Friday, May 14, 2010

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,

One of the challenges of our faith at present is that over the last few decades we seem to have reduced the Gospel to one idea, "love." While the commandment to love one another is at the center of the gospel, or ir's foundation, whichever metaphor suits you best, it is not the entire gospel. 
In modern English the world love has been reduced to almost meaningless, we say we "love" our family members, dogs, food, sports and even TV shows.
Just demands more of us than just being "nice" and liking others, and there are more commandments in the bible than just the ten, specifically the ones given by Jesus. We overlook them because they are not in a list, they are scattered throughout the gospels.

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"- is an imperative
The dialogue in answer to the question "How many times must I forgive?" - is not a suggestion

Love in the gospel is not reduced to a feeling, but is manifest in concrete actions toward others which Jesus commands us to do.
Each time we hear the gospels read we should listen for the sometimes subtle but necessary commandments within.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Continued Expansion of the Church

British writer Charles Wentworth Dike once quipped, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
For the last few years we have seen in the press lots of statistics that would suggest that the Catholic Church in America is in decline: huge numbers of Catholics leaving the church, etc.  A more careful analysis by CARA at Georgetown would point out that, our exit numbers are huge because we are huge. The good news, however, is that the Catholic Church's retention rate (the percentage of those who grew up Catholic who still self identify as adult Catholics) is higher than any religious groups but the Jews, and Mormons.
Does this mean we should abandon the New Evangelization? No! What it means is that there is a reason to remain filled with joy over what has been accomplished in the two millennia.   

In the first reading we continue to hear how St. Paul expanded the church to include all peoples.  Each of us must continue that mission in two ways: inviting those who have not truly heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, and reaching out to those are by virtue of their baptism truly members of our Church but have drifted (or sometimes run) away from the practice of that faith.

We are still the largest religious group in America.  Let us hold on to the Matt 16:18
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why don't we see more miracles?

In the first reading today we see what most readers of the Bible would call a miracle, a seismologist would call it an earthquake, others a coincidence.
 As I talk to those who finding themselves doubting the Bible and their faith, often one of the things you here is "Why don't we see miracles like the ones in the Bible today?" I would argue that in fact we do, we simply often have the wrong concept of a miracle.
Most people when you say miracle think of some flashy violation of the laws of physics, like the parting of the Red Sea as depicted in the movies. What we need to realize is that, at its foundation, a miracle is a miracle because in the event someone has a profound experience of the presence of God. The account in the first reading today includes no "special effects" (lights, voices, etc.). It is a simple earthquake, but in the ordinary geological event, the apostle, the jailer, and who knows how many others, encounter God.

May each of us today, keep our eyes open for the miracles in our life.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The spirit of truth

In these last two weeks of Easter the readings turn our attention to the coming of the Holy Spirit. While many titles are given in the gospels, in today's gospel it is the Spirit of truth that seems worth reflection. In a world where anyone with a computer (and/or camera and microphone) can be a publisher or broadcaster and any of them can call themselves and their sites Catholic, what do we trust?

The simplest advice stick to the actual sources:;;; and of course your local parish websites.

Don't believe everything you read or even everything that claims to be Catholic.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Pilgrimage Continues

It's my first morning back in the U.S., and I can tell you I am only beginning to comprehend how the pilgrimage in the Holy Land has reshaped not just my priesthood but the most basic parts of my faith, and my understanding of that part of the world.  It will be days, weeks and probably years before I fully comprehend its impact.
From the time we boarded the plain in New York the most noticeable group were of course the Hasidic Jews.  What most struck me on the flight over was their determination to gather for prayer. It seemed every time they were about to gather in the back of the plane they would be told to sit for one reason or another (it's time to serve dinner, etc.) They were indomitable and eventually an announcement was made that the men would be gathering in the area of the back galley.
And the gathered to worship God, because it is their duty.

I could not help but think, "Would that we Christians had that same relentless zeal to, no matter what else is going on in our lives, stop each day to worship God." As our present translation of the mass says, "It is right to give him thanks and praise."

In our Christian faith it lives on in its most formal sense in the Liturgy of the Hours, but most Catholics think that is for priest and religious alone.  The truth is that it has only been slowly over time that marking of the beginning and end of the day with prayer has eroded from Christian practice.  Our Jewish and Islamic brothers continue to mark each day with prayer, recognizing that each new day is gift from God. Perhaps we need to join them.