Showing posts with label Evangelization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Evangelization. Show all posts

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring-cleaning

Despite the difficult weather patterns we have experienced, Spring is here. I love seeing the lawns green up, and even the yellow of the dandelions and daffodils provide a much-needed contrast to the white and gray hues of winter. The trees bud forth in glorious array, and the birds are chirpily building their nests and laying eggs. Even the children, not so long ago bundled-up to avoid the dread cold now are running free and un-encumbered.

What is not to love about Spring? Nothing, except my now distant memories of dreadful consigned service to household tasks called “Spring-cleaning”. As children, my brother and sisters and I were assigned our tasks to washing walls and floors, cleaning drawers and carpets, and in general to throw out all that was no longer useful or needed. It was so nice outside, but now we were trapped inside, not by necessity caused by the weather, but the results – dirt. Knowing now what I did not then, I might have asked why we were continuing a outdated tradition started when walls would get soot-covered by a winter’s worth of burning coal. I might have suggested to do the dreaded tasks on the inevitable rainy day. In obedience, I simply did it.

Looking back, now I see the wisdom in my mother’s tradition, all the same. Without spring-cleaning, we collect too much stuff, to the point that many have storage units that could fill-in for dumpsters. We hold on to things we do not need, all just because. Spring-cleaning helps sever those ties, and in the end frees us.

The same is true in the spiritual life. As we go through life, we collect pains and hurts, grievances, grudges, and gripes. They accumulate like the soot and clutter, little by little, until we just get accustomed to them. Regularly setting a time to address them is good for us, and how good it is when we truly do so. When we take the time to do so, even if it takes us out of the cheer of the outside world, we find that our interior world - our spirit and souls - experience a true peace and tranquility that comes only from God.

As Catholics, we have a great means of “spring-cleaning” in the sacrament of Reconciliation, but all Christians have access to the forgiveness of Christ. Invite Him in – ask the Holy Spirit to come and clean our heart and mind, and then to occupy it and not allow anything else to fill it (Mt. 12:43f). After all, Jesus Christ is raised from the dead to set us free. He gives us life, and life more abundantly, that we may live in the newness of life that this great season of Spring only begins to emulate. I am so thankful to my mother for teaching me the value of spring-cleaning.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Prairie Catholic Article: through the Cross

Lent is a season to reflect and ponder the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. The liturgical destination of our Lenten journey is the Sacred Triduum, when we celebrate the giving of the Eucharist, the Cross, and the Resurrection. It is tempting to ignore Good Friday, to view it as something simply ‘gotten’ through or around. Easter Sunday is easy to celebrate with joy. The gift of love that Christ leaves in the Eucharist as well as the model of charity in the washing of feet is happy. But it is Good Friday that ties these days and themes together and gives them their power to change our lives. Good Friday is difficult because we do not like the Cross or always understand what it truly means. We try to avoid it because it symbolizes suffering, sacrifice, and pain. Ultimately, Lent is about remembering that there can be no resurrection without the Cross.

It is the Cross that marks our lives on this earth. We are marked with the Cross at our baptisms; and this is renewed with each Sign of the Cross. Jesus instructs us to take up our cross daily. This is not an optional activity for a few followers, nor one that is a one-time deal, or when convenient, or on a limited schedule. Every disciple has cross, and it is part and parcel with following Jesus.

The cross is not light, in discussing or in fact. Crucifixion was cruel, slow, and methodical. People could be dying on the cross in excruciating (literally from the cross) pain for days. As one of our Eucharistic Prefaces (Preface III of Ordinary time) states, the Father “fashioned the remedy out of mortality itself”. When Jesus embraces and dies on the cross, He takes upon Himself the entire burden of the world’s sins. By His innocence and obedience, He puts sin and death to death. The Church Fathers and countless saints spoke of the cross and resurrection in terms of the re-creation story. Adam and Eve, by their disobediently taking of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge, cause sin to enter the world. In the Crucifixion, Jesus stretches out His hands not to take but to give. He is revealed as the New Adam, the Blessed Mother Mary as the New Eve who stands beside her Son. This makes the Cross the Tree of Life. How Jesus dies is not just incidental, a matter of convenience, simply chosen because crucifixion was the current tool of capital punishment by the Roman government. It was God the Father’s plan, His ultimate choice, from before all time. He intended that the wood of the Cross be the means of our salvation.

