Scripture, understanding of Tradition, and guidance from one's spiritual leaders.

Blame should probably fall on priests, myself included, who are not a steady witness to the Gospel, but rather seek comfort in those who agree with them and in topics of universal agreement, such as feeding the poor (which still isn't done enough, along with other corporal works of mercy), as opposed to preaching the Gospel on matters of gay marriage, divorce, contraception, the dignity of all persons, war, and the death penalty (things which pertain, I think, to spiritual works of mercy).

It's difficult to preach on these difficult issues without hijacking the mass which, in turn, makes the sacraments of the Church vehicles of personal preference as opposed to sources of life-giving grace. Yet we and our faithful don't do much before or after mass to build off that grace to grow in knowledge of our Church. So when should we talk about them? It's worth discussing, I think.

Thus, with brief reference to this article, advocating for gay marriage, even in a Catholic country and saying that it is a result of a Catholic conscience is, in my opinion, erroneous as best (insofar as they are mistaken about Church teaching) and those who proclaim it publicly (knowing consciously the teachings of the Church), with the intention of persuading other Catholics into seeing it as a "Catholic answer/alternative," speak in a heretical fashion. Neither of these actions are/become sinful unless those who hold to it as a Catholic position are obstinate and refuse to discuss it with their local, spiritual leader (typically a priest or deacon; or bishop). Catholics may, out of respect for their consciences, hold gay marriage as a personal belief, but publicly proclaiming it as coming from Catholicism is wrong.

My opinion is that most people simply speak in error because they have been taught to let "their conscience be their guide" while never being taught how to form it for themselves. "Do not be carried away by all manners of strange teaching" (Heb 13:9), rather, "test everything, hold onto what is good" (1 Thes 5:21). "Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours." (2 Thes 2:15)

**tl;dr verson:**
It's time we as Catholics actually started forming our consciences, priests included, and be in genuine discourse with each other and the Tradition.

Feel free to give comments on this or similar topics below.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pentecost: The Fire of the Spirit

(Note: This was originally a homily given at Pentecost on May 24, 2015. I did not have a script and so the written version is a near-facsimilie, but lacking the timing and effect I went for when speaking publicly).

On this holy feast of Pentecost I would like us to reflect on the Spirit and His work in our lives, namely that there are two ways which we use one: we can use it to mean “alone” and we can use it to mean “together.”

How is it that we’re alone? Paul in Galatians tells us that the works of the flesh rip us apart and isolate us. The works of the flesh are envy, greed, immorality, immodesty, lack of chastity, wrath and anger, rivalry, and hatred (cf., Gal 5:16-19). We see this in our own lives and we’ve all had these feelings. But we must recognize that these acts are acts of power and control where we seek to impose our will on the world and others, taking from the weak, the helpless, and those we consider less than ourselves. These aspects gather all things to ourselves, but isolate us and make us one and alone.

But the Spirit is something better and greater. Humility, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, and love. Each of these acts, paradoxically, ask us to give of ourselves little by little, lifting the other up in charity and peace.

I find no better example of this notion of alone and together than in families. If a spouse, or even indeed a child, is greedy, jealous, domineering, ungrateful, or mean-spirited, it tears a family apart. But if all members of a family are patient, patient with each other’s shortcomings, humble, knowing that they are not perfect or always right, gentle in chiding them to a better life in Christ, and loving—that is, self-sacrificing—than that family will stand firm for generations, in life and in death. We all know of our weaknesses, whether they are sexual, or matters of pride, jealousy, envy, gossip, or laziness. We all share in these weaknesses of the flesh, but through grace we share in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

It is the Spirit that affords us these graces which God pours out so generously upon us. It is the Spirit that allowed the Apostles to speak many languages, so that all peoples and ages might hear one message. That one message is the love of the Father, the victory of Christ Jesus over sin and death—a victory we baptized share in, the presence of the Spirit of truth, and that the Church, the bride of Christ, shares the glorious work of God on earth.

One more image that I think is useful for us is the very bread that we bless and consecrate at the holy altar. The bread that we use is made of many grains, formed into one with water, and then finally baked by fire.

