Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Reflection on Trinity Sunday

I'm on vacation until next Saturday, so my blogging
may be a little more irregular, but  last Sunday's reading for solemnity of the Trinity were so phenomenal, that I simply can not skip on blogging. Unfortunately, we're now Wednesday - may 29th- so I'm a little behind, and I've missed out on some lovely passages, and some even lovelier homilies from Pope Francis (I've been calling him Benedict a lot in my head, I have to watch myself!!)...nevertheless, let's deal with those wonderful passages!


 All of last week, we heard from Sirach about the challenges of our faith, but were also reminded time and time again that we are never to face these challenges alone. In Sirach, it's Wisdom that is mentioned as being our companion for the road. The role of Wisdom in these books is to remind us that even God does not work alone. When God set forth creation, Wisdom was there from the beginning in all God created and remained close to that creation from that day forth.

This idea of Wisdom collaborating with God is the theme in our first reading  from the book of Proverbs. Wisdom is never named in this passage, but She is in the first verses of this particular chapter. But who or what is Wisdom in this case? Seeing that these were readings for Trinity Sunday, most Christians may be tempted to come out and say it:

 Wisdom= Holy Spirit.

It's a wonderful notion. To believe that the Spirit was with us from the beginning. That the spirit was an expression of God's love for creation. That indeed,  when we read about God's love being poured out into us (Romans 5:5) this really is a metaphor for the Spirit entering into the human experience from the start. And this image makes sense... up to a point. It makes sense that God would have intended to create us with the  'Spirit of Wisdom and love" within us.It makes sense to believe that this Spirit became a link that kept us close to God all these years. That link is what has made us favorite children of God, which we obviously couldn't achieve by our own merit. The spirit in us is how we are validated in the eyes of God. It opens the door to faith, and sustains us along the journey. Wonderful idea.

 But before we speak more of that validation, let's deal with a minor glitch in our idea that The Holy Spirit has been placed in us from the beginning: What happens at Pentecost? As we all know, the disciples, gathered in a room, receive the power of the Holy Spirit within as they set out into....wwwaaaaait a minute here....They receive it? There and then? So they DIDN'T have it before then? It would appear to be the case. This gets messy. That's why it makes more sense for us to believe that Holy Spirit -or what the Old Testament writers call Wisdom- was part of creation, laboring with God to establish creation, loving humanity...outside of the human experience, and yet able to be in communion  with humans, or to help God speak with them until the Pentecost, when we were linked to that spirit for ever. In the end it's all conjecturing. We can never truly know how the spirit interacted with humanity in the past, what it's role was in our lives before Pentecost. But after that holy day, there can be no doubt in anyone's mind what the role of the Spirit has been.  Through it, we come to a stage of validation and justification.

 Last Sunday's 2nd reading  (Romans 5:1-5) -or third reading after the Psalm, but those of you go to Mass  regularly will know that the Sunday reading after the Psalm is considered the 2nd reading!- is one of the most intense readings I've ever encountered in the Bible. I spent a good amount of time trying to 'map out' what was being said by St Paul here, and I'm still not sure I'm necessarily doing it justice, but I need to try to anyway, because this passage expresses beautifully our complicated relationship to the Trinity, reflecting on the ways in which God touches our lives. In order to do a proper exegesis of the passage, I feel like I need to use  concrete examples in my effort to answer the question,how and why are we justified in the eyes of God?

Paul begins by saying " since we are justified by faith,  we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus'.

  The first question we may have is: " how can anyone say that they are justified in the eyes of God by faith alone? Does not James say " faith if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (Ja 2:17) "  He does indeed. But actions without faith are nothing more than  good deeds, which are nothing to be sneezed at, but on their own, they remain nothing more than that. In the light of faith, they become so much more. They become a way of life. But that way of life isn't so easily chosen. We have been given the freedom to say 'I believe in God' or 'I Don't.' For anyone who takes the leap of faith and opens their hearts to God's work in the universe when so many around us are turning to Science or are simply not caring about the deep questions that mark our journey as human beings,perhaps they are justified merely by making that leap. But even that leap isn't always enough.

