All the Saints practiced the Beatitudes, and by practicing them you will be among them when the Saints go marching in.


Saturday, 1/11/14

There is a double meaning in each of these Beatitudes which opens with the words “Blessed are the . . . “ One meaning refers to the saints in heaven. Those blessed ones are in heaven because in life they were poor in spirit, meek, etc.

The second meaning of the Beatitudes is that you and I will be blessed and happy if we are poor in spirit, meek, etc.

We should make use of the Beatitudes to school ourselves in being what God wants us to be. One way of making use of them would be to substitute the eight Beatitudes for mysteries of your rosary.

For the first mystery we could say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” then, while saying the Our Father and the ten Hail Mary’s, you check yourself on being poor in spirit. You ask yourself if you are greedy, or if you should be more generous with your time and money.

For the second mystery we could say, “Blessed are they who mourn,” but instead of mourning for the dead, you ask yourself to give thought to people you know who are suffering. You make that decade of your rosary a prayer for those people in pain. I read a few words on prayer written by a fine Irish priest who was shot by the Japanese in the Philippines. He wrote, “Your prayer goes straight to God, and with that, within the soul of someone struggling with pain, enters God’s grace, a torrent on the desert places of the soul.”

For the third mystery on the Beatitudes we can  check ourselves on meekness. Is there any meekness surviving inmy ego?

And so you go through the Beatitudes, realigning yourself with Christ. It makes for a nice thirty-minute morning walk.

The people Paul baptized at Philippi were the only Christians from whom Paul accepted support.


Friday, 10/31/14

Paul, writing to the people of Philippi, spoke of how he longed to be with those kind people. We like hearing that.  We needn’t see his Letter as just a page out of a religious textbook.

When he and Silas and Timothy sailed across the Aegean Sea, they made for Philippi, the Roman capitol of northern Greece, and on the Sabbath they took a stroll down a riverbank. What sounds novel to us is that he said they were looking for a place out in Nature where people might pray.

They fond a group who were praying, and their spokesperson was a woman named Lydia who was a dealer in purple dyed goods from Thyatira.

(Present day Thyatira is a Turkish inland town, and critics of the New Testament point out that there is no source for purple dye there. However, Archaeology now assures us that in Paul’s time Thyatira was an island where people processed purple dye from squid.)  

Since the group gathered on the riverbank that day had come to pray, they regarded Paul’s appearance as God’s answer to their prayers; and they so joyfully accepted Christ that Paul soon deemed them ready for Baptism.

Now, Paul, who had been trained in tent making, never accepted support from anyone. However, he could not withstand Lydia’s insistence that he and his companions accept the hospitality of the Christians at Philippi. Not only did they feed them well then, they continued afterwards to forward support. The warm feelings Paul shared with those people adds beauty to this Letter to the Philippians that we will read through next week’s Masses.

You and I will be blessed if we are poor in spirit, meek, etc.


Friday, 11/1/14

There is a double meaning in each of these Beatitudes which opens with the words “Blessed are the . . . “ One meaning refers to the saints in heaven. Those blessed ones are in heaven because in life they were poor in spirit, meek, etc.

The second meaning of the Beatitudes is that you and I will be blessed and happy if we are poor in spirit, meek, etc.

We should make use of the Beatitudes to school ourselves in being what God wants us to be. One way of making use of them would be to substitute the eight Beatitudes for mysteries of your rosary.

For the first mystery we could say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” then, while saying the Our Father and the ten Hail Mary’s, you check yourself on being poor in spirit. You ask yourself if you are greedy, or if you should be more generous with your time and money.

For the second mystery we could say, “Blessed are they who mourn,” but instead of mourning for the dead, you ask yourself to give thought to people you know who are suffering. You make that decade of your rosary a prayer for those people in pain. I read a few words on prayer written by a fine Irish priest who was shot by the Japanese in the Philippines. He wrote, “Your prayer goes straight to God, and with that, within the soul of someone struggling with pain, enters God’s grace, a torrent on the desert places of the soul.”

For the third mystery on the Beatitudes we can  check ourselves on meekness. Is there any meekness surviving inmy ego?

And so you go through the Beatitudes, realigning yourself with Christ. It makes for a nice thirty-minute morning walk.

Jesus wept for you and me.


Thursday, 10/30/14

Jesus looked down on Jerusalem and tears came tom his eyes as he mourned for the sad fate she was bringing on herself.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood together under her wings.”

