Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Continued Prayers

First of all let us continue to pray today for those who are suffering from the effects of Sandy.

As a Southerner today's first reading draws us back to one of the most shameful parts of how history and points out the danger of how the Bible can be misused, what I think of as the danger of a verse. For those who want to decry the days when the Catholic Church "discouraged people from reading the Bible" they need to remember that the church knew from experience how individual verses without the context without theology without the tradition could be warped.

Today we read:
Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling

Sadly this was used by the defenders of slavery as proof that God approved of the institution of slavery. They conveniently omitted the anti-slavery passages.

In this year of faith as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vatican II this reading reminds us of the importance of Dei Verbum, which not only encouraged study of the Bible but provides principles for a proper interpretation of what one reads.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After the storm

We pray for all those who this morning wake up to begin the long and difficult process of restoring their daily lives. Today's gospel of the mustard seed and the leaven remind us of the power and importance of the little things. While a few stories will make the news many more will be the acts of care and heroism that will go unknown except by those who are helped.

No one will care who is a democrat and who is a republican. We will simply pull together and help one another. If we can truly live the gospel in the storm why is it so difficult for us to do the same when the sun is shining?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Children of the Light

St. Paul calls us to walk as children of he light. But in the verses that follows he gives us three adjectives that should describe us:

Agathos - good, not only morally good, but goodhearted, joy filled
Dikaios- righteous, a term used in the Eastern churches to refer to those in the Old Testament who keep the law of God.
Alethia- translated as truth, it literally means uncovered, or disclosed. A Christian life should not include things we feel we need to hide. It reminds us that as the old saying goes, character is what we do when we think no one is looking.

But lest we get to self-absorbe, let us focus our prayers today on those whose lives will be impacted by the storms today.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Prayer for peace

Today's first reading from the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians reminds us of the religious divide that existed and how

he made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his Flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one Body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it.
He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

In this mornings news we see more reaction to the violence in Syria and the fear hat it may metastasize into surrounding countries Already 300,000 refugees have fled, and thousands of others have died.

What role we, as a nation should play in the conflict I am unsure. The one thing I am sure of is that every one of us should be actively praying for peace. The cynical will throw up their hands and say, "Those people have been killing each other for centuries." We should remember that "those people" are also loved by God, "those people" were the first ones to whom God sent the gospel. Let us not forget St. Paul, the road to Damascus, and the mission to the world beyond the Jews.

Let us pray for peace!

Monday, October 22, 2012

No Boxes

Each election cycle attempts are made to fit the Catholic Church neatly into the framework of our American political camps of liberal and conservative. Last week Timothy Cardinal Dolan showed once more that the church is above and beyond those boundaries. It doesn't fix into a box.

As he put it we are the Church of the un's "the un-employed, the un-insured, the un-wanted, the un-wed mother, and her innocent, fragile un-born baby in her womb, the un-documented, the un-housed, the un-healthy, the un-fed the under-educated.”

This list was not given as a menu from which we are free to choose the one we think worthy of our concern. As hard as it may be we must have concern for them all even when it costs us.

Today the church celebrates Blessed John Paul II who could criticize both communism and capitalism, and even democracy itself when it looses its foundation in a deeper law. "Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person."

We do a profound disservice to our Church and Jesus himself when we try reduce the depth, the breath, and the complexity of the gospel message. The uncomfortable truth is that there is something in the gospel that will challenge each one of us if we are willing to open ourselves to its entirety. Perhaps instead of our favorite quotes from the Bible and the Catechism we need to look for our least favorites and pray with those.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Do not be afraid of those who kill the body...

More than a decade is past and the terrorists have in some level won. I say that because the goal of terrorism is not to conquer in the traditional sense but to instill fear, and it appears that the goal was accomplished.

A Moslem, a woman in a scarf, a man in a turban (who is by the way probably a Sikh not a Moslem) how many American now regard these people with suspicion? As of July of this year in a Pew poll a ridiculous 17% of registered voters believe the President is a Moslem. I recently spoke to a friend from Bethlehem who was telling me how tourism to the Holy Land has dropped off. And how much money have we spent in the last decade out of fear?

