Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Season of Creation, September 1st -October 5th

The Season of Creation spans five weeks between the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, September 1st, and the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4th

This “time for creation” offers, in the words of Pope Francis, “individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

“As Christians we wish to contribute to resolving the ecological crisis which humanity is presently experiencing. In doing so, we must first rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation. We need always to keep in mind that, for believers in Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became man for our sake, “the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature or from worldly realities, but lived in and with them, in communion with all that surrounds us” (Laudato Si’, 216). The ecological crisis thus summons us to a profound spiritual conversion: Christians are called to “an ecological conversion whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them” (ibid., 217). For “living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (ibid.)
Pope Francis, August 6, 2015

“The heavens declare your glory, O Lord, and the stars of the sky bring light to our darkness.
You spoke, and the earth burst forth in life, you saw that it was good.
You called forth creation, and enlivened every creature on land and sea.
You made human beings in your image, and set us over the whole world in all of its wonders.
You gave us share in your dominion, and called us “to till and to keep” this garden, the work of your hands.
This day we praise you for your manifold gifts.
May our daily care for your creation show reverence for your name,
and reveal your saving power in every creature under heaven.
We make this prayer in the name of Christ your son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.

To Practice What We Preach

This Wednesday’s Gospel (Mt 23: 27-32) presents a small portion of chapter 23, where Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees for various sinful behaviors:

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what you ancestors measured out!”

I believe that our Lord loved these scribes and Pharisees as much as He loves any of us, and yet He presented before them all their ungodly practices and acts. Perhaps Jesus, in His frustration at their lack of acceptance, was hoping to startle them into repentance, and yet, He must have known that there was little chance that this shaming was going to work. They would not stop until Jesus was apprehended and killed.

Jesus points out the large load of sin that His beloved people had been carrying for generations, the stubbornness, the pride, and the fear that had led to the persecution and killing of so many prophets in the past. This unfortunate “tradition” would continue and end with Him. They and their ancestors had “measured out” a large quantity of injustice and suffering that had to be atoned for. This huge absence of righteousness had to be filled up by them. Instead, because of God’s incredible love, it would be filled with the blood and anguish of our crucified Lord for the forgiveness of all.
In an earlier part of Chapter 23 (vv 2-3) Jesus says,
“The scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.”

Sadly, this ominous accusation can apply to all of us, disciples of Christ, in today’s world. In one way of another, despite our pious, clean exteriors (specially when we go to Mass), like the graves that Jesus talks about, our souls carry the deadly rot of sin to a lesser or greater extent.

On the August 25 issue of USA Today, I was reading the long, disturbing article about the the numerous court cases across our country, regarding the sex abuse scandal in our Church. It is awful to see people who, like the Pharisees, are religious leaders who are to set the example of God’s love for us, and instead abuse their power in such cruel, destructive ways. The culprits were not only priests, but also “church employees,” lay people. Even though these persons are a small minority of us and we will not “follow their example,” we are called to “do and observe whatever they tell” us, to follow the teachings of our church and be examples of justice, goodness and love for whole world. Our Body of Christ might have areas of damage, but we will keep it alive, because His Holy Spirit heals and fortifies us as his Church.

I look within the tomb of my inner self and see so much that I am ashamed of. The Risen Lord is there, He Who comes “to judge the living” and Who illuminates with His great light exposes every fault within that crypt. I must admit these faults, accept them, and confess them.

The Lord has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Here, His Holy Spirit comes within and cleanses these earthen vessels with His Glory. He gives us relief, hope, strength, and confidence in His goodness, so that we ourselves will strive to share in His holiness and mercy. He loves us. This is what He wants for us.

Beloved Father in Heaven, Beloved Master, thank You for the saving power of Your Holy Spirit! Don’t give up on us; have mercy on us!

Orlando Hernandez

Morning Thoughts: Remembrance of Things Past

by Howard Hain

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“…forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead…”

—Philippians 3:13


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What is the past? A remembrance of things past. Of what has been. Of what is not now. Of what is no longer today.

What is re-membering? A putting back together of what once was. Of what was once whole. Complete. United. Unified. A re-attachment of “bodily” members currently detached. A body made whole, brought back into health. It is healing. It is “being” fulfilled.

What is to forget? The act of properly re-membering. Beyond elimination. Beyond denial. It is re-valuation. It is re-deeming. Of value. A re-establishment of worth. An instance of humanity made universality worthy once more.

What is worthy? What has value? The future lived presently. Proper hope brought into active being. Knowing ‘now’ is a perpetual tomorrow, lived fully today.

It is tomorrow’s air breathed as we currently speak.

A human being living in heaven.

A human being “knowing” heaven was once, is now, and will be forever.

Worthy is a person “forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead…”


 

Praise be Incarnate Wisdom. Now and forever.

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The Passion of John the Baptist

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The death of John the Baptist, ordered by Herod and sought by his wife Herodias, is a dramatic tale of revenge and loyalty vividly told in Mark’s gospel. Because it’s like the Passion of Jesus the church calls John’s death “The Passion of John the Baptist”  and remembers it  August 29th.

