Thoughts in Solitude - Thomas Merton

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” † † †
-Thoughts in Solitude
© Abbey of Gethsemani
"Your way of acting should be different from the world's way"...Rule of St. Benedict.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Superbowl 43: America Needs some Football, Faith and Fun

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online

The outspoken Christian witness of players on both of these teams offers a chance to keep the worries away after the big game concludes.

TAMPA, Fl (Catholic Online) – The big football game is only days away. Most American families are busy planning the fare for their popular American past time, the “Super Bowl Party”. The teams this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals, generate extraordinary enthusiasm among their supporters and equally powerful animosity in the hearts of their opponents.

This year, many Americans are fearful for the future and hoping that something can turn this ailing economy around. They are worried about their family’s future and deeply concerned over so many of what seem to be a host of multiplying problems.

Perhaps this Sunday, at least for a little while, those worries will be put aside and the sheer enthusiasm of the game will lift that concern. However, it will take more than a successful outcome; however we may define it, to keep our spirits lifted come Monday morning.Once again we can look to the players on the field to give us some help.

This year, the outspoken Christian witness of players on both of these teams offer a chance to many of us to keep the worries away even after the big game concludes, no matter which team wins.

From the Cardinals outspoken evangelical Protestant quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Tim Hightower to the devout Greek Orthodox Safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Troy Polamalu, the Christian faith, in its many expressions, is alive and well on the football field and provides a guiding light for many of our favorite athletes.

None of the players who speak so openly of their Christian faith have prayed for a successful outcome for their team. At least they do not admit to having succumbed to the temptation.Instead, they demonstrate a mature understanding of both the power and the purpose of prayer.

Aaron Smith, defensive lineman for the Steelers, openly speaks of the comfort he found in his relationship with the Lord when his young son was diagnosed with leukemia. Running back Willie Parker has shared with both friends and the Press that he prayed for recovery from his own multiple injuries this season. Their stories are repeated among many of their team members.

We all need the sheer enjoyment and release that will come from watching this big game. We all need a little fun and relaxation. It all seems so intense these days doesn’t it? I will admit to having a favorite team on Sunday, my adopted Pittsburgh Steelers.

My love for the Steelers goes way back to my days, now so long ago, as a student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Back when Terry Bradshaw led that team, the fans of that wonderful sports town stole my heart. That extraordinary team managed to turn me into a real football fan and I have enjoyed this wonderful sport ever since.

I truly hope that on this Sunday, along with the sheer enjoyment of stretching out in our living rooms, or in various centers of celebration throughout the Nation - along with family and friends - and rooting for our favorite team, we will all stop and listen to the simple message of so many of these athletes. They are refreshing in their willingness to simply share their faith in the Lord.They remind us all that faith is not complicated.

Quarterback Kurt Warner told an interviewer for a story released by the Associated Press, “You just have to embrace it, whatever God does in your life and wherever he puts you." Steeler’s Defensive lineman Aaron Smith, when asked about his reaction to the hard news of his son’s leukemia diagnosis, told another reporter, "It's really through the Lord's strength that I've been able to cope with this."

So it can be for all of us as we face the many struggles in these difficult days in America. We can let go and believe that the One to whom we direct our prayer is trustworthy. He has a plan for each one of us and for each of our families. He will also give us the strength to persevere through any of these struggles, if we will stop worrying and turn to Him.

I will be flying back from Canada on Sunday. However, I should arrive home in time for the kick off. I can’t wait! I need some relaxation and good human fun. Let this 43d Super Bowl begin, and, oh, by the way, “Go Steelers!”
The Amazing Story Behind Tho Global Warming Scam
The Amazing Story Behind Tho Global Warming Scam

By John Coleman
January 28, 2009

The key players are now all in place in Washington and in state governments across America to officially label carbon dioxide as a pollutant and enact laws that tax we citizens for our carbon footprints. Only two details stand in the way, the faltering economic times and a dramatic turn toward a colder climate. The last two bitter winters have lead to a rise in public awareness that CO2 is not a pollutant and is not a significant greenhouse gas that is triggering runaway global warming.

How did we ever get to this point where bad science is driving big government we have to struggle so to stop it?

