Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Prayer and Forgiveness

Of the 7 petitions in the Our Father, only one do we ask God to grant on a conditional basis. That one is forgiveness. We ask not for unlimited forgiveness which would correspond to unconditional love, but we ask God to limit his forgiveness and to make it like our own.
Once again God puts us in charge of our life.  Can we still receive unlimited forgiveness? Sure it's simple. All we have to do is be willing to forgive everyone who has hurt us. Then that same boundless mercy will be ours.

Time and again I hear people say, "I don't believe in hell", or "I don't believe in a God that would send anyone to hell." Does hell exist?  It must. In order for us to freely choose to love God we must also have the freedom to reject God. If there is no hell, there is no free will.

The greatest power God has given us is the power to choose.
May he give is the wisdom and prudence to think before we make our choices today.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What happened to 1251?

Today is the first of the abstinence days in the season of Lent.  All persons who are at least 14 years old are required to abstain from meat While the requirement to Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday stops at age 60, abstinence does not.
In all of this the canon that seems to have gotten lost was 1251.  "Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday." Some where along the way Americans got the idea that it was only during Lent.

Are you allowed to eat meat on other Fridays, yes, on the condition that you "substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety" (canon 1253)

In the first reading today Isaiah deals with those whose penitential practices don't really change their lives. How will we be different?  When this Lent is over will we really have experienced some true conversion in our lives or will we simply fall back into the old habits and go back to the way we were? The choice belongs to each of us.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is God all-powerful?

A question the Old Testament struggled with in this sense. If God is all-powerful then everything even evil must come from God: as punishment, or trial, etc.

The New Testament again asks us to balance two truths. One the one hand we believe in an all powerful God. On the other we believe that because his greatest desire is for us to freely accept his love and love him in return he gives us free will. Sin is the result of a choice we make to misuse some good gift of God's.

In the first reading today, as we prepare for lent, James reminds us that it is good things, and not things like tempation that come from God.  We are tempted by our own desires." Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above."

In a world where we immediately look for someone to blame for everything, can we have the courage,  in this season of Lent, to turn the scorching light of truth on ourselves, and examine how we use each of the many good gifts that have been given to us by God, from our individual bodies to our global resources and environment?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

World Day of the Sick

Today throughout the world the Church celebrates, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the 18th annual World Day of the Sick. Rather than try to outdo the Pope I would invite you to read Pope Benedict XVI's message for today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Today in particular we celebrate with the female side of the Benedict family as they celebrate the feast day of their foundress, St. Scholastica.  She was the sister of St. Benedict and establised a community of nuns. After her brother went to Monte Cassino, where he established his famous monastery, she took up her abode in the neighborhood at Plombariola, where she founded and governed a monastery, about five miles from that of St. Benedict, who, it appears, also directed his sister and her nuns. 

For almost 16 centuries women have continued that tradition. Here in the diocese of Richmond we have a community of Benedictine Sisters in Bristow, Virginia and Trappistines (who are an off-shoot of the Benedictines) in Crozet, Virginia.

Today we pray in a special way for these communities, and in a special way for all women who have embraced the consecrated life. Let  us pray that more women will open there hearts, and have the courage to embrace this form of total self-giving to God.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Where does God dwell?

 In the first reading today,  Solomon proclaims, " The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud;
I have truly built you a princely house, a dwelling where you may abide forever.” Solomon could've had no idea however that God had another plan. God had already built the temple that  he intended to be his ultimate dwelling place. he had built this dwelling place on the sixth day of creation, and when he looked at it, he saw that it was "very good."

 Would he inhabit this dwelling place immediately? In a way. We believe that in every human being there is a divine spark. But it would not be until the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that the  dwelling place which God had built for himself so long ago would be fully inhabited.

Two thousand years later, every human being is still given the opportunity to be the "princely house" that  Solomon proclaimed. From the moment that we receive the sacrament of baptism we become that "holy of holies"  as the Holy Spirit comes to rest on each of us, and  God indeed does abide with us forever.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

St. Paul Miki

Paulo Miki was born and raised in a rich family in Takatsuki, Japan. He later joined the Jesuits. The Japanese government feared the Jesuit's influences and persecuted them. St. Paul Miki was jailed, along with others. He and his Catholic peers were forced to the 555 miles from Kyoto to Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity. There St. Paul Miki was crucified on 5 February 1597.

St. Francis Xavier had been the first of the missionaries to arrive in 1549 to Japan, when the country was in the midst of civil war.  At first they had been welcomed and even given land.  The Japanese language proved a great impediment, and the work of the missionaries became enmeshed in the struggle between Spain and France for domination in Asia. The people and the government turned on them  and today Japan is still only 2% Christian, but one beacon of that presence is Sophia, the Jesuit University in Tokyo.

