Archive | October, 2012

Privilege, Power,Opportunity

31 Oct

No one can imagine the bountiful gifts that flow from the hands of Christ – gifts of grace, wisdom, strength and hope.

(This is the sixth and final article in a series on our Church and our personal faith as we answer the call to spiritual renewal in the Year of Faith.)

If you want to share your faith, all you have to do is share your own journey in faith. This is what the early disciples did – they told people about Jesus and how he gave them hope, joy and peace.

Here are things you can do to gain confidence in doing what God calls you to do:

  • Offer his salvation to everyone in your life.Reflect deeply on what you received in Baptism – a share in the divine life of God. Accept the Holy Spirit you received in Baptism and in Confirmation. Recognize and pray for the gifts of the Spirit of God – gifts of knowledge, wisdom, discernment and understanding. See the evidence of the Spirit’s presence, the fruit of the Spirit, among them: joy, peace, faithfulness, self-control (See Is 11:1-3, 1 Cor 12:4-11 and Gal 5:19-25).
  • Make Mass and prayer the center of your own life and the life of your family.
  • Join a group of like-minded Catholics to reflect on three things: (1) The gift of faith and the call to discipleship; (2) The real-life situations in your family, parish and secular community – measure these against the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12).
  • Remain rooted in your parish, its worship and ministries. Be sure that your attitudes and opinions are not divisive. Follow the direction of your pastor and work with your parish staff coordinator.
  • Study the documents of Vatican Council II, especially the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” “Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People,”  the Dogmatic Constitution Divine Revelation,” and “Pastoral Constitution in the Modern World.” Use the new “Catechism of the Catholic Church” as a handy reference in questions of faith. You  may want to ask parish leadership to provide study of these documents.
  • Learn how to tell your story. How has God worked in your life? Your story is shared conversationally, not in a preachy style. You are talking to a friend about your great and best Friend. Your story will include what you were experiencing before you asked the Lord into your life. Perhaps you were totally disoriented, unable to make sense out of life, or in stressful family relationships. What or who led you to ask Jesus into your life?

Your story should also include how you experienced God’s love.  Was there a feeling of great warmth, a sense of everything’s going to be all right? Then explain how your life has changed – a more positive attitude, a better prayer life, peace in the home, a sense of belonging to the Church.

Know that your work is only beginning. You can now become a real friend, a mentor, someone who will “walk with” the newly converted into the warmth of the parish community, into the joy and healing power of the sacraments.

Now, go and do what Jesus did, and what he has asked and urged you to do.

(For more information and help in learning how to share your faith, you may want to read Henry Libersat’s new book, “Catholic and Confident, Simple Steps to Share Your Faith,” by Servant Books, 2012. The book is available at www.franciscanmedia.org and at www.Amazonn.com

(Henry’s personal website is www.HenryLibersat.com . He is an ordained deacon for the Diocese of Orlando and ministers at St. Mary Magdalen Parish, Altamonte Springs, FL. He is a preacher, author, police chaplain and public speaker. His most recent book is “Confident and Catholic, Simple Steps to Share Your Faith,” by Servant Books, 2012. His web site is www.HenryLibersat.com ) .

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Here’s how you start

30 Oct

(This is the fifth in a series on our Church and our personal faith as we answer the call to spiritual renewal in the Year of Faith.)

The sufferings of the present age are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us. Indeed, the whole created world eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God. Creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but by him who subjected it; yet now with hope, because the world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Rm 8:18-21)

Just how do I share my faith?

To come to the Lord is glorious joy, dynamic peace – the kind of joy and peace that overflows into the lives of others.

First of all, you embrace the call of Christ. You enter fully into the fullness of his humanity and divinity. You surrender to him in perfect obedience and trust.

Obedience: This not a popular or a “comfortable” word. In our human experience, surrender means defeat. In the Christian faith, surrender means victory. Jesus died and in that death he was victorious over both sin and death. In our surrender to Christ, we cling to his victory and knowing the grace of salvation, we are filled with the joy and peace that surpasses human understanding. That joy and peace is a reward and celebration of the victory of obedience.

Trust: It’s hard to imagine trusting God outside of the discipline and grace of obedience. In fact, to trust God is an act of obedience. Trust in God is rooted in your knowledge of his unconditional love and his dominion over all “things seen and unseen.” The supreme act of obedience and trust is seen in the mystery of the Cross. Jesus obediently accepts the will of the Father – and in the throes of physical torture and the emotional shock of rejection and being abandoned, our Lord said, “It is finished. … Into your hands I commend my spirit” (See Lk 23:46 and Jn 19:30).

This is the first step – to become one with the suffering and resurrected Son of God. It’s the first step in our acceptance of salvation and the fulfilment of our hope for eternal life.

But too many Catholics for too many generations have stopped there: I accept salvation; I accept the sacraments and the teachings of the Church. I am a practicing Catholic.”

