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Pentecost, the Love That Rises Above All Languages

This year’s journey through lent and then into Easter has been one of great spiritual growth. This year I met a lot of new friends, people on a journey, side by side helping each other to grow in holiness. It reminds me of a Thomas Merton quote and title of a book, “no man is an island”, and it is insisting that we are all connected, dependent on each other. 

As I reflected yesterday on the great mystery of the Pentecost and the birth of our glorious Church and how the apostle spoke in a language that was understood by all present in their own foreign tongues. I was reminded of that language that is universal (Catholic). It is understood no matter what culture, race, nationality or religion a person possesses. The Universal language of love is so powerful that it disarms the strongest prejudices. It can melt away pain, fear, distrust and all other ailments as our Scripture states “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear “(1 John 4, 18). In fact that entire section of Scripture is a commentary of sorts on Christ’s command to “love one another as I have loved you”. How often in my weak humanity I fail, yet to realize God’s love is deeper than any wound I could inflict!

Sitting in the pew yesterday made me wonder. I have the Holy Spirit, some days it may not be so obvious (I beg that you please forgive me). The Holy Ghost gives many wondrous gifts, but one I do not possess is supernatural tongues that people can understand in their native languages. But the Spirit is the same as the spirit that the apostles received for there is but “One Spirit”. Then it struck me. The language that speaks the loudest and rises above all others is Love. And our God did not give us just some mere human love. He has bestowed on us a supernatural Love. If I fail to accept that gift and in turn give it back through the people I meet in life, I will have squandered that priceless gift! Scripture goes on and on about the central role of this supernatural Love.  Our blessed Pope B16 wrote in his wonderful encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)’ “The unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbor is emphasized. One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbor or hate him altogether.”

These ominous words leave me wondering how I will be able to be that Love, which my Lord and God wants me to be, through Him, in this world. Will my legacy on this earth be one of Love? If I get to Heaven will He be able to “you loved as I loved you.. Well done good and faithful servant”

Chastity…the forgotten spiritual principle

On Friday B16 (Benedict the XVI) gave a radio address to some visiting US bishops. The focus of this speech was that age-old spiritual principle of chastity. It appears that some bishops and clergy have been having a hard time evangelizing in this area and have sought the council of his Holiness.

 In our conversations, some of you have pointed with concern to the growing difficulties encountered in communicating the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family in its integrity, and to a decrease in the number of young people who approach the sacrament of matrimony. Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity.” (B16 in an address to the US bishops March 9, 2012)

I have been championing this call for a better catechesis for a long time now and it has only been recently that I, myself, have come to fully understand and appreciate the gift of the call to chastity. Prior to conversion I was just your typical American who viewed sex as a semi emotional and semi recreational activity. I often viewed sex more as biological action than a sacred exchange. When I finally made my way into the church I was cohabitating. I was engaged and planning to marry. I was very open about my sexual relations and had virtually no training or formation on the holiness of the conjugal act. I remember the first time my heart was seriously stirred and I asked my RCIA director what I should do about the cohabitation and if how grave it truly was. I asked about receiving communion and if it would be alright. In response I was told “Child that is between you and God, you are taking the right actions and are going to be married, the church will only be validating what God has already done”. To this day it still hurts when I think of that. On the one hand I see a person who gave so much time to help people join the church. She was afraid of putting anything in the way that would push me away. Yet the truth of the matter was that I was in grave sin and should have been taught the proper expectations regarding sexual morality and the Church’s expectations. So I may have joined the church yet lost my soul? I cannot even begin to talk about some of the advice I received in confession lest it cause scandal.