What was this Jerusalem for which Jesus wept?

Let me tell you one of my old Korean experience that comes to my mind in connection with the love Jesus had for the Jerusalem. In the early fifties, following on the war over there, I was stationed in a province of mud brick houses with straw roofs.

Then twice a year I’d catch a ride into the capitol of our province, with the last two hours of it taking us over the rutted roads cut into a succession of five mountains. On clearing the  fifth mountain we would spot the tower of the cathedral with its shining roof. And for me it was something like the thrill that came over the boy Jesus when surmounting the last hill Jerusalem came in to view for the holy family.

 As well, the Jerusalem for which Jesus wept was the combined peoples of the Old and New Testaments who have repeatedly gone astray.

Finally, borrowing John Donne’s metaphor, it might not be necessary for you to send to know for whom Jesus wept, because he wept for thee. 

We must obey authorities in the Lord.


Wednesday, 10/29/14

In today’s passage from his Letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote about being obedient, and he reduced all obedience to obeying God. Like, he doesn’t just tell children to obey their parents, he tells them to obey “in the Lord.” And he tells slaves or servants to obey “as to Christ.”

That ties in with what Paul wrote in Chapter Thirteen of his Letter to the Romans, there is no authority except from God. Who ever resists authority opposes what God has appointed.”

That is in line with the second chapter of the Bible where the first thing God said about his first human was that it wasn’t good for him to be alone. We are social animals, each with his or her outlook on things. The only way we can work together is that we have one person with the final say.

While the Fourth Commandment tells us only to honor our parents, it is always taken to be shorthand for telling us to obey all authority.

In giving us that commandment God knew that some parents and persons in authority would be far from perfect. Still he was telling us that for good order we needed to obey them.

Our government leaders and our church leaders are far from perfect, but for good order we must obey them “In the Lord.   

Today we honor the Apostles Simon and Jude.


Tuesday, 10/28/14

Today we honor Simon and Jude, two Apostles about whom we know nothing, other than that Jesus chose them as Apostles.

The importance of the twelve Apostles is that Christianity was founded on twelve of them, just as Judaism was founded on the twelve sons of Jacob.

Judaism and Christianity were both established as a Chosen People, but not as two chosen peoples, but as basic elements in the one Chosen People, as we see them described in Revelation.

There they are united as the heavenly Jerusalem. Revelation, 21:12."It had a massive, high wall, where twelve angels were stationed, and on which names were inscribed, the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites." 14. "The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."   

Judaism and Christianity’s unity as the one People of God is celebrated by our combining the Old Testament and the New in one Holy Book.

Much of the Old Testament had to do with customs and regulations whose importance ended with the passing of those ancient peoples. As Vatican II put it, much of the Old Testament is “Imperfect and provisional.”

We might also see them in the light of Ecclesiastes that states, “There is a time for everything.” The time for much of the Old Testament’s regulations has passed.

Still, we thank God for the beautiful passages he has communicated to us in Isaiah and the Psalms.

We could try to live in love with people.


Monday, 10/27/14

In the first reading Paul told us to “live in love;” and we tend to take that as a reprimand, as though he were telling us to open our hearts to difficult people we haven’t got along with.

Instead, let’s look at it as an invitation to have a great time. Living in love could have us changing mere acquaintances into friends. It could have us surrounded by well wishers.. We could skip through our days, saying, “It’s so nice to see you,” and “Don’t you look grand.”

Living in love makes us benefactors to people in need. Living in love would bring us to do our best to imitate what Jesus did for the woman bent over for eighteen years. Of course we couldn’t like magically cure people, but we could empathize with them.  

By empathy we could stretch our imaginations to bring us to feel something of how painful people’s sufferings are. With someone like the lady bent over for eighteen years if we could imagine it happening to ourselves. We could feel what it is to never be able to look up. We could feel what it is like to be looked down on by all the upright people.  Then, the lady would see us as friends who lived in love with her.

Pope Francis is urging us to take the emphasis away from avoiding sin, and putting it on the need to help the needy.


Sunday, 10/26/14

Today’s readings urge us to be good Christians by aiding aliens, widows, and the poor, by being honest in business dealings.

While this is the kind of good advice we have been hearing in church all our lives, it still represents the turn of mind that Pope Francis is urging on us.