The story begins with an Oceanographer named Roger Revelle. He served with the Navy in World War II. After the war he became the Director of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in La Jolla in San Diego, California. Revelle saw the opportunity to obtain major funding from the Navy for doing measurements and research on the ocean around the Pacific Atolls where the US military was conducting atomic bomb tests. He greatly expanded the Institute’s areas of interest and among others hired Hans Suess, a noted Chemist from the University of Chicago, who was very interested in the traces of carbon in the environment from the burning of fossil fuels. Revelle tagged on to Suess studies and co-authored a paper with him in 1957. The paper raises the possibility that the carbon dioxide might be creating a greenhouse effect and causing atmospheric warming. It seems to be a plea for funding for more studies. Funding, frankly, is where Revelle’s mind was most of the time.

Next Revelle hired a Geochemist named David Keeling to devise a way to measure the atmospheric content of Carbon dioxide. In 1960 Keeling published his first paper showing the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and linking the increase to the burning of fossil fuels.

These two research papers became the bedrock of the science of global warming, even though they offered no proof that carbon dioxide was in fact a greenhouse gas. In addition they failed to explain how this trace gas, only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere, could have any significant impact on temperatures.

Now let me take you back to the1950s when this was going on. Our cities were entrapped in a pall of pollution from the crude internal combustion engines that powered cars and trucks back then and from the uncontrolled emissions from power plants and factories. Cars and factories and power plants were filling the air with all sorts of pollutants. There was a valid and serious concern about the health consequences of this pollution and a strong environmental movement was developing to demand action. Government accepted this challenge and new environmental standards were set. Scientists and engineers came to the rescue. New reformulated fuels were developed for cars, as were new high tech, computer controlled engines and catalytic converters. By the mid seventies cars were no longer big time polluters, emitting only some carbon dioxide and water vapor from their tail pipes. Likewise, new fuel processing and smoke stack scrubbers were added to industrial and power plants and their emissions were greatly reduced, as well.

But an environmental movement had been established and its funding and very existence depended on having a continuing crisis issue. So the research papers from Scripps came at just the right moment. And, with them came the birth of an issue; man-made global warming from the carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

Revelle and Keeling used this new alarmism to keep their funding growing. Other researchers with environmental motivations and a hunger for funding saw this developing and climbed aboard as well. The research grants began to flow and alarming hypothesis began to show up everywhere.

The Keeling curve showed a steady rise in CO2 in atmosphere during the period since oil and coal were discovered and used by man. As of today, carbon dioxide has increased from 215 to 385 parts per million. But, despite the increases, it is still only a trace gas in the atmosphere. While the increase is real, the percentage of the atmosphere that is CO2 remains tiny, about .41 hundredths of one percent.

Several hypothesis emerged in the 70s and 80s about how this tiny atmospheric component of CO2 might cause a significant warming. But they remained unproven. Years have passed and the scientists kept reaching out for evidence of the warming and proof of their theories. And, the money and environmental claims kept on building up.

Back in the 1960s, this global warming research came to the attention of a Canadian born United Nation’s bureaucrat named Maurice Strong. He was looking for issues he could use to fulfill his dream of one-world government. Strong organized a World Earth Day event in Stockholm, Sweden in 1970. From this he developed a committee of scientists, environmentalists and political operatives from the UN to continue a series of meeting.

Strong developed the concept that the UN could demand payments from the advanced nations for the climatic damage from their burning of fossil fuels to benefit the underdeveloped nations, a sort of CO2 tax that would be the funding for his one-world government. But, he needed more scientific evidence to support his primary thesis. So Strong championed the establishment of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This was not a pure climate study scientific organization, as we have been lead to believe. It was an organization of one-world government UN bureaucrats, environmental activists and environmentalist scientists who craved the UN funding so they could produce the science they needed to stop the burning of fossil fuels. Over the last 25 years they have been very effective. Hundreds of scientific papers, four major international meetings and reams of news stories about climatic Armageddon later, the UN IPCC has made its points to the satisfaction of most and even shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

At the same time, that Maurice Strong was busy at the UN, things were getting a bit out of hand for the man who is now called the grandfather of global warming, Roger Revelle. He had been very politically active in the late 1950’s as he worked to have the University of California locate a San Diego campus adjacent to Scripps Institute in La Jolla. He won that major war, but lost an all important battle afterward when he was passed over in the selection of the first Chancellor of the new campus.

