“Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages.
A person should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity; devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked with gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ, a pasch, that is, a passing over. Through the branches of the cross, he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’”
– From “Journey of the Mind to God” By Saint Bonaventure, Seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)
“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” We see Jesus taking an important step in his ministry in the Galilee. Up to now, it has been just him proclaiming the Good News; just him healing the sick; and those suffering from demons and evil spirits. Now, he was sending his twelve disciples out, to proclaim the glory, the mercy of God; sending them out drive out demons, and heal the sick. In a sense, he was sending them out as his front men, to get the word out to a wider audience, to give hope to more people of the Galilee. I would have loved to know what pairings of the Apostles were. Who was Judas paired with? How did that go? Some ago, a book came out, based on the TV mini-series; “Jesus of Nazareth;” a novelization of the mini-series. In the telling of this story, Peter, the rough, tough fisherman was paired with the Matthew, the tax collector! Not exactly a match made in heaven. The story goes on telling how Matthew worked at keeping Peter out of trouble because of his temper. All of the Apostles fulfilled the mission, given to them by Jesus. The groundwork had been done, that when Jesus went into greater Galilee, thousands of people came to see him, came to hear him, came to be healed by him.
We seemed to have turned the corner on this pandemic we are going through, though this variant has people worried. Our churches are fully opened, people are being invited back; yet, the mainstream press, secular and religious, are reporting a severe drop in the number of people attending church, a drop in the number of people who identify themselves as Catholic, or even Christian. Now, there could be many reasons for this, going to church is no longer a habit, people have found other things to fill their time, people have been put off by the division in the some areas of the Church, they felt alone, scared, and losing hope, and for whatever reason, they feel nobody is reaching out to them.
Now, there are programs and approaches to answer this growing situation , all coming under the umbrella of the “New Evangelization;” but in the light of today’s Gospel, I would suggest that each one of us are called to bearers of the Good News, to be evangelists. Now some may object, “I do not have training!” I would agree, we do need trained evangelists. But we also need people who have strived to live the Gospel, at home, on the job, with family, friends and strangers. Amos was not a trained prophet, he was shepherd, something of a gardener. The Apostles were mostly fisherman, who probably knew just enough Hebrew that they could read, barely, the Torah. Matthew was probably the most educated, he had to know some arithmetic, and enough Latin or Greek to communicate with his Roman overseers. But they were ordinary folks, like you and me, but they were inspired by the Gospel that Jesus preached; they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
We, who strive to live the Gospel, try to put into practice the commandments to love God with all our mind, with all our heart, with all our soul; and love our neighbors as ourselves, with all that it implies; have that same Spirit within us. And people will recognize that, recognize the authenticity of our lives, both with the struggles and joys. And they will be drawn to Christ, drawn to the God who loves us and cares for us.
I would remind us again what Saint Paul said to the Ephesians; “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit;”. May the Holy Spirit guide us, inspire us to be evangelists for others, by the example of our lives, our lives of faith.
“O Lord and Master of my life, grant me not a spirit of sloth, meddling, love of power and idle talk. But give to me, your servant, a spirit of sober-mindedness, humility, patience, and love. Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, since you are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.”
Saint Ephrem, a Syriac Christian, was born around 306 AD, in ancient Mesopotamia. Baptized as a young man, he also was ordained a Deacon. He acquired fame as teacher of the Faith, and as an author of hymns. His hymns were written again to promote and defend the Christian faith, as well to give praise to God. With his fellow Christians, he was forced to flee his homeland for ancient Edessa. He died in 373. He was proclaimed a “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Benedict XV, in 1920.
Once more, people of Irish descent; and those would like to be Irish, are celebrating the Feast day of St. Patrick. In this country, on this “holy” day, people would celebrate in bars and pubs, although maybe not so much during these COVID days! Individuals and families will feast corned beef and cabbage; and there will be the wearing of the green. Real, and what passes for “real” Irish music will blaring out in homes, stores and cars.
Sadly, we tend to forget what the churches are asking us to remember today, the story of a man of faith. As a young man living in ancient Britain, Patrick was kidnap by Irish raiders; taken to wild Ireland and sold as a slave. He would later escape, returning to his homeland. But he felt called to return to Ireland as a missionary. He would study and was ordained a priest; he was later consecrated a bishop, and sent to Ireland to establish the Christian faith there. He would be successful in his efforts. A Celtic style of Christianity would soon developed, which disappeared for awhile, but is experiencing a rebirth. Eventually, it would be Irish monks, coming over into Europe, that would lead to a rebirth of Christianity in Europe itself, as it recovered from the Dark Ages.
The following is part of a prayer, attributed to Saint Patrick, it speaks to his deep spirituality; Saint Patrick’s Breastplate:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me. Christ beside me, Christ to win me. Christ to win me. Christ to comfort me and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me. Christ in quiet, Christ in danger. Christ in hearts of all that love me. Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.
“Blessed be God, in his angels and in His saints!”
The first day of 2021 is almost over! Outside our apartment window, I can hear rain falling. A storm is sweeping over us! It has been a quiet day, dinner was leftovers from an earlier meal. I have been sending “Happy New Year” to relatives and friends over Messenger and Facebook! Now I am wondering what the year 2021 has to bring.
