Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reflecting the love of God

In today's first reading they bring David what they believe to be good news, the son who had betrayed him and was trying to overthrow him is dead. Instead of celebrating David goes into mourning, weeping. Here we see a reflection of the love of God.

It is difficult for us to truly grasp the depth of God's love for each and every human being. Even when one chooses true evil, God continues to love and desire the salvation of that person.

Is it at times necessary to kill a person like Bin Laden in order to stop them? Yes. But should we ever be happy about it or celebrate it? Not if we are truly Christian.

As I write this entry from Florida we have spent the week watching candidates for office, all of who claim to be followers of Jesus, attempting not only to defeat one another but destroy one another. What's wrong with this picture?

Why do they do it? Because it works. We the voters will say we don't like the nasty attack ads, but, in truth, we eat them up. We believe them, and we follow them. They work.

We think of ancient times as barbaric. David in the first reading weeps at the death of his enemy. Can we be that civilized in the 21st century?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Getting what we deserve

Despite his flaws David is still seen as the great king of Israel. Perhaps part of the reason we see in today's first reading. His son is out to kill him, it all seems to be coming apart, and a poor an comes out cursing and throwing rocks at him.

One of David's men wants to lop off his head for insulting the king. David's response: Suppose the LORD has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, 'Why are you doing this?'"

David knows the sins he has committed. David doesn't play the innocent victim. He is able to look at this a see that perhaps it is all part of God's plan. He is able to see when the situation he is in is of his own making.

There is true wisdom.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

To teach with authority

It has been a decade now since the pedophilia explosion in Boston that rocked the Church around the world. What some then saw as a symptom of the liberal US Catholic Church, was discovered to be a metastasized cancer in countries around the world, even the most traditional Catholic countries. Once more we have seen how the heinous action and inaction of a small number of people can damage the entire body of Christ.

What does this have to do with today's readings? The readings today speak about teaching with authority.

Some would argue that scandal in the church undermines its authority. If that were true then all of Paul's letters would need to be stripped from the new testament. Was he not a murderer? Or go back through the Old Testament. How many of the great figures were fatally flawed people?

The authority of the Church to teach does not come from the holiness of the individuals, but from the Holy Spirit. We speak of the human writers of the scriptures as being inspired. It was the Spirit in them that gave authority to what they wrote, and that same Spirit guides us still. Throughout the bible God often chose the most flawed and least capable to make that very point.

It is always better when a leader of the church is holy, and practices what they teach, giving good example. But let us not delude ourselves. Every member of the church from the pope down to the most recently baptized is a fragile imperfect human being, including you and I.

For me this does not however undermine the ability of the church to teach with authority, because my faith rests not in the spokesperson but in the one who inspires, God. I believe the Holy Spirit is alive and well and continues to guides the Church, and will continue to do so until the end of time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No plastic bubble

Many of us remember the 1976 John Travolta made for TV movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, about a boy whose lack of proper immune system made it necessary for him to live separated from the rest of the world.

The first reading today brought that movie to mind because too many people seem to think that if God is a just God, we would all be the boy in the plastic bubble. If I do good, I alone reap the reward. If I choose to do wrong, I alone suffer the consequences– my moral plastic bubble. Anything else is deemed unfair.

This simplistic notion of fair denying a law of the way God made the world that is as real as the law of gravity, the interconnectedness of human beings.

While we as 21st century Christians would not use language of punishment used in Old Testament, we know that children often suffer because of the actions of their parents. Adults and children will starve today because of the actions and inactions of people thousands of miles away.

We cannot deny our interconnectedness any more than we can deny gravity. We cannot live in isolation, even if we want to. Today the ripple effect is bigger than ever. In the time of David the ripple might touch his family, his tribe, his people. Now our choices ripple around the world.

Think of the number of countries and people whose lives were impacted by my choice to buy the iPad on which I write this. The fact that this posting can be read around the world. How we use the world's resources effects the entire world.

The morality of our choices matters more broadly than ever.

The good news is that just as others suffer the effects of our bad choices so others can reap the benefits of good and wise choices. We can save and improve lives thousands of miles away when we as individuals and as a nation make better choices.

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's not mine

In the Gospel today Jesus shows that perfect balance of what is our work and what is not. He describes the kingdom of god with:

it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.

Are we to work for the building up of the kingdom? Yes, but ultimately it's not our creation or even mostly our work. We use phrases like "my church" or "my parish". The truth is that the neither the parish nor the church is mine nor ours. It's God's. We caretake for a few years of decades for some parishioners, but the church is never ours.

