Tuesday, November 25, 2014

“Advent: Hope or Delusion?” Thomas Merton

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“Advent: Hope or Delusion?”

Thomas Merton

The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance. Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possibly exist. We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen.

It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our marketing culture so easily harmonize with our tendencey to regard Christmas, consciously or otherwise, as a return to our own innocence and our own infancy. Advent should remind us that the “King Who is to Come” is more than a charming infant smiling (or if you prefer a dolorous spirituality, weeping) in the straw. There is certainly nothing wrong with the traditional family jours of Christmas, nor need we be ashamed to find ourselves still able to anticipate them without too much ambivalence. After all, that in itself is no mean feat.

But the Church in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior and a King of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man, of the world and of our own being. In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies. Our Advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies inexistent…

In our time, what is lacking is not so much the courage to ask this question as the courage to expect an answer…We may at times be able to show the world Christ in moments when all can clearly discern in history, some confirmation of the Christian message. But the fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that His plan has been neither frustrated nor changed: indeed, all will be done according to His will. Our Advent is a celebration of this hope.

 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Parable of the Talents


I enjoy reading “vocation” stories, especially stories of those who are called into the religious life. Sr. Brigid Ancilla Marie is a Sister of life, an order instituted by John Cardinal O’Connor of New York. She tells the story of her younger sister Rachel. When Sister Brigid was seven years old, Rachel was born. Rachel fulfilled the dream of every girl - to have a little sister to play with and love. But Rachel was different. She was born with a deletion in Chromosome 8, a genetic defect unique to her which is manifested through spina bifida, and a number of other small disorders.  Rachel was not expected to live one day, but today she is a happy eighteen years old.   Sr. Brigid’s dream was to become a medical doctor. After college, Sister applied to medical school - but was rejected. She decided to stay home, and become a full-time “home health aide” for her sister.  She would take care of Rachel from the time she got home from school - until she went to bed. She came to know her sister deeply, to learn to communicate with her in her silence - and to love her from the depths of her being, a participation in the pure, complete love of the Trinity. Through her caring of Rachel, Sr. Brigid’s life was marked by God, revealing the mystery of who He is, thereby revealing to Sr. Brigid her own identity, and her own personal vocation, her GIFT of sharing - and love for others. The Lord spoke to her heart – she let go of her dream of being a medical doctor, and pursued a vocation to be a religious, a Sister of Life, vowing protection and enhancement of the sacredness of every human life. All is grace, all is gift. Our parable today is all about “gifts.” The gifts God gives us – and what we are to do with them.

Jesus tells us the story of a man who is going on a long journey. He trusts his servants to care for his possessions. The scripture calls these possessions “talents.” Talents were a form of money, weighty money, like an ingot or brick of silver or gold. Each “talent” would be invaluable. So, he leaves these “talents” with his servants “the amount according to each of their abilities. To one servant he gives five, this is great wealth. To one he gives two, to another – one. The first two servants take a risk; they invest the talents, double the money, and make a rich return.  The servant with one, out of fear, buries the “talent”, no risk, no return. When the master arrives, he is full of joy - seeing what the first two servants had done. He promotes them, giving them more responsibilities. But when he sees that the servant with one talent had done nothing with it, he erupts in anger, sending the servant into the darkness.

 What is Jesus teaching us here – the “man or master” represents Christ - the servants are the disciples, you and me. The “talents” are the gifts given to us by God. God, as Trinity, is GIFT in his very being – the love the Father has for the Son, the love the son has for the Father, the relationship being the Holy Spirit. We are made in God’s image, we too are GIFT.

Whatever God gives us, is meant to become a “gift.” God has bestowed on us innumerable gifts - life, breath, being, intellect, our will, and our emotions.  These gifts are manifested in many different ways, gifts of teaching, healing, nurturing, forgiveness, mercy, loving others as Christ loves us, and of course, FAITH. These gifts we do not own; we are called to be good stewards, to use them for the “greater Glory of God.” 

