29th Sunday: Caesar or God?

For this week’s homily, please play the video below:

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The Legacy of Paul of the Cross

October 20 is the Feast of St. Paul of the Cross in the United States.

June 29th marks 150 years since Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, was canonized by Pope Pius IX. I like the letter Fr. Joachim Rego, superior general of the Passionists, wrote to the Passionist family recently in which he expressed hope that “ this event would be an enriching time for us, individually and communally, to focus on the mind and heart of our Founder and delve into his vision of the Congregation and its mission in light of our present times.”

“’Our present times’ have been dark and dismal indeed! The world continues to experience so much suffering: wars, hatred, discrimination, denial of human rights and freedom, terrorism, indiscriminate killings, natural disasters. Very much to the fore in our memories at this present time are: the senseless Las Vegas shootings; the unimaginable destruction caused by hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and landslides; the persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar and other refugees and displaced peoples; the struggle for self-determination in Catalonia and Kurdistan; the racial discrimination and promotion of hatred by white supremacists in the US….

“I ask myself: What would be the mind and heart of the Founder in these present times? In fact, it seems that our present times are not too much different from the times of the Founder. He also experienced in his time of history: wars and domination by foreign powers, lawlessness and fear, disease and climate change, the tyranny of existential distance and the marginalisation of peoples, the unequal gap between the rich and the poor.

“Yet, Paul of the Cross was convinced then, and would be equally convinced now, that it is in the Passion of Jesus that we can find meaning and see possibilities for a renewed future. It is there, in the Passion of Jesus, that we find HOPE for visioning and seeing life differently!”

I like Fr. Joachim’s insistence that Paul lived in the world of his day. He could have become a hermit and shut himself up somewhere, but he lived in the world that was present to him.

Fr. Fabiano Giorgini offers a thorough description of Paul’s world in a book he wrote “La Maremma Toscana nel Settecento”, a study of the Tuscan Maremma where Paul spent most of his years of ministry in the 18th century. That’s where the church told him the Passionists should be.

The Tuscan Maremma, an area in Central Italy facing the Mediterranean Sea, is almost 2,000 square miles, roughly the size of Long Island and New York City together. When Paul ministered there, it was the poorest and most troubled part of Italy. Only gradually, towards the end of the 1700s did it begin inching towards recovery.

It’s an area of hills and valleys–now a popular tourist destination– but then because of wars, political turmoil and natural disasters its farmlands had been abandoned to become swamplands. Malaria was widespread. It was an unhealthy area. People moved away, if they could. The roads were often impassible, often dangerous because of bandits. The area near Monte Argentario, where Paul lived, was a place where troops were billeted troops on their way to fight in other parts of Italy. A number of wars were fought there. The area had immigration problems, migrant workers were stranded, without work. Beggars were everywhere. The people living in isolated villages and hill towns tended to be suspicious of outsiders.

Paul wasn’t blind to this world. He didn’t hide from it. Most of his popular missions are in the Tuscan Maremma and he reminded people that living here you were living the mystery of the passion of Jesus, but don’t lose hope.

None of the passion narratives in the gospels are hopeless. They all say new life is coming, God is present, hidden for sure, but God is present. Don’t miss the signs. The mystery of the Passion is not hopeless. It gives hope. “HOPE for visioning and seeing life differently!”

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Friday Thoughts: Be Still

by Howard Hain

 

We don’t enter the Heart of Jesus to hide, we enter to encounter the totality of all creation all at once. God be praised.

Be Still, and know that I am God.

—Psalm 46:10

 


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at www.howardhain.com  

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

www.twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.

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North American Martyrs

The North American Martyrs, eight Jesuits and their associates were killed by warring Indian tribes in the 17th century. They’re the first saints of North America and we celebrate their feast today. I’ve visited Auriesville in New York State and the Midlands in Canada where they were martyred; both places hold memories of heroic faith and bravery.

