Sunday, March 2, 2014

7 of 7: I *heart* Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI!

Oops, this one is a little late cause I was talking with FrC.

It has been about one year since Benedict XVI stepped down from the papacy, and I think he was the cutest Pope ever! I'm currently writing him a letter and I hope that in his free time he will come visit us in Maryland.

A while ago, I read the book "Light of the World" which is a transcript from a six hour interview with the Pope. The following question regards the hat in the first picture.

The infamous red hat that caused such a stir.
It caused a stir when you chose the now famous camauro, a sort of peaked cap that had last been worn by John XXIII, as a head covering for the winter. Was that just a fashion accessory--or was it the expression of a return to tried and true forms in the Church?

"I wore it only once. I was just cold, and I happen to have a sensitive head. And I said, since the camauro is there, then let's put it on. But I was really just trying to fight off the cold. I haven't put it on again since. In order to forestall over-interpretation."

The Pope fell asleep at an event in Malta; 
maybe it was a science colloquium!

From Jesus of Nazareth, by Joseph Ratzinger:

I would only ask my readers for that initial goodwill without which there can be no understanding.

Forgiveness exacts a price—first of all from the person who forgives. He must overcome within himself the evil done to him; he must, as it were, burn it interiorly and in so doing renew himself. As a result, he also involves the other, the trespasser, in this process of transformation, of inner purification, and both parties, suffering all the way through and overcoming evil, are made new.

Praying the rosary while walking--
pretty good for an octogenarian.

I know that I need trials so that my nature can be purified. When you decide to send me these trials, when you give evil some room to maneuver, as you did with Job, then please remember that my strength goes only so far. 

The Exorcism of Baptism: These words imply a great liberating power—the great exorcism that purifies the world. No matter how many gods may have been at large in the world, God is only one, and only one is Lord. If we belong to him, everything else loses its power; it loses the allure of divinity.

Looks like he forgot the booster seat.

Afterward, though, it is time to stand firm, even along the monotonous desert paths that we are called upon to traverse in life—with the patience it takes to tread evenly, a patience in which the romanticism of the initial awakening subsides, so that only the deep, pure Yes of faith remains. 

This would have been the look on his face
 if we'd had the chance to meet me.

No conditions specifically involving knowledge of Revelation are enumerated, only ‘inquiring after God’ and the basic tenants of justice that a vigilant conscience—stirred into activity by the search for God—conveys to everyone.

The Pope snarling at a lion cub. Awesomest picture ever?

And love does admittedly run counter to self-seeking—it is an exodus out of oneself, and yet this is precisely the way in which man comes to himself.

From the final address of Pope Benedict XVI:

The Church is alive, she grows and she awakens in souls, which  - as the Virgin Mary – welcome the Word of God and conceive it through the work of the Holy Spirit; they offer to God their own flesh, indeed in their own poverty and humbleness, becoming capable of giving birth to Christ in the world today.

Pope Benedict goes to Washington? This is his American look.

Pope Benedict interviews the astronauts on the International Space Station. Aw! He sounds so cute. :o)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

6 of 7: My hypocrisy only goes so far.

Jesus submitted to the authority of Pontius Pilate even to the point of accepting unjust condemnation and death; however, this was in fulfillment of the scriptures. Jesus knew that in accepting the injustice he was acting in obedience to his Heavenly Father. He told Pilate, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above." (Curiously, Jesus went on to note that since God had placed Pilate in this position of authority, his sin in unjustly condemning Jesus was less than that of those who had handed him over.)

I am obligated to submit to the will of God. However, lest anyone think that Christianity is about suffering anything and everything without protest, I would point out that Jesus frequently spoke against injustice as did his apostles and disciples. Jesus accused the Pharisees of burdening the people with unnecessary rules and requirements, of demanding justice without mercy. Even to the point of apparent disobedience, with righteous anger he pushed over the tables of the moneychangers and vendors in the temple area. There are many examples of peaceful (and not so peaceful) protest in the Acts of the Apostles. I am obligated to do what I reasonably can to oppose the unjust use of authority, always with the goal of triggering spiritual conversion. Determining how to do so is a matter of discernment through prayer. No person can actively support every cause. We really do have to pick our battles. But we can always pray for conversion of heart and we can speak in defense of the truth when the opportunity arises.

