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Monday, January 30, 2012

Who are my heroes?

It came as a bit of a shock (and quandary) when I belatedly noticed that my fictional heroes were not quite the shining heroes I thought they were. I was reading the series, The Belgariad, to my eldest (twelve) when we both realized that certain tenets of the heroes did not sit well with us. One hero is a thief, for example, while another has no trouble lauding how well the main hero, a young boy, could lie. I think it was the same hero who states at some point that a little sin was fine.
  But I continue to read the series to Justin, because I realized that such blatantly false, or imprudent ideas are best handled by clarifying them, rather than pretending that they were never uttered.
  It also elicited some reflection on my own experience, that they did not quite corrupt me to the core in spite of the unfortunate exposure -- in spite of my own inadequacies, of course. There were other exposures in my past that could have led me down diverse disasters of varying gravity. I would be a fool to think that I had steered clear of them by my own lights. :-)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

In season, out of season: work for unity

I shamelessly borrow those words of urgency to the need for Christian unity, as Pope Benedict enjoins us to take every opportunity towards it. No Christian can sit this out; the world desperately needs the powerful witness of one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. It won't be easy, but it can't be set aside either.

Friday, January 20, 2012

That they may be one

Perhaps one of the most neglected scandals today is that which comes from the disunity of Christians:
 “How can we give a convincing witness if we are divided?”. It was in the perspective of the New Evangelization on Wednesday morning, 18 January, that the Pope introduced the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – from Wednesday, 18 January until Wednesday, 25 January – during which prayers will be said in all the Churches for the attainment of the gift of full communion. (L’Osservatore Romano)
Please, in case you have never given it thought, pray about it. It was our Lord who said: ‘that they may be one’ (John 17 -- please read the whole chapter).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Infertile people can't marry says Catholic Church -- false article

On the basis of the cited video from GMA news, this article is way off the mark (to put it mildly). There is nothing in the video about infertile couples, nor about mortal sin, nor about telling other religions what they can or cannot do. That report was about the recent statements of Archbishop Cruz concerning same sex marriage, and the address by Pope Benedict XVI to the diplomatic corps on Monday.
Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JXs7Fk8RgME

Thursday, January 05, 2012

By Love, heaven is laid open

Today's readings celebrate the marvelous love of God through Jesus Christ. In his encounter with Nathanael (Jn 1:43-51), Jesus declares,
 ‘You will see greater things than that. .. I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’
Jacob's dream of a ladder to heaven with angels ascending and descending. Source: Wikipedia.The last ties in with Jacob's dream of a ladder stretching between heaven and earth, with angels ascending and descending, in which God declares:
 ‘Through you and your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. See, I am with you and I will keep you safe wherever you go.’
God-with-us is Jesus himself. Giving up his life for us -- the Incarnation, passion and death and resurrection -- laid heaven open. In a word, love laid heaven open to us. By that love, we are connected to the Father through the Son, depicted by the angels ascending and descending. (I might add that this is likewise depicted by the communion of saints, with our victorious brothers and sisters in heaven working the same way the angels did, through the Son by whom we are all in communion, which death cannot destroy.)
  In the first reading (1 Jn 3:11-21), we are taught that the message we heard from the beginning is that we are to love one another. This love is life itself, for [i]f you refuse to love, you must remain dead. And we have a model to follow, for [t]his has taught us to love, that he gave up his life for us. God loved us first and laid heaven open for us. We who are in Christ should now love others in the same way, giving up our lives in ordinary but real and active ways, giving of our time and energy for others. We who are in Christ can thus make a way between our Father in heaven and those whom we love, through our love, which is God's love living in us, lived out in acts of charity.
  My son Patrick wanted to know more about miracles and I do pray that he will one day see these miracles. But more than the uncorrupted saints of a century or more, the unexplainable cures and the Eucharistic miracles, I hope that he and my other children will experience and ever rejoice in greater things .. heaven laid open at every conversion that turns a sinner into a saint.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Today's Gospel reading (Jn 1:35-42) shows how the ordinary can become an encounter with Jesus.
As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher –’where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day.
  One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.
Saints Andrew and John and the Lamb of God, Abtei Maria Laach,  by Wilhelm Rupprecht (1956). John marks this passage with a clue: John stared hard at Jesus in the first verse, then Jesus "looked hard" at Simon in the last, with the same Greek ἐμβλέψας on both. In this passage, John introduces his disciple Andrew on to Jesus, and Andrew in turn introduces his brother Simon to Jesus. Simon not only becomes a disciple of Jesus, but is given another name, Rock.
  May I also turn the most ordinary scenes of my daily life, at home or at work, into something extraordinary and sanctified!
  One of the first lessons I learned from Opus Dei, when I attended their study center back in college, was how our ordinary activities can be sanctified as we do them extraordinarily well, prayerfully -- I'm paraphrasing the various ways I'd heard or read about this idea. This, of course, comes from St. Josemaria Escriva, who was influenced, I'd read, by the writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Also, just by googling, I found out that Prof. Scott Hahn, one of my favorite Christian writers, has written a book on his road to Opus Dei: Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei. Those are three witnesses whose writings I can recommend, although I have not yet read any book by St. Thérèse, only a reflection on her witness by Pope Benedict XVI.
Photo source: http://05varvara.wordpress.com.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

May the Lord uncover his face to you

Awhile back I heard or read about le`hem ha panim, I think from Catholic Answers live (podcast) -- the bread of the presence, or the bread of the face. This article is good reading on this subject, which comes up in today's readings in the feast of Mary, Mother of God. In the first reading, the priestly blessing is formulated that Aaron and his sons are to use:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.

Mary is the new ark of the covenant, a singular vessel of the real presence of God through his Son, whom we also know as the bread of life, the prince of peace. In the Incarnation of the Word made flesh through Mary, the Lord uncovered his face in Jesus who is the image of God. Truly, the Lord was gracious upon us for sending his Son. This reminds me of the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic adoration. The monstrance is covered with cloth but uncovered at the exposition.
   We also get the model of prayer in Mary from today's Gospel reading: As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. It would be so like me, a man, to jump up astonished and say "Eureka! I've got it!" at some realization. True and significant as that realization might be, I think that Mary's example of contemplation is a superior approach. We men can get too excitable, but I think that contemplative prayer, unassuming and constant, daily, will go much deeper.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!