Monday, May 7, 2018

May 7, 2018

The stage is set for the celebrations of the Ascension and Pentecost.  It is at this point that the Apostles and disciples will be called upon to witness to the Risen Lord and His Gospel, not just by their worship and the manner of living their lives, but in the proclamation of the Gospel. The Readings from Acts we have heard throughout the Easter season has told us how that proclamation occurred.

Listening to these accounts we heard about the persecution they endured. We know that this persecution continued as the Church grew and throughout her history.  The readings remind us today that such persecutions are not a thing of the past. We, too, will experience forms of persecution: personal attacks, criticism or worse.

The Scriptures also give us reason to pause.  These persecutions will sometimes occur by those who see themselves as defenders and promoters of truth and justice.

Two thoughts concerning this:

1.     We shouldn’t be surprised, indignant or even offended.  Jesus told us this would happen. So, what are we to do?  We remain true to ourselves as children of God. We remain connected to the Lord in prayer and in the Sacraments. We remain connected to His Body the Church. And we remain in ‘mission mode’, not campaign mode.  Remember Jesus’ example during his trial and crucifixion?  He continued to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.
2.     If the one initiating the persecution is doing so in the name of truth or justice, it revelas that they may be an opening to hearing and accepting the Gospel.  After all, we believe that truth and justice find their perfection in God.  That opening may be quite small, but it is there and it is all God needs. 
We need to remember that we are called to be instruments of the Lord. We heard in Acts today that it was the Lord who opened Lydia’s heart to hear Paul’s words.  We set the table and prepare the way, God does the rest.

Pope Francis, preaching on the Transfiguration, reflected on the Father’s words: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”  The Holy Father encouraged us that during those times we are having difficulty, such as being criticized or persecuted in some way for our Faith, we need to ask ourselves “what is Jesus saying to me today?”  Then, he said, we should listen for His voice and let him inspire us.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

September 24, 2017

Pew Forum: 27% claim to be spiritual, not religious

Trend is noticeable—one indicator is declining Mass attendance;

We can come up with reasons and solutions: The Church needs to do this….. If only the Church did this….

Here’s the problem: 


Meaning, any Church reform is useless unless it begins with each of us.

Also, St. Paul will refer to the Church as the Body of Christ.  It is the mechanism through which Christ continues to work in the world. This means we need to seek His will, His truth if we are to live as the Body of Christ.

This is the reason why there is a problem with being spiritual not religious.  It seeks to separate what cannot be separated.

Religion comes from the latin word, religare, meaning to bind to.

We as imperfect beings, made in the image and likeness of God, can only attain perfect by ‘binding’ ourselves to the one who is perfection, God.  We don’t use the word bind, we say uniting ourselves mind and heart to God. 

This union allows us to live true to our ourselves, our true nature. It allows us to experience joy and love, not just temporarily, but for the long haul.

Spirituality involves those practices that allow us to be aware of the intersection of the divine with our everyday lives.  Spirituality is how we unite or bind ourselves to God.

One without the other makes no sense because they are incomplete.

The ‘spiritual but not religious’ isn’t something to be mocked or criticized. Rather, we should recognize what is being said. It reveals a longing within the person for something more; for truth and love and goodness. 

It is our role as Christian disciples to help them recognize that they will find what they are looking for in Jesus Christ.

That role is one we are not comfortable with, but I think that is because we are stuck on the image of what that looks like.

We need to look at the model St. Paul offers today:

“Christ will be magnified in my body.”

What does he that mean? St. Paul is saying that he will strive to give glory to God in his thoughts, words and actions. 

His faith isn’t going to be just showing up for Church, it will be that and more; it will be living in love with Jesus Christ.

Christianity can’t be anything less than lived relationship with Christ. If we keep our faith in the head, or just to our actions, we’ve missed the whole point.

  Last week we heard Jesus say in the Gospel that we need to forgive others ‘from the heart’.  This is more than tolerance, it is an act of love.

Love involves not just part of us, but the entire person.  Living in love with Christ changes us, hence the reason why if we want to change the Church, we need to change, we need to strengthen our love of Christ.

This commitment is more than just how we act towards others. 

