Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St. Andrew the Apostle

Andrew was one of the first apostles called by Jesus.  In John's Gospel, Andrew is first presented as an apostle of John the Baptist.  Significant in that Andrew recognizes Jesus as the Messiah.  Moreso we see in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel, it is Andrew who approaches Philip and requests to meet Jesus.  Jesus' response is to, "Come and See."  Andrew gladly tells his brother Peter about Jesus.  This is what disciples do; they are excited about the Word of God, and share it with as many as possible.  Perhaps this is the reason that he is chosen by Jesus.

St. John Chrysostom, in a homily on this occasion, talks about the zeal of St. Andrew.  To be sure a disciple is called to be zealous.  Andrew is shown as one who is constantly seeking, looking for truth and understanding the mysteries of God.  Once he discovers 'truth' Andrew does not hesitate to proclaim the good news.  In the Collect for today's liturgy, we pray that Andrew guide the Church in faith, and always be our friend.

St. Andrew makes a wonderful Advent saint in his vigilance and faithful posture.  Obviously he is always in the process of seeking that which is of God.  But Andrew does not wander to find meaning in crystals, or trees and bushes, but understands that the God of all creation will be the source of the 'Messiah.'  Andrew understands that to be a disciple is an activity of seeing the works of Christ, and sharing those works faithfully.

In the Vatican II document on the Laity in the Church, men and women are invited to continue to grow in holiness, and participate actively in the life of the Church.  There is no doubt that it is difficult to maintain a high level of excitement, especially as we meet the routine of life.  Even if in small ways we can seek and find holiness, all the better for the Church.  How do I recognize God's presence?  How can I respond in love and charity? 

No doubt that there are occasions throughout our lives when we can see Jesus at work.  Like Andrew we have to be courageous and Come and See.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

So we begin the journey

Advent is a pretty tame time of year.  While it does have its penitential nature, it is not as demanding as is Lent.  When I was in grade school, in the sixties and seventies, the Sisters usually used 'psychology' to have us understand what was 'good' or 'bad.'  "How do you think Billy feels when you hit him in the head?"  Advent is sort of like that.  Isaiah wants us to understand that it was bad choices, and a lifestyle that abandoned the covenant, that caused the difficulties for Israel.  Like the parent who has a conversation with a child, Isaiah wants us to try to grasp how our decisions can have dire consequences.

We remember the last few Gospels.  Stewards who fail to invest their master's money and virgins who do not bring extra oil, will find themselves in the dark and cold, wail and gnashing their teeth.  This season reminds us that we are not on a ride at Disney World whereas we sit in a car, while the scenery moves around us.  We are active participants in the story of the Gospel, and it is our responsibility to live out our faith, as well as to convey that same faith to those around us.

Consider Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary and Zachariah, who were doing as they had planned, on their journey, and suddenly God changes their pathway.  Now they are responsible for preparing for the Light of the World, and the source of Salvation.  In so many ways our journey sometimes changes, and we are challenged to take on new and even more difficult responsibilities.  But in the softness of the Advent colors, God continues to walk with us on this new path.

Preparing for Christ takes time and a lot of patience.  In addition we need to work on our meekness, humility, and generosity besides.  We too are really Advent people on that journey for the Christ Child.  God does not slap our knuckles or any such thing, but offers us a vision of peace and joy.  May the good works God has begun in us be brought to completion.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent 1

Isaiah today comes very close to blaming God for the unfaithfulness he sees around him.  If God was 'closer' none of this would ever have happened.  But as if coming back from a momentary lapse of judgement he is quick to point out that the people of God had slowly wandered away from the covenant.  He eventually refers to this wounded-ness which lies at the depths of our being.

This kind of brokenness is what we experience when people will compliment us, our comment on our spiritual maturity.  We know full well the fears, anxieties, hurts, and pain we lug around with us.  Sometimes we do a very good job at hiding the depths of our sinfulness.  But the challenge for a disciple is to be honest with our own needs and concerns.  What hobbles us, preventing the fullness of the Lord to reside within us.  The Closeness of God, or lack therein, is not from God;s side but from ours.

