Monthly Archives: October 2015

All Saints Day

 

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When we think about saints, we usually think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, apostles like Peter and Paul, or extraordinary individuals like Mother Teresa. True friends of God.

Besides saints like them, the Feast of Saints reminds us that there are unnumbered others in God’s company. In a vision of heaven, St. John saw “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” {Revelations 7, 9-13} We hope we will join them one day.

Our hope rests on a promise Jesus made. Remember it, the same apostle says:

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are…
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” (1 John 3,1-3)

How shall we reach that place where we’ll be revealed as children of God? Jesus tells us to follow him and live as he taught. He shows the way in his Sermon on the Mount, our gospel reading for this feast. He will be the way, the truth and the life.

We haven’t seen yet that life we hope for or what God promises. We haven’t completed our lives yet. This feast reminds us of God’s promise and calls us to hope for the day it’s revealed.

The extraordinary saints we honor are not the only ones in heaven. There is a multitude of others, not a few.God welcomes countless others to his company, saints unnoticed here on earth, saints with little to show, saints who were sinners. People like us.

As we celebrate this feast, remember your destiny, St. Bernard says:

“Rise again with Christ and seek the world above and set your mind on heaven. Long for those who are longing for us; hasten to those who are waiting for us, ask those who are looking for our coming to intercede for us. Desire their company and seek a share in their glory. There’s no harm in being ambitious for this. No danger in setting your heart on such glory.

“Remembering the saints inflames us with a yearning that Christ our life may appear to us as he appeared to them and that one day we may share in his glory.”

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Friday Thoughts: Too Good to be True

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Rogier Van der Weyden deposition detail

Weyden, Descent from the Cross (detail of woman crying) (1435-40)

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To all faithful servants of Christ,

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Many thought that Jesus was too good to be true.

Many will think the same of you.

They questioned Him.
They’ll question you.

They tested Him.
They’ll test you.

They tried to trap Him.
They’ll try to trap you.

They mocked Him and spit in His face.
They’ll mock you and spit in yours.

They crucified Him.
They will crucify you.

His family watched His side be pierced.
Yours will watch you bleed.

If you act like Christ, expect the Passion.

All hope is in the resurrection.

For you are not of this world.

Remain then in Him.

Be not afraid.

Walk boldly toward the hill.

Carry your cross.

Stand if you fall.

But most of all, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

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Father, glorify thy name.” —John 12:28

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Weyden, Descent from the Cross (1435-40)

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(Friday Thoughts is a new series to appear every Friday, written by various members of the extended Passionist community.)

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Romans 8, 18-25: A New Creation

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We’re strongly influenced today by science, which depends mainly on what we can see. Because scientists depend mainly on what they can see, they focus mostly on the beginnings of our world and its present state. Few facts are available about the future, and so science doesn’t venture too much into that part of reality.

Paul ventures into the future in the Letter to the Romans, which we’re reading at Mass today.

“The glory of God will be revealed for us,” he says, “the sufferings of this present time are as nothing. Creation itself “will share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” There will be a new heaven and a new earth.

How does Paul know this? Not by what he sees, but by hope, which reveals what we cannot yet see. “In hope we were saved. Hope that sees for itself is not hope. But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.”

In his recent encyclical Laudato si, Pope Francis draws on that same hope revealed to Paul to bolster his call for care for our common home, the earth. All creation will share in that glory, which flows from the resurrection of Jesus. We must care for the earth because of its destiny:

“The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been at¬tained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things. Here we can add yet an¬other argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures. The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all crea¬tures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the ris¬en Christ embraces and illumines all things. Hu¬man beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.” (LS 61)

I think it’s safe to say that the scientific community has received Francis’ encyclical favorably, even with enthusiasm, not just as an ethical call to care for the earth, but also for the visionary hope it proclaims. Just as religion must respect science, so science must respect what faith senses. Our belief, which the pope expresses so well, is that the earth should not be degraded or discarded, but admired, loved and cared for. It has a destiny “in the fullness of God.”

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Care for Our Beautiful Earth

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Today, cardinals, patriarchs and bishops of the Catholic church across the globe, called on the leaders of governments, business and finance, the United Nations, NGOs and other members of civil society who will negotiate issues of climate change (COP21) at a meeting in Parish, December 7-8 to produce a just and legally binding and “truly transformational” climate agreement. The Catholic leaders cited Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, “Laudato si.”