Some say fear is a great motivator, but one needs to ask, does it motivate us to do the right thing?

Today in the US we celebrate to men who refused to let their lives be ruled by fear John de Br├ębeuf and Isaac Jogues. They knew what we all know but ignore. We will all pass from this life. What matters therefore is what we do with the time we have. They chose to let the gospel and not fear rule their life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just Checking

In today's First reading St. Paul provides us with a very simple list, the fruit of the Spirit

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Perhaps the simplest exercise might be: How many of these can I exhibit today?

Or try it as a simple daily checklist

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Simple is better

Sometimes the skimpiest can be the most profound and greatest challenge. Today St. Paul compacts Christian living into 4 simple words
Faith working through love

Tonight we will watch another debate. Rather than asking which one is going to do the most for me. Perhaps we Christians should try evaluating their positions on this simple phrase. Both claim to be Christian so whose policies foreign and domestic best represent faith working through love.

But before we evaluate anyone else let's spending the day constant evaluating our own words and action as to whether they are faith working through love.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spirituality and Literature

As we move through these early days of the Year of Faith it offers us a chance to look back not just at scripture but at other great writing of Christian history.

Today the Church celebrates St Teresa of Avila. While we think of her as a founder of the discalced Carmelites, a great mystic, and doctor of the Church, she was also by any measure a great writer.

No history of the Spanish Renaissance and its literature can be written without including her Interior Castle. 1492 was not only the year of Columbus but also the year when the first grammar of the Spanish Language was published replacing Latin as the language of the Kingdom and one cannot rightly study Spanish literature without this book from 1577.

In the late 20th century we took a principle of governance, separation of Church and State, and mistakenly attempted to extend it to every aspect of life obscuring the contribution of clergy and religious to worlds like science and literature. Do we teach our children that Gregor Mendel was a friar? Check out the list of Cleric-Scientists.

The Year of Faith offers us an opportunity to not only look forward but also to look back with pride on the contributions that our faith has made to every aspect of life.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

50 years ago

October 11, 1962 Blessed Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council

In his opening address he stated that "the greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously."

To mark this anniversary Pope Benedict XVI today opens THE YEAR OF FAITH following the same theme calling for an entire year dedicate to a New Evangelization.

On the website of the US Bishops Conference there is more information and resources for how we can live this Year of Faith.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Mission to Affrica

Catholics, who made up 12.4% of the population of Africa in 1978, represented almost 17 % twenty-six years later. By 2025 it is expected that a quarter of the world's Catholic population will be in Africa.

Today we celebrate the work of one particular saint who dedicated his life to proclaiming the gospel in central Africa. Daniel Comboni only three years ordained and the only child of his parents to live to adulthood risked his life to take the message of the gospel to people he saw sufferings in deplorable conditions. He died at age 50 in Khartoum, Sudan. He founded the Comboni Missionaries and the Comboni Missionary Sisters, one of whose houses is located here in Richmond.

While perhaps not as famous as a Mother Teresa his missionary zeal and care for those in need was no less great. Today we pray for those who carry on his work.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Do we allow it anymore?

As we continue to read how Saul, before his conversion, persecuted the Church, and what a zealot he was I can help but wonder how he would fair today.

While we Christians may still talk use words like repentance, forgiveness, and conversion, do we live them anymore? Now that anyone's sin can be capture and preserved forever by Google and YouTube do we allow for the possibility of change?

If St. Paul were alive today how many times would we see his former ranting against Christians replayed? How many times would we see the video of him instigating at the stoning of Stephen?

Of the seven sacraments of the Church, only two, Eucharist and Penance, are meant to be received regularly as an ordinary part of Christian living. We need both on a regular basis because conversion to Christ is not a one time event, it is a lifelong journey. Along the way all of us stumble and fall many times. The road is less like the interstate and more like the cow path that twists and turns through the countryside.