One of the commentaries I had read referred to 'sleepwalking' through life.  We are not really awake to the Sin and Evil that swirls about us, and refuse to address it's effect in our own lives.  Now we are not all called to be mystics, but we are called to a holiness of life.  The ability to wake up invites us to transform ourselves from mediocrity and apathy, to full of compassion and a commitment to God's covenant with us.

During this season we will see the very traditional Christmas Carol, the not so traditional Scrooged, and the entertaining The Grintch.  In each of these the premise is the same; a powerful event changes the hearts of the main character, causing them to love and care.  Now the birth of Jesus has already occurred, but we make present the Body and Blood of Christ on the altar each day.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation invites us to begin a journey of healing and grace through God's mercy.

The trappings of Advent challenge us to conversion and discipleship.  It is a journey of growing closer to the Lord and experiencing his great love for us.  This season calls us out of darkness into his own most marvelous light.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Crisis of Faith

Today's ominous readings hint at the end of time as well as the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.  For Matthew the Kingdom is something very important.  Talk about the end, whether it be '2012' or some rock from space, causes people to become frightened and even anxious.  The Gospels and the Epistles charge us to remain faithful to the calling we have received all the way to the end.

In a simpler time, when life seemed slower, and communities more stable, believing in God and being faithful to the covenant was easier - or so it seemed.  A friend and I talk about those who seem to long for the 40s and 50s.  Sort of a 'Father Knows Best' life when identity and position were clear and unquestioned.  Yet a popular T.V. show bluntly presents the evil and sinfulness that part of the culture then, yet it was well hidden.  As disciples our entire being must be presented to God.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, recently went to Germany and spoke with several different groups of people.  In his address to the laity he mused about the post-modern mentality which reduces issues of moral and ethics to a subliminal relativism.  While he spoke about the inability of many to make a life long commitment, he was alluding to marriage.  But the same can be said of religious life and priesthood today.  More so, Benedict indicated that the task self-denial and sacrifice for others seems less of an option in today's world.

Rather than living in fear the Gospels recommend making our faith vital and strong.  St. Paul asks the question, 'If God is for us, who can be against?'  Paul offers a litany of exterior forces that can harm, and even kill us.  But Paul answers his own question by stating that God is always for us.  In Benedict's speech to the German people (and this applies to us too) he recommends that faithful people gather together to discuss their faith, and to encourage one another in faith.  Through prayer and the study of sacred scripture these small communities can be a source of connection to God and a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  These small groups can be a springboard of healing, and a reaffirmation of the Father's love.

No matter what the world throws at us we need a faith family to go to so as to experience the fullness of the Father's compassion and peace.  We used to have Bingo here at this parish.  Part of its ministry, unintentional to be sure, was a social outlet for many of the elderly.  The Church might want to look at new models so as to gather people, support them, and bless them on their way.  In this way we can respond to the ongoing crisis of faith.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Leaving the Gospel of St. Matthew

kata Matthaion euangelion, or the Gospel of St. Matthew, is the first in the order of the Gospels, but most likely not the first written.  The author of Matthew borrowed heavily from the  source of Mark, and one or two common narratives day.  Like the Gospel of John, Matthew seems to be the 'Church" Gospel, with it's references to church and the ideas of a community it proposes.  Throughout the Gospel we have read five discourses, or themes, which help to bring an understanding to the theology of the Kingdom of God.

Throughout this Gospel Matthew has again and again reiterated the importance of evangelization.  The Disciples are to go out and share the Good News.  Those who are cured or healed share what has happened to the.  But more important than the going out to places, is that as individuals, and as a community, or lifestyle shares the 'good news' of Jesus Christ with others.  The last judgement scene from chapter 25 challenges members of the community to perform corporal and spiritual works of mercy as a means of making known the Gospel message.  Back in chapter 24 Jesus admonishes the religious leadership for being more concerned with their exterior  trappings, than being servants of the Word of God and the people of God.

John Paul II pronounced that this century needed to be one of a New Evangelization.  Not only are there those who have not heard of the Gospel message, but in our post-modern society we have made religious truths into subjective truths.  In recent years the Church has recommended faith sharing from the pulpit, and within small Christian communities.  Across the Church there is a new emphasis on preaching and catechesis.  The Paulists have developed a series of programs which help form these small communities, and give them purpose and direction.  Of course the most difficult aspect is to find good catechetical leaders.

