Category Archives: ecumenism

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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Visiting Gregory the Great

Today, October 9th is the anniversary of the death of Fr. Theodore Foley, who died in Rome on this day in 1974. Father Theodore loved to visit the churches of the city and delighted taking visitors to them.

He’s a candidate for canonization, and as a tribute to him I’m offering this visit to the church of St.Gregory the Great, a holy pope who reached out to the world in hard times, a man of hope and deep faith.

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The Triumph of the Cross: September 14

 

Holy sepul

Pilgims enteing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

This ancient ecumenical feast,  celebrated by Christian churches throughout the world, originated in Jerusalem at the place where Jesus died and rose again. There, a great church was built by the Emperor Constantine and dedicated September 13, 325 AD, It was called the Anastasis (Resurrection) or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and became one of Christianity’s holiest places.

Liturgies celebrated in this church, especially its Holy Week liturgy, influenced churches throughout the world. Devotional practices like the Stations of the Cross grew up around this church. Christian pilgrims brought relics and memories from here to every part of the world. Christian mystics were drawn to this church and this feast.

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Tomb of Jesus

Calvary

Calvary

Pilgrims to the church today in Jerusalem’s Old City can visit the tomb of Jesus, recently renovated after sixteen centuries of wars, earthquakes, fires and natural disasters, and also the rock of Calvary where Jesus died on a cross. The building today is smaller and shabbier than the resplendent church of Constantine’s time, because the original structure was largely destroyed in the 1009 by the mad Moslem caliph al-Hakim. Half of the church was hastily rebuilt by the Crusaders, and the present building still bears the scars of time.

Scars of a divided Christendom can also be seen in it. Various Christian groups, representing churches of the east and the west, claim age-old rights and warily guard their separate responsibilities in the place. One hears in this church the difficult challenge Jesus offered when he prayed that ” All may be one.”

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Egyptian Coptic Christians

Seventeenth century Enlightenment scholars  expressed doubts about the authenticity of Jesus’ tomb and the place where he died, Calvary. Is this really it? Alternative spots have been proposed, but scientific opinion today favors this site as the place where Jesus suffered, died and was buried.

For more on the history of this place, see here.

And a video here.

Readings for the Triumph of the Cross

 

 

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Via Dolorosa - 17

“Do not forget the works of the Lord!” (Psalm 78, Responsorial Psalm) We can’t forget Jesus Christ. Like those before us, we seek and inquire after God again and again; we remember God our rock, the Most High God, our redeemer. Don’t forget Jesus Christ who “emptied himself.” His cross lifts us up.

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Crimes Against the Natural World


“Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for “inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation” He has repeatedly stated this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation:

“’For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins” For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.’

“At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion” As Christians, we are also called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet”.

Pope Francis ,Laudato SI, 8-9

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Why Read the Old Testament?

Some people complain about the selections from the Old Testament we’re reading at weekday Mass these past few weeks. Too long, they say, they don’t tell us anything. They’d rather hear what Jesus is saying and doing.

Why do we read from the Old Testament? Reading from the Old Testament is a lot like reading from the New York Times or the Daily News, or following David Muir on ABC each evening. You’re not going to hear much about Jesus there either. The media gives us the news of the day as it happens and, especially these days, it’s not encouraging.

Not much encouraging news in our Old Testament reading today from the Book of Numbers either. (Numbers 13-14) Giants are out there blocking the way to the promised land. Israel’s scouts face giants as they reconnoiter the world ahead. There’s no way ahead.

Our media tells us the same: giants are blocking our way– North Korea, the Middle East, storms from climate change, political giants who seem to get in the way of a world of justice and peace. And we don’t have answers what to do.

But the Old Testament tells us more than the media. It’s salvation history. More than the story of the Jews, the Old Testament is the story of the human race and all creation on a journey, from the beginning of time to its end. Human sinfulness, tragedies and delays are there, but the story begins and ends in hope. God is there.

That makes the Old Testament stories so different from the stories the media serves up everyday. God is there from the beginning. That’s the way our selection today from the Book of Numbers begins: “The LORD said to Moses [in the desert of Paran,]‘Send men to reconnoiter the land of Canaan,
which I am giving the children of Israel.’” And God is there as his people experience the consequences of their foolishness and lack of faith.

The columnist David Brooks in the Times yesterday said he has to think less about Donald Trump or he’s going to go crazy. He needs to think more about the deeper shifts taking place in society, he says.

I wonder if thinking about the deeper shifts is enough to stop you from going crazy these days. We need hope from another source. That’s where the Old Testament and the rest of the scriptures comes in. Some prefer calling it the “First Testament.” It testifies that the first thing to keep in mind about time is that God is there, from beginning to the end. God is our Savior.

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August is Here

At the start of each month I email members of the Confraternity of the Passion and anyone else who asks a calendar indicating the scripture readings for the Mass and the feast days of the saints we remember that month.

The reason I do is that following the church calendar is an important way to grow in faith.It puts us in touch with the scriptures in our daily lectionary and the wonderful world of the saints.

Reading the daily scriptures together with fellow believers throughout the world develops a common mind, as it were. Fortunately, not just Catholics use the daily lectionary, some Protestant churches use it now too; so more Christians read the same scriptures together through the year.

Praying together can bring us together, we hope. Praying the scriptures together, which the Catholic church encouraged at the Second Vatican Council, is a step towards Christian unity. Blessed Dominic Barberi, Passionist whose feast is August 26th was especially dedicated to the work of Christian unity.

This month at Mass we continue reading from Matthew’s gospel. With chapter 14, Jesus begins to establish his church, built on Peter, a rock, but a frail man who with the other disciples must follow Jesus to the cross.

The following chapters from Matthew offer an instruction about the nature of the church. Its members must care for each other and forgive those who have offended them. At the same time they’re obliged to correct their fellow Christians, even to the point of separation from the community. (Matthew 18)

During the first few weeks of August we’ll continue reading from the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers about the Jewish exodus from Egypt led by Moses. Then we’ll read about their occupation of Canaan under Joshua and the Judges.

It’s a brutal occupation. Our lectionary softens our exposure to it by limiting what we read about it, but even so, why the violence? Why so many exterminated in the name of God? The scriptures raise questions and cause objections as well as give answers and raise our hopes.

Here’s where good commentaries and wise answers help; otherwise, we lapse into biblical fundamentalism. I’m reading the commentaries from the New American Bible, which recognize we can’t read these books as literal history. There’s a human hand at work in them.

God reveals himself progressively to the human family, which is intent on its own welfare and quick to destroy rather than build. God works in mud. Here’s a quote I like:

“Progressive revelation throughout Israel’s history produced far more lofty ideals, as when the prophets see all the nations embracing faith in Yahweh, being joined to Israel, and living in peace with one another (Is 2:2419:232545:2225Zec 8:2223), and the New Testament teaches us to love even our enemies (Mt 5:4345).” (New American Bible, Commentary)

There’s another way to look at the violence and exterminations found in the Book of Joshua:

“The theological message of the book is unmistakable. God has been faithful to the promise of the land. If Israel relies totally on the Lord for victory; if Israel is united as a people; if the law of herem is kept and no one grows rich from victory in war—then and only then will Israel possess the land.”

We’re a long way from possessing the land. “Your kingdom come.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Holy Saturday

 

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