The pandemic is still roaring across the country! I have been fortunate to be able to work at home, earning an income and maintaining my health benefits. But after all this time working my computer, on a folding card table, it is getting old! I miss coworkers, a change of scenery. And I am sure my wife would love to get my workstation out of her living room!
My ministry as a Deacon has sort of become more internal. I do get to assist at Mass once a month and am able to preach. But the parish congregations are sparse, social distancing and mask wearing are mandatory. Virtual meetings and prayer gatherings are becoming the new normal. Yes, I am a Zoomer!
As year 2020 comes to close, and year 2021 is just getting started, things do not look that great! Besides the already mentioned pandemic, there are other issues affecting the nation and the world at large. In this country, we have just been through a largely divisive elections season. And the the results are still being challenged by factions among our politicians. The question of U.S. democracy surviving has been raised.
Within our Catholic Church, there are signs of cracks in the Bark of St. Peter! Persons who claim to be loyal to the Papacy, are questioning the legitimacy of the current Pope! The Church is still struggling to justly react to child sexual abuse. And the Church has to deal with issues of women’s role within it’s structure; the role of the laity in Church governance. And among all other issues, are the questions about how we are to be Church in the world.
And sadly, the discussion about the above matters, both secular and religious, has been quite divisive (to put it mildly)! The internet, the World Wide Web, blogs, Facebook, Tweeter; gives everyone an unfettered platform to argue, sometimes violently.
We have forgotten that we are called by Jesus to love one another, even those we call our enemies! We need to return some sort of civility to the discussions. There may never be a total accommodation, but at least we can part, recognizing that while we may disagree, we are still part of the same community!
This blog has been silent for a long time. I cannot say I will always be able to overcome this writer’s block, but I will try! I will try to be civil and respectful in my writing. Let’s see what 2021 brings! Blessings!!
Merry Christmas! Although, this has been the most, shall we say, “unique” Christmas Day we have ever had. There have been Christmas Days we have celebrated during times of conflict, hard economic times, times of disasters, both as individuals, families, communities, and nations! But never, in my memory, have we a time of such as this Corvid pandemic!
We are in grave situation that affects the whole world. Millions of people have been stricken! Millions have died! Economies have gone south, thousands unemployed! And our political leaders seem incapable of breaking out of their ideological strait jackets; arguing, stonewalling, while millions suffer. And we are all getting worn down by it all. It is coming to a point where saying, “Merry Christmas;” sounds very hollow.
Yet, for the Church, the community of believers, this day the cry goes out “Rejoice!” For “ unto us a child is given;”on this day God fulfilled His Promise to send a Savior, His Son! On this day, we are reminded that God has not left us alone, He is with us in our times of suffering, of doubt, of feeling hopeless! We may not be able to acknowledge His Presence, but Jesus is with us, around us, within us. He shares His Spirit through Scripture, prayer and other people we come in contact with! He shares Himself in the Eucharist, Holy Communion, Bread for the hard journey, whether within ourselves or without, that we are on!
So this day, whether it is clear and sunny or cloudy and stormy; remember what this day is truly about. Rejoice!! For “unto us a child is given!”
Today is called “Gaudete Sunday;” it comes in the middle of Advent. “Gaudete” which is a Latin the that translates into “Rejoice.” The penitential season of Advent is almost over! So, Gaudete! Rejoice!
But I can almost hear the thoughts, the whispers, the outraged complaints! “Rejoice? Are you kidding me? We are in a world wide pandemic! Cases of COVID are surging again! Millions have gotten sick world wide! Over a million have died! Businesses have in this country, have closed, people have been laid off. The economy is suffering! Rejoice? There is turmoil in our government, our politics. The country is sharply divided, people cannot agree to disagree civilly; the word “secession” has been voiced! In the land of Jesus and John the Baptist, the Children of Abraham are each other’s throats! Even in our churches, there is fierce disagreements over liturgy, doctrine, pastoral approaches! How can we rejoice!?!
To which the Church responds, in the words of St. Paul; “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks,…”. Because God has been fulfilled His promises to His people. He has sent His Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ; who showed us how we are live as children of God. By His death and resurrection, he has broken the chains of sin and death, and freed all of us. We are all now children of God, brothers and sisters, members of the Body of Christ. What the prophet Isaiah proclaimed in the first reading “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,…!” It is a mission call for all of us, guided by the Holy Spirit!
So rejoice, because we have been given new life in Christ! Rejoice, because Christ is still with us, as the Word, in the Good News we read and hear proclaimed. Rejoice, because Christ is with us in the Eucharist. Rejoice, because Christ is with each us here and now, during these troubled times; that are in our world, and also within us, as we try come to terms with the stresses of life during a pandemic! And above all, rejoice, because Jesus has promised to come again, to bring all us into the Kingdom of his Father. So I say again, Rejoice!,
October 11th – Feast of St. Pope John XXIII
“All powerful and ever living God, you called St. John XXIII to guide your people by his word and example. With him, we pray to you; watch over the pastors of your Church, with the people entrusted to their care, and lead them to salvation.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen!
From the Liturgy of the Hours, Morning Prayer, Common of Pastors.