I have no doubt that on Judgement Day, seeing for the first time the full measure of my Pharisaical pride, it will appear that "my hypocrisy knows no bounds." (Although my trust in Jesus gives me hope that I will be spared the fate of that Brood of Vipers!) However, for now I would like to think, with the great Doc Holliday, that "My hypocrisy goes only so far." With the passing of the Affordable Care Act with its contraceptives mandate I was suddenly (and quite rudely) awakened to the fact that my insurance plan covered various abortifacients and would soon, as required by law, cover the morning after pill and sterilizations. Of course there are many factors that figure in to choosing an insurance plan but, under my life circumstances, choosing an insurance plan that covers such things when it is possible to obtain a plan that does not is cooperation with sin. Now, at first glance, it appears that I have no choice but to acquire a plan that I believe facilitates sin.

It's interesting to note that the Supreme Court classified Obamacare as a tax. Jesus paid taxes to the Roman government, knowing that it was a corrupt institution committing evil deeds. One can note a touch of cynicism in the injunction to "render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar". If money is the root of all evil then, by all means, Caesar can have it! And so, in submitting to lawful authority, I pay my taxes knowing that some of it will support Planned Parenthood.

But in the case of my insurance policy, is there another option? In my research I found that "medical sharing plans" are exempt from the usual Obamacare requirements and, although they are not insurance plans, fulfill one's obligation for having medical insurance. This exemption was granted only to the three medical sharing companies that existed as of 1997; therefore, no new providers may offer such plans--a situation which encourages poor service and corruption. But at this point the reviews I've found vary from lukewarm to highly satisfied.

Basically, the medical sharing plans require one to contribute money to a kitty each month to be doled out by a board of directors, with more-or-less absolute power, who determine priorities. Some of the companies do not accept people with certain preexisting conditions and all of them have rules that medical bills for preexisting conditions cannot be submitted for sharing. These are Christian plans that require members to agree to live a Christian lifestyle and therefore do not offer sharing for medical bills for problems such as drug abuse counseling and, presumably, pregnancy outside of marriage. This strikes me as a bit Calvinist and bothers me. If I have a family and we have been members of the medical sharing plan for years and my teenage daughter gets pregnant or my teenage son overdoses it doesn't seem right that we will receive no assistance at all in what is probably our time of greatest need. But then, I'm not a member of the board of directors, and I do understand that financial coverage needs to be limited in order for such a cost sharing system to work. Each of these companies have policies I don't fully agree with, but at least I know that they don't cover anything that I would consider sinful.

So in order to flee Obamacare and limit my hypocrisy, I have given up my health insurance and joined Christian Healthcare Ministries, as it seems the least restrictive of the three options. CHM does not turn away anyone because of preexisting conditions and is somewhat more flexible in terms of lifestyle. For example, one has to promise to consume alcohol responsibly rather than not at all. In terms of how this effects my life, it seems that I will receive no financial support on any medical bill costing less than $500. Anything over that can be submitted for the cost sharing and, unlike insurance, there is no guarantee that a certain amount will be covered.

Although CHM claims that medical centers frequently provide discounts for people without insurance, not having an actual insurance policy does tempt me to avoid receiving medical care outside of a medical emergency. In this I feel more solidarity with the poor. Many of those who do purchase insurance, rather than paying the MUCH less expensive tax penalty for not having insurance (I guess it's $95 the first year.), will end up with copays and large deductibles that discourage them from seeking routine medical care. However, unlike the poor, I am blessed with a job that can cover a handful of $500 medical bills per year.

Not to paint too negative a picture, there are some really great benefits to being a member of a medical sharing group. For example, assuming I'm healthy this month, I effectively send my monthly payment directly to a person in need to help cover his/her medical bills. Whereas, with insurance I was focused on "what's in this for me?" and how much I could get out of a particular plan, the medical sharing is much more externally focused on how I can help the other members. In addition to sending money, each giver is encouraged to pray for the ones receiving support. CHM also employs a doctor who is available for free, informal consultation--sort of like WebMD. And there is a monthly newsletter where one can list any requests for prayer and encouragement only or even genuine medical expenses that were not eligible for the regular sharing. Members who are willing and able can choose to send extra funds to support these needs. The providers boast that the medical sharing group works more like the early Christian communities described in the Acts of the Apostles, where one person's surplus made up for another person's lack.

Overall I think that this will be a good change for me, not just because I will not have to compromise my beliefs, but also because it demands greater trust in God. Do I really trust that God will provide for me if my medical situation changes and becomes more expensive? For now, I will hope not to be put to the test.