Archive for the ‘General Interest’ Category

 

Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord

Monday, June 27th, 2011

     Pope Benedict XVI, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, preached a very powerful homily on the Eucharist as the antidote to the many evils in the world.  However, the Eucharist is the antidote only if we, who receive the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, allow the Body and Blood of Jesus to transform our hearts and minds so that we can go out and transform the culture by being a true witness of Christ.  This is why we are commissioned at the end of Mass to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  We come to Mass not only to worship, but we  ourselves are sacrificed to the Father with Christ really present in the Eucharist so that we may be graced, transformed, and prepared to go out and do Christ”s work, and to be his presence in the ordinary places of secular life.   This is at the very heart of our mission as lay members of the Church.   As the Second Vatican Council teaches us: 

But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer. (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 31)

 

     Therefore, we must resist the temptation to leave our Catholicism at the door of the church and realize that each one of us is empowered by the Eucharistic Christ to go out and make a difference in the world, to be the presence of Christ and the Church where there is much darkness and sin.   Only through our presence enlightened, transformed, and graced by the Real Presence of Christ can our culture be transformed from a culture of death to the culture of life. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines anymore, there is too much at stake!  We must have the courage and the consolation to know that Jesus is truly with us, and that he will give us the strength, the words, and the wisdom to make a difference in world.  Communion with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist calls us to mission, and the mission fields are not in a far away country.  The mission fields are here, in our families, in our parishes, in our schools, in the workplace.  These are the places where we must make a difference and make the light of Christ known to all!

     With all this in mind, let us meditate on the powerful words of the Holy Father who is reminding us of the power of the Eucharist in our lives and our calling to go out and share in his redeeming work and be his witnesses to all we encounter:

So from the gift of Christ”s love comes our special responsibility as Christians in building a cohesive, just and fraternal society. Especially in our time when globalization makes us increasingly dependent upon each other, Christianity can and must ensure that this unity will not be built without God, without true Love. This would give way to confusion and individualism, the oppression of some against others. The Gospel has always aimed at the unity of the human family, a unity not imposed from above, or by ideological or economic interests, but from a sense of responsibility toward each other, because we identify ourselves as members of the same body, the body of Christ, because we have learned and continually learn from the Sacrament of the Altar that communion, love is the path of true justice.

Let us return to Jesus” act in the Last Supper. What happened at that moment? When he said: This is my body which is given to you, this is my blood shed for you and for the multitude, what happened? Jesus in that gesture anticipates the event of Calvary. He accepts his passion out of love, with its trial and its violence, even to death on the cross; by accepting it in this way he transforms it into an act of giving. This is the transformation that the world needs most, because he redeems it from within, he opens it up to the kingdom of heaven. But God always wants to accomplish this renewal of the world through the same path followed by Christ, indeed, the path that is himself. There is nothing magic in Christianity. There are no shortcuts, but everything passes through the patient and humble logic of the grain of wheat that is broken to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God. This is why God wants to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament. Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and Blood is truly present, Christ transforms us, assimilating us in him: He involves us in his redeeming work, enabling us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live according to his same logic of gift, like grains of wheat united with him and in him. Thus unity and peace, which are the goal for which we strive, are sown and mature in the furrows of history, according to God”s plan.

Without illusions, without ideological utopias, we walk the streets of the world, bringing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humble awareness that we are simple grains of wheat, we cherish the firm conviction that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death. We know that God is preparing for all people new heavens and new earth where peace and justice prevail — and by faith we glimpse the new world, that is our true home. Also this evening as the sun sets on our beloved city of Rome, we set out again on this path: With us is Jesus in the Eucharist, the Risen One, who said, “I am with you always, until the end of world “(Mt 28:20). Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you for your fidelity, which sustains our hope. Stay with us, because the evening comes. “Jesus, good shepherd and true bread, have mercy on us; feed us and guard us. Grant that we find happiness in the land of the living.” Amen.

Come Holy Spirit!