It is a little different from the type of good Catholic behavior held up to us when we were growing up. Then, rather than being told over and over that we must been mindful of the needy, we were being cautioned against sins that would take us out of the state of sanctifying grace. We were most often told of the need to get to frequent confession to be absolved from the mortal sins we committed by thoughts against holy purity.

We were to examine out consciences ever evening, while leaving the good deed a day to the Boy Scouts of America.

We were like housekeepers whose furnishings, china, and silverware were always in spick and span readiness for guests they never invited.

If we don't produce the fruit of good works the Lord will uproot us.



 Saturday, 10/25/14

 Jesus told a parable about a fig tree that three years after reaching maturity still had not borne fruit. Its owner, seeing that it grew only to nourish itself, ordered the gardener to uproot it. The gardener, however, offering to spade around it and to nourish it, asked the owner to give the tree one more year.

The fig tree in the parable, of course, stands for any of us who lives only for him or herself, not accomplishing anything for the Lord. If we don’t switch to doing something for God we will be uprooted.

Chapter Eleven of Mark’s Gospel has another fig tree story. In that one, Jesus, feeling hungry stepped off the path to pluck a fig. On finding no fruit on the tree, he curse it; and his disciples, on their passing that way the next day, were surprised to see that the fig tree had withered and died.

The odd thing about the story is that Mark’s Gospel specified that it was not the season for figs. So, what was Jesus teaching us by cursing a tree when it wasn’t the season for bearing fruit? Don’t you think he was telling us we can’t wait around for the proper time to do good deeds? Rather, it’s always the time to get up and do good.

Pope Francis is trying to read the signs of the times.


Friday, 10/26/14

Jesus told us to read the signs of the times. Fifty years ago an attempt at reading those signs had Pope John XXIII asking for the views of bishops whom he called together from a hundred counties. It has been the attempt of Pope Francis at reading the signs of the times that had him polling the views of Catholics everywhere. Both John XXIII and Francis have been looking for help in making the Church what God wants it to be.   

Five of the church’s Cardinals just published a book criticizing Pope Francis for seeking a wide consensus. Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the church’s judicial system, and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the gatekeeper for orthodox teaching, wrote that taking poles was not the church’s way of reaching decisions. 

However, historians point out that in the Dark Ages it was the kings and their lords who made all the decisions, and for the Church's survival in that world, it had to mimic such structures in turning all decision making over to the pope, his bishops, and the clergy. But these historians now feel that this same need forces us to keep in step with this democratic world by consulting  the views of the people.

That was the view that won out at Vatican II where bishops from a hundred of the world’s nations were in charge. In defining the nature of the Catholic Church they rejected the view of those who saw it as a perfect society ruled by a hierarchy. Instead they voted unanimously to see it as the People of God.

We are very fond of our traditional ways of doing things, but we must obey Our Lord’s command to read the signs of the times.

Meaning his unthinkable death, Jesus said, "There is a baptism with which I must be baptized."


Thursday. 10/23/14

In the Gospel passage Jesus said, “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished.” 

Seemingly, he was talking about his death, and I think we can turn that around to where we see something of the death of Jesus in our baptisms.

I am sure you have all heard this about our baptisms, but it is well worth repeating. In the early church Christians all saw their baptisms as pledges to die to sin with Jesus.

They made that clear by having baptisms only on Saturday of Holy Week. The same as we do, they thought of Jesus as dying on Good Friday, and as rising on Easter Sunday; but to a greater extent than we do, they thought of Jesus as lying dead in the tomb on that Saturday.

With that in mind, they saw their baptismal pool as a substitute for the tomb of Jesus. As well,  they made much of what Paul said in Romans 6:10,; namely, “His death was a death to sin.”

Jesus saved us by his death, but not by the nails and the agony. The thieves crucified with him experienced those things, and it was of no help to them or anyone else. It wasn’t the pain and agony of Jesus that save us.

No, it was his withstanding each and every temptation, starting with his baptism and forty days in the desert, and culminating at that last breath, when he said, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

By stepping down into the baptismal pool each candidate firmly acted out his or her resolution to die to sin with Jesus.

The sanitized baptismal ceremony you and I underwent as squalling infants lacked the dramatics of stepping into a tomb-like pool on the Saturday of Holy Week, but each of our baptisms embodied the same commitment. By joining ourselves to the death of Jesus we have committed ourselves to die with him to sin. 

We must have finished up everything before the Lord suddenly comes for us.



