Thursday, March 3, 2016

God's Mercy and Justice

Pope Francis has given us a great gift in declaring this year (December 8, 2015-November 20, 2016) an Extraordinary Year of Mercy. Like Jubilee years of the Old Testament, it is meant to be a time of righting wrongs, or returning things to their proper order, and to rejoice in the good things that God has done. Pope Francis is giving us an opportunity to reflect on the nature of God as merciful, and encouraging all to “be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

But what is mercy? Mercy is a willingness to respond to the needs of another, even when the other does not ‘earn’ or ‘deserve’ a response. It is a response to the chaos of the other person’s life and help to bring order. It is seeking to put things right.

Too often, mercy is seen as opposed to justice, that it is understood a being permissive. In encountering sin, we might be tempted to act in such a way that might confirm the sin instead of comforting the sinner. That is not true mercy, however. Mercy is the treat the other person with dignity, to call them out of a destructive behavior, and to remind them of the great and loving God we have. God does not wish us to remain in sin, but rather that we come to Him for forgiveness. Justice is giving a person what they deserve, but mercy is always greater than justice. In showing mercy, God displays His power. While we are yet sinners, He loves us, pardons us, and calls us back. This is mercy! While there is still breath in us, He is always ready to pour His mercy on us. When we are left with no more time to return to Him, His justice comes. 

In the end, even Hell itself is an act of mercy, and not blind justice. God loves us enough to let us have our will. If we live apart from His will for our lives, why would we want to live for eternity with Him? Yes, by our actions, we can reject God, in which case He shows His love in allowing us to reject Him. But we can also be presumptuous, assuming His mercy and that He would accept us, unrepentant sin and all. No, we are to call on His mercy, knowing Him to be just. Then, and only then, can we live in His mercy and extend that mercy to others.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pre-Advent reflection

After we have gathered around tables for our thanksgiving feasts, we (hopefully) will gather in our Churches this weekend to thank the Lord for His blessings. As we do so, we will enter the season of Advent, signify the end of one Church year and a beginning of the new. Typically, we might be tempted to think that the purpose of the Advent season is to prepare to celebrate its end – the celebration of the incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas as a moment in history. But that is only one small portion of the season of Advent. The main purpose, at least in the Catholic Church, is a call to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ in glory and majesty. The season of Advent is to help us focus our hearts and minds for that great and terrible day of His return. But this message is not the mad ranting of a doom-and-gloom prophet. Rather, it is a sobering call to committing one’s life toward that end, and living in faith instead of in fear or indifference. Yes, we need to remember the end - in Greek telos - and to make all decisions in light of it. Telos also signifies purpose or goal, and we are truly focused on all these meanings. Just as St. Paul invited his readers to continue to run well the race, they are to focus on the goal, not just running aimlessly but with purpose and conviction. We grow weary and too easily forget both the purpose of our life and our end goal that we need to be roused from our slumber. We can too easily get caught up in the things of the world that many of us need to be reminded that this is not our final home. We are invited to ask ourselves if we are ready. If we are not, there is no better time than now, here, today, to respond. So, as we enter the Advent season, perhaps we need to put away our telephones and turn off our TVs. Perhaps, instead, we pull out our telos-phone – praying to the Lord to hear our purpose. Maybe we need to turn on our telos-vision – to see the end goal, and to commit to letting that end direct our choices here and now. When we do, we will take our steps with faith and purpose. Perhaps, to help us too, it will help us become truly thankful of the Lord’s blessings to us, and hopeful for His continued blessings. So, Happy Thanksgiving and blessed Advent.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween???

Every Halloween, I hear the debate of whether Christians should celebrate it. I have to remind people of how they celebrate it makes a difference. Certainly, remembering the very word “Halloween”’s Christian roots - a contraction and corruption of the phrase “All Hallowed Eve” - we can recall that it is a time to remember all those holy men and women who have loved the Lord and are with Him in eternity. But we might also remember the sweetness of a life lived with God’s love, and the joy of such a promise of eternity. We might even, to a certain extent, delight in the fact that we as Christians can laugh at the face of death, because it has been concurred by the Risen Christ.
But there is a more sinister celebration - the embracing the secularized or even re-paganized side. Here, there is an infatuation with death and the occult. There is a growing ‘epidemic’ of witchcraft. Occult practices are on the rise, and ‘darkness' is creeping into society. Symbols that once terrorized are now celebrated. Nothing is more obvious of this to me than the culture’s embracing of the vampire lore. Now, with popular books placing vampires in a positive light (one ought to be carefully doing this lest they burst into flames), they are removed from the spiritual moorings that once terrified listeners, and served as a warning to not become like them. They are seen with pity, or desire.
Not too long ago, the vampire was a symbol of sin - a creature neither alive or dead. They were in need of drinking blood to remain in its state, which they took from innocent prey. Vampires rejected the life that God gave, and the first in the legend rejected God to become an servant of Satan. They are doomed to wander the night, for fear of bursting into flames in the light of the sun. They do not even give a reflection in a mirror. So twisted are they that they are forced to sleep in caskets. Indeed, this is a creature completely consumed by sin - soulless creatures who feed upon the blood and fears of others.
But for the Christian, like Halloween itself, we remember the roots of the vampire lore. It serves as a stark reminder of a life rejecting the Lord doomed to a life of the un-living. Contrast vampires with who a Christian is to be: a creature in perfect union with our creator, living life to the full. A Christian is to serve others, not feed on them. They seek to live in the light of day and of God’s grace. They are to mirror the love of God, and live as a reminder that all are created in the image and likeness of God. A Christian has died to a life of sin, but live the life of Christ now in them. This is because a Christian has concurred the tomb of Baptism, rising victorious with Christ in His resurrection. In the end, we have nothing to fear of vampires, but we are to remember what they symbolize.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Planned Parenthood documentary

