Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christ Mass - God is Love

Is it not exceedingly fitting that the hope of the all the world came with the birth of a child? For the birth of every child surely gives an unarticulatable hope to every parent, an experience that most often transcends any strictly rational evaluation of the possibilities inherent in this child's future. This experience surely cannot be fully comprehended except as love, which hopes all things, and is itself inexaustable.
And so when we really come to know that our God came to us in the Christ Child, it seems intensely fitting to us. And yet, at the same time, we become able to see that this Holy Child, in his divine inexaustability, was from the beginning the Alpha and Omega--the source and sum of the holy gift of every newborn infant; that our hope is the hope of immortality in him; that our love participates in his Love.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI signed his first encyclical on Christmas day. It is titled Deus Caritas Est--"God is love." This is a very fitting focus for a Pope's first encyclical, and especially fitting for the people of our time, who's hearts seem to be permanently closed to Christ. If they will not heed sound reason and continued insistence on the truth, perhaps we Christians need to re-orient everything to that central truth that God is Love. The beauty of the Love of God in Jesus Christ speaks for itself, even to the soul most depraved by sin, concupiscience and the spirit of this age.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Praying always

Here are some great words of Saint Augustine on prayer, from today's office of readings:


St Augustine on Psalm 37(38)
Your very desire is your prayer
I have roared out with the groaning of my heart. There is a secret groaning, which is not heard by man: yet if the thought of some strong desire has taken so strong hold of the heart, that the wound of the inner man finds expression in some uttered exclamation, everyone wonders why. A man says to himself, “Perhaps this is the cause of his groaning? Perhaps this thing or that thing has happened to him?” But who can know the answer except he one before whose eyes and ears he groaned? So the psalmist says I roared out with the groaning of my heart because if men ever hear a man’s groanings they hear only the groaning of the flesh; the groans within the heart are silent.

And who observed and noticed the cause of his groaning? All my desire is in front of you. It cannot be before men because they cannot see the heart, but still the psalm says all my desire is in front of you. If your desire is laid before him then the Father, who sees in secret, will grant it to you.

For that very desire of your heart is your prayer; and if your desire continues uninterrupted, then so does your prayer. It was not in vain that the Apostle said Pray without ceasing. Can we be always bending the knee, prostrating the body, or lifting up our hands, that he says Pray without ceasing? If that is what prayer means then I say that we cannot do it without ceasing.

There is another inward kind of prayer without ceasing, which is the desire of the heart. Whatever activity you happen to be engaged in are doing, if you only long for that Sabbath then you do not cease to pray. If you do not want to pause in prayer then never pause in your longing.

Your continuous desire is your continuous prayer. If you cease to desire than you will have fallen silent in your prayer. Who are those who have fallen silent? Those of whom it is said Because iniquity will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

The freezing of love is the silence of the heart; the burning of love is the cry of the heart. If love continues then you are still lifting up your voice; if you are always lifting up your voice, you are always longing after something; if you are always longing, it is the Sabbath rest you are thinking of.

And all my desire is before Thee. How can we suppose that our desire is before him, but our very “groaning” is not before him? How can that be, since our desire itself finds its expression in “groaning”?

And so comes the line And my groaning is not hidden from you. From you indeed it is not hidden; but it is hidden from many men. The servant of God sometimes seems to be saying in humility, And my groaning is not hidden from you. Sometimes also he seems to smile. Is then that longing dead in his heart? If however there is the desire within, there is the “groaning” also. It does not always find its way to the ears of man; but it never ceases to sound in the ears of God.


It is our task, particularly in this season of Advent, to patiently stir up in our hearts desire for the Lord by prayer. Let us stoke the fire, stir the flames and add the kindling by "bending the knee, prostrating the body, or lifting up our hands." Then when we go about the varied duties and leisures of life--when we cannot have our knees bent--the fire will keep burning for God and we will be prepared for when he returns.
This task is further grave duty, because it is done not only for ourselves.
Who knows? In the process many others might catch fire.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"There must be no sleeping during that time"

Here is an extended quote from Pascal (from Penguin Classics' Pensees, #919), from a section called "The Mystery of Jesus." I think that it has an Advent message for us, even though it is about Christ's agony:

Jesus suffers in his passion the torments inflicted upon him by men, but in his agony he suffers the torments which he inflicts on himself. He was troubled [John 11:33. Reflexive verb in the Latin Vulgate]. The punishment is inflicted by no human, but by an almighty hand, and only he that is almighty can bear it.

Jesus seeks some comfort at least from his three dearest friends, and they sleep: he asks them to bear with him a while, and they abandon him with complete indifference, and with so little pity that it did not keep them awake even for a single moment. And so Jesus was abandoned to face the wrath of God alone.

Jesus is alone on earth, not merely with no one to fear and share his agony, but with no one even to know of it. Heaven and he are the only ones to know.

Jesus is in a garden, not of delight, like the first Adam, who there fell and took with him the rest of mankind, but of agony, where he was saved himself and all mankind.

He suffers this anguish and abandonment in the horror of the night.

