Category Archives: politics

Is Our World Sharing in the Sufferings of Christ?

gohistoric_14912_m

For the next two weeks at Mass we’re reading St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, a Christian community in the city of Corinth around the year 50, shortly after the time of Jesus. Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians are favorite sources of information for historians studying the early Christian church. They also offer us a way to reflect on our own church today.

In the easter season we read from the Acts of the Apostles– St. Luke’s overview of the early Christian church. Beginning with the gospel preached in Jerusalem and ending with its reception in Rome, Luke describes its growth after the resurrection of Jesus mainly through the activity of Peter and Paul.

Now, we turn in our lectionary to the church at Corinth, a early church founded by Paul. What was it like?

Drawn from the different peoples flocking to the great Mediterranean port, the community at Corinth was diverse, and a variety of preachers and teachers attracted its members, causing some division, noticeably as they came together to “break bread.” There’s some sexual immorality in this church, close to the open sea. Some were wondering about the resurrection of Jesus.

This is a church no longer mostly Jewish, though some may have missed the stability a Jewish synagogue brought, despite disagreements over Jesus. As yet there was no bishop administering this church for Paul to contact and work with. He was an apostle, a preacher to the world, speaking as a disciple of Jesus.

Clearly, this is a church  “in the works,” not complete, with glaring weaknesses, struggling to grow in faith, with plenty of loose ends, looking for answers. It’s a church experiencing great change. It’s a church suffering, not from outward persecution, but from turmoil within.

Is this a church like our own?

As he speaks to the Corinthians, Paul sees their sufferings first, which he describes as “Christ’s sufferings”. He’s experiencing that mystery himself, and in the opening chapters of the Second Letter to the Corinthians (which unfortunately are not well represented in our lectionary) Paul begins with that mystery and returns to it over and over.

Yes, there are problems to be faced, corrections must be made, restructuring must take place, but Paul keeps reminding them they are experiencing the sufferings of Christ. With Christ’s suffering, Paul writes, comes his encouragement.

The sufferings of Christ and the encouragement of Christ. Paul knew them both. Preaching in the province of Asia with some companions, “We were utterly weighed down beyond our strength, so that we despaired of life.”  But with the sufferings came an overflowing encouragement, which inevitably accompanies the sufferings of Christ. “We do not trust in ourselves but in God who raises from the dead.” ( 2 Corinthians 1, 5-11)

Can we see in Paul’s way the right way, the first way, to look at our church and our world today? We’re tempted to quickly stand in judgment, to analyze, to condemn, even to throw up our hands and lose hope in the world around us. Do we need to remember the sufferings of Christ, a mystery that falls on all, and the “encouragement” that always accompanies this mystery?

Listen to Paul speaking to the struggling Corinthians:

“Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement,”

Good letter for us to read these days.

“In your wrath, remember compassion.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Inspiration, Motivational, Passionists, politics, Religion

Pope Leo the Great: Part 2

LEOATTILAa

Pope Leo had to step in when Attila and his army were threatening to destroy Rome. The elite of Roman society had fled the city, the government was gone, the rest were busy securing their own homes in the city. I don’t think Leo, a churchman who was by nature a thinker deeply engaged in the study of spiritual things wanted to meet the dangerous invaders at the city gates, but he did. He rose to accept the responsibility.

When society is in danger because it refuses to face the issues that endanger it, the church can’t flee or look to its own security. It has to step in. That means not only church leaders but every believer has to meet the challenges at our gates today which government and society won’t acknowledge– Climate change and care for the earth, immigration and care of refugees, nuclear disarmament, universal healthcare, global peacekeeping, respect for the family and human rights.

“Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God for you. Consider how their lives ended and imitate their faith. “ (Hebrews 13, 7) (Common of Pastors} Remember Leo.

Tomorrow we have another leader, who fought for the poor when most were concerned for the rich: Martin of Tours. Remember Martin of Tours.

1 Comment

Filed under ecumenism, Environment, Inspiration, politics, spirituality

Is God at the Convention?

Our political conventions are beginning. A time, especially this year, when we wonder about our future. No perfect candidates, no perfect plans, no perfect solution. Should we pay any attention at all?

I’m thinking of John Henry Newman, the illustrious 19th century English theologian who converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism in 1845. An Italian Passionist priest, Fr. Dominic Barbari, received him into the church.

Newman’s conversion came through his efforts to bring the Church of England, then struggling against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, back to its orthodox Christian roots. He sought the answer in studying  early Christianity and its development to the present day. The Oxford Movement begun by Newman and other university friends strongly affected the Anglican church and other Christian churches of his time.

Originally convinced that the Catholic Church was corrupt and unfaithful to the gospel, Newman came to accept it as the Church founded by Jesus Christ. An important reason for his acceptance was his study of the Donatists, a 4th century Christian group that split from the larger church over who should be members of the church. The Donatists believed that the church should be a church of saints, not sinners.

Newman came to understand that the Church develops over time, and its development takes place in the real world, which is the world of saints and sinners. The spirituality he arrived at was anchored in this reality. We live in a world of weeds and wheat. “Nothing would be done at all if one waited until one could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.” We don’t live in a perfect world or a perfect church.

The world we live in is blessed by God with a purpose and a mission. No, it’s not perfect nor will it ever be perfect.We may cringe at the circus our political world can create these next few weeks. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try to make politics live up to its ideals. In all the hoopla God is at work.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Passionists, politics, Religion

Little Sisters of the Poor

IMG_1809
For the last 7 days I have been with some of the Little Sisters of the Poor on retreat at their place in Flemington, NJ. We’ve been reflecting, for the most part, on the scripture readings from the lectionary for these days in the easter season, and I put some of my reflections down in previous blogs.
IMG_1835

The Little Sisters of the Poor are currently engaged in a dispute on health care with the United States government and the case is before the Supreme Court. Here’s a website explaining their stand. They’re not an advocacy group; they take care of the elderly poor in residences in this country and throughout the world. Holy women, they’re doers, not talkers.

I didn’t mention the case in my talks these days; they were days of prayer and reflection. But the easter readings from the Acts of the Apostles do seem to offer them a template for this experience. As the teacher of the law Gamaliel said about the Jewish-Christians arranged before the Sanhedrin,, “If it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5, 39

Another lesson we learn from the Acts of the Apostles is that the mystery of the passion and resurrection is always present in our lives and the journey we make together as a community. No matter how dark it seems, God brings us to life and light. That’s the way the Kingdom of God comes.

The Little Sisters know a lot about caring for the elderly, especially the elderly poor, something our government may not know much about, if truth be told. Instead of prosecuting them for breaking a law, wouldn’t it be better to get their advice how to treat the frail elderly? Care for an aging population is a growing challenge for our society.

The Little Sisters know something about it.

2 Comments

Filed under Passionists, politics, Religion