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

 

 

‘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.