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Where Lies Peace?

30 Dec

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I wish you a Blessed New Year, filled with the peace of God.

When Jesus was born, peace came into the world.

But where is that peace?

Families are broken.

Ethnic groups raise slogans of hatred and violence.

Human trafficking enslaves God’s children.

Millions of people suffer hunger and pestilence.

Wars rage between nations and terrorism raises its ugly, cowardly head.

So, Lord God, where is that peace that came into the world with the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ?

Perhaps God, our Father, might say:

Peace comes when compassion triumphs over condemnation and when virtue replaces violence.

Look to my Son, your Savior and Lord. His power lies in his love, even for those who hated and killed him.

The peace of the world lies in the human heart. When your heart is filled with peace, and as more people discover peace of mind and soul, the world is gradually made better.

Now, that is surely not a quick and easy fix.

But it is the only one which will eventually bring peace on earth.

The Son of God became one of us. He took on our fallen human nature.

 “When God reveals his humanity, his goodness cannot possibly be hidden. To show his kindness what more could he do beyond taking my human form? My humanity, I say, not Adam’s—that is not such as he had before the fall.”[i]

Jesus experienced joy and sadness, fatigue, betrayal, false accusations condemnation and unjust execution.

Can we, his disciples, expect a bed of roses?

We continue his mission for we are the Body of Christ.

Peace begins in Christ, grows in our own faithful hearts, and then to the entire world through our compassion and love.

 

[i] St. Bernard, Abbot, Liturgy of the Hours, Book I, pg. 447

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Engaged in Salvation

21 Jun

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.

Behold, I am sending you like sheep among wolves …” (Jn 10:6)

If you are a committed Catholic, you are engaged in the ministry of salvation. Whoever and whatever you are – a stay-at-home mom or dad, full-time worker, parish minister to the sick, lector, pro-life advocate – no matter, you are drawn deeply into the reality of Christ’s mission to bring salvation to everyone in your life – and to affect the salvation of all peoples.

There are obstacles standing in your way.

  • In your family: They all know you so well, how you were in the past and your present shortcomings. The past can blind them to who you are now, to your deeper faith. Perhaps you didn’t provide your children with a sound religious formation – and that has come back to haunt you.
  • At work, in society: There are employers who discourage any expression of religious faith; in some cases, the entire atmosphere is given to injustice and blind commitment to profit and power. There is a deeply rooted secularism which at best ignores God. Persons in political leadership are doing everything in their power to remove God from our American way of life.
  • Among people of weak or no faith: Because of social pressures, personal and family responsibilities and problems, and the general spiritual vacuum in which they live, they do not “see” or experience God.

And all this is wonderful!

Wonderful because it’s crystal clear what we must do in and for Christ in this mission of salvation. We must “make God real” for all these people – one at a time, one after another – all of us together, united in the powerful mercy and love of God.

Here are a few ideas.

The disengaged person: If a person doesn’t read the Bible or any other kind of spiritual reading, help that person encounter God in the beauty of nature – the morning song of the birds, the smile of a baby, the voice of a child saying “I love you,” the withered hand of an elderly person reaching out in friendship. Just look at a glorious sunrise or sunset. God is real – you can help them discover God in their daily lives.

Your family: You may have a bit of work to do in your family. Tell them often that you love them. Celebrate their joys and successes; mourn with them when they mourn. Be ready to say “I’m sorry” when it’s time to do so; let them see God in the way you talk and act. Pray and pray and pray for the salvation of your loved ones.

At work and in the rest of society: You need to have an unshakable commitment to live the Gospel of Christ unashamedly. Be ready to share, whenever possible, what God means to you, what he has done in your life and your confidence that he can help anyone who comes to him.

Finally, in our political situation: People of faith must never be silent. As free Americans we have the right to speak about God, the value of all human life and the need to keep God in our way of life. We have as much right to speak as do those who fight people of faith and deny the place of God in society, in government and in daily life.

Take heart — hear what God says!

“Fear not, I am with you; I will strengthen you and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice” (Is 41:10).

“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20b).

Business as Usual

29 May

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Time out! Just what are you supposed to be doing?

It is entirely too easy, on a job or in a ministry, to fall into a routine, the kind of routine that dims us to the purpose of what we are about, the kind that becomes our “gospel” of how things are done.

The people we serve can become somewhat of a “bother” when their presence or attitude seems to violate our space or way of doing things.

Pope Francis calls this “making a sacrament of pastoral concerns” (cf. “Don’t Create Sacrament of ‘Pastoral Concerns,’” National Catholic Register blog, May 28, 2013).

I think this is a great take on a cumbersome, ineffective bureaucracy – a sin of which, justly or unjustly, some parishes and dioceses are sometimes accused.

But parish and diocesan leaders and staffs are made up of people. Whether they will form a vibrant and fruitful Christian ministry or a cumbersome bureaucracy depends entirely on them – on their mutual faith, common vision and purpose, reverent relationships and working conditions.

Since age 25, I have been in fulltime work in the Church – the last 14 years of which as an unsalaried retired Catholic journalist and a permanent deacon ordained in 1986.

So, I have seen vibrant ministries and convincing evidence of bureaucratic tendencies in parishes and dioceses.

Here are some factors which can depersonalize and cripple any ministry:

A spiritually bankrupt leadership and/or staff;

Cold and impersonal leadership or leaders who seek adulation rather than respect;

Unclear divisions of responsibility and authority;

Leadership’s unreal expectations of personnel; the inability to form and train personnel properly and to create  complementary job descriptions;

Employees and volunteers who don’t buy into the mission of the parish or diocese; employees who are only interested in their paychecks; abuse of sick leave;

Leadership shows no appreciation for the skills and work of employees;

Hiring the wrong people; leadership too weak to terminate when termination is the only answer, and;

A budget too small for the job – making good pay impossible.

I’ve seen them all and, at one time or another in my forty years of leadership, guilty of some of them.

When you have a bureaucracy instead of a ministry, it’s business as usual and people tend to be regarded as a nuisance rather than someone to love and serve.

Thanks, Pope Francis!