He left Scripps finally in 1963 and moved to Harvard University to establish a Center for Population Studies. It was there that Revelle inspired one of his students to become a major global warming activist. This student would say later, "It felt like such a privilege to be able to hear about the readouts from some of those measurements in a group of no more than a dozen undergraduates. Here was this teacher presenting something not years old but fresh out of the lab, with profound implications for our future!" The student described him as "a wonderful, visionary professor" who was "one of the first people in the academic community to sound the alarm on global warming," That student was Al Gore. He thought of Dr. Revelle as his mentor and referred to him frequently, relaying his experiences as a student in his book Earth in the Balance, published in 1992.

So there it is, Roger Revelle was indeed the grandfather of global warming. His work had laid the foundation for the UN IPCC, provided the anti-fossil fuel ammunition to the environmental movement and sent Al Gore on his road to his books, his move, his Nobel Peace Prize and a hundred million dollars from the carbon credits business.

What happened next is amazing. The global warming frenzy was becoming the cause celeb of the media. After all the media is mostly liberal, loves Al Gore, loves to warn us of impending disasters and tell us "the sky is falling, the sky is falling". The politicians and the environmentalist loved it, too.

But the tide was turning with Roger Revelle. He was forced out at Harvard at 65 and returned to California and a semi retirement position at UCSD. There he had time to rethink Carbon Dioxide and the greenhouse effect. The man who had inspired Al Gore and given the UN the basic research it needed to launch its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was having second thoughts. In 1988 he wrote two cautionary letters to members of Congress. He wrote, "My own personal belief is that we should wait another 10 or 20 years to really be convinced that the greenhouse effect is going to be important for human beings, in both positive and negative ways." He added, "…we should be careful not to arouse too much alarm until the rate and amount of warming becomes clearer."

And in 1991 Revelle teamed up with Chauncey Starr, founding director of the Electric Power Research Institute and Fred Singer, the first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service, to write an article for Cosmos magazine. They urged more research and begged scientists and governments not to move too fast to curb greenhouse CO2 emissions because the true impact of carbon dioxide was not at all certain and curbing the use of fossil fuels could have a huge negative impact on the economy and jobs and our standard of living. I have discussed this collaboration with Dr. Singer. He assures me that Revelle was considerably more certain than he was at the time that carbon dioxide was not a problem.

Did Roger Revelle attend the Summer enclave at the Bohemian Grove in Northern California in the Summer of 1990 while working on that article? Did he deliver a lakeside speech there to the assembled movers and shakers from Washington and Wall Street in which he apologized for sending the UN IPCC and Al Gore onto this wild goose chase about global warming? Did he say that the key scientific conjecture of his lifetime had turned out wrong? The answer to those questions is, "I think so, but I do not know it for certain". I have not managed to get it confirmed as of this moment. It’s a little like Las Vegas; what is said at the Bohemian Grove stays at the Bohemian Grove. There are no transcripts or recordings and people who attend are encouraged not to talk. Yet, the topic is so important, that some people have shared with me on an informal basis.

Roger Revelle died of a heart attack three months after the Cosmos story was printed. Oh, how I wish he were still alive today. He might be able to stop this scientific silliness and end the global warming scam.

Al Gore has dismissed Roger Revelle’s Mea culpa as the actions of senile old man. And, the next year, while running for Vice President, he said the science behind global warming is settled and there will be no more debate, From 1992 until today, he and his cohorts have refused to debate global warming and when ask about we skeptics they simply insult us and call us names.

So today we have the acceptance of carbon dioxide as the culprit of global warming. It is concluded that when we burn fossil fuels we are leaving a dastardly carbon footprint which we must pay Al Gore or the environmentalists to offset. Our governments on all levels are considering taxing the use of fossil fuels. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of naming CO2 as a pollutant and strictly regulating its use to protect our climate. The new President and the US congress are on board. Many state governments are moving on the same course.

We are already suffering from this CO2 silliness in many ways. Our energy policy has been strictly hobbled by no drilling and no new refineries for decades. We pay for the shortage this has created every time we buy gas. On top of that the whole thing about corn based ethanol costs us millions of tax dollars in subsidies. That also has driven up food prices. And, all of this is a long way from over.

And, I am totally convinced there is no scientific basis for any of it.

Global Warming. It is the hoax. It is bad science. It is a high jacking of public policy. It is no joke. It is the greatest scam in history.