Venerable Bede has a thoughtful homily on John’s death, a martyr’s death.  It’s like the death of Jesus Christ because they both embraced the same values, they were both unjustly killed for embracing those values.  If John stayed silent about Herod’s conduct, perhaps he would gain a few peaceful years of life, Bede says, but he was more concerned with what God thought than powerful people on earth.

“His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth?

He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life.

“But heaven notices– not the span of our lives– but how we live them, speaking the truth.”

Good thought. It doesn’t matter how many years we live, but how we live them, “speaking the truth.”

For John that meant dying for the truth. What does it mean for us? The opening prayer for this feast asks that ” we might fight hard for the confession of what you teach.” Maybe not getting our heads chopped off, but getting some scars from the daily battle for God’s truth.

Saint Augustine

Augustine baptism

Augustine’s Baptism, Gozzoli

August 28, Feast of St. Augustine

“Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so.”  Augustine, Confessions

And God became his Light.

“O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: ‘I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me’”.

The Light was Christ.

On his feast today, the day after we honor his mother Monica, the church looks at Augustine as one changed by encountering the mystery of God. It was not his brilliant mind or human gifts that created the encounter; it was the grace of God, which we all look for.

Yet, look at the scene of his baptism, above. There’s Monica standing behind St. Ambrose. A mother’s prayers had something to do with it too.

“Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!

Lo, you were within,

but I outside, seeking there for you,

and upon the shapely things you have made

I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.

You were with me, but I was not with you.

They held me back far from you,

those things which would have no being,

were they not in you.

You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;

you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;

you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;

I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;

you touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

 

 

Here’s a biography of Augustine by Pope Benedict XVI

Here’s a wealth of material on Augustine from Villanova University

God doesn’t demonize

We’re reading Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians and the Gospel of Matthew this week at Mass. The letter was written about the year 55 AD, 20 years or so after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew was written about the year 85 AD, some 40 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Paul’s letters reflect his custom to go first into Jewish synagogues to preach the gospel as a follower of Jesus. Before his conversion, he went to the synagogues as a Pharisee to pursue and arrest Christians. Now he faced those from the Pharisaic movement sharply confronting him..

The Gospel of Matthew reflects this same antagonism and confrontation. Matthew’s gospel was written at a highpoint of Jewish-Christian controversy, after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.  Read only passages from the 23rd chapter of Matthew’s gospel you would think that the Pharisees were Jesus’ fiercest enemies.

In reality, a number of Pharisees became his most important followers, like Nicodemus and Paul himself. The Pharisees were certainly antagonistic to him in his lifetime; Jesus was angry with them for their blindness to him and his message. But did he see them as mortal, eternal enemies? No, he didn’t.

We have to read the scriptures with an eye on the time they were written and the audience they were written for. It helps us understand the hot rhetoric we hear in Matthew’s reading for today.

Can we learn a lesson from readings like these? Be careful not to demonize your enemies. God doesn’t do that and neither should we.

That’s an important lesson to remember today as we look at the Muslim world and controversy building up between them and us. Jesus didn’t demonize people; he turned to the thief on the cross, he told the story of a prodigal son, he received back the disciples who abandoned him.,

When we bring the bread and wine to the altar at Mass, we bring all of creation, not just a part of it, for God to receive. “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,” we say. All creation is God’s creation. He wishes to bless it and see it at peace and harmony. God wishes us to see things as he see them.

God doesn’t demonize.

Monica

Monica augustine

We remember a mother and her son this week, St. Monica and her son St. Augustine. A song I heard long ago was titled: “A Mother’s Love’s a Blessing.” Augustine could have sung that song.

In his “Confessions,” he praised God for bringing him “late” to a faith he found so beautiful, but he also acknowledged that his mother’s tears and prayers helped bring him to Jesus Christ. She was like the woman in the gospel who, as she brought her dead son to be buried, met Jesus who saw her tears and stopped the funeral procession and raised her son to life.

“ I was like that son,” Augustine says. ‘I was dead. My mother’s tears won me God’s life.”

Like many women of her time, we don’t know much about Monica. She married a man named Patricius, a tough husband who put her down and went out with other women. They had three kids, but Augustine was special and she followed him, trying to get him to be the person she knew he could be. Above all, she wanted him to have faith.

He was a hard son to deal with, smart, well educated, hooked on the “lovely things” about him. He was deaf to her advice, blind to the path she wanted him to take, but she followed him anyway, convinced God had something big for him to do, and she finally got her wish

Doesn’t she sound like many today? How many today love their kids, or their husbands or their wives or their friends, but worry they’ll get mixed up in the wrong things–not going to church, deaf to the gospel? But they stick by them anyway.

That’s not easy to do and so it’s good to remember Monica and the moving words to God Augustine wrote in his Confessions. Did he ever show them to her, I wonder?

“O beauty every ancient, O beauty ever new. Late have I have loved thee. You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

Fittingly, the church celebrates Monica’s feast on August 27th,  the day before her son’s.