Thursday, September 29, 2011


Today is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.  St. Gregory the Great wrote on this feast, that the Angels are known by their function, and not that they are spiritual entities.  Those who have important tasks are the Archangels.  Michael means, "One who is like God," Gabriel is the "Strength of God," and Raphael means, "Remedy of God."

The Angels praise and worship God around his throne, and serve God in various ways.  Michael is known as the defender against evil, Gabriel is the messenger, and God's healing has been encountered through Raphael.  The Angels are presented as members of this heavenly body which is present to God, and to men and women.  In scripture, persons who encounter Angels will refer to them as 'like the Son of Man.'  There is this beauty or holiness about them that sets them apart from all other humanity.

Which brings us to Nathaniel in Today's Gospel.  Like any good disciple Philip brings Nathaniel to Jesus.  Jesus tells Nathaniel that he has already seen him beneath the fig tree.  We have to understand that the fig tree is the symbol of a seeker of knowledge.  I like the old translation in which tells the bystanders that Nathaniel has no guile within him.  So here is a man who is searching for truth and is pure of heart.  What a good candidate for discipleship.

We read this Gospel on this feast to hopefully make that connection between the place where the angels dwell, and being without guile.  As I mentioned at Mass this morning, sometimes we are way too hard on ourselves in relation to Sin and sinfulness.  Our ongoing call is that of seeking truth and goodness.  The angels are these holy entities who serve God our Father. They beckon us along a way of holiness and conversion.  They help us remember that God is orientated towards salvation and the Kingdom; not punishment for our sins.

In another Gospel Jesus reminds his disciples that God desire justice and mercy for all men and women.  The angels in heaven help to direct our thoughts and actions toward what is good and heavenly.  We pray that the Archangels help us understand the importance to seek wisdom and to be found without guile.  It means conversion and discipleship, so that we can live with God forever.    

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Come and set a spell

The invitation that Jesus offers today is to follow him.  One by one people find a reason to delay their decision, and stand off to the side.  Jesus' words are firm, the one who keeps looking back after deciding to follow him, are not ready for the Kingdom.  Throughout the sacred scripture we see Jesus as more of a mentor and guide than a fiery evangelist.  Jesus sits and dines with people, he holds their hands, and places the choice of the cross before them.  His tough love stance calls us to mull over our faith and the faith choices that we make.  But in all of this there is always a matter of discernment.

Jesus shows us a Church in mission.  Our journey is not only a place whereas we become acquainted  with the Kingdom of God, but it is also a place where our faithful response is a living testimony for others.  To be sure the cross is a messy entity and is not always easy to deal with.  We can be minister one day and ministered to the next. 

In the Vatican II documents on the Church in the Modern World, Laity, and in some of the writings by John Paul II, on the nature of the Church, there is this common theme that we are growing and learning together.  Part of that process is that we are engaged in the development of our spiritual lives by learning and having a spiritual life.  In my parish I have teachers and catechists whom I never see at church.  How can you be engaged in catechesis if you are not being nourished?  The Vatican II document on the laity outlines six or seven precepts that the laity participate in as a faithful disciple.

We had a priest at seminary who commented that whenever he went to another priests' home, he would browse through their bookshelf to see when they died.  What he meant was that if there were no current books or journals around, the priest as a spiritual leader and servant of the people must have died.  It is vitally important to be able to journey with one another.  Our Church is not about lone rangers.  At baptism we are united to each other and have a responsibility to support and encourage one another.  Sometimes we are the teacher and at other times we are the learner.  The cross is the great equalizer.

While I have thought about having a support group for Bears fans, think about the needs and concerns in our parish family.  We could have small groups to study scripture, support the grieving, reflect on Church social teachings, and participate in the life of the parish.  It is amazing the wonderful things that can happen when we sit around a table and share bread and wine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

St. Vincent DePaul

This great preacher and teacher is best known for his service to the poor and anawim.  Saint Vincent had a great love of the poor and desire to bring wholeness and healing into their lives.  The number of Saint Vincent DePaul societies in our parishes today is a testimony of the ongoing ministry of the Church for the poor.  