John Coleman

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Judge Bork on Threats to Religious Freedom

Catholic News Agency

“You are going to get Catholic hospitals that are going to be required as a matter of law to perform abortions,” he claimed.

Washington, D.C. (CNA) - Former Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork has predicted that upcoming legal battles will have significant ramifications for religious freedom. He names as issues of major concern the continued freedom of Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions and the likely “terrible conflict” resulting from the advancement of homosexual rights.

Speaking in an interview published Tuesday by Cybercast News Service, Judge Bork discussed the contentious nature of modern politics.

“Everything is up for debate these days. I can’t think of anything that isn’t,” he said.

“You are going to get Catholic hospitals that are going to be required as a matter of law to perform abortions,” he claimed.

“We are going to see in the near future a terrible conflict between claimed rights of homosexuals and religious freedom… You are going to get Catholic or other groups’ relief services that are going to be required to allow adoption of a child by homosexual couples. We are going to have a real conflict that goes right to the heart of the society.”

Asked whether there was a freedom of conscience clause anywhere in the Constitution that might prohibit the U.S. government from compelling a religious hospital to perform abortions, he replied:“Well, the free exercise of religion clause might fulfill that role.”

He agreed with the CNS interviewer, Editor in Chief Terry Jeffrey, that such coercion forces someone to act against their religion and could be construed as a violation of the right to free exercise of religion.

However, Judge Bork was unsure about whether the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold such a right. He predicted the decision would rest with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who in some cases sides with liberals and at other times with “originalists,” those who profess to hold a more tradition-minded interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

“It depends upon Anthony Kennedy,” Judge Bork told CNS. “Now, it’s a funny situation in which the moral life of a nation is in effect decided by one judge, because you have four solid liberal votes, four solid originalist votes, and one vote you can’t predict too accurately in advance.”

Though Justice Kennedy is a Catholic, he sided with the majority who upheld the pro-abortion rights Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Judge Bork said that a decision involving the freedom of Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions would split by a 5-4 vote.“But I don’t know which way,” he added.

The Cybercast News interview with the jurist also touched upon the place of religion in public life.

“I don’t think the disputants talk much about God anymore,” Judge Bork commented. “That’s one of the things that I think is regrettable--and I know liberals have said the same thing, it is not a conservative position particularly--but it is regrettable that religion has dropped out of our public discourse. I think it impoverishes it and makes it more violent.”

He explained that he believed this violence was not armed conflict, but rather “violent language and propaganda.”

Judge Bork said he also thought that America is “now going down a path towards kind of a happy-go-lucky nihilism.”

“A lot of people are nihilists,” he continued. “They don’t think about religion. They don’t think about ultimate questions. They go along. They worry about consumer goods, comfort, and so forth.

“As a matter of fact, the abortion question is largely a question about convenience. If you look at the polls about why people have abortions, 90 percent of it has nothing to do with medical conditions. It’s convenience. And that’s I think an example of the secularization of an issue that ought to have a religious dimension.”

When asked whether a nihilistic society can remain “happy-go-lucky” for long, Judge Bork replied: “I don’t know. I guess we are going to find out.”

Fun day with Shelter Kids and Formation Brothers

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Invest in Abortion

Invest in Abortion
Planned Parenthood’s post-Christmas wish.

By David Freddoso

On the way out the door, President Bush has delivered a bailout of the domestic automotive industry, which under its current business practices could not possibly survive in a free market. President Obama, on the other hand, may see as his first task a bailout of the abortion industry.

Among the many left-wing interests that have submitted wish lists to the Obama transition team is a conglomeration of 50 abortion-advocacy groups, all of whom want the U.S. taxpayer to stand and deliver. When their 55-page report to Obama calls for an end to “ideologically driven government restrictions,” it really means that the government should be paying more of the bills for groups that advocate and perform abortions.

To provide some context, the government has been “bailing out” Big Abortion for years. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, feeds off the taxpayer to the tune of $337 million in government funds that would otherwise have to come from donors. If the recommendations in this report are enacted, they and other abortion providers and advocates will have even more spoils upon which to feast.

“Bans on public funding for abortion services have severely restricted access to safe abortion care for women who depend on the government for their health care,” the report states. “These policies create an unjust obstacle to quality health care and inflict disproportionate harm on poor women, women of color and certain immigrant women. . . .”