  For it's not only by proclaiming our faith that we necessarily are open to Grace. Such an act can  make people nominal Christians, and that's a good first step, but it's only the beginning. Grace, we get by openly standing before the Father, and seeing in others, and in ourselves, the presence of The Son. "Through Jesus, we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand." Translation: The grace is already there for us to receive, but we, in our business often zip by it, unintentionally blind to it. But when through faith, we become aware of God  working in us, and of Christ dwelling in and around us, grace can do nothing else than be abundant in our lives. What a wonderful sensation of peace and joy we get when that occurs. And we should cherish those moments, but not hold on to them. For even those grace filled moments are not the complete fulfillment of a Christians's mission.
 In fact, those moments of grace are meant to give us the strength to face our moments of suffering and to develop our character even further, so that can come to understand the true meaning of  hope in our lives, in the presence of the Spirit that carries God's love, wisdom and strength into our the fullness of our lives.
There you have it. I'm not even sure I made sense of the whole passage, but it's quite potent as you can tell!

Happy reading!

Proverbs 8: 22 - 31

22The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.
23Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
25Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth;
26before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.
27When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,
29when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30then I was beside him, like a master workman; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
31rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the sons of men.

Psalms 8: 4 - 9

4what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?5Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor.6Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet,7all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,8the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea.9O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth! ------------------------------------------------------------------------
Romans 5: 1 - 5

1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.
John 16: 12 - 15

12"I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
15All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Walking the right path: Jesuit Feast day for Our Lady of the Way, May 24th

File:Madonnadellastrada churchofthegesu.jpg
La Madonna Della Strada, the patroness of the Society of Jesus
    Today I take a break from our trek of the Saintly Calendar to celebrate not just
the Patroness of my Order, but also to share with anyone who will take the time to read this a wonderful metaphor shared with us by our homilist  at our house Mass today.

There's not much I can say about this Icon, except that it can be found in the Mother Church of the Society of Jesus, the Gesu, in Rome, and that she became the patroness and protectress of our community because of Ignatius believes he received her protection during his time as a soldier- even though in those times he had not yet had his experience of conversion. It's only in later years that he realized the presence of the divine in his life at the time -.  I will exceptionally  focus my attention only on the first reading and the Gospel (or my reconstruction of the passage heard during Mass. I can't find the official list of readings for today's Jesuit celebration), and not the Psalm we heard today. 

" the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day."
 This is a lovely quote from our first reading. It may be a bit challenging, especially if people interpret it as saying: 'righteous people won't ever know darkness.'  It's not quite what it's saying. Instead, it brings us back to the point  that we've been hearing all week in the Book of Sirach: Being a Christian is NEVER easy. Such a rich, beautiful life needs to be cultivated, and part of that process may imply struggles.But as we progress through our struggles and darkness, if we remain close to the path that God has set for us,  a certain glow will emerge in the heart of our lives, and over the days, weeks months and years, a light will begin to grow, and this light will only get brighter, as we continue our journey.Nevertheless,  the road is long.  And complicated, and it's comforting to know that we have Our Lady to accompany us along the way, along with the Trinity which guides us through all of life's difficulties.

 And this is where  my imaginary friend, Pete the Protestant, might want to  pipe in. Full of confidence in his own cleverness, he may say: " But if we have the Trinity, why do we need Our Lady? Look, even your Gospel reading from today points to the superfluousness of Mary, as Jesus reminds the lady in the audience who cries out ' blessed the womb that bore you', that it's not her that's important, but really anyone who hears God's word and keeps it". He's not wrong, of course, but I would propose to him that this is only one reading of the text. We could also suggest that 'Yes, Jesus does want us to recognize the blessedness of all who hear and preserve God's word in their lives, but he's also in this moment, saying that NONE did that as perfectly and genuinely as Mary. So basically, he's telling his enthusiastic audience 'don't say the woman who gave birth to me was blessed because she carried me in her womb. Say she was blessed because she Heard. Say she was blessed because she believed, even when there was more reason to doubt than to believe'.