The same is true of life in general. My very soul was God's creation.

We collaborate in His project.

How often in our prayer do we get it backwards? We decide what we want and ask him to collaborate in our project. Then we get upset when it doesn't work out.

Perhaps the simple prayer each day is a question to God: What are we going to do today?

Leadership in Place

Today we celebrate Timothy and Titus. It is, I think, difficult for us to understand how Paul with the help of these men transformed the Christian faith. We can easily forget that Christianity had begun as a minority within a minority, a subset of the Jews within a world that, at best, saw the Jews as a whole as a bothersome little sect of little importance.

Yesterday we celebrated Paul and today we celebrate his co-workers Timothy and Titus who truly transformed Christianity into a catholic faith, open to all.

The first reading today from the opening of the letter to Titus also reminds us that with their generation the fundamental structure of the church was firmly in place. Titus spent the rest of his life as Bishop of Crete and in the reading was instructed to name priests (presbyters) for the towns. In short, a diocese as we now know it.

These leaders did two things simultaneously. They opened the doors to new people and cultures and at the same time held to the truths of the faith and held the church together. This is never an easy balancing act.

As we remember them today, we can look around and ask who are the people today who feel excluded and need to be welcomed more fully into the church. We also must ask, how we can show the world that we really are the ONE faith that we proclaim the Christian faith to be.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The true truth

Not that many years ago I remember hearing an interesting distinction. There was something being true and then there was "the true truth" as the expression went. While the expression seems redundant, in a sense Jesus uses the concept in today's Gospel when answering the difficult question: What makes us children of God?
From the Christian point of view all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, and so are deserving of respect. Through baptism we are incorporated into the Body of Christ and become sons and daughters of God.
Today, however, Jesus in some sense raises the stakes. "For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

It is true that baptism makes us children of God but the true truth comes down to what we DO –The choices we may all day every day,the dozens of choices we will make today. In these choices we hold onto or reject the gift of adoption that we received.

The question of each of us today and every day is: Today will I be a brother/sister of Jesus?

Monday, January 23, 2012

That's unforgivable!

Today's gospel ends with Matt. Chapter 3 "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin."

Taken out of the larger context of the gospels, this is one of the best examples of a bible verse that can easily be misinterpreted.

One could look at this single verse and walk away with the notion that there is some kind of utterance against the Holy Spirit, that once said could never be revoked. Once you utter this blasphemy, you are condemned to hell.

Here we need the 2000 years of tradition to help us. Here we need the magisterium of the Church to guide us in understanding the scriptures.

Regarding this sin the Catechism says, "There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss."

There is no unforgivable sin. There is only the freedom to reject God's mercy. If we reject God's mercy, if we reject the salvation offered by God, what is God to do? Force Us. The gift- mercy, eternal life, the Holy Spirit is constantly being offered by God to all, but it is precisely that, a gift that we choose to accept or reject.

The good news is, short of that, there is nothing we can say or do that is unforgivable. Think of the most heinous crimes you can imagine. They are all forgivable. That is the God of Christianity.

Can we treat each other with the same mercy we receive from God?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Acknowledging the end

In the first reading today Saul comes to grips with the fact that his reign will come to an end and David will one day have what was his.
While we all on some level know that our time on this planet is limited, we can at times behave as if we will live on earth forever. We hold on to power and possessions, and even our own opinions and point of view as if our life depended on it. In fact the gospel teaches us the opposite our life depends not on holding on but letting go, the virtue of detachment.

In the first reading today there might have been a literal battle but Saul's humility enabled them to avoid it. While we may not deal with battles and armies, we can all too easily be drawn into battles of a different kind.

Are there times when we must stand our ground? Most certainly. But are there also times when we like Saul need to step back?

Perhaps today we may need to take time to look at ourselves and ask where we need to let go,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Silent Killer

No I am not talking about heart attacks. I'm talking about envy.

In the first reading today, we see David has killed the Philistine, and returned home with King Saul from the battle. The Problem– people are in the streets singing sings about David. Saul's very natural reaction is jealousy, envy.

Why is it that we human beings reflexively view life as a zero sum game in which a win for one must be a lose of another.

I remember when I was first ordained we could never stand up and talk about priesthood as this wonderful, special gift, without someone accusing us of denigrating lay ministry. Any talk of the special character of ordained ministry was labeled "clericalism." Even the Chrism Mass, the one day in the Church's calendar that focuses on the ordained priesthood was re-written so as not to offend anyone.

