Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI

Today is the last day for Benedict XVI to serve the Church as its Holy Pontiff.  Benedict will be remembered mostly as an extraordinary teacher and theologian who recognized the roots of the Church, but also understood the diversity.  In addition to all of the brokenness in the Church, Benedict struggled to bring a sense of unity from within and outside of the Church. 

In John's Gospel Jesus prays that the Church might have the same communion in the world, as is shared between the Father and the Son.  It is a sadness when we try to attach names on people, like 'liberal' or 'conservative.'  Our Church should be beyond those identifiers.  The various members of the body of the Church should recognize themselves as members of the Body of Christ. 

Our Church will fervently pray now for a new Shepherd, who will imitate Christ Jesus in word and in deed.  But it is also good to pray for the mission and ministry of the Church.  We can become so myopic that we forget about our connection with the body of believers throughout the world.  In our own country we see a diversity between regions, rural, and urban environments.  Our prayer should be that we recognize our cultural differences, but know that these are superseded  by the work of Christ that is ours because of our Baptism.

Today is historical, but really just a blip in the larger schema of the Church and it's work.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to over-shadow us, and to be our guide and direction.

"Prayer for the Church in Anticipation of the Vacancy of the See of St. Peter"
By: Knights of Columbus Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore

"O Lord Jesus Christ, Supreme Pastor of Your Church,
we thank you for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI
and the selfless care with which he has led us
as Successor of Peter, and Your Vicar on earth.
Good Shepherd, who founded Your Church
on the rock of Peter's faith
and have never left Your flock untended,
look with love upon us now,
and sustain Your Church in faith, hope, and charity.
Grant, Lord Jesus, in Your boundless love for us,
a new Pope for Your Church
who will please You by his holiness
and lead us faithfully to You,
who are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Lent keeps pushing our sinfulness before or face.  A day does not go by that we are not reminded how broken we are.  In the culture of, "I'm okay, you're okay," this can be hard to take in.  But while we are made in the image and likeness of God the Father, and have the promise of salvation and peace through the Paschal Mystery, we do tend to bump our heads, trip over each other, and forget to love, as we are loved by God.

The overwhelming glory of Jesus, the vision the apostles behold in the transfiguration, leads back to the transfigured Body of Christ which expresses the divinity of Jesus.  Not unlike the miracles, this 'Jesus' moment is not just to dazzle Peter, James, and John, but for the revelation of the Christ, who is the Son of the living God.  Like many of the other glorious events portrayed in the Gospels, the teachings, and the forgiveness of sins, we have the foundation of the mission and ministry of Jesus, as well as an insight into the Kingdom of God.

The vision of Jesus glorified, in addition to the voice proclaiming Jesus as a Beloved Son, that will give courage and strength to the apostles.  The late spiritual writer, Fr. Henri Nouwen, reflects that in the hours that led up to the crucifixion, Jesus must have reflected upon the voice of God reaffirming his favor.  So for ourselves when it feels that we are being led to the cross, or in the garden amidst spiritual or emotional agony, and feel alone, it is the mountaintop moments that remind us that we too are the beloved children of God.

More so, it is that identity as God's children and perhaps having experienced the presence of God's Son, that can give us the strength against Sin and Evil.  When we are tempted to stray, doubt, or feel fear gathering within us, we recall  the sight of Jesus, the love of the Father, and the voice which reassures us of our place in the Kingdom. 

The appearance of the suffering servant in glory, reminds us that we still have to go to Jerusalem.  we cannot stay on the mountain - yet.  But that is okay because with the assurance of belonging to God the Father, we have the ability to stay away from Evil, do good, and live as children of God.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chair of St. Peter

Over the years I have recognized how important, from a liturgical standpoint, my presiders chair is.  In days gone by I would pray at various places, and bless in different locations, but the chair is really a primary part of our Mass.

Now today's feast does not celebrate a physical chair, as much as it does an authority that has been handed over within the Church, throughout the centuries.  In Matthew's Gospel Peter declares Jesus to be the Christ.  Jesus' response is to make Him, Peter, and all of his successors, the head of conveying the truth and teachings as we understood them through to mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.  The authority that we have received as a Church unites us to men and women in all times and places, who have proclaimed who Jesus the Christ really is.

