Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent 2010

Stay Awake, be prepared! The Lord tells us that we should keep watch. As we begin Advent, perhaps there are 7 things we out to do:
Eucharistic adoration and Mass
Prepare for Mass by reading the Gospel
Resisting Consumerism
Eating less/Fasting

If we do these, we will be prepared!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Prayer for Life

A beautiful prayer from Pope Benedict for Life was posted at Whispers in the Loggia. It is thought-provoking:

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you:

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of a mother's womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
make fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Gift creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children

Console married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Love,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Pope and the Media

I have to admit I am continually surprised, though I know that I should not be, by certain people's malformed conscience that take certain things completely out of context or ignore nuance, twisting statements of incredible clarity into a justification of their own mistaken preconceived ideas.
Now, the Media implies that the Church's stance on condom use and sexuality has shifted, that what was once immoral is now moral.
Note that it is an interview, not official Church teaching or document and is therefore not speaking from his authority as Pope, and second, he is talking in very nuanced terms. He basically said that in certain (assuming limited) circumstances, and the example he uses is suggestive of a male homosexual prostitute, the use of a condom may be a move (also implied to be one of many necessary steps) toward morality and authentic sexuality, but the use of a condom does not make the act moral. The act surrounding its use is still immoral, whether it is sex and act of fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or contraception. As the Pope is saying, the use of a condom is just the awakenings, the beginning, (in his term, "moralization") of taking responsibility for one's actions, but does not represent a full embracing of a moral sexuality, nor taking full responsibility.
This does not, therefore, represent a change in Church teaching. The use of condoms continues to remain a disordered act whether as a means of contraception or as a means of limiting infectious transfers. That said, it needs to be noted, again, that even in the prevention of pregnancy, they are only about 90% effective, and the AIDS virus is much smaller than sperm, and the condom's effectiveness is necessarily less.
The use of a condom is not the end of personal responsibility. True taking of personal responsibility for a full embracing of the moral is celibacy or marital fidelity. Their use does not make an immoral sexual act moral, though as the Pope states it is a move in the right direction as taking responsibility for one's actions. As to the guarantee protection from AIDS, only abstinence and marital continence in a marital relationship are effective.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christ the King, 2010

Jesus Christ is our eternal priest and universal king, and the time is coming when He will submit His kingdom to our Heavenly Father. When that time comes, will we be in alignment with Christ, and be submitted with the rest of creation, or stand outside, grinding and wailing our teeth. This good thief in today's Gospel provides a model - he submits himself to Christ, and while his prayer is to simply be remembered, he finds forgiveness and peace.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

The days are coming when we will be challenged in our faith. Jesus warns that the challenge may come from familiar places - our family. When the day comes, will they have enough evidence to convict us of our faith in Jesus Christ? Instead of fear of that day, we are to persevere in the faith, and to trust in the Holy Spirit to give us the words of testimony.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Verbum Domini And Vocations