And so with the advance of the Modernist Revolution and its reshaping of sexual ethics the Magisterium is beginning to see the need for more daring and public preaching of the call to chastity. Many of the other Christian practices are championed in secular society. Even our most ardent foes in the public square honor our charities and envy our unity. They modeled their educational institutions after ours and even try to define their laws using our ethics. Somehow as soon as we talk about Christian ethics on abstinence prior to marriage or strict monogamy in one lifetime we Christians get laughed at. The laughing has been so loud for 100 years that even now many of us Christians don’t even think it’s possible to be chaste and abstinent. Many of us have been so beaten by this secular society that we don’t even strive for it. And this is to me the crux of the problem that B16 and the bishops are hinting at.

“The one who, with God’s grace and mercy, tries his or her best to be pure and chaste is often thought of not as a hero, not a saint, but as a freak in our culture today,” (Archbishop Timothy Dolan in a homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral)

In today’s times we Christians and especially those called Catholic, we must begin to reclaim the front line from the sexual and modernist revolutionaries. It is usually only through heart ache and heart-break that today most Christians embrace this beautiful lifestyle of chastity. It wasn’t until my engagement ended and yet another futile attempt at forming a relationship outside of the churches wonderful example was I finally hurt and willing to be healed by chastity. Those of us who are living it though can show others that by self-denial and rejection of immediate pleasures we are led into an even deeper relationship with our God. We can be living examples to the world of how lives this life and live it to the fullest. We can show this world that it is possible to live to standards that Christ has set for us and that by doing so we are truly set free and not restrained any longer. For so long our society has been enslaved to the sexual revolutionaries and the media and the whole business that goes with it. We don’t have to be slaves any longer. We can be free.

In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that “if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great” (B16 in an address to the US bishops March 9, 2012)

1st Sunday of Lent, Feb. 26th 2012

“So that, celebrating worthily the paschal mystery, we might pass over at last to the eternal paschal feast.” This is the prayer taken from the liturgy for the first Sunday of Lent Feb. 26th that sums up the goal of living the Christian life for me. I hope to live this life and in the end be asked to participate in that heavenly feast.

This week has begun the long observed tradition of Lent. Though it is a common practice now in the church, it was not of apostolic origin and has been developed into what it is today. With that understanding it had at one point, been the one time during the year that at length all the faithful, everywhere, could be seen and witnessed in solidarity fulfilling the Christian duty of fasting, prayer, and penance. Today in the Latin Rite churches Lent at times is carried on in a truly comical fashion. In comparison to our Eastern Rite brothers we are most definitely luke warm if not outright stagnant. I can recall many feeble attempts by my grandmother as a child to make lent significant to no avail. I would usually break my vows and fast and abstain from meat for about four hours until the first temptation came. That has changed as I matured in the faith and it appears to be the same with many of my friends.

As an adult and coming back to the Church and Christ lent has symbolized the hardship endured by Israel while in bondage to Egypt, and by Jesus in the desert. Many references to the number 40 are made in the bible but these two always grab my mind. While in Egypt the Israelites observed the first Passover and then in the blink of an eye immediately fled from the presence of their Egyptian masters. Crossing through the Red Sea they immediately found themselves in the Arab deserts wandering looking for the land that had been promised. There in the desert they sinned greatly; they had looked back at Egypt and longed for some of the comforts they had known. How often in my conversion have I looked back and sighed, in my mind remembering some pleasure that had been enjoyed. How soon I would forget that after the pleasures were felt, I would be left trapped in that state and again would be found desolate and wanting yet another escape back to that Promised Land. Much could be said about the rich traditions of deserts in the early monastic periods of the church. That will have to wait for later. For now in my mind I simply remember that the desert always symbolized purification. Israel had been disciplined and left to wander 40 years in the dessert. They were forced to stay until the generation that fled Egypt had passed away, thereby guaranteeing and symbolizing that the Egyptian influences and their old ways had died with them. Lent is this period I look forward to having those old habits die and pass away. I look forward to coming out of lent each year transformed with yet a deeper love and appreciation for my Lord and God.