  My buddy Pete may be a little unhappy with that exegesis of the text, and may be preparing for another long debate with me, but let's say for the sake of argument, I don't have time for that today, so I want to keep this short. I would then proceed to explain to him the following: " Our journey of faith is not one that is planned out like some kind of perfect outline of a city map with perfect little borders drawn out. In fact our Journey of faith is not on any map at all...but it is an itinerary." (thanks for that metaphor Fr. Gilles!) What the heck does that mean (might interject a somewhat impatient Pete!).  It means that  we have not been given a perfect little map of where we're going. But we do on the other hand, have many  sign posts and indications along the way. Some use only scripture as those sign posts...and that's fine, in fact, that's absolutely perfect. But guess what? Understanding that our Itinerary is an encounter with God, we Catholics accept that God is not completely  encountered only through scripture. The encounter we have with God in scripture is fulfilling, but it's not the only thing that marks our Christian experience. There are many who have gone before us who understood that the wonderfulness of this itinerary, this journey into the depth of love and hope (another way to talk about that encounter with God!) needs to be lived out through the reading of the Bible, but also through prayer, and listening to what God is telling us personally -i.e. outside of scripture-. Without worshiping these  enlightened and inspired people, we can turn to them as role models of the faith. They become our family, and if we are in perfect enough communion with them, they do protect us. Jesus Saves us, but these fellow travelers seem to also stand up for us and even fight for us along side of the Holy Trinity -which we are celebrating this coming Sunday!!- throughout our entire life. And there can be no better example of this than our Mother. She who has guided and protected so many over the millennia. Like any mother, she can't preserve us from pain or suffering, but she will accompany us spiritually through the good and the bad that lies ahead. It's moments like these when I am so much at peace, when I know that Jesus, God the Father (and Mother!), The Holy Spirit, but also our Mother Mary,  and the entire communion of Saints, constantly look over me, over every single one of us as we journey towards a new dawn that is God's love, and God's  hope for the world. And it's humbling to understand that I could never journey on such a path without Our Lord Jesus, and without Our Lady of the Way!

 As we journey towards another day...
let us say
Our Lady of the way.
Pray for us.

Proverbs 4
10Hear, my child, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.11I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.12When you walk, your step will not be hampered; and if you run, you will not stumble.13Keep hold of instruction, do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.14Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil men.15Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.16For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made some one stumble.17For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.18But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.

Luke 11
24"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest; and finding none he says, `I will return to my house from which I came.'
25And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order.
26Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."
27As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!"
28But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"

Shrine of Our Lady of the Way, in Saint Peters, Missouri, USA - inscription
Part of a Shrine to our Lady of the Way in Missouri.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

St.John Baptiste de Rossi
Feast: May 23

Feast Day:May 23
Born:February 22, 1698, Voltaggio, Province of Alessandria, Piedmont, Duchy of Savoy
Died:May 23, 1764, Rome, Papal States
Canonized:December 8, 1881, Rome by Pope Leo XIII
Major Shrine:Church of San Giovanni Battista de Rossi, Rome

Another saint who like St Rita whom we encountered yesterday, was considered greatly pious even in his youth and early days. His own piety, besides personal devotions to the Blessed Virgin and other spiritual practices, took the form of visits to the sick in the hospitals and in other works of mercy.

For a number of years John was afraid, on account of his sickness to the point where he would not hear any important confession, passing more difficult confessors.  In 1738 a dangerous sickness befell him, and to regain his health he went to Cività Castellana, a day's journey from Rome. The bishop of the place induced him to hear confessions, and after reviewing his moral theology he received the unusual faculty of hearing confessions in any of the churches of Rome. He showed extraordinary zeal in the exercise of this privilege, and spent many hours every day in hearing the confessions of the illiterate and the poor whom he sought in the hospitals and in their home, so that he became the apostle of the abandoned. In 1763, worn out by such labours and continued ill-health, his strength began to ebb away, and after several attacks of paralysis he died at his quarters in Trinità de' Pellegrini. He was buried in that church under a marble slab at the altar of the Blessed Virgin. God honoured his servant by miracles, and only seventeen years after his death the process of beatification was begun, but the troubled state of Europe during the succeeding years prevented progress in the cause until it was resumed by Pius IX, who on 13 May, 1860, solemnly pronounced his beatification. As new signs still distinguished him, Leo XIII, on 8 December, 1881, enrolled him among the saints.

Read more:


 Have you ever wondered why it was that Jesus insisted on communicating so much to his disciples in Parables and metaphores that left them confused and in the dark? If it means so much to him that they have the ability to go out into the world to communicate the Gospel to all in it, why not make the message more straight forward?
 Simple answer: Because the message is not straight forward. It's not simple, it's not easy, at times, it's even unpleasant.  Even something as tangible, uncomplicated as the image of being salt...this seemed straightforward to me for many years: We have flavor to bring to the world. Share the flavor.
That's more or less what Jesus meant, but there's another angle. Jesus mentions that salt can go bad, but he doesn't talk about the why that's relevant, or what salt necessarily represents.
 In essence, it refers to the gifts. What makes Christianity such an challenging religion, is that we're called to not only recognize our gifts..but share them with all the world. If we don't do so, what good are these gifts. Look at Today's saint. He knew his mission was one of charity among the sick, and yet, because of his fears of his own bad health he failed to dedicate himself completely to his ministry as a confessor, until he got over that block, and was able to serve the faithful with a pious heart and mind through his deeds and his listening heart.
 Are gifts are countless, and they are meant to be shared. If they're not shared, they go bad. Simple as that. If they're not shared, we can not claim to be, as the Psalmist today states ' a tree by the streams that prospers in season', for it we do not use those gifts for the betterment of the world, then' we're wasting away, not prospering.
 These are harsh words, but they cut to the heart of the message of the Post Pentecost period: We've been given new life.  Now what? We share it. We help others find it. We get involved. Like I said, not easy stuff, but ever so important. Our world depends on it.