Matthew's presentation of the apostles demonstrates that they struggle with faith, in particular with the Paschal Mystery.  Faithful people, and faith-filled communities, are those that remain connected to Jesus even as the boat (the Church) is rocked hither and yon, and during the threat of persecution.  The disciple stays with Jesus through the good and the bad.  Doing so increases their own faithfulness, but also becomes a witness to those around us.

hopefully this year has been a lesson(s) learned thanks to the narrative of St. Matthew.  Matthew has called us to become a holy people, directed towards the gifted-ness we have received, all for the unfolding of the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

There is a story I had read eons ago, about a young mother, rushing to get her five year old daughter to school one rainy day.  As always they were running late.  The young woman had to get to a meeting and was considering the dozen or so other details of the day.  The little girl amused herself with the puddles as the woman urged her towards the car.  As she fumbled for her car keys, the little girl looked at her and declared, "This is a great day to float sticks in the water."  From children we can be brought back to momentarily consider the basic gifts and wonders that are around us.

The monastics can teach us a great deal about living a well rounded life, praise and thanksgiving.  Their lives are very ordinary, shaped by a routine that includes work, study, and most importantly time to pray and thank God.  The ability to offer prayers of thanksgiving to God on a regular basis keeps us focused as to where our life is from, and on the 'who' we should be dependent on.  When we can pause and recognize the wonders of life, friendships, healing, reconciliation, and healthy relationships, we can also begin to see the hand of God in our very lives.  Then we learn to approach God in faith with our needs and concerns.

The late Father Henri Nouwen taught us so much about growing as a people of thanksgiving.  When we begin to recognize the intimacy that God has with us, and how we as a people can be a gift to each other, it begins to change our perspective of living.  Yes there are hurts and pains, but we can journey forward in confidence and faith knowing that God continues to be one with us.  In Jesus Christ we have the promise of salvation as well as the grace to stand up against the anxiety and fear of life.  Watching seeds sprout and birds fly calls to mind that God's mercy and love is overwhelming this day.

At Liturgy I will lift up the bread, and the chalice full of wine, and say, "Blessed are you Lord God of all creation through your goodness we have this to offer."  We might look at who and what we have received, and bless the Lord for all that we have been gifted with.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Be a Jesus Freak

Towards the end of Matthew's Gospel, and as we end this liturgical year, we begin to think about the 'end times.'  I was looking at a web-site the other night which detailed the times throughout history that the world was supposed to have ended.  About this time people get more religious and start looking for faith in their lives.  In recent months, and I believe it has something to do with our present cultural chaos, there have been a number of movies on demonic possession and evil spirits.

All of this can be pretty frightening and certainly even the most faith filled person might find themselves a bit perplexed.  Matthew though looks at the challenges of our faith in a very different way.  There will be confrontations and oppositions to our belief and faith throughout our days.  Now we can choose to ignore these difficulties, or squelch our faith to such a degree that it is barely recognizable.  But when we pronounce our faith we leave ourselves open to all sorts of hostility and brokenness.  It might even seem like the end of the world.

I found this neat reflection which I used for my homily last weekend.  It was entitled a 'Franciscan Blessing.'  The prayer invited us to be bothered by oppression, hunger, hurt, and despair.  It asked that we never be comfortable.  As a Christian, we should be disturbed by a lack of peace and human dignity.  Jesus did not have a quota of healing and miracles to do, he responded to the needs that presented themselves.

Faithful disciples look forward to the coming of God's kingdom, with our eyes towards heaven, but our feet firmly planted on the ground.  I remember listening to a woman who stated that she was a mystic.  But throughout the conversation she seemed angry and hostile.  When I suggested that being a mystic should fill one with peace and joy, she became even more belligerent.  Holy people are not put off from doing holy things when they hear about distress.  All the more they are strengthened by their faith and relationship with Jesus the Christ.

