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

 

 

‘Complete in Christ’

16 Jul

 

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Recently, I had two important encounters.

The first was a man wearing a cap that proclaimed “World War II Veteran.” We happened to reach a doorway together. I thanked him for his service. He eyes watered, he blinked, and said with anger and sadness: “Our nation is lost. America is no more. Our descendants will never know the blessings of freedom.”

I said. “Surely, God will come to help us.”

He replied, “I don’t believe in God.”

The second encounter was with a woman in a store. She saw my rather obvious cross and chain and said to me: “The world is filled with evil. The end times are here. Jesus is coming soon.”

There was a bit of fear and desperation in her voice. Maybe she sees little of God’s presence and goodness in everyday life.

At one time or another, each of us may fear the future or wish that the Lord would hurry down to fix everything. God is with us now. God deserves our unconditional trust.

  • St. Paul gives a key to making sense of all that befalls us—the struggles of daily living, addiction, the pain of a broken family and the worry and fear we may experience in these troubled times (see Col 1:24-28).
  • Paul speaks of the “mystery of Christ in you.” What is that mystery and what does this mean—“the mystery of Christ in you?”

To grow in understanding of this mystery, you have to be open to complete and ongoing conversion. You have to realize that “it isn’t you” alone called to save the world. We are called together as the Body of Christ. We live in him and he in us.

Two sisters, Martha and Mary, speak to us in their actions (Lk 10:38-42).

  • We need to become a blend of both Martha and Mary: We must bring together the labor and holy hospitality of Martha and the contemplative love of Mary.

The Church teaches us that everything good that we do in life can and should be offered to God. As a Christian, you are a partner with God as he builds a just and peaceful world. With the Lord Jesus, you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort those who mourn. You, and all of us together, strive to “make everyone complete in Christ.”

  • Our work can and should be a joyful sacrifice of praise. Our down time should be lived in peaceful gratitude for life itself.
  • We must consciously make every moment of life a prayer to God—and put our complete trust in him.

If we do so, we will have a deeper faith, more courage and greater vision.

Alone, I cannot change the world. But all of us together, with God in us and for us, we can and will bring change to our nation and our world.

We must be “complete in Christ.” Our trust is in the Lord, our God.

 

 

 

The Word of God Was Missing

26 Jun

 

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For many years, the people gathered together to worship God.

One day, a man came to the leader of the people to present him with a book that had been lost for a long, long time.

The book was read to the leader. He tore his garments. He ordered that all the people be gathered to hear the words of this book that had been missing for so long a time.

The man was Hilkiah, high priest of the Jews.

The book was the Torah, the Word of God (See 2 Kgs.22:8-13; 23:1-3).

The Word of God had been missing.

This was the reading for Mass on Wednesday, June 22.

The day before, I had read in one sitting a book given to me by a chaplain at a correctional institution. (I was visiting, not incarcerated.)

The book, “God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life,” was written by Ray Comfort, an evangelical preacher and writer.

The book’s subtitle is “The Myth of the Modern Message.” The author debunks what we Catholics have, since apostolic times, called the “prosperity doctrine,” a false and shallow approach to conversion: “Accept Jesus he will make you happy, solve all your problems and you will prosper.”

Try to tell that to Joan of Arc who was burned at the stake by our own misguided religious leaders. Try to tell that to Peter, James and Paul—and all those Catholics and other Christians who are tortured, raped, beheaded, burned alive and crucified by people who believe they serve God by these atrocities.

Ray Comfort also speaks of the loss of faith in young people—in much the same words as we speak of our own sons and daughters who have heard the clamor of the world’s own call to “happiness.”

But Rev. Comfort wrote something else that resonates with the traditional teachings of our own Catholic Church. There is no true conversion to Jesus Christ without personal awareness of one’s own sins. How can anyone claim to be converted to Christ without admitting that he or she is a sinner for whom Jesus died?

The author urges a return to preaching and teaching the Ten Commandments which can assist people in discovering and admitting their own sin and their need for salvation.

And then, for me, another A-Ha moment—or perhaps a reminder to an earlier moment of insight or lesson learned: The lesson of personal responsibility for sin does not end there, does not end with genuine conversion to Jesus. There follows the beautiful Beatitudes which direct the converted into the life that Jesus wants us to live.

Not a bad ideal, I would think, for a weekend retreat for the entire church assembly–perhaps to be followed up by a series of sermons that will reach those who did not attend the retreat and to reinforce the lesson for those who did.

Whatever we do, we cannot let the Word of God go missing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Radical Catholicism?

19 Jun

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In the Mass, we enter into the real death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

         What pops into mind when you hear about radicals: the angry demonstrators for or against a certain law or movement or candidate?

In one sense, these are radical.

        Such demonstrations emerge from a deep sense of oppression—or a terrible discontent with what is real or thought to be real. It might flow from a sick desire to create havoc rather than restore peace.

         “Radical” means stemming from the root of something.When I speak of a radical Catholicism, I am not speaking of any public demonstration for or against anything. Rather I speak of a Church whose members have returned to the roots of our faith—our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the authentic Tradition and teachings of his Church.

          The Liturgy of the Hours offers this: “May we always feed on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”[i]

          What, then, is that unleavened bread of sincerity and truth? It is the core of what we believe: Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, God and Man, Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit.