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

     This Sunday, we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, when the fullness of the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and they burst out of the upper room and began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This feast is one of the most important events in salvation history for two reasons.  First, Pentecost fully reveals the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.  The strong driving wind and the tongues of fire that fell upon the apostles are the visible signs of the Holy Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son poured forth transforming the apostles and empowering them to be the witnesses of Christ to the ends of the earth thus fulfilling the words of Christ:  “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

     The coming of the Holy Spirit also institutes the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.  Pentecost is the birthday of the Church and all four of these marks of the Church are present at Pentecost.  When you carefully read the Pentecost account in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke makes it very clear that this is not just an individual experience of the coming of the Holy Spirit by the apostles and other disciples, but is in fact above all an ecclesial event.

     First, St. Luke makes it clear that all the nations of the ancient world are present in Jerusalem, and, in fact, if you had a map of the ancient world at the time, Luke mentions almost all of the major regions and cities that encompassed the entire world at this time.  And yet, each person by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is able to hear the Gospel of Christ preached in his own language.   What is happening here?  St. Luke is making strikingly clear that the same humanity that was scattered in the Book of Genesis at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9) is now being intimately united in the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church.  A humanity that was once scattered and divided in sin is now, by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, newly created as the Body of Christ, the Church.  Thus, we see that this gathering of the human family at Pentecost is the Church that is both one and Catholic, or universal.  In other words, the Holy Spirit brings about the Church that is intimately united in the Spirit and also knows no boundaries, for the Church is open to every person of every race, language and culture. 

    Secondly, we also see that this Church is holy, first and foremost because it is filled with the Holy Spirit.  We also see that those who are joined to the Church are joined to her by virtue of the Sacrament of Baptism through which they die to their old sinful selves and become a new creation in Christ.  The Holy Spirit sent by Christ not only inaugurates the presence and mission of the Church, but that same Spirit makes the Church holy.

     Thirdly, we also see in the Pentecost event that the Church is Apostolic in that it is Peter and the other eleven apostles that are charged with handing on the Deposit of Faith that has been entrusted to them by Christ.  This is the profound beauty of the Church, that Christ instituted the Church upon the Rock of Peter and the other apostles, and then filled them with a unique charism of the Holy Spirit to hand on, protect, and interpret the Deposit of Faith to each generation.  This handing on of the faith beginning at Pentecost and continuing to this present day in the successors of the apostles, the Pope and the Bishops, is guided, protected, and guaranteed by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

     Two years ago, I had the awesome privilege of visiting Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica where we celebrated Mass at the Altar of St. Peter.  Above the altar at the very front of St. Peter’s is the famous stained glass window of the Holy Spirit pouring down from heaven over the Chair of St. Peter.  This was one of the most moving experiences as I truly sensed the power of the Holy Spirit as he guides and protects the Church throughout the centuries.  It is this presence of the Holy Spirit first given at Pentecost that inaugurated the mission of the Church that has also protected and kept the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church alive and well as the instrument of salvation in the world for over 2,000 years. 

     As we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, let us not only give thanks to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit in our own lives, but for the great gift of the Catholic Church that is truly the “church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Dr. Kreeft on Religion and Sex

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Back in the mid-1980s I was a student of noted philosopher and author Peter Kreeft while attending an east coast seminary. I”ve been blessed to have had many outstanding teachers through the years, but Dr. Kreeft had the incredible gift of being able to make even the most abstruse philosophical concepts accessible to everybody.

Today I stumbled upon the transcription of a talk he gave last fall at the national convention of the Catholic Medical Association. His topic was to show the profound connection between religion (i.e., Christ) and sex to a culture of sex addicts. His presentation was part theology of the body, part commonsense philosophy and social commentary, and it was all vintage Dr. Kreeft. It”s one of the best articles I”ve read in a long, long time. Here”s how he opens his discussion:

“To see that the Sexual Revolution has been radical in thought as well as behavior, just look at the revolution in language. When people use the word ”morality” today they almost always mean sexual morality. That’2012-04-24 18:32:12′s a remarkable new development, an astonishing narrowing; it”s as if we started to use the word ”state” to mean only Russia, or the word ”technology” to mean only ”computers.” The reason for the new development is obvious from my two comparisons: sex, Russia, and computers are where there have been the most radical revolutions.

