Thanks, Lord…But Please…

21 Nov

…Make Me a True Disciple:

  • Help me to appreciate the true blessings in my life—family, friends and your unconditional love. Give me true peace in my heart—make my belief in you real and my hope in you unfailing.
  •  Let your face shine upon me—help me to know you and trust you so much that my heart never breaks and my hope never falters.
  •  Let your Word and your Sacraments transform me into a true disciple in whom your image is ever humbly present—to my family, fellow parishioners and everyone I meet; and please, never let me know how much you show forth in my life. I am prone to pride, the destroyer of faith and love.

…Help Our Family Grow in Faith and Love:

  • Save us from incessant, sense-numbing noise and constant, blaring invitations to triviality—and help us find comfort and joy in your eternal invitation: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:11a).
  • Help all parents to be more confident in discussing you and your love with their children and neighbors.
  • Give us the grace and will to have at least one family meal each day—where we show concern and interest in one another and remember that you are at table with us.
  • Let all parents recognize that the family table is a reminder of the parish altar where all God’s family shares the most precious meal of all: the feast of his Word and the Eucharist.

…Transform Our Nation and World:

  •  Give us, your daughters and sons, the strength, courage and grace: 1) to live your Word in the family, at work, in parish life and as citizens of our nation and world; 2) to love those we consider enemies in our daily and national life; and 3) to pray for peace and solidarity among all Americans and all peoples of the world.
  • Help us to take care of those who need us—here at home and throughout the world.
  • May we be the backbone of faith in our nation and world—your faithful disciples whose trust in you becomes more appealing than all worldly substitutes for joy and peace in life.
  • Help all believers to band together in prayer and service making your Gospel truly believable in every part of the world.

 

 

Why Did He Die?

28 Oct

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We Christians believe that Jesus—son of God and son of Mary—died to save us, to reunite us with the Father’s saving mercy.

The sin of Adam and Eve cut off human nature from that precious and intimate union with God.

No right-thinking takes for granted God’s gift of faith which evokes unending gratitude and worship.

We are content to say something like “I love you Lord for you have saved me.”

However, it is easy to confuse gratitude with love. A parent gives the child a nice gift. The child responds, “I love you for that.”

In other words, “Mommy or Daddy, I ‘love’ you as long as you give me what I want.”

The reality is, as declared in the official prayers of the Church, “Christ died for us to make of us an offering to God.”

Recall that in baptism we are made one with our Savior; our union with Jesus is so intimate that we can say in all truth: “We are the Body of Christ. In him we are daughters and sons of the Father; we share the divine life of God.”

The depth of this great life in God is fulfilled only when we have, in Christ, made ourselves an offering to God. We die to self for the sake of the Cross, for the love of God and neighbor. We die to the deadly urge to hate our enemies. We die to the instinct of retaliation in our daily lives—in our families, parishes and work place.

This is not easy. But it is part of what we do to make ourselves an offering to God and to share in Christ’s victorious Cross.

 

Make Believe or Real

22 Sep

 

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A man had left his eldest son in charge of his three million dollar fortune. The eldest son was to share the fortune equally with his two younger brothers.

When all three sons gathered to share the vast fortune, the eldest son gave his two brothers each a million dollars in play money, telling them, “This is a symbol of your inheritance, use it wisely.”

The night before he died, Jesus suffered great agony in the Garden. He was literally so overwhelmed with the death he was to undergo, he sweat blood. He asked his Father to spare him this agony—but quickly gave himself to the will of his Father, who is also our Father.

From this terrible suffering, Jesus went to what is now called the Last Supper.

He took bread and said, “Take and eat, all of your, for this is my Body given for you.” Then took a cup of wine and said, “This is my Blood, the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant which is to be shed for you.” He gave the Bread and the Cup to his disciples.

At such a moment, fresh for the agony in the Garden and knowing the torture and death he was to undergo, do you think for a moment he was play-acting, that he would give us a mere symbol?

 

 

HUH?

13 Sep

 

 

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Mesmerized with Joy

I never get used to the surprises God has in store for me as I pray the Liturgy of the Hours. It happened again just a few minutes ago.

Don’t ask me what sparked the thought. It just came to me in a rush:

          Each of us builds up or tears down the Body of Christ.

Perhaps I’ve become mesmerized with the joy that comes with knowing that I am part of the Body of Christ, that we all together form, with Jesus, his Mystical Body on earth.

After all, what an uplifting thought—and truth!

It is so comfortable to rest in that truth.

But, when I sin, I weaken—or tear down—the Body of Christ. In the state of grace, I am one with my Lord and Savior. I am one with all who, at that moment, are in the state of grace. Or, maybe, since we are all sinners, I remain in a weaker connection with all who believe and are in the state of grace.

How can I build up the Church when I am in sin? How can I, without the light of grace, fully further the mission of Christ?

It is St. Paul who urges us to be “children of God without blemish in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world” (Phil 2:15).

I want to be such a child of God—along with all who profess to be Christian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Confession

4 Sep

 

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Mother Teresa is now St. Teresa of Calcutta—but she will remain our Mother Teresa who became an inspiration for millions. She was like Jesus, she lived for others. She was counter-cultural.

She struggled with darkness of soul. She rarely felt the joy of the presence of God. Yet, she persevered.

Mother Teresa had the moral conviction and strength to do what Jesus asked her to do.

The thought of such sanctity, strength and courage has led me to think long and hard about my own faith.

I’m afraid I’ve become what Bishop Barron calls a “Beige Catholic”—or a “Comfortable Catholic,” as someone else suggested.

Jesus called it “luke warm” faith.

In other words, my tendency is to seek the comfort of fellow believers, to cozy up to the Jesus of mercy and, all too often, to turn away from his demand that I take up my cross and follow him.