As I absorbed this week’s reading I am immediately reminded of the most ancient use of Noah’s Ark to symbolize The Church as she provides the vessel of salvation to the entire world. Also it immediately recalls baptism by which the world was cleansed of evil. Just like the Israelites who had to go through the Red Sea then the desert, the story of Jesus in the desert was preceded by his baptism in the Jordan. How interesting it is to note that the Israelites were forced to purge themselves in the desert. When the next generation was allowed to go into the Promised Land they had to cross another large body of water, the Jordan. And like the desert as soon as they crossed into the land they were forced to fight off the enemies of those places. So as a Christian it follows that as soon as I was baptized I should have expected to immediately been in a desert and forced to fight for my promised land.

Happily for me, like the Israelites who were given manna in the desert, I have been given the paschal lamb in the Blessed Sacrament to sustain me. Through these next few weeks I will be looking forward to receiving the graces to have purged from my soul just a little bit more of this world in the hopes of being invited to the heavenly banquet. God Bless and keep you until next time when we will immediately be reconnected and immediately begin to preach the word of God through the ministering help of angels.

Reflections on Feb 19th 7th sunday in Ordinary Time

“Thy sins are forgiven”

In Isaiah the liturgical emphasis for today is two main points.

1-     God is forgiving the Jews who were in exile in Babylon and

2-     That God alone forgives sin through his own power

It is interesting to see how this passage recalls the desert which soon before beginning his Ministry in Capernaum, Jesus, had been tempted in. (see Mark 1:13)

In 2 Corinthians the liturgical point is

  1. God’s promises are brought into fruition in the person of Jesus who is himself God.
  2.  As God, Jesus has given us His Spirit that we may have access to God in our hearts, which was a messianic promise through the prophets.

Paul is defending himself for having not fulfilled a promise to visit the young community as he had promised. Here Paul is using the “Amen” from the mass and Jesus’s regulation on oaths (making your Yes be your Yes )to drive home the point that Christ is God and that all of Gods promises are made present in Christ and that the Spirit of Christ, in us, is the proof or assurance of this teachings validity. As a side note it is beautiful to see how Paul has Timothy and Silvanus as his two witnesses which is Judaic law when giving a legal testimony.

Mark 2: 1-12

In today’s modern world we understand the nature of certain epileptic conditions and other various illnesses. However in the ancient traditions these diseases were seen as the result of personal sin or even the punishment for sins from a person’s parents. Even now in various religious traditions there is still a common belief that those born with medical conditions have somehow brought on themselves these diseases through past life offences. This is true in the cast systems of the Hindu’s and the karmic teachings of certain Buddhist schools.

As with most of the New Testament literature, we must put our minds into the minds of those first century Christians and read this Gospel how they read it. They would not see any wrong in viewing the paralytic as somehow implicit in his illness. First century Christians would still have had a deep respect for the Judaic understanding of the relationship between the material world and our spiritual world.  For the Christian still today, we can never be confused with the unique reality of spiritual matters and carnal matters. Many people today would assume that these two aspects of existence could somehow be separated. For Christians these two planes of existence are never separate and can only live in harmony when aligned with Christ. One needs look no further than our Eucharist to see how spiritual and material matters still reflect one reality.

We turn now to the opening sequence of this Gospel narrative. Christ having spent time in the “deserted places” (Mark 1:45) enters the house. This house is House of the Apostles and in it there is Jesus. In The Catholic Church we are in the house with the Apostles. They have come “from all directions” Mark states. Through the prophets God promised to bring the people of God back from all directions to worship him. Here in this house, The Church, we come from all directions, every continent and every nation to hear our God. And painting a picture for us Mark shows us there is a crowd obstructing access to Him. For myself I read this and wonder about “the crowd”. In Marks Gospel there are all these crowds and gatherings. Many of those present seem to be there and absorbing Christ, however it’s as if Mark uses the crowds to describe these large followings where for the most part people are simply coming to see the spectacle of Jesus. How often we see a large group of people just hanging around listening but not really participating. My reasoning in seeing the crowd in this light is that as Christians if we see someone who is accepting the teachings of Christ and in need of healing would we not make way for that person and move that person front of the communion rail and toward God.

