Wednesday, August 31, 2011
In our post-modern age religion and faith has become a very personal object. "I believe' these particular objects or precepts of God, regardless of whether they are part of the larger teaching of the Church, or any other religious body. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are out, but smiling at a family member and wishing them a 'good day' is the basis of salvation. There is certainly a need of good and solid theology.
That need of course begins with the Theologians in Colleges and Seminaries. Father Thomas Weinandy, OFM Cap, is an executive secretary on the Bishop's Committee on Doctrine. In a 26th May address he called the role of the Theologian one of a vocation. Like any vocation there is a divine call and human response involved. Weinandy pointed out that a difficulty today is that theologians are almost antagonistic towards the theological tradition that has gone on before them, and seemingly try to disprove the pastoral teachings of the bishops.
Father Weinandy points to the fact that our faith and tradition are intimately connected. More so they can only be grasped by holy men and women. Theologians therefore need to strive for holiness, and remain in touch with the divine love of God, and our Church's faith tradition. Weinandy wants us to understand that one cannot stand outside the mysteries of our faith and speak to them, but the best conversation occurs when we are living within that mystery of faith.
Going on down the line, our religion teachers, catechists, and even parents, best convey the faith when they live as part of it. The celebration of the Eucharist, prayer, and works of charity help us remain connected to the faith that we profess. We can more easily speak and teach about the faith and teachings we profess when we live within the picture. Our spiritual bearing can and will influence others around us to contemplate faith and religion.
So come baptism Sunday, the question of belief in God will be met with seeking eyes, rather than defiance. Passing on the faith is just that. It is the teaching and understanding of the sacred scriptures and the Church. Not what I think that Church should believe in. By understanding this we are conveying all that we have seen and heard to others.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
When we want to talk about Sn and Evil, this is an example of peoples and groups becoming self-centered to the point they disregard the dignity and life of other men and women. The power and prestige of a few is more important than the common good. CRS is one of many Aid organizations that does much to bring food and relief to these peoples. Sadly for tens of thousands this is already too late.
USCCB President and CRS Chairman Issue Aid Appeal for Drought and Famine Victims in Somalia and Parts of East Africa
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, chairman of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), have asked the bishops of the United States to encourage pastors and parishioners to support emergency relief efforts in the Horn of Africa, possibly by taking up a second collection.
“Every day we are seeing more and more heartbreaking news about the drought and famine in Somalia and the eastern parts of Africa. We see millions of people being forced from their homes, leaving behind what meager possessions they had, and walking for days over rough terrain,” wrote Archbishop Dolan and Bishop Kicanas.
“There are parents whose little children have died, and children who have been orphaned.They are suffering from hunger, thirst, disease, and drought,” they said. “It is a humanitarian crisis that cries out for help to Christians throughout the world. The Holy Father, on several occasions, has asked Catholics to respond generously to the desperate needs of our brothers and sisters in East Africa.”
More than 12 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia because of what many are calling the worst drought in decades. This severe lack of rainfall has resulted in failed crops, deaths of livestock and critical shortages in food and water.
CRS has worked in East Africa for decades and is on the ground responding to this emergency. In Ethiopia, CRS is expanding its food distribution program to 1.1 million people and is working closely with local partners to provide livelihood support, water and sanitation. In Somalia, CRS is supporting local partners to assist highly vulnerable, displaced families with basic necessities, such as food packages, support for clinics, therapeutic feeding, and shelter. In Kenya, CRS is working both to assist newly arrived refugees with hygiene, sanitation promotion, and protection, and also to provide water, sanitation, and supplemental feeding to drought-affected Kenyan communities.
“CRS can use all the help we can offer in this current tragic situation,” wrote Archbishop Dolan and Bishop Kicanas. “Through CRS our generosity could literally feed thousands and provide them clean water, shelter and other life-saving goods. Over time, CRS will be able to expand already proven drought mitigation and other development programs that unfortunately are now only available in a handful of villages.”
They concluded by asking the bishops of the United States to request that their pastors “bring the plights of these poor people to our faithful and generous parishioners and ask for their support, possibly through a second collection.”
Monday, August 29, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
This is my bulletin article for the 23rd Sunday.