We may say, what is MY gift? What is MY personal vocation? We recognize our gifts in the same way as Sister Brigid did, by our life experience, prayer, spiritual direction, discernment. 

St. John Paul II said "God - with his call - reaches the heart of each individual, and the Spirit, who abides deep within each disciple, gives himself to each Christian with different charisms and special signs. Each one, therefore, must be helped to embrace the gift - entrusted to him - as a completely unique person, and to hear the words which the Spirit of God personally address to him" (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 1992).

The first two servants in the parable were willing to risk, investing the talents, giving them away, hence doubling the wealth. If we desire Gods life, his grace in us, we must be conformed to HIS way of being.  Gifts, which come from God, are meant to be given, if not, they will wither away. 

Jesus says “To everyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Now I would think that most of us here in this Church are baptized Christians. Do we realize how blessed we are - for at our baptism, we received the greatest gift of all – the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The seed of faith was planted. Now that our faith has matured, what are we to do with it? Do we keep it inside? Are we like the servant with one talent who was afraid to risk, to give? That servant lost everything. 

Faith increases in the measure that we share it. It’s not easy for us today to share our faith as it is always under attack. Life attacks our faith, the loss of a loved one, unemployment, sickness. Many times we are tempted to think that there is no God at all. That’s ok, take a risk. Put your faith out there, open it up to ridicule. 

The Lord is watching us – St. Paul says “the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” “Stay alert and sober”.

Hear the words of the Psalmist today “Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways.”

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica


My fellow Christians, today is the birthday of this church, an occasion for celebration and rejoicing. We, however, ought to be the true and living temple of God. Nevertheless, Christians rightly commemorate this feast of the church, their mother, for they know that through her they were reborn in the spirit. At our first birth, we were vessels of God’s wrath; reborn, we became vessels of his mercy. Our first birth brought death to us, but our second restored us to life.
 
  Indeed, before our baptism we were sanctuaries of the devil; but after our baptism we merited the privilege of being temples of Christ. And if we think more carefully about the meaning of our salvation, we shall realise that we are indeed living and true temples of God. God does not dwell only in things made by human hands, nor in homes of wood and stone, but rather he dwells principally in the soul made according to his own image and fashioned by his own hand. Therefore, the apostle Paul says: The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple.
 
 A sermon of St Caesarius of Arles

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monsignor Francis Gomes, retired Vicar General of Calcutta, in Newark, NJ


Monsignor Francis Gomes, the retired Vicar General of Calcutta, offered a conference last Saturday at the Missionaries of Charity mission in Newark, New Jersey. Monsignor Francis spoke about his "Journey of Faith with Mother Teresa", a book he wrote and published in 2013.He was appointed by Mother to be the confessor of the novices at the Circus Formation House, and in 1990 he was appointed to be confessor to the Senior Sisters at Mother House.Monsignor offered many beautiful stories and incidents about Mother Teresa, many never revealed before.

In Monsignor Francis' book he says "In the eyes of faith, I believe that the Lord in his Divine Providence had provided this space for me, and to be his instrument which brought me closer to Mother in some of the critical moments of her life. This experience of the journey of faith with Mother, and the written witness of the same, may bring benefit to all those who have great love and admiration for Mother and are ready to follow the path of her spirituality."

** Monsignor's book is titled "A Journey of Faith with Mother Teresa", dedicated to the Missionaries of Charity. 


"Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness."  Blessed Mother Teresa


Monday, October 20, 2014

Good Words To Hear From Cardinal Pell

 
We wanted the Catholic people around the world to know actually what was going on in talking about marriage and the family and, by and large, I think people will be immensely reassured,” Cardinal Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said.

“We’re not giving in to the secular agenda; we’re not collapsing in a heap. We’ve got no intention of following those radical elements in all the Christian churches, according to the Catholic churches in one or two countries, and going out of business,” he said.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2014


Do you remember when you attended high school, there were certain books we were assigned to read, the “must reads.” Some of you may remember … “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, with its themes of racial injustice and loss of innocence, “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, an unsettling story to say the least. “1984” by George Orwell, where a utopian society goes mad - and then there was “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, a journal written about his experience in 1845, living in a small cabin, on a pond for two years in Concord Massachusetts. Thoreau wrote in Walden  “ I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."