Our participation in the mysteries we celebrate gives us the insight and courage to proclaim Jesus even during frustrating times.  Like the first disciples we are told not to worry about our speech since it will be the spirit speaking within us.  It is this truth that sets the modus operandi of our response to God and others in our world today.  Like any good Jesus Freak we should be concerned that justice and peace are proclaimed.  We work to give witness of the very foundation of our faith.  So that in the end people might hear good news and be moved by it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Faith Opens us to Truth

Way back in September, Bishop William Lori, of Bridgeport, Conn. celebrated a Red Mass at his Cathedral.  The Red Mass is traditionally celebrated for persons involved in the legal profession.  In using Luke's Gospel.Bishop Lori began framing his homily along the path of the 'Spirit of God.'  Bishop Lori reminded the faithful members of the legal profession that we were indeed strengthened with the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation.  This very action unites us more closely with the Paschal Mystery which we celebrate each and every time we do the Mass.

Lori used Cardinal John Henry Newman to demonstrate the connection between faith, and our obligation in seeking out the truth.  Lori states, "Newman's witness to the fullness of Christian truth brought many to the Church and profoundly affected the culture of his day."  Just as Cardinal Newman displayed a propensity to find the truth in all situations, in our own lives, personal and public, we are to seek out what is true and good.  Lori reminded those present that this necessity had importance for our own moral character, and because of our public nature human life itself.

An important challenge that Lori gave his listeners is where he intones the late John F. Kennedy, "The rights of Man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God."  In our post-modern society I tend to think that we have forgotten this very basic truth.  God gives us every good thing, and maintains and sustains our lives.  We like to believe that we can legislate morals and ethics.  It is a mentality that believes that if it is legal, or we think that it is in the constitution, when then it must be right.

I have come to know our state representative for the DeKalb area.  Recently there was some legislation which was supposed to help one of the many problems within the state.  He did not support it, and even wrote an editorial explaining his reasons.  He bristles at legislation based solely on emotions or good feelings.  Something will happen which causes people to declare together, "There ought to be a law."  But as Bishop Lori would suggest, and as our Gospels proclaim, how we guide our lives needs to be based on truth and right; something that will build up the common good.

Sadly today much of what passes for 'truth' is an easy answer for a complex and difficult problem.  More so our answers today can tend to move us away from responsibility and ownership of Sin and brokenness in our world today.  As faith-filled people we are guided by our faith and some basic truths.  We apply the teachings of Jesus Christ and our tradition to the problems of the world today.  The respect of life, human dignity, and freedom, and some of the foundational  virtues of our life.  It is the most basic of challenges of the Gospel which invite us to seek God first in all things.

May what God has begun in us be brought to completion.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christ the King

Today we make that transition from the end of one liturgical year to another.  Before we spend four weeks considering the Incarnation, we will spend a day celebrating the reality that Jesus Christ is our King and Good Shepherd.  The readings lead us to understand that Christ reigns as the image of the living God, whom through the Incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection, has brought us salvation and peace.

Matthew's Gospel seems ominous and even harsh.  If we have been good people, and not murdered anyone, why would there be a judgement.  To answer that we go back to chapter 5 in Matthew's Gospel, whereas Jesus indicates the vision of discipleship.  Virtues such as meekness, humility, and peacemaking,  can focus one on God's reign, and help us to be good disciples.  It is always worth noting that the righteous are also scratching their heads here; they have ministered to, and served others, simply because it was the right thing to do.

Jesus suffers and dies on a cross so as to reveal the resurrection.  If we are following Jesus we have to be willing to suffer and die with him - again and again.  We all remember Sister telling us to 'offer it up,' or to 'carry our cross' when it came time for difficult tasks.  Discipleship is more intense than doing nice things for other people.  The reason I dislike service hours for confirmation students is that they work at 'getting' their hours completed, rather than seeing service as part of the Church.  The paschal mystery is a challenge to go out and share good news.

The stories of the Gospels convey to us the visible love and compassion of a God we cannot see.  The Church which shares in the ministry of Christ our King, continues to carry out the love and mercy of God.  By imitating Jesus, being serious disciples, we continue to proclaim good news.  A few weeks ago I had stopped in the rectory for a mid-day snack.  Walking down the sidewalk was a school parent with her kids in tow.  They were going to work in the food pantry.  Not only is this a great ministry, but mom is being a model of what it means to be a disciple.

