Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Conversion, Truth and Beauty

Father John J. Lombardi

"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." +Mt. 5:8

Part of the allure of beauty, St. Thomas Aquinas and medieval theologians tell us, is its shining quality-claritas: its pristine brightness. Beautiful objects and people (saints) radiate the love of God and His beauty without the negative "weightiness" of sin and strangulation of darkness. Sin is ugliness and defilement: its nature is to pull objects and souls down and defile them. Jesus encourages disciples constantly to choose light and beauty (holiness) even though, due to original sin, we have concupiscence-a tendency to sin (St. Paul said, "The good I want to do I don't do, the evil I don't want to do I d.," (+Rm 7: 19). The ultimate fulfillment of the Beatitudes, and following Jesus in radical, and sometimes unpopular discipleship, is the Beatific Vision-seeing God, the Uncreated Trinity, in Heaven: there is no better news.

Along the way, through our choices in life, we are either choosing light and holiness (and thus building a relationship to ultimate Light and Holiness-God in Heaven) or we are choosing darkness and defilement unrepentantly (an eternal separation from God, called Hell). God knows we all make mistakes, and are sometimes more allured by evil and darkness, and become lukewarm and tired in our discipleship. 

But because God is infinite (unbounded in His love for us) and all merciful (always ready to re-embrace us no matter what) He calls us all to ongoing conversion. When we think we have totally lost or destroyed our relationship with Him, He is ever present (especially in Mass and Confession) to heal us-to bring us back into His Beauty and Divine Splendor. 

After all, think: St. Paul persecuted and killed Christians and later found-was found by-Life, Jesus Himself! St. Augustine prodigally abused people and creation but eventually found His ultimate Lover and Creator-the Trinity. The Venerable. Matt Talbot (the twentieth century Irishman) almost drank himself to death but finally discovered the divine Elixir in the Holy Eucharist…All of them were far away from God-ensnared in darkness--but were eventually pulled back to beauty and light, to God Himself…How about you?…See the following…

Great beauty and horrifying ugliness-that is what we saw the other night, and this is what life-in its most intense drama-- is about. Mount St. Mary's seminarians and faculty gathered for a talk last Monday by Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the founders of the National Abortion Action Rights League, which promotes the killing of innocent children. Dr. Nathanson professed to overseeing the abortions of some 60,000 children. Somehow (like our saints mentioned above) he changed his ways and came to tell his-or, rather God's story-that light and beauty are more enrapturing than darkness and death.

This extraordinary man showed two videos: one on a "late-term abortion" (done in the sixth to ninth months of a woman's pregnancy-some 120,000 are done in the U.S. alone each year) and another on the healing surgery of a preborn, handicapped baby. The first video showed killing and violence, the second healing and love. They were opposites of each other and depicted graphically the horrors and beauty of modern medicine-- the differences were visceral and immediate-we can promote great healing and beauty in life OR we can mutilate and destroy-the choice is ours.

"I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendents may live..." +Deuteronomy 30:19

In an introduction to one video, the actor, Charlton Heston, said how much "dialogue," "conversation" and media investigation there is on important, life or death, contemporary, ethical issues-except on abortion. He said acquiescing silence helps the oppressor.

Dr. Nathanson, who ran the largest abortion clinic in the U.S. for years, spoke about his conversion from death to life: "I did clinical research for four years on fetal issues. After that I decided that this-the fetus-was a member of the human community-one of us." Read that sentence again…

Regarding the miraculousness of pre-born fetal operations, the doctor said, "Fetal operation is the clinching argument on life-this clearly shows it is a person."

Somehow people eventually decided that slaves in the Civil War (and those currently in the world) are "one of us"; we've understood that Jews murdered in the Holocaust are "one of us"; we're convinced that AIDS victims are "one of us". Some have even decided that chimpanzees and dolphins are "one of us"; all these "classifications" and "discoveries" are ignoring the largest class of destroyed victims- unborn babies.

One woman on the video who had an abortion said: "I think the women's movement has been terribly deceived by abortion." She described, painfully, her own mental physical horrors, which plague her incessantly.

Did you know: +That about every ten seconds an abortion is performed each day in the U.S.?…+There are about 1,5000 serious complications to abortions each year in the U.S?…+That there are always two victims to abortions-the child and the adult woman who has to live with this scar the rest of her life… +All abortions can be forgiven.

Dr. Nathanson was, it seems, a "medicine man" without "divine medicine" (Jesus) but was converted from death and killing to life and healing---and later became a Roman Catholic. He kept pursuing truth and beauty and light and eventually found these, and God found and rescued him. Here he was talking to a hundred Catholic seminarians and priests about his past horrors and present peace, showing us that the worst sinner, the most lost sheep can come back to God, be forgiven and make a new life-with and by His grace. 

God can change darkness and despair to divine illumination and decisive discipleship-if we seek Him, pursue Him, and really want to know and embrace His Divine Will… Jesus tells us: "I came that you might have life, and life abundantly." (+Jn 10:10)…. PROJECT RACHEL is a Catholic outreach, run by a priest-friend of ours, Fr. Blair Raum, and is an excellent, spiritual and pastoral balm to the forgivable action of abortion. Phone: 410-354-6900.

PRAYER, HOLINESS AND ST. TERESA Ralph Martin, of EWTN Network will speak on these themes at St. John, Westminster, Fri., Feb. 15, following 7:30 PM Stations of the Cross and: Sat. Feb. 16, 8 AM Mass/9 AM & 11 AM talks: "The Call to Holiness: Teresa of Avila as a Guide," "Teresa: Advice on prayer," "Obstacles to Growth." -call St. John's, 410-848-4744.

SPIRITUAL MEDITATION: "There is a thief, he is in my house. But this burglar does not steal without leaving something behind. He takes from me my humility and leaves behind his pride. He robs me of my patience and gives to me anxiety and intemperance. He pilfers my charity bestowing upon me greed and hatred. He takes all that is virtuous and leaves only vice. I know his name, it is ego. I have seen his face and it is mine." +Anonymous. 

St. Paul counsels: "You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed …" (+Eph. 4:22)…

Call it "ego," or "old self", but this so-called "reality" we seem to identify with the most-and perpetuate through deceitful desires-is what we have to die to the most (see Rm 6:6)…

Are you willing to die to "self" and "ego" so as to live for God and Heaven? …+How attached are you to your so-called "self" and possible deceitful desires of the world?…+Do you really want Jesus to live in your heart and life?

SPIRITUAL QUOTE: "That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the Word of God, is the Body of Christ; that chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the Word of God, is the blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins. If you have received worthily, you are what you have received." + St. Augustine in his Sermon #272.

Read other Sermons by Father John J. Lombardi