Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Christmas

I invite my brothers and sisters in Christ to journey through the season with me over at CatholicLand. In this Year of the Eucharist, our participation in the liturgical seasons is all the more pregnant with meaning and possibility. We can feel ever more drawn into the Life and Heart of our Savior as we draw closer to Him in the Blessed Sacrament. We can participate more fully in the Life of Christ by our sharing time with friends and relatives in a spirit of goodwill and peace. Let us ask the Lord to bless our comings and our goings, our laughter and tears, our time together and our time apart.
Gloria in Excelsis Deo!
Pacem in Terris~
SWP

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Nurture the Mustard Seed

A possible reflection for this Advent:

Imagine that a tiny seed--the seed of the Kingdom and of Jesus Christ--has been planted in your heart. It has been implated by your baptism and your faith. No matter how unworthy you are to hold it, it is a fact that it has been entrusted to you by God. If you sin gravely, you will cast it out--but God is generous in restoring what He had once given for those who repent.

Call to mind this seed throughout the day. Know that you must nurture it for it to grow into the great tree that it is to be, for it to transform you into the image of Jesus. Avoid anything that will hurt it, and look for ways to water and feed it. Let the light of the Sun of God shine on it as you adore Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, feed it as you receive Him in it. Commit acts of charity to water it. As you tend this seed, remember that it is God who causes the growth. Ask Him to do so--in yourself and in others.

You have been chosen as a vessel for this gift of infinite worth. Protect it. Tend it. Long for the time when it will be full grown and glorious. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the greatest example to follow in this regard. Meditate on the little that she says and that is said of her in the scriptures.

When Jesus comes again, he will want to see how you have nurtured this seed.

Peace, Brothers.
- Mark John.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving

I just wanted to encourage all of you in your celebration of the Year of the Eucharist to note that Eucharist means "thanksgiving", making this annual celebration all the more poignant this year. Abraham Lincoln was a prophetic sage; when he immortalized this day in the American calendar, he was recognizing the importance of crediting God with our blessings, as a nation and as families who make up our nation. The celebration offers us the chance to return an investment to those who risked their lives to forge a new nation, those men and women dedicated to the belief that God created us good, noble, and free, possessing inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: the missionaries and martyrs, the colonists and pilgrims, pioneers and patriots, the soldiers and slaves. We stand with generations of immigrants as well as those who worshipped and thanked the Creator long before anyone else arrived on this plentiful soil.
As Catholics and people of goodwill, we can honor the Lord this day by thanking Him for creating us good, for loving us into existence, crowning us with redemption, and sustaining us through the Holy Spirit. We can call upon the intercession of the cloud of witnesses at our Table, our spiritual family who we hope to join at the Eternal Banquet. Let us make this Year of the Eucharist, an entire year dedicated to thanksgiving, one in which we never forget the blessings remembered and hopefully felt this Thanksgiving Day. Let us join our domestic table to the Altar, and enthrone Christ in our hearts. Let us share our plenty with those in poverty. Let our nation grant such prosperity to those in need. Let us be the Salt which leavens the world, a Light to the nations, a City set upon a hill.
Let us praise and thank the God of Abraham and Sara, the God who led his people out of bondage and beckons us to Eternal Life. May we join our cross to His, place our hopes at His feet, and follow the Way of Truth and Life, this day and always. Amen!

Friday, November 12, 2004

We are all "spiritual semites."

It is very important, as Christians, to hold on to our Jewish heritage. While a significant part of the New Testament concerns the movement from the old covenant to the new--explaining the differences--it is abundantly clear that the new covenant presupposes the old. They are in continuity with each other. In fact, they can be called, in a certain sense, one and the same.
God made a covenant with a people he chose as uniquely his own. He loved them. He revealed himself to them. He forgave them even when they sinned. In their suffering, He promised them justice. He promised that he would send them his full salvation, blessing even the nations of the world. I repeat the last point--he promised that the whole world would be blessed through them. All this God has done and fulfilled in Christ. We have been blessed through the Jews, as Christ Jesus himself said: "Salvation comes from the Jews."
Gentile Christians are only wild shoots grafted onto the vine of Israel. This is abundantly evident from the scriptures, the liturgy, and from daily Christian life. Living at the seminary for the past year--praying from the liturgy of the hours each day, studying the scriptures, seeking the Lord--I have begun to identify myself with the Jews (as I understand them from the OT and common knowledge). I can honestly say that I "feel Jewish."
Christians should know how deep is their Jewish identity when they pour out their hearts to God in the spirit and words of king David in the Psalms, when they cry out to God in their suffering, when they pray the Benedictus or the Magnificat--proclaiming aloud their joy in the messianic fulfillment, when they worship God for his mighty deeds of salvation, when they feel wrapped up in the love of God, when they seek to do the will of God in all things.