In our family, As us older ones grew older, we were often put in charge of the young ones. It might have been so mom or dad could go to the store, or to bring them to the park. But we were in charge of them and their well being. If they got into big trouble, they would have to answer to the consequences, but we would also have been admonished. “You should not have let this happen.” We would reply that we had no part in the young ones mischievousness. Mom and dad would reply that we were in charge of them, and should know better than them.
In a post-modern world where we believe so strongly in the individual and individual rights, it is hard to hear the words that we are responsible for one another. This is not simply a matter of providing canned food for the hungry, but the moral integrity and decency of each other as well. Jesus asks us to consider, in Matthew’s Gospel, if our brother or sister sins, we should take them aside and point out their fault to them. Then we bring in witnesses, and even the Church.
Matthew is attempting to keep Christians out of the courts, but most importantly to engage one another in a pattern of correction based in love and charity. St. Paul tells his followers, in another letter, to admonish each other in charity. The sign of a true Christian community is one where love can be demonstrated even in conflicts and disagreements. A sign of Holiness is to seek the truth and to teach and reprove our community with that truth we have received.
We are a church who is an assembly of people gathered to do the work of God. This work brings us together around the table of the Lord and sends us out to renew the face of the earth. The tasks and challenges that face us in the world are awesome, and the obstacles are formidable. The only way we can succeed is by staying together, with Jesus in our midst.
The mission and ministry of Jesus is one of making peace and reconciliation a practical reality. Forgiveness is not forgetting. To forgive, to challenge the brokenness and damage to human dignity, is the beginning of healing and wholeness of the human person. Just as Jesus lifted people up and restored them to their origins, our faith communities must do the same.
More so, when we discover the inadequacies and the failures to live up to the holiness of God, we ought to be courageous in speaking the truth. St James offers us the example of passing by a person in need. James says it is not enough to simply say ‘stay warm and well fed.’ When we discover Sin and confusion, we take responsibility to speak about the virtues we have received, and seek to set things right. Jesus tells us today that we are responsible.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
For St. Bernard it was very important for ones life to become a 'sign' of what we believed in. In the society in which Bernard lived, being a monk was a guarantee of food, clothing, and a bed. Bernard rejected what monasteries had become. Even worse was that some places were a great source of income for the Abbot and some of the monks. Bernard believed that these places needed to remain a place of prayer and solitude. More so, the monastery should be a space where men and women kept prayerful vigil awaiting the coming of the Lord.
To be sure his reforms were not all that well received. But the work of faith sometimes has to call us back to our source, our beginnings. At Easter we re-pronounce our baptismal promises. Unfortunately this too can become so rote that we do not pay attention to what we are saying. I is important to mean what we say we believe in. The invitation we have to to get in touch with that child, innocent and full of joy, who was brought to the Baptismal font so many years ago.
This week maybe we could re-read the Apostles Creed. Bless ourselves with holy water and consider why we are genuflecting before the Eucharist. We could have our own little Clairvaux experience and come out the other side renewed.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Renew International is engaging the youth in a discussion activity which examines various moral and ethical dilemmas. This 'what would you do' game seeks to teach the young people about the various moral and social teaching of the Church. More so it becomes a starting point for the young people to continue to look at their lives through a moral lens. Sometimes we do not understand that our actions, or in-actions, have consequences beyond ourselves. These activities and workshops hope to help our young people recognize that we are in communion with one another.
Some of our youth went to World Youth Day a few years ago, and came back with a very different understanding of their place in the world, as well as the diversity within the Church. The teaching that Christ died for all men and women began to take on new meaning for these young people. To be sure anytime we can move outside of ourselves into the lives of each other, it is certainly a moment of grace and solidarity.
For the youth, issues like justice, poverty, hunger, and peace, become central as they wander through the Church, seeking understanding and resolution. Sadly many of our youth do not feel part of the Church. Growing up, and as a young priest, I heard the phrase, "The future of our Church," in relation to our youth. In reality they are members of our Church today.
Together we come away with an awareness that Jesus Christ is the source of our salvation and peace. Hopefully the excitement and joy of the youth can help us to understand and to embrace the Kingdom of God.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
Mary shows herself to be a faithful disciple. She trusts and believes in the Word of God. So much so that she actively participates in the action of salvation. When she hears about Elizabeth's status, she goes to help her. Receiving the Word of God requires faith and trust in God's promise. Possessing the Word of God challenges us to take responsibility for the faith we have received. The love of God and of others is paramount to our faith.
