Tuesday, December 29, 2015
We Catholics can forget that seminaries as we know them arose out of the reforms of the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Until that time education leading to ordination was varied and would have often resembled apprenticeship.
Thomas's father was a propertied man who fell on hard times and so Thomas ended up a clerk. It was from the position of clerk in the household of the Archbishop of Cantebury that he rose to position of Archbishop himself. What makes Thomas a great model is that while many rise from obscurity to power by doing whatever it takes to ingratiate themselves with the powerful, Thomas never abandoned his principles. And ultimately, those principles costed him his life.
Today we hear many an intransigent voice claiming that they are holding to their principles. One question: are they the principles of the gospel? Let us never forget that Thomas Becket died not defending his own principles. Thomas Becket died defending the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If I call myself Christian, then the principles I call mine, should in reality not be something of my creation, desire or volition, but should be those principles handed down generation after generation by the Church, received from her founder whose incarnation we celebrate in this Chirstmas Season.
Monday, December 28, 2015
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Today we commemorate those children whom we believe are part of the company of saints in heaven.
Were they baptized with water? No.
Are they considered Christians. Yes.
Not only are they considered Christians but martyrs.
Doesn't a person have to choose to be a martyr, you may ask.
Here is where some of my protestant brothers and sisters confuse me. On the one hand they will claim that "sola gratis" grace alone saves one without works. On the other hand they will argue that infants should not be baptized because the person must profess Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Which is it? For us it is God's grace and as the Catechism says, "The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism."( CCC 1250) The infant can do absolutely nothing and yet God's grace can work in them.
Here we must also make sure we do not confuse the stain of original sin and personal sin. Before the age of reason (presumably 7 years old) we consider a person to be an infant, incapable of personal sin and in particular moral sin. Do they have the "inclination towards evil and death" which we call original sin? Yes. And even in toddlers we see this tendency toward selfishness, but it is not that personal sin, by which we separate ourselves from God.
In that sense all children from the moment they are conceived until they reach the use of reason are considered innocents. And should they die even without baptism, we trust that through God's grace and mercy they will be received into the company of the saints. One need only look at our funeral rites to see our theology.
At the funeral of an unbaptized child the priest says:
All things are of your making, all creation awaits they day of salvation. We now must entrust the soul of this child to the abundant mercy of God that our beloved child may find a home in his kingdom.
Notice that we call him or her "our child." The child belongs only to the parents but to the Church.
Today is not only the day we remember the Holy Innocents from two millennia ago, but today we remember all the families who mourn. We pause and remember all of the innocents who have died in this year through abortion, miscarriage, or the myriad other ways that parents suffer the loss of a child. As painful as that lose is, we live in the hope that we will one day be reunited with each and every one of these holy innocents in the company of the saints, in the fulness of the Kingdom of God.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
Friday, December 25, 2015
Thursday, December 24, 2015
The storm has calmed around David and his kingdom is finally at peace. It is then decided that God needs a proper dwelling place. It God who then intervenes and sends a prophesy that he will be the builder of a house, a house for/of David. David is told that
Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me;your throne shall stand firm forever.
For us Christians this house is the Church, not the building, but the mystical body of Christ. It is our firm faith that the Church is the fulfillment of this promise made so long ago to David. It is house not build by human hands.
If we look close we see a characteristic that we don't often think about, indestructibility. God promises that this house shall endure forever, and God's promises are true. Do we truly believe that the house in indestructible? Do we trust that promise. At 20 years of age I embraced the Catholic faith because I came to believe. Jesus established his house, him Kingdom from the house of David and it will have no end. Even if the people inside the house are determined to tear it apart, to tear it down. It cannot be done.
In just a few hours Christians around the world will begin to gather to celebrate their vigils of the Incarnation, the Birth of God as man. The cornerstone of the indestructible house.
What role will we play in the year to come? Will we each be good stewards who work to not only maintain but to build up the house? Or will we be saboteurs tearing down our own house from the inside? It happens.
On this last day of Advent, it is time for us to take one more look around the inside of the house that is our heart, time for one last cleaning, so that it will be a presentable house into which we can bring, the newborn King.