The missionaries came to the New World expecting a new Pentecost among the native peoples of this land, but it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, disease and political maneuvering made the native peoples suspicious of the foreigners and the seed of the gospel seemed to fall on hard ground. The martyrdom of the eight Jesuits witnesses that resistance.

Letters back to France from the early Jesuits–marvelously preserved in “The Jesuit Relations”–often express the missionaries’ disappointment  over their scarce harvest, but it didn’t stop them. They were well grounded in the mystery of the Cross.

Not far from Auriesville, near Fonda, NY, is the Indian village called Caughnawaga.  In the spring of 1675, after the Jesuits were killed in Auriesville in 1646, Father Jacques de Lamberville visited Caughnawaga . The priest entered a lodge where a young Indian girl Kateri Tekakwitha was alone because a foot injury prevented her from working in the fields. She spoke to him of her desire to receive baptism and on Easter, 1676, the young Indian girl was baptized and took the name Kateri, after St. Catherine of Siena, the mystic and a favorite patron of Christian Indian women. She was 20 years old.

Her uncle and relatives in the long house opposed her conversion to Christianity and pressured her to marry and follow their ways. The early Jesuits considered it a miracle that Kateri resisted  family and tribal pressure.  Her early biographer says “She practiced her faith without losing her original fervor and her extraordinary virtue was seen by all. The Christians saw her obeying their rules exactly, going to prayers everyday in the morning and evening and Mass on Sunday. At the same time she avoided the dreams feasts and the dances,” practices endangering her belief.  (The Life of the Good Catherine Tekakwitha, Claude Chauchetiere, SJ , 1695)

Father de Lamberville finally recommended that Kateri escape to the newly-established  Indian Christian village in Kahnawake near Montreal, where she could live her faith freely.  In 1676, aided by other Christian Indians, she made the dangerous journey northward. There she lived a fervent life of prayer and faith;  she died and was buried on April 17th, 1680.

Kateri was canonized  October 21th in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” (Tertullian)

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The Gospel of Luke

Luke copy

The Feast of St. Luke is October 18th.  If you’re beginning to read the New Testament  Luke’s Gospel is a good place to start;  it’s the longest of the gospels and is followed by the Acts of the Apostles, also written by Luke. Together they present a magnificent picture of the life of Jesus, which continues in the life of the church.

Luke’s gospel provides many of the readings for the various liturgical feasts we celebrate in the church through the year, for example most of the stories of Jesus’ early life we read during the Christmas season.

Luke takes over into his gospel about 65% of Mark’s Gospel, which he modifies for his own purposes. He shares with Matthew’s Gospel material from another source, and he also offers material not found in the other gospels–the infancy narratives, for example. (Luke 1-2).

Like other evangelists, Luke shapes his gospel to his own plan and interpretation. In his commentary on Luke’s gospel, for example, Luke Timothy Johnson speaks of Luke’s positive outlook on the world.

“Luke-Acts is positive toward the world, not only as God’s creation but also as the arena of history and human activity. It is perhaps the least apocalyptic of the NT writings, and the least sectarian. Not only is Luke relatively unconcerned about the end time, his historical narrative bestows value on time itself. Luke is also generally approving of those outside the Christian movement. Outsiders-not counting the Jewish opponents who are not outsiders at all– are generally regarded as reasonable and open-minded, which is a high compliment paid by apologetic literature.” (The Gospel of Luke, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Md. 1991)

Our readings from Luke for the 1st Sunday of Advent (Year C) offer a good example of Luke shaping apocalyptic material to his own purposes. He presents the last days as others do: “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars and on earth; nations will be in dismay,” but in Luke’s Gospel Jesus says we can stand strong and fearless on that day, if we live each day well in the meantime.

Carry the cross with me each day, Jesus says,  and don’t worry or be anxious. Be vigilant and prayerful each day, the Lord will return on the clouds of heaven. No, we don’t know the day or the hour, but we’ll we ready for the last day if we prepare each day for our redemption.