Wednesday, 19’22/14

Jesus tells us, “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect the Son of Man will come.”  That means  we must suspend out partying to make time for giving an account of our lives.

The way I was brought up, being ready for death meant being in the state of grace. But is that negative assessment enough for you and me? Don’t we need to do something more than not being caught with original sin?
           
Le me repeat some thoughts I am always laying before people. Twenty-five years ago a sixth grade girl raised her hand, asking, “If we are all made in God’s image, how come some people are left handed?” My answer was, “My sister Peggy was left-  handed, so I guess God makes mean people left-handed so we can watch out for them.”

Of course, I didn’t mean that. Peg was a fine sister and wonderful mother to thirteen children. But, the kid’s question was good. I rephrased it like this, “How can we all be like God when we are so different from each other?”

I like the answer I came up with, even though it has no theological or Scriptural basis. What I do is I picture God as being like a many-faceted diamond, with each of us born with the potential of mirroring a separate facet of God. Our life’s work must be to ever more clearly mirror that facet by developing our unique God-given talents, and by clearing away everything un-Godly about us.

Another goal we should set for ourselves stems from some words of Socrates. He said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” That means that while we have time we should assess the value of what our lives and beliefs have been.

We keep tricking ourselves into thinking we can keep putting off what is called for in our self development: what acts of kindness we owe our friends and foes. I say we trick ourselves, and all of us do. It is axiomatic in Psychology that we all fool ourselves into thinking we have time. But, we haven’t. Jesus said he will come like a thief in the night, and we better be prepared for that sudden visitation.  

Jesus is the capstone of our church building, holding us in place forever.


Tuesday, 10/2114

In his beautiful letter to the Ephesians, Paul compared Christianity to a church building. In the building the Apostles and Prophets are the foundation stones. The successive generations of Christians like us are the rising lines of the stone walls, and Jesus is the capstone.

A capstone is, of course, the top stone of an arch that locks the two walls in place. In Gothic structures, the capstone holds in place the succession of aches that make up the walls.

St. Paul compares the role of the Apostles and Prophets in Christianity to the church building’s
foundation stones. Just as the rows of stones in the wall can only hold their place if they rest in straight  alignment with their foundation, so we can only be Christians if our message coincides with that of the Apostles and Prophets. 

Two French priests, Congar and de Lubac, were leading Theologians of Vatican II, and they worked at  formulating modern expressions for our Christian beliefs. In doing that, their concern always was that their formulas should be in direct accord with the teachings at the time of the Apostles. For expressing that concern they coined the French word Resourcement, meaning “being true to the sources.”

In my Korean parish there was a near-completely bombed-out Buddhist temple. Arriving there in 1954, I helped out in making signs in English for them, and I witnessed much of the rebuilding of that temple. I was particularly fascinated by the reconstruction of the stone arch at the entrance.

The workmen began by building a clay dome the shape and size of the future arch. Then they brought in prepared stones that were two feet long, and cut to ten inches on the inside, and twelve on the outside.

They stacked those stone wedges up both sides of the archway-shaped mound. Then, when the sides were a little over two feet sort of meeting, they brought in the cut capstone, locking it into place at the top.

After that they cleared away the clay mound from under a stone arch that will stand for thousands of years if we don’t have a succession of wars.

Jesus is the capstone that holds Christianity together.


Monday, 10/20/14

God called the rich man a fool. So, in what way was he a fool?

He was a fool because he let his wealth take the happiness from his life.

My appreciation of that harvest story comes from a half century ago when I served for twelve years in a Korean farming town.  All life there centered on April’s harvest.

To put something on the table through the bitter winter, folks who had been forced to sell their grain from the year before; then, they had to buy some of it back for three times what they got from selling it. With debts piling up, they tightened their belts, watching their children go gaunt.

But when a good harvest came, it was like in Our Lord’s story. The people’s joy was something to see. Everyone was eating their full and more, and everyone was dancing at weddings. Well, almost everyone was dancing, and almost everyone had joy.

In Our Lord’s story the rich man, however, had to immediately turn to building new barns to house his abundance. He was counting on that abundance making him happy at a future date; but that future date never came for the rich fool.

 Years after my Korean experience I was at a parish at Fernandina Beach, and I had  a golfing buddy who was better off than most people. He had a home in upstate New York, a condo in Manhattan, and he rented out properties he owned on Amelia Island. I call him my golfing buddy, but his properties seldom left him free for golf. Everyday there was a lawn needing attention at one property, a furnace going bad at another. Then too, there were court cases with tenants who were not paying their rent. He didn’t own those properties. They owned him.

