Friday, 18 November 2016

Scripture Reflection - Catholic Theological Union

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 16, 2016
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 20, 2016

First Reading: 2 Samuel 5:1-3
Responsorial Psalm: 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
Second Reading: Colossians 1:12-20
Gospel: Luke 23: 35-43

The Church's liturgical year closes by celebrating Christ the King.  Our readings uphold "kingship" -- a form of leadership virtually unknown today. Among the 196 nations of the world, only three are absolute monarchies. Often, this form of governance raises only the specter of unjust subservience and oppression. But our readings clearly direct us to a very different use of power and authority exemplified by Jesus Christ. Our Christian vocation is to emulate Christ's exercise of kingship healing relationships among individuals and nations.
In 1925 Pope Pius XI instituted this feast.[i] That period saw the rise of secular dictators in Europe, who asserted authority over the Church. Many Christians lost faith in Christ's authority and the Church's power to continue Christ's mission. Also that year, Mein Kampf was published; Calvin Coolidge became president; a tri-state tornado struck southern Illinois, killing over 1,000 and injuring 3,000; and John Scopes was convicted for teaching about evolution in Tennessee. Amid such chaos, hope for the ordinary person in the pew often ran thin. The great temptation was to succumb and join in the vitriol and power grabs. But Pius XI reminded the world of another way.
In today's divided world, there is a growth in populist movements, rooted in the reality that many persons have been "taken for granted and passed over by main stream politics."  Populists are usually members of lower and middle classes who fear losing traditionally secure social, political, or economic status and identity, amid the shifting demographics of globalization and the transition to a "Green Economy."  From the wells of long-suffering desperation, populists' visceral cries demanding restoration of their fragile political dignity and economic security explode into the political landscape.
In their vulnerable desperation seeking restored dignity, formerly fair-minded people have readily resorted to excessive assertions of their uniqueness or superiority. They can become blinded to the fact that their domineering and oppressive actions contradict the very dignity they seek to achieve. That kind of devolution is real for many today. They cry: "We are the people" -- not the ruling elites!  Yet, "The people" are usually a group of peers who align with a particular party and its leader, based on tribal, ethnic, nationalist or religious identifiers, claiming utopian superiority over others.
The dangers of populism are tendencies to extremes --nationalism, authoritarianism, fascism, and absolutism. Self-righteous populists consider themselves to be above the law, disrespecting the essential balance of power among the legislative, executive, judicial, media and civil society powers. Often populists weaken parliaments, and control the judiciaries, the media, civil society, and academia. Such a lack of civility and civic order is rooted in fear, a lack of freedom, and knowledge.
In the Catholic moral tradition, ignorancepassionforce, and fear are called "impediments" or blockages to living a Christian moral life. Ignorance means the simple absence of information; the inability to appreciate and act on the significance of particular pieces of information; or false opinions or prejudice, a sort of counterfeit knowledge, a misunderstanding that actively prevents the acquisition of accurate knowledge. Passion refers to the fact that out-of-control emotions can block good moral judgment. Force refers to actual compulsion from outside the person (e.g. one is held at gunpoint).  These impediments can be overcome with additional effort. 
Here is precisely where the role of each Christian and the believing community comes in.  As Christians, if we are to emulate Christ, we need to take all persons seriously, not only those "diverse groups" for an "inclusive society" -- ethnic minorities, migrants, children, women and other "marginalized" − as he did. Clearly, our power and authority to act morally and justly comes from none other than Christ, the King.
Significantly, King David took up his power "before the LORD" (2 Sam 5: 3). Though Jesus was taunted to exert royal powers on many occasions, it was only from the seemingly disempowered throne of the cross that he rendered a spectacular demonstration of his kingship, "... today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23:43). These are the powerful words of the One who "delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:13-14).
We need not give in to our impediments.  Instead we can act morally and justly, emboldened by Christ himself, who "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. ... He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col 1: 15). Today, Jesus our King invites us to measure our use of power against his: Do we serve others or to manipulate? ... build a more just society or secure own interests? ... cause pain to others or help to alleviate it? As we look forward to Advent, let us open ourselves to God's power of love, mercy, compassion, and sense of justice, and then reach out to empower others.

Friday, 4 November 2016

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C: A quote on Marriage to Warm Your Heart

In a back-handed way, the Gospel for today (Luke 20:27-38) has sometimes been used to elevate the celibate life over Marriage in our Catholic tradition. The two lifestyles are ordered to each other, of course, and each shows a unique truth of creation and resurrection in Christ. I find the following excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church so inspiring ever time I read it:

(#2365) Fidelity expresses constancy in keeping one's given word. God is faithful. The Sacrament of Matrimony enables man and woman to enter into Christ's fidelity for his Church. Through conjugal chastity, they bear witness to this mystery before the world.