The report is audacious in the scope of its demands, most of which would mean more money for the groups that authored it. In all, it calls for $1.5 billion for groups that engage in abortion advocacy and perform abortions. Among its demands is an expansion of funding for Title X health clinics, from $300 million to $700 million, and greater freedom in how that money is spent. Of the 4,400 such clinics in America, about 450 are run by Planned Parenthood, whose domestic and international arms are listed as co-authors of the report.

The report also calls for an increase in international “family planning” funds from $461 million to $1 billion, much of which would go to the groups that authored the report and their affiliates. And it calls for an end to the ban on using this money for abortion. The report requests $65 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), whose officials were discovered in 2000 to be assisting Chinese officials in enforcing that country’s coercive population-control program.

Meanwhile, conscience protections for medical professionals in federally funded facilities are targeted in the report for elimination. Those who refuse to perform or refer abortions are protected under current law, but the elimination of appropriations laws and federal rules could make them vulnerable to discrimination by governments or institutions that seek to require cooperation in abortion. This is no unimportant issue — recall that in 2002, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a policy of forcing all medical students who train in public hospitals to participate in abortion (with students who object on moral or religious grounds allowed to opt out).

Another goal of the 50 abortion groups is to expand direct federal funding for abortions by repealing various laws that protect taxpayers from paying for them. This is particularly interesting to read, considering the popular opposition to taxpayer funding of abortions. Currently, appropriations amendments prevent Medicaid or Medicare funding for abortions in most cases (the Hyde amendment) and prevent the Department of Defense from paying to facilitate abortions on military bases in foreign countries. The report calls for these provisions to be repealed. Importantly, the report also calls for abortion to be covered under any national health-care plan produced by the Obama administration.

“There are a lot of restrictions on current funding, and they are looking to overturn all of those restrictions,” says Joy Yearout of the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political action committee.

The abortion groups’ biggest goal, though, is to kill all these birds with one stone through passage of the Freedom of Choice Act. That bill would overturn all state and federal restrictions not only on abortion (such as the partial-birth abortion ban) but also on government funding of abortions. President-elect Barack Obama has promised to sign that bill. He has also promised, in line with the report’s recommendation, only to nominate individuals to the bench who believe in “the right to have an abortion.”

Some of these items, such as the Freedom of Choice Act, seem unlikely to pass. Others look far more likely — particularly the increase in funding for abortion advocates. But in presenting and fighting for their demands, pro-choice advocates may be helping to bring the culture war back to the forefront of America’s electoral politics, after an election in which it played nearly no role.

“The majority of Americans are opposed to taxpayer funding of abortion,” said Yearout. “We’re hoping to leverage that popular pressure even with lawmakers who consider themselves pro-choice.”

While Americans are divided on the question of restricting abortion, polls have found as many as 69 percent opposed to using federal funds to pay for abortions. Amid the dark cloud of a government dominated by proponents of abortion on demand, pro-lifers may find a silver lining in the form of a new debate they can win decisively. There is nothing “pro-choice” in requiring taxpayers to subsidize the abortion industry.

— David Freddoso is an NRO staff reporter.

On True Worship"The Era of the Temple and Its Worship Had Ended"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

In this first general audience of 2009, I want to offer all of you fervent best wishes for the New Year that just began. Let us renew our determination to open the mind and heart to Christ, to be and live as his true friends. His company will make this year, even with its inevitable difficulties, be a path full of joy and peace. In fact, only if we remain united to Jesus will the New Year be good and happy.

The commitment of union with Christ is the example that St. Paul offers us. Continuing the catecheses dedicated to him, we pause today to reflect on one of the important aspects of his thought, the worship that Christians are called to offer. In the past, there was a leaning toward speaking of an anti-worship tendency in the Apostle, of a "spiritualization" of the idea of worship. Today we better understand that St. Paul sees in the cross of Christ a historical change, which transforms and radically renews the reality of worship. There are above all three passages from the Letter to the Romans in which this new vision of worship is presented.