I believe that this is the only occasion on which Jesus ever complained. But then he complained as though he could no longer contain his overflowing grief: 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death' [Matt. 26:38].

Jesus seeks companionship and solace from men.

It seems to me that this is unique in his whole life, but he finds none, for his disciples are asleep.

Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world. There must be no sleeping during that time.

Jesus, totally abandoned, even by the friends he had chosen to watch with him, is vexed when he finds them asleep because of the dangers to which they are exposing not him but themselves, and he warns them for their own safety and their own good, with warm affection in the face of their ingratitude. And warns them: 'The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak' [Matt. 26:41].

Jesus finding them asleep again, undeterred by consideration either for him or for themselves, is kind enough not to wake them up and lets them take their rest.

Jesus prays, uncertain of the will of the Father, and is afraid of death. But once he knows what it is, he goes to meet it and offer himself up. Let us be going [Matt. 26:46]. He went forth [Jn. 18:4].

Jesus asked of men and he was not heard.

Jesus brought about the salvation of his disciples while they slept. He has done this for each of the righteous while they slept, in nothingness before their birth and in their sins after their birth.

He prays only once that the cup might pass from him, even then submitting himself to God's will, and twice that it should come if it must be so.

Jesus weary at heart.

Jesus, seeing all his friends asleep and all his enemies watchful, commends himself utterly to his Father.

Jesus disregards the emnity of Judas, and sees only in him God's will, which he loves; so much so that he calls him friend.

Jesus tears himself away from his disciples to enter upon his agony: we must tear ourselves away from those who are nearest and dearest to us in order to imitate him. While Jesus remains in agony and cruellest distress, let us pray longer.

We implore God's mercy, not so that he shall leave us in peace with our vices, but so that he may deliver us from them.



"Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world. There must be no sleeping during that time."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Little Joy on Gaudete Sunday...

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

-e. e. cummings

All praise and glory is Jesus Christ's forever. Amen.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Jesus Christ is King Forever!



Today is the great Solemnity of Christ the King, Who desires--thirsts--to reign in our hearts. His rule over and in us makes us truly free--Free from every power that oppresses us, especially from the cruel slavery of sin. Here is a reading from the Church's Office of Readings for this day:

From a discourse of Origen on prayer
Thy kingdom
come

The coming of the kingdom of God, says our Lord and Saviour, does not admit of observation, and there will be no-one to say “Look here! Look there!” For the kingdom of God is within us and in our hearts. And so it is beyond doubt that whoever prays for the coming of the kingdom of God within himself is praying rightly, praying for the kingdom to dawn in him, bear fruit and reach perfection. For God reigns in every saint, and every saint obeys God’s spiritual laws — God, who dwells in him just as he dwells in any well-ordered city. The Father is present in him and in his soul Christ reigns alongside the Father, as it is said: We will come to him and make our dwelling with him.Therefore, as we continue to move forward without ceasing, the kingdom of God within us will reach its perfection in us at that moment when the saying in the Apostle is fulfilled, that Christ, His enemies all made subject to Him, shall deliver the kingdom to God the Father that God may be All in All. For this reason let us pray without ceasing, our souls filled by a desire made divine by the Word Himself. Let us pray to our Father in heaven: hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come.There is something important that we need to understand about the kingdom of God: just as righteousness has no partnership with lawlessness, just as light has nothing in common with darkness and Christ has no agreement with Belial, so the kingdom of God and a kingdom of sin cannot co-exist. So if we want God to reign within us, on no account may sin rule in our mortal body but let us mortify our earthly bodies and let us be made fruitful by the Spirit. Then we will be a spiritual garden of Eden for God to walk in. God will rule in us with Christ who will be seated in us on the right hand of God — God, the spiritual power that we pray to receive — until he makes his enemies (who are within us) into his footstool and pours out on us all authority, all power, all strength. This can happen to any one of us and death, the last enemy may be destroyed, so that in us Christ says Death, where is your sting? Death, where is your victory? So let our corruptibility be clothed today with holiness and incorruption. With Death dead, let our mortality be cloaked in the Father’s immortality. With God ruling in us, let us be immersed in the blessings of regeneration and resurrection.


Let us love Him, and love our neighbors, especially the forgotten and the least ones. Let us consciously, deliberately and daily look for ways to do this. Then He will give us peace and we will be sure that His Kingdom is dawning within us.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Jesus is Lord!

When I am down on myself it is always comforting to say: "Jesus is Lord!"

As we are told in the Scriptures, nobody can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit. If we truly believe that Jesus is Lord--if we can say these words and really mean it, we know that God's Spirit is working in us.

In difficult times it also comforts me to call out to God from my heart: "Father!"

