An excellent article on what legislating gay 'marriage' means for society, Christians, and why both the Catholic church, natural law stand against and why both may be in peril read Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, former head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Consider carefully his words: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2013/0106/cardinal.aspx
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Nothing unsettles many people today like the words 'Roman Catholic'. This is not merely rhetorical flair. When the topic of the Church comes up – I’m thinking particularly at schools – (where faith is seldom reinforced but is rather disputed and outright flouted – where it is increasingly difficult for teachers to make even passing reference to Jesus Christ or to objective morality…good and evil…) there is a general tendency to invoke the mistakes of the past…witch trials, the Inquisition, the treatment of the Jews of eras gone by and so on. At the same time, Catholics (and those sympathetic to the cause) rightly observe that you cannot dismiss an entire belief system merely because of the sins of the few. And then there are those Catholics who, for some unknown reason, detest their own faith and who jokingly call themselves ‘recovering Catholics’. And of course even to address these issues is seen by some as reactionary (going back to the dark ages). Further evidence of supposed entrenchment in conservative Catholicism is reference, even in passing, to the traditional teaching of the Church concerning abortion, euthanasia or homosexuality. I am particularly blessed that you, my fellow parishioners, surely your hearts and minds are not so closed and hardened so as to be intolerant of the teaching of the Church? This Church strives to remain steadfast in the truth revealed to her by her Lord Jesus Christ…the truth who remains constant in the face of changing tides and fashions within society at large. This is a truth that somehow manages to escape the minds of those who tout the much-deified term of ‘tolerance’. All that to say this: the truth must be spoken from the heart of the Church. If the Church is to be a proper witness to Jesus Christ – she must be found ‘in Him’ and each individual during this Year of Faith must come to know Him not as a figure of history or admiration but as alive and speaking to us through His Word. I am afraid that this Year of Faith may pass by unnoticed and perhaps most feeling unaffected by it. As a concerned shepherd I feel like saying, ‘Not on my watch.’ The Year of Faith is empty of any triumphalism, that is, of making too much of our faith, the scandals of the past years have largely emptied any sane person of such ego and pride. The danger, my friends, from my perspective, is in fact today not in overstating our faith, but in understating it. We have nothing of which to be ashamed. The sins of the few, scandalous and damaging as they may be, cannot and must not unhinge us from Christ and His Church. Yet this is precisely where the fight against the Church rages. ‘Yes’ to Jesus we are told, but the Church? No! Yet it is false to split Jesus from the Church. Jesus belongs to the Church, He is brought to the world through the Church, He himself died to bring her to himself. He is brought to her members through the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
And you do not have to be a saint to join. In the first reading Isaiah the prophet comes face to face with God- ubiquitously referred to as ‘the King’. His is a vision of the Most High God of the ‘train of angels’ ministering to God Most High. In his mystical vision Isaiah becomes aware that he has been ushered into the presence of holiness and that he, being a man of unclean lips – does not belong. He feels a great twinge of unworthiness…of humility (none other than a right view of one’s self). He says, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips and come from a people of unclean lips.” Yet God has a plan for Isaiah. He sees beyond Isaiah’s unworthiness because He has concern and deep love for His people. “Aaron, God loves you too much not to act through you to bless them.” This is perhaps most humiliating as a priest and yet the greatest grace as well. Isaiah is purified by the coal that the angel brings from the altar. In this we see that Isaiah is cleansed by worship in the Temple, which adds us to participation at God’s Altar on High. What we do here below in the Temple/Church is far from insignificant. The Year of Faith, much like the living coal that comes from the Altar, seeks that the Church respond to God’s call to be purified. Not merely from her past (which Blessed John Paul II acknowledged in the Jubilee Year 2000) but from each individual. The ‘live coal’ is the gift of reconciliation given as a sacrament to God’s people that we might share in his (reconciling) love. The New Evangelization begins in the confessional. The gift of reconciliation/confession allows our mouths to be purified and our service to God to continue and to grow in abundant fruit!