We too, because of the work of the most blessed Trinity, are made into one. We are gathered, all of us varied and different, by the will of the Father. He calls us together and, through the blood of the Son, we are prepared as one. Lastly, the Spirit, who is rightly symbolized as a holy flame, perfects us in love and grace so that we might become holy, that is like God. Thus we, brothers and sisters, are prepared as a bread pleasing to almighty God, but not merely for Him, but for the whole world. The blood and water that poured from Christ’s side on the Cross prepare us for this task, and the Spirit strengthens us along the way.

Like Christ, we are one Body and one Bread, prepared for the world and given up for the sake of the world. For everyone, not only us Catholics, but for all of our brothers and sisters. We are given up for their sins, their weaknesses, and the evil that they do, for we know that we too share in all the same weaknesses and faults. We, nonetheless, rely on the power of the Trinity to make us an acceptable offering for the whole world so that all of us, so many scattered and alone, may be one in Spirit and in truth.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

I know I haven't been Posting Lately

Hi all,

Just a message from me. Recently, on May 16th, 2015, I was ordained a priest. Needless to say the time leading up to it and the following times have been a little crazy. All the same, it's been wonderful. As soon as I enjoy a little time off I hope to start writing again.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions through the comments or the provided e-mail.

Hope to be writing soon!


Friday, February 27, 2015

The Mercy of God to Our Enemies

There is little doubt that the majority of us have looked upon the violence of the Middle East with sadness, disgust, or anger. Our brothers are being slaughtered and the poor and oppressed, which includes everyone and not just Christians, suffer doubly from the violence coming from both sides.
The Coptic martyrs who recently died for faith in Christ.

It has been a subject of intense prayer for me. I oscillate between desiring the destruction of our enemies for the sake of our brethren (cf., for example, Ps 18) and between praying for mercy upon our enemies.

I find it simple to see Christ on the cross saying "Forgive them for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34) and say, "Of course, Christ did that because he's the Lord." Yet the very same prayer we pray every day commands us to "forgive those who have trespassed against us." I asked myself, in my heart, "Do I forgive them?" For indeed we are forgiven in the measure we forgive.

I became troubled that I could not formulate a concrete answer. I prayed as to whether I was so lacking in mercy and trust in God that I could not forgive my enemies who, despite their violence and power, are "like chaff driven by the wind" (Ps 1:4) and "like grass they wither quickly; like green plants they wilt away" (Ps 37:1). Because they all pass away and, from the perspective of history a brief period of time, they will also come to judgment. Violence begets violence, and many men have already come to a violent end. Some have perhaps met their end, regrettably, through torture. In death many had no chance to repent and in their obstinance have gone to meet their Lord and Creator.

We will all die and we will all be judged. Every day, with varying degrees of whole-heartedness (sadly sometimes not so much) I ask for God's mercy. But this Lent, this present moment, we should move outside ourselves and pray for His mercy on all men. This forces us to confront, by necessity the most horrible, unsavory, wicked, and disgusting parts of humanity. When we confront this we also confront ourselves, if we're honest. When we confront this in our hearts can we forgive? Can we intercede for them and pray that they turn from their wickedness? Will we turn from ours?

God, who is beyond eternity and beyond power, is Just, and His justice will endure forever and all men will confront his justice. But, indeed, "the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). Throughout Scripture God is teaching us a lesson.

His Son descended into the depths of hell, that is to say the depths of human depravity (living and dead)--to the very bottom--in order to redeem it. By his blood all were redeemed for God, but not all are yet saved. Those of us who are living, Christians too, none are as of yet saved, but by faith in Jesus Christ we are guaranteed salvation. This is not to be understood as a covering, like a sheet of snow, over our depravity. We are told to run the race, endure to the end, and walk in the footsteps of he who is the Way.

Salvation means that, by faith, we believe in Christ crucified and risen. Through this faith and baptism we are joined to his Body. In being joined to his Body we are joined to His sufferings and also share in his consolation (cf., 2 Cor 1:5). As Christians we suffer for the sake of the world. Joined to Christ I would say, more powerfully, that we are sacrificed for the sake of the whole world and all upon it. In order to be sacrificed like Christ we look to his example in sacrifice: ever willing to reconcile everyone to the Father through Him.
The image of Christ, his Body, the Church, and us as well.