While we might think of St. Vincent as being a 'do-gooder' who liked doing nice things for people, Vincent was certainly not naive about the needs of the poor, nor the situations that kept people in poverty and misery.  Vincent insisted (and provided for) that those in need take responsibility in changing their lives, and become self sufficient.  By forming schools, training centers, and establishing what were basically half-way houses, St. Vincent helped peoples and families get back on their feet.

Knowing the value of education, and the need for priests to evangelize, Vincent worked also to reform the formation and education of priests.  His seminaries were probably considered radical for the day, but he prepared priests to work away from the office as it were.  He realized that the clergy needed a firm theological base, and would be able to preach well.  This would serve those faithful who attended to their spiritual life on a regular basis, as well draw men and women from sin and harmful ways, into a life of virtue and grace.

Even today the Saint Vincent DePaul Society does not give out services without first speaking with those in need as to what their real needs are.  In most parishes, people would come to the office expecting cash to take care of their needs.  St. Vincent's notion was that persons, full of God's grace and goodness, are able to do fo themselves, with a little assistance and encouragement.  To simply give 'things' to the poor usurps their dignity and integrity.  For those that come to our office that does not always sit too well.

Jesus' command to the disciples provide food for the crowds themselves, is carried out in the Saint Vincent DePaul Society, in the spirit of its founder.  St. Vincent's legacy lives on by doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Former Institution of Marriage

In recent months we have seen the understanding and idea of what marriage is change drastically.  PEW research has indicated that couples are entering marriage less often, later in life, and having a religious ceremony less often.  Priests commonly complain about doing weddings since they are over-loaded with cultural elements and can lack a sacramental spirituality.  These entities coupled with the more recent Domestic Partnerships and same gender unions, leaves the sacramental marriage seemingly antiquated.

Recent legislation, known as the DOMA Bill, seeks to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.  The present administration is working against the bill, but the U.S. Catholic Bishops, some traditional protestant groups, and a small group of legislators are strong advocates of the legislation.  Part of the Bishop's contention is that same-sex unions, and the legislation that supports them, undermines the most basic teachings of the Church, as well as possibly forcing the Church to accept mandates which violate its teachings.

For the last several years the Church has faced various obstacles in doing ministry against government rules and regulations.  While I have no problem in DeKalb, in some places it is nearly impossible to visit Catholic patients in the hospitals without some sort of direct permission from the patient.  Government rules, most of which are well intentioned, are interfering with the normal work of church people.

Part of the solution for marriage is for the Church to reiterate for the faithful what it means to be 'Married' in the catholic Church.  Preparation programs need to be solid and contemporary.  Some of the programs which we use today have not changed much since the late seventies.  After marriage care will probably be as important as  the preparation itself.  Again one of the large difficulties that we face today is the lack of catechesis.  So we are always starting one page one, or so it seems.

Presently in the Rockford Diocese we are establishing a diocesan wide 'family' ministry.  It seeks to train the pre-married, married, widows and widowers, and families with children.  But this is what parishes should be doing anyway.  At St. Mary Parish we have Theology of the Body as part of our High School R.E. program.  The young people have never had religion presented in this way to them.  And, their parents are surprised at what they are learning.

It would be a sadness if marriage went the way of using salt at Baptism, or the blessing of the throats.  The better marriages we produce the greater the understanding will be as to what a marriage is.  It we have strong and vibrant marriages we will not need legislation.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saying 'Yes' to the Father

Paul expresses very powerfully the mystery we celebrate when we gather as a community, and when we respond to our call of Discipleship.  Jesus became one like us, so that through him we might share in his divinity.  Matthew's story of the two son's is par for the course among the Pharisees and Saducees.  According to their culture though, it is acceptable to make a commitment in public such as this in public and not follow through.  Jesus challenges this understanding and clearly asks which son does the will of the father.  He then applies the story to the religious leaders response to John the Baptist.

