Archive | January, 2013

Old Friends

25 Jan

But the present, built on the past, means good for all.

True friends are like a rock, a solid place on which to stand — and a refreshing breeze in the heat of the day.

Discard not an old friend,

for the new one cannot equal him.

A new friend is like new wine

            which you drink with pleasure

            only when it has aged.  (Sir 9:10)

 Their names are like a litany – Raywood, Linwood, Sigur, Fortier, Bert, Jim, Ed, David – and the litany could go on and on.

Friends all. Old friends. Tried and true friends – the kind who love you enough to tell you the truth, to challenge you when you are off base, to embrace you when you suffer, to laugh and celebrate with you the wonderful, happy things in life.

Love makes life make sense – the love of husband and wife, the love of parent and child, the love of friends.

Love “makes” God real.

“God is love and he who lives abides in God and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16b).

I want to be that kind of friend. I hope I am.

Jesus is.

 

 

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Can’t go home …

18 Jan

The Cross of Christ calling multitudes to salvation, calling you and me, calling our family. Givng us identity, continuity. Letting us help God in making and remaking sociiety into an image of his Kingdom.

The Cross of Christ — calling the multitudes, all of humanity, into the saving embrace of God; calling you and me and our families into the great mystery of God’s love; promising relevance and meaning — and, yes, a sense of continuity; sending us into the world, poor little us, with the great message of hope and salvation.

I stood on the small bridge spanning the canal of muddy, oil-streaked and fertilizer polluted water. This canal lies between the rural communities of Henry and Boston in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana – real Cajun Country.

The canal was not always polluted. Years before, my brother and I had stood on that same bridge and we could see garfish swimming along. And we fished there for gar and perch.

But on that day, I was thinking back to my youth, remembering that on this road, now black-topped but then only gravelled, a bunch of us boys would leisurely ride or race our horses in all kinds of weather. And we helped fathers and uncles herd cattle over this road to better grazing or to trailers that would take them to the livestock sale held in Abbeville.

I had driven past our old homestead west of Henry. The huge barn was gone, as was the dairy. The house seemed small and mournful. Grass in the pasture was fighting drought – the pasture where we had our cows and a couple of horses. Behind the house was more acreage. It now seemed unused from what I could see, but in my day, that land had grown cotton, corn and soybeans.

As I stood on that little bridge, I remembered the times my friends and I went skinny dipping down a distance from this road, walking on the canal bank braving water moccasins and briars. I remember the relish with which I enjoyed feeling the tepid water wash over my skin. Was it maybe reminiscent of the womb?

I had stopped by Landry Cemetery to visit my parents’ tomb – and the ones of my paternal grandparents and uncles and aunts. Father Verheem is buried there, far from his native Holland. I served Mass for him until I was 25 or so.

Is this the way it all ends? You lie in a lonely cemetery, deep in the woods, far from living people – is this the only proof that you ever existed?

So much has changed: The one store in Boston is no more; the three stores in Henry and the canning center are no more – and the school was destroyed by Katrina.

Our parish church, St. John the Evangelist, remains to this day – but now it is elevated against the threat of future floods.

Nothing is the same. It’s all changed. Somehow, part of me is gone – but then, there is more of me than there was before: I have my own family, and it has grown in leaps and bounds; I had my profession in the Catholic Press and I am writing still; now in Florida, my fellow parishioners at St. Mary Magdalen’s are also family to me.

No, I can’t go back home — and I don’t want to go back. It was good then. But it’s good now, even great.

I am home! Peg and I have become home to three more generations – for that is where home is, in the heart of family.

And now, in this Year of Faith, in this call to a renewal of faith, to a new energy in bringing the word of God to all peoples in the world, now, family takes on a new dimension. By nature we belong to the family of man. By grace, we belong to the family of God. Through the Cross of Christ and his resurrection, through the power of Pentecost and the call of a multitude of starving souls, we go into the world,

We go with the Cross of Christ as our banner, with his Word as our Light and the Spirit as our Force. We go into the world, with courage and vision — the courage of the Christ on the Cross and the vision of the Father who calls all peoples to himself.

Does God Still Right Wrongs?

16 Jan

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Even in the darkest hours,

the light of God’s love shines through.

Throughout the Old Testament, we hear the Hebrews beseeching God to save them from their enemies and to overcome the powers of evil. It seems, at times, as though they are challenging God to prove he is still the God of their Fathers. At other times, they try to make him feel guilty with charges that he has forgotten them.

In our own age and in our own world, we suffer from tremendous pressures, challenges and, often, a sense of helplessness. How cope with the onslaught of natural disasters plaguing the entire world – floods, hurricanes, fires, diseases, droughts and volcanic eruptions?

How regain that sense of security we had in America prior to the terrorism of September 11, 2001? Can we have any confidence that our government and allies can stem the tide of growing numbers of freelance and organized terrorists?

Any sane person seeks to understand what God is saying by permitting what we call these “signs of the times.”

We may feel compelled to ask God to intervene with his mighty power, as Isaiah wrote:

Oh, that you would rend the heavens

     and come down,

     with the mountains quaking before you,

As when brushwood is set ablaze,

     or fire makes the water boil!