Christianity has struggled from its beginnings with its relationship to politics and the balance of Mark 12:17 "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" and there is no simple answer. We are called to be involved in the problems of the world, and that requires political action. And yet, the Church cannot be seen as being allied to any particular political party.  This requires that as individuals and as groups we continuously allow the truth of the gospel to critique our political positions.

May the intercession of St. Paul Miki aid us as we continue that work.

Friday, February 5, 2010

St. Agatha

As we celebrate Black History Month, we may not have taken note that January was Anti-Human Trafficing month and February 1 national Freedom Day.
Today's saint, Agatha, is the story of a woman who was taken hostage, tortured, abused, and finally killed because of her rejection of the sexual advances of a powerful man.
Today, slavery, more politely called human trafficking, is still alive and well even in the U.S. Worldwide it is projected to include 600-800 thousand people, and here in the U.S. some 14-17 thousand people. Some sources project that there are more slaves in the US today than when Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation, many of whom are held in the sex trade.
On this the feast of St. Agatha, let us remember all those who are being abused and the prayer of St. Agatha

Saint Agatha, you suffered sexual assault and indignity because of your faith. Help heal all those who are survivors of sexual assault and protect those women who are in danger. Amen

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I am going the way of all flesh

The words of David in the first reading this morning, and we continue to use this expression without stopping to think how Christ radically transformed the meaning of these words.

At the time David uttered them with a sense that he was passing out of existence.  When Jesus rose from the dead we do not believe that his mortal body remained in the tomb, and some ghostly figure rose from the dead, as it is often depicted in movie. We believe that all of Jesus rose from the dead.

In the same way the Catechism of Catholic Church state unequivocally that "The 'resurrection of the flesh' (the literal formulation of the Apostles' Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our 'mortal body' will come to life again." (CCC 990)

How should this impact my life today? I should see my body not as something disposable, but as an integral part of who I am and a precious gift from God.  Everything choice about what I do to or with my body should keep this truth in the forefront of my mind.

For a Christian, "the way of all flesh" should mean the way to resurrection and eternal life. May we live each moment on that path.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

St. Blaise

In the fourth century, in Sabastea, Armenia (today Sivas, Turkey), a physician named Barsegh (Blaise) was chosen by acclamation to be the Bishop. Of the many people he is said to have cured, the most enduring of the stories, is that of a woman whose child had a fish bone stuck in his throat who was immediately, miraculously healed.  It was during the reign of the emperor, Valerius Licinianus Licinius that a persecution of Christians took place in the area. The Bishop was beaten with iron combs used at the time for carding wool, and then beheaded.

In eariy art he was depicted with the wool combs and it was only later, with his feast day being placed on the day after The Feast of the Presentation when we bless candles, that the iconography began to depict him with candles, and the tradition developed that on this day we would bless throats using candles, blessed the previous day and  held in the shape of a cross.  Present practice uses the words : Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Shadows and Light

Punxsutawney Phil, makes his appearance today and we wait to see. Will he see his shadow or not? Or to put the question another way, will it be shadow or light? If he sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter. If the light wins out, winter will soon end.

Groundhog day is another of the great "marriages" between the pagan and the Christian. Why is ground hog day February 2? Because it's the Feast of the Presentation or Candlemas Day. It is the day we celebrate announcement by Simeon that Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."  In honor of that light, it is the day we bless candles, the constant reminders in our tradition that Christ is the light that the darkness cannot overcome.

By now most of us are  tired of winter and this year seems to have been as gray as any ever have been  here in Richmond. We yearn for the sun.  As Christians, however, we know that whatever happens in PA this morning we carry the light of Christ within us. On this Candlemas day, let us be that light to all we encounter.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The voice we don't want to hear.

Today we continue to follow David as his kingdom falls apart. The people have abandoned his leadership for that of Absalom (the father of peace). David heads out toward a village that is east of Jerusalem, near that Mount of Olives.  Despite the fact that David is king and has his soldiers with Shimei dares to say out loud what David already knows, that he is a murderer.

To his credit David has the wisdom to recognize that perhaps this man is sent by God,  It would have been easy for him to simply have him killed to shut him up or dismiss him as crazy.  None of us wants to be reminded of our sin. And rarely do we want to listen to those who disagree with us. There are times in all our lives when we need a Shemei, the person who will speak the truth we don't want to hear, even if it hurts. Are we truly open to hearing the truth in whatever form it comes?

Sadly, this was only a moment of wisdom, because in the end David will order Shemei killed (1 Kings 2:8-9) for insulting him. Are there people we are angry with because they have spoken some truth?