Saint Francis told his friars to proclaim the Gospel wherever they went, using words if they had to.  This feast is about God's great 'Amen' for all people of all time.  The Church continues on the mission and ministry of the Christ by it's preaching, teaching, and sanctifying.  By our participation in Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, we proclaim what we have seen and heard in Jesus Christ.  By being faithful Disciples we make known the fact that Christ is King.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Faithful Citizenship part 2

I remember a freshman student once asked why the Catholic Church had to be so different, why they could not believe like everyone else.  I tries to explain the challenge of the Gospels and the demands of Discipleship.  The response was sort of 'deer in the headlights' stare.  But it can at times be difficult to appreciate the challenges we are called to live by in our faith.This fall the U.S. Bishops revised their document on political participation, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship."

The document hopes to convey to catholics the importance of allowing our faith to inform our political decisions.  We as U.S. citizens tend to shy away from making political judgments from a religious view.  Separation of Church and State and all of that.   But we as religious people are to be concerned with the common good of all men and women, as well as their welfare and the respect of life.  So we have an obligation to participate in the government process.

Because we are part of this larger community, the Bishops want us to understand that we bring our principles and moral convictions to the discussion table.  The Church has a long tradition of teachings on marriage, family, justice and peace, human dignity, respect of life, and human dignity.  The Bishops state, "The Church, through its institutions must eb free to carry out its mission and contribute to the common good without being pressured to sacrifice fundamental teachings and moral principles.  Our catholic tradition should inform we the voters, and also the leadership who forms legislation and forms policy.

This text asks that catholics become aware of our moral and social justice teachings.  The Bishops do have a check-list, but ask that catholics allow their faith to be their guide.  But the Bishops wisely note that we cannot become persuaded by candidates who agree with only one or two moral principles.  Some candidates will say the the right words or phrases for political expediency.  We need to be aware of this.

The last half of the Document looks at a series of issues which effect our culture today.  These are issues which have moral implications and are important to the commonality of our society.  We as catholics are asked to be aware and educated about the issues which are core to the human family.

From the very first day that Sister asked us to be aware of that 'little voice' inside of us, until today, we as a Church are called upon to be keenly aware of our Church Teachings, and to have our consciences formed by the truth of these teachings.  The Church needs to continue to be the stumbling block in the world today.  We have to have the courage and perseverance to point out when the emperor has no clothes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Don't Bury Talents

One of the awesome qualities of the prophets is that they could not be quiet.  Life would have been much easier, much more gentle, if they would not have spoken as much as they did.  But, that is the mandate of the prophet.  To recognize Sin and Evil and to speak about it.  The curious thing about today's Gospel is that the third servant recognizes the harshness of his master, so he safeguards the treasure he has received.  We might look at this and wonder what the problem is.

The point of the Gospel today is that this man did nothing at all.  The first and second servants were willing to take a risk and invested the master's talents.  Saints, disciples, and prophets, are all willing to take risks, and to take responsibility with what they have been given.  The Apostles will sometimes confuse being a follower of Jesus as a pathway to power and glory.  Jesus reminds them from time to time that to have authority means that  one takes responsibility and serves those entrusted to them.  What we have been given is present so as to do good and build up the community in which we live.

Certainly this week the Penn State scandal is fresh on every one's mind.  A simple phone call, a follow-up, becoming filled with righteousness, would have solved a lot of problems.  Like the third servant we can sometimes run away in fear or uncertainty.  Or worse yet, we declare that the brokenness, or evil, or even the Sin we observe, is really not our problem.  And we walk away.  Truly we might not be responsible for the War of 1812, but human dignity, respect, creation, faith, and holiness, are very much our responsibility.

To be sure the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah can serve as excellent models for us.  But men and women like Dorothy Day, Frances Cabrini, and Oscar Romero, make us pause and consider what is of value and of truth.  There words and wisdom is very much like the reading from Proverbs today, in which we possess the heart of good, and work at maintaining a holy and healthy household.  These folks demonstrate to us that religion cannot be lived out of fear and anxiety.

