Saturday, December 1, 2018

Why Advent Should Terrify You

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
Every year since I was a little girl, my mother and I go to a sing-along of Handel’s incredible masterpiece, the Messiah, during Advent. We bundle up, grab our music scores, find a seat with our fellow altos, and sing our hearts out. If you’ve never really listened to the Messiah you must do it this Advent.
It begins with the words of the biblical prophets foretelling the coming of Our Lord. Then it draws from St. Luke’s Gospel and shares the joy of the Nativity. It masterfully weaves Scripture together to carry the listener to Calvary and on to the Resurrection. It’s beautiful. And if you can sit through a performance with dry eyes, you’re not paying enough attention.
Each year I notice something that’s never struck me before and last year, it was the words of the prophets. These were the words that surprised me:
Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts: Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come. (Haggai 2: 6-7)
Well that sounds…..scary. The desire of all nations is, of course, Jesus. But what is this about shaking the heavens and the earth? That image didn’t seem to fit in with the room full of sing-alongers wearing Christmas sweaters and looking forward to snacking on cookies and punch after the performance.
I don’t enjoy being shaken up. I like to be in control. I like predictability. I like security. But that’s not what the Incarnation offers us! God himself wasn’t born of a woman to share in our humanity so that I could be comfortable. He came to shake us up. Shake us out of our apathy. Shake us out of our false security. Shake us out of our sin.
And it gets worse! As the music of the Messiah continues, a soloist stands up to sing the words of Malachi 3:2:
But who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.
It’s gone from scary to terrifying! When He comes, no one can stand before him. Advent, “the coming,” is not just a heart-warming event for Christmas cards–instead, we’re asked who can abide the day of His coming? For He is like a refiner’s fire, the heat that purifies precious metals, removing all that’s flawed. If He is the refiner’s fire, then we are the metal being purified. And that sounds more than uncomfortable, it sounds excruciating.
We’ve made a huge mistake. We’ve made the Incarnation safe and comfortable. We like it warm and fuzzy with soft lambs bleating as they rest on clean hay. And, yes, it is beautiful and joyful and splendid. But we’ve sanitized it and we’ve forgotten how terrifying it is that God shares our humanity and comes like a earthquake, like a fire. To shake us up, and to purify us.
So how do we move from abject terror at the idea of the Incarnation to the Joy of Christmas? I think it has to do with letting go of the sin we cling to. We have to submit. We have to lay down our false security, our desire for control, and let Him shake us up. We have to offer our hearts to Him so that He can consume all our sin with the fire of his immeasurable love until we are stripped of all impurity. And it won’t happen in just one Advent season. We’re looking at a lifetime.

And who can stand when he appeareth?

As I meditated on this verse, I considered the image of Our Lady at the Annunciation, kneeling and saying “be it unto me according to thy word.” Who can stand? We certainly cannot. But we can kneel like Mary, giving our own “fiat” and offering our hearts to be shaken up and our sin to be burned away.
The first Sunday of Advent is called Stir Up Sunday as the opening collect of the Mass is “Stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come.” Are we ready to say that prayer? May we be prepared to desire His coming, be shaken, and be consumed by the fire of his love. May He stir up our hearts this Advent and mold us into what he desires us to be.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

This Is Hardly the Stuff of Kingship ... Or Is It?

The following comes from Zenit.org:

Today's solemn feast of Christ the King, the grand finale to Liturgical Year C, gives us an opportunity to lay aside a lot of cultural baggage about kings and kingdoms, and discover how Jesus Christ can be a true king, unlike earthly rulers.

Over the past year, we have seen the important Lukan theme of the imitation of Jesus, especially in his ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation. In Luke's moving Gospel story of the crucifixion, this theme reaches its apex.

Jesus' final moments

Today's Gospel (23:35-43) is recounted only by Luke. The penitent sinner receives salvation through the crucified Jesus. Luke's moving scene of the crucifixion is filled with details typical of his portrayal of Jesus. He is crucified with the two criminals surrounding him, fulfilling Jesus' own prediction at the supper table (23:37). Just as Jesus had repeatedly taught his disciples not to respond to violence with more violence and to be forgiving, so he forgives the very men who had condemned him and who drive the stakes into his body (23:34).

When one of the crucified criminals joins in the chorus of derision that accompanies Jesus to his death, the other confesses his sin and asks for mercy (23:39-43). It is Luke's prescription for authentic conversion as exemplified in the story of publican and the sinner (18:9-14) and so Jesus promises this man not only forgiveness but also a place at his side that very day as his journey to God triumphantly reaches its home in paradise.