Jesus' affirmative response to the Father leads him to the cross.  Note though that as Jesus prepares for the events that lead to his saving death, he washes the feet of his disciples.  Jesus the humble servant shows an unconditional loving act as he washes the feet of his disciples.  "What I have done you also must do."  Saying 'Yes' to the Father in heaven involves committing ourselves to an ongoing relationship of selflessness with God, and with each other.

In another letter of Paul, to the Corinthians, Paul offers a litany of the fruit of selfless love.  We are familiar with it.  Love is patient, kind, selfless, et al.  In the messiness of life we cannot simply look glassy eyed at this theological reflection.  We have to take seriously the fact that if we say 'Yes' to God, and to others, our relationships will come with warts and all.  The call to each of us is to re-affirm our commitment to God and to others on a daily basis.  More so we practice the law of love through mercy, prayer, justice, and acts of charity.  

What God has begun in us, as are called to bring to completion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Religious freedom???

Recent addendum to the U.S. Health Care law has included coverage for women's health concerns. Recent wording though has adopted the inclusions of sterilization, abortion, and contraceptives.  This has been a controversial addition which seems to disregard the concerns of many lawmakers, Pro-life groups, and those advocating exceptions based on religious and moral grounds; especially the U.S. Bishops.  The Institute of Medicine focused less on preventive measures and more on abortive and reproductive coverage.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, chairperson of the Bishop's Committee on Pro-life activities, voiced serious concerns over the very narrow exception that is written into the legislation.  Cardinal DiNardo has urged the passage of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which would prevent these and other like mandates written into the Health Care Reform.  DiNardo stated that he present law deletes the fundamental  we enjoy, and is, "Being used to disregard the freedom of conscience that Americans now enjoy." 

The new legislation would not exempt Catholics health care providers from referring women to services for sterilization, abortion, or contraceptives.   This law would include individual catholics as well as the institutions themselves.  In a very real way the catholics would be required to act against their own conscience, and participate in a manner contrary to the Church's teaching.  DiNardo has encouraged this Rights of Conscience Act not only for Catholic concerns, but for all men and women of faith who desire to follow the precepts of their religious teachings.

John Paul the Great was so very perceptive when he referred to our culture as a 'Culture of Death.'  Our sexuality, and the life that results therein, are seen mostly as a byproduct or an inconvenience, rather than a gift or part of a divine plan.  Living in a culture that is over-sexed we continue to express a desire for instant gratification, removing any guilt or responsibility wherever possible.  All the while we denigrate the integrity and dignity of the Human Person.

These are the moments that we need to scribble out that email to our congress-people, and talk to our friends and neighbors.  Too often we  rely on the sound bytes from T.V. news for our information.  It is important to visit the U.S. Congress websites from time to time, and the U.S. Catholic Bishops sites.

Jesus has given us the mandate to go out and share the Good News.  To be sure the dignity and respect of life is certainly Good News. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Lord is Kind and Merciful

Flying out of Las Vegas once, on Southwest airlines, back in the old days when they gave you a number, I was pleased to receive number 5.  When it came time to board the plane though, there were at least ten to fifteen people who had already lined up before me.  I found it amusing that so many were eager to move onto the discount airplane.  For those who do not know Southwest keeps its costs down by offering comfortable, but no-frills, flying.  Except for the ability to wait on an airplane ten minutes longer than those behind them, I had to wonder what they expected to gain.

In the realm of the Kingdom of God, there is a part of us that like to impress God with all of the great things we have done.  We want God to know of our years of faithful service, the various acts of charity we have accomplished, and the way we have been good.  But the fact of the matter is that God already loves us.  God is good and loving because that is just the way God is.  Paul today does not see his role as any more 'special' than anyone else.  In matter of fact Paul continues to refer to himself as one of the least worthy of the disciples. Saint  Paul understands that it is the Paschal Mystery that draws us into a relationship with the Father, and that alone should fill us with thanksgiving and praise.

