The SkywalkerSwartz Blog

Sunday, January 25, 2004

¡Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo!

At church this evening, our closing song was the title of this blog: "We are the Body of Christ," a great billingual song by Jaime Cortez (you can listen to a clip from it). This, among other things in the liturgy, reminded me of one of the things I love best about being Catholic: the way we do Communion.

Many branches of Christianity do some kind of Eucharist--even the Mormons (who call it "the Sacrament")! The practice is mostly based on the Last Supper, in which Jesus takes the Passover bread and wine, saying "this is my body" and "this is my blood," enjoining the apostles to eat. What's cool about the Catholic practice, however, is that the Eucharist is not merely a symbolic ritual, or a metaphorical re-enactment, but instead we believe the bread and wine are substantively changed into the body and blood of Christ. Now, when I say "substantively," do I mean in a literal sense that the bread and wine molecules transmorgify into flesh, bone, plasma, and red blood cells? No. Obviously we aren't cannibals. (Although some people think we are!) Instead, I think of it this way: a person's "substance" is their essence, their fundamental nature. One's physical body comes and goes as cells are gradually replaced, but one's personal identity comes from one's spirit or soul (...a contention that some might dispute--especially those who have read John Perry's excellent Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality--but roll with me here...) Thus, by eating the Eucharist, Catholics believe that they are injesting the very spirit of Jesus Christ.

Now, here comes the really neat part: It is literally true that "you are what you eat"--that is, the atoms in the food one eats eventually end up as parts of one's body. In the same way, as the physical bread and wine become parts of our body, Jesus Christ's spirit becomes part of our spirit, and, on a larger scale, we (those at the service, and, on a larger scale, all Catholics) all become part of "the Body of Christ"--that is, infused by His spirit, we have the strength and unity to do His work on Earth. Hence, the title of the blog.

[Addendum added in May:]

My comments above explain part of why I'm so very disappointed in Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs. His recent pastoral letter stated that "any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia" are "outside of full communion with the Church" and "may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions." Three things draw my ire:

  • First, there are a number of completely faithful Catholics (including myself) who despise abortion as sinful and wrong, but who nevertheless don't think it's appropriate for the government to legislate against it. Catholics (among others) also believe that having pre-marital sex is sinful, but it isn't illegal. (I won't get into this argument now; suffice it to say that while religion can inform politics, often legalitiy and morality are not--and should not--be the same thing.) Moreover, I think the most important role government has to play is in preventing abortions, by a combination of sex education (including but not limited to "asbstinence only") and making adoption easier.

  • Second, even if one believes that abortion should be illegal, Bishop Sheridan has picked this particular "right to life" over others--most notably, the death penalty and unjust war. Sheridan writes that "not all issues are of equal gravity," and in other interviews claims that, for various reasons, issues like the death penealty carry "less weight." The point is that these are all his opinions: rather than let his parishoners weigh the importance of each issue before voting, he has essentially made the choice for them. Indeed, by callously dismissing the moral weight of the government putting people to death, he undermines the Church's teaching and betrays a political bias that should not find its way to the pulpit. His pastoral letter all but states, "Vote Republican in 2004!"

  • Most odiously, Bishop Sheridan is using Holy Communion as a political weapon. The only circumstance under which one is not allowed to receive Communion is if one has committed a "grave sin" and has not repented. If I lived in Colorado Springs, I would go to Mass every day with a John Kerry button, and dare them not to give me Communion--a Sacrament whose sanctity Bishop Sheridan apparently has no regard for. (Yes, I know, his supporters will say something like, "His actions in fact show how important it is to uphold that sancitity!"--but I speak of the redemptive grace of the Eucharist, not ensuring that each person who receives it is entirely "pure," either from sin or from supposedly-sinful political views.)

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Rodeos and Burgers

Today I went to my first rodeo. ...the bulls thrash around, and the bullrider tries to stay on for eight seconds; after this minimum time, they try to get off without getting trampled, gored, or kicked. They then receive a score from 0 to 100 (generally the ones we saw got scores in the 80-87 range) by a couple of judges, apparently based on their "technique." ("And from the Slovakian judge, a 8.6 in artistic interpretation...") The hardest job, however, has to be the "clowns," who not only provide (mediocre) comic relief, but also have to get the rider off the bull if he should get stuck--unarmed. I was told later by my more informed colleagues that a real rodeo would have a number of other events in addition to bull riding--barrel racing, calf roping, and the like (here's yet another list of common events). Best of all, since it's a Professional Bull Rider's (PBR) show, you can legitimately drink a PBR at the PBR. Among other Fun Rodeo Facts, they apparently originated as tests of cowboys' skill, and only later became a public spectacle. Of course, the more left-leaning of my Californian friends (I swear, the folks around here think I'm Mr. Liberal, but they have not been to California!) will, like the folks at Animal Liberation, charge that the whole idea is hideous and degrading to animals, but I won't be converted to their vegan lifestyle right away.

Carl's Jr Hardee's

Speaking of cattle, I ate half of one the other day at Hardee's...which we can add to the List of East Coast Food Terminology Changes. Hardee's is essentially the same thing as Carl's Jr. It turns out that both are owned by Carl Karcher Enterprises (CKE) Restaurants, 1997, they bought Hardee's, thus explaining the nearly-identical menus and such. I don't know if the Carl's Jr advertising is the same out West, but here, the tag line is, "Why the last place you'd go for a burger is the first place you'll go for a burger." So, how are the new burgers? Their 2/3-pound burger is a behemoth, but quite good. They also have an Atkins-friendly "low carb" burger, which uses lettuce instead of a bun (much like the "Protein Style" burger on In-N-Out's "hidden menu" Bible verses or X by Y requests, though).

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