In contrast to this it appears that the friends must excessively labor past the “crowd”, not in harmony with them, to reach Jesus. How often as Sinners are we laying as the paralytic stuck in our own sins? In my own conversion process I know that had it not been for other people laboring in prayer and love I would not have found Christ today. In Hindsight I can honestly say I was a paralytic, my sins had diseased and rotted my soul, even my body, and I was unable to break through the crowds on my own. It was through the efforts of those who loved me and those who saw that I was sick and worth saving that I found my healing. The four men in Gospel come and through what would be a strenuous task eventually “breakthrough” the roof to gain access to Christ. Much could be said about breaking through the roof but that will have to wait for another time. Then the men let down the “paralytic” into The House with the Apostles and Christ.

Christ sees the Faith of the laborers and for their efforts he forgives the paralytic of his Sins. Note that the palsy is not cured. Jesus is teaching us that the most fundamental healing ability of God in His House is the forgiveness of sins. One is left to wonder, had the scribes not questioned the power of humans to offer God’s forgiveness outside of the mosaic sacrifices, would Jesus have healed the paralysis. Today as Christians our sacrifice is Jesus on the Cross so it is a moot point. But to the scribe not having a blood sacrifice and just having a rabbi say sins are forgiven would have been unthinkable. Only God could forgive a person of sin without first receiving a sacrifice. And even then God didn’t forgive too many people in the bible without them offering a sacrifice.  Jesus will seek to show mankind that God has done something new and has offered the forgiveness of sins through his Son who in turn will give the authority of forgiving sins to mere men. These are deep and poetic theological points which I can’t even begin to fathom but Christ makes it simple by saying in the coming verses “that the son of man has the authority to forgive sins on earth”. Also I must ask myself “if God offered only spiritual healing and had not offered to heal my body as well would I have been able to accept that”. Many Christian authors and television personalities often say “have more faith and God will heal you”. This is popular in Pentecostal Congregations. The narrative seems to imply otherwise. In my opinion, it seems to say that by healing my relationship with God by forgiving my sins and not requesting a physical healing I would in fact be living more faithfully.

The scribes, having chosen the best seats up front, begin to question in their hearts. This man Jesus has just assumed power that belongs only to God, a Blasphemy punishable by death according to Judaic law. Jesus in the role of teacher now asks the scribes a rhetorical question. Asking a rhetorical question has been a common tool used by Jewish rabbis and Christian catechists throughout the centuries. We can see this in the Baltimore Catechism where a question is asked then immediately followed by an immediate answer. Jesus asks them the age old question “which is harder, forgiving sins or making a paralytic walk?” When I look at this I must ask myself this question. How often in life it seems that making a paralytic walk would be easier than forgiving someone who has hurt me. Christ does not wait for the scribes to answer, he tells the paralytic to get up and walk.” And not only that, he asks him to carry on his back the symbol of the sins he was once condemned for.  Unlike the paralytic Christ has put my sins on his back. He has carried them and he has wiped them away. In awe and wonder all those present, including the scribes, glorify God.

And this is the message for us today. Jesus reveals himself as God and through his Spirit we will offer His forgiveness.  Also do we have the faith to labor for our friends, to break through the crowds so that sinners may come before Christ? Do we see that Jesus is God and only he, through the mission of His Church, can forgive our sins? Do we see that our physical world can only be made right if our spiritual world is made right by Christ first? Through The Church we defend the unborn, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. Through The Church and Her hospitals and missions we heal the sick and educate the less fortunate.  None of these things can be of any importance if our first priority is not to bring people back into relationship with God through the forgiveness of sins which was done by Christ on the cross and made present to us in the Eucharist.  It is our God given duty to pronounce to the world that Christ is in the house…