Much like little children watching the amount of ice cream doled out, the workers who had worked the longest become irate at the land-owner.  "How can he be so unfair?"  But salvation history helps us understand that God is both fair and just.  We see this in the mission and ministry of Jesus who reaches out to those holy and righteous, as well as those who are broken by Sin and Evil.  The anawim, oppressed, forgotten, and even the ornery, are also part of God's Kingdom.  What God desires is transformation, conversion and discipleship.

God's love and kindness are beyond our comprehension.  Perhaps we should be glad that God is so loving.  Some days we might feel slighted by God.  We are invited to consider God's great generosity and kindness, and take heart that he has invited us into his vineyard.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Images of the Father

I can still remember the cover of our First Communion textbook.  There was an illustration of a dark skinned child gazing at a large communion host.  The background of the cover was mostly blue and around the host was white, yellow and orange variations of color.  It is strange that I should remember that cover.  For whatever reason I call that to mind.

As Jesus presents the image of the mustard seed, I have to wonder what images of God, Jesus, and the Church, that we leave with our children, and even adults coming into the faith.  Do we convey a God of love or a God of punishment?  Is the Eucharist the bread of life and the Body of Christ, or is it "blessed bread" as I have heard it described.  Images are important because we continue to go back to them for inspiration and learning.  Throughout our lives the same image changes for us, or perhaps we change as we are drawn deeper into the picture.

The mustard seed really challenges us in our faith.  It's smallness establishes that even with our faults and foibles we can do wonderful things in the the Kingdom of God.  I believe that it is in Luke's Gospel we are told that an individual who simply gives a  cup of water to a follower of Jesus, will not want for a reward in God's presence.  But there is also room here to consider what images of God do we leave with little ones, and those who are still growing in their the faith.

Ives Congar was a theologian of the mid-twentieth century.  He insists that we do not always appreciate the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our Church.  The signs and symbols that we are given are rich in meaning and theology.  Planted within us, nurtured through the Word of God and the Sacraments, they enable us to grow into the image and likeness of Christ.  The fruits of the Holy Spirit, as expressed by Paul today, keep us focused on the holy things that are around us.  They call to mind not only our profession of faith, but the profession made by countless others down through the centuries.

As faithful stewards we are responsible for maintaining the richness of our signs and symbols.  Hopefully these images will continue to call peoples to faith, and inspire them to draw deeply from the springs of salvation.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian, Bishops and Martyrs

The time of Cornelius and Cyprian had to be one of the most exciting times of the Church.  The communities of faith prayed and worshiped with a lot of excitement and joy.  Baptisms were not some twenty or thirty minute affair.  The font was blessed and had oil poured over it.  The Profession of Faith was lengthy and everyone participated.  Quite beautiful to be sure.

The down side was that there were factions within the Christian community.  There was still much debate over the divinity of Christ and the role the the Bishop in Rome should have in the body of the Church.  The bishops continued to reign in these objectionable forces, and often had to remove them from the community.  Much of the teachings and homilies by Cornelius and Cyprian was to counter the heresies of the day.  These men were true shepherds in every sense of the word.  Men of great compassion and love towards the people they served, but were strong in their denouncing the erroneous teachings that tended to make their way through the Church.

In our Church today we do have various groups that proclaim their righteousness and self-importance.  While for the most part these are benign groups centered on some sort of piety, there are factions that tend to twist or deny the teachings of the Church, leading many peoples astray.  With a catholic population that is not always well catechized, this is not difficult to do.  Sadly misinformation and erroneous teachings are passed on as the norm of the Catholic Church.

