Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Taking the Chalice

During his General Audiance today, Pope Francis asserted that parishes need to be a place of hospitality and welcome.  In the realm of parish stewardship this has been a common theme.  Francis made it clear that in our society today, whereas we are bombarded by so much 'stuff,' with little or no personal interaction or compassion, the parish becomes a refuge and sanctuary.  People should feel at home there.

Presently in our parish our welcoming ministry has slowly dissolved.  As we were working to re-vitalize it, one woman commented that she did not need to be welcomed into her own church.  I consider that sometimes we do not know, that we do not know.  When we come home, or visit family or friends, even as a frequent visitor, we usually appreciate being welcomed into a home or space.  There is something very human, and Christ-like, when we embrace each other with a spirit of hospitality.

Which brings us to James and John who wan to sit at the places of honor in the Kingdom.  The apostles are interesting in that they continue to have the experience of Jesus but miss the meaning.  In Mark's Gospel Jesus moves from one situation of healing, forgiving sins, expelling demons, to the next.  Jesus' glory is on the cross, and in the revelation of the Father's love.  For Jesus the most important act is to wash the feet of his disciples and be crowned with thorns.

To be a welcoming community means the necessity of going outside our own comfort zones, and extending ourselves to others.  People judge the community they are part of when they are made to feel like part of the family.  To be sure we need to care for the poor and anawim, but we also look after each other, inviting each other to be part of our faith lives.  One gentleman in our parish tells the story how as a new parishioner, a young single man, an elderly woman came up to him,  introducing herself, welcomed him into the parish.  That was enough for him to stay, and become actively engaged in the parish.

Jesus sat next the crippled, lost, and afraid.  His demeanor was at once healing and welcoming.  The parish community is where we all first meet Christ.  And from there we proclaim his kinship.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

For a while we spoke about the Holy Trinity as how we experienced the Trinity - God as creator, the Son a the redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier.  The problem with that is we are dividing God into three functions.  The doctrine of the Trinity speaks of God's communion and unity.  Foremost we need to have our starting point with the being of God.
God is a communion of persons existing in a relationship of love.  Even before everything was created God was a unit of others.  Again we have to forget the images of weekday afternoon love stories.  Our triune God exists in a celebration of selfless love which gazes on the other, and past the other unto all that is created.  When God creates men and women in his image, he pronounces them as 'good,' because that is our nature, but also because we share in God's goodness as well. 
Jesus refers to this intimacy that he has with and by the Father.  The love of the Father and Son is so great that they send the Spirit to maintain this new relationship fostered by the Paschal Mystery.  The prayer of Jesus for the apostles, and for the whole of the Church, as found in John's Gospel. indicates Jesus' desire that we have the same oneness with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as does Jesus. This powerful prayer consecrates to the truth of God.
For us this image of the Trinity is exemplified in the sacraments, especially in that of vocations.  Here there is a transformation and the creation, nourishing, and nurturing of life.  Love and mercy must be a mainstay throughout the life of one dedicated to this particular life, and in doing so the individuals are a living example of love and faithfulness to the whole world.  So while the theology of the Trinity is quite eschatological, it's practice is in seeking out the very best for another, and forgiving injuries and wrongs.  It is how we live our a relationship of love.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

For Our Good and that of the Whole Church

The was a commentary written about Charles Barry, the African American man who rescued Amanda Berry, the woman held captive for ten years, in the most recent issue of Sojourners magazine.  This outspoken man appeared on one of the national news shows and was asked to relate this experience to being a Black American.  While Ramsey admitted that racism is sadly part of our culture, his response for this young woman came out of a compassion nurtured by his Christianity.  Care and kindness towards others flows from our ability to recognize our sacred origins, and the holiness of all of men and women.