I then came to think: if we believe that God should strike our enemies down that would be a regrettable thing. For "If you, LORD, keep account of sins, Lord, who can stand?" (Ps 130:3). Those whom we look down on the most are perhaps more explicitly wicked than us, but we who relish in how wicked others are cover our own wickedness with injustice. All are sinful and all are guilty of contributing to this state of sin which we live in. 

Christ alone is "the light shining in the darkness"(Jn 1:15) and we, by joining ourselves to Christ in faith and truth, reflect that light in the same manner that He "reflects the refulgence of the Father's glory" (cf., Heb 1:3).

We do so by seeking forgiveness. We do so more so by loving others. We do it most perfectly by loving our enemies.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Jesus Expelled

[This was composed as a homily for Feb. 15, 2015, and modified for a written format. The Gospel is shown below for context and ease of reference]

So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee. A leper came to him (and kneeling down) begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, "See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them."The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere. (Mk 1:40-45)

In the readings this week we may consider the primary themes that of 'expulsion' and 're-entry.' A man, in Leviticus, when he was declared unclean by the priest or by the community was expelled for the safety of the whole. He had to cry out “Unclean!” to warn others of his passing and live outside the community of believers.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus cleanses a leper who comes to him. He says with heartfelt sincerity, “If you will it, you can make me clean.” Jesus, pitying the man, expresses his divine power and says, “I do will it. Be made clean.” But our Lord also gives him a command: Tell no one. Go to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses provides. Jesus is allowing this man to reenter the community and to join himself fully to the people of God.

Yet the cleansed man disobeys Jesus. We are not sure, but the evidence that the Gospel provides suggests that he did not go to the priest and instead he told everybody of the affair. At first glance, this man would seem to be doing Jesus a favor: he is proclaiming the power of God to the people and others, in turn, flock to him!

But in disobeying Jesus, this man effectively expelled Jesus from that same community he came to serve. The Gospel tells us that Jesus remained in a deserted place. Everyone “came to him from everywhere.”

Initially we may admire those in the Gospel who go to Jesus and seek him out, but the Gospel is framed in a way to make us pause and reflect on the truth it teaches.

Jesus wants to enter the community of believers but, along the way is stopped by a man seeking his mercy and his healing. We too go to mass, receive the sacraments, and seek Jesus in good faith; this I believe. Yet a multitude rush to Jesus when one receives what he desired. In our own hearts we have many competing desires, wants, and pains. While we recognize our need for Jesus, when all of these things in our heart rush to Jesus at once they may indeed be healed, but it also leaves Jesus outside of us.

Jesus wants to enter into our communities, our families, and our hearts. When we go to Jesus with our wants and needs we are, in a sense, in control. When we allow Christ to come to us we allow Him to be in control and to heal what he needs to heal at the core of our being. Our core wound is our separation from the perfect love of God.

Of course we should pray for healing and help, but when we get better or when we weather a storm, how often do we find ourselves returning to the same old sin, the same old habits, and the same old wounds over and over again? Sometimes going to Jesus isn't enough, and it isn't what will actually heal us. We need to allow Jesus to come to us and we need to receive Jesus on his terms.

This is difficult because Jesus may comfort us or he may challenge us. Many of us are in the habit of asking, but few reflect on the act of receiving His love and His grace, which he bestows readily and freely.

How, then, are we to allow Jesus to enter into our community, our homes, and our hearts? It begins, first, with prayer. Getting away for a moment and praying for ourselves, not just for our wants but for something far more important: His mercy. Jesus came to express the power of God, yes, but the power of God is expressed most profoundly in his love and mercy. Prayer prepares our hearts to seek and receive the Lord. Thus silence is also essential to receiving Jesus.

Moreover reading the Scriptures openly and prayerfully helps us to receive God. In reading Scripture without agenda or expectation of one, certain revelation we allow the word of God to speak to us. Scripture speaks to us where we are in our lives and, I guarantee to you, it also reveals to us what we need to hear—whether it is consoling, rebuking, or challenging.

Among other things are spiritual directors, the sacraments, the teachings of the Church—all given to us to allow us to meet Jesus according to His desires and not on our own terms. While some directions, some sacraments, and some teachings may seem contrary to us they work more deeply in that they teach us to be humble and they teach us to reflect on what we truly desire: the desire behind all desires. Namely, the One and True God who desires that we be one with Him as the Father and Son are one.