Only Luke describes this poignant scene (23:39-43): One of the criminals who hung alongside Christ derided him, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked the other criminal, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." This one then said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Christ replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

The image of the dying Jesus jars us with such a sense of shame and powerlessness in Luke, who describes the death of the Son of God, the King of the Jews. Luke gives us a lexicon of abuse and humiliation: criminals, condemnation, crucifixion, nakedness, scoffing, mocking, taunting, deriding, reviling, sneering ... hardly the stuff of kingship, and no crowns here except one of thorns. We are face-to-face with agony and grief, and a cacophony of insults instead of songs and praise.

A kingship that embraces

Kingship, when God is involved, does not ask people to ignore the failures, but embraces those experiences and redeems them. Throughout salvation history, God's promise to the people was a king who is righteous, deals wisely, executes justice and righteousness in the land, and enables the people to live securely. In Jesus, God has fulfilled that promise.

In the story of Jesus, kingship is recast. The miracle lies in the fact that God shares the potential hopelessness of the human situation, but does so as king, as the source of our hope and life. That is what the criminal on the cross with Jesus in today's Gospel scene (23:35-43) partly grasped. He asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. He was looking to a future reign, but Jesus handed out the royal pardon immediately. This was simply the culmination of the way Jesus lived: He never dressed as we think a king should, or did things properly by our standards. Jesus' kingdom is unlike the one that Pilate knows and is willingly or unwillingly part of. The Roman kingdom was one of arbitrariness, privileges, domination, vengeance, vindictiveness, and occupation. Jesus' kingdom is built on love, service, justice, reconciliation and peace.

Very few can measure up to Christ's kingly stature, remaining powerless in the face of the powerful. Many of us resist with power, even though we resort to very refined forms of pressure and manipulation. As we contemplate Christ crucified, we understand something of why Christ has remained a king, even up to modern times: He didn't bow down. He never responded to violence with more violence. He forgave until the end.

God's agent in history

Today's second reading from Paul's letter to the Colossians (1:12-20) is a summary about redemption by God the Father. The imagery echoes the Exodus experience and Jesus' theme of the kingdom. Redemption in this text is explained as forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 2:38; Romans 3:24-25; Ephesians 1:7).

The lines of this reading are most likely an early Christian hymn, known to the Colossians and taken up into the letter from liturgical use. They present Christ as the mediator of creation (1:15-18a) and of redemption (Colossians 1:18b-20). Christ (though not mentioned by name) is preeminent and supreme as God's agent in the creation of all things, as prior to all things.

There is a second, very important point at the heart of this section of Paul's letter to the Colossians. Pauline usage is to speak of the church as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:4-5). Some think that the author of Colossians has inserted the reference to the church here so as to define "head of the body" in Paul's customary way. When Christ was raised by God as firstborn from the dead (cf. Acts 26:23; Rev 1:5), he was placed over the community, the church, that he had brought into being, but he is also indicated as crown of the whole new creation, over all things. His further role is to reconcile all things (Colossians 1:20) for God or possibly "to himself." The blood of his cross (20) is the most specific reference in the hymn to redemption through Christ's death, a central theme in Paul (cf. Colossians 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 1:17, 18, 23).

The kingdom and the Church

As we celebrate the feast of Christ's kingship today, let me leave you with this one thought that has been on my mind for the past year in particular. If we follow the example of the prophets of ancient Israel who worked within the framework of the structures of the faith of God's people of their day, then we in our day cannot marginalize Christian revelation and its ecclesial transmission by proposing a non-Christian vision where misuse of the terminology "Kingdom or Reign of God" is a substitute for Jesus Christ and his Church. The Church is the necessary vehicle, and privileged instrument for us to encounter Jesus Christ, to receive his life through the sacraments, to hear his Word mediated through preaching and the interpretation of the Church, and to journey toward the fullness of the kingdom of heaven, which lies ahead of us.

Jesus Christ is our great prophet. He is the only full revelation of God and he is the Lord and Savior of all men and women. We must be watchful and vigilant that the Christian terminology is never emptied of its theological meaning so as to be better integrated into a "vision" or a supposedly "new wisdom" of this age.

On this great feast, let us remember that Jesus took his wounds to heaven, and there is a place in heaven for our wounds because our king bears his in glory. Perhaps we need to cry out: "Where are you, God?" And today we are given the answer: God is hanging on a tree, in the broken body of a young man -- arms outstretched to embrace us, and gently asking us to climb up onto the cross with him, and look at the world from an entirely new perspective. Or perhaps we need to cry out for mercy, asking that he not forget us in the New Jerusalem: "Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom."