We are told in the Scriptures that when through the Spirit we cry out 'Father!' in a spirit of filial love, the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

For no matter what sins or weaknesses we carry, we who are baptized into Christ carry about the death of Christ in our mortal bodies, so that through the forgiveness of those same sins we have the hope of eternal life, and the hope of sharing the strength and power of the Crucified Lord--by His Love shining forth from our weakness. Those who are in Christ have no good reason to be afraid.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Doctrine of Hell

Upon reading an article which my mom emailed a while back (about a month ago), I thought that it might be appropriate to comment on something. It occurred to me likely that some people who read this particular article could have a particular set of mixed feelings about it. They might wholeheartedly agree with the article's cultural analysis, and concur with its condemnation of the harmful actions and lifestyles which are finding more and more acceptance and protection in our nation's laws, but they may also experience a measure of recoil from the unabashed tone that the writer of the article uses in reference to hell. They might agree with the condemnation of sin, but feel also (perhaps without articulating it) that the language of "a day of reckoning that never ends" and "eternal damnation" represents an outdated view of divine justice more suitable to the unenlightened minds of ancient and medieval priests and peasants.
It therefore seemed appropriate that I should comment on the much neglected and much misunderstood doctrine of hell.
I will begin by saying that the doctrine of hell really is a terrible doctrine. I do not mean by this that it is a false teaching, but I mean it in the simple sense that hell is a teaching that inspires terror. The very thought that an all-powerful God of love would condemn any of his creatures to such a fate is mind-boggling and terrifying. This consideration I take as a given. And so I neither intend nor expect that anything I say in favor of the teaching dispel such terror. What I do intend (and hope) by these comments is to clear the way for the intellectual acceptance of the doctrine of hell despite this quite natural terror and its pervading mysteriousness. I will attempt this in two main ways: (1) By appealing to the authority of the one who taught it (Jesus), and (2) by explaining something of how it fits into the wider context of the Christian teachings about God and His love for us manifest in Jesus Christ. The mature Christian must hold the terribleness and the truth of the doctrine of hell together in tension.

Before I begin with my two main arguments, let me clear up some common misunderstandings and concerns. First of all, it is not only crude but simply wrong to refer to or think of hell as a kind of "divine torture chamber." A hell of purely extrinsic punishment does not do full justice to the reality expressed in the scriptures. The references that Christ makes of hell in the Gospels and those in the New Testament as a whole are vivid in their imagery but mysterious as to their full meaning. Hell is often, though not always, depicted in terms of fire. Hell is referred to, among others, as "the outer darkness," "eternal death," "the second death," "destruction," "gehenna" (which was, as I understand, a valley where an idolatrous cult performed human sacrifice to their gods). There is a large degree of mystery as to its exact nature (for example, in what senses and to what degrees are its punishments extrinsic or intrinsic to a soul) and many Christians in different times have attempted speculation and/or depiction of it--From Origen to Dante to Nicholas of Cusa to C.S. Lewis and others, yielding diverse conceptions of the one doctrine.
Also, hell is not something that God "holds over our heads" to threaten us and scare us into doing good. It is rather a grave warning of what are the consequences of obstinate selfishness. If God holds anything "over our heads" it is his constant mercy in Jesus Christ calling us to repentance. He does not threaten us like some tyrant, though his offer of mercy is often felt to be a threat by those who wish to cling to full control of their lives, those for whom God's kind of love feels like an imposition.
Another sticking point for many is the eternity of hell. They often think that God would do better to totally destroy a soul rather than to allow it an eternity of suffering. Here is, I think, a time when we run into the mystery of this doctrine. Are we really sure that it would be a better thing to not exist than to exist in such a miserable state? In accordance with the mysterious images "second death," and "outer darkness" (among others) applied to hell in the scriptures, images which seem to indicate that hell is further down than suffering and death on the scale towards nothingness, can we simplistically ascribe our own current kind of existence (and hence also consciousness) to a soul in hell?
Furthermore, in trying to conceive of a soul in eternal hell (or heaven for that matter), might we sometimes make the mistake of thinking of "the other side of the grave" as a continuation of our personal and social histories rather than their fulfillment?
While I do not think that these reflections give exhaustive answers to the problems that the doctrine of hell poses to our minds (in fact, they raise even more questions), I do think that they can make us aware that what we are dealing with is a mystery, and help us to turn more easily to the authority of the One who revealed it for our acceptance of it. Which brings me to my first main argument.

(1) My argument is that it is from the mouth of Jesus himself that we receive the teaching of hell in the Bible. And of all the people in the Bible, it is Jesus himself who speaks about it most openly and boldly.
There is a tendency of many to forget this fact. The image which they depict when they speak of Jesus is one derived from a very selective reading of the Gospels, focusing on love and mercy and kindness and acceptance of the outcast and despised and poor, but neglecting grave words about divine punishment and harsh condemnation of obstinate yet knowing sinners (unless a particular type of sin which Jesus condemns happens to be one that a person prides himself in not partaking in--then he tends to include that in his idea of Jesus). This is more than a matter of selective vision. In so narrowing down the person and message of Jesus, the clear and coherent person shining out in the Gospels is unraveled into a nebulous and deflated idea of love as mere tolerance (an idea which is in turn used to justify all kinds of things)--here the full ideas of infinite love, mercy, and acceptance of the poor and despised are emptied of most of their meaning and cheapened. Here also the radicality of holiness is compromised--moral mediocrity reigns supreme when phrases like "do not judge" and "Jesus accepts everyone" are understood without reference to the whole person and teaching of Jesus as He is revealed in the Gospels. Likewise, this way of thinking renders Jesus' redemptive suffering and death on the cross emptied of most of its meaning. This leads me to my second argument.