Jesus willingly gave His life, so that we could see how ugly our sins are to the Father by our looking at Jesus on the Cross. In the cross, he fulfills the promise of the Eucharist, the most blessed fruit of Tree of Life, which brings us eternal life in the Resurrection. But we must ponder our sins and allow them to be put to death, along with our own. We cannot go around the cross – we must go through it.

Instead of avoiding the Cross this Lent, we are to take up our cross and follow. He will put our sins to death. We submit ourselves in obedience to Him, and are to receive often and well of the fruit of Tree of Life: Jesus, the Eucharist. By doing so, we return to the Garden for which we were created, where we will walk with the Lord for the rest of eternity.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas letter

Christmastime is Here. But I always get That Christmas Feeling reminding me that Christmas is so much more than a Sleigh Ride Over the River and Through the Woods. It involves more than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Jolly Old Saint Nicholas. We Deck the Halls with The Holly and the Ivy, Mistletoe and Holly, Pine Cones and Holly Berries, but we prepare our hearts for more. Do You Hear What I Hear? Ding Dong! Merrily On High, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, but they were more than Silver Bells, Silver and Gold Jingle Bells. No, the Carol of the Bells declares much more. As we celebrate Christmas, we are taken back to The First Noel, when, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear on that Silent Night. Away in a Manger, in a Little Town of Bethlehem, In royal David’s City, the world first celebrated the Birthday of a King. Oh Holy Night, When A Child Is Born, willingly saying “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” A Savior is Born! Mary’s Boy Child! Sweet Little Jesus Boy! But What Child is This, that While Shepherds Watched, Angels, From the Realms of Glory come to earth to witness this event. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, declaring In excelsis Gloria. Still, Still, Still. It was A Baby Like You and me, only the Son of God, Eternal Savior. Christ is Born in Bethlehem, who is the Greatest Gift of All. The Shepherds Went Their Hasty Way, they declared to Mary, Dear Mother of Jesus, “Angels We Have Heard on High.” The Friendly Beasts, the Little Drummer Boy, and, eventually following the Star of the East, Three Kings of Orient Are all that are present to see this sight. One has to ask of the rest of the world, Do they Know It’s Christmas? Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, O Come Little Children, let us like Good King Wenceslas come Rejoice, The Lord is King. Rejoice, Rejoice All Believers, not just Angels and Shepherds! Joy to the World, Christ is born. Rejoice and be Glad, Rejoice and be Merry. Christmas day is The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year, but it is so much more than a day – it is The Holiday Season that lasts the full The 12 Days of Christmas and all year through. So, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and ask you to remember that when we sing The Christmas Song, we Sing of God, the Greatest Good. Sing We Noel this Christmas. So Go, Tell It on the Mountain, Up On the Rooftop and everywhere else. Sing the Carol, Raise Your Voices! Come On, Ring Those Bells, ring them until the Jingle Bell Rock. Ring Merrily! Bells will be ringing, and yes, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, too, With Bells On. So God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and women. Sleep Well, Little Children. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. And Let There Be Peace On Earth, peace made possible by Jesus. This is What Christmas Means To Me. (Hidden among these rambling thoughts are the titles of at least 80 Christmas carols and tunes. Have a Merry Christmas.)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas is a season