Being young, living in a bustling city, I too wanted to live in the woods, live off the land … but it never happened, though I did travel throughout our country, in sleeping bag and tent, trips that were certainly influenced by Thoreau. Thoreau wrote many other good books and essays such as the trip to the Maine woods, walking Cape Cod, Life without Principle, and his controversial essay, “Civil Disobedience.” 


Published in 1849, Civil Disobedience was Thoreau’s argument that individuals should not permit governments to overrule their consciences. His argument was motivated by his abhorrence with slavery and his opposition to the Mexican–American War. This essay influenced Mohandas K. Gandhi - in his vision for a free India, and Martin Luther King Jr., - in his vision of a society free of prejudice and violence. Henry Thoreau was not a religious man. He once said "I suppose that what in other men is religion - is in me love of nature." Still, he was well versed in scripture. Today’s gospel passage (MT22:15-21) is mentioned in Thoreau’s essay Civil disobedience. 


Pharisees and Herodians collaborate to entrap Jesus. Who were the Pharisees? Nationalists who were vehemently anti-Roman.  Who were the Herodians? Jews who were willing to collaborate with the Romans – looking to benefit from that relationship. Pharisees and Herodians were bitter enemies - but they had one thing in common, hatred of Jesus. The Pharisees hated Jesus because He threatened their security, prestige and income. The Herodians saw Jesus as a threat to the peace of Israel. 


So begins the trap. The disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians ask Jesus “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” Now, If Jesus says “yes”, the Jews will want to kill him, as the Romans were an intrusion upon the people of Israel. If Jesus says “no”, the Romans may want to kill him - as the poll tax is required.


So how does Jesus escape this situation? He asks “Let me see the money you pay the tax with, whose image and name is on the coin." “Caesars” they say. Jesus answers “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” All who heard must have been stunned – silenced in confusion.


Now, in the Roman world, Caesar was not only the emperor, he also had “divine attributes.” Jesus takes away the “divinity” of the emperor when he says “Give to the Emperor, what is owed to the emperor, and give to God, what is owed to God.” Jesus implies a separation between loyalty to the state - and loyalty to God. Both require certain loyalties. So, what is Jesus teaching us today?


       1. Our loyalty to God must be manifested by love, in gratitude and service, in our love of neighbor, in our obedience.


       2. Our loyalty to government can only be a “qualified” loyalty. This loyalty depends on a government’s duty to protect its citizens. Catholic Social Teaching says the chief duty of every public authority is "to safeguard the in-violable rights of the human person, and “to facilitate the fulfillment of his duties.” If any government does not acknowledge the rights of man - or violates them, it not only fails in its duty, but its “orders” completely lack juridical force. Government should “mirror” God’s law.


Henry David Thoreau looked at the government of his time and saw a government that embraced a “manifest destiny”, an expansion mentality, a government willing to take land regarding the cost – in a transparent attempt to extend slavery into new territories that would become new slave states. Thoreau would be imprisoned for his “Civil Disobedience”, his unwillingness to pay taxes that would benefit the war effort. 



Do the actions of our government today mirror God’s law? In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty. Catholic organizations and societies, i.e. The Little Sisters of the Poor, are being coerced “to provide insurance coverage for abortifacients, contraception and sterilization. 


Catholics, all good Christians, must discern whether - and to what extent a given government and its policies merit loyalty and support – and discern how to respond to such policies - only in the context of God’s love and mercy.

 St. Paul said to the Thessalonians, “to show our faith in action, work for love and persevere through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.”


Monday, October 6, 2014

Father Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR , Went Home to God


 Father Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR, passed away on October 3rd at 11 PM.
 
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may he rest in peace!