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has released a postsynodal apostolic exhortation from the 12th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in 2008, titled "Verbum Domini". He includes a section on the role of Scripture in Vocations:
The word of God and vocations
In stressing faith's intrinsic summons to an ever deeper relationship with Christ, the word of God in our midst, the Synod also emphasized that this word calls each one of us personally, revealing that life itself is a vocation from God. In other words, the more we grow in our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, the more we realize that he is calling us to holiness in and through the definitive choices by which we respond to his love in our lives, taking up tasks and ministries which help to build up the Church. This is why the Synod frequently encouraged all Christians to grow in their relationship with the word of God, not only because of their Baptism, but also in accordance with their call to various states in life. Here we touch upon one of the pivotal points in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which insisted that each member of the faithful is called to holiness according to his or her proper state in life.[263] Our call to holiness is revealed in sacred Scripture: "Be holy, for I am holy" (Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:7). Saint Paul then points out its Christological basis: in Christ, the Father "has chosen us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:4). Paul's greeting to his brothers and sisters in the community of Rome can be taken as addressed to each of us: "To all God's beloved, who are called to be saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!" (Rom 1:7).
a) Ordained ministers and the word of God
I would like to speak first to the Church's ordained ministers, in order to remind them of the Synod's statement that "the word of God is indispensable in forming the heart of a good shepherd and minister of the word".[264] Bishops, priests, and deacons can hardly think that they are living out their vocation and mission apart from a decisive and renewed commitment to sanctification, one of whose pillars is contact with God's word.
To those called to the episcopate, who are the first and most authoritative heralds of the word, I would repeat the words of Pope John Paul II in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis. For the nourishment and progress of his spiritual life, the Bishop must always put "in first place, reading and meditation on the word of God. Every Bishop must commend himself and feel himself commended ‘to the Lord and to the word of his grace, which is able to build up and to give the inheritance among all those who are sanctified' (Acts 20:32). Before becoming one who hands on the word, the Bishop, together with his priests and indeed like every member of the faithful, and like the Church herself, must be a hearer of the word. He should dwell ‘within' the word and allow himself to be protected and nourished by it, as if by a mother's womb".[265] To all my brother Bishops I recommend frequent personal reading and study of sacred Scripture, in imitation of Mary, Virgo Audiens and Queen of the Apostles.
To priests too, I would recall the words of Pope John Paul II, who in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, stated that "the priest is first of all a minister of the word of God, consecrated and sent to announce the Good News of the Kingdom to all, calling every person to the obedience of faith and leading believers to an ever increasing knowledge of and communion in the mystery of God, as revealed and communicated to us in Christ. For this reason the priest himself ought first of all to develop a great personal familiarity with the word of God. Knowledge of its linguistic and exegetical aspects, though certainly necessary, is not enough. He needs to approach the word with a docile and prayerful heart so that it may deeply penetrate his thoughts and feelings and bring about a new outlook in him - ‘the mind of Christ' (1 Cor 2:16)".[266] Consequently, his words, his choices and his behaviour must increasingly become a reflection, proclamation and witness of the Gospel; "only if he ‘abides' in the word will the priest become a perfect disciple of the Lord. Only then then will he know the truth and be set truly free".[267]
In a word, the priestly vocation demands that one be consecrated "in the truth". Jesus states this clearly with regard to his disciples: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world" (Jn 17:17-18). The disciples in a certain sense become "drawn into intimacy with God by being immersed in the word of God. God's word is, so to speak, the purifying bath, the creative power which changes them and makes them belong to God".[268] And since Christ himself is God's Word made flesh (Jn 1:14) - "the Truth" (Jn 14:6) - Jesus' prayer to the Father, "Sanctify them in the truth", means in the deepest sense: "Make them one with me, the Christ. Bind them to me. Draw them into me. For there is only one priest of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ himself".[269] Priests need to grow constantly in their awareness of this reality.
I would also like to speak of the place of God's word in the life of those called to the diaconate, not only as the final step towards the order of priesthood, but as a permanent service. The Directory for the Permanent Diaconate states that "the deacon's theological identity clearly provides the features of his specific spirituality, which is presented essentially as a spirituality of service. The model par excellence is Christ as servant, lived totally at the service of God, for the good of humanity".[270] From this perspective, one can see how, in the various dimensions of the diaconal ministry, a "characteristic element of diaconal spirituality is the word of God, of which the deacon is called to be an authoritative preacher, believing what he preaches, teaching what he believes, and living what he teaches".[271] Hence, I recommend that deacons nourish their lives by the faith-filled reading of sacred Scripture, accompanied by study and prayer. They should be introduced to "sacred Scripture and its correct interpretation; to the relationship between Scripture and Tradition; in particular to the use of Scripture in preaching, in catechesis and in pastoral activity in general".[272]
b) The word of God and candidates for Holy Orders
The Synod attributed particular importance to the decisive role that the word of God must play in the spiritual life of candidates for the ministerial priesthood: "Candidates for the priesthood must learn to love the word of God. Scripture should thus be the soul of their theological formation, and emphasis must be given to the indispensable interplay of exegesis, theology, spirituality and mission".[273] Those aspiring to the ministerial priesthood are called to a profound personal relationship with God's word, particularly in lectio divina, so that this relationship will in turn nurture their vocation: it is in the light and strength of God's word that one's specific vocation can be discerned and appreciated, loved and followed, and one's proper mission carried out, by nourishing the heart with thoughts of God, so that faith, as our response to the word, may become a new criterion for judging and evaluating persons and things, events and issues.[274]
Such attention to the prayerful reading of Scripture must not in any way lead to a dichotomy with regard to the exegetical studies which are a part of formation. The Synod recommended that seminarians be concretely helped to see the relationship between biblical studies and scriptural prayer. The study of Scripture ought to lead to an increased awareness of the mystery of divine revelation and foster an attitude of prayerful response to the Lord who speaks. Conversely, an authentic life of prayer cannot fail to nurture in the candidate's heart a desire for greater knowledge of the God who has revealed himself in his word as infinite love. Hence, great care should be taken to ensure that seminarians always cultivate this reciprocity between study and prayer in their lives. This end will be served if candidates are introduced to the study of Scripture through methods which favour this integral approach.