“No one speaks of a revolution in any other area of morality. No one speaks of the Property Revolution or the Bearing False Witness Revolution. In fact the rest of the natural moral law is pretty much still in place. Almost no one defends terrorism, sadism, cannibalism, insider trading, nuclear war, environmental pollution, rape, hypocrisy, torture, or murder. We are still ”judgmental” about those things. But if it has anything to do with sex we dare no longer be ”judgmental.””

It only gets better. For the complete text, click here. Kudos to the excellent Catholic Education Resource Center website for transcribing the lecture and making it available to the public!

 

Apostleship of Prayer

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Today, as sort of an annual ritual around the end of the Christmas season, I meticulously went through all the cards, Christmas letters, and family photos that we received over the past several weeks. I saw many of them as they came in, but I always go through the whole pile to make sure I didn”t miss anything.

One thing that fell out of a Christmas card from a dear priest friend was a leaflet from the Apostleship of Prayer, containing the Pope”s intentions for each month of 2011.  It dawned on me that this would be a most helpful thing to post at the beginning of each month. Before giving the Pope”s intentions for January (I”m 12 days late, so another few minutes won”t hurt anybody), I”d like to recommend two privileged times for remembering the Pope’2012-04-24 18:32:15′s intentions:

First, there”s the Morning Offering, which is a great way to start the day:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and for all the intentions recommended by our Holy Father this month. Amen.

Second, there”s the family Rosary. At the beginning or end of the Rosary, to gain the indulgence for praying the Rosary, as well as to manifest the unity of our prayer with that of the universal Church, it”s customary to pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the Pope”s intentions.

But what are the Pope”s intentions this month? Here they are:

Care for Creation. That the riches of the created world may be preserved, valued, and made available as God”s precious gift to all.

Unity of Christians. That Christians may attain full unity, witnessing to all the universal fatherhood of God.

I will post his intentions for subsequent months at the beginning of each month. In the meantime, check out the website of the Apostleship of Prayer for more information on this pious practice.

 

Tuscon Aftermath

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

When something goes wrong in my family, my initial, emotional reaction is often to look for someone to blame. Only after that am I able to comfort the “victims” (e.g., the six-year-old that just got knocked down or poked in the eye). As I gather myself, I become better able to address the situation in a reasonable manner.

I think a similar dynamic is at work in Tucson. In the wake of the tragedy that took place there over the weekend, it”s not altogether surprising that blame is extending well beyond the deranged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. It”s especially disappointing that some of the commentary is politically motivated, as though “the Republicans” or “the Tea Party” or “the Democrats” are to blame for this. I think most people are put off by this outrageous, inflammatory rhetoric.

Occasions such as these should bring us together as a nation. We”ve had our initial emotional reaction. Now it”s time to mourn the dead, heal the wounded, support and comfort the victims” families, honor the heroes, and pray for all concerned. And then Loughner and any related societal issues can be addressed in a just and reasonable way. That”s my two cents’2012-04-24 18:32:16′ anyway.

Click here for the comments of Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

We Believe in Love

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

The first reading at Mass today (and any day) is not taken from the Gospel, but it sure is good news! Below is the text, with verses that I find especially inspiring highlighted: 

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
In this is love brought to perfection among us,
that we have confidence on the day of judgment
because as he is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (1 John 4:11-18)

Today is also the feast of St. John Neumann, not to be confused with the recently beatified John Henry Newman. This 19th-century immigrant priest became known as the Apostle of the Alleghenies, and he later became the Bishop of Philadelphia. While most saints lived long ago in far away places, St. John Neumann is very much part of our own cultural history. This was brought home to me when I lived in Ohio. I belonged to the St. John Neumann Knights of Columbus Council, and in our St. John Neumann adoration chapel, we actually had baptismal and marriage records signed by none other than this holy cleric!

St. John Neumann eventually became a U.S. citizen, and he was the first U.S. bishop to become a saint. Let”s take this opportunity to pray, through the intercession of St. John Neumann, for our own bishops and priests.

On a personal note, I will be away from my computer for a few days. I will resume my daily posts next week. 