1. In Romans 3:25, after having spoken of the "redemption brought about by Christ Jesus," Paul goes on with a formula that is mysterious to us, saying: God "set [him] forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood." With this expression that is quite strange for us -- "instrument of expiation" -- St. Paul refers to the so-called propitiatory of the ancient temple, that is, the lid of the ark of the covenant, which was considered a point of contact between God and man, the point of the mysterious presence of God in the world of man. This "propitiatory," on the great day of reconciliation -- Yom Kippur -- was sprinkled with the blood of sacrificed animals, blood that symbolically put the sins of the past year in contact with God, and thus, the sins hurled to the abyss of the divine will were almost absorbed by the strength of God, overcome, pardoned. Life began anew.

St. Paul makes reference to this rite and says: This rite was the expression of the desire that all our faults could really be put in the abyss of divine mercy and thus made to disappear. But with the blood of animals, this process was not fulfilled. A more real contact between human fault and divine love was necessary. This contact has taken place with the cross of Christ. Christ, Son of God, who has become true man, has assumed in himself all our faults. He himself is the place of contact between human misery and divine mercy; in his heart, the sad multitude of evil carried out by humanity is undone, and life is renewed.

Revealing this change, St. Paul tells us: With the cross of Christ -- the supreme act of divine love, converted into human love -- the ancient worship with the sacrifice of animals in the temple of Jerusalem has ended. This symbolic worship, worship of desire, has now been replaced by real worship: the love of God incarnated in Christ and taken to its fullness in the death on the cross. Therefore, this is not a spiritualization of the real worship, but on the contrary, this is the real worship, the true divine-human love, that replaces the symbolic and provisional worship. The cross of Christ, his love with flesh and blood, is the real worship, corresponding to the reality of God and man. Already before the external destruction of the temple, for Paul, the era of the temple and its worship had ended: Paul is found here in perfect consonance with the words of Jesus, who had announced the end of the temple and announced another temple "not made by human hands" -- the temple of his risen body (cf. Mark 14:58; John 2:19 ff). This is the first passage.

2. The second passage about which I would like to speak today is found in the first verse of Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Romans. We have heard it and I repeat it once again: "I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship."

In these words, an apparent paradox is verified: While sacrifice demands as a norm the death of the victim, Paul makes reference to the life of the Christian. The expression "offer your bodies," united to the successive concept of sacrifice, takes on the worship nuance of "give in oblation, offer." The exhortation to "offer your bodies" refers to the whole person; in fact, in Romans 6:13, [Paul] makes the invitation to "present yourselves to God." For the rest, the explicit reference to the physical dimension of the Christian coincides with the invitation to "glorify God in your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:20): It's a matter of honoring God in the most concrete daily existence, made of relational and perceptible visibility.

Conduct of this type is classified by Paul as "living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." It is here where we find precisely the term "sacrifice." In prevalent use, this term forms part of a sacred context and serves to designate the throat-splitting of an animal, of which one part can be burned in honor of the gods and another part consumed by the offerers in a banquet. Paul instead applied it to the life of the Christian. In fact he classifies such a sacrifice by using three adjectives. The first -- "living" -- expresses a vitality. The second -- "holy" -- recalls the Pauline concept of a sanctity that is not linked to places or objects, but to the very person of the Christian. The third -- "pleasing to God" -- perhaps recalls the common biblical expression of a sweet-smelling sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 1:13, 17; 23:18; 26:31, etc.).

Immediately afterward, Paul thus defines this new way of living: this is "your spiritual worship." Commentators of the text know well that the Greek expression (tçn logikçn latreían) is not easy to translate. The Latin Bible renders it: "rationabile obsequium." The same word "rationabile" appears in the first Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon: In it, we pray so that God accepts this offering as "rationabile." The traditional Italian translation, "spiritual worship," [an offering in spirit], does not reflect all the details of the Greek text, nor even of the Latin. In any case, it is not a matter of a less real worship or even a merely metaphorical one, but of a more concrete and realistic worship, a worship in which man himself in his totality, as a being gifted with reason, transforms into adoration and glorification of the living God.

This Pauline formula, which appears again in the Roman Eucharistic prayer, is fruit of a long development of the religious experience in the centuries preceding Christ. In this experience are found theological developments of the Old Testament and currents of Greek thought. I would like to show at least certain elements of this development. The prophets and many psalms strongly criticize the bloody sacrifices of the temple. For example, Psalm 50 (49), in which it is God who speaks, says, "Were I hungry, I would not tell you, for mine is the world and all that fills it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer praise as your sacrifice to God" (verses 12-14).