Unbeknown st to many, who believe that the Church is about a bunch of little old men, the Church and it's authority connects us to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and his ministry as our good shepherd.  Jesus has shown us what it means to be a 'servant-leader' and steward of the gifts of faith. Our response to the teachings of the Church is to b one of faithfulness.  God has overwhelmed us with his love and mercy so we in kind love God and one another with our whole heart mind and soul.  we imitate everything we have seen and hard.

So when I am at my chair, I realize that praying over and blessing the congregation is some thing that we have done for many hundreds of years.  When we faithfully celebrate the Mass, and proclaim a profession of faith, we are carrying out the duty entrusted to us from Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.  Despite sinfulness and evil, we must remain faithful to the mysteries entrusted to us.  We have to keep the chair sacred, undefiled, and closely connected to the men and women of God.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Come, you who are blessed by my Father

In the Office of Readings, we have a great selection of a sermon from St. Gregory Nazianzen.  St. Gregory quotes from St. Peter, 'Be ashamed when you hold on to the gifts that have been given you, imitate your Father in justice.'  This passage is an admonishment against greed and gluttony to be sure, but even more so, how we use the 'things' and 'goods' that we have.  St. Gregory goes on to say that when we act in justice, these actions will alleviate poverty.

We are talking about charity here, but also stewardship and discipleship.  As God's children what are we to do with the garden that is entrusted to us.  Yesterday I had advocated the rice bowl for CRS, and this is a good way to respond to the poor and the needy.  A faithful steward also must be aware of the needs and the concerns of the world.  So we are an informed people acknowledging the world in all of its matter and desires.  As always we reflect on how our use of money or goods might affect the lives of people across the globe.

In addition to our use of money, and the justice issues associated with it, how much 'stuff' is too much?  With five siblings and countless cousins, we all shared clothes down through the ages.  The last stop for anything that we wore was the rag basket.  This might offend our consumer mentality, but our awareness of the needsof the earth, and the people therein, should be primary in our prayer, reflection, and response to men and women around us.

"Am I my brother's keeper?"  In a word, 'Yes.'  We are responsible for one another and are called to take care of all of our brothers and sisters.  I really believe that we have to move away from the notion that being nice to each other is enough.  Political, social, and economic concerns, are also the concerns of the Body of Christ.

We might want to reflect back to last Wednesday, when we were told, "Turn away from Sin and believe in the Gospel."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

And the Spirit lead him into the Desert

I remember an image of this passage from Luke's Gospel from one of my childhood picture bibles.  Jesus stood with great dignity and determination, surrounded by rocks and sand, with a red figured devil, horns and hoofed hands, peeking out from behind a rock.  I don't know what is more moving, the cartoon like demon, or Jesus who stands up by himself, refusing the temptation.

In the passage Jesus' sojourn sets him to discover the fullness of His Father's love.  The temptations reveal he depth of the love which the Father has for the Son.  In the same way, this love relationship, and Jesus' refusal to give into the temptation, states the purposefulness and resolve that Jesus has in the mission and ministry he is to carry out.  In one of the other Gospels we are told that Jesus 'sets his face towards Jerusalem.  Jesus knows who he is and the work that he has to accomplish. 

To be sure it is this knowledge of the connection to the Father which allows Jesus to disprove the arguments of the tempter.  Jesus continues to fall back on who he is, and the texts of the sacred scripture.  Jesus' stalwart becomes a model for us too.  It is a challenge of great importance that we are aware of the scriptures, the teachings which the Gospels convey upon us, and the teachings of the Church.  I think that sometimes we hold on to a Christianity which is based in rainbows and butterflies, not fully embracing the component of the Paschal Mystery within the faith we profess.  We cannot refute the evil present in an adult world if we are still using a childhood faith.

It is important to reflect on the Profession of Faith, and even to consider basic premise of our baptismal promises.  What do any of these statements look like in real life?  If I say that I follow the teachings of the Church, and convey those same teaching to others, are there changes that I have to make in practice or attitude?  The temptations are aways to offer simple solutions, or to seek easy responses, even to the more complex or difficult scenarios of life.