Talking to a brother priest about stewardship the other day, we both concluded that overall what we really need today is evangelization in our Church.  Hopefully through God's grace and the Holy Spirit our leaders can be more like Cornelius and Cyprian, with a passion for the Church and a knack for evangelizing.  To be sure we are a Church of great diversity.  But in Christ Jesus we are challenged to find our unity and communion with our God-head, through Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Exaltation of the Cross

St. Augustine, in his Sermons, suggests that God became like us so that we can become like God.  From the beginning we have this great love affair with God.  The Song of Songs has this wonderful imagery of God seeking us and desiring our presence.  It is Francis of Assisi who suggests that part of our faith life consists in desiring God.  Genesis begins with God speaking and the whole cosmos being created.  And God's Word becomes flesh to bring us salvation and peace.

This is a great relationship that we live in is centered on God's love.  St. Paul will remind us that while we are sinners, God comes into our midst to save us and redeem us.  God's is a self-less love that continues to pour out grace and blessing on all peoples.  We see this in the sacred scripture, but our experience is in those momentary holy times whereas we can move beyond our humanity and embrace God's goodness.  The faithful love in a marriage, the random kindness of a stranger, and in the innocence of a child's wonder, all are glimpses into the love of the Father.

Which brings us to the cross.  A horrific instrument of death, the cross becomes a sign and symbol of God's saving love.  God gives his Son to us so that through the Paschal Mystery we can come to understand the intensity of Divine love.  Theologian Karl Rahner would suggest that the death of Christ had to be intense since the Sinfulness of humanity was intense as well.  The death of Christ had to be a "large" and profound death so as to capture the nature and realm of Sin.

The cross becomes more of a challenge to our remaining faithful than would Jesus have simply done good things for us, and died of natural causes.  Or more so, we would not be as moved if Jesus spent three years doing all sort of wondrous actions, and ascended into heaven.  The cross reminds us that God loves us, even unto death.  St. John reflects this when he comments that there is no greater love than to lay down ones life for another.  The cross becomes the best possible way for God to demonstrate his love for us.

As we reflect on the cross it would be good to look at how we engage in the process of dying to our self, so as to have life.  We talk about athletes and the like who deny themselves all sorts of things, so that they can be the best that they can be.  In our faith we renounce Sin and Evil, so that by the example of the cross we can live as more perfect people.  The cross needs to be our stumbling block that makes us pause and think about what we are doing, and why.

Hopefully the sign of the cross can become our sign of life with God.  In the cross we have all died with Christ, so that we can live with him forever.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Business Ethics

I wonder if that is a contradiction in terms?  When I was in college it seemed that you could turn around without running into a business major. To be sure these were great people.  I am quite certain that many had visions of a comfortable lifestyle which included cars, vacation homes, a boat, and lots of leisure activities. We have not always been real good in reflecting on how our financial decisions might affect the lives of those around.

Today we see a large gap between those who have wealth, and those who do not.  Today (or at least in 2010) American banks and corporations hold between $4 to $5 trillion in reserves.  There is a real necessity today for those with lots of wealth to recognize their responsibility to the common good.  Now if most of us were to move our money out of a Christmas fund, or but a few shares in a local company, it would not change the Dow or cause Wall Street investors much worry.  But anytime the most wealthy change their financial status, the rest of the world changes with them.  And not only for the better.

In days gone by the DuPont's and Morgan's held immense amounts of wealth, and ran most of the nation.  But they also paid a just wage as well as made contributions to the community.  Henry Ford made sure that his workers were well paid and cared for, since he wanted them to by his cars!  We see that somewhat in people like Bill Gates and the like.  Our responsibility is to the world and environment in which we live.  We take care of our surroundings.

Jesus confronts the Apostles with the statement, 'It is impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.'  To borrow from Charles Dickens, 'Mankind should be our business.'  In it's social teachings the Church has continued to speak about men and women's moral right to a just wage so as to enable them to take care of the basic needs in life.  I always laugh at episodes of House Hunters whenever couples are disappointed  over the lack of granite in the kitchen and a garden tub in the master suite.  But food, housing, clothing, medicine, an education, are all basic and necessary moral right that we have.