Mr. Barry's pronouncement that his Christian values caused him to respond as he did was probably uncomfortable for many.  In our post modern society today we need to continue our prophetic words and lifestyle.  Sometimes, like the cross, we will make people uncomfortable - but that is okay.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lord Send Out Your Spirit

The Collect of this great feast of Pentecost summons the Holy Spirit to continue to manifest the mysteries that we celebrate.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not something that we receive so as to be placed in a closet, with our other 'special' awards and certificates w have received.  The Holy Spirit enlightens our hearts and minds, and empowers the ministry of the Church.  These charisms are given to us (and the Body of Christ) to build unity and communion with God and others.  The action here is the continuation of the mission and ministry of Christ.

As Catholics we come from an experience of Jesus Christ which is inclusive and large.  While we speak many languages, we profess one truth.  The Paschal Mystery is both a comfort for us as well as a challenge as to how we might form and live our lives.  The Holy Spirit makes us zealous in that profession.  Again, there can be no wall-flowers in the Body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit reminds us that we cannot reduce Christ to any one experieice or facet of our lives.  We come to know Christ in the sacraments that we celebrate, the scriptures which are read, our communities, and our works of charity.  Coming to know Christ in this multiplicity of manner, men and women, in and out of the Church, pass on what has been seen and heard. 

More over in our faith community we have the structure of law, a magisterium, the hieracrhy and the theologians.  In these places too the Holy Spirit makes known the saving power of God.  These parts of our faith life walk with us along our journey of faith.  While it is important that we encounter Jesus Christ in our heart, so that conversion and discipleship might take place, we have to know what we are doing and believing in.

The Holy Spirit teachs us to love the Triune God, and the creation which comes from God's love and mercy.  Just as when we are in love we want everone else to know, the Spirit gives us to courage and strength to share the Good News of our faith.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saint Eric of Sweden

Eric of Sweden was king of most of Sweden, during the middle of the 12th century.  Realize much of Scandinavia was still occupied and governed by tribal clans at this time in history.  Eric welcomed and promoted Christianity in the mainly pagan nation.  As his armies forged into neighboring Finland, he set about establishing a Christian presence there.  Not all of his nobles were happy about his promotion of the Christian Religion.

When the Danes were bearing down on Sweden, as Eric prepared to ride into battle, a conspiracy arose, and some of his closest advisers murdered him before he could reach the battlefield.  He is considered a Martyr and his writings and witness are still of importance among Christians in Sweden today.

I believe it was during his general audience on Wednesday, that Pope Francis challenged catholics not to be 'couch potatoes' in regards to faith.  While imposing faith as part of conquering a nation is probably not the best form of evangelization, we are called to live out our faith as witnesses of all that we have seen and heard.  Even as I plan for next weekend's homily, I was contemplating the reality that many who have received the sacraments of initiation over these last few weeks, are nowhere to be seen.  This is a real sadness.

The vision of the Second Vatican Council seems to have been that as the Eucharist is the focus of our catholic life, we use it as a springboard out into the world.  I recall a man mentioning that he really did not need the sacrament of reconciliation, since he had not murdered anyone.  But what about the Beatitudes, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and the precepts of the Church?  Being Church in the modern world is not something which Bishops, Priests, and Nuns do.

Not many folks have heard of St Eric, or uncle Ned, aunt Zelda, the Sorokas family; but it is through faithful participation by which the Church grows into a vital entity which unfolds the Word of God, and the Paschal Mystery.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Jesus is Lifted up into Heaven

The Acts of the Apostles gives us this marvelous description of the Ascension of Jesus Christ.  As again they are concerned with a timeline of things, Jesus reminds them that they have a ministry to complete.  Their job is to baptize and proclaim good news to the ends of the earth.  Their story is our story also.

The figures clothed in white could easily ask us the question posed to the disciples.  "Why are you standing here looking up into the sky?"  Jesus going into the heavens is a cause of great joy and affirmation for us.  Now in his proper place, Jesus continues to be our advocate and intercessor.  In sending the Holy Spirit into our lives, and into our Church, we now have the unique role of being caretakers of the mission of Jesus Christ.

Lumen Gentium and Called and Gifted, re-assert the challenge for us to seek a life of holiness in our Church and world today.  In doing so we are taking seriously the role of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, in our daily relationships and responsibilities.  Each of us has a vocation of sharing Good News wherever we happen to be.  We receive an adult faith and take responsibility for what we have seen and heard.  So like the Apostles we are witnesses of Jesus in the world.