Jesus challenged the pride and false faith of the Pharisees. He embraced the poor, the neglected and abused in society. Jesus became one with those who suffer and with the oppressed who were denied justice.

He embraced the Cross for our salvation.

And yet, I choose to rest comfortably here, in the bosom of our wonderful parish, to the  love and faith fill every cell of my being.

And well I should. A good parish is a wonderful place to be.

Yet, at eighty-two yeas of age, nagging questions give me no rest:

  • Have I done all I can do to bring the light of Christ into my world?
  • Isn’t this messy world now someone else’s problem?
  • Do I ignore my Christian duty because I don’t want to pay the cost of true discipleship?

And, how do I respond as society drifts farther from the Gospel?

  • I sit and fume over same-sex “marriages” and bathrooms.
  • When it comes to cohabitation, even among Christians, I manage a disapproving frown.
  • I am angry about politicians who promise even more discord and desperation in our nation.
  • I bemoan the exodus of so many Catholics—young and old—from the Church our Lord Jesus founded.

I pray, write and preach. But what do I DO about it?

Perhaps I shrink at the demand of Jesus to love no one and nothing more than I must love him—and to love others with the same love he gives me. Perhaps I’m not willing to pay the price of such a commitment—it’s much safer just doing what I’m doing.

Father Charles P0pe, Archdiocese of Washington, has said that in the first three centuries, there were thirty-three popes, thirty were martyred and two died in exile. They gave their lives.

In a reflection on Scripture, America magazine reminds me that Jesus is asking for my life. He wants me to take up the cross of true faith, the saving message of the Gospel and accept the light of the Holy Spirit. He begs me to give myself entirely to his mission of salvation of all people.

But I can’t do this alone. Nor can any one of us.

Together we must bleach the beige out of our Catholicism. We must cast aside our comfy blankets. Authentic Catholicism must come even more alive in us if others are to believe.

With apostolic zeal we must eagerly take up the cross and the mission that Jesus has given us.

Many Catholics believe that we will face increased persecution.

The cost of true discipleship may well become more evident. But the cost pales in the face of God’s love for us. No cost is too much if we, as did Mother Teresa, love him and everyone for whom he died.

Mother Teresa, pray for us.

 

 

Costly Surrender to Trivia

16 Aug

 

 

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When reality is clouded, it’s easy to miss life’s goodness.

I was recently provoked to thought by Crisis Magazine which published James Day’s article, “The Vanishing United States.”[i]

Day states that prior to the Civil War, we spoke of a union of independent states, e.g., “the United States are.” Following the war, it was “the United States is”…. we became us (emphasis mine.)

I began to think about the changes in our experience and understanding of what it eans to be human, a family and a nation.

Many people perhaps never think of themselves as members of a gigantic “human family.” Individualism has become an agent of separation. Personal “fulfillment” and happiness too often are pursued with tunnel vision—with little awareness of how one’s choices affect others. Perhaps we have lost our historic sense of individuals in step with family and the rest of society.

Self-centered use of iPhones, and other modern communications tools, can weaken rather than strengthen families and social progress. The various challenging games can be addictive.

Even children, as young as two years of age, are captivated by the various attractions on those little screens. I’m concerned because children are deeply influenced in the first seven years of their lives.

Could it be that modern folks are afraid of two things: silence and serious communication—perhaps, the latter, for fear of disagreement, having to change one’s mind, or failing to be of political correct?

We have serious business at hand—to reunite families, and society as a whole, in the task of rebuilding our national conscience and spirit.

Now, back to my Solitaire game.

 

[i] Crisis Magazine, online, July 5, 2016

 

 

Toward Awesome Faith

28 Jul

 

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Ultimate trust and faith.

A Mormon had attended several Catholic weddings and funerals. He had asked a Catholic friend what we, as Catholics, believe in the Eucharist. His friend told him we believe the Eucharist is our glorified Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Real Presence, his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

The Mormon said, “I’ve never seen Catholics show awe. So I guess they don’t believe it.”[i]

FOR NEARLY SIX DECADES, I’ve observed and written about our Catholic faith and the way we live it. I remember clearly the 1960s and the drama and blessing of the Second Vatican Council.

Many great things developed from and after the Council. Among them were increased participation and interest in the renewed liturgy in the language of the people, the advent of faithful lay ministers and evangelists, a new joy and sense of both freedom and responsibility for clergy and laity alike.

Generally speaking, younger Catholics have no connection or interest in that great event in Church history.

And, over time, we older folks have become less excited about the core of the teaching of the Council.

The Council urged a return to the purity and energy of the Apostolic Church and to its excitement over the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ.

Surely, many of our Catholics understood and still live the true spirit of the Second Vatican Council. But do we all?

If not, why not?

I MAY SOUND LIKE AN OLD FUDDY-DUDDY, but I think many of us have developed a “cafeteria religion”—we take what we like and ignore what may well challenge our comfort zone.

St. Paul reminds us that our Father made Christ “to be sin who did not know sin, so that in him, we might become the very righteous of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

Can we become the very righteousness, the very holiness of God?

Yes. That was one Council goal. It’s the goal of the Gospel.

HERE ARE WORTHY GOALS TO CONSIDER.

  • We preach and teach what the Church authentically teaches—and why it so teaches.
  • We reveal the reality of sin, e.g., hatred of our enemies, lies, refusal to help the needy—and the personal and social consequences of impropriety, immodesty and cohabitation.
  • We call for ongoing conversion to true and loyal faith in Jesus Christ.
  • We earnestly seek the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
  • We are committed to prayer, to the Most Holy Eucharist.
  • We leave our comfort zone to live and witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our faith must be contagious and joyful. Then it becomes awesome.

 

[i] Francis Phillips, National Catholic Register, online