This day do not expel Jesus from your hearts, but hear His voice, do as He commands, and wait for Him. He will enter the homes of all who prepare a place for him.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Against those who Call Religious Art Idolatry and Blasphemy

Often times Catholics are called pagans and idol worshipers for depicting Christ, expressing him in religious art, and expressing him in statues. This is true in depicting the saints, angels, and the like.

I find these arguments very strange. The most commonly cited “proof” is from Ex 20:4 and similar passages: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (KJV).

This is certainly true, especially when considering that the Israelites fashioned for themselves a golden calf and, in various ages, many other idols of Cannanite, Babylonian, and Assyrian gods. In these times God was without image. From Genesis and throughout the Old Testament God is not described as having proportions or form but rather as expansive, immense, and beyond comparison. Images, or more specifically similes and metaphors, were used to describe the power, love, and greatness of God, but no images were fashioned.

At a time when images were routinely fashioned in order to depict one's gods, it makes sense that God would forbid such a practice to move people away from regarding wood, stone, and gold as an actual deity.

Moreover John the Apostle attests that “no one has ever seen God” (1 John 4:12 RSV). So why, then, do Catholics portray Christ as well as God the Father and God the Spirit?

There are logical proofs for such actions and dispositions, but they are logical proofs grounded in Scripture and the reality they portray.

It begins with the reality of Christ himself: that he is the Word and that he is God. This Word is the “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15) and he “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature” (Heb 1:3). Similarly this all-powerful and glorious Word “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Thus God who was in former times had revealed himself in shadows and imperfect things, such as the prophets and the Law, now revealed himself in his perfect Son. The source of light is not seen in darkness, and we are all blind. But Jesus Christ, who gives sight to the blind, is “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). We not only beheld him with our eyes but, as John said, we have also “looked upon [him] and touched [him] with our hands” (1 John 1:1).
Such art gives an example of an actual Biblical text and, more importantly, the New Testament relates the actual life of Jesus, even if Scripture can not simply be reduced to a historical text.

Jesus was truly God and truly man, something to which Scripture and faith attest. Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus (cf., Jn 17:21). All who believe in Jesus Christ have come to believe because they have heard about him from those who believe and who were sent out just as Jesus had been (cf. Jn 17:18). Similarly, the power of Jesus is described, just as the power of God had been described as of old, but now the power of God is expressed in image and flesh. This is how John the Baptist could say “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (Jn 1:29) and how Stephen could say “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).

Catholics depict Christ because he was seen both in his earthly flesh as well as his heavenly glory, both in Christ crucified and in Christ risen. Paul proclaims and preaches “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23) and John looked upon the power and image of Christ the King in the book of Revelations. Thus not only was God seen but he was described. While, for example, his resplendence in heaven is described in metaphor and prophetic language the person of Christ is described as being who he is: a man who was humbled and humiliated on earth but now rules both heaven and earth in the fullness of power.

Thus, because we proclaim Christ and his life which was real, which was seen and touched, and which revealed the fullness of God and his plans. The Father has truly “made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will” (Eph 1:9) through Christ Jesus, and the light Jesus provides is his life as model, truth, and guide.

As such, when Catholics express Christ in stained-glass, in a crucifix, and in various media, it is because we are expressing the truth that Christ, in his very reality and image, reveals God to us. It was once blasphemous to portray God with graven images since no one had ever seen God and God had not yet revealed himself to the nations. Similarly it was contrary to the law to eat certain foods until Christ had made them clean. Yet in these last days God has revealed himself by his only-begotten Son and his Son showed us the way we should go in power and in truth.

The images we fashion of Christ, of the Spirit (as dove and fire), and the Father (similar to the Son) are expressions of the reality of Christ. In the eastern traditions of Catholicism and in among some of our Orthodox brethren only Christ is portrayed as a theological point that the Spirit and Father are both never seen or described, but that the image of Christ is also the image of the other two. I think the iconography of the east also has powerful and rich meanings behind it. Catholics too express the reality of God revealed through their art. Calling it blasphemous and idolatry is not only ignorant but foolish in light of the Gospel.

Christ the All-powerful (Pantokrator)