(2) Divine mercy and divine wrath are two sides to the same coin, and the coin is called divine Love. When I say this, what I mean is that since evil is directly contrary to love, God pours out His destroying power upon anything (or anyone) that keeps His Love from having full sway in the universe. With His just wrath He protects His poor from the unjust wrath of evil people.
Yet God loves us, His creatures (both the good and the evil) so much so that even when we sin and are unfaithful to Him he still pours out His love upon us.
How does he do this?
He united Himself to mankind by sending His eternal Son to take upon our flesh, to become one of us. Then, His Incarnate Son, the Sinless One, took upon Himself and accepted the whole weight of God's wrath. He suffered the pain of mockery, torture, and the guilt of all sin, and He was killed by crucifixion. He thus became "abandoned" by His God and Father (the same type of abandonment that all of us feel in our darkest moments--to its farthest limit) And finally He Himself, the eternal and All-Holy One, who from all eternity is one and coequal with the Father, was consigned to hell.
Jesus went to hell!---Those who scoff at the idea of hell have not sufficiently reflected on what they affirm each time they recite the Apostles Creed. "...He was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose..."
Recently, in some quarters, there has been an increase of reflection on what it means when we say that Jesus descended into hell, and new aspects have been contemplated. This is not the place for me to go into them. One thing is clear, however. God had not truly abandoned Him--hell could not hold the Lord of Glory. Jesus brought out from the depths of hell all those who had been consigned there because of their sins and yet had responded to His grace in their life, the grace that flowed from His cross onto all history and all cultures. He brought them to the salvation that they had yearned for in life, which inspired goodness in them, but that they never saw.
Today the same reality applies. In Jesus Christ, God has given everything to mankind. He has not held back anything from us. In Christ He has poured out upon the whole world and all of history the mercy that leads us to yearn for salvation and to live lives of goodness. In Christ's cross, God's wrath has been united to His love, so that we who suffer His wrath might be forgiven and transformed through it. This is what He offers universally, to everyone.
And so the question may be asked: What if we reject this universally granted mercy? The fact that we were created with free will means that this is a possibility. If we did not have free will, we could not culpably reject God's love. But nor could we "culpably" accept it, either--nor could we reach the divine heights of love. There is no love with no freedom.
I ask it again--What if we reject this universally given mercy?... But there is a deeper and graver question, for the Lord not only has poured his Love invisibly into the world, but has sent Apostles and prophets in His Spirit to preach His love so that many whom He chooses may know His salvation now and cooperate in His work. The graver question: What if we reject Him who is that Mercy, when we ourselves are given this gift of seeing God Our Savior whom so many longed for and never saw, because we prefer some transitory created thing to the Eternal One? What if we refuse to believe Him when He has manifested Himself to us present in His Church, when He offers us His Love so that we can share in the divine nature? What if we reject Him again and again until our dying breath? As Jesus says in the Gospel, "What if salt loses its taste? With what will it then be salted? There is nothing left for it but to be thrown down and trampled underfoot."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Happy Birthday, SWP!

Yesterday was the birthday of one of our contributers, SWP. He has an excellent blog at http://www.catholicland.blogspot.com, which is updated quite often. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Jesus Christ, or the nothingness of "choice" as an ultimate value?...Jesus Christ, hands down.

Our friends over at Pontifications have posted today a quote from David Hart on modern nihilism: In Nothingness do we trust.
I recommend that you read the quote for yourselves, but I also wish to express an additional thought:

In the midst of this--as Pope Benedict has called it--"dictatorship of reletivism," each one of us must make anew our choice for Christ, each day, and with boldness--clinging to him with all the strength within us. We cannot divide our treasure between the Lord and the world. We cannot live with one foot in the Kingdom and the other in Babylon.
The Lord has made this clear to us: We must separate ourselves from the world which has the devil for its prince. We must separate ourselves from it even as we live in it, by continually choosing God and his ways, and refusing to be held back by guilt over our failures, however repeatedly we make them.
I am convinced that will be of little or no real help to the world if we do not do this. Jesus is our model of it. We can know him through daily prayerful reading of the Gospels.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Vicarious Suffering and Evangelization

Catholicland's distinguished blogmaster, SWP (who is also a contributer to this blog), quoted today certain words of Pope Benedict regarding evangelization and suffering. "This is...the meaning of the parable of the grain of wheat that fell on the earth: Only through a process of tormented transformation does one obtain the fruit and see the solution," he said.
The wisdom Benedict gives us here is the fruit of our knowledge of God in Christ: Throughout Christ's public ministry, he manifests himself by preaching, teaching, and great signs and wonders--drawing many faithful (yet sinful) disciples to himself. Yet there are many who have eyes but cannot see, and have ears but cannot hear. Or, rather, it is not just "many," but it is the many who do not recognize God in their midst.

