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In biblical times there were Pharisees and Sadducees. Unfortunately, our Church has been pervaded by modern versions of both. The Sadducees took a strict, legalistic approach that preached the letter of the law over its spirit. The Pharisees were puffed up with politics and earthly knowledge and had a worldly religious approach that negated the supernatural and thus blinded them to miracles.  Their hearts were "hardened," it says in the Bible. The Sadducees believed in religion but not an afterlife!

In our time, we see those in our faith who operate universities or Catholic organizations or websites or are in our clergy who are more "cultural Catholics" than spiritual ones. Where a person with active faith may see a face in a cloud, at a meaningful moment, during a spiritual high point, or a form on a burned wall (as is displayed in a small church museum in Rome, right, that is dedicated to purgatory), those who perceive with psychology and the left side of their brains want to see nothing and so they observe only the physical.

The question is who is more gullible. Are all such claims valid? We all know the answer to that. It is not just cheese sandwiches (the now-exhausted example cited by skeptics) on which images are ridiculed.  (They could update their satire, if desired, by adding a potato chip.)

But it is also true that the supernatural weaves in and out of our reality constantly and where the "wind" chooses and inflects itself as a message. Take a look at photographs from the Hubble telescope. Take a look at the image of Guadalupe. Or perhaps the Shroud. The real question: is it all tomfoolery (because the secular world rejects it)?

What is not a question is that lack of perception due to pride of intellect has stripped our Church of the mystical.  By some measures, we could call it "cessationist traditionalism" -- this perspective that God removed gifts of the Holy Spirit (caused them to cease) after the apostles died. As one commentator noted, the cessationists "have become more influenced by our materialistic, Western culture than they realize. The supernatural embarrasses them. They want to retain control of their theological kingdom, and the Holy Spirit's activity threatens them." In so doing, in rejecting the very basis for their faith, they contradict themselves, for the very belief in Jesus was based on His mysticism.

There is the supernatural and the natural and many in our Church have taken the secular course, perceiving with their minds instead of their hearts (which is the doorway to the spirit). The pews have emptied as a result. It is time to take back religion. It is time to exercise the fullness of its greatness. It is time to view life with Divine logic. The logic of man can fit into Divine logic but Divine logic is far too large to fit into human rationalization. The New Testament presents the Pharisees as obsessed with man-made rules, but with all due respect we must realize God is far too large to fit into our neat little rules of science (or into a microscope).

Moreover, and unfortunately, we are at a moment in history where there is not only skepticism toward private revelations but hostility and dishonest means employed to discount them. Here we issue a warning: It is better to be a "fool for Christ" than to negate what may be a work of the Holy Spirit.

"Though standing for the spiritualizing tendency," notes one encyclopedic entry, "Pharisaism developed a proud and arrogant orthodoxy and an exaggerated formalism, which insisted on ceremonial details at the expense of the more important precepts of the Law (Matthew 23:23-28)."

Notes another: "The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist in very limited parts of The Law (plus all that they themselves added to it), that they became blind to The Messiah when He was in their very midst. They saw His miracles, they heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy, they did all that they could to stop Him -- eventually to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the Son of God."

[resources: Michael Brown retreat, Mass,  San Antonio: signs of the times, Jan. 30 (online here, or 386-446-8139]

[Note: Guadalupe image is superimposed above on reflection on glass in Clearwater, Florida]

[see also: Something nice to look at]

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