The Magnificat that we hear in Luke's Gospel today is sort of a summation of salvation theology. God continues to intervene in human history to bring about the Kingdom of God. Using simple and broken human instruments God lifts up the lowly and feeds the hungry. Perhaps this is why Mary's soul is so full of joy. Once again God enters our lives to bring us salvation and peace.
This feast is about the communion we have with God through Jesus Christ, and a reminder of God's great faithfulness in our lives. Hopefully like Mary we can be full of joyfulness as we reflect all that God has done for us, and share in becoming true disciples like Mary.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
In a letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague, Clare reflects upon the role of being a bride of Christ. "Look into that mirror daily and study well your reflection, that you may adorn yourself, mind and body, with an enveloping garment of every virtue ... most chaste bride of the King on high." I like that imagery. We probably do not make a big enough deal of it, but at baptism we give the newly baptized a garment, a candle and anoint them. These are powerful symbols that point to the fact that we are putting on Christ.
For those of us who went to catholic grade school, we remember that we had to change out our school uniforms after school. Those blue slacks and shirts, or skirts and white blouses for the other gender, communicated to others that we belonged to a catholic school community. In the same way our baptismal garment says that we embrace a particular lifestyle based upon Christ Jesus. So our words and actions are commensurate to that life.
The Monastic communities can teach us a lot of living out our baptismal commitment. Everything from treating each encounter as if we were meeting Christ, to the importance of not allowing anger to build up within us. There is a balanced life which challenges one to be fully human and alive for Christ Jesus. In a noisy and chaotic world quiet and heart-felt reflection give us the strength and courage to meet the challenges of life. Monastics are wonderful stewards whereas stuff does not own us, and our gifts and talents are shared with the community.
Monks and Nuns are some of those stumbling blocks that cause us to pause and consider what is important and what really matters in life. Maybe we do not live in a monastery or convent, but hopefully all that we do is done for the glory of Christ Jesus.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Archbishop Dolan challenged those involved in this ministry to remain and grow firmer in their Catholic identity. He reminded the directors of these ministries that what they do is a ministry, and not simply social work. To be sure the Catholic Social services offers assistance to all persons, irregardless of their faith, race, or social background. It is imperative that these ministries reflect a Catholic theology and spirituality.
In explaining his challenge, Dolan borrows quite heavily from the Catholic Social teachings. These are the best kept secrets of the Catholic Church. The Church's social teachings reflect the dignity and wholeness of all men and women. Our social services cannot offer or direct persons to resources that might disregard the humanity and sanctity of our lives. Men and women disire and deserve love and respect from conception until natural death. To be sure what Social Service providers in the Church do is a ministry.
Dolan admits that while evangelization and catechesis is a must, it cannot be blatant or even offensive. When the opportunity arises, Dolan suggests, and when a client is ready, it is not unreasonable to share one's faith and the faith of the Church. Overall the mission of any Church ministry is to convey the vision of truth and the Kingdom of God.
Today as we celebrate the Feast of St. Lawrence it is important to recognize how our faithful service can give witness to the name of Jesus. Like Lawrence our Church is called to serve all men and women, especially the poor and anawim, even in the face of adversity. Our true treasure resides in the people of the Kingdom of God, and making known the name of Jesus.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Saturday, August 6, 2011
The feast we celebrate today is that of the privilege which the Apostles, and we the hearers of the Gospel, have in seeing Jesus in his glory. Jesus is not simply a doer of good works, or an articulate speaker, he is the Son of God who shows us the way to the Kingdom. Towards the end of this Gospel people wander away from Jesus as he expresses the demands of discipleship. In John's Gospel we begin to witness the hostility towards Jesus because of his teachings and actions. These folks have not allowed Jesus to lead them through the "portal" into the vision of the Kingdom.
The Transfiguration calls to mind for us the fact that God has a plan. The prophets and all of the holy men and women call upon us to be true to the covenant and to live a worthy life of conversion and discipleship. Remember several weeks ago whereas we heard Jesus remind his followers that some would call out his name, to which he would respond that he does not recognize them.