Isn’t that  good advice for times like ours when enormous problems confront our world and clear solutions and grand designs are nowhere to be found? We can so easily fall into pessimism (a form of spiritual sleep) and lose hope.

We can use Luke’s optimism today.

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The Disciple

By Orlando Hernandez

In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Lk 10: 1-9) it says:

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples whom He sent ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place He intended to visit. He said to them, “ The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘ Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘ The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”

A friend of ours has been a member of our prayer group at the Passionist Monastery in Jamaica, Queens for the past two years. Through a series of unfortunate events, a few months ago, he lost the apartment that he had inherited from his parents. His Social Security check is not enough for him to get a place, and he has no family left, so he lives in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. He is trying to get affordable housing through the social workers there. It has been a slow process.

Like the apostles that Jesus sent out he’s practically penniless and homeless, and lives out there like a “lamb among wolves.” He takes a series of trains so the he can come from Bedford-Stuyvesant to the Jamaica Monastery for Mass during the week, and to celebrate the Eucharist and praise the Lord with our prayer group on Sundays. We have raised a decent sum of money for him, but he prefers that we hold it until he can get a place of his own. One of the members of our group is dealing with the social workers to work something out so that he can rent an apartment in her house. We are waiting to see what happens.

He is lonely. He loves the company of our prayer group. He comes with an affable disposition and a positive attitude. He enters our chapel where he is indeed welcomed, and can “eat and drink” the best food in the world. He loves to praise and dance with our group, but sometimes he just sits there quietly and looks quite sad. People come and pray over him, and ask him how they can help him. He’s embarrassed and says he’s okey.

Sometimes he tells me that he thinks that God has put him in the doghouse and he doesn’t know why, but he keeps on coming, and praying, and participating. The other day I realized that he was like those 72 homeless disciples, coming to our House of God to bring his peace and brotherhood to all of us, to share his dignity, his patience and his faith —to represent our Lord. My spiritual director, Fr. John Powers,CP, says that being in need is one of the greatest ministries. It can inspire us to empathy, compassion, respect, and sacrifice for our hurting brothers and sisters. Jesus is there in so many ways. Our beautiful, humble, persevering friend is indeed coming to announce Jesus, to tell us by his very presence “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand for you.”

Orlando Hernandez

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Morning Thoughts: Heaven in One Act

by Howard Hain

 


—a play for children, adults, and all humanity—


 

ACT ONE

 

Scene 1

 

(Midweek morning, a small urban apartment, a father and his seven-year-old daughter, sitting on an old IKEA couch, half hour before school)

 

DAUGHTER (looking out window):  Daddy, is heaven real?

FATHER (sipping coffee):  Absolutely.

D:   And Jesus is in heaven?

F:   Yes. Definitely.

D:   Are there people in heaven with Jesus?

F:   Yes.

D:   People who died?

F:   Yes, people who died but who now live forever with Jesus in heaven.

D:   Forever?

F:   Yes, for ever and ever. Perfectly happy.

D:   Perfectly?

F:   Perfectly.

D:   What do they do in heaven all that time?

F:   Well, they do what Jesus does, because when you’re in heaven you’re like Him.

D:   Like Him? People in heaven are like Jesus?

F:   Yes, when you’re in heaven you see Jesus, so you become like Him, like God.

D:   I don’t understand…

F:   Well, it’s hard to explain. I don’t really understand it either. I don’t know if anybody does…it’s really hard to even try…

D:   Can you? Can you try?

F:   Well, put it this way. You know that God is great, right?

D:   Yes…

F:   Well, He’s not just great, He’s so great that everything that even comes close to Him becomes great…     In fact, He’s so great that when a person even sees God—I mean really sees Him—really, really sees Him—that person actually becomes like God.     It’s amazing…but God is just that great. He’s that powerful.

D:   But what about me?