“We join the Holy Father in pleading for a major break-through in Paris, for a comprehensive and transformational agreement supported by all based on principles of solidarity, justice and participation. This agreement must put the common good ahead of national interests. It is essential too that the negotiations result in an enforceable agreement that protects our common home and all its inhabitants.”

The Catholic leaders ended with a prayer for this important meeting:

Prayer for the Earth

God of love, teach us to care for this world our common home.
Inspire government leaders as they gather in Paris:
to listen to and heed the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor;
to be united in heart and mind in responding courageously;
to seek the common good and protect the beautiful earthly garden you have created for us,
for all our brothers and sisters,
for all generations to come.
Amen.

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30th Sunday: B. God’s Mercy

 

Most Sundays this year we’re reading from the Gospel of Mark. Like the other gospels, Mark’s Gospel is a wonderful work of art. By that I mean it’s not just a series of stories or sayings of Jesus put together historically as a day by day account of Jesus’ life. No, Mark’s Gospel is skillfully arranged to teach us who Jesus is and what it means to follow him.

For the last five Sundays or so, Mark is taking us on the journey of Jesus and his disciples from Galilee in the north, where he began his ministry, to Jerusalem in the south where he will die and rise from the dead. Mark’s not interested in telling us what places they passed day by day. He’s telling us what Jesus is revealing about himself, and how people react to him.

On the journey Jesus tells his disciples he will be betrayed and crucified and die on the cross and rise again. He also tells them if they want to follow him, they have to take up their own cross. But over and over they can’t see what he’s telling them. Over and over, Mark says, “They did not understand him.”

Now, those following Jesus are good, normal people, as far as we can judge. Peter and the other fishermen from Galilee, James and John, for example, are good, solid reasonable people. The rich young man who approached Jesus in our gospel reading a few weeks ago– a good, solid individual. But they did not understand him.

“You think like human beings think,” Jesus says to Peter earlier in Mark’s Gospel. Peter had told him to put any thought of suffering and dying from his mind. James and John thought they could become big players in Jesus’ earthly kingdom. He would be a ticket to success when they reached Jerusalem. The rich young man was afraid of losing what he had. They’re all examples of the way human beings think. They did not understand him.

Of course, Mark’s gospel is pointing out that this is the way we think too. We’re so limited, we’re so self-serving, we’re so afraid to trust in the wisdom and promises of God. We think like human beings. At one point in Mark’s gospel, the disciples throw up their hands, seemingly in desperation, and say among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”

Today’s gospel answers to that question. “As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.” They’ve reached Jericho where the road turns up to Jerusalem. The blind beggar is sitting on the road. He can’t see. He had nothing to recommend him, it seems. Nobody wants him near them, but Jesus calls him and gives him his sight.

Not only does Jesus give him his sight, but Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, gets up and follows Jesus on the way, up to Jerusalem. In a simple, beautiful way, Mark’s Gospels tells us a powerful story of God’s mercy. The blind man is a symbol of humanity, so blind to so much. But God’s mercy is stronger than human thinking, human weakness, even human sin. It reaches out to us and helps us . God’s mercy helps us to see, to get up and with Jesus enter Jerusalem.

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Friday Thoughts: Don’t Look At Me

Caravaggio, Denial of St. Peter, (1610)

Caravaggio, “Denial of St. Peter” (1610)

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Never look to a man for answers.

Look to Christ who is the answer.

If you insist on looking to a man, then choose one who points to Christ.

For the best teacher is Christ Himself…and His best assistants are those who clearly say: “Don’t look at me.”

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—Howard Hain

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St. Paul of the Cross

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A saint’s work is never done because, like Jesus Christ, the saints reach beyond their time and place.  They’re agents of God’s plan. Their work is not finished at their death– our belief in the communion of saints reminds us–and even in old age they saw something yet to do.

They never say “The work is done,” and neither should we.

I’m reminded of a poem called “What then?” by W.B. Yeats; which he wrote as an old man at the end of a successful career filled with literary honors, financial rewards and a host of friends. You would think he’d sit down and enjoy it all, but listen to him as he hears the challenge of more to do:

‘The work is done,’ grown old he thought,
‘According to my boyish plan;
Let the fools rage, I swerved in naught,
Something to perfection brought’;
But louder sang that ghost,’What then?’

I’m sure St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of my community, the Passionists, is saying something like that from his place in heaven where he guides us still.

May the priest Saint Paul, whose only love was the Cross,

obtain for us your grace, O Lord,

so  that, urged on more strongly by his example,

we may each embrace our own cross with courage.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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