But this is not the end of the story. The most important and effacacious act of the Lord is, at this point, yet to be accomplished--his "hour" had not yet come, the hour in which he is given over into the hands of sinners and the power of the devil. Here the many who rejected him are included together with those who accepted him, for in the Cross, Christ vicariously suffers and dies for the sins of all.

In his old book The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood, the future Pope Benedict outlines the three obligations or missions laid upon each Christian in relation to the non-believer. The first is missionary activity, and Benedict wisely includes the "holy discretion" required for proper evangelization in his description. (As he says, the Church "must not try to catch men with the word unawares, as it were, without their knowing it. She has no right to draw the word out of a hat, like a conjuror. And she must recognize that there are places where the word would be wasted, thrown away, if it were spoken.")
The second is agape--Love, which is directed at non-believers directly, or indirectly (by the shining witness of the love between Christians).
The third, and "highest" mission of the Christian for the un-believer is vicarious suffering done in Christ and as Christ has done. The basic law of Christ's own life (to give his life as a ransom for many) is also "the basic law of all Christian discipleship."

When Pope Benedict says "Only through a process of tormented transformation does one obtain the fruit and see the solution," he teaches us that our mission to the world, consisting of love and proclamation of the gospel, is supported by the Cross. Our efforts are purified and made effective by the vicarious suffering of Christ infused into our lives by his grace when we accept it and willingly walk it with him.

From The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood:
"It is in her defeat that the Church constantly acheives her highest victory and stands nearest to Christ. It is when she is called to suffer for others that she acheives her highest mission: the exchange of fate with the wayward brother and thus his secret restoration to full sonship and full brotherhood."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jesus Christ is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever!

Today is the feast of Saint James, Son of Zebedee and Apostle of Jesus Christ. The request made by James together with his brother John to sit at the right and left hands of Jesus in his glory, reminds us that Jesus now sits in that glory, himself sitting at the right hand of God the Father.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever! As he sits in his heavenly throne at the right hand of God, their power and love shine forth from the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Sacraments through the working of the Holy Spirit. "I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you" (Jn. 16:7).

Because Jesus has gone to the Father, the Advocate is with us and makes us worthy vessels of the Holy Trinity. Now the physical presence of Jesus in the flesh has given way to the presence of his love and grace in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the Sacraments, and in the presence of his glorified Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Let us turn to the Gospels and to the Sacraments as deer to running streams. The Lord has given us priests as the dispensors of these Mysteries. Regarding them "as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1), with renewed desire let us receive grace from their ministry as from the hands of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. Then we will be empowered to do the great works to which he calls us, for the salvation of the world.

-Mark John

Monday, June 13, 2005

"Five Books Meme"

I´ve been tagged! I finally figured out what I gotta do, just answer the questions and (for question 5) tag others. I don´t know anyone to tag, though, who hasn´t already been tagged--I don´t know many other bloggers! Anyway, here are the answers to the questions one through four...

1. Total number of books I own = Approx. one large bookcase.
2. The last book I bought = I think it was Dietrich Von Hildebrand´s Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love
3. The last book I read= Thomas Dubay´s And Thou Art Christ´s: Reflections on Virginity and the Celibate Life
4. Five books that mean alot to me = a. Love Alone is Credible - Von Balthasar, b. The Brothers Karamazov, c. Lord of the Rings, d. The First Epistle of Saint John, e. Hatchet - Gary Paulson

It was SWP who tagged me. To find more of the history of this meme, follow this link back to
Catholicland!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Love and Christian Martyrdom

Been away for a while. In fact, I am still away in Mexico. Just a few thoughts:

The great interprative principle of our faith is the Love of God in Jesus Christ. (For this Love is Wisdom)
For example, Christian martyrdom is not considered to be such an exalted gift and call because a Christian Martyr dies for our cause - for our faith, but only because no greater love hath a man...

There is no greater response to the Love of God in Christ, the Love which gives over life for the beloved, than to give up our lives for love of God, and for the love of the faith which He has given to us, for the truth that He is. This response of love is the same Love as the gift. The Martyr, and every Christian willing to be martyred, is caught up in that Love by grace. We exalt Christian martyrdom, therefore, as an exalted maifestation of the Love of God in Christ. We do not exalt Christian martyrdom as a partisan of some idea or principle exalts dying for the cause. Nor does Accepting death for the sake of the truth even capture the whole picture. The Love of God in Jesus Christ alone is the true glory of the Christian Martyr, and the real reason why Christian martyrdom is greater than other martyrdoms.

Try prayerfully using the Love of God in Christ as an interpretive principle. Meditate on this Love, always think about it. And if ever someone asks you why Christians do this or that strange thing, always in your explanation bring them to the Love of God in Jesus Christ. For this Love is the Gospel that we proclaim.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Trinity Sunday

O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey. Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.

-Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Friday, April 29, 2005

Parables for Our Time

In Matthew 13, we find some wisdom that critics of the Holy Father or the Church or those who cannot understand the enthusiasm of the youth in response to this election may find helpful.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

The Church is full of treasures. The papacy is a treasure. The Bible is a storehouse of treasures. Each and every papal encyclical from the past two centuries and beyond is a treasure. Each and every baptized Christian is a treasure. Our singular and divine vocations are a treasure. Do you have as much passion for the treasure of the Church as the person in the parable?