In the same sense, the following Psalm 51 (50), says, " …for you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart" (verse 18 and following).

In the Book of Daniel, in the times of the new destruction of the temple at the hands of the Hellenistic regime (2nd century B.C.), we find a new step in the same direction. In midst of the fire -- that is, persecution and suffering -- Azariah prays thus: "We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks … So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly" (Daniel 3:38ff).

In the destruction of the sanctuary and of worship, in this situation of being deprived of every sign of the presence of God, the believer offers as a true holocaust a contrite heart, his desire of God.

We see an important development, beautiful, but with a danger. There exists a spiritualization, a moralization of worship: Worship becomes only something of the heart, of the spirit. But the body is lacking; the community is lacking. Thus is understood that Psalm 51, for example, and also the Book of Daniel, despite criticizing worship, desire the return of the time of sacrifices. But it is a matter of a renewed time, in a synthesis that still was unforeseeable, that could not yet be thought of.

Let us return to St. Paul. He is heir to these developments, of the desire for true worship, in which man himself becomes glory of God, living adoration with all his being. In this sense, he says to the Romans: "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice … your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).

Paul thus repeats what he had already indicated in Chapter 3: The time of the sacrifice of animals, sacrifices of substitution, has ended. The time of true worship has arrived. But here too arises the danger of a misunderstanding: This new worship can easily be interpreted in a moralist sense -- offering our lives we make true worship. In this way, worship with animals would be substituted by moralism: Man would do everything for himself with his moral strength. And this certainly was not the intention of St. Paul.

But the question persists: Then how should we interpret this "reasonable spiritual worship"? Paul always supposes that we have come to be "one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), that we have died in baptism (Romans 1) and we live now with Christ, through Christ and in Christ. In this union -- and only in this way -- we can be in him and with him a "living sacrifice," to offer the "true worship." The sacrificed animals should have substituted man, the gift of self of man, and they could not. Jesus Christ, in his surrender to the Father and to us, is not a substitution, but rather really entails in himself the human being, our faults and our desire; he truly represents us, he assumes us in himself. In communion with Christ, accomplished in the faith and in the sacraments, we transform, despite our deficiencies, into living sacrifice: "True worship" is fulfilled.

This synthesis is the backdrop of the Roman Canon in which we pray that this offering be "rationabile," so that spiritual worship is accomplished. The Church knows that in the holy Eucharist, the self-gift of Christ, his true sacrifice, is made present. But the Church prays so that the celebrating community is really united to Christ, is transformed; it prays so that we ourselves come to be that which we cannot be with our efforts: offering "rationabile" that is pleasing to God. In this way the Eucharistic prayer interprets in an adequate way the words of St. Paul.

St. Augustine clarified all of this in a marvelous way in the 10th book of his City of God. I cite only two phrase: "This is the sacrifice of the Christians: though being many we are only one body in Christ" … "All of the redeemed community (civitas), that is, the congregation and the society of the saints, is offered to God through the High Priest who has given himself up" (10,6: CCL 47,27ff).

3. Finally, I want to leave a brief reflection on the third passage of the Letter to the Romans referring to the new worship. St. Paul says thus in Chapter 15: "the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service (hierourgein) of the gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the holy Spirit" (15:15ff).

I would like to emphasize only two aspects of this marvelous text and one aspect of the unique terminology of the Pauline letters. Before all else, St. Paul interprets his missionary action among the peoples of the world to construct the universal Church as a priestly action. To announce the Gospel to unify the peoples in communion with the Risen Christ is a "priestly" action. The apostle of the Gospel is a true priest; he does what is at the center of the priesthood: prepares the true sacrifice.

And then the second aspect: the goal of missionary action is -- we could say in this way -- the cosmic liturgy: that the peoples united in Christ, the world, becomes as such the glory of God "pleasing oblation, sanctified in the Holy Spirit." Here appears a dynamic aspect, the aspect of hope in the Pauline concept of worship: the self-gift of Christ implies the tendency to attract everyone to communion in his body, to unite the world. Only in communion with Christ, the model man, one with God, the world comes to be just as we all want it to be: a mirror of divine love. This dynamism is always present in Scripture; this dynamism should inspire and form our life. And with this dynamism we begin the New Year. Thanks for your patience.