c) The word of God and the consecrated life
With regard to the consecrated life, the Synod first recalled that it "is born from hearing the word of God and embracing the Gospel as its rule of life".[275] A life devoted to following Christ in his chastity, poverty and obedience thus becomes "a living ‘exegesis' of God's word".[276] The Holy Spirit, in whom the Bible was written, is the same Spirit who illumines "the word of God with new light for the founders and foundresses. Every charism and every rule springs from it and seeks to be an expression of it",[277] thus opening up new pathways of Christian living marked by the radicalism of the Gospel.
Here I would mention that the great monastic tradition has always considered meditation on sacred Scripture to be an essential part of its specific spirituality, particularly in the form of lectio divina. Today too, both old and new expressions of special consecration are called to be genuine schools of the spiritual life, where the Scriptures can be read according to the Holy Spirit in the Church, for the benefit of the entire People of God. The Synod therefore recommended that communities of consecrated life always make provision for solid instruction in the faith-filled reading of the Bible.[278]
Once again I would like to echo the consideration and gratitude that the Synod expressed with regard to those forms of contemplative life whose specific charism is to devote a great part of their day to imitating the Mother of God, who diligently pondered the words and deeds of her Son (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), and Mary of Bethany, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened attentively to his words (cf. Lk 10:38). I think in particular of monks and cloistered nuns, who by virtue of their separation from the world are all the more closely united to Christ, the heart of the world. More than ever, the Church needs the witness of men and women resolved to "put nothing before the love of Christ".[279] The world today is often excessively caught up in outward activities and risks losing its bearings. Contemplative men and women, by their lives of prayer, attentive hearing and meditation on God's Word, remind us that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (cf. Mt 4:4). All the faithful, then, should be clearly conscious that this form of life "shows today's world what is most important, indeed, the one thing necessary: there is an ultimate reason which makes life worth living, and that is God and his inscrutable love".[280]
d) The word of God and the lay faithful
The Synod frequently spoke of the laity and thanked them for their generous activity in spreading the Gospel in the various settings of daily life, at work and in the schools, in the family and in education.[281] This responsibility, rooted in Baptism, needs to develop through an ever more conscious Christian way of life capable of "accounting for the hope" within us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus points out that "the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the Kingdom" (13:38). These words apply especially to the Christian laity, who live out their specific vocation to holiness by a life in the Spirit expressed "in a particular way by their engagement in temporal matters and by their participation in earthly activities".[282] The laity need to be trained to discern God's will through a familiarity with his word, read and studied in the Church under the guidance of her legitimate pastors. They can receive this training at the school of the great ecclesial spiritualities, all of which are grounded in sacred Scripture. Wherever possible, dioceses themselves should provide an opportunity for continuing formation to lay persons charged with particular ecclesial responsibilities.[283]
e) The word of God, marriage and the family
The Synod also felt the need to stress the relationship between the word of God, marriage and the Christian family. Indeed, "with the proclamation of the word of God, the Church reveals to Christian families their true identity, what it is and what it must be in accordance with the Lord's plan".[284] Consequently, it must never be forgotten that the word of God is at the very origin of marriage (cf. Gen 2:24) and that Jesus himself made marriage one of the institutions of his Kingdom (cf. Mt 19:4-8), elevating to the dignity of a sacrament what was inscribed in human nature from the beginning. "In the celebration of the sacrament, a man and a woman speak a prophetic word of reciprocal self-giving, that of being ‘one flesh', a sign of the mystery of the union of Christ with the Church (cf. Eph 5:31-32)".[285] Fidelity to God's word leads us to point out that nowadays this institution is in many ways under attack from the current mentality. In the face of widespread confusion in the sphere of affectivity, and the rise of ways of thinking which trivialize the human body and sexual differentiation, the word of God re-affirms the original goodness of the human being, created as man and woman and called to a love which is faithful, reciprocal and fruitful.
The great mystery of marriage is the source of the essential responsibility of parents towards their children. Part of authentic parenthood is to pass on and bear witness to the meaning of life in Christ: through their fidelity and the unity of family life, spouses are the first to proclaim God's word to their children. The ecclesial community must support and assist them in fostering family prayer, attentive hearing of the word of God, and knowledge of the Bible. To this end the Synod urged that every household have its Bible, to be kept in a worthy place and used for reading and prayer. Whatever help is needed in this regard can be provided by priests, deacons and a well-prepared laity. The Synod also recommended the formation of small communities of families, where common prayer and meditation on passages of Scripture can be cultivated.[286] Spouses should also remember that "the Word of God is a precious support amid the difficulties which arise in marriage and in family life".[287]
Here I would like to highlight the recommendations of the Synod concerning the role of women in relation to the word of God. Today, more than in the past, the "feminine genius",[288] to use the words of John Paul II, has contributed greatly to the understanding of Scripture and to the whole life of the Church, and this is now also the case with biblical studies. The Synod paid special attention to the indispensable role played by women in the family, education, catechesis and the communication of values. "They have an ability to lead people to hear God's word, to enjoy a personal relationship with God, and to show the meaning of forgiveness and of evangelical sharing".[289] They are likewise messengers of love, models of mercy and peacemakers; they communicate warmth and humanity in a world which all too often judges people according to the ruthless criteria of exploitation and profit.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In our Gospel this weekend, Jesus Christ explains that marriage is a earthly institution, that people marry here, but in Heaven it will not be so - they will be like the angels. Not a merely sentimental statement, Jesus is most likely referring to the fact that the angels exist to praise and worship our Heavenly Father, and they are not created through procreation. This helps us find 'ends' (the philosophical reason) of marriage, unititive and procreative, are for here, and helps us to understand why the Lord would call some men and women to celibacy: as a witness of the way we shall all live in heaven. As we look at the seven brothers in Maccabees, we hear of their faith in the Resurrection, knowing that to break the law to continue to live (at least for now) has eternal consequences. Let us live aware of heaven, and make our decisions in the light of eternity.