Way back in 2008 Pope Benedict XVI implored all peoples of wealth to consider how they use and invest their money.  Benedict does not suggest that there should not be wealthy people, but one's profit should not come at the cost of others dignity and the common good.  We need to invest in our companies, but not neglect investing in the communities as well.

Jesus suggested a Kingdom where giving is as important as receiving, and sharing ranks right up there with having.  Our Gospel asks us to be counter-cultural in our work and in our discovery of all things God.  We do not want wealthy people to have a bad name.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How Often Must I Forgive?

As Jesus finishes detailing the process of Discipleship, Peter asks the  pointed question about forgiving and forgiveness.  Certainly, thinks Peter, there must be a limit.  Perhaps seven times?  Jesus' answer of seventy seven times is not given as a mathematical formula but to drive home the point that the act of forgiveness knows no limits.  We forgive as often as we need to.

This is easy for the small hurts and offenses that we endure throughout our days.  We might cringe a bit, but it's really not so bad.  But all of us have some sort of major wounds where we may have suffered deep hurt and humiliation.  Of course we sit here today on the tenth anniversary of 9/11; and continue to feel he pains of that destructive act.  How do we go about offering forgiveness for these terrible acts of evil and sinfulness?

To even begin to gain a perspective of healing we must go to the cross.  This sign and symbol of our salvation is God's unconditional 'Yes' for the whole human family.  When we hear the description of men and women wandering away from God, we do not mean using profanity, or engaging in some sort of bitterness.  Sins against the covenant of God are Sins concerning matters of justice, human dignity, charity and compassion.  It is for these Sins which bring destruction into God's household that God offers his Son on the cross.

"God so loved the World," St. John tells us that he offered his Son for our salvation.  The effects of the Paschal Mystery we celebrate continue to effect us even today.  This is where the healing begins.  As Sirach points out today, anger and rage are hateful things.  These destroy men and women.  We are not just talking about spiritual destruction either.  Anger, vengeance, rage, and hate, all have psychological, cultural, and social consequences too.  Holding on to these elements only continues to foster more brokenness, and hobbles what should be a life full of God's life and goodness.

When we can begin to understand this reality then we can begin to forgive and seek reconciliation.  We leave our hurts and pains with God.  We accept the understanding that we are loved by God, and have an obligation to share what we have received in justice and love.  The cross of Jesus Christ challenges us to a higher way of being and perceiving life around us.  Failure to forgive is basically failing to love as Christ has taught us.

Today we learn that Christ less concerned about a mathematical formula, and more concerned about bestowing the grace of the mystery of faith upon all peoples.  Christ, has die, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.  We can all gather around this proclamation.  In doing so we must throw off the restraints of hatred and violence, and learn to do good.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Built on Rock

David DeLambo is a Pastoral Planner, for the Diocese of Cleveland, OH.  He presented a paper some months ago on the complexities and ministries in parishes today.  Some of his findings are not really a surprise.  He mentions that stewardship is found to be vital in parishes that are pastoral.  Larger parishes can respond to the needs of a great many people, but it includes a complex system of shared ministry.  The larger the parish the more that collaboration  must be part of that equation.

DeLambo's analysis of parish ministry is similar to other like reports.  He has also observed while there is a tendency for dioceses to have fewer parishes, closures and consolidations have brought down the number of parishes, those parishes that remain tend to be larger.  A difficulty in this can be that the Pastor becomes very much like a CEO.  He could very easily spend his time with personnel, physical plant, and financial matters, while rarely performing 'priestly functions.'  For myself this is why I love going to the hospitals every week.  It gets me away from my desk and ministering to people.