If Saul had understood our interconnectedness he would have seen David's victory as his victory too. He would have had the wisdom to join the people in celebrating rather than sulking.

The Christian faith teaches us that we are one body in Christ. If I really believe that, then when my brother or sister is honored, I am honored. When my brother or sister succeeds I succeed. And I hate to see anyone fail because when one part of the body fails, we all fail.

Saul had an excuse Jesus had not come. What's our excuse?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sabbath – Not Optional

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Sabbath, the day of rest, in the Jewish tradition runs from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. For Christians, we mark the resurrection of Christ by taking Sunday. Both traditions speak to a fundamental human need, as Jesus identifies it today.

It is not simply about the worship of God. God does not need my worship. I need God. I need the Sabbath.

God did not create the human being to be a perpetual motion machine.

God established the Sabbath knowing how he created his image and likeness, us. We need the rest. We need to stop. We need a day which is not focused on work. We need to focus on God, family,and friends, the traditional practices that took places when we Christians used to observe a Sabbath.

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Anthony a man who spent most of his life living in relative isolation. While none of us may be called to that extreme, we do need time we when stop, when we unplug ourselves. We need Sabbath.

It would be unrealistic to expect that we can roll back the clock to the days when stores were closed on the Sabbath and almost no one was expected to work. Perhaps we can, however, start by rediscovering the concept in our personal lives. When was the last time you even really thought about the concept of Sabbath? When was the last time you seriously look at what you do on Sunday asked how, as a Christian you mark the special quality of the day? Many Catholics now attend Mass on Saturday so even that is not a part of their Sabbath.

Imagine if you chose something as simple as not responding to email on Sunday. Would it mean the end of the world really? I doubt it.

The Sabbath was made for man (and woman). Let us not waste this precious gift from God.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Forever young

The gospel ends today with the familiar parable of wine and wine skins. New wine cannot be poured into old wine skins. On the surface it seems to reflected the same mentality as the old saying, "You can't teach and old dog new tricks."

I'm 51, not old by modern American standards, but past the midpoint in life for most people. Taken literally this would suggest that for those my age and older, those who have not received the gospel, in name or in fact, are lost. It's just too late.

That, however does not fit with the gospel. Age is the determining factor with wine skins because they cannot think, they cannot reason, and so they have no choice about how they age. Over time they simply become brittle, inflexible, rigid. When you pour in the new wine rather than adapt, they break.

We are human. We reason. We choose. We can also constantly adapt, constantly allowing the new wine that is the gospel to fill us, and even more reshape us.

Jesus uses the image of a wine skin, not a jug or a bottle. Jugs, bottles, jars, are all rigid, their shape fixed. The wine skin even when full of wine was flexible, constantly in motion, adapting to its surroundings. It flexed to fit snugly into whatever space was available. And if properly cared for could remain supple. Allowed to sit empty it would dry out rather quickly.

Despite our best efforts we cannot control most of the world around us. But we can, if we choose, be constantly renewed with the new wine of Christ. We can choose the kind of wineskin we will be. Guided by the Holy Spirit our words and action, like the new wineskin, will always fit the circumstance in which we find ourselves. The shape of a wineskin at any given moment is determined by the combination of its contents, and its context, the outside forces acting on it. So the good Christian filled with the wine of Christ we respond appropriately to whatever this day will bring.

And unlike wineskins which have no choice while our bodies may age, our souls can remain forever new wineskins.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fleas or disciples

I remember as a child the warnings from parents about being careful about "the company you keep." The more southern form when parents disapproved of someone was, "You lie down with dogs;you get up with fleas."

Following today's gospel those parents would have made great scribes. When Jesus calls Levi the tax collector, like Abram in Genesis the gospel simply tells us that he went. Without question, without argument, he followed Jesus.

The scene then switches to the house of Levi where Jesus is so surrounded by sinners that some scribes comment on it. It takes little imagination to envision the commentary of the scribes. Jesus' response is simple. "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." It is worth noting that Jesus is not there to scold them, but to eat with them.

We Christians in the US and Europe have built some of the most beautiful churches one could imagine, but have we lost sight of the primary mission, "Go, therefore, and make disciples."

The command starts with Go. We may say our doors are open to all. We may be welcoming to those who come. But how many of our parishes actually go out personally to evangelize?

I was taken aback by the negative response of some to Jon Huntsman's demonstrating his ability to speak Chinese. My understanding is that his fluency in Chinese come from the same places as Mitt Romney's fluency in French, their time as missionaries. While we may not share their theology, we should admire their dedication to the ancient Christian task of evangelization.