The God and Father of Jesus Christ is the God of Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and Joseph. When someone believes in Christ becomes a Christian, they embrace faith in the God of Abraham and Sarah. It is indispensable for each new Christian to be taught the Old Testament, so that they might know the God to whom they are giving over their life (and from whom they are receiving life in return). It all makes me think of the story of the Moabite Ruth, and her words to the Israelite, Naomi: "Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." When a man becomes a Christian, he says these words to all the people of Israel. This is because he himself becomes an Israelite of the heavenly Jerusalem, and a son of Abraham according faith.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Put your hope in heavenly things, not on earthly things.

Some thoughts on the feeling that many have of the futility of service in a world that has a seemingly unending need--seemingly undefeatable evil.....

I think that looking at the meaning of the incarnation of Christ and of his whole life and passion from a particular perspective sheds light on this dillemma. In these, he is shown to humble himself in being totally obedient to God's sending of him, and entering into the conditions of those in need, experiencing them himself. As he continues to serve these people, it becomes clear that the mission is too much--that the evil in the hearts of men (the very thing he came to remedy) is too strong for the numerically and geographically limited ministry he is doing. In the cross, he becomes swallowed up, so to speak, by the futility of his mission, and reaches the same end that those he came to serve and save all inevitably suffer: death. And yet all this was done in radical obedience to God, and in faith that God would not ultimately abandon him. And God will not abandon those who hope in him, those who have the loving obedience of faith in him. Because of Christ's obediance in service, though all seemed to have been loss and failure, God granted him abundant fruits. Both for him and those he was sent to.
So for us to live this in our lives, we need to follow the pattern of Christ. And this is why we need to (as is often said), "put our hope not in this world but in the world to come." If we put our ultimate hope in "what I (or we) can do" for the poor of the world, then we will be disappointed and despair because the work is too much for us (even collectively), there is too much evil in the hearts of men. But if we hope in heaven, which is God's work of "making things right," then we know that whether our service yields partial successes (for all successes in this world are partial), or yields failures, we can trust in God to bring about the fullness at the end of the ages. Rather than discouraging working in this world, hoping in heaven instead of in earth encourages working in the world. An activist view on life is thus seen to be surpassed by a active-contemplative life in God. Putting hope in this world ends up by dragging heaven down to earth, but putting hope in heaven lifts earth up to heaven.
We can do and are called to do great works of service on earth, individually and collectively, but it is an illusion to think that we can bring the kingdom of God in all its fullness into this world which is dominated by sin. Only God himself can bring it when Christ comes again. Having hope in God and in heaven is the remedy to the feeling of futility in service. And while the fruits of service are the beginnings of the kingdom, service--being obedience to God--makes the hope of THE FRUIT (which is of God's fruit in Christ) secure.

Peace.
- Mark John

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Martyrs & Demons

If you found your way over here from CatholicLand, you already know that Halloween is one of the most Christian holidays of the calendar year. And if you're just joining, you've jumped in for the best part. All Hallows Eve is a vigil preparing us for two sacred days to follow: All Saints Day and All Souls Day. All Hallows Eve is an opportunity to reflect on how very close we are to sin and darkness. Yet it is also a celebration that the Light is with us. Halloween is day to recognize that choosing Christ puts us at great risk; centuries of martyrdom and defamation teach us that. It is a day to reflect on our own mortality. Yet it is also a day to rejoice and make merry, because no dying, no demon, no power on earth can overcome the Love of God.