But more so, in parishes today there is really a necessity for ongoing formation and catechesis.  Today's Gospel  bluntly states the importance of having a sturdy faith foundation.  Eight years of religious education, or even catholic grade school, cannot prepare us for the rigors of an adult moral life.  Just when our young people are becoming old enough to understand the nuances of chastity, social justice, and moral decision making, we confirm them and they are never seen again.  Ministry needs to be tailored for the various needs of the various peoples.  The aim though should be to provide a firm understanding of the teachings of the Church as well as an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

As we were talking about the new Missal translation the other night, I tried to convey how the use of our language says something about our theology.  If Jesus remains just a nice guy who did some really neat things, then we have missed the entire theology of salvation.  In a large community it is easy to become lost.  In the the midst of moral confusion and religious apathy, it is important to know and understand the hows and whys of our  profession of faith.

While our Church evolves and changes around us, the one constant is the Paschal Mystery and its effects in our lives.  We firmly place ourselves within the person of Christ, and become part of that mystical body.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary

We have this wonderful reading from the prophet Micah, chapter 5, for the first reading today.  Micah is speaking to this small community of believers who have experienced dejection and oppression, and feel as if they have been forgotten.  Micah is consoling this group with a vision of hope and salvation.  The prophet calls to mind for them that our God has a plan for justice and peace and they have a major part of this plan.

Mary must have heard these stories dozens of times at the feet of her parent's.  She must have heard the prayers of the elders and listened to the old women tell stories; all centered on the faithfulness of God.  Even a young Mary is able to offer a wise reflection in Luke's Gospel, 'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,' since she had come to know that God has an awesome plan of salvation. This knowledge and observation of men and women's faithfulness had helped her draw the conclusion that God is very faithful.  This is all the more reason for her to have every faith and confidence in God, as she is asked to become the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.  While her 'Yes' might seem to be quite impulsive, it must have been forming in her heart for many years.

For our Church to do the mission entrusted to it, it needs to have the same sort of belief and trust as did Mary.  Recognizing the desire of God for a people committed to conversion and discipleship.   When it comes time to dealing with issues of life, human dignity, compassion and a Christian lifestyle, the Church should take the model of faith from Mary and stand courageous against Sin and Evil.  We can reach into our bag of faith and tradition and pull our a life based in integrity and truth.

I had just read something the other day about Teresa of Avila, and how she challenged her Sisters to take seriously their vocation to pray for the Church and for the world.  She recognized that even her Sisters could become so overwhelmed by the pettiness of life, that they were neglecting to bring before God the issues and concerns that really mattered.Teresa was distressed by a Church, and a world, that was struggling against Sin and Evil.  She knew  that the Church needed to be a champion for the good.

In Luke's Gospel Mary comments that God will lift up the lowly, and feed the hungry.  Of course she knows that this is to become a task of the Church.  More so our proclaiming and live 'Good News' becomes a  ministry of the Church.  We are called to have every confidence that God is part of our story, as we go about proclaiming the greatness of the Lord.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Good Steward Newsletter – September 2011

A good reflection of what it means to be Catholic. This makes for some good meditation.

Good Steward Newsletter – September 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Rule Police

In some of his recent letters and addresses, Pope Benedict will refer to the law of love.  He will quote or paraphrase the Matthean text which calls us to a love of God and neighbor.  Following this type of love moves us beyond a 'good boy' or 'good girl' mentality.  True love would invite us to do good for others because it is the right thing to do.  Now that confuses us because we begin to ask, Do we respond to all of the needs that we see around us?  Obviously we cannot do that.  But there are situations where we do have the ability and the responsibility to care for.

Today's Gospel from Luke is a good example.  When Jesus proposes to offer a cure on the Sabbath, there is silence.  Everyone knows what the rules are.  Rather that to offend the sensibilities of those who watch over the rules, the people remained silent.  When I was principal at St. Edward High School, one day we had a girl faint in the restroom and hit her head.  Well, rather than drag her body out into the hall, risking further injury, I went into the girl's restroom.  There were some audible gasps.  Obviously the care for another super cedes our convention and practice.