Monday, December 14, 2015
When we think about the Scriptures at Mass we think of course of the gospel, then we think of the first and/or second reading. We often forget about the psalms. Each day a psalm is assigned. In the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Psalms is the first book of the section simply called "the writings." Our name psalms comes from psalmoi in Greek meaning instrumental music. We know that the psalms were intended to be sung, accompanied by instruments. Nothing will ingrain a text in us like singing.
Our Morning and Evening Prayer centers around singing of the psalms and each time mass is celebrated one psalm is provided with a verse or part of a verse serving as a refrain. Todays psalm is #25 and the refrain is taken from verse 4.
The opening verse today was:
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Jesus tells us to:
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart
We are supposed to to learn to follow his example and yet how many of us really want to be either meek or humble? We like the words in theory, but if you were to ask Gallup to conduct a poll, and ask people to list the top 10 characteristics of a great leader, where would meek and humble fall? I doubt that those two words would even make the top 20.
More importantly, how many of us strive to been either meek/gentle or humble of heart? And perhaps that is the challenge on this second day of the Year of Mercy. Be gentle. Be humble.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Some might say that the gospel story begins with the birth of Jesus. Others might go back a bit further and say the annunciation when the angel appeared to Mary and Jesus was conceived. Others might go back six months further to the conception of John, the precursor of Jesus.
To me it makes sense to go back to the moment we celebrate today, the moment Mary was conceived. With that first miraculous step God showed his plan for the restoration and elevation of the human race. I say elevation because the plan was to raise us from mere image and likeness to true sons and daughters. He would undo the damage done by original sin. And so his first act in the forging of this new and eternal covenant would be to conceive a child without original sin, the prototype of what was to come.
And so for me it makes perfect sense that today as we celebrate that new beginning we make a new beginning of our own, the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Today as Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica let each of us throw open the doors of our hearts.
Monday, December 7, 2015
1. The journey is not complete for any of us until it is complete for all of us at the end of time when Jesus returns and raises our moral bodies and makes them like his own. (1 Cor 15:36-49).
2. Some souls have already entered into heaven. Others are still being purified.
If is for those we offer our prayers, including the mass and indulgences. No, indulgences are not something sold. The are actions that we put with words to atone for sin that we have committed or on behalf of others. And here is where we come to today's gospel.
In the gospel, the man is paralyzed. He cannot act on his own behalf. He represents so many people are are in one way or another paralyzed. His friends decide that they must help him. They dismantle a section of roof and lower him to Jesus.
The gospel tells us,
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven.”
The faith of the friends, brings forgiveness to the paralyzed man. Their faith expressed in actions (works) brought forgiveness and salvation to the paralyzed man.
Those who argue that the only way for one to be saved is for them personally to accept Jesus Christ as their savior (and be baptized with water) have forgotten that God cannot be limited.
Sometimes spiritual paralysis can be worse than physical paralysis.
One this last day of preparation for the year of mercy that begins tomorrow morning,
Countdown and other info
it would be good for us to pause and call to mind perhaps some loved one who have fallen into spiritual paralysis. They are so wound, or angry, ignorant of God's love, or obstinate that they cannot or will not embrace the faith. Let today's gospel be source of hope. Do not give up, because God never gives us on any human being.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Today's gospel ends by reminding us of something that not just Catholics but all Christians tend to forget.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
We do not buy our salvation. We do not earn our salvation. It comes through grace. The Catechism defines grace by saying:
Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.
Free and undeserved help. Imagine for a moment if we were to begin truly imitating God whose children we are and in whose image we are made. Imagine if for the year of mercy we were to start handing out free and undeserved help.
Friday, December 4, 2015
The concept of the Jubilee goes back to the Book of Leviticus 25. Seven being the perfect number, every seventh year was a sabbatical year, but the 7th seventh year, that is every 49 years there was to be a yovel or Jubilee Year, the 50th year. It was a time of forgiveness, liberty, and restitution. Anyone indentured was freed. Land held as collateral was returned. Debts were forgiven.
In these last few days of preparation, perhaps now is the time for each of us to taken an internal inventory. Are there sins for which I need forgiveness? Are there people I need to forgive? Are there things I am holding onto that I need to let go of? Are there relationships that need to be restored?
Let us take these days to prepare ourselves to open wide the doors of our hearts, to receive and give the gift of mercy.