And from the depth of our own darkness and shadows, we might have to pray with the Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus, "Stay with us, Lord, for it is almost evening and the day is far spent." Or maybe in the midst of our despair, we recognize the source of our hope and echo the words of Jesus, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

What a strange form of kingship Christ offers us today! May today's feast force us to remember the appalling fact of our salvation. When all around us seems to be darkness, destruction, night, and even death, let us never forget that we are not alone. In our midst hangs the Crucified One, arms outstretched in loving mercy and welcome. May we have the courage to ask our benevolent king to remember us in his kingdom, and the peace to know that paradise is already in our midst even when every external sign indicates darkness and death. This is abundant life on the Royal Road of the Cross.

[The readings for the solemnity of Christ the King are 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43]

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The First Thanksgiving


The following comes from the Freedomkeys website and presents a real look at the first Thanksgiving:

Did you know that the first [Plymouth Colony Pilgrim's] Thanksgiving was a celebration of the triumph of private property and individual initiative?

William Bradford was the governor of the original Pilgrim colony, founded at Plymouth in 1621. The colony was first organized on a communal basis, as their financiers required. Land was owned in common. The Pilgrims farmed communally, too, following the "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" precept.
 

The results were disastrous. Communism didn't work any better 400 years ago than it does today. By 1623, the colony had suffered serious losses. Starvation was imminent.
Bradford realized that the communal system encouraged and rewarded waste and laziness and inefficiency, and destroyed individual initiative. Desperate, he abolished it. He distributed private plots of land among the surviving Pilgrims, encouraging them to plant early and farm as individuals, not collectively.

The results: a bountiful early harvest that saved the colonies. After the harvest, the Pilgrims celebrated with a day of Thanksgiving -- on August 9th.
 
Psalm 111

Praise the Lord. I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who have pleasure in them. Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures for ever. He has caused his wonderful works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy, they are established for ever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant for ever. Holy and terrible is his name! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who practice it. His praise endures for ever!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The meaning of sainthood: To be fully alive in Jesus Christ

The following comes from Archbishop Chaput:


Some years ago a friend told me that she secretly thought of the saints as boring. They smile at us sweetly from holy cards. Their lives can seem implausible compared to people more famous for their vices. And who would really want to be a saint, anyway? As Billy Joel once said, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun.”
But when we come to understand holiness rightly, we see that it’s anything but boring. Sanctity isn’t a matter of sentimental posturing or being nice. Sanctity is about being passionately in love with Jesus Christ.
The saints are men and women who glowed white-hot with the Holy Spirit. They lived fully what Father Richard John Neuhaus once called “the high adventure of Christian discipleship.” And that’s truly what the heart of sainthood is: not a life of legalistic drudgery, but a high adventure.
Think about the women and men we venerate as saintly: Mother Teresa, Francis Xavier, King Louis IX of France, Gianna Beretta Molla, Pier Giorgio Frassati, Catherine of Siena. They lived some of the most compelling lives in history. Their roads were hard. They endured great sacrifices and self-denial. But those sacrifices led to greater love and joy than many in the world have ever known.
If we think about sainthood like that, it can seem like the saints are a special class of people. Sainthood is for people like them, we think, not everyday people like us. And how do you live like a saint if you’re just an ordinary worker, a father or a mother? The good news is that the saints were ordinary people like us. Their “secret” was not something they possessed, but Someone who possessed them.
The saints were men and women whom Jesus Christ made his own. As baptized Catholics, we too have been made Christ’s own. We receive Jesus Christ’s healing mercy and forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation. We eat his body and drink his blood in the Eucharist. We speak with him in moments of quiet prayer.
This love that we receive from Jesus should break out into the rest of our lives. St. Josemaria Escriva put it this way: “When a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God.” This means that even when we fix another family’s plumbing, or fill out their legal paperwork, or drive our kids to soccer practice, we can act with the love of Jesus Christ in the same way that the saints did.
The great second century bishop, Irenaeus of Lyons, once said that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” First and foremost, this refers to Jesus Christ. Jesus shows us what it looks like for a human being to live life abundantly. This means that the closer we are to Jesus, the more intensely alive we become. And the saints are examples of men and women who have lived their lives to the fullest. Because of the love of Jesus, they glow with the glory of God. Because of the love of Jesus, they’re fully alive.
The saints aren’t just our models, though. They form what Paul called “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1). The saints in heaven pray for us on earth, urging us on as we run the race of faith. They offer us hope in two ways. First, they show us that, by God’s grace, heroic Christian lives are possible. Second, they remind us of the destiny God has in store for those he loves. This life is a preparation for eternal union with God in heaven. That doesn’t mean sitting around forever with a pious halo, strumming a harp. Heaven is an eternity of the greatest love we have ever tasted in this life – growing deeper and stronger without end.
This All Saints’ Day, November 1, let’s reflect on what the saints really mean for us. Let’s remember the holy men and women whom we can emulate and to whom we can pray for help and guidance. Jesus said that he came so that we would have life, and have it abundantly (Jn. 10:10).
Let’s pray that we find the courage to seek out that abundant life with the saints. Let’s be women and men of love, witnesses of the glory of the God who makes us fully alive in Jesus Christ. There is no greater joy, no greater vocation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Pope John Paul II's Love for Divine Mercy

The following comes from Zenit.org:
The archbishop of Czestochowa, former student and collaborator of Pope John Paul II, is highlighting the significance of the Pontiff's beatification on the Feast of Divine Mercy.

