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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The time to flee from trouble may be over in many ways

.. Many things also to pass by with deaf ear, and rather to think upon those things which belong to thy peace. .. to turn away thy eyes from the things that displease, and to leave each man to his own opinion, than to give thyself to discourses of strife.

I love hiding away inside a chapel. A quiet one. I think I can stay there for a hour each day, escaping the noise and relishing the sanctuary. But it turns out that this isn't admirable, for a disciple of Christ, while needing tranquil prayer periods everyday, is not an escapee. The deacon said it best yesterday: the most important word (that we often forget) is GO! We have a mission, and so, I'm not sure if the above quote from The Imitation of Christ applies anymore. Certainly not to everyone. Don't go looking for trouble, says the gaffer in Lord of the Rings, but at this age, trouble is on the prowl. The world has become so estranged from Christianity that conflicts have become inevitable. And so the public square that is common to all is a battlefield where one must prevail over the other.

The world that was once upon a recent time largely Christian now holds Christianity in ridicule. Why? I think because evangelization, which was once on the march, has been retreating for generations now. Gravity must be defied if we aim at an upward -- heavenly -- goal.

Friday, May 23, 2014

It was not you who chose me...

.. No, I chose you; and commissioned you to go out and bear fruit .. (Jn 15:12-17)

This was something our parish priest pointed out last Sunday about or relationship with God: that He was the initiator, that He revealed himself, just as He loved us first. God is not something we discovered; He revealed himself to us.

Akin to this is, I think, our role in this relationship. I am still unsettled at hearing a theologian advocate for lay theologians givng the homily during the liturgy. I concede that he is correct in saying that many among them, thus qualified, may well know better and give better homilies than priests. There, too, are many lay people of greater virtue than many priests, but are not ordained to administer the sacraments. I think there are two points to consider: does one attain to the right to break the word (as one might break the bread), and is the act of liturgical and priestly significance? Do we gain these privileges on the merit of our degrees and personal holiness? A third point is this: what makes the lay theologian, who may well teach seminarians, school children and more, for several hours each week, want to take to the 15 minutes of the Sunday pulpit also? Is this about service, or power? I have no way to read that person's heart, but I think it is a fair question to ask if I argung the case for myself. Perhaps that is part of my discomfort, for I do have a desire to be a deacon, or a catechist. I must question my motives well, for if it is pride seeking such privilege, then I had better not become either.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pristine and perhaps not much help

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes,

I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door peole are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37).

Some months ago, I went door-knocking for the parish I belonged to. The goal was two-fold: inviting parishioners to assist the parish in some way, and reaching out to those who have been away. I encountered one who struck me as someone who needed our assistance, not the other way around. She seemed tired, somewhat embittered. And while I may well be wrong, she seemed lonely. It struck me that there are those on that same boat, whom we know nothing about in their need, but perhaps because we have stopped considering those things as needs. Whether by distraction or political correctness, there are some crosses that we have ceased talking about. The Church cannot afford to do that any longer, the price paid for such silence and neglect has been too high.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Joy of the Gospel is Jesus Christ

He is the beginning and at the heart of the Gospel, and is the source of its joy. Pope Francis writes:

3. I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”.[1] The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”.

This character of constant and available renewal is, I think, a key quality of the Gospel when one considers that we are not static in our lives. Having recourse to mercy, access to healing, hence a new dawn after each dark night, fits right in with the human process of learning from our mistakes, wiser and stronger at each rising from every fall.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Joy of the Gospel

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. Wonderful. It's just that there is something wrong, it seems, with my preference for this encounter: can I stay in a quiet, somewhat dimly lit chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament for a few hours each day? One hour? Somehow I get the feeling that the answer is "no." If I don't encounter him in the least of my brethren, or every person I meet, then I am missing too much. This is the joy which we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God our Father: “My child, treat yourself well, according to your means… Do not deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment” (Sir14:11, 14). .... There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. Ouch. an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral Ouch again. I get the feeling that, if Pope Francis knew me at all, I'd ... be lumped in with the above two examples of being poor witness. This is good reading. I need it desperately.

The Imitation of Christ

Just finished reading this devotional book from Thomas à Kempis. One chapter a day since last year on the homeward train goes a long way. I followed St. Josemaria Escriva's advise on reading The Way: one bite-sized reading at a time, slowly, but probably not slowly enough at that. Reading is easy compared to living it, but nevertheless instructed in a few things that I'd never though of before. It helps, I think, that much of the book was deeply prayer-like in form. And conversational as well. It makes the train ride a peaceful break between work and home. It hoefully makes me more pleasant to live with, too, even in the smallest of steps forward.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The works that I do in my Father's name..

(Jn 10:22-30) ".. are my witness." One can write up an entire library for or against the Christian witness, but actions will always speak louder than words, and are not as easy to dismiss. This is a core rule for me to follow: to work as itself a sign to the gospel, even if I'd rather open my big mouth instead. The Lord grant that I follow this rule from now on, since I don't seem too effective with words anyway (especially not with my family).

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Obedience of Faith

These words in the Gospel of John (3:31-36, RSV) from today's readings make sense as two sides of a coin: faith and obedience. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him. We do as we believe, and to do otherwise is a betrayal of that belief. It is remarkable that faith brings about eternal life; have one, and the other follows. It becomes a question of what it means to believe in the Son. There is also the question of what disobedience means to someone who already has faith: an important question, given the implications.