Faith only makes sense when it is lived in a spirit of love.  God bestows upon us every good thing.  We share what we have received in love and in justice.  We are to speak the truth and offer a blessing rather that a curse.  This is all part of the discipleship which we are called to.  We can never be afraid in doing what is right.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What is man?

The past week voters in Mississippi rejected a State constitutional amendment, that would have defined a 'person' as beginning at conception.  Proponents had hoped that his would eliminate abortion and provide for recognition for pre-natal needs.  Opponents felt that the definition was too broad and would infringe on various rights of women, especially abortion and contraception.  As always the debate returned to whether or not a fetus is really a human being.

This whole question brings us back to philosophical arguments and the age old question of our very being.  For the ancients the concept of a soul was very real.  Humans who are capable of logic and intellect possess a human soul, whereas animals, which are at the service of Man, contain an animal soul.  This all sounds well and good but yet we continue to debate this philosophy and the modern day medical evidence we have today.  Often we hear the comment that a woman may do what she wants with her body.  But the physiology of the matter is that the child is very much separate from the mother.  The umbilical cord is actually from the fetus, the human child, and not the mother.

The problem is that when we begin to legally define who is a human and who is not, then we can excuse ourselves from the responsibility of caring for those who are "less than human."  So we can say that someone with less than a '70' I.Q. is not a human.  Or we can counter that once we begin to lack control of our bowels or bladder, then we become less of a human.  Now some will say that we will never get to that point, but yet we discuss assisted suicide as if we were a root canal.

Pope John Paul was correct in calling our culture a 'culture of death.'  We try to legalize and legitimize our animal-like nature which says that only the strong should survive.  The prophets of the Hebrew Scripture  challenged the religious and political leaders for neglecting the convenant, and neglecting the needs of the widows, orphans, poor, and the anawim.  If we begin to forget about the needy and vulnerable then we begin to weaken our society and break down the morals and ethics that offer us support and integrity.

We are made in the image and likeness of God.  It is necessary to return again and again to the basic foundation of our humanity.  We have to remember and ponder that sacredness that exists in all people.  Otherwise we will vote ourselves out of existence.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chronos vs Kairos

This past weekend we had our Kairos retreat for our high school youth.  While it is supposed to be a four day retreat, we squeeze everything into three days.  There is quite a paradox here.  We take the students watches and cell phones to remove them from time and the obligations of texting, etc.  But we have a very rigid schedule whereas we need to keep the retreat moving.  It is a weekend that is packed with reflection, prayer, and stretching their spiritual imaginations.  We want them to move beyond doing religion into doing faith.

In some ways this is a quick jaunt through the Gospels.  We call them to follow us, and then we begin to take them along on a journey of discerning Jesus as the Christ.  Even if it is once in their lifetimes, this is a powerful time in their lives.  We ask them to look deeply into their relationship with God and others.  One of the most important things that we do is to paint a vivid picture of faith for these young people.

There is an important insight about conversion and discipleship here.  In our time we say that we have to have the sacraments completed by a certain age and with particular requirements.  But, how many high school juniors might not be ready to make a faith commitment?  We look at the apostles and find that at the very end, as Jesus begins the process of the Paschal Mystery, did not fully comprehend what Jesus was about.  In face they all ran away out of fear.

The Scriptures are full of stories of God choosing young teens to lead nations, and old couples to bear children.   This is Kairos.  It requires that we remain open to the possibility of the Holy Spirit in our life.  Discipleship takes with it the necessity to 'Come and See' all that Jesus does in the most sacred moments of life, and the most ordinary.  We are always looking for holiness and the opportunity to make Christ present.

When we had the Branches here at St. Mary Parish, I would joke about the ability to create a homily out of any object or situation.  We laughed, but I could do it.  As these young people heard about family and friends, Sin and grace, falling on ones face, and having the strength to stand up again; we tried to help them see the presence of God in all things.  And once they begin having 'holy' thoughts, and responding to the world in Christ-like ways, then conversion and discipleship becomes a possibility.

Friday, November 4, 2011

St. Charles Borromeo

St. Charles Borromeo lived during the time of the Protestant Reformation.  As Bishop of Milan he himself was instrumental in the reform of the Church.  A well educated man, he sought to build up the theological and the spiritual foundation of the Church.