Sirach 5: 1 - 8

1Do not set your heart on your wealth, nor say, "I have enough."
2Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.
3Do not say, "Who will have power over me?" for the Lord will surely punish you.
4Do not say, "I sinned, and what happened to me?" for the Lord is slow to anger.
5Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin.
6Do not say, "His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins," for both mercy and wrath are with him, and his anger rests on sinners.
7Do not delay to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and at the time of punishment you will perish.
8Do not depend on dishonest wealth, for it will not benefit you in the day of calamity.
Psalms 1: 1 - 4, 6

1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
4The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
6for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Mark 9: 41 - 50

41For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.
42"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
43And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.
47And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell,
48where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
49For every one will be salted with fire.
50Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A beautiful saint with an extended commentary that was my 'homily' today.

St. Rita of Cascia
Feast: May 22

Feast Day:May 22
1381, Roccaporena, Perugia, Umbria, Italy
Died:May 22, 1457, Cascia, Perugia, Umbria, Italy
Canonized:May 24, 1900, Rome by Pope Leo XIII
Patron of:Lost and impossible causes, sickness, wounds, marital problems, abuse, mothers

 There are cradle Catholics, and then there are people like St Rita whose holiness was genuine from the beginning. Her parents were excellent models of holiness and piety, and were even  known as the "Peacemakers of Jesus Christ" by their neighbors.  

 As she neared womanhood, she felt that her vocation lay in the convent rather than in that of domestic life. We are not aware of the circumstances that led her parents to oppose this apparently obvious course, but oppose it they did, and Rita submitted, even so far as to please them by marrying a man that was somewhat violent! I Through prayer and attendance to daily Mass she would tame  her rough spouse, and remained married to him for 22 years. He eventually died in a dual, leaving Rita with 2 kids and the pot
The way was now clear for our Saint to satisfy her long yearning for a conventual life. After due consideration, she applied to be "accepted" by the Augustinian nuns at Cascia,  
  She was meditating one day on the Passion before the crucifix, when she apparently, accidentally, wounded her forehead by striking it against some of the no doubt very realistic thorns in Our Lord's crown. It was not long after this that she developed cancer, she would die of it at 76 years of age. She'd be remembered her piety and her profound but simple faith.

Read more:


Two themes have marked my own prayerful return to Ordinary time -that time in the Catholic Calendar which follows Easter...and of course, Easter was celebrated a few months ago, but it only  officially ended last Sunday with Pentecost-:  Recognizing our challenges as  adopted children of God, and embracing the diversity that exists in unity. Both themes are highlighted by today’s readings.