There are pearls of wisdom to be found if you seek them. In the encyclicals, in the Bible, in our hearts united with the Lord in prayer.

Ask yourself: am I fertile soil? am I open to hearing the Truth? Or am I rocky ground? stubborn and quick to judge?

Our Holy Father envisions that the Church will increasingly become a Mustard Seed. For this he has been vilified and condemned as narrow-minded. When he promulgated Dominus Iesus he was castigated. But what radical notion has he proposed? That we are to be leaven in the world. That we are not to shy away from our rebirth in Christ but rather we must embrace that gift and offer it boldly to the world!

The ascension of Ratzinger to the Petrine Office has many people worried. They fear he will reverse the course of Vatican II or that he will impose medieval barbarisms. But he was simply a theologian protecting the Doctrine of the Faith from error. And now he serves the Servants of God as Universal Pastor. "Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old." He is the new head of our household, and he will bring forth from the storeroom both the new and the old. His choice of the name Benedict is a prime example, and his commitment to ecumenism is another example.

Who is this Benedict XVI? Some think he is a wolf in Shepherd's clothing. Why such fear and trembling? Why such anger? People are incredulous that Ratzinger could have been elected. "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house." The Jews are not dishonoring the Holy Father. Nor are Moslems and Patriarchs. But his very own flock turn against him.

Have you overlooked the treasure? Have you missed the pearls of wisdom he has written? Where is your faith? What mighty deeds can be worked in your heart if it is closed?
Be not afraid! I bring you glad tidings of great rejoicing:
Habemus Papam~

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus papam!


Benedict XVI - The Servant of the Servants of God Posted by Hello

Let us pray for our brother Benedict, who has been charged with confirming us in the faith, and give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ for this ministry of Peter in the Church!

Benedict XVI

Let us pray for our new Holy Father, Der Papst~

LORD,
source of eternal life and truth,
give to your shepherd Benedict XVI
a Spirit of courage and right judgment,
a Spirit of knowledge and love.

By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care,
may he, as successor to the Apostle Peter & Vicar of Christ,
build your church into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace
for all the world.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

AMEN!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Mori lucrum est!

Today, on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, our beloved Pope John Paul II has passed from this life in the flesh. Because of our great faith and hope in the merits and mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and because John Paul served the Lord Jesus with such great love, we can have a firm hope that his soul is resting in the bosom of the Triune God, and that he will be resurrected on the last day to live with God forever in a transfigured body in the Heavenly Jerusalem.
I think that we can also believe that he is already beseeching God on our behalf. Today many people from around the world prayed the ninth prayer of the Divine Mercy Novena. This last prayer of the novena pleads to God to immerse in the abyss of His mercy the souls of those who have become lukewarm in their Christian discipleship. For this to be the last prayer of the novena, prayed on the day of this Pope’s death, is quite interesting. It may be the last witness of this successor of Peter to the authentic movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church today. When he was among us in the flesh, as the chosen vicar of Christ on earth, John Paul prophesied that a new springtime of Christian evangelization was coming, where Catholics will be impelled to preach the Gospel in its purity and simplicity as the Love of God in Christ, and the call to salvation by repentance and a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. In the divine mercy prayer we speak to Jesus, and say: “In this fire of Your pure love let these tepid souls, who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.”
Is not this prayer beseeching the mercy of God for lukewarm souls (oh, how lukewarm I have been!) a fitting prayer to help usher in the fire and zeal of the Holy Spirit in the Church? Can we doubt that the man who inspired us and preached to us the necessity of recovering this zeal, saying “Do not be afraid! Open the doors wide to Christ!” is now interceding before God that we might receive it? And so, is not Christ now knocking at the doors of our hearts? Is not the new evangelization on the brink of realization? Does not Christ at this moment stand at the right hand of the Father, ready to pour the Holy Spirit upon the docile among his believers?
Let us open our hearts to Christ this day. Let us repent of our sins, especially the sin of lukewarmness. Let us be docile to the Spirit who enflames our hearts with living water and who calls us to preach the Gospel to every creature, not to the spirit that waters down the flame of the Gospel and replaces it with a political fervor to remake the Church according to the image of the “enlightened” of the world.

Peace.
- Mark John

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Preflections

In case you hadn't heard, I will be going to El Salvador for "Santa Semana" (Holy Week) with my family and a friend of the family. The six of us will be pilgrims, strangers in a strange land- yet, a place that seems familiar. We will be going to honor the memory of Archbp. Oscar Romero, who was killed at the hands of U.S. government-funded terrorists 25 years ago on March 24, 1980. That was the year I was born. Shortly after this martyrdom, the tiny nation of El Salvador (it's smaller than Massachusetts) erupted into prolonged civil war. Thus, for as long as I have lived, the people of El Salvador have been in pain.