The rich man did not own his property. It owned him.


Monday, 10/20/14

God called the rich man a fool. So, in what way was he a fool?

He was a fool because he let his wealth take the happiness from his life.

My appreciation of that harvest story comes from a half century ago when I served for twelve years in a Korean farming town.  All life there centered on April’s harvest.

To put something on the table through the bitter winter, folks who had been forced to sell their grain from the year before; they then had to buy back for three times what they had received. With debts piling up, they tightened their belts, watching their children go gaunt.

But when a good harvest came, it was like in Our Lord’s story. The people’s joy was something to see. Everyone was eating their full and more, and everyone was dancing at weddings. 

In Our Lord’s story the rich man could not share in the joy of his village. He had to immediately turn to building new barns to house his abundance. He was counting on that abundance making him happy at a future date; but that future date never came for the rich fool.

 Years after my Korean experience I was at a parish at Fernandina Beach, and I had  a golfing buddy who was better off than most people. He had a home in upstate New York, a condo in Manhattan, and he rented out properties he owned on Amelia Island. I call him my golfing buddy, but his properties seldom left him free for golf. Everyday there was a lawn needing attention at one property, a furnace going bad at another. Then too, there were court cases with tenants who were not paying their rent. He didn’t own those properties. They owned him.

The 250 bishops at the special Synod say they feel the spirit of Vatican II.


  
Sunday, 10/19/14

Our readings today tell us that God has good use for our civic leaders. In the First Reading, God spoke well of Cyrus II, king of Persia. God says he inspired Cyrus to conquer Babylon, freeing the people of Israel after their seventy ears of captivity.  In the Gospel Jesus told us to give to Caesar what is properly his. As a Democrat, I interpret Our Lord’s sayings as meaning we should honor President Obama, but my Republican friends would rather that I change the subject. So let’s talk about the Synod being held by 250 bishops in Rome.

Pope Francis convened the Synod to discuss matters that interfere with traditional modes of Catholic family life. Without promising any change in our actual rulings, both the Pope and the bishops are telling us we must lighten up.

Speaking of people in illegal relationships, Pope Francis, without promising to legalize such relationships, asks us to respect the genuine love that may well be present in such unions. Then, with the bishops it is significant that at their coffee bars they are frequently saying they feel like they are attending Vatican II.

That kind of remark sets my mind to wandering far off, settling on two French priests who contributed greatly to the spirit of Vatican II. Let me tell you about them.

When Pope John XXIII was still just Archbishop Roncalli he was Rome’s Apostolic Delegate to France. In that role, in 1950 he carried out orders from the Holy Office that had him forbidding Father Yves Congar and Father Henri de Lubac to teach or to publish their books.

One of Congar’s books, A Divided Christendom pointed out that baptized Christians  all belong to one church. The other book True and False Church Reform called for a loosening up of the Curia’s hold on the Church. With De Lubac’s publications the book the Curia particularly objected to was The Supernatural. It was a volume that pointed out that the ancient church said that  unbaptized babies go to heaven.

Although Roncalli, carrying out orders, banned those two from teaching and preaching, he greatly admired them; and after becoming Pope John XXIII he called them to Rome as special Theologians to his Vatican II. Then, those two, on arriving in Rome for the council, found that their books had been eagerly read by the bishops through Central and South America. 

Independent of each other Lubac and Congar had translated whole library shelves of early Greek and Latin Christian teachings, When they at last came together they adopted the motto Resourcement, holding that for teachings to be truly Christian they need to rooted in the teaching of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church. 

Both de Lubac and Congar had heroic lives that added luster to their teachings. The older of the two, Henri de Lucac was a foot soldier who was severely wounded defending Paris against the Kaiser’s troops in World War One. Then, during World War II he evaded many Gustapo traps while publishing an Underground paper that cried out against the treatment of the Jews.

With Congar, in World War One when the Kaiser’s troops took over his town, carrying off his father, his mother set a ten-year-old Yves to writing an illustrated daily journal. From age thirty-seven he was afflicted with a hardening of the arteries  that had him dragging one leg through his remaining fifty-four years. Congar, as a chaplain with French troops at the opening of World War Two, was taken to five years of Nazi imprisonment. The French Government awarded its Croix de Guerre for bravery to each of them. 