The second step: It’s time to stop “practicing” and start “doing.” What to do? See what Jesus tells the seventy-two disciples they are to do:

  • They are to go into villages that Jesus intends to visit to prepare the way for the Lord – as did John the Baptist.
  • They will be like lambs among the wolves depending on nothing but the grace and strength of God.
  • They are to bring peace to the villages and to every household; they are to remain in one place, not seeking comfort or popularity among the residents.
  • They are to heal the sick and announce the kingdom of God as being there, among them.

What more do you need to know?

(Next: You have both privilege and power)

Are you not convinced yet?

28 Oct

(This is the fourth in a series on our Church and our personal faith as we answer the call to spiritual renewal in the Year of Faith.)

As a lay person, am I really called to help people discover Jesus in their lives? How can I do this? How can I help people, in the throes of everyday life and struggles, to believe that God really knows and loves them?

Pope Benedict recognizes the challenge. In addressing the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith,” the Holy Father said there is the question: How do we communicate this truth to the men and women of our time that they might learn of salvation?

Benedict XVI gives us three movements in the task of sharing our faith.

First, prayer is essential to living and sharing the faith. Prayer is “evidence of our awareness that the initiative is always God’s: we may implore it, but the Church can only cooperate with God.”

Second, from this awareness, he said, comes “confession” of our faith, bearing witness even in dangerous situations. It is precisely such witness in moments of difficulty that is a guarantee of credibility, because it implies a readiness to give our lives for what we believe.

And third, confession must be “clothed” in charity. He explained that charity is the most powerful force, which must burn in the hearts of Christians. Faith, he concluded, must become a flame of love within us, a flame which burns in our lives and is propagated to our neighbors. This is the essence of evangelization.

To bring truth to everyone in your life demands a mature sense of what the faith is all about, clarity of purpose, and a willingness to embrace others, even the entire world, as Jesus did.

A mature sense of faith: To have faith in God is to move into his very being, to be “dissolved” in divinity, and to recognize that in Baptism you become one with and in Christ. Being in Christ, you are a son or daughter of God – not by your own nature, but by adoption. You inherit the kingdom of God.

Clarity of purpose: You do inherit the kingdom of God – and you also inherit the mission of Christ. The mission is salvation for the entire world; it is to declare steadfastly and compassionately the saving life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To embrace the mission of Christ is to bring hope to the hopeless, food to the hungry, healing to the ill in body, mind, spirit and soul. A disciple of Christ invites the marginalized, makes safe those who live in fear – all through love and a deep knowledge of the heart of Christ.

Willingness to embrace others and the entire world: The conversion of the world begins with and continues through your own personal witness and that of all other committed Christians around the world. When each disciple of Christ lives under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the whole Church is strengthened; our common and united mission of evangelization holds forth the Light that is Christ; united in the Spirit of God, our global witness holds forth as a gift from God the peace that is the longing of every heart and soul.

(Next: Here’s how you start)

Lay people — on the front lines

27 Oct

 

The very future of the world is at stake. Morality is collapsing without which juridical and political structures cannot function. … The very future of the world is at stake. (Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas message, 2010)

 Following Vatican Council II, lay people became deeply involved in ecclesial ministries with little or no emphasis on their evangelistic duties in the world. Too often “evangelizing” was limited to social justice works and issues. It still is not generally known that Pope Paul VI calls on lay Catholics to witness their faith by a holy life that will blossom into vocal proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead.

Pope Paul’s words were proclaimed again by the Council:

The witness of (a holy) life, however, is not the sole element in the apostolate; the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers to draw them toward the faith, or to the faithful to instruct them, strengthen them, incite them to a more fervent life; “for Christ’s love urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14), and in the hearts of all should the apostle’s words find echo: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). (Decree on the Apostolate or Lay People, No. 6)

The Council had dramatic impact on the Church, to be sure, but it had a far-reaching effect on secular society and international relations. As dear friend Ed Wall recently commented:

When the Council began, the world was in danger of a final wipeout because of Moscow’s hold on so much of the planet – as seen, for example, in its awful threat during the Cuba crisis. One of the products of the Council was John Paul II, who had more to do with the end of world communism than any other figure. He built upon the inspired leadership of Paul VI in New York: “War no more!” The Council’s reach has gone far beyond the Church itself.

Pope Benedict’s call to the entire Church during this Year of Faith is to embrace again this world view of the Church’s mission. In our mission to bring souls to salvation, we must influence the entire world – those who are oppressed and the oppressors; the starving child and the stingy fat cat; the ignorant and the well-educated.

Catholics need to become convinced that evangelization is everyone’s job and privilege. Here’s what the Catechism has to say:

Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty … to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by men throughout the earth. This duty is more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel and know Christ. Their activity … is so necessary that, for the most part, the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it. (No. 900)

 (Next: Okay, I’m not convinced yet)

Tensions in the Church

26 Oct

(This is the second in a series on our Church and our personal faith as we answer the call to spiritual renewal in the Year of Faith.)

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid profane babbling and the absurdities of so-called knowledge. By professing it some people have deviated from the truth. (1 Tim 6:20-21)

The overt tensions following Vatican Council II have “gone underground.” There are still strong feelings, sermons, writings and arguments vying for acceptance of this or that right way of understanding and living the faith. But, this “underground” tension is a cause for concern: It is as though people in one camp have given up on people in other camps.