Isaiah does not stand alone in witnessing to God’s ability to raise the weak and those fallen into sin. St. Paul, who pens for us the second reading, who is regarded as one of the greatest evangelists of all time, was once a great threat – in fact, scripture identifies him as one ‘who breathed out murderous threats’ against the Church and sought to imprison her (so as to bring her to her senses and back within the apron of observant Judaism). This persecutor of the Church was touched by the same angel and –while Paul was on his way to rid the world of Christianity – he was interrupted by God’s manifold grace. Stricken with exterior blindness his inner eyes were opened to God’s call and, despite his unworthiness, Paul was given a great task which he says compelled him to ‘work harder than all the other Apostles’. He, Paul, being the ‘least of the Apostles’… ‘as one untimely born’, he was to become one whose love for Christ and His Church would lead to shipwreck, heartache, distress, toil and eventually the very severing of his head from his body – spent in striving to maintain the relationship of obedience to Christ by his Church and of course echoing the Voice of the Beloved as the herald of the new evangelization of those times. Today’s conditions in the West of near total abandonment of God for secular humanism and relativism – which has left us as sheep in deserted places, wandering about in the desert in need of guidance and a source of encouragement and faith so as to rediscover Christ alive – these are the conditions in which we must act, even if such action must first be subordinated to contemplation. A Church that prays together stays together. We cannot become complacent because the future of our world, our family is at stake. The harshest reservation of vile hatred today is for committed Christians, and in such an atmosphere only the committed will be able to endure. It were as though the culture is like a poisoned shaft that has sunk into each one of us. Slowly our faith is ebbing away through the many wounds the Church has suffered, and through the many false teachers who proclaim a gospel other than that brought forth by preachers like Isaiah and the great apostle Paul (and Peter). Where shall we turn for strength in such a time of crisis?
Part of this crisis is that we have enough of the resources of the world with which to be content. Yet this discontent that comes from having enough allows us to reflect on the more significant questions of meaning. Yet it can also yield an unending search for comfort and entertainment. We must harshly deal with this aspect of ourselves if our ears are to remain open to the Gospel. Consider giving up television for Lent! Consider giving up movies! Hollywood will survive without you. You, wake up from sleep. Turn your hearts to the Lord. Listen in this Year of Faith, for the time is given now! Now, Peter too experienced having everything the world has to offer when Jesus took him out for a fishing lesson after subconding his boat to teach the crowds. In the miraculous catch of fish Peter finds the ‘good things’ of the world in abundance. This overabundance causes him to ‘come to himself’ and realize something greater was standing in the boat with him. He falls to his knees before Jesus the Christ and admits, “Away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Yet Jesus sees through the fog of Peter’s sullen heart and proclaims those words that would change the fisherman’s life, “Do not be afraid, from now on I will make you a fisher of men.” Our lives of prayer focus so often upon ourselves. This Lent let us seek not just the gifts but the Giver of the gifts: Jesus. And let us defend, admire, strengthen our allegiance, affinity, and care for Mother Church.
Striving to see the good in our world, such as the care we see in many communities raising funds for the sick and the unfortunate, we acknowledge that more and more our world is inflicted with the poison of selfish indulgence and the calling of sin ‘freedom of self-expression’. We are not reactionary zealots, but we must not become complacent either. We have been struck by the arrow of modernism and individualism, only stopping and tending to these wounds will stem their flow. We must apply the teachings of our Savior – a task which need not be left to some ‘other’. No, it is our task. As Isaiah was a man chosen from among those with unclean lips, yet he was touched by worship in the temple by the angel of God – chosen from among men to speak God’s message – as St. Paul, breathing out murderous threats – was brought into league with the very Church he attempted to suppress – like St. Peter, who recognized himself as a man tainted by sin and failure to be what he ought, yet chosen nonetheless for the greatest challenge and adventure of pursuing Jesus and ministering to the needs of the Church…so we are called to respond to God’s call to reconciliation, conversion and faith. In small practical ways (this is not rocket science). Which reminds me of a t-shirt I saw once which read, “Sometimes it is rocket science” put out by the science faculty at a prestigious university. But rocket science it is not. You need a backbone, a funny bone and wishbone to make it in this plight. A backbone to stand up for what is right, a funny bone to be able to see the light in the midst of shadows, and a wish bone to see the good that needs to be done and to be faithful to doing it, whether it be to help a schoolmate, dedicate yourself to your family or to work on a treasured project…these things are all needed. But especially today we remember that this change begins with orienting ourselves toward heaven, toward God – our eternal home. It begins in the Temple, where we listen to God’s word and receive his sacraments (not in vain, pray God!). “in the sight of the angels” sings the psalmist this day, “I will sing your praises Lord.” In the midst of this desert, we lift up our voices, like sheep in the wilderness, asking to be fed anew and strengthened with courage to stand strong, both internal and external. Ash Wednesday (this Wed) we open our hearts, place a cross on our forehead. It is a step in the right direction!