For example, think of the person who drives you absolutely crazy. It could be a classmate or coworker, a neighbor or somebody you see or hear on TV or in the news.

Every time you hear this person you feel your jaw tense up, your fists clench, you feel anxious, annoyed, frustrated or angry.

Here is the thing: Nowhere in the Gospel does Jesus say: “Blessed are they who are driven crazy.”

In those situations, the others person’s faults, sins, weaknesses are not the issue. 

The issue is the anxiety, stress, frustration and anger we experience; these are indicators that I am focused on me, my way, my wants, myself.

Further problem:  I justify it.

“That person is so annoying!”  “He doesn’t know what he is talking about.” “Someone needs to straighten her out.”

A couple of weeks ago Jesus spoke about correcting others; but if you recall, our posture was to be one of love, mercy and patience—well actually more than that.  It was to be limitless love, mercy and patience.

Those are the characteristics of living in love with Christ.  They are actions that give glory to God. 

The reason why we can remain hopeful and joyful despire our failure at being Christ like: God’s mercy and love.

The Church is a collection of saints and sinners.  The saints are those in heaven, living in perfect love with God.

That leaves us, the sinners. All of us.  Oscar Wilde said “every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”

We have a future because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He offers us redemption, forgiveness of our sins and the graces to be drawn into the divine life itself: if we accept what he offers.  These are a gift of God to be received freely, not forced upon us.

We give God glory not just by living the Gospel virtues, but also when we recognize our failures and our brokenness and turn to the Lord for His healing and graces to overcome our weaknesses.

It is our confidence in the Lord’s generous mercy and love and our persistence in discerning and seeking to live His will that provides a witness to the others.

We don’t justify or excuse our sins, but we don’t allow them to paralyze us. We continually turn to God, receive His forgiveness and seek to bind ourselves to Him

The fruit of these efforts: Joy, peace of heart and inner strength that allows us to persevere as children of God despite the chaos we have to sometimes deal with in life.
Let this joy and peace be how we extol God as well as what attracts others to Him.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 9, 2017

The funeral scene mentioned in Luke's passage this morning would not have gone unnoticed. In fact, it would probably have been impossible not to notice. it.  There would have been 'professional' mourners that would have accompanied the poor widow as the procession made its way through the city streets. As they went along, others would have joined the procession and the wailing.

In many respects, things haven't changed too much.  You have heard the phrase 'misery loves company'. Well, that seems to be the case in times of death. We come together, which is a good thing. Our gathering with others isn't to make us all feel miserable, but rather to strengthen hope, to provide love and support to the family and to give them the strength they need to get through the shock of losing a loved one.  It is after all one of the corporal works of mercy (bury the dead).

What happens afterwards? Everyone returns to life, their daily tasks and responsibilities.  This is a particularly difficult time for the widow or the one who now left alone.  The harsh reality of hits that life is for the living and life goes on without the loved one.

If you recall, at the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, Jesus tells us "I have given you a model to follow. As I have done, so you must do."  Looking to Jesus' example we are reminded that in addition to the corporal works of mercy, there are the spiritual works of mercy. Among them is "comfort the sorrowful".

As Christians, we have an obligation not to forget those mourning the loss of a loved one after the funeral rites.  Obviously we do need to return to work and our daily responsibilities. However, we still need to be Christ to others. We need to be sure that we 'check in' with those who have recently experienced a loss, keep them in our prayers and remind them that they are not alone.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday September 18, 2017

In recent weeks we have heard of our need to share God’s love and mercy with others. We have been reminded that this is part of the mission that the Lord entrusted to us at our Baptism: to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

Today, St. Paul teaches us that the first step in carrying out this mission is our prayers “for every one, for kings and for all in authority.” (1Tm 2:1-2)

First, this is intercessory prayer; we are seeking their good and that they may grow and live in wisdom and understanding. 

In addition, we asking the Holy Spirit to be with them and to open their minds and hearts to God’s mercy and love.

Finally, our prayer is an encounter and communion with God. The result is that it transforms us and helps us to see with the eyes of faith and to recognize others as being loved by God and made in His image and likeness.  This changes our ways of looking at others and how we interact with them. It changes the tone of our disagreements.