F:   What about you?

D:   What if I see God? What if I really see Him—if I really, really see Him—will I be like God too?

F:   Well, yes…when you’re in heaven…you’ll be like God too.

D:   But how come not now?

F:   Well, do you see God now?

D:   No…not really…(long pause)…(smiling)…but kind of…

F:   Well…you’re right…sometimes we do “kind of” see God…we “kind of” get a little “peak” at Him every once in a while…but in heaven it’s different, it’s like seeing God face to face—just like you and I see each other right now—but even much more, because in heaven you’ll never stop seeing Him.     In heaven it’s not like seeing someone now but not seeing him or her a little while later.     In heaven it’s always…you and God never stop seeing each other…

D:   And that makes you just like God?

F:   Well, yes, because in heaven you are totally part of Jesus, and He is totally part of you. It’s like the two of you are one “thing”.

D:   That’s why you do what Jesus does?

F:   Yes.     I mean, how could you not?     Think about it…     Imagine if you were tied to someone at the waist by a very, very short rope…     Ok?     Picture it.     Now…wouldn’t you have to go everywhere that person goes?

D:   Yes…

F:   So if he went into the kitchen, you’d go into the kitchen…and if he went to sit on the couch, well, you’d go sit on the couch…

D:   Yes…like those twins we saw on TV…the ones that were still attached…

F:   (smiling)  Well, yes, kind of…     …that’s a really good example… (pause) …maybe it’s more like two little twin babies who are still living in their mommy’s belly, who go everywhere their mommy goes…     Because in heaven it’s like you’re attached to Jesus in every good way possible…your mind, your heart, your soul…and yet you’re totally free, free to do whatever you want whenever you want…and that’s maybe the best part, because what you want to do is always exactly what Jesus is already doing! So it all works out perfectly. That’s why you’re so happy in heaven. Happy as happy can be. So happy that no one on earth can even imagine being that happy.     Imagine that!      It’s like two best friends who always, always, always agree to play the same game and always, always, always have the best time.     Make sense?

D:   Yeah, they’d be like the best friends in the entire world…like the best friends that could ever be…

F:   Yeah…that’s a great way to put it…     In heaven you and Jesus are the best friends that could ever be…

D:   So what kind of stuff do they do in heaven?

F:   Well, they love. They love all the time. They love God…they love each other…and they love us…and they also pray…

D:   People in heaven still pray?

F:   Sure they do…but they don’t pray for themselves anymore. They’re already in heaven, so now they only pray for other people, for people like us who are still on earth—just like Jesus does.     Jesus prays for us, so they pray for us….     It has a big fancy word. It’s called “interceding”.

D:   Interceding?

F:   It means to ask the Father—Father God—to bless us, to be kind to us—to all of us still on earth—and to let us come into heaven when we die so we can live with Him, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and all of God’s holy angels and saints…forever and ever…

D:   Wow, I really want to see what heaven looks like!

F:   Me too!

D:   And you’re old, so you’ll go before me, right?

F:   That makes sense…

D:   So when you go to heaven, Daddy, you can pray for me too, with Jesus…

F:   Absolutely. (pause) (looking outward, nodding his head) (smiling) I’ll see Him face to face and be like Him…and I’ll be happy forever…and I’ll do all that Jesus does…     (turning toward his daughter) And I will pray for you until the day you join us in heaven, for ever and ever… perfect happiness together… best, best friends forever…and ever…and ever…

(Smile. A big smile. In both directions)

F: (starting to get up off the couch)  Ok, that’s enough heaven talk…heaven starts right now.     Go have a good day at school. Be a good girl…listen…and have fun…that’s definitely part of your job here on earth.     Got It?

D:   Got it.

F:   I love you so much…

D:   I love you too, Daddy.

(A hug, a kiss, a quick blessing. Father and daughter exit opposite sides of stage)

 

CURTAIN


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com  

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

http://www.twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.

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