There seems to be a spirit of isolation, so subtle, its cutting divisiveness goes almost unnoticed. This is intolerable.

Let’s consider just one area of concern.

Catechesis and formation of children and adults: There remains a deep-seated frustration among Catholics concerning what precisely is the best and proper way to “pass on the Faith.”

  • There are good folks who insist that the catechism should be taught and memorized by children and that the catechism should also be the basis for adult catechesis. The facts of our faith, what we need to believe, are important if you are to be a faithful and practicing Catholic.
  • And then, other good Catholics cringe from memorization of the facts of our faith and opt for helping people discover God’s presence and action in their own lives. To develop a sense of community in faith is a top concern.

Unfortunately, some people have dug and hunkered down deeply in their “faith holes” and now refuse to look out except to take pot shots at the other folks. Then, happily, there are many more people of both persuasions who still try to find and stand on a common ground – the Truth, which is surely manifested among both “catechizers” and “discoverers.”

To form Catholics in the fullness of faith, both the “facts of our faith” and “personal experience of God” are indispensable.

Pope Benedict XVI, in “Porta Fidei” announcing the Year of Faith, clearly states that this renewal of our faith, this “new evangelization,” involves both a total conversion to Jesus Christ and a total acceptance of the truths of our faith.

The Pope, in this Year of Faith, urges us to embrace enthusiastically both Vatican Council II and the new “Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

The challenge is a big one: Catholics must “come to Jesus” and embrace the fullness of God’s revelation in him – including the Church he founded; Catholics must embrace the truths of our faith and its discipline – without becoming modern-day Pharisees.

We must have faith in God.

Some had lost their way in a barren desert, found no path toward a city to live in.

They were hungry and thirsting and their life was ebbing away.

In their distress they cried to the Lord, who rescued them in their peril, guided them by a direct path so they reached a city they could live in.

Let them thank the Lord for such kindness, such wondrous deeds for mere mortals. (Ps 107:4-8)

(Next: Lay people are on the front lines.)

What does the Church think of man?

25 Oct

(This is the first in a series on our Church and our personal faith as we answer the call to spiritual renewal in the Year of Faith.)

Vatican Council II has not failed – it has not been tried.

Following the close of that historic council, the Church in America became deeply involved with renewal of the liturgy and revamping the role of lay people in the parish and diocese.

This was and is good and necessary. However, Vatican Council II was historic because it was convened, not to fight heresy and the world, but to engage itself fully in the world. The Son of God became fully human to reach all of humankind. His Church, the Body of Christ, must faithfully follow the Lord into the very heart of the world, into its victories and failures, its joys and sorrows, its errors and its truths.

What does the Church think of man? What measures are to be recommended for building up society today? What is the final meaning of man’s activity in the universe? These questions call for a reply. From their answers it will become increasingly clear that the People of God, and the human race which is its setting, render service to each other; and the mission of the Church will show itself to be supremely human by the very fact it is religious (Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, No. 11).

This was the purpose of that great council. The first document approved by the Church Fathers was that on the renewal of the liturgy. The worship of the Church, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice, is the source of holiness, healing, spiritual growth and the energy for formation of a worshiping community.

Further, the council states that the “celebration of the Eucharist is the true center of the whole Christian life for both the universal Church and the local congregation …” (Vatican Council II, “Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery,” No. 6).

Since Vatican Council II, we have experienced divisions in the Church – people label one another conservative or liberal, traditionalist or innovator. In the early days after the Council, there were often heated exchanges among Catholics; theologians vied back and forth for acceptance of this or that theory; even among bishops, we experienced stress and strenuous disagreement.

The concerns, on all sides, were both real and relevant.

  • Doctrine is defined by the Church by the authority of Christ and in keeping with revelation, through Scripture and Tradition, and must not be changed.
  • Doctrine seems to stifle the spirit of freedom; what matters is one’s personal relationship with God.
  • Doctrine must develop, to meet the needs and challenges of each age, but such development must not deny the basic truth expressed by doctrine.

Development of doctrine is not recent in Church history. Back in the 5th century, St. Vincent of Lerins wrote these words:

Is there to be no development of religion in the Church of Christ? Certainly, there is to be development and on the largest scale. (Liturgy of the Hours, Book IV, pp. 363-64.)

And if that is not ancient enough for you, just recall the struggle of the early Church on the question of whether Gentile converts needed to be circumcised. Note especially St. Paul’s faceoff with St. Peter when the latter decided to side with the “circumcisers” (See Gal 2:7-14).

There is a need for development of doctrine. But as St. Vincent again wrote:

(Development of doctrine) must truly be development of the faith, not alterations of the faith. Development means that each thing expands to be itself, while alteration means a thing is changed from one thing to another.

                  (Ibid, also see “Voices of the Saints,” Bert Ghezzi, Doubleday)

(In Part 2 of the series: The Catechism, catechesis and formation.)

Atheists are scared

20 Oct

                

Why do atheists try to silence believers in the public forum?

Perhaps when we proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior it rattles their cages and scares them half to death: “Imagine if we are wrong,” their inner voices nag.