The challenge of that our faith conveys is a certain depth and intensity in regards to our relationship with Christ. Christianity is a climbing the mountain experience, not a stroll through the park. One has to wonder how often that vision was discussed by Peter, James, and John. And in their ministry after the death and resurrection how it might have become that source of strength and confidence.
Today's feast gives us a momentary glimpse into the everlasting banquet, beyond the screen. It reminds us in a most powerful way of our ultimate life with God; challenging us to live as God's holy people.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Martin Luther would suggest that we look not so much at what we do, but what God did for us. God has resolved our salvation problem through the Incarnation. Jesus Christ comes into our lives very much like us; except the Sin. In that marvelous Philippians hymn, Paul states that Jesus emptied himself of heavenly glory to take on our human nature.
'Doing' charitable works is important to be sure. Such actions might lead us to discover where we need to become emptied. The real hard work of the cross is to rid ourselves of pride, anger, jealousy, self-importance, and the like. These vices are more difficult than the garden variety of sinfulness that can often plague us. Jesus embraces his human nature and brings it to the cross. We want to make sure that our religious life is not a pretense or a front in hopes of finding favor with God and others.
There is that phrase from the sixties or seventies, "I am number three." God is first, others are second, and I am number three." It is harder than it looks. Back in Fulton we had an ecumenical stations of the cross on Good Friday. The Methodist pastor carried the cross one year. This was two 4x4s, about five and one half feet tall, and four feet across. At the end of the service he commented that it is harder than it looks. How true that is for all of us.
We begin each Mass by praying, "I Confess to Almighty God ..." This is a good daily prayer to recognize our masks or attitudes that distract us from our Holy enterprise. May what God has begun in us be brought to completion.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
John Vianney was not a scholar but a wise and loving pastor. He was known best for his simple lifestyle, practical wisdom, charity, and spiritual guidance. He was sent to the town of Ars which was both challenging and needy. His life there eventually brought about a spiritual renewal. People would flock to Ars for spiritual direction by this wise and loving man.
Moses the 'pastor' has had to struggle to maintain faithfulness amongst the people he shepherds. Often Moses engages God with the various grips and complaints he receives from these chosen people. At times Moses wants to run away, and at other times Moses is filled with anger. Mostly though Moses loves the people he serves. And this is important.
I was at the investiture of a Monsignor over the weekend, an older man who has been a priest for nearly 50 years, and was surrounded by people and priests who have been loved by this man. His faithfulness to the priesthood, and the love of the people he served, is the single characteristic which stands out about him. Now we are not talking about the 'kissy-face' butterflies and rainbows love. His is a love of compassion and kindness. Truly a shepherd he would challenge when it was necessary to do so, and always affirming others dignity and goodness. A very good priest.
On this memorial we are reminded that priests are other Christs' in the world, unfolding the Kingdom of God by teaching, preaching, and sanctifying. Over the years I have become more aware of what the title 'Father' really implies. The Gospels help us focus on the fact that even Jesus went to speak with God the Father in the midst of doing mission and ministry. St. John Vianney, and now the good monsignor, as well as countless priests have served as models of priesthood, and most importantly an occasion of Christ, for the Church.
All for the glory of God.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Just as it was in the early Church it is absolutely essential that we are connected to what is true and good. Today's readings include an admonition that when we engage in wrongful actions, allow fear and anxiety to hobble us, to seek our own cause as opposed to that of God, then our lives begin to break apart. Sin and confusion can lead us quite easily from what we ought to be as God's holy people.
I guess I should not be amazed, but it is overwhelming to read on message boards and the like the various misunderstandings of the Church specifically, and Christianity in general. As I have mentioned before, when movies and television portray priests and women religious, they show a vesture worn long before the late sixties. Their depth of knowledge is lacking any meaningful or credible understanding of the teachings of Christ, and his Church.
We experience healing and peace when we are connected to the grace and blessings that our God offers us through Jesus Christ. Conversion and discipleship is an ongoing process by which we continue to pronounce our faith, and seek healing and reconciliation where it is needed. What is the one line of that song, 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.' It really is an ongoing struggle and time of seeking. We want to find peace and solace, and the kingdom, rather than meanness and a hardened heart.
We stand firm in the faith in which we have been planted. We cannot shy away from the cross because that is where we will find healing and new life.