Archive | March, 2014

Help my unbelief

29 Mar

 

Heavenly Sun Beams

 

You are the Lord, the one and only God, three Persons, one Being, undivided unity.

You are my God, my one and only God.

I believe you. 

I believe in you.

Lord, help me truly to believe what I say I believe and to live faithfully what I believe.

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Much Afraid to Sheer Joy

27 Mar

Half Dome at Sunset

The heights beckon–and they can be scaled

 

For though the fig tree blossom not

              nor fruit be on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive fail

              and the terraces produce no

              nourishment,

Though the flocks disappear

              from the fold

              and there be no herd in the stalls,

Yet will I rejoice in the Lord

              and exult in my saving God.

God, my Lord, is my strength;

              he makes my feet as swift

              as those of hinds

              and enables me to go upon the heights.

                                           (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

This Scripture verse is wonderfully, verbally illustrated in a book, “Hinds Feet in High Places.” Hannah Hurnard, the author, writes about Much-Afraid. Much-Afraid is full of fears and is all but emotionally crippled.

It’s a story about you and me.

Much-Afraid’s journey, moving from the darkness of fear to the heights of peace and joy, gives us a great truth: Life’s difficulties are both challenges and opportunities.

The troubles, fears and pain we suffer need not be weights crushing us down. Rather, they can be stepping-stones over which we walk, even boulders over which we must laboriously climb.

But the climb to the “heights” is possible. God gives us “hinds’ feet,” his grace through his Word and Sacraments. Each of us can say with perfect faith and confidence, “God, my Lord, is my strength.”

Our Catholic faith reminds us constantly that God is to be glorified at all times, even in the midst of turmoil, persecution and suffering. Peter and other Apostles were arrested and beaten. They left the ordeal “full of joy that they had been judged worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of the Name” (See Acts 5:17-32).

The Church encourages us to praise God in the midst of affliction. As we pray Psalm 44, we acknowledge all the good things God has done for us—and then we complain about the problems we face: “Arise, O Lord, why do you sleep? Arise, do not reject us forever!” And the Church, at the end of the psalm, has us pray: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen!”

There is a saying among the faithful. “In the midst of trouble, praise the Lord anyway!”

That says it in a nutshell—but please, if you have not already done so, read “Hinds Feet in High Places.”

Or maybe read it again.

 

A Few Comments

22 Mar

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A Christmas gift from a co-worker whose memory gives me joy. She was making a good-humored statement. She didn’t like the fact that I hunted deer and “killed Bambi.” (But she ate meat with great pleasure.)

Just a few comments on related or unrelated subjects:

The five-day retreat in Parrish, Fla. (March 15-19), was a delightful experience. The folks at St. Frances Cabrini Parish are among the most hospitable I’ve ever met.  Father Jan Jancarz, pastor, is assisted by Father David, retired, and a number of solid lay people who work tirelessly for the parish. It was a Lenten Retreat and we discovered that penance and repentance are not as cumbersome as some folks seem to think. In fact, they follow rather logically after you accept redemption and experience conversion.

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 While I was away on this retreat, Peg had a gift of a trip back to New York State to visit two of our 30 great-grandchildren. It was good that she could be away while I was away. In fact, she left three days before I did and returned four days after I did.  We talked at least twice a day. In one conversation, she quipped, “We talk more when we’re apart than we do when we are at home together.” And that’s a fact. Somehow, we find little need to talk about when we are just sitting around or even eating a meal. In part, we know the same things and people, experience together many things. Just being together is gift enough, it seems. Besides, truth to tell, the less I talk the less foot I find in my mouth.

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At Friday Mass, in St. Mary Magdalen Parish, I was back in the warmth of my parish family. No matter how wonderful my experience in other parishes, coming home is always a joy. As we prayed the Our Father, something popped into my mind as we asked God to forgive us as we forgive others. The thought was this: We pray, as a parish family, not only for our own personal need to forgive and be forgiven. We pray it together, as Church, to forgive those who fight against the existence of God, who laugh at the Gospel and the Church. We pray forgiveness for those who threaten our freedom of religion and who work against the freedom and dignity of all people and the right to all human life. And it also occurred to me that husbands and wives should pray together and forgive as “one flesh” any person or institution that threatens their family security.

 *****************

St. Francis, please pray with us.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen!

Sharing Faith: Joy and Responsibility

14 Mar

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The Gospel is truth, creates a hunger for truth, fosters a love of God and the desire to share God’s love and mercy with others. 

Pope Francis, in his great book, “Joy of the Gospel,” calls all of us to a renewed faith and intimacy with our Lord, Jesus Christ.

He states:

  • Those who meet and know Christ are filled with joy—a joy that overcomes the darkness of sin and hopelessness.
  • To know and love God is to discover the depths of being human.
  • Francis “invites all Christians” to a renewed and personal encounter with Christ.
  • There are Christians “whose lives seem like Lent without Easter”; no one wants to listen to a “sourpuss.”
  • Those who evangelize, those who “give life away,” increase their life and joy. “When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment.”

Seven Topics of Concern

The Holy Father, as he launches into the body of his apostolic exhortation, lists seven topics he will discuss. They are:

  • The reform of the Church in her missionary outreach.
  • The temptation faced by pastoral workers.
  • The homily and its presentation.
  • The Church understood as the entire People of God–who evangelize.
  • The inclusion of the poor in society.
  • Peace and dialog within society.
  • The spiritual motivation for mission.

I encourage everyone to read this magnificent document (see JoAnn in the bookstore).

But I have chosen to treat two of these topics as one—temptation faced by pastoral workers, and the homily and its preparation.

The direction Pope Francis gives in “Joy of the Gospel” is beneficial for everyone, clergy and laity alike, and perhaps especially for parents who want to help their children—young and old—to stay close to God and the Church.

Four Important Things to Remember

Anyone who wants to pass on our Catholic faith must remember at least these four things:

  • God’s invitation to holiness is constant—and we are to seek holiness. Holiness enables us to recognize that God is in others, regardless of their faith, lack of faith or antagonism towards the Gospel.
  • The definitive truths and disciplines of our faith are not without foundation and focus. They are not successfully passed on as disjointed beliefs and behavioral demands. They spring from the heart and mind of Christ. Evangelization is compromised by pharisaical harshness and narrow-mindedness.
  • We must remember that the faithful transmission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will reveal the “centrality of certain truths.” It will become evident, through the conviction that God is Love and loves us, that the Church’s moral teachings are liberating rather than stifling.
  •  If we are true believers, our faith seeks to find rest in other human hearts. It gives a loving and constant invitation to everyone we meet. And “under no circumstance,” says our Holy Father, “can this invitation be obscured.”

Pope Francis reminds us that to evangelize is to cooperate with the liberating work of the Spirit.

This indicates that all of us, baptized and nourished by God’s Word and the Holy Eucharist, are to seek the guidance and gifts of the Holy Spirit to manifest God’s love. We are to do so in every place and situation each and every day of our lives.

In the Spirit we will “go forth from ourselves” towards our brothers and sisters—whoever and wherever they may be.