The Best Books I Might Read in 2011

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Ignatius Insight, an outreach of My Catholic Faith Delivered partner Ignatius Press, has posted its annual “The Best Books I”ve Read in . . .” entry. Each year Ignatius Insight asks Christian intellectuals to provide lists of the best books they have read during the past year. 

This year”s post has recommended reading from the likes of Michael O”Brien, Joseph Pearce, and Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., just to name a few. Some simply offer lists, while most provide some description of the merits of each book.

I”m still finishing my reading from last year (see last week”s “Becket List”), but when it comes time in a week or so to pick out a new book, I will turn to these lists for some helpful guidance!

The Name Above All Names

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Today is the memorial of the Holy Name of Jesus. The saints through the ages have borne witness to the Holy Name of Jesus. Here are a few noteworthy examples:

“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” –St. Paul (Philippians 2:10-11)

“St. Paul bore the Name of Jesus on his forehead because he gloried in proclaiming it to all men; he bore it on his lips because he loved to invoke it; on his hands, for he loved to write it in his epistles; in his heart, for his heart burned with love of it.” –St. Thomas Aquinas

“Jesus, Name full of glory, grace, love and strength! You are the refuge of those who repent, our banner of warfare in this life, the medicine of souls, the comfort of those who mourn, the delight of those who believe, the light of those who preach the true faith, the wages of those who toil, the healing of the sick. To You our devotion aspires; by You our prayers are received; we delight in contemplating You. O Name of Jesus, You are the glory of all the saints for eternity. Amen.” 
St. Bernardine of Siena

In our online Faith Foundations course at www.mycatholicfaithdelivered.com, we discuss how devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus [more]is truly the antidote for sins against the Second Commandment. (Thou shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.) The goal is to duly honor and praise Our Lord, and not simply avoid blasphemy or cursing. Here are some of the ways we keep the Lord”s name holy:

–Fostering a sense of the sacred, of God”s presence and action in our midst.
–Proclaiming without fear our belief in the Holy Trinity.
–Listening attentively to the Word of God.
–Offering prayers of praise and thanksgiving, and by invoking His name in times of need.
–Taking oaths very seriously, in honesty and integrity, as taking an oath (“swearing to God”) is to call upon God as a witness to the truth of what we are saying.

Are names important? What are the first three words of our prayer? “In the name . . .” And He doesn”t call us in some generic fashion. Rather, He calls us by name. For more, check out Catechism, nos. 2142-67.

Protected: A Word to the Verbose

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

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What About the Tree?

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

For many people, Christmas ends on Christmas day, so over the ensuing few days, amidst the various after-Christmas sales, the trees are unceremoniously taken down and dragged out to the curb.

But for those of us who do have a sense of Christmas extending beyond December 25th, the question still remains: When does Christmas season actually end? When should we take down not only our tree, but also other seasonal items such as nativity sets?

Traditionally, Christmas season is twelve days (like the song), which would take us to January 6th, the traditional date for celebrating the Epiphany, when the wise men brought gifts to the child Jesus. Now Epiphany is only approximately 12 days after Christmas, as it falls on the second Sunday after Christmas. This year, since Christmas was last Saturday, the feast of the Epiphany will take place this coming Sunday, January 2nd. 

But while Epiphany is an important feast within the context of the Christmas season, it doesn”t bring about the end of the Christmas season. The Christmas season ends on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, at which point “Ordinary Time” begins. The Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord is thus the second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The Baptism of the Lord usually falls on the Sunday after Epiphany, which this year will be January 9th.

Lastly, prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Christmas season extended all the way to February 2nd, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (aka Purification of Our Lady or Candlemas), based on Luke 2:22-38. While that is no longer the case, there is still something of a Christmas “flavor” to the early weeks of Ordinary Time leading up to the Presentation of the Lord.

But what does all that have to do with taking down my tree? And besides, if I wait too long to take it down, the garbage trucks won”t take it!

Well, rest assured there are no “rules” on all this. My recommendation, based on the liturgical season, is to keep Christmas decorations up till the Baptism of the Lord (January 9th). If that seems a little extreme for your household, I”d counsel at least waiting till after Epiphany (January 2nd). That”s especially true for nativity sets that include the three wise men.

And after all, why cut short “the most wonderful time of the year”?