Thursday, April 25, 2013

Scripture scholars believe Mark's Gospel to be the first, and oldest, of the gospels.  It is certainly the shortest, and is used as a source for the two other synoptic gospels.  Second century historian Papias of Heiropolis maintains that Mark, as a follower of St. Peter, wrote down the life of Jesus according to the teaching and preaching of Peter, the Apostle and first Pope.  Accordingly he was careful not to omit or interpret anything that was not true.

In Mark Jesus moves quickly from one ministry situation to another.  There is a sense of urgency to the ministry of Jesus as he continues to speak about the Kingdom of God.  For Mark's Jesus, the Kingdom is the fulfillment of the prophets, and is already here.  The Job of a disciple is to live and proclaim the Kingdom.  More over the Kingdom is not based on authority or position, but it is conveyed through the acceptance of the cross and becoming a servant leader - like the master, Jesus Christ.  So discipleship is very much about conversion and announcing the presence of God's Kingdom.

The chosen disciples are slow to understand the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.  It is only after they experience the Paschal Mystery do they begin to comprehend what Jesus' life, suffering, and death, are all about.  The resurrection is then the revelation of the Father's unending love for the whole world.  It was then after they witness the Ascension did they take up the call to preach.

This Gospel is an invitation to we who are baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist, to become proclaimers of the 'Good News.'  Conversion and discipleship are an ongoing task that we have as we confront Sin and Evil, and strive to make known all that we hear and see in our life with Christ.  Servant leadership asks us to take responsibility for the faith entrusted to us.  With Marks Gospel in hand we too can go into the world and proclaim the Kingdom.

Again this is not simply the job of 'Sister' and 'Father.'  The Church, the whole Body of Christ, takes up the ministry of discipleship in the world today.  Driving out demons and healing folks is a job for all of us.  So we take this seriously to the ends of the earth.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Until Death Do Us Part

For over a year now there has been a debate over the issue of Same-Sex Marriage.  Some states have legalized same-sex unions, and there is a move now to redefine the meaning of Marriage.  While the desire to commit ones life to another, for a lifetime, is highly regarded and most worthy, it is not the same as what Christians, or our cultural mores, consider 'marriage.'  There is no question that some of those asking the basic questions here are sincere.  Now there are groups who will argue from a human right perspective and the like, which sort of muddies the water and stifles understanding.

We have to begin with an understanding of our human nature.  Christians belief and understand that we are created in the image and likeness of God.  As such we possess the holiness and sanctity of God.  This is why we teach that all life is sacred.  More over we believe that we share in the love of God and find our unity in communion with God and each other.  We are made as 'males' and 'females' in order to compliment each other.  Our gender and sexuality is not an accident but an essential quality of who we are as a human person.  Men and women have a mission to come to know the love of God, and to share that love as humanity can, as men and women.

God gave us to one another to be 'fruitful and to multiply.'  Our sexuality is a gift freely given to be nurtured and nourished, and returned to the Lord.  Here we have to think beyond genitals.  In our society today this is very difficult.  So men and women, who compliment each other, devote themselves to the other (or to God in the matter of celibacy) and live this loving relationship to and with each other, imitating the love of God.  Such a relationship reveals God's love, and is a witness to the larger community in which men and women live.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, states that "Marriage is a lifelong partnership of mutual and exclusive fidelity between a man and woman ordered by its very nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children."  The Church goes on to teach that the Sacrament of Marriage is a life-long and mutual relationship that is the total gift of self to the other.  Teachings on Marriage and Family life talk about this ongoing self giving which is part of the marital unity as an imitation of divine love.

In all of this, this matter is a bit more complicated that simply changing wording or definition.  Some would accuse the Church of hating a particular group of people or another.  But our Christian understanding of Marriage is that this is a unity, a Sacrament, between a baptized man and woman.  This means for us that this union is a visible sign of the love of God, as revealed to us in the Paschal Mystery.  Marriage has to be an imitation of Christ.

