Archive | June, 2016

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.