St. John Chrysostom suggests that young husbands should say to their wives: I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. . . . I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you. (Homily on Ephesians)

Rest assured that Heaven is the fulfillment of all happiness; I pray the happiness of every marriage here on earth will be lifted up in God's eternity.  Fr. Matt

Saturday, 15 October 2016

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C: The Catholic Sense of Scripture

Today's Second Reading (2 Timothy 3:14-4:2) highlights St. Paul's understanding of the living nature of God's Word. The Church, in Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum puts that understanding in almost creedal-like form in its Chapter Three. As we continue to mature in God's Word, may we discern those truths given for the sake of our salvation!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Amoris Laetitia article

Pope Francis waited for two synods of the world's bishops to conclude before publishing his apostolic exhortation "The Joy of Love", or, as it is known by its Latin title, Amoris Laetitia. If you read the Catholic Update the parish made available summarizing the document, you will surely enjoy this extended reflection on 'discernment", a central theme throughout the Holy Father's work. Each Christian is called to have a discerning heart, and the community as a whole must discern our call to build up family life at every opportunity.

During his homily at the Diocesan Jubilee of Mercy Pilgrimage Mass at the Martyrs' Shrine, Bishop Fabbro spoke about each of us being on a spiritual journey: as Amoris Laetitia (and the authors below) insists, we must live out this journey within our families, accompanying one another in the same way as our Merciful God accompanies us.

While the exhortation is a lengthy read, it is available free at Bishop Barron's Word on Fire website, or copies may be purchased from our Canadian Bishops. Enjoy! May all our families be places where the joy of love is amplified & celebrated.  Fr. Matt

Friday, 26 August 2016

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year "C") 2016: Jesus learned obedience

Here's the reference from the Catechism of the Catholic Church I quoted, in reference to the idea that we must identify our will with God's, and with every person - indeed, all of creation - if our prayers & lives are to ever make sense. St. John Chrysostom's point is especially relevant: remember, it's because "God so loved the world..."

2825 "Although he was a Son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered." (Hebrews 5:8) How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience - we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son's, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father. (John 8:29)

In committing ourselves to [Christ], we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will, in such wise that it will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven. (Origen, De orat. 26:PG 11,501B.)

Consider how Jesus Christ] teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say "thy will be done in me or in us," but "on earth," the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven. (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Mt. 19,5:PG 57,280.)

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Praying for Rain

On August 7/8th, 2016, I shared an idea from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2631) about intercessory prayer. Before we ask our good God for anything in particular, our communion with God & one another needs to be renewed: "trusting humility" is the basis of that relationship.

2631 The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13) It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that "we receive from him whatever we ask." (1 John 3:22; cf. 1:7-2:2) Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Homily July 9-10, 2016

Necessary Falling Apart
Friday, July 8, 2016
Most religion is highly "legitimating religion." It is used for social control and public order both by the powers that be and by people who want to be in control. This limited use of religion has allowed much of Christian history to participate in a toxic and unjust environment--just as long as we have "a personal relationship with Jesus." This will not work anymore; in fact, it never did.

The American Bishops, paraphrasing many recent Papal statements, said that "social justice is an integral part of evangelization, a constitutive dimension of preaching the Gospel, and an essential part of the Church's mission." [1] Social critique is not an add-on, an option, a choice, or a unique vocation for a few. If Jesus is indeed "the Savior of the world" (John 4:42), we must not, we cannot, continue to think of salvation as merely a private matter. We are wasting our time trying to convert individuals without also challenging corporate sin and institutionalized evil. Otherwise, we send momentarily changed people back into the world; now they think they are godly, but they are the opposite of godly, and the disguise is perfect. As Jesus says, "the last state of the house is worse than the first" (Matthew 12:45).

It has taken Christians a long time to be able to see the Gospel in a fully historic, social, and political context; although this is clearly God's concern, starting with the Book of Exodus. Truly transformed people change the world; while fundamentally unchanged people soon conform to the world (see Romans 12:2). Culture will win out every time, if it is not also critiqued. Politicians normally prefer an unaware and superficial populace.

Dorothy Day put it even more strongly: "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system." [2] As long as we unquestioningly buy into the egoic system, where the roots of our narcissism often lie hidden, we're going to have problems. If we think we can say our private prayers and still genuflect before the self-perpetuating, unjust systems of this world, our conversion will not go very deep or last very long. There is no one more radical than a real person of prayer because they are not beholden to any ideology or economic system; their identity and motivation is found only in God, not in the pay-offs of "mammon." Both church and state are threatened by true mystics. Such enlightened people can't be bought off or manipulated, because their rewards are always elsewhere.

Most of us need to have the status quo shaken now and then, leaving us off balance and askew, feeling alienated for a while from our usual unquestioned loyalties. In this uncomfortable space, we can finally recognize the much larger kingdom of God. Many churches don't seem to understand this, even flying the national flag in the sanctuary. After authentic conversion, our old "country" no longer holds any ultimate position. We can't worship it as we were once trained to do.

This pattern of temporary falling apart precedes every transition to a new level of faith, hope, and love. If one is not prepared to live in temporary chaos and to hold the necessary anxiety that chaos entails, one never moves into a Bigger World. Notice that almost every theophany (revelation of God) begins with the same warning: "Do not be afraid." Fear is an entirely predictable response to any God encounter, because any authentic experience of the Absolute relativizes everything else. God is actually quite wild and dangerous, but we domesticated divine experience so much that a vast majority of people have left the search entirely, finding most religious people to be fearful conformists instead of adventurous seekers of Love and Mystery.

[2] Dorothy Day, as quoted by Michael O. Garvey in the Foreword, On Pilgrimage (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: 1999), xi.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1999), 157-158, 160-161.