Thus your name would be made known

     to your enemies

     and the nations would tremble before you.

While you wrought awesome deeds

     we could not hope for,

     such as they had not have not heard

      of from of old.                                                               

                                         (Is 63:19b-64:1-3a).

But then a few verses later, the prophet reminds the Hebrews and us that we have not been faithful to the Lord:

     Would that you might meet us doing right,

              that we were mindful of you in our ways!

              all of us have become like unclean men,        

               all our good deeds are like polluted rags;

     We have all withered like leaves,

              and our guilt carries us

              away like the wind (Is 64:4-5).

I do not for one second believe that God punishes us by causing natural disasters or inciting war between nations.

I do believe we punish ourselves in that we have forsaken the Truth and thereby lost the power of persuasion. I also believe we have raped our natural resources and caused an imbalance in our climate.

And, indeed, I do believe that God still rights wrongs – but he chooses to do so in and through us: In us, as we become more and more open to his love and will; through us as we embrace the mission of Jesus Christ by bringing the message of his salvation to everyone in our lives.

Perhaps the worst of all “natural disasters” is how we have all but discarded the divine for the merely human, and set God aside in favor of our own feeble minds and imaginations.

Anger is born of fear

7 Jan

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Anger was part of our discussion at our Men’s Bible Study this morning.

Years ago, Mother Angelica (EWTN) said:

“You’re angry because you are afraid.”

Does that really make sense?

For example, if I get angry when someone disagrees with my firmly held belief, does that mean I’m afraid?

One of our greatest needs is to feel secure. When someone threatens that security, we are afraid. So, when someone challenges your faith, in which you find security, you do get afraid and angry. But, what does that say about your faith? Are you really that secure? Is your faith mature and strong?

One of our men this morning stated that one need not be afraid of disagreement because Truth will come out on top.

God’s word builds up our faith and confidence in him:

God is for us a refuge and strength,

a helper close at hand, in times of distress:

so we shall not fear though the earth should rock,

though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea,

even though its waters rage and foam,

even though the mountains be shaken by its waves.

The God of hosts is with us:

the God is Jacob is our stronghold.  (Ps 46:2-4)

Jesus and Us: Human and Divine

2 Jan

man in praise

It’s a question we hear often following natural disasters or the terrible illness and death of loved ones. We hear the question in the aftermath of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut:

“How can a good God allow this to happen?”

Indeed, as we mourned the senseless massacre of those twenty children and six adults in Newtown, “How can a good God allow this to happen?”

It’s a tough question, born of deep shock and pain. We need to try to make sense of this.

God created us in his image, with an immortal soul and with a free will. Having that free will is part of being made in his image.

God gives us his wisdom. God wants what is best for us. He reveals himself to us in all of creation, in salvation history. Especially, in Jesus Christ, God and Man, he reveals himself to us. He reveals the depth of his love. He gives us salvation – but alas, that free will, we have to accept it.

Salvation cannot be accepted passively. It is a call to a dynamic relationship, a deep communion with God, with other believers and with all of creation. To be his voice and his heart, he places us in the midst of this “crooked and perverse generation” (Phil 2:15). Salvation demands that we accept God and his will, that we accept Jesus who is our Way, our Truth and our Life.

Now, the real question: How do we, children God, reaffirm our roots of faith?

Let’s return for a moment to Bethlehem. 

During the Christmas season, our faith does not focus only on the Babe of Bethlehem. In the birth of the Son of God, the mystery of God’s saving love is revealed. In that Child, we see the man who will preach, teach, heal, die and rise from the dead.

Our “Baby Jesus” is the One who splits history in two, who gives flesh to the Father’s love and gives voice to the will of God.

That Baby is the Son of God and the Son of Mary. He is both truly and fully God, and truly and fully human.

In the first centuries after the Ascension of the Lord, the Church had to correct heresies concerning Jesus Christ.

Among the errors being proposed were (1) the man, Jesus, was not truly God, that somehow he was adopted or attached to the Divine Trinity, and (2) he was not truly human.

Even into the fifth century, at the Council of Chalcedon, the Church fathers found it necessary to proclaim and affirm the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

“ … we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity and consubstantial with us as to his humanity …” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 467).

And this teaching, this doctrine, carries forth to this day.

Man’s nature is made new as God becomes man; he remains what he was and becomes what he was not. Yet each nature stays distinct and forever undivided. (Liturgy of the Hours, Book I, pg 487, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Yet, heresy still exists. For example, one error corrupting our world is that God is somehow divorced from our concerns, uninterested in our pain and suffering, and seemingly unable to change things here on earth. Another falsehood being promoted is that belief in God is a strictly private matter, that God has no place in our government or in the public square. He is to remain locked in church buildings. God is regarded as little more than an irrelevant superstition.

Take courage! We are incorporated in the very Body of Christ. We are one with him in his humanity and divinity. We are the saved daughters and sons of God,

To offset the modern forces of disbelief, we must proclaim God by the way we live and by our verbal witness.

If we truly accept salvation, that is what we do.