Perhaps how modern obsession with watching the failures and sins of others is simply and avoidance mechanism. As long as we are look out at the sins of other we don't have to really look inward. Perhaps we would be better to reverse the system point our charity outward toward others and point our critical eye in.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Why don't we change ?

As the Church struggles in our 21st century American culture, many ask when the Catholic Church is going to get with the program, and change its position on this or that issue. The answer is simple and is found in today's first reading.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed!

Saint Paul in his letter to the Galatians reminds us that the gospel doesn't belong to the Church to do with as we will, we are merely the custodians, entrusted with handing it on from one generation to the next.

Of course, this letter also reminds us that from the beginning there have always been those Christians who believed they had the right to change the gospel to make it and themselves more popular, more palatable to the culture.

This does not mean that nothing should change. There are things which can and must change. With time the Holy Spirit continues to lead us to a deeper understanding of the truth contained in the Gospel. And in every time and place we have to constantly search for the way to best explain the truths contained in the gospel so that it can be best understood by the people in a particular time and place. But the truth remains the truth.

One of the greatest challenges in reading the Bible is distinguishing between the truth a particular passage is meant to communicate and the mode of expression used by the writer. That is why as Catholics we look to the tradition and the magisterium to help us in the process. On Thursday we begin the Year of Faith, anime for each of us go back to the foundations of our faith. Rather than conforming the gospel to ourselves to conform ourselves to the gospel.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


In the gospel today Jesus calls various people to follow him but each has a condition. The answer is "Yes, but..." Before we are too critical of them, this gospel invites each of us to look deep into our own hearts and acknowledge the truth. We all on some level answer "Yes, but" embracing those parts of the gospel we find most attractive, rationalizing away those parts of the gospel that challenge us most. Can any of us say that we can truly answer the call of Christ with the unconditional Yes?

While we may never perfectly answer yes to Christ in this life, each day offers us multiple opportunities to come closer. When we choose to show love of God and love of neighbor. When we allow the gospel to critique even the most comfortable parts of our lives.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Not just for Children

Today the Church celebrates our belief in guardian angels. This belief is not unique to Christianity, but is shared by many other religions, a trust that their is a unique spirit entrust with the care of each one of us.

Some may ask why does it matter? Why is this important? My answers would be two. Firstly, it is important because it is true and they are their to help us, particularly in the moments when we struggle most.

Secondly, they remind us of an important aspect of our understanding of God. We are not a people who believe in a God who created the world and then stepped back. We do not believe in a God who passively sits back in some far distance heaven watching us struggle through life, or see us as one more creature on one tiny planet in the universe.

Guardian angels are a reminder to us that ours is a personal faith. Our God does not simply love and care for us as a group, abstractly. Our faith is in a God who cares for every single individual, who loves every single person every created so much so that a spiritual being an angel was also created assigned by God to watch over that person.

With God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), Mary our Mother, the Saints in heaven and our guardian angel, how can anyone ever truly be alone, or unloved.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why do we need God ?

This week we read the Book of Job and enter into one of the most interesting sections of the Old Testament, the group of books referred to collectively as the wisdom literature. The books of the bible classified as wisdom literature are: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs,Wisdom (also known as Wisdom of Solomon),Sirach (also known as Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus).

Unlike some cultures who express their philosophy in lists of principles, the wisdom literature of the bible present the wisdom in stories, narrative not written to recall history but convey what we are and what we should be. The book of Job is written as a poem in a prose framework.

The story of Job opens with a man who has everything from a material standpoint, and is virtuous. Satan puts forward an assessment of situation still heard. From his point of view it is easy to be virtuous, when you have everything, when God has answered your every prayer. What if all that were taken away? What happens to faith when we experience loss?

Satan is convinced that Job will abandon faith. Today we get the famously simple response of Job:
Naked I came forth from my mother's womb,and naked shall I go back again.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!

In two simple sentences he offers the beginning of real wisdom.