The cross of Jesus says that we sometimes have to stand naked before God, recognizing our vulnerabilities, if we really want to discover what our true needs might be.  Moreso, we have to remind ourselves that we belong to God, as his adopted sons and daughters, and are created in his image and likeness.  As his special possession we have to embrace the love of God and stand up against Sin and Evil.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Give to the hungry, naked, anawim

Reading from evening prayer tonight, is from St James.  James admonishes his listeners that they need to give something to eat to the hungry.  Then, St. James informs them, their light will shine forth into the world.  Now we might think that this is a nice thing, to give food and clothing to the poor and needy, but what James suggests seems to be radical to those that hear him.  More so, works of carity, when done in charity, are always a living sign and symbol that God is with his people. 

This week we have a small group of high school young people who are participating in a fast and prayer lock-in.  During this time they will discuss and reflect on hunger and poverty.  This program is coorfinated by the CRS.  I hope that they learn something about doing good things, including prayer and works of charity for others.  But also I hope that they learn the importance of charity and the need to respond to the hurting, hungry and afraid.  We stand naked before God realizing out linitis and neediness.  But as a community we can learn to do what is right and good.  'If God is for us, who can be against.'

Our praise and worship of God cannot be limited to the sanctuary.  The memorial sacrifice of the Paschal Mystery only begns or response to the goodness which God has given us.  Jusr as God continues to care and nurture us, we have the opportunity to imitate that sacrament we  have received by doing good deeds for others.  As the scripturs offer us today, an example of God's love and mercy, we pray that God will offer us every good thing.

Just as Jesus touched the leper and sinner, so as to bring every good thing, we pray that God will offer us the opportunity to touch the hungry and hurting, ringing them peace and eternal life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Today marks the beginning of the wonderful season of Lent.  When we think solely of meatless meals and somber tones we ahve already missed the meaning behind the season.  The prophet Joel puts things into perspective as he calls men and women to "Rend your hearts, and not your garments."  Multitudes of people will come to Church today to 'get' ashes on their foreheads; the question should be raised as to whether that will make a difference in their lives this Lent.

To be sure the combination of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving, are a means to recognize our Sin and brokenness, so as to set things right in relationship with God and others.  We might lose weight if we do not eat desserts, and can learn to communicate differently if we do not use profanity, but the bottom line is whether this enhances our relationship with God.  What is at stake here is our spiritual life and legacy.

And perhaps our eating, drinking, and use of inaapropriate langauge might be a problem, but this time is to move away from behaviour and attitudes which are less centered on God, and more centered on us.  There really needs to be a sense of Christ-ness in our daily living.  Lent asks us to not only prepare for the Paschal Mystery, but to embrace it whole-heartedly by a renewed lifestyle.  So even if our giving something up, or works of charity, are only temporary, it should be a springboard into a life of holness and passion for our Lord.

Turn away from Sin and believe in the Gospel!

Monday, February 11, 2013

God Bless Benedict XVI

Today's announcement of Benedict XVI resignation is not something that happens everyday.  The last time this happened was about 600 years ago.  Benedict cites his declining health as a major reason for his decision.  Benedict has always been a scholar first of all, and has not been like his predecessor John Paul II. 
Now the popular media will see this as sort of like a presidential campaign and attempt to draw lines between the 'conservatives' and the 'liberals.'  But our Church is a spiritual edifice which is the Body of Christ.  Christ unfolded the Church before us to continue his mission and ministry.  To be sure the Church has suffered at the hands of others, and or itself, at times.  But it is connected as a spiritual body to the Kingdom of God, and the proclamation thereof.
As we should everyday, we keep praying for the Church; asking the Holy Spirit to guide it and to keep it from evil.  As we draw closer to the election of a new pontiff, we will pray that the Spirit guide these men in their decisions.  Then we will rejoice with the Church as we meet our new leader.
During Lent is a great time to consider the Paschal Mystery, which is really the foundation of our Church.  Hopefully the grace of the mystery we celebrate enable us to continue the work of the 'good news.'