In this blog, I would like to explore in greater depth the necessity of understanding the power of evil, but also its antidote, a saintly life which chooses Christ above all else, witnessing the Gospel even unto a martyr's death. In choosing to juxtapose these two subjects, I am reminded of a piece from the original Fantasia. It begins with a visual representation of the Night on Bald Mountain, when the demons and ghouls hearken to Lucifer's call. They join in the dance macabre around the burning flames and their merriment reaches a fevered pitch before a lone knell sounds out from the valley below. The demons cower back in fear at the sound of the Churchbell and slink away back to their graves and shadows. Then, from the town, a winding queue of luminaries appears, gracefully progressing towards the forest. As the vigilant souls carry their lights into the forest, they illuminate the trees overhead, which resemble the vaulted ceiling of a cathedral. The breathtaking strains of Ave Maria fill the animation sequence as it fades into a haunting finish.

We must remember that there are two ways we can be haunted on Halloween. We can be haunted by great fear, or we can be haunted by the hallowed souls who lead the way to Christ. We can reflect on our sins and the horrors of the Devil, or we can look with great hope to the example of those possessing heroic virtue. For all the terror in the world, there is a more-surpassing goodness which calls on our senses. But perhaps you don't regard either? Perhaps you think the Devil is a myth? Perhaps you think martyrdom is the stuff of history? Perhaps it's time we explored the truth...

Monday, October 25, 2004

Eucharist and Mission

Today is World Mission Sunday. Let us reflect on the importance of living out our baptismal call as Christians to bring the Good News to ALL peoples. Here are some inspiring words from our Holy Father, a man who has answered this call like no other:

"The bread and wine, fruit of human hands, transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Christ, become a pledge of the 'new heaven and new earth' (Rev 21,1), announced by the Church in her daily mission. In Christ, whom we adore present in the mystery of the Eucharist, the Father uttered his final word with regard to humanity and human history.

How could the Church fulfil her vocation without cultivating a constant relationship with the Eucharist, without nourishing herself with this food which sanctifies, without founding her missionary activity on this indispensable support? To evangelise the world there is need of apostles who are 'experts' in the celebration, adoration and contemplation of the Eucharist.

Journeying through the centuries, reliving every day the Sacrifice of the altar, the Church, the People of God, awaits Christ’s coming in glory. This is proclaimed after the consecration by the Eucharistic assembly gathered around the altar. Time after time with renewed faith the Church repeats her desire for the final encounter with the One who comes to bring his plan of universal salvation to completion.

The Holy Spirit with invisible but powerful working, guides the Christian people on this daily spiritual itinerary on which they inevitably encounter difficulties and experience the mystery of the Cross. The Eucharist is the comfort and the pledge of final triumph for those who fight evil and sin; it is the "bread of life" which sustains those who, in turn, become "bread broken" for others, paying at times even with martyrdom their fidelity to the Gospel."

Consider what is meant by the text in bold. We must remind ourselves that the Day of Satisfaction is not yet come. Our lives are to be spent in pursuit of that which the eyes cannot see. We must have faith that the Eucharist is indeed Christ and our labors are indeed bearing fruit in the lives of others. We are not allowed the privelege of knowing all things or knowing what will happen next or knowing why; that is God's task. Our mission is to serve the Lord, to accept the Cross, to live with FAITH, HOPE & LOVE!

When we share our faith with others, when we trust in hope, and when we truly love another, we ARE spreading the Good News! That is what is meant by Good News: we can have faith that no difficulty happens without a reason, we can hope that a better world is our destiny, and we can love unconditionally because that's how the Lord loves us.

It is our mission and destiny to be FREE. When we free ourselves from demands/expectations, trivial pursuits, fruitless desires, we are better able to serve. When we turn our eyes towards the needs of others, the pursuit of the common good, and the will of God, we will find true liberation. We need to relinquish control and trust that God has it all covered. I find the following prayer tremendously helpful in this effort to let go and let God. It is often mistakenly attributed to Oscar Romero, in spite of the fact that Cardinal Dearden spoke the words in a homily for deceased priests. But the words were actually drafted for Dearden by the late Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take
the long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Amen.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Vivete!

Welcome to our friends in Christ- and all those called to "slip the surly bonds of earth!"
If you like the view from here, consider romping over to CatholicLand, where you can revel in the Joy of being Catholic. Until then, thank you for being with us in prayer and comraderie. Feel free to offer your own thoughts on the troubled world in which we live and the joys and hope you may have received from the Holy Spirit.

