Monday, October 8, 2018

Who is my neighbor?

As I watch the news, it’s sad how much both political parties are banking on anger as the force that will drive their base to the polls in November. Even sadder is the fact that they are right. In America now, the angriest party wins. But saddest of all are number of people who are, by baptism, Christian, and yet, are joining in the anger. 

We can and should debate, disagree, even argue. It’s how, in a democracy, we expect our elected officials to reach decisions for the good of all the people. But despite my best efforts, I can’t find anything in the teaching of Jesus that alllow me to say “I hate” or even “I can’t stand”, particularly in reference to a person I have never met. Even if I were to consider a person an “enemy” or believe they are my “persecutor” I have no choice but to love them. 

Does that mean I want to invite them to dinner? No. Does it mean that I have to trust them? No. But it does mean that I speak of them with the dignity that due to every human being. I pray for their wellbeing and conversion. 

If I am Christian then Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi are my neighbors. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are my neighbors. Nowhere do the gospels say that being Christian is easy. On the contrary, we are told repeatedly how difficult it is. We can repeat phrases like “one nation under God” or “in God we trust” all day long but if our words and actions are no different that those of the atheists and agnostics, if we Christians demonstrate the same vitriol, then are we Christians or merely hypocrites?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Twentieth Century Devotion

When we think of the Catholic Church and the 20th Century, we tend to think first of Vatican II. And on that subject, people feel very strongly, seeing it as either the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to the Church. We can forget that there is an entire world of Catholics living the faith day by day, most going unnoticed. 

Among those, was a poor girl named Helena Kowalska. Born in 1905, she was so poor that she and uneducated that she had a difficult time finding a convent willing to take her. Her entire life was filled with rejections. What we now know as her devotion to Divine Mercy was for a time forbidden by the Holy Office, comsidered suspect, theologically. 

She lived only a short time on this earth, 33 years. Her childhood saw World War I and a world in which what we now called Poland was constantly being fought over by outside powers. In many ways, the time and place in which she lived showed the worst sides of human nature. And in that context, Jesus showed himself to her. 

The priest to whom she reported her visions wisely sent her to a psychiatrist, to be sure that she was not suffering from some mental illness. Assured that these were not hallucinations, Fr. Micheal became her great supporting in what would be an uphill climb to acceptance. 

Today the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and Divine Mercy Sunday are no longer thought of as strange innovations but as ordinary, perhaps traditional, parts of Catholic Spirituality. 

We may look at our world and think that it’s the worst mess ever, but St. Faustina lived in a much more difficult time and place. And yet, what she saw was Jesus and the great mercy of God. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

More trust than patience

Growing up, I remember often hearing the expression “the patience of Job.”  And yet, this week, as we read the Book of Job, it strikes me that the great virtue we see in Job is not patience but trust. 

Yes, he is patient. But the foundation of that patience is an absolute trust in two things. First, he trusts that God is all-powerful. 

God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. 

Job recognizes the presence of evil in the world. He recognizes the power that human beings have. But for Job, there is a greater power at work in the world, God. 

Secondly, Job believes that God’s action is continuous. And here is where he differs from many of us. For many of us, we seem to believe in a world that runs along like a machine and God occasionally intervenes, possibly in answer to prayer. Job has a very different view of the world. 

For Job, God is constantly at work in the world, constantly moving the world according to His design. 

Do we as Catholics believe in free will? Of course, we believe that every human being chooses and we define ourselves by our actions. 

Each tree is known by its own fruit. 

But we also believe, like Job, not in a God who is passively observing the world and only occasionally intervening, but in a God who is every moment of every day guiding the world toward the fulfillment of His plan, the coming of His kingdom. 

Job was able to be patient because Job trusted God even when the plan was not visible. 

We are living in a time when our trust in human beings is all but completely eroded. The good news is that like Job we may find that adversity deepens our trust in God. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

The unlikely Doctor

In the Catholic Church there are some who, in addition to being declared saints, are also called Doctor of the Church. Here the word Doctor is being used, in the Latin sense, to mean teacher. These are people renowned for their contribution to theology or the doctrine of the Church. 

When today’s saint, St. Thérèse, was made a doctor of the Church in 1997 there was great debate, not because she was a woman, but because her writing was not what anyone would have considered scholarly theology. Her work might be read in a class on Spirtuality.  

In his Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia (The Science of Divinie Love) St. John Paul II lays out her unique contribution to the teaching of the Church. He reaches back to the scriptures and finds in her writing an example of how God reveals himself to the humble, to the “little ones.” 

Today as we honor St. Thérèse it is a good time for all of us to stop and look for the signs of God’s love in the simple things of life.