Today we honor St. Luke, and there is no one outside of the Holy Family who is more deserving of honor.


Saturday, 10/18/14

Today we honor St. Luke, and there is no one more deserving of honor. A good start for viewing Luke is to read the opening sentence of his Gospel.

Since many have undertaken to complete a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning, and ministers of the word have handed them down to us. I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write down an orderly sequence for you. 

There, Luke make no claim to be inspired by God. He said, rather, that he had gathered stories from several sources. Scholars who have studied Luke’s text over a lifetime give us a rough three-way division for the source of his stories.

Luke takes a third of his stories from Mark’s Gospel that had been circulating for years before Luke wrote. (Matthew borrowed the same bits from Mark.) Then, about another third of Luke’s narrative is also found in Matthew, but not in Mark or John. ( As an example of that, most of the items that go to make up the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel are found in Luke, beginning with Luke saying that Jesus, instead of going up on a mountain, came on a level stretch.)   

The other third of Luke’s Gospel are those most precious parts, like the Annunciation and the birth of Jesus. His exclusive stories of God’s mercy, such as that of the Prodigal Son are worth more than all the money in the world.

Paul referred to Luke as “our beloved physician,” but we know nothing more about Luke’s skills there.

Luke is as well the author of the Acts of the Apostles. He sneaks himself into that narrative in Chapter Sixteen. From the beginning of that chapter the narrative featured the journeying of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, with verse 5 saying, “They travelled through the Phrygian and Galatian territory.”

Then, with no explanation of who he was or of how he got there, Luke became part of the narrative in verse 11. Which reads, “We set sail from Troas.” From everything he says, Luke gives us the understanding that he is the only Gentile to compose a book of the Bible.

Ignatius, being taken to be thrown to the lions, was visited by Christians to whom he wrote these notes.


Friday, 10/17/14

Today we honor St. Ignatius who was bishop of Antioch following St. Peter toward the end of the First Century. At a public Roman ceremony that opened with each participant honoring the Roman gods by dropping grains of incense on red coals, Ignatius refused to thus pay honor to such gods. Under law his refusal was counted as a capital crime, and his repeated refusing to comply forced the officials to condemn him to be brought to Rome to be fed to the lions.

Put in the charge of a platoon of Roman soldiers who were returning home after there time in the east, Ignatius was tied to the mast of a coastal vessel that, going from port to port, was taking the soldiers to Rome. At seven stops along the coast of Turkey, the Christians came down to visit with Ignatius, and before the ship crossed over to Greece, Ignatius wrote a note to each group that had visited with him. Here is a sample sentence from each of his letters.

To the Christians of Ephesus he wrote, “With hearts warmed in the blood of Christ you were eager to visit with me when I was in chains.”

To the Magnesians he wrote, “I hope that you may be fully convinced of the birth and passion of Jesus,” He wrote that because people were saying that the physical body of Jesus was a mirage. By saying that, they denied him the heroism of his sufferings.

To the Tralians he said, “Jesus Christ is our hope if only we believe in him.   

To the Romans he wrote, “Please let me be thrown to the wild beasts so that through them I shall reach God. I must be ground by their teeth so that I may end up as the pure bread of Christ.”

Of the bishop of Philadelphia he wrote, “I am full of admiration for the man who can do more by his silence than others by speaking.”  

To Christians in Smyrna he wrote, “Wherever Jesus Christ is there is the Catholic Church.”

To Bishop Polycarp he wrote, “There is no thanks for us in liking good people. The real task is by mildness to bring to obedience the ones who plague you.”

The mystery, hidden through all ages, is God's plan to sum up all in Christ.



Thursday, 10/16/14

Today we begin reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. This was a different kind of letter for Paul. While his other letters, like those to the Corinthians and the one to the Galatians, were concerned with particular problems that had arisen in those places.

His Letter to the Ephesians is different. It is a vehicle for making known a truth of importance to Christians everywhere. The truth is that Paul was  given the grace to reveal God’s hidden mystery, it was the plan to sum up the salvation of all mankind in the person of Jesus Christ. In today’s reading that plan is said to be to “sum up all in Christ.”

Now, much can depend on the way we translate Paul’s key phrase. The wording of it in today’s reading tells us that the salvation of all people of all times will only be accomplished through the mediation of Christ.