The Need to Evangelize

The New Evangelism

In the spirit of the recent statement made by B16, this blog will begin its mission with the ‘the new evangelism’. Since Vatican II there has been a growing emphasis on the need of the laity to engage in an open dialogue and exchange with the world around us. “We live today in an era of new evangelization; vast horizons open to proclamation of the Gospel, while the regions of ancient Christian tradition are invited to rediscover the beauty of faith.”-Pope Benedict xvi – 9/18/2011

Vatican II called for all people, laity and religious alike, to recognize the dire need to grow in personal holiness and spread the Gospel. One fundamental part of that call is openly engaging our neighbors and expressing our faith in ways that show how the Church in us and through us is the Light to the world. It is encouraged for any person interested in assuming the title Catholic to read the Apostolicam Actuositatem along with the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium.  ( Lumen Gentium paragraph33-Now the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth (2*). Thus every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself)

It was once said “you cannot give away what you do not have”. With that in mind we must realize that in order to spread the Gospel we must be striving to live the Gospel. At times we will not live it perfectly, still we must push forward. Regretful as it is, our failures and shortcomings can be used as the most rewarding treasure to show Gods loving compassion and mercy to the world. (II Corinthians 11v 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.) ( then again ,Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost writes in II Corinthians 12v9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”)

Again the Gospel message is clear. You cannot keep your salvation unless you give it away. In the Old Testament, repeatedly, Israel had been commanded by God to be a light to the world. Today, through Holy Mother Church, God again is calling His chosen people to bear witness the glory of the faith. And like the mistakes made in the Old Testament, if we do not act and begin this great work God will eventually make His Word known to the world with or without our help.

In the beginning of my Christian walk I was often met with feelings of embarrassment and fear when engaging others in talks about the Gospel of Christ and His Church. I would waiver and would almost falter. There were many missed opportunities. Social anxiety about ruined any hope for success. But through meditation and study I have found a great wealth of inspiration in our beloved Saints and Martyrs. These classes of humanity were often led to suffering and death in foreign and strange places just to proclaim a message of salvation and love. These people realized they couldn’t save their faces and their ‘behinds’ at the same time. I often pictured the scene in heaven where God and I would be sitting around having a chat.

God “hey remember that day at the water cooler when Joe asked you why you go to Church and why you have that fish looking bumper sticker on your car.”

Me “sure God I remember… why”

God “well, how come you didn’t you invite him to Church or talk to him about my Son or anything. You kind of brushed it off and avoided it.”

Me “I was at work. I didn’t want to get in trouble for proselytizing or being too religious.”

God “a simple invite or a fleeting reference that Christ saved your life isn’t all that much to request. Don’t you think?”

Me “yeah but then all those people at work might think I’m weird or I am a ‘holy roller’, they might not invite me to the Christmas party, or the softball league. I might even get reprimanded for not being politically correct.”

God “Do you remember what happened to my Son for telling people about my love”

Me “yes”

God “And your worried about parties and softball leagues? You’re worried about getting embarrassed. And they beat and whipped my Son then nailed him to a cross. All the saints that have been butchered and massacred and you’re worried about people not wanting to be your friends”

Me- awkward silence-

So as Christ has taught us let us love one another and go forward into the world bring the message of salvation to all people. Let us strengthen one another and equip ourselves to fight the good fight. And until next time may Almighty God bless you and keep you….

coming soon!!!!!

In today’s modern world we are seeing the emergence of a society engulfed in consumerism and self gratification. The battle cry of Modernity has been heard and echoed now for nearly 100 years with only a slight challenge. The culture of death moves forward almost unchecked. The Dictatorship of Relativism has spread like a virus, infecting the minds of vast majorities of the world. One of the greatest apostasies ever recorded has exploded like a hand grenade in our churches!!! The governments of the world toss and turn like waves in the sea…

 But those of you out there that have resisted… this is for you…….

IN NOMINE PATRIS, ET FILII, ET SPIRITUS SANCTI, AMEN

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