          It is the foundation of the Apostles and their magnetic belief in who Jesus is and what he taught. And that authoritative teaching has come down to us through our popes and bishops, and our faith is celebrated in communion with them and with our priests who offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

          That unleavened bread of sincerity and truth assures us that once consecrated, a small unleavened host and the wine in that little cup are now Jesus Christ, God and Man, his Body, Blood, soul and divinity.

          Also, we embrace the truth that in the Mass, we enter into the real death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When our Lord instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, he commanded, “Do this in memory of me.” His passion, death and resurrection are eternal realities. In real time through our Mass, we enter and are united in that one and only sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are there—as I’ve said many times before—at the Last Supper, at the Cross and with Mary Magdalen at the empty tomb.

          We believe deeply in the communion of saints—because St. Paul tells us we are saints. Also, we believe because the Church holds up the lives of the saints as examples of faith, hope, love and courage. We always celebrate the faith and love of Mary, Mother of God, and that of her spouse, St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. But in no way does our devotion to any saint equal or replace the Mass.

          Finally, a radical Catholicism becomes a public sign of love for God and for all peoples. It becomes an energetic, calm and persistent witness to our faith in God and our fidelity to his Truth which the Church teaches with grace and authority from God.

 

[i] Book II, pg. 887

Justice: In Home and Church

15 Jun

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At last! I’m back! My computer got sick. Then I had a little bit of a sympathy illness. Now the computer is fine–and so am I. My head has been examined and they found nothing–nothing wrong, that is. So! Here we go!

 

Recently I had a holy aha-moment.

It happened as I was reading about generosity in Matthew Kelly’s “Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.”

Ordained thirty years ago, I’ve ministered in our own St. Mary Magdalen Parish learning from the wonderful people who fill our church and our ministries. For ten years I served as chaplain for the Winter Springs Police Department. I’ve written thousands of words for books, homilies and my blog.

But have I been generous with mercy? God has forgiven me so many times for the same old stuff over and over again. Yet, I still stroke my memory with a desire for comeuppance for this or that personal offense—real or imagined.

In mercy, have I actively forgiven family members and friends who hurt me deeply—and have I had the courage to ask them for forgiveness? To request forgiveness is to admit that I wronged someone—and that takes both humility and gratitude to God for the mercy extended to me.

Have I been merciful with my children—or have I demanded more of them than I was ever willing to give of myself?

And in our Church, have I been truly generous—or have I taken a joyful leap into the duties and ministries that please me and make me feel compassionate and holy?

I have to admit that I have not always reached out (shared life) with those folks who rub me the wrong way, whose posture, like my own, demands attention and acceptance. Have I embraced others for whom they are—brothers and sisters with the same Father, Savior and the Holy Spirit who is Lord and Giver of Life?

When I meet the poor and terminally ill, why do I feel threatened or at least uneasy? Is it because I still fear weakness and death more than I trust in my God?

More yet.

We preach mercy and forgiveness but still, when it comes to sins such as sexual abuse of children, we struggle to forgive and to protect others in our community. In situations like this, I can stew over the sin and crime of abuse—and remain discontented with how we have had to remove the offenders from our midst.

But, we have an understandable concern that offenders will abuse even other children in our community of faith. Also, there is the question of legal culpability if we do not offer protection and stand firm against such abuse.

Who said it is easy to be a conscientious Catholic—one whose spiritual life is without warps and wrinkle and even disaster?

No one, I am sure, who has a bit of experience in trying to live in Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Rise to Freedom, Joy

17 Mar

man in praise

The Church proclaims in prayer:

          “Oh, Lord, unwearied is your love for us.”

We should never tire of contemplating that divine, unending love which brings us to life, forgives our sins, nourishes us with the Word and the Eucharist—that love which promises us an eternity with God and all the saints.

In Christ, we rise to freedom—freedom from fear, unending and unhealthy guilt, hopelessness and separateness.

In Christ, we abandon worries, cling to hope; we learn to cope with sorrows and loneliness; we do not let the world’s troubles lead us to hatred and depression. Rather, we cling to our Lord, to his promise to be with us and to give us wisdom to understand how his will is accomplished in us. He gives us strength to bear even with the unbearable.

We live in that freedom known only to the sons and daughters of God.

We rise to purpose—the call of Christ Jesus to witness the Father’s love to everyone in our lives; the call to share our faith in salvation through the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord.

We are to become a living Gospel, the kind of person and people who love as Jesus loves, forgive as God forgives, and repair with love the wounds caused by illness, injustice, poverty, and ignorance.

We rise to the recognition of the fundamental purpose to which Christ calls us—together to be his faithful presence in our everyday world, and to shine with hope.

We rise to joy—the joy that overcomes pain and discouragement because we know our God, because we walk together in the Lord and because the Lord lives in us and for us.

Joy in God is the root of compassion. If we are not joyful, how can we hope to help others come to know Jesus as the way, the truth and the life?

Joy is contagious. So are sour dispositions, doubting hearts and resentful spirits.

I know people whose lives beam with joy and with hope—some of whom live with deep suffering. It’s so wonderful to be in their presence.

Our freedom, purpose and joy have their source in the resurrection of our Lord. As St. Paul reminds us:

“And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty too, your faith” (1 Cor 15:14).

 

 

 

 

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