It is powerful at Mass, during the Eucharistic Prayer, in that we invoke God to send his Spirit upon the gifts of bread and wine for our own good, and that of the whole Church.  At the end of Mass we send people home to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord.  Empowered and strengthened by heavenly gifts we bring what we have received into the world.  Then enlightened by the mysteries we celebrate we bring Christ into our homes, neighborhoods, our social and cultural endeavors, informing our political and economic concerns. 

It remains for us to go down from our mountain experience of Jesus the Christ, to be part of making that place of light, happiness, and peace.  We take on the responsibility now of bringing forth the Kingdom of God.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Go and Make Disciples

The title refers to the passage from Matthews Gospel (28:19ff) whereas Jesus challenges his apostles to continue  his mission and ministry.  This text of course is read for the early (and present) Church as a mandate to continue the good works of the Lord.  This same passage refers to the U.S. Bishops document on Evangelization for the U.S.  The ideal of course is to share the Good News of the Gospel, drawing people into the faith.  Not only this accomplished through the preaching and teaching ministry of the Church, but also by its pastoral care.

This past weekend we had First Communion on Saturday, and Confirmation on Sunday.  To be sure these were wonderful celebrations with much joy and happiness.  My fear though is that these sacraments are seen as 'magical moments' where holiness is poured into these young people.  These children will still need to live a life of discipleship, making choices between good and evil, and living a lifestyle commensurate with the values of the Gospel.  This becomes exceedingly difficult these days.

This past weekend also there were violent attacks against catholic churches in Congo and Tanzania.  In our own nation it becomes less and less straightforward to live a catholic-christian life.  The 'forces' of government and popular opinion are against the values and morals we profess.  In its protocol to advance religious liberty and freedom in particular in regards to the issue of marriage and family life, the U.S. Bishops have stated:

"The pastoral strategy is essentially a call and encouragement to prayer and sacrifice—it's meant to be simple," said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. "It's not meant to be another program but rather part of a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, which engages the New Evangelization and can be incorporated into the Year of Faith. Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty are not only foundational to Catholic social teaching but also fundamental to the good of society," he said.

The Bishops go on to talk about the reality that marriage and family life are fundamental in the life of the Church, but also in the life of society.  It is here that values and mores are passed on.  Moreso Marriage is the continuation of God's plan for men and women in the world today, an the means by which we share in God's love.

Discipleship embraces the life of the cross.  By our catholic lifestyle we bear witness to the reality of the Paschal Mystery.  Our talk, response to others, choices we make, are all informed by the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.  Like the folks who walk into the church on Easter Vigil we walk into darkness, led by the light of Christ, possessing that same light.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

St Joseph the Worker

For well over one hundred years 1 May, or May Day, has been celebrated as a day to honor workers and their rights.  Pope Pius XII sought to offer this day a Christian dimension in establishing the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.  In the image and likeness of God, the worker deserves respect and dignity; with St. Joseph as the role model of the laborer.

Way back on 15 May, 1891, Pope Leo XIII promulgated the encyclical, Rerum Novarum, which seeks to teach 'On Capital and Labor.'  In the text Leo XIII points out the holiness of all men and women, and indicates the basic rights and necessities of workers and their families.  Such foundational values such as a just wage, fair housing, and being treated with dignity, are some of the core truths expressed in this tome. At a time where men and women, and even children, were subjected to long hours, unsafe conditions, for very little money, Leo felt it necessary to remind employers of the human element in their workplaces.

In Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution of the  Church in the Modern World, from Vatican II, notes the dignity of Human Labor:

We believe by faith that through the homage of work offered to God man is associated with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, whose labor with his hands at Nazareth greatly ennobled the dignity of work.

The Collect from today's Mass invites us to use our work, and our gifts, for the good of others.  Moreover we ask that our work might bless the lives of others.  To be sure in this day of economic difficulties and turmoil, we ask that those who are employed be blessed, and those who are unemployed retain the understanding of their worth and value.

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