Our grandmothers were in fact wrong. They warned, "Lie down with dogs; get up with fleas." Jesus showed us, "Eat with sinners, get up with disciples." Example, personal contact, relationship are the keys to evangelization. The task cannot be done only with TV commercials, websites, or preaching in churches. Every Christian must look for those simple opportunities to share their faith with others.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You can't fix stupid

With modern sensibility we can often be shocked at the imagery of battles and death in the old Testament, but today's first reading today reminds us that actions and consequences.

The sons of Eli at the center of today's story have allowed themselves and those who work for them to become greedy. In their minds they are special and therefore entitled. Why they end up in a battle against the philistines? We aren't told. What we are told is that they think that they think because they are the chosen people they can expect God to protect them. Instead, God allows them to suffer the consequences of their actions. They not only lost their lives but lost the Ark of the covenant.

The saddest part is that their choices did not only affect their lives but thousands of others. God is a loving God, but God is also a just God, and a good parent. God allows us to suffer the natural consequences of our own bad choices. God will not protect us from our own stupidity.

Before we claim that it isn't fair that others suffer because of their choices I would call to mind two things God has told us from the beginning. First, we are created interconnected. No matter who much we worship individual accomplishment, the fact remains. All our actions one way or the other impact others.

Secondly, these men did not come who they were in isolation. They grew up to be the men they were. How many people as they were growing saw them headed down the wrong path and said or did nothing, possibly because they were the sons of someone important? How many people enabled the behavior, even when they were young? How many people around them even benefited from their bad behavior? How many willingly followed them into battle, with dreams of conquest?

People complain about their leaders and yet the leaders like all of us are products of their culture. The results not only of their own choices but of millions of choices and examples of others throughout their lives.

These stories are not easy to read and the lessons are hard but necessary.

The good news is God is always standing by ready to help us put things right.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Can you hear me now?

Today we get my second favorite call in the Bible, the first being the call of Abram. With Abram, God called and it simply says,"He went." Today we get the polar opposite. Each time God calls Samuel, Samuel knows someone is calling him to do something, but he is repeatedly mistaken about who is calling and why. The good news in the story is that God never gives up on him. God keeps calling until he gets it right. In fact, Samuel never does figure it out on his own. It is Eli who figures out that it is the Lord who is calling. What Samuel does is open is heart to hearing and listening to the advice Eli gives him. Once more we see that faith is not solely a personal/private matter. It's not just me and God, or me and Jesus. Faith is both personal and communal. Even something as intimate as a vocation has both aspects. Left to our own devices, we can miss the call all together, or misunderstand what God is calling us to do. The call of Samuel reminds us that we must open our hearts to listen, not only directly to the voice of God, but also to the many times that God communicates to us indirectly through those around us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The cry of the Poor

Today we begin reading the books of Samuel. The reading begins with the story of God hearing and answering the prayer of Hannah. Unfortunately it skips over the backstory. The First Book of Samuel opens by giving us a glimpse in ancient Jewish family dynamics. We can forget that the early Jewish community accepted polygamy. The story tells us that Helkanah has two wives, Penninah and Hannah. When food was distributed, the scriptures tell us, Hannah was given only a single portion, because as the text reads, "the Lord had closed her womb." While Elkanah loved her and would pray with her, in all to human fashion the scriptures tell us that his other wife made her life miserable. It takes very little effort for us to imagine the taunting by Penninah, and Hannah crying, thinking of herself as useless and cursed by God because she has no children. On a very practical level knowing that without children should she outlive Elkanah, she will most likely end up begging on the street, homeless and starving. What hope does she have that Penninah's children will care for her? Penninah is a tragic figure. She seemed to have it all husband, home, and children. Her name means pearl. Yet with everything she has, she lacks compassion. She lacks real love in her heart. Perhaps there is a some connection, an inverse proportion. The more we have the less we love. The less compassion we are able to feel those who have not. Is it a rule? No, but I do think it is a real temptation we face. We may not be as heartless as she but if we take an honest look in our own hearts I bet we can all find some individuals or groups toward whom we lack the compassion we should have.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The ultimate manifestation