Now, in 1903 Pope Pius X, entering the papacy used Paul’s words as is motto, however, his Latin translation of Paul’s Greek words came out as, “The plan for the fullness of time to restore all things in Christ.”

Pope Pius X saw all modern innovations as evil. He condemned the theory of Evolution, he condemned Form Criticism of the Scriptures. He condemned  Ecumenical movements. He was set on restoring all scholarship to what it was before the Enlightenment.

When Vatican II came along, the bishops in their official decrees and constitutions went on to approve of many innovations Pope Pius X tried to do away with.

Now, the two hundred bishops gathered in Rome for the first of two weeks of consultations are keeping silent about the agreements reached in the daily sessions, but at the coffee bars they are all making the same observation. They are saying that  they are back again at Vatican II. They feel the same spirit.  

Teresa's perseverance bore fruit with her coming to experience ecstasies of God's loving presene.


Wednesday, 10/15/14

Today is the feast of St. Teresa of Avila who championed spending time alone with God in quiet, wordless prayer. She was in her mid forties before she got that way.

 Avila was a central town in Spain where Teresa was born in 1515. That was eleven years after the death of Queen Isabella, and one year before the death of her husband Ferdinand. Those Catholic Majesties, to rid their two kingdoms of Castile and Aragon of opposing elements. had secured from Pope Alexander VI  the authority to institute the Inquisition which punished Muslims and Jews.

 Teresa’s grandfather, to remove his taint of Jewish blood, had bought a Catholic title, and her father based their family life on rigid Catholic principles. That brought trouble to Teresa and her mother, since they secretly delighted in reading romantic stories.

Teresa was fifteen when her mother died, and her father, seeing her keen interest in clothing and boys, paid the dowry to have her spend her life in the local Carmelite Convent. That was distasteful for Teresa at first, but on joining up with other girls unwillingly packed away in the convent, she found life less severe than what it had been under her father.

Teresa made honest efforts at applying herself in the periods of mental prayer, but she found her imagination too active to settle down to the thoughts of Jesus. In her thirties she had a serious period when  a strange illness left her so near death that she heard the other sisters debating over where to dig her grave.

Teresa was in  her forties when a sincere priest demanded that she abandon hrself to her vocation of pursuing mental prayer. After setting aside whole hours for praying without distraction, she found herself shaking her hourglass to make the sand flow through quicker. But her perseverance bore fruit with her coming to experience ecstasies of God’s strong loving presence.

As she progressed through years of wonderful mental prayer, Teresa became impatient of the convent small talk that had meant so much to her when  she was a girl.  When she was fifty-two she met with John of the Cross, a twenty-six-year-old Carmelite priest who was locked into the deep mental prayer that had become dear to Teresa. Together, they secured permission to found Carmelite Convents and Monasteries of strict observance, where men and women learned to give all their time to being alone with God.

Pope Francis, like Pope John XXIII, wants to bring the Church in line with what it would be if Chist were running it.


Tuesday, 10, 14/14

In today’s readings from Luke’s Gospel and from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians we have stories about our no longer needing to eat only Kosher. But let me leave that aside to speak instead of the plan behind the Synod called together in Rome by Pope Francis.

Fifty years ago Pope John XXIII brought twenty-four hundred bishops together to tweak our Catholic practices to bring them in line with what they would be if Jesus were running the Church on earth. Pope Francis is trying to do the same thing with his two synods.

Back then John XXIII began by writing to every diocese and university asking them in what ways they thought we might alter things to bring them in line with Our Lord’s thinking. Pope Francis did the same thing last year, asking every diocese for ideas.  (In some place the lay people also were asked to contribute suggestions.)  

Pope Francis and Pope John seemed to have the same view as to what has nudged the Church away from just what Christ wants it to be. Both seemed to feel that the Church suffers from having remade itself in line with the directives of the Council of Trent. 

Now, Trent was a wonderful accomplishment. It was convened to protect the Church from the Protestant Reformation. It did very well at that, but it turned us into a copy of a football team that has a powerful defensive unit, but no offense. The thousands  of canons from Trent all describe behavior that is anathema.

As a Catholic boy I confessed my sins once a month. As a Catholic seminarian I gave five minutes of my night prayers to an examination of my conscience, seeking out every venial sin and flaw. There wasn’t enough of the Boy Scout resolve to do a good deed a day.

Both Pope John and Pope Francis have been fully aware of the dislike old Catholics have of being told to alter their ways even a little. So, with Vatican II and with the two synods of Pope Francis the two great popes were hoping to bring  us around to accepting some simple changes that will make us more what Christ wants his Church to be.  