A few years ago, a wonderful biopic called Amazing Grace was released. It told the story of William Wilberforce (1759-1833) who was the main influence for the end of the slave trade in England. Inspired by his Christian faith, horrified by the sub-human conditions of slave vessels, he worked in the Parliament to put a legal end to the trade. To do so, he tirelessly advocated for the slaves, worked to educate his fellow politicians about the atrocities, and campaigned and persuaded others to his side. He took many to board one of the slave ships, showing them how the slaves were loaded like cargo, not even given the space to move about freely. There, the the slaves, many simply kidnapped from their homes in Africa, were given less than adequate food and were forced to live in their own filth. Many of those that he introduced were appalled by the circumstances of the trade on which they had relied. He was quoted telling them, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” It had simply become convenient to ignore the atrocities and sins against humanity, to simply look away. By removing that veil, they no longer could feign ignorance. The law finally passed in 1807 with wide support (though packaged as a means to ban British citizens from participating in the slave trade with France and other countries with which England was at war). Wilberforce knew that it was not the immediate end to slavery, but the start. These last weeks, the same spirit that stirred Wilberforce to action has been moving in the lives of other ‘abolitionists’ - those in the pro-life movement. An investigative organization, The Center for Medical Progress, was formed and acted quietly until July 14. They released an edited video, which also included a full, non-edited video, of a representative from Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of aborted fetus body parts. They followed that with another video of another director, also discussing the sale and quipping that she wanted a Lamborghini (obviously meaning that she would make a profit). Both videos demonstrate that they expected profit from the sale of the body parts (which is illegal). The next videos released were more horrific, demonstrating the lab techs dissecting the bodies of the aborted child, and including discussion of changing methods of abortion to deliver an intact body (which is illegal). I can only imagine that any future videos will demonstrate worse crimes. As horrible as the videos are, we are in a profound moment of history. These already documented activities are only the tip of the crimes against humanity, made possible by an even greater sin against humanity - abortion itself. Whatever more the Center has, really, is only further evidence that those that promote abortion have lost all moral ground. Sadly, though, media attention is fixed elsewhere: on the killing of a lion in Zimbabwe, apparently lured outside the safety of a preserve. Perhaps it is the magnitude of the circumstances. One lion is easier to grasp than 54 million aborted ‘legally’ since 1973. It is easier to look away, to mourn the loss of an abstract lion in a distant land, than to consider the concrete evidence of abortion, sale of body parts for profit, and the skirting of the law to maximize profit, all the while receiving tax money for greater profits. We are told that abortion is legal (but so was the slave trade), and that there is nothing to see but “highly-edited videos”, but isn’t that what all news agencies do. We are told that there is only proof of illegal activity is on the part of the investigators (the misrepresentation of the investigators, the possible illegal filming without consent, and the breach of patient confidentiality, none of which are more grievous than the crimes they reveal.) We are told to ignore, to look away, and are given the distraction of a dead majestic beast. Perhaps it placates the minds of some, but William Wilberforce’s words remain. Will we let the faith that we are fearfully, wonderfully made, knit together in the secret of our mothers’ wombs, move us toward the protection of the unborn? Will we work for the abolition of abortion? Because of these videos, at least we no longer can say we did not know.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ninth Day of the Novena of the Holy Spirit

We join in the final day of our novena.
NINTH DAY (Saturday, Vigil of Pentecost)
Thou, on those who evermore Thee confess and Thee Adore, in Thy sevenfold gift, Descend; Give Them Comfort when they die; Give them Life with Thee on high; Give them joys which never end. Amen
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit
The gifts of the Holy Spirit perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Spirit, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Spirit. These Fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.
Prayer
Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Thy heavenly fruits, Thy charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Thy inspiration may merit to be united eternally with Thee in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.
Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE. Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.
ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for Your servant heareth." Amen.
To be recited daily during the Novena
PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.
(To be recited daily during the Novena)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Eighth Day of the Novena of the Holy Spirit

We join in the eighth day of our novena.
EIGHTH DAY (Friday, 7th Week of Easter)
Bend the stubborn heart and will, melt the frozen warm the chill. Guide the steps that go astray!
The Gift of Wisdom
Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all the other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written "all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands." It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Saviour: "Take up thy cross and follow me, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light.
Prayer
Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.
Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE. Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.
ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for Your servant heareth." Amen.
To be recited daily during the Novena
PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.
(To be recited daily during the Novena)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Seventh Day of the Novena of the Holy Spirit

We join in the seventh day of our novena.
SEVENTH DAY (Thursday, 7th Week of Easter)
Heal our wounds--our strength renews; On our dryness pour Thy dew, Wash the stains of guilt away.
The Gift of Counsel
The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants, and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. "Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth."
Prayer
Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do Thy holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good; turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of Thy commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long.
Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE. Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.
ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for Your servant heareth." Amen.
To be recited daily during the Novena
PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.
(To be recited daily during the Novena)

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?