Today I leave for our parish Kairos retreat.  We have eighteen high school students with us.  My peers think that I am crazy staying with the young people all weekend.  It is exhausting but I love it.  Under the model of St. Charles, I want these young people to seek what is true and good.  More so to build a strong and permanent relationship with Jesus Christ, and His Father in heaven.

So we are off to God's time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Souls

"On this Holy Mountain ..."  The Book of Wisdom offers us a vision of a place with God, on his Holy Mountain, in which the love and mercy of God will destroy death and sinfulness.  The invitation given to us by God is to dwell in a place of light, happiness, and peace, forever.  This is the promise that is given to us by God throughout the sacred scriptures.  God maintain and sustains us throughout our lives. 

Writer Rainer Maria Rilke writes that because we live in a world surrounded by artificial light, that we have forgotten how to be comfortable with being in darkness.  There is a wisdom and lesson to be learned from the darkness which surrounds us.  It pushes us to contemplate mortality and death.  Long ago we had wakes in our homes.  Today the moments of death and dying are sterile and clean. 

The mystics who understood and struggled with darkness, came to realize the immensity of God's nature.  More so many of our beliefs have become almost like idols, and our call is to surrender our attachments so as to grow into a deeper relationship with God.

Our ancestors in faith struggled with death and came to understand, and believe that even in the midst of sadness and grief comes the brightness of God's love.  Our faith in the Paschal mystery, that is the passion, death, and resurrection, of Jesus Christ, gives us the courage to release of grip on the things we think we know, and enter into the realm of faith, trust, and hope.  Our God is the living God who desires salvation and peace for all of creation.  At funerals today we speak eloquently about uncles Zeke's love of fishing, while forgetting to talk about the saving death of Jesus Christ.

Baptism and Confirmation unites us into a community here on earth, but also gives us communion with our brothers and sisters who have gone on before us from this life.  Just as we treated each other well in this life, we maintain our connection to each other as member of Christ's Body, and pray for our friends in Christ who have died.  We believe that there is this process which we call Purgatory, by which we are made fully ready to live with God forever.  There is this final orientation to God, whereas we come into the presence of God's glory. 

We continually pray for those who have died and entrust them to God.  There is a literal handing over to God the souls of our beloved.  We believe and trust in the mercy and love of God.  The Gospels, especially St. John, indicates that Gos makes us ready to share in this glory.  The cross and resurrection already unite us to God Through Jesus, but we are continually filled up with what is lacking in our lives.

Today is a special day to declare God's faithfulness, and call to mind our family and friends who have died.  Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sing With All The Saints In Glory

Today is the celebration of All Saints.  This solemnity honors the holy men and women who, by their very lives, gave praise and honor to God.  We have to be real about this feast.  While many of these people were exemplary in holiness and piety, they still became frustrated, tired, hungry, jealous, angry, and even bored.  It was their intimate relationship with God the Father, in Jesus Christ, that became a faithful witness to those that encountered them.

The image in the Book of Revelation is outstanding.  The heavenly concert which continues to give praise and glory to the Lamb of God, were the ones on earth who praised God through prayer and liturgy, but also by act of charity and mercy.  As John reports this marvelous vision of the Kingdom in its fullness, we realize that our brothers and sisters in Christ did this by their teaching, missionary work, parenting, nursing, contemplative prayer, and being good and faithful disciples.  Folks who encountered this community would 'trip' over their holiness.  In that they became a challenge by their often times counter-cultural lifestyle.

The Beatitudes were more than a moving text, or a check-list of things to do today.  They became a foundation on which their lives were set.  A working document, again and again these same men and women reflected on what it meant to be a peace-maker, merciful, and humble of heart.   Because they were disciples of Jesus they were nor afraid to get their hands messy for the Kingdom of God.

We step back today and look at this great company of Saints knowing that we follow along on the same path.  Along the way they made it known that they believed and trusted in Jesus Christ.  They are models to us how to live faith in a profound and faithful manner.  Hopefully we can also take up the challenge and life saintly prophetic lives.