We will continue to argue about this.  The Church's stand is that this understanding is immutable and not negotiable.  We pray that there can be understanding here and the truth of the matter will continue to be known and shared.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Jeus The Shepherd

For many centuries the image of the Good Shepherd, in addition to the 23rd Psalm, has brought a sense of comfort and promise to Christian people.  During the times of persecution, in moments of sickness and death, the understanding that Jesus is our Shepherd who stands near us, and offers us courage and strength to stand against all sorts of Evil.  The small band of disciples who were once huddled together in an upper room, now have the ability to stand before sometimes hostile crowds, preaching the Word of God, and healing the sick.
The image demands that we understand the relationship between the Father and the Son.  John's Gospel repeats several times that the Son, the Word made flesh, comes to reveal the Father.  More over John's Jesus states quite clearly that he does not speak or act on his own accord, but by the inspiration of the Father.  And in a few weeks we will be reminded that he and the Father are 'One.'  This is important because now we are called to live in this same relationship.  Just as Jesus shares the life of the Father, through the Paschal Mystery we now share life with the Father.
This hopefully can help us to understand the sacraments and the Church in a different way.  Sacraments cannot be 'things' that we get when we go to church; rather they are stepping stones along the way in the Body of Christ.  Joined to this entity of divine love, we live the mystery that we celebrate.  We take responsibility for the faith we profess and additionally for the faith of one another.  St. Paul will talk about where there is hurt in one part of the body, the entire body hurts.
Which brings us to Jesus looking out over the crowd and seeing that they are like sheep without a shepherd.  As Church we too stand with Jesus and see those afflicted by poverty, violence, abuse, sickness, loneliness, and disease.  The Good Shepherd enables us a voice, and healing capacity, to stand against Sin and Evil.  And even if we are in the dark valley with our brother and sister, we should not be afraid of evil, but work to bring the light of Christ to our brothers and sisters.  By the sacraments we have received the Lord has anointed us with the Spirit, so s to lean on the Shepherd, as we are busy about the mission and ministry of the Christ.
The Good Shepherd reminds us the the Lord has lifted his Church up upon his shoulders, carrying us through the darkness, into the waters that give life.  But we do not fear evil; our cup overflows.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Proclaim Faith

Mediator Dei, the encyclical on the liturgy, by Pius XII, gives us today insight and inspiration into the nature of the Mass and the Eucharist.  Vatican II speaks of the Eucharist being the source and summit of the Church.  In relationship to the Liturgy, Pius XII declares the Church "is without question a living organism, and as an organism, in respect of the sacred liturgy also, she grows, matures, develops, adapts, and accommodates herself to the temporal needs and circumstances ..." 

To be sure we recognize this in the early Church which we are told worshiped 'in spirit and in truth' so much so that the actual place of worship shook with joy.  More over the Acts of the Apostles describes a community which looked after the needs of the poor and the anawim.  And in matters of Sin and sinfulness, we know that the early Church developed what would become the sacrament of reconciliation, modeled after the love and mercy of Christ.  People were attracted to this early Church because they saw a community based upon love and compassion.

Both Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et spes invite all peoples of the Church, the clergy and the laity, to live a life of holiness.  We cannot be drawn into our selves so much so that we ignore the needs and concerns of the world in which we live.  Even more, these texts assert that the Church must be engaged in the life of the culture, all the while maintaining a counter-cultural stance.  So we advocate the respect of life, justice and peace, and seeking a response to the worlds problems based on truth.

The terrible events in Boston this past week remind us most painfully that Sin and Evil are very real entities in the world today.  As John Paul II commented years ago on the 'Culture of Death,' we recognize that the violence we see every day, disrespect of life, and oppression of peoples,  continues the work of evil and that which is not God.  Our challenge as a Church is certainly to speak out against such senseless action, but also to offer care and compassion, in addition to teaching on matters of justice and peace. 

The Eucharist draws us around the sacrificial table of the Body and Blood of Christ, and unites us to the tables of all people everywhere.  Jesus Christ is in our midst.  If the Body is hurt or pained anywhere, we all hurt and all need to be concerned.  The Eucharist we receive invites us to grow in grace and to recognize the communion that is offered in this sacred meal.  Worshiping in Spirit and in Truth is much more than being reverent.  It is about being faithful to the sacrificial nature of the Paschal Mystery.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Do You Love Me?