Pope Francis, like Pope John XXIII fifty ears ago, wants to bring us in line with what the Church would be if Christ were running i.

Let's pray for the bishops taking part in the synod in Rome.



Monday, 10/13/ 14

Let us pray for the bishops taking part in the two-week-long synod in Rome where they are discussing the matters suggested by Catholics in the world-wide questionnaire conducted last year.

While looking into substantive matters like valid and invalid marriages, they are also discussing matters dealing with common kindness, like not using offensive language. For instance, they are saying it doesn’t sound Christ-like to tell people they are living in sin when they are doing the best they can. If I were born with a different sexual orientation I would not be cheered by a priest’s telling me I was “intrinsically disordered.” I was only being what God made me.

We have all had different experiences with marriages that could only be performed in the rectory. I always tried to create a happy atmosphere for them, but church regulations were not always jolly.

It puzzled me how they would say that respect for the sacrament of matrimony required us to conduct mixed marriages without ceremony. That seemed to go against Jesus saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

Years ago in our Korean priests’ manual there was a painful line in those Latin regulations for mixed marriages. in the rectory. They forbade flowers or bright vestments, but the real killer was a line saying priests had to perform the ceremony “in nigris.”

Anyway, they now seem to be taking some kind steps, so let’s pray for that to be successful.

The Mass is the feast to which we, the good and the bad, are invited


Sunday, 10/12/14

We are like the good and bad people the Lord gathered in to take part in his feast. You must see that our Mass is a feast we share with Jesus. Pardon me for harping on what I think should be going through our minds when we take part in the Mass.

We all know that the Mass grew out of the Last Supper, but perhaps we fail to see how closely our Mass follows the Last Supper. Let me enlarge on that. At the Last Supper Jesus, as the host, led the diners through the stages of the traditional table blessing that was known as the Brakha.

In the first stage of the Brakha Jesus asked the Apostles to join him in recalling the favors they had received from God. In the same way in our Eucharistic prayers the priest begins by saying something like, “Calling to mind what God has done for us.”

In the second stage of the Brakha the host asked the diners to join him in calling down God’s Spirit upon them, and the priest does that in the Mass.

The third stage of the traditional blessing was called the Pleasing Gift, or in Greek, the Eucharist. At that point the host asked the diners to be one with him in an act of  obedience by which they completely subjugated themselves to God, making themselves into one pleasing gift to God. The only real way for us to take part in the Mass is for us to join Jesus as parts of the one pleasing gift to God.

That act of joining Jesus in obedience is the essence of our sacrifice.

In the First Century Christians followed a handbook called the “Teaching of the Apostles.” It had this to say about our sacrifice.

Offer the Eucharist, having first confessed your offence, so that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who has a quarrel with his neighbor join you until he is reconciled, lest your sacrifice be defiled.

Note that is not exclusively Christ’s sacrifice, and it is not the priest’s sacrifice; but it is your sacrifice, or it is nothing for you..

It is precisely at that third stage of the Brakha that Jesus comes to us under the form of bread and wine. He comes to us not to be adored by us, but only that we might be physically one with him in the Pleasing Gift, in the Eucharist.    
  

There is neither male nor female, for we are all one n Christ.


Saturday, 10/11/14

Paul told the people of Galatia, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female, for you are all one in Christ.”

That was a revolutionary statement which many back then and many now would not take to be true. Perhaps the most hateful thing about the ISIS movement is its insistence on totally subjecting women. But even America has not always had full regard for its women. They were not admitted to Harvard and Yale until 1890, and the 20th Amendment gave them our vote only in 1920. 

Fifty years ago a very uppity Korean lady asked me if she should become Catholic. When I told her that was her decision, she told me off. She said, “Don’t you know that you are a man, and men have to make important decisions for women?  

Vatican II made many changes for us Catholics, but I feel its most important innovation came in its consistently showing high regard for the dignity of women: viewing  them as persons made in God’s image, with every right: to education, to living wages, and to the choosing their own paths through life.

Twenty years ago I had St. Paul’s Eighth Grade put on a play in which a slave girl from Galatia, with her ability to read and write, rose to be the private secretary to Emperor Trajan. I had her singing these lines:

“Christians in Galatia taught me to write,
But I was made a slave by thugs
Who turned my days to nights.”