A poignant article by Francis Cardinal George of Chicago on the whole question of same-sex legislation and its impact on believers, society, and the future. Two pages only, very concise but very incisive.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Do you not know? Have you not heard? You are called to be a saint! And you need not leave the world to do it. You need not leave worldly occupations to become a saint. This is part of the message of All Saints day, celebrated every November 1st. This feast day celebrates all saints, which includes those who we are saints in heaven yet were not canonized as such on earth. This is the whole company of those whose faces see the Divine glory in heaven, who gaze upon the face of the Son. What sunlight - to see reflected through them as through a stained-glass window the beauty and disarming gentleness of the saints, who come to us from all walks of life - from the ordained to the professed to the layperson. When they come marching in - do you want to be in that number?
Monday, July 23, 2012
As we inch closer and closer to September my spidey senses tell me that its time to get planning and organizing for the upcoming months, the start of religious ed, confirmation preparation, the rite of Christian initiation, fundraisers, fall suppers, 50th anniversary celebrations and the like. However, I am fortunate to have a priest cover a weekend for me (the newly ordained Fr. Owen Burns) which opens up some dedicated down-time. With the things brewing on September's horizon I'm tempted to stay in the trenches but I've decided I will enjoy the time of respite that has been given - thank you God! - and thank you Fr. Owen! and visit with friends and family - because that is what summer's rest is about. And then I'll return to the saddle refreshed and renewed to 'go for it'. Now is the time to do it - because like it or not - we're over the hump and cascading toward September! :)
Saturday, July 14, 2012
15th Sunday in OrdinaryTime – Year B
July 15, 2012
Read Amos 7:12-15.
Here we see a showdown between the king’s court and Amos the prophet of God.
Amos’ words were a stern warning to the king and his court.
- Punishment - Banished into exile.
Amos was from the southern part of the kingdom–conquered by the north.
God tells him to go to the North and tell them to mend their ways - or else.
Amos arrives after a tiresome, dangerous journey to deliver God’s message– the unlikely shepherd-prophet from the south squares off against the king’s court.
As he gazes upon his audience, what does he see? Looks of indifference, boredom, many more with cold contempt –sneers - smiles that hide the true thoughts of the heart...and what does he hear? a few snickers some snide, stage whispers – mocking remarks....a palpable atmosphere of disrespect.
How many more audiences like this would the Apostles face?
Today’s Gospel they receive their mandate from Jesus. It is demanding. Read Mark 6:7-13. Nothing but trust in the Savior and the authority given them over unclean spirits and to heal the sick (which might be the same thing). They were to be without means so as to trust in God. And to lean on the hospitality of those they met. They preached repentance. Preached a message of warning, of invitation, of sin and redemption through the name of Jesus. If they were not welcomed they were to shake the dust off their feet and move on to the next place.
How will their journey go?
Some will welcome the 12 apostles, as do today.
Demons and illness will be dispelled.
These who welcome them echo the words of the psalmist:
I will hear what God proclaims – the Lord – for he proclaims peace
his salvation is near to those who fear him
As Saint Paul points out in today’s reading “In him we were also chosen...we who first hoped in Christ” and we have been “sealed with the (...) holy Spirit” which buoys us up because it is God’s gift to us – an inheritance that is ours through baptism.
What is it then that stymies us, that makes us give up so quickly, in sharing the message with others? - In giving ourselves more completely to the work of evangelization? In telling others of Christ...In asking pardon for our sins...
Most believers do not have to bear the burden having no extra tunic, no food, no sack, no money in your belts - rather our share of food is taken care of, there is some money in our belts, and sacks of potatoes or bird seed even (in our basements). But our task is to evangelize. After all, as St. Paul points out – we have been redeemed by His blood, we have the forgiveness of our sins, and grace that he has lavished upon us. We are to welcome this grace asking God to help us to receive the grace we need. While some are called to be missionaries and some to be priests and full time prophets, most are called to home ministry. Building up their families, being beacons of forgiveness and light, people who seek ways to speak about God and opportunities to pray alone and with others. We have our own hostile crowds to face, but we are to give it our best shot...and by times, we will have to shake the dust off our feet and move on to the next situation remembering that the battle has been won by Christ and that we don’t receive the big reward until the last day.
These words were written in an air-conditioned room and delivered in a sweltering, heat-wave-Saturday-night parish. O well, it could be worse. We could be standing in Amos’ shoes, or the apostles, as they give their last will and testimony to their faith in Christ. Peter and Paul gave the ultimate witness to their faith in God and love for the Church. Peter was crucified on a Roman hillside and Paul executed by the sword in Emperor Nero’s circus. I’d take a sweltering church over execution any day.
Brothers and sisters, let us pray for those situations and individuals who God has called us to witness to, that his light shine on us and give us understanding and patience. And let us too, overcooked though we may be, cry out with the psalmist:
I will hear what God proclaims – the Lord – for he proclaims peace
his salvation is near to those who fear him