May God bless you with every good thing~
Seth

Meditate on the Theotokos, who brings Christ forth into the world


Meditate on the Theotokos, who brings Christ forth into the world. Posted by Hello

"Whoever does the will of God..."

His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, "Your mother and your brothers [and your sisters] are outside asking for you." But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and [my] brothers?" And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. [For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Mk 3:31-35.

I think that part of the meaning of this passage is often missed. What is missed, I believe, is that this passage is profoundly marian in character. Some miss this meaning so far that this passage to them is actually seen as an indication that Mary the Mother of Jesus did not do the will of God, that she was a sinner. St. Luke, however, makes it abundantly clear that this is not true.

In this passage, Our Lord, upon discovering that his family is calling for him, uses these circumstances as an opportunity to teach his followers who they are and can further become--insofar as they do the will of God. It is here that the passage is found to be related to Mary.

"Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

We know that through our faith in Christ we become sons and daughters of God, together with The Son of God. As we are conformed to the Son who is such by nature, we become such--we are adopted. And as adopted children of the Father, we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus. What is not so well known is that through our faith in Christ we become, in a sense, his mother. This is what our Lord seems to allude to here. In a sense, then, we become conformed to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We become chosen, as she uniquely was, to bear and give birth to Jesus Christ in the world.

How are we to respond to this knowledge? First of all we are to praise God because of the glory he has seen fit make known through us, because he has given us a portion of, in a sense, the same gift, the same honor, that he has given to the Most Holy Mary of Nazareth. Secondly, we are to ask the Lord (persistently) for the grace of growing in this identity of divine "motherhood." Thirdly, we should strive to be like Mary, making our lives pure obediance to God. We should say together with her, "Let it be done unto me according to your word." We should take delight in, and take every opportunity to, "ponder"(Luke 2:19 and again throughout the Gospel) in our hearts the mysteries of Our Lord's life, especially, though not exclusively, through the Rosary.

All this can be summed up in doing God's will, as the passage in Mark puts it. How do we do this, even more concretely than explained above?
We do this by doing the same works that we must do to become sons and daughters of God, the first of which is given to us by Christ in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel: "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." Flowing from this are the works of the commandments and all precepts which are contained within them, the commandments of God which are truly fulfilled when they are done out of love for God and neighbor. Do not lie, do not steal nor desire the possesions of others. Do not commit fornication or adultery, do not lust in your heart, nor murder, nor hate another human being. Honor and obey you mother and father, and obey all rightful authority. Love your enemies and pray for them. Observe the day of rest and worship that God has established for our good. Fear the Lord and above all obey him in all things. Persevere in prayer, and seek the Kingdom before all earthly things.

We already know these commands, but it is always helpful to bring them to mind again (and again). It is helpful to be reminded that it is promised that if we do these things, our light will shine out in the darkness--and in a true sense, we will give birth to the Lord Jesus Christ in the world, whereby his dominion over it will be completed until he comes again in glory to establish his kingdom where God will reign with mercy and justice forever.

Pax Christi.


Our life is to be the life of the Risen Christ. Let us take hold of this by faith in him. Posted by Hello

Friday, October 22, 2004

Vivere Christus est!

Greetings, brothers and sisters in Christ! Welcome to Vivere Christus est. The purpose of this weblog is to help support people trying to live their lives in Christ in today's very troubled world. I hope that my posts and your responses will serve that purpose well. I hope that they will contribute to the building up of the Church by promoting the unity in love that is and is to be ours in Christ Jesus.
I feel like these hopes are tall hopes to have--I think this in particular because of my personal estimation of my own weaknesses--but I also think that Our Lord calls us to have the virtue of magnanimity. If to live is Christ, then let us be unafraid to do great things for him, or, as Blessed Theresa of Calcutta (Mother Theresa) said, to do "small things with great love." We know that we have his help in all that we do according to his will.

May the Lord God give us the grace to live in Christ and do all things for Christ. May he plant in our hearts such a desire for the fullness that he promises to us, that we may come to believe with St. Paul that, in fact, "death is gain."

Welcome, again, to Vivere Christus est.

God's Peace.
- Mark John