Reading about El Salvador is a jolting, jarring experience. It pulls you into the story of a people assaulted by ignorance. I have surfed far too many webpages to include them all here, but I encourage you to become informed about the role of the US, the decisions of Church leaders, and the questions Catholic citizens must ask themselves. I will include one link, though, merely because it helped me find my footing after swimming adrift in the myriad of questions brought on by even a casual survey of the facts. The link takes you to an article by the late Pedro Arrupe, former Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Fr. Arrupe asks key questions at the end of that article, which conveys his thoughts on education and the duty to teach social justice in the curriculum. As a Jesuit alumnus, I was touched. Here are his questions:

What is my response to the needs of people who suffer misery/oppression?
How do I transform the social reality of the world in which I live?
How do I come to understand my social obligation?
How do I take into account the Gospel's preferential option for the poor?
What have I done for Christ in this world?
What am I doing now?
What should I do?

Let me include here a quote from the aforementioned article, attributed to one Fr. Alfaro:

"Inclusion in or expulsion from the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus depends on a man (or woman)'s attitude towards the poor and oppressed; towards those who are identified in Isaiah 58, 1-2 as the victims of human injustice and in whose regard God wills to realize his justice. What is strikingly new here is that Jesus makes these despised and marginalized folk his brothers. He identifies himself with the poor and the powerless, with all who are hungry and miserable. Every man in this condition is Christ's brother; that is why what is done for them is done for Christ himself. Whoever comes effectively to the aid of these brothers of Jesus belongs to his Kingdom; whoever abandons them to their misery excludes himself from that Kingdom."

When I go to this little country and meet these people, who have endured pain the enormity of which defies comprehension, what will I do for them? I- surrounded by innumerable blessings- have nothing to offer the people whose family members "disappeared" or were savagely killed, who slave through weeks of excruciating labor to earn what I make in one hour doing far less, who do not enjoy a US citizen's life expectancy, health insurance, opportunity for work, national security, or financial assets. What I can share with them? If anything, I will be enjoying their hospitality, eating their food, and depending upon their provisions during this two-week journey. It hardly makes sense! And they will do and give and provide happily, gladly, with the easy generosity characteristic of people of this culture, a generosity unmatched by the culture into which I was born.

I will spend my currency in their markets on bottled water and souvenirs. Oh, how capitalistic! Yet, an economist would agree this is a very beneficial act. Beyond that, I will listen to their stories, view the killing fields of El Mezote, and see the bulletholes in the walls. In anticipation of the trip I have found myself vascillating between the sense of fear and the sense of adventure: fear, because there are venemous snakes in this equatorial country and people walking around with unconcealed weapons and appaling statistics on gang violence; adventure, because I have never been further south than Mexicali, Mexico, nor have I been to a Third World country, and I have held Romero in awe ever since I watched the movie as a child. So, this will be a learning experience par excellence, which is the first step towards solidarity: knowledge.

And that will be the whole mission in a nutshell. Solidarity. Being With. Emmanuel.

I am reminded of my experience as a Hospice volunteer my senior year of high school. Waiting at the bedside of a man who knew he was dying every Wednesday is an effective way to reflect upon mortality. But sharing that time, however meaningful a gesture, seems insignificant when you meet the nurses, aides, chaplains, bereavement counselors, and numerous individuals who provide for the patient's many needs. In contrast, I just sat there for one hour with him.

But that's precisely the role and purpose and gift of the Hospice volunteer. It meant so much to the caregiver to see a high school youth who cared. It was sufficient that I was simply there. That I shared those last months with my patient, held his hand, looked at pictures of his rose garden, listened to his stories, and talked about the afterlife. That was all.

The gift of self is never to be underestimated, for it is ipso facto the gift of Christ. Christ who came for us, to cling to us, to never let us go. Christ who pursues us, who challenges us, who demands justice, who models love. It is through Christ and with Christ and in Christ that I will go. I will meet Christ in the people of El Salvador. I will meet Christ Crucified in their tears, Christ Resurrected in their triumphs, and the Body of Christ, the Iglesia di Cristo in their hope, a hope witnessed in the words and life of Romero. I will meet Christ in mi familia, mi madre, padre y hermanes y amiga. I will meet Christ in myself and welcome Him.

When my fears, my worries, my typical trip-related anxieties start to get the better of me, I will go to Christ. When I act like a Yanqui tourist, I will seek Christ. When I stumble through the Spanish language, I will meet Christ. When I arrive at the airport and see the US military base or stroll the markets and see machetes or (saints preserve us) meet a snake, I will fly to Christ and try to see with His eyes. Eyes of a Just Lord, a Humble Servant, a Sacrificial Victim.

Even before I arrive at the airport, even before I get on the plane, I will go to Christ in prayer, and that's what I ask from all of you who read this. Pray for me to the Lord our God. Pray for this pilgrimage, my family, and the many travelers who fly down there with us. Ask the intercession of Archbp. Romero, the four churchwomen, the Jesuit priests and their companions, and the countless souls whose fate is known to God alone.