 First off the difficulties:  What we celebrated with Pentecost was not just the coming of the spirit upon the Apostles, but the start of a new journey of faith, one with new challenges, new missions and great renewal as we appropriate our title of adopted children of god. The readings from Sirach have been reminding us all week long that what this title means. See, I have a feeling many Christians assume once you accept Jesus as your personal savior, you become a son or daughter of God, and your  job is done, you can just enjoy the smooth ride to heaven. To those people, Sirach would have been a very uncomfortable wakeup call this week. Every reading from this book has been a very uncomfortable reminder that being a child of God means that we have a lot of work to do. We have an obligation to be more attentive to God’s wisdom among us and to be renewed by it. Again, for anyone who thought that this renewal would just come like a flash of lightning and everything would be clear and straightforward, these readings would come as a very unpleasant shock.  Renewal means more responsibility. Rather than being a tongue of fire that comes upon us and makes everything clear, it’s something that involves our entire mind body and soul in the work of God. In this work, so we’ve  been told this week, we will suffer, we will struggle, and we will know grief. But it’s in those moments of darkness that we will be most aware of God’s light. Finding God’s will in our lives, and commiting ourselves to it is a labor of love…but it’s hard work.  Unlike the Psalms , where the Psalmist asks God time and time again to make straight the paths of righteousness that we may follow God more faithfully, in Sirach, -we read yesterday- it is US who are told by God to straigten our paths. How do we do this?
 By seeking and serving God’s wisdom everyday.  ‘for those who serve her will minister to the holy one’.  But even that wisdom is so hard to understand sometimes. I just had a conversation with a  spiritually young –very confused- Catholic friend of mine who was ralling against the hypocrisy in his Church. I quoted the passage from Matthew 7 to him, reminding him to focus on his own sinfulness –or plank in his eye- before judging others.  His response sounded almost naïve to me at the time. ‘ How do I know when the plank in my eye is removed’. My reaction was initially, one of frustration and even disgust. I almost felt like asking  him ‘are you asking when will have the authority to judge others? If so, you’re probably in the wrong religion’. I opted with the more diplomatic ‘the plank’s always there, otherwise we’d be Gods. The whole point of this journey is that we too are sinners and will always be so.’ But with hindsight, I can now say in all fairness that the question is valid. A balance has to be established between condemning the evil we see in our world, and ensuring that we do not stray on that path that leads to sinfulness and injustice.  Unfortunately, as we hear in Sirach today, our journey with Wisdom is a difficult first she will walk with us on tortuous paths, she will bring fear and cowardice upon us, and will torment us. This is our own baptism by learn to walk with divine Wisdom , and it will continue to be a trial for us until the end of our days to learn how to be a better disciple of Christ, and a better companion of Wisdom on the road that lies ahead.
 The good news in all this, is that we’re not walking alone. Obviously, we have Jesus, we have the Saints, and we have God’s continuing presence within and outside of us. But as we see in today’s Gospel, we also have good hearted people that may be working in Jesus’ name differently than we do. We may not recognize the work that’s being done as Catholic. But what Pope Francis reminded us in his homily today is that “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”
 With that in mind,  Francis invites us into a culture of encounter, which he considers to be the foundation of peace.  He calls on us to remember that God’s will is being done in multiple ways everyday.

 We need to break out of the comfort of our own immediate, very big family, and to look at what others are doing in the name of Jesus, but also in the name of what God considers to be good. Because in the end, as diverse and complex as the world is, the desire to do good unites many people together. Even if the people who do this good aren’t doing it in the name of God, the divine finds ways to work through them as well. The commandment to do good and not evil is in the hearts of all people. It’s for us to recognize how the spirit of that commandment is hard at work everyday of our lives.

Sirach 4: 11 - 19

11Wisdom exalts her sons and gives help to those who seek her.12Whoever loves her loves life, and those who seek her early will be filled with joy.13Whoever holds her fast will obtain glory, and the Lord will bless the place she enters.14Those who serve her will minister to the Holy One; the Lord loves those who love her.15He who obeys her will judge the nations, and whoever gives heed to her will dwell secure.16If he has faith in her he will obtain her; and his descendants will remain in possession of her.17For at first she will walk with him on tortuous paths, she will bring fear and cowardice upon him, and will torment him by her discipline until she trusts him, and she will test him with her ordinances.18Then she will come straight back to him and gladden him, and will reveal her secrets to him.19If he goes astray she will forsake him, and hand him over to his ruin.

Psalms 119: 165, 168, 171 - 172, 174 - 175
165Great peace have those who love thy law; nothing can make them stumble.
168I keep thy precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before thee.
171My lips will pour forth praise that thou dost teach me thy statutes.
172My tongue will sing of thy word, for all thy commandments are right.
174I long for thy salvation, O LORD, and thy law is my delight.
175Let me live, that I may praise thee, and let thy ordinances help me.
Mark 9: 38 - 40
38John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us."
39But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.
40For he that is not against us is for us.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Today's formating is a little off  because of having to patch together
a number of weird websites for today's Martyr

St. Cristobal Magallanes Jara

St. Cristobal Magallanes Jara
St. Cristobal Magallanes Jara

Last year, the American Film ' For The Greater Glory' told the story
of a very troubled period in Mexican History, when the Church was
 persecuted rather openly. Not only was it illegal for any priests to perform \
their functions, but they could be arrested, and executed for doing so.  Fr Magallanes,
  portrayed in this move by the legendary Peter O'Toole, was one of the martyrs of the
persecution that ensued -as was an even more famous Miguel Pro (mentioned, but not
portrayed in this movie) who as he faced the firing squad, is reported to have yelled
 'Viva Christo Rey' (   Long live Christ the King)-. What makes these men stand out,
 was their perserverence. Especially in the case of St Cristobal, who was often forbidden
 to celebrate Mass and always found ways