Yesterday in the Solemnity of the Epiphany we celebrated Jesus as King and God in the symbols of God and Frankincense. Today we see the ultimate manifestation of the identity of Jesus, "You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased." This moment marked the beginning of Jesus' public ministry from this moment through the Ascension he not only told us but showed us what it means to be children of God. Today also invites us reflect on the meaning of water. The water not only cleanses us, but also creates for us, as St. John reports, a spring of water in us welling up to eternal life. Today and every day we need to take a moment of quiet and drink from the spring God planted in us with our baptism. Tomorrow we move into weekdays in Ordinary Time, perhaps the most valuable resolution we could have for 2012 is to not let a single day go by without drinking from the spring. Have you had a drink today?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Regifted by Jesus

Today we celebrate the arrival of the Magi with three great gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. If we compare the gospel text to the prophecy of Isaiah we see that there is a small but important difference. In the prophecy if Isaiah there are only two gifts, gold and frankincense. There is no myrrh. The images of King (gold) and God (incense) made sense in the faith and culture of the people of Israel. Myrrh used in embalming and prophesying the crucifixion would have made no sense. The Messiah die. God die. These would have been completely illogical statements. And we see in the gospel how Jesus is rejected because of them. With Matthew's use of myrrh, he links Christmas and Good Friday, the birth and the crucifixion. What does this have to do with our life today? It turns out Jesus is the great re-gifter. Though baptism we are incorporated into his body. We become one with him and share everything that is his including the gifts received from the Magi. We share in the Kingdom of God. We share in the divinity of God. All well and good. But we also have to share in his death. The gifts it turns out are and unbreakable set. It's all or nothing. This not only means that must pass through death to life in the ordinary sense, but also that there must be the dying of everything in us which is contrary to the gospel. Every aspect of ourself or our life that does not correspond to the gospel must be allowed to pass away. To use an image from scripture, "As gold tested in fire", not only tested but purified. In these last two days of the Christmas season, as we prepare to move into Ordinary Time, we carry with us the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Let us use them wisely.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

American Idol

Today marks the last weekday of the Christmas Season. This year, because of Christmas falling on Sunday, the normal structure of the calendar was disrupted. Normally in most dioceses in the US the sequence of Sundays after Christmas is Holy Family, Epiphany, and finally the Baptism of the Lord which marks the transition from the Christmas Season to Ordinary Time. (Logical-because the Baptism marked the beginning of his public ministry). This year the Holy Family was moved to a Friday and the Baptism of the Lord is moved to this coming Monday. 

On this last weekday of the Christmas Season, we get one last admonition from St. John "Children, be on your guard against idols." My gut reaction to readings about idols is the same as most modern people, I suspect. At first, I dismiss them then on deeper reflection I start looking around my life. Are there things that have become idols? For many of us technophiles our smartphones could come close. When we can't go an hour without checking them, perhaps there's a problem? Do we check-in with God as often as we check our email?

But moving a little deeper I was taken back to an expression I heard the other day. One person said of another, "He's a self-made man who worships his creator." There is a real sense in which in modern America we don't have idols, and we reject "organized religion" because we have replaced it all with the idolatry of the self.  Individuality has been taken past healthy to the point that we have canonized narcissism. 

We see it most clearly in our present economic/political situation where we have lost the concept of self-sacrifice for the common good. When was the last time we even heard anyone talk about SELF-sacrifice or the common good.  We hear lots of talk about sacrifice, as long as its someone else's. People decry the two political parties without recognizing that they are what they are because they are both pandering to the selfishness in all of us. How bad will it have to get before we realize that the more inward we turn the more lost we become. 

American Idol made be the show that best represents us. It's opening is a series of picture of individuals, all wanting to be the next American Idol. Really?

Children, be on your guard against idols.  Even yourself.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Where will I get the energy?

I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life. The final words of today's first reading, but how well do we grasp that reality in the business of daily living? As we move through the course of today will we keep fixed in our minds that we have within us the only power we really need, the eternal life that is a gift from God. Wealth, power, titles, position all those things loose their allure. Greed, envy, jealousy cannot take hold in a person who knows they have eternal life, because they know they have all they need. There are 47 items on my to-do for today,not including emails, and I truly do not worry about it. I will do each of them with God, and with God's help most if not all will get done. I will trust that with God at least those that truly need to be done will be done. John tells us today that he wrote these things so that we might know that we have already, in the present, a share in the divine life. May that life be source of the power behind our every word and action today.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Another place to stay

As the week began St. John advised us to remain in Jesus. In today's first reading he explains the alternative when he writes, "Whoever does not love remains in death."

On the surface it may sound simple, after all, which of us does not love someone.  It becomes much more difficult when we remember who it is that we are expected to love. As Christians we are not given the luxury to love only those who love us, or to love only the ones we think of as good people. We are told that we must love even our enemies.

This is not some crazy, looking at the world through rose colored glasses. I think of the recently deceased Kim Jong il.  I pray that at some point before his death he came to see honestly the life he had lived and felt some sense of remorse and so might have opened his heart to the mercy of God.

Christian love does not mean that we must feel for all people what we feel for friends and family, that would be absurd. It does mean that we cannot wish evil on another, we can't take pleasure in another's failure or pain, even if they were evil. We cannot enjoy when someone falls down. We, like God, must wish for the salvation of all.

John presents a stark simple binary choice: remain in Jesus or remain in death. I suspect most of us undulate. Hopefully, most of the time remaining we remain in him, and only occasionally allowing our hearts slip over to the other side.  St. John challenges us to be attentive throughout the day, to the unloving remark or action, that tells us that we have split from remaining in Christ so that we can quickly call ourselves back, from the darkness into the light.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The First Native Born Saint

When we think of saints, all too often think of the think of the roman style statue of beautiful figures draped in flowing fabric. While it may make beautiful art, it can also make us think that sainthood is something far removed from us. It can help us to forget that we are all called to be saints. One of the most important accomplishments, I believe, in the pontificate of John Paul II was the addition of over 200 new saints,many rather ordinary people with families.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton the first saint born in what would become the United State, a wife and mother, one who came to Catholicism later in life, reminds us that saintliness is possible and is indeed what God calls all of us to be.
Today let us not only remember her and honor her. Let us also turn to her for intercession and imitate her. American saint today.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Is is really possible?

In the first reading today St. John's sets the bar incredibly high when he writes "No one who remains in him sins.

The more I reflected on his statement the more I realize that John here is not saying that the minute you commit a sin you're out, off you go to hell. What he is giving us here is more an instruction for daily living. 
How do we avoid sin? "Remain in him." To put it more simply if we keep Christ in our mind always we will not sin. It would be from his point of view effectively impossible to say, "I am keeping Christ in mind, and sinning simultaneously." 
Remember, sin requires not just a bad action, but a bad action combined with thought and will. We have to make a choice to sin. St. John is telling us that if we remain in him, if we keep ourselves constantly mindful of his presence then it is possible for us to avoid sin. 
We may still make mistakes, we are imperfect creatures; but sin is avoidable.
Several times each day we need to pause and remind ourselves of that presence of God that is always with us, remain in him, don't step out for even a minute and we will find that avoiding sin is less difficult than we think. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Looking for the AntiChrist

For only the second day of the year, the first reading today smacks you right in the face with the question,"Who's the liar?"
All this week, the last full week of Christmas, we are reading the first letter of John. There John is dealing with a fierce split in the community between those who believe in Jesus and those who deny him, the anti-Christ. Yep, that's right. The anti-Christ is not some all powerful supernatural competitor as portrayed in the movies.
According to John, the Antichrist is precisely that, those who are anti Christ, those who deny the truth about Jesus.
As we start the new year perhaps it would be good for each of us to look inside ourselves and ask if there are ways in which we deny Christ. I don't mean in the narrow sense. After all, if you didn't believe in Jesus you probably wouldn't be reading this blog.
Our ways of denying Jesus are subtle. We reject some part of what he taught. We doubt his love for us. We doubt the power of his grace in our lives. We deny his ability to change things. When we let anxiety take over, when we loose hope about anyone or anything,are we not then in some sense Antichrist. After all what good does it do to say we believe in Jesus, if we do not truly trust him with our lives.
For a real Christian the word hopeless has no meaning. Who or what could possibly be hopeless? People who talk that way are as John would say, the liar.
On this second day of the new year let us watch our words and our actions, may none of them be anti-Christ.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A truly New Year

How many times do we say "Happy New Year" without thinking. The more I reflect upon it the more I realize that the only way the year can be happy is if we allow it to be truly new.
Since 1967 the Catholic Church has celebrated today not only as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God,but also the World Day of Peace.
The Church means peace not only in the ordinary sense but in the original Hebrew sense, when all is in order, when all things are in the right relationship.
St. Paul reminds us that we have been received the Spirit of his son into our hearts which cries out "abba." It is this spirit of God which we have been given which also brings with it, if we allow it, true peace.
Peace I leave you. My peace I give you, we say each time we celebrate the Eucharist.
Today as we begin 2012 let us dedicate ourselves once more to grounding our every thought word and deed this year in that peace of Christ. Let us hold on only to what is good and holy from the past and allow this to be a truly New Year.