Merry Christmas! I hope that this season is one of peace and joy for all. Christmas is a season - it only begins on December 25. The Twelve days of Christmas, of carol fame, begins - not ends - on Christmas day. Indeed, the twelve days ends on the feast of the Epiphany, we we remember three events in which Christ is revealed to the world (the arrival of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ, and the first miracle at the wedding at Cana). Different cultures have different endings of the season culturally, for example marks is through February 2 (the feast of the Presentation), while others end with the official end of the liturgical season on the Baptism of the Lord, this year January 9. There is something profoundly human (and humane) about this. We prepare for Christmas with another season, Advent, to prepare our hearts to celebrate His birth, but also for His glorious return in the Second Coming. In the Church, we need that time to prepare. While not as intense as Lent, it is a season in the Catholic and Orthodox churches marked by prayer and penance (and even fasting by some). But after such preparations, we also need to to celebrate, and do so for more than one day! Why all this preparation and celebration? Because Christmas is so much more than celebrate a birthday, thought true it is that in part. The Church recalls that Christ was born, but also that He will come again, and when better than when we celebrate His first birth. For a deeper understanding of the meaning of His birth, we need look no further that to some of the carols that we sing during this season. Hark the Herald Angels Sing tells us "God and sinners reconciled”. Silent Night proclaims “the dawn of redeeming grace.” The First Noel reminds us that with His [Christ’s] blood mankind hath bought.” Indeed every Christmas hymn (the religious ones, anyway) tell us the story of the Birth and the reason behind it. Clearly, this is no mere child, but is a Divine Being with a heavenly purpose. Being the Second Person of the Holy Trinity (the persons of the the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit in the one Being of God), Jesus took flesh (the Incarnation) in the womb of Mary, and He was born in a humble stable. While some might quibble about the date, the fact is that He was born, and we celebrate that fact. God became Man, became one of us, so that He would lead us to Himself. He was born that He might offer His life to the Father to redeem us. This is the core of the Christian faith, which begins with Christ’s Incarnation and Birth. He came to die on the Cross to bring the Father’s grace and loving presence to us. With that noble purpose, we need much more than one day. So sing long and well those glorious songs of Christmas and share the joy of our salvation with all.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day

This week, we have a Holy Day of Obligation - All Saints Day. We attend Mass to glorify God for what He did through the Saints, and we gather to honor those who have responded as disciples of the Lord. The saint we honor are both the canonized and uncanonized. In reality, we cannot celebrate and honor all the saints with an individual day, so we set this one date for all of them. There is something good in this, after all, we, too are invited to be saints, and remembering all the saints remind us that there is only one common factor in the lives of the saints - their love of God and desire to serve Him. This is done by the poor and rich, young and old, powerful or lowly, male or female. Sanctity transcends cultures, political leanings, and languages. Leon Bloy once wrote, "The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint." How true, because God has made us for Himself, as St. Augustine writes, and anything less than union with Him is to fail to be ourselves!
On Wednesday, we commemorate All Souls' Day, remembering all who have died. It would be most appropriate to visit a cemetery if possible, to offer a prayer for our dearly departed, and to pray for them. We do not have certainty of their current state - heaven united with God, condemnation because of their rejection of Him, or in the state of purification (Purgatory) where they are purged from the attachments to sin, having been forgive of them already. Because of this, this day offers us the reminder to pray for them.
But these days are also a gentle reminder to us to remember and prepare for our own death. As an epitaph on a grave stone puts it, "Remember me as you pass by, As you are now, so once was I, As I am now, so you must be, Prepare for death and follow me." Put more succinctly: Remember death - Momento mori.
All s


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Evangelization

Many Christians, and in particular many Catholics, have a reputation of avoiding “evangelization” – the process of sharing the faith with others. Perhaps it has several reasons. It might be related to fear: we are afraid of rejection, being thought a fool, or failing. We might feel unprepared: what if the person asks a question we do not know how to answer, or perhaps worse, where do we go from the initial positive response.  Perhaps the largest is a certain amount of spiritual apathy. We are too accustomed to relativism – that truth is adaptable and subjective to the person, that the person decides what is true “for them” – think of the term “self-identify”, for example. This view of the truth rejects that there is any “always and everywhere” truth, one that is objective and not dependent on a person’s ability to grasp it. If all things are relative or subjective, which ironically is presented as an objectively-held truth, then the other persons’ beliefs or un-beliefs are as valid as our own.
But there is something profoundly different about Christianity. We believe that God loved humanity so much that the Father sent His Son to redeem us, and this Son, Jesus Christ, tells us Himself that He is the only way to the Father. Even in the Parables of the Lost that we heard proclaimed last weekend, it is God who ‘finds’ us – not us finding God or creating our own way to Him. In the end, what we have in Christianity is not a set of principals and procedures, rules and regulations – it is about being ‘found’ by the Lord, and being in relationship with Him.

If that is all true, then we know that we cannot be apathetic about evangelization. We come to understand that in Christ alone are we saved from sin and given the promise of eternity with God. We are asked by Jesus Christ to go to all nations, sharing the Good News of what He has done for us. We are not selling information but providing a relationship by introducing them to a Person. We invite them to deepen that relationship through the Sacraments and Church. We do so because we love the Lord (and perfect love drives out fear). We must ask ourselves, what kind of friend, either of the Lord or the other person, would we ultimately be if we did not wish to help them find each other?

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?