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by whatkind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
John 21 ff


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sharing the name of Jesus

Vatican II calls us to a life of holiness.  Sometimes I think that many believe that is we pray a lot, and do not sin, or at least very often.  The Act of the Apostles shares with us that a life of holiness is about prayer and worship, but also includes testimony and works of charity.  That latter includes the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  More so we must know what and why we believe as we do.  Christians are to be filled with peace and joy as they participate in the mystery of faith they profess.

I think that we still erroneously believe that following Jesus, and living faithfully, will guarantee endless days of happiness.  The Peter and John scenario remind us that living our faith is a difficult thing, and that people will dislike us for what we say and do.  And it is a lot more that questions about the Eucharist or Mary.  We hold on to the respect of the dignity of life and the sanctity of marriage.  It is easy to believe that if we simply change our teachings - but that would not be being faithful to the scriptures. 

Our Faith really calls us to imitate this intimate relationship that Jesus shares with the Father.  I was telling the seventh grade today that they would have a great advantage over many of their peers. and even those older than them, if they studied the teachings of their faith.  For us too we move into an adult relationship God the Father, through the Son.  The Paschal Mystery frees us from Sin and death and redeems our righteousness.  This is serious business.

Faith filled persons worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  We must obey the teachings of God.  More over we transform ourselves into His image and likeness.  What God has begun in us we bring to completion.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mary's 'Yes'

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation.  This narrative from Luke's Gospel shows a young, yet faithful, Mary affirming God's call to be the mother of our Lord.  Her affirmative answer fulfills the vocation chosen for which she has been prepared.  It is also important to note that she does (and cannot) fully appreciate what her 'Yes' will mean to her, or to the world around her.

This can be sort of unsettling for us who like to have every moment of our life planned out.  We do not leave a moment unscheduled.   Placing our trust in God's care and providence is hard to do, because we like to be in control.  There was a T.V. show early in the morning the other day which showed a Benedictine monastery during Holy Week.  One of the monks summed up the difficulty that some have with monastic life in that monks do not define themselves as teachers, or librarians, or gardeners, per se, but first and foremost as monks.

It is appropriate that we celebrate this feast on the day after Divine Mercy Sunday, a the end of the Octave of Easter.  Placing our whole lives in the hands of God can be unsettling, but we have the assurance of God's love and mercy present to us as a source of strength and courage.  As many people know I like the series Jesus Freaks.  The stories of these men and women who are thrust into the role of faith leaders demonstrates the powerful effects we can conjure up when we entrust our lives to God.  God's faithfulness and love lend us the words and strength to do good and holy things.

In spending our time with Mary proclaiming the good things God has done for us, we draw closer to our God and gain insight into the life of the Father.  God continues to do good things for us, and we are part of that story.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

You Are Witnesses of These Things

In a few weeks we have Confirmation at our parish.  I have to remember to get Deacons and arrange for the K of C.  The young people have sent me, their Pastor, letters explaining why they wish to be confirmed.  One young man talks about his faith struggles, another about living a Catholic life in the midst of his peers, while a young lady talks about doubts in the midst of a world filled with suffering and pain.  These young people are on the right path though as they ask questions and seek answers.

A commonality for all of them has been the reading of sacred scripture and the participation in a spiritual life in the Church.  Like many in the Church today they have been amazed at the challenge towards holiness and the foundation of truth contained in the teachings and rituals of the Church.  They have been exposed to a life of faith deeper than a rain puddle.  It is new knowledge which has allowed them to seek what is good and holy.

St. Luke instructs his hearers to dive into the scriptures, embrace the healing and peace within the community, and to search out the meaning of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  As we ponder the Paschal Mystery we too have to consider the meaning of our own suffering and resurrection.  The saints and holy men and women realized that coming to Jesus does not mean rainbows and butterflies, but more pain and suffering.  The closer we become to Christ Jesus we recognize that we endure more hardships and painfulness. 

If nothing else the celebration of Holy Week should challenge the way we are witnesses to "these things" in a manner and posture which is different from before Lent.  We continue to seek for truth and to convey our profession of faith by our response to God, and our brothers and sisters.  Faith is about the cross, the bread and wine, oil, and communion with God and others.  Just as God engages us we hope o engage the mystery of God on a daily basis.  Not necessarily expecting answers, but bringing about new questions.