Archbishop Stanislaw Nowak told ZENIT that the news of John Paul II's upcoming May 1 beatification "fills me with joy."

He added, "It's a great thing that the beatification will take place precisely on the occasion of the feast of Divine Mercy."

"John Paul II loved Divine Mercy," the prelate said. "He did much so that this feast would be popular in the Church."

The archbishop recalled, "I remember him when he was still bishop of Krakow, how he took the first steps to spread the feast of Divine Mercy in Krakow."

He affirmed that John Paul II is a great witness of Divine Mercy, along with St. Faustina Kowalska and Blessed Michal Sopocko.

The archbishop of Czestochowa stated that "John Paul II loved everyone, with special affection for young people."

"He was a man of great faith," the prelate added. "Every cell of his being breathed faith."

The archbishop said that the choice of the month of May for the beatification also "has a special meaning."

In fact, he said, it is called "John Paul II's month because the Polish Pontiff gave Mary his total trust: 'Totus tuus.' And so many events of his personal life are associated with the month of May."

Archbishop Nowak has been head of the Czestochowa Archdiocese since 1984. Pope John Paul II visited that city during his apostolic journeys in 1979, 1983, 1987, 1991, 1997 and 1999.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Prayer for Priests by Cardinal O'Connor

PRAYER FOR PRIESTS: Lord Jesus, we your people pray to You for our priests. You have given them to us for OUR needs. We pray for them in THEIR needs.

O loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests, take to your heart your sons who are close to you because of their priestly ordination and because of the power which they have received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs them so much. Be their comfort, be their joy, be their strength, and especially help them to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated celibacy.

Lord Jesus, we your people pray to You for our priests. You have given them to us for OUR needs. We pray for them in THEIR needs.

We know that You have made them priests in the likeness of your own priesthood. You have consecrated them, set them aside, anointed them, filled them with the Holy Spirit, appointed them to teach, to preach, to minister, to console, to forgive, and to feed us with Your Body and Blood.

Yet we know, too, that they are one with us and share our human weaknesses. We know too that they are tempted to sin and discouragement as are we, needing to be ministered to, as do we, to be consoled and forgiven, as do we. Indeed, we thank You for choosing them from among us, so that they understand us as we understand them, suffer with us and rejoice with us, worry with us and trust with us, share our beings, our lives, our faith.

We ask that You give them this day the gift You gave Your chosen ones on the way to Emmaus: Your presence in their hearts, Your holiness in their souls, Your joy in their spirits. And let them see You face to face in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread.

We pray to You, O Lord, through Mary the mother of all priests, for Your priests and for ours. Amen.

(by John Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York)


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Fr. Jozo Zovko: He That Can Separate You From The Altar is Your Only Enemy

The following comes from In God's Company 2:


Fr. Jozo Zovko speaks of the Holy Eucharist


Place your life upon this altar. You will witness how a priest will place a drop of water within a chalice full of wine. That drop of water intermingles with the wine and signifies you in the Holy Mass. You can become one, unite with and intermingle with Jesus. That is why the Holy Mass is called Communion ...union with God ...you and your God together ...that is the Holy Eucharist. All of us together and Jesus. That is the church, and that is where the one, holy Catholic apostolic church comes from.
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 "He who can separate you from the altar is your only enemy. There is no other" 
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Every time we come into the church and celebrate the Holy Mass, that is our embrace, our hanging onto Our Lord and saying, "Lord where would we go, for you are the Word of Life." Where did the martyrs gain so much strength from? In the Church, where did the witnesses gain their strength from? To date, in this year, 23 missionaries have been murdered around the world in four months. That is a lot. How can a man give his life for Jesus simply, with delight? It is the Holy Mass that does this within us, so that for you I'm able to give my very eyes, my arms and my life, my everything as Jesus gave His all; and the same way the Christian must give his all.

 Yes, once again, I must return to the Holy Mass and the Holy Eucharist. Why is it that churches and sects do not tolerate the Mass, do not respect Our Lady? Because they go hand-in-hand. Yes, they go together. Our Lady teaches to come to love Jesus, to fall in love with Him, and that is why she places us before the Holy Eucharist, and pleads with us to pray before this holy, blessed Sacrament, so from Jesus we may learn to become bread for others; so that I not have fear to say, "Take this, all of you, of me, and eat of it."