If we follow our faith simply by following rules, we lack any growth or reflection.  Church becomes sort of like living in the land of Oz.  We listen in fear to the man behind the curtain.  Our faith is messy to be sure.  Mostly because it involves the engagement of men and women in very human lives.  We look at compassion, kindness, gentleness, and reconciliation, as the ways and means of living together in a faith community; and with the world.

Look at the real question that Jesus asks us today.  Is it right to do good or evil?  When we begin to respond in that venue, then we begin to live by the law of love.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

If Your Brother or Sister Sins

When we read the Acts of the Apostles, we are left with the impression of a high powered spiritual community which proclaims the word of God, and carries out the mission of Jesus Christ.  The faithful of the Acts community worship in spirit and in truth in that the place where they gather shakes.   There are no needy people among them, since they share everything in common.  Yet Paul's letters admonish these same communities to be faithful to their baptismal promises, and reflect the Eucharist they celebrate.  Matthew today recommends  that the community take responsibility in matters of sin and brokenness.

We can think of our sins as such a private matter, or our faults and foibles as very much our own, that we might not understand where Jesus is coming from.  But our experience tells us that our pride, anger, jealousy, lust, and greed can and do affect others.  We might pretend that it doesn't but from a moral, and a societal, perspective what we do can afflict the lives of those around us.  Perhaps this is way St. Paul so adamant today about living the law of love.

Growing up with five siblings, two dogs, guinea pigs, and two cats, I can attest to the fact that life in a community is not easy.  Any dispute somewhere else in the house affected the entire household.  Perhaps this is way Matthew goes to great lengths to describe a process of reconciliation.  The ministry of Jesus Christ is very much about reconciling with God and others.  Later we will hear that if we bring our gift to the altar, and realize we have a dispute with our brothers or sisters, first we ought to reconcile, then come back and offer our gift at the altar.

Our spiritual life is about conversion and discipleship.  Disputes are handled at the most basic level; just between the disputing parties.  We do not post our problems on the Internet or down at the diner.  Only if that does not work do we bring in other witnesses.  This process moves to involve only those necessary at the moment.  St. Paul will remind us that while it is important to admonish each other, it is done so with charity so as to protect the dignity of the other person.

'Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found.'  Confrontation and the challenging to a moral life need not be traumatic or full of drama.  Part of our faith journey is about walking with one another, and raising each other up.  Love bears the other.  Then our communities become a mystery of faith which we profess.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

St Gregory the Great

Gregory live in the early part of the Seventh Century, a Doctor of the Church and Bishop of Rome, he brought reform to the Church. By the 7th century The Church had grown a bit soft. Gregory brought a sense of structure and formation to the clergy, standardized the Liturgy, infusing chant and a greater solemnity, and wrote extensively on morals and ethics. Under his teachings and leadership strengthened the Church so as to maintain spiritual and moral leadership. There is no doubt that Saint Gregory was a great Bishop and an outstanding shepherd.

Today we might wring our hands as we watch some of the silliness that occurs in the Church. The example that this venerable saint leaves us is to return to our roots. At the Last Supper the Apostles shared in this sacred meal with our Lord. This was to be the foundation upon which we do the Liturgy, and recall the Paschal Mystery. Jesus tells his Apostles to go our and preach good news, offering a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. This is the very rudimentary mission of our Church. Discipleship entails the living and proclaiming the word of God.

Throughout the ages there have been holy men and women to recall the Church to it's origins. On our part there needs to be an active participation in the life of the Church. Often on some of the message boards, when there is a crisis, someone will post the question, "Why isn't the Church doing something?" I guess they expect to see the Pope and a group of bishops serving soup, clearing debris, or standing guard over a group of refugees. But actually we are the Church and what needs to be done is done by the entire Body of Christ.

What Saint Gregory would want us to understand is that by our moral lifestyle, worshiping in spirit and in truth, and works of charity, we continue on the mandates of Christ Jesus. Our faith does not allow for fence sitting. Gregory is a great example of how Church needs to continue to unfold the kingdom of God before the world. We take responsibility in sharing all that we have seen and heard.