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I am Sinful, I am saved

Luke introduces us to the Disciples in chapter fiv with the call of Peter, James and John.  We will see a simular scenario played out after the resurrection.  Jesus invites the soon to be disciples to put their nets into the deep water for a catch of fish.  After some initial protest, they do so, and procure a large amount of fish.  Peter realizes what has just happened, and is astounded (a word we hear a lot in Luke) and begs Jesus to leave them, since he is a "sinful man."  Jesus ignores the request and demands that they follow him.
This is very much the theme of the upcoming season of Lent.  Whereas we have sinned and wandered away from God, God continues to chase after us with his mercy and love.  It is the immediate plan of salvation that we be converted and live a life of holiness, in the Kingdom.  Back in the 60s we had a popular church song, entitled, "Teach us to Pray."  One of the lines of the song bluntly speaks of the fact that so often we stand on 'seperate shores' from each other, and are inclined to lose our way.  But when we cast out into deep water, follow the ways of Jesus Christ, we cannot help but see where we are broken, but have access to God's healing and peace.
Think about how often in the Sacred Scripture that the blind, lame, sick, and sorrowful, approached Jesus because they knew and understood he had healing and peace.  God does not abandon us, but calls us into his mission and ministry.  St Paul realized how much we are like cracked and chipped clay pots.  Yet God fills these same pots with fertile soil and beautiful plantings.  Therefore we are able to give joy, and bear good fruit, to everyone in the household.
It goes back th the ability to put out into deep water.  We hear the Word of God anew and it brings us every grace and blessing in Jesus.  Following Jesus is really and matter seeking his Word, and being attentive to his Stry with us.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Courage for the Gospel

While we do not know many details of St Agatha, whose feast we celebrate today, tradition holds that during the Decius Persecution, late in the second century, Agatha refused to marry a man.  The man promised to save her from persecution if she would consent to marriage.  When again she refused, she was subjected to the indignities of torture and death.

For St. Agatha her values, commensurate and informed by the values of the Sacred Scripture, had a higher value.  More so, these values were so important as for her to risk her life.  St. Methodius writes about her in a homily, and essentially states that her goodness coincides with her good name.  We might even go farther and say that since she is named with Christ in Baptism, her decisions and choices are made according to the sacredness of that holy name.  Drawn into communion with Christ Jesus, all that we do and say ought to respond to the dignity that is ours in Christ.

I was listening to a podcast earlier of a young man who had for a time left the catholic Church, and has now returned to it.  While he was in a non-denomiatinal he participated in many social justice projects.  It was through these same projects, and the reintroduction to the Mass, that he came back to the Church.  His Catholicism would be considered by many to be radical.  He lives in near poverty in an inner city neighborhood of Camden, NJ, trying to create small communities.  In a real way he is giving his life for the Gospel.

Again and again, especially today, we cannot merely see our faith as doing "nice things," but rather we have to be profound.  The martyrs and early Christians remind us that we have to live at the edge of our faith.  The woman with the hemorrhage from today's Gospel was bold in her seeking and moving towards Jesus.  She would not allow any obstacle from stopping her from at least touching the tassel of his cloak.  If we want healing  and peace we have to have that same courage and faith.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mediator Dei

Today's Gospel from Mark continues on the themes of becoming a Disciple, healing, and peace.  In Mediator Dei, the Church is seen as this great mother which gathers her children around her altar to be fed and nourished.  "She purifies and consoles the hearts that sin has wounded and soiled."  Of course the first one to sanctify the Church is Jesus Christ who is presented as the great High Priest, and shows us his communion with us, by being the priest, altar, and the Lamb of the sacrifice.

Sometimes because we experience the Church in its institutional form, with its rules and regulations, we forget to engage a relationship with God, and the faith community.  Over the weekend a woman in the parish had commented that she was happy that her oldest son was still making it to Mass, and was still active in the parish.  I had mentioned that his experience of the parish was one of friendships and relationships with others.

Jesus seems to be invited to the homes of many people for dinner.  Apostles have a relationship with Jesus and one another.  So there is a community here which allows folks to be part of Jesus' life, and are comfortable in having him in their homes.  If religion and faith are more about doing 'things' or meeting 'requirements' then the Church seems sort of strange and disconnected.  But when our faith seeps into our relationships, choices, response to others and the larger world, then we begin to live in a community of faith. 

Looking at families, the ones which seem to be the strongest, energetic, and vital, are those where there is a community in the household.  And More so that same community is based in a faith-life which allows reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, and comfort to be integral in the relations of the household.  These families can journey through all sort of yuck and gunk, since they are solidly connected to the Paschal Mystery.

Communites of faith, beginning with the family, are the best instances to discover Christ and all of his works and words.  Including Christ in our faith journey helps us understand the life and communion that the Church can offer us.  We need to ask often times where Jesus fits into our plans.