May your Easter experience, your Passion journey, your sharing in Eucharist be as colorful, meaningful, and new as I pray for mine to be. May it bring us ever closer to Christ, more deeply in love with His Church, and more focused in our Christian mission. Pace~

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Even though his name does not appear on the calendar anymore, he is still listed among the martyrs, and rightly so. Legends prevail about this man because he represents so much of what it means to give ourselves entirely to Christ. Whether or not an actual Roman citizen named Valentinus was locked in prison for witnessing to the faith and sentenced to execution and sent letters to fellow Christians to encourage them in their fidelity to the Church is really beside the point (although that is the origin of giving valentines). The point is-- that today is about giving ourselves entirely to Christ by witnessing to the reality that LOVE binds us all together as one. No matter who we meet today on our path, we should show them the Love of Christ. Whether it be our spouse, our children, our friends, or strangers we pass on the street. Today we recognize that Christ came to build a civilization founded on that purest, most Holy Love which is God Himself; the Love that nailed him to the Cross is the Love we must give to ALL we meet today. Everyday. That is why this day is so important! It's not about teddybears and roses; today is about Christ, as is every day we live. But today we remember that, just like Valentinus, we must never be afraid to show love to strangers. We must never be afraid to witness to our faith that there is something greater bonding us to one another than our common humanity: it's the love of Jesus Christ who died for us!!! Valentinus would drop his little notes outside his jailcell window, in the hopes that passersby would see them and find his words of Christian inspiration.

Let us never be afraid to show such boundless, gratuitous LOVE to all we meet~

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Power of God's Love

It does not occur to us the majority of the time how great the Love of God is. We know that it is unfathomable--measured, as it is, by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ--but no kind of knowledge can compare with experience, with a real encounter with the Holy Spirit of Love. Such experiences are not within our power to create, nor can we in any way force God to give them to us. They are pure gift, that is to say, they are grace. They are foreshadowings of what is to come, tiny tastes of heaven, that God gives--according to His own choosing--to souls open to His Love.

I had such an experience this past thursday--second hand, so to speak. During our community holy hour at the seminary, a priest read us a letter that he had received from a man who had had such an experience first hand. The man had a relative (an uncle) who had been in obstinant denial of God for many years. This uncle was dying of cancer, and the man was trying his best to talk to him about Christ, and to get him to let a priest come to him. Eventually, after it was clear that the uncle would die soon, the man came with a priest to the hospital room while the uncle was sleeping. The priest was a very holy priest. As the man described, this priest gently took the uncle's hand, waking him up, and spoke to him of God's Love. The priest told him, gently stroking his forehead, that he would die soon, but that he had nothing to fear because God loves him, and would receive him and forgive him all of his sins. The man said that he was amazed by the way which the priest spoke and looked at his uncle. It was with a love that he had not seen before. And this love totally disarmed the dying man, who, without needing any persuasion, gave his confession to the priest--his first confession in thirty years.
The sight of the Love of God in this priest, and the sight of this Love's power, disarmed the man as well. The priest was also disarmed--on the ride home, he spoke to himself, almost in a contemplative trance, fixed as he was upon the Love of God, saying, "How can I ever stand before God, when He does all the work and I get all the credit? How can I ever thank Him for His Love?"

So there I was, listening to this story in the words of the man who experienced it, and was myself disarmed. The Love of God disarmed me, welling up in my heart a spring of praise and thanksgiving for-- For the greatness of His Love.... For the glorious calling of the priesthood, which he has given to me.... For His zeal for the salvation of each and every sinner, even one who has sinned as I have sinned.... For His power manifest everywhere.... For His Glory, beyond imagination.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Aqua Vitae

In anticipation of the upcoming Feast of the Lord's Baptism (Jan.9), I thought it appropriate to reflect on the life of the saint whose memorial occurs today. We honor St. John Nepomucene-Neumann, the Redemptorist bishop of Philadelphia. He was a Bohemian immigrant named after St. John Nepomucene, a fifteenth-century Bohemian martyr who was drowned in the Moldau River and who is invoked as the patron saint of flood victims. This is timely, because the world continues to stand today in prayerful solidarity with the tsunami victims and their families. But I also pause to reflect on the irony that St. John Neumann is the patron of the parish where I was baptized.

In Easter1981, my parents took me down to Lubbock, Texas, where my Godparents live. My uncle and Godfather is a Deacon of the Diocese there, and he was at that time assigned to serve under the pastoral direction of a very blessed man. Fr. Joe James was pastor of St. John Neumann's parish, and it was he who baptized me in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

So I stand now, partway between the feast of the Holy Name and the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, reflecting on my own Baptism in the Name of the Triune Lord, my own cleansing in the Waters that bring Eternal Life. I invoke the intercession of St. John Neumann, whose patronage brought me into God's Holy People. I ask his continued blessing on my Godparents, whose prayers and guidance sustain me in the Faith.

I ask his blessing on Fr. Joe James, who washed me of my sin.

I also invoke the intercession of St. John Nepomucene today; so many perished in that destructive deluge last month. May St. John and the Holy Angels watch over those many souls! May their families, their communities, and their homelands find consolation, peace, and the vigilant charity of the global community. May Christians all over the world be a sign of Christ's cleansing relief in the midst of overwhelming disaster. May the Waters of Life wash over what Darkness has wrought and bring about a Springtime of Renewal.

This we ask in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen~