Monday, November 30, 2015
episcopos- literally overseer, in English Bishop
presbyteros- literally elder, in English Priest or Presbyter
diakonos- literally waiter, in English Deacon
But where do we get the idea that one has to be ordained? Why can't anyone who feels called by the Holy Spirit simply go out and preach? There are many very practical answers. But the clearest biblical answer is found in the first reading today from chapter 10 of Paul's Letter to the Romans in which we hear.
And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone to preach?
And how can people preach unless they are sent?
The last question is key. How can people preach unless the are sent? From the time of St. Paul it was clear that preaching was to be reserved to those who were "sent". The Greek verb is apostello. It means set apart. In order to insure the proper handing on of the truth of the gospel, the Church throughout the centuries has had a system for designating those who speak in the name of the Church.
Jesus calls us all to share our faith, but he also understood the frailty of humanity. He understood how easily the gospel could be misinterpreted. He saw with his own ideas what the Pharisees and others had dome to the Law given to Moses. We refer to the core of our teaching as the Deposit of Faith. And today as we celebrate the apostle St. Andrew I would ask you to pray for all those bishops, priests, and deacons who are "set apart" to proclaim His word. May we always remain faithful to the Gospel we have promised to protect and hand on.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Phrases like "No pain, no gain" sound fine to us as long as it refers to pain which we choose, like how hard we will work out at the gym, or how strictly we diet. In those cases we remain in control and can quit whenever we want. The suffering Jesus is talking about is the suffering that we cannot control.
We may not be able to control the attacks or the suffering, but we can choose how we respond to it. St. Luke ends today by saying,
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.
The greek word for perseverance means to stay under. On the one hand it can sound like resignation. But if we look deeper it is a capacity to maintain your inner peace, stillness, and serenity when you are hypo (under), under pressure, under attack, under the weight of some enormous problem.
In all the press about the Pope's comments regarding neurotic priests what may have gotten missed was the model he gave,
"A priest who is a peaceful man will know how to spread serenity around himself even in the those exhausting moments, by sharing the beauty of a relationship with Lord."
The perseverance of which Jesus speaks is that serenity that can be found in any situation if we will truly allow ourselves to be enveloped in a loving relationship with the Lord.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
In today's portion we hear the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. a succession of kingdoms one after the other, and finally,
In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever.
As Christians we believe that that kingdom was first made visible on earth when Jesus began to call disciples. After his resurrection the kingdom took its next great step when Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But the Kingdom we read about today in Daniel will only reach its fullness at the end of time with the second coming of Christ.
In the meantime we are reminded, however, that we do not passively wait. We should first of all live as children of the kingdom, the undivided kingdom. Each of the kingdoms in the dream fell apart and disappeared. It is bad enough that we divide the church into "denominations", but then within what is supposed to still be the one, holy catholic and apostolic church, we see divisions right down to the level of the local parish. The disappoint that God the Father must feel as he watches his family. It is not enough that it be attacked from the outside. We Christians are busy attacking one another.
As we prepare to begin the season of Advent, perhaps it is time for each of us to begin to reflect on our own words and actions and ask are their ways we contribute to division and discord. And pray for whatever healing we need.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Those four words at the end of Luke 20:38. παντες γαρ αυτο ζοσιν, all to him live (are living),
cause us to refine our thinking about life considerably. The question isn't really do you want eternal life of not. That question Jesus answers. All live forever.
The question is: Where do you want to live forever? United to God or not.
Both Hitler and Mother Teresa are still alive. But are they in the same place?
We have until the last moment of our earthly life to make the right choice, but why wait? Why not start practicing today? Why not practice constantly reminding yourself of God's presence? God is there whether you acknowledge it or not, but our lives are so much better when we do.
Whether you identify more closely with the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit does not matter, Have you even asked your self which you most closely identify with when you pray?
Start this day, reminding yourself of God's presence. And several times during the day stop and remind yourself again, and again, and again.
Friday, November 20, 2015
Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel
decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar
should be observed with joy and gladness
on the anniversary every year for eight days,
from the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev.
As we recall, the Jewish calendar is a Lunar calendar. 1 Chislev this year was our 13th of November. So the 25th of Chislev will be December 7. Remember also that the days are also counted not from midnight, which most cannot determine without a clock, but from sunset, which any person anywhere can easily see. And so Chanukah will begin this year on December 6 at sunset.
How many of us Christians had heard of Chanukah and yet never have read the Bible story on which the celebration is based? Mark your calendars now and this year, when you wish your Jewish friends Happy Chanukah you will know that you have read or at least heard of the event being celebrated. Or better yet, take out your Catholic Bible and read the story. Better than any novel you can buy, and its true.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
We are reminded once more of the connection between our Christian faith and that of our Jewish brothers and sister. Next Sunday we will begin the season of Advent with its own series of particular readings. But before we do, we take time now to reflect of the roots of the Jewish holiday that falls during Advent, Hanukkah.
This year it begins on our Second Sunday of Advent. It is not "Jewish Christmas." It celebrates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah is more than dreidels and chocolate coins. It is an annual commemoration of a people's fight for religious liberty and the miracle that occurred when they rededicated the temple.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Is there any pain worse than that of a mother or a father when the see a child die? Could there be any more courageous act than the act of this woman.
The Bible does not give her name but in many of the Eastern Churches she is referred to as Solomonia. She is an example of courage, but she also reminds us that a martyr is a person who will die for their faith, but does not kill others.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Let us be careful not to mistake intransigence and integrity. What makes him a man of integrity is not his unwillingness to change his mind. That would make him a fool. As Christians we are all called to be disciples, that is students, we should be constantly learning and therefore changing. In the words, of John Cardinal Newman "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often."
What makes Eleazar an man of integrity is his unwillingness to pretend, to be one person in public and another in private. Integrity is very simply the recognition that we have one life. We cannot carve our lives into little boxes: one for work, one for home, one for church.
In some ways modern technology has helped us. In my father's time. He went to work at 8:00 came home at 4:00. Now, with our cell phones and laptops, those lines have blurred. We work whenever and wherever necessary. That also means we have to be very intentional about things like time for prayer, and time for loved ones.
Someone once said "Character is what you do when no one is looking." The same could be said of integrity. I often tell young people, the only way to guarantee that something does not end up online is not to do it.
Being a person of integrity does not mean that we are perfect. Only God is perfect. We all fall down from time to time. Being a person of integrity means striving to make all of the pieces fit into one cohesive whole.
Today take a few moments to look at the various aspects of your life and the kind of person you want to be. Are there pieces that don't fit? Is there some area of your life where you have let your actions drift from your core values?
Perfect integrity will be achieved only in heaven, but it doesn't mean we stop trying.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Growing up this story was not in my King James Bible. But why would a king include in the Bible a story which says people have the right to overthrow the king when their religious liberty is being trampled? No king wants their children growing up reading this story. We on the other hand have always considered it part of the inspired Word of God.
The Empire of Alexander the Great was breaking up. What we call the Holy Land fell under Seleucus I, founder of what is called the Seleucid Empire. In 187 Antiochus Epiphanies came to the throne. As our story begins the King decided that all should be one, what sounds like a laudable goal.
Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people,
each abandoning his particular customs.
All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king,
and many children of Israel were in favor of his religion;
they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.
We may ask ourselves how the Jews could abandon their faith. They did it the same way we do, little by little.
As Christians we are called to be in the world but not of the world. St. Paul warns us,
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rm 12:2)
This week as we read the story of how a small band of the faithful had to fight to recover their faith. Let us take time to look at our own lives and ask are there ways in which we have allowed ourselves to become shaped by the culture instead of being the ones to shape it.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
So if we cannot return evil for evil what can we do? With that I began to go back and remember our most basic beliefs about the world, including our belief that everything created by God was good. Even Satan was created good. It was by the free choice of Satan and the other fallen angels that they fell. What made their sin graver than any we commit is that their free will was perfectly free, they did not experience the pull of original sin; it had not yet happened when they fell.
Every terrorist was born into this world like you and me, a beautiful creation of God. They came into this world with the same primordial needs as you or me, including the need to be loved. Do we think for a moment that the terrorist's mother held him with less tenderness than we were held when we were born? Of course not.
Somewhere along the road that innocent child turned or was turned from the path. That innocent child began to listen to the voices of anger and hatred, until that anger and hatred boiled over in violence. And if we are to stop the violence we must find a way to keep the children on the right path.
Simpletons will tell you that the problem is a religious one. How many times have I heard atheists attempt blame religion for the violence in our world? I am always shocked when I hear Christians take up the atheist refrain. Every truly religious person is seeking God and therefore seeking truth.
What we are witnessing is not religion but its abuse. And it is true that there are examples throughout human history of every religion being abused.
Today I pray not only for those who died and their families. I pray for those who were injured, for those who were kidnapped, and their loved one who are living in terror of the unknown. I pray for all the victims. But I pray also for the young man or woman who is starting down the dark road of anger and hatred. I pray that God will send someone to be the angel in their life, to speak a word of truth, a word that will turn them toward the light. As long as the voices of division, hatred, and anger are louder than the voices of unity, love, and peace, this problem will continue.
We can and should do everything we can to cut off the supplies of money and arms. But the truth is, hatred will aways find the tools it needs. In the end, if we are truly Christian we know that the only real solution is in the heart. Today and every day we should pray for the conversion of every angry man and woman of every nationality, race, and religion. Pray for the outpouring of God's love into their heart.
Friday, November 13, 2015
I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left.
And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.
This has nothing to do with the FICTIONAL "Left behind Series"
The point Jesus is making is much simpler. We are called to be one. We are called to live as members of Christ's visible body, the Church. Ours is a communal faith.
But it is also a personal faith. It is, at its heart, a personal relationship with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. And at the end of this life we are all held accountable for our actions individually. You cannot blame your spouse for your bad temper. Your mother is not responsible for your bad manners.
You cannot blame anyone nor can you save anyone. You can help to some degree, and we believe in the power of prayer but each person has to make their own choices. The wife going to church will not save the husband. And until your alcoholic spouse or child decides to change, you cannot fix them.
Particularly for those of us who are helper, the hardest thing in the world for us to realize is,"The only life I can live is mine. The only person I can change is me." Jesus constantly calls us to love one another and pray for one another. He never tells us to fix one another.
I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left.
And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.
Today let us do the two most powerful things we can do for others: pray and give a good example.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Firstly, we do believe that all authority comes from God, just as we believe all life comes God. We refer to God as all-powerful meaning not only can he do anything but also that all legitimate power finds its source in God.
Once a leader understands that, then they also understand why the Book of Wisdom refers to them as "ministers of his kingdom." In many cultures they still refer to officials as ministers (i.e the prime minister). Every kingdom is "HIS kingdom" because HE (forgive the sexist language ) created it all.
Imagine for a moment if every leader from the President to the parents of every family saw their power and leadership through the lens of ministry. If they realized that they were excising a kind of delegated power only, how different our world would be.
The Book of Wisdom is not reinforcing some right of the King to have people bow down in his presence. On the contrary it reads:
Sunday, November 8, 2015
As I looked at the readings for today I searched for some word that speaks to this situation and I found it in the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. In the letter to the Hebrews we are all reminded what it really means to be a priest.
The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us all that there is only one High Priest for the entire Church. That High Priest is Jesus Christ. All the rest of us who have the privilege of being priests are mere collaborators. On the day of our baptism we first become participants in the priesthood of Christ. From the baptized some are called and by virtue of ordination empowered to share in a particular way in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. But even though we share in it, we can never forget that it remains always His. One of the reasons we cover ourselves in layers of vestments at mass is to cover our peculiarity. It can never be about me. Every word every action must be about HIM.
So much in our modern culture has become cult of personality (entertainment, sports, politics). Church can never be that. As much as some people love Pope Francis, he would be the first to tell you that his only task is to point you toward Jesus.
On the day of our ordination we promise respect and obedience to the bishop and his successors, and we go where we are needed for as long as we areneeded in that place and we move on. We are human beings and we need the care and support of the people but ultimately we must like John the Baptist remind even our biggest fans, "I am not He."
Change is always difficult but if we keep our eyes fixed on the High Priest who offered the one sacrifice once for all, we know that things will not only be new and different, but better, because we are all pilgrims on the road that leads to the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Being a Christians is not reading the Bible and blinding doing what you think it says. Contrary to the caricature of Catholic's, it's not blinding doing everything the Pope says. The goal is that we all be able to "hear under", come to an ever deeper understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In faith, we read the Bible, we use the Catechism to help us understand it, we pray, so that we are drawn into a deep personal relationship with the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.
And in the context of that relationship we act, we speak, we do, we live. It is always, as St. Anselm says, "fides quarens intellectum", faith seeking understanding. Jesus never asked for blind obedience, as a matter of fact it was his mission to make the blind see. He wants us to see and to hear at the deepest possible level. When we look at another person we should see beyond the surface, and try to see as God sees. And when we listen, we listen in faith.
We have spent several weeks reading St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. It is the first of the Pauline Letters in the Bible because it is the longest. Today let us practice listening, not only to the Word of God but to each other, in faith, and perhaps all of our relationships can move to a deeper level.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
The starting point for understanding the unity of the Body of Christ is the unity of all humanity described in the Book of Genesis. As Christians we believe that every human being is created by the collaboration of a father, a mother, and God. The father and mother create the body and God implants the soul. There is one God and therefore one humanity of which we are all parts. And from that first moment every life is sacred. The scriptures tell us that we are the image and likeness of God. It is what sets all human life apart from other animals.
But do we really believe this? Every time I hear a Christian use the phrase "those people" I cringe. Funny how we are rarely being complimentary we say "those people."
But all of the above is only the beginning, because, as St. Paul reminds us, Jesus takes that unity to a whole other level entirely. From the moment a person is baptized with water "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Mt. 28:19), they are united to Jesus Christ in a new way. St. Paul describes it this way.
Brothers and sisters:
We, though many, are one Body in Christ
and individually parts of one another.
All of the more than 2.2 billion Christians in the world connected.
The first part I think we are ok with, the fact that we are all part of the Body of Christ. It is the second part that I think we have some trouble with, the idea that we are individually part of each other.
Some Caldean Christian in Iraq is part of me? Yes. Some Syro-Malankara Christian in India is part of me? Yes. Or closer to home both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton are part of me, and part of you. And we are part of them.
Now it gets uncomfortable.
In the Catholic, we distinguish between those who are in full communion with the Church and those who are not, but we never deny that other validly baptized Christians are part of the one body of Christ.
Baptism cannot be undone. As we hear in 2 Timothy "if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself."
We are stuck with each other. That is part of the challenge of living the Christian faith. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. And if some part of the body falls ill, we do not chop it off, we run to the doctor. We do everything possible to save it.
While we rush to judgment and want to defeat our enemies. When early Christians wondered why God wasn't punishing their enemies fast enough to suit them. The answer was:
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pt 3:9)
We are part of a body that just on the earth today has more than 2 billion body parts. As we drive today, as we turn on the television or read or see or hear news on some device. In every country we hear named and surrounding us here in our own country are people who are all individually part of each of us and we are part of them, whether we like them or not.
Monday, November 2, 2015
But this year, let me offer a suggestion. Instead of focusing on ourselves and our loved ones, how about taking some time to pray for all those people who passed from this life and who even today will pass from this life not surrounded by loved ones, those die alone, those who have died and been forgotten.
Where I live now it is not unusual to see the poor mentally ill wandering down the main street in front of the church. Who will pray for them when they pass from this life? And how many like them die each day around the world.
Today the Church calls on us to pray for all the faithful departed. In the words of the fourth eucharistic prayer, "Remember also those who have died in the peace of Christ, and all the dead, whose faith you alone have known."
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Someone once referred to November as a month of remembrance. At first it sounded OK and then I realized there was something that sounded not quite right.
St James commands us to pray for one another (5:16)
St. Paul commands us to pray without ceasing (1 Th 5:17)
When do these commandments expire?
The Christian answer is never, because the underlying commandment "love one another" does not end with death but is perfected.
November is the last month of the liturgical year and so we focus on last things: the final judgment, Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell, and all of our loved ones who have preceded us.
In a special way we focus today on the saints in heaven and tomorrow on those who are still being purified for entry into heaven (purgatory). The two days call for two different kind of prayer.
Today, All Saints Day, our eyes are turned towards those whose souls already surround the throne of God. They pray without ceasing, praising God and continuing to fulfill the commitment to pray for one another, they pray for us. We do not pray for them, because they have reached the goal. We petition them to pray for us,and because they love us perfectly now, they can petition the Father perfectly.
Tomorrow, All Souls Day, our eyes turn toward those who have not yet reached the fullness of heaven. Few if any of us leave this life free of baggage, perfectly able to love God and love one another. Therefore, her faith teaches that there is a final purification that must take place, before we can enter into heaven. Tomorrow refocus our attention on those whose to undergo that process. Tomorrow our prayer is not petition but intercession. We intercede with the Father for them, continuing to fulfill the commands given us by St. James and St. Paul.
Our love and our loved ones do not end at death, but are brought to completion. Therefore, even after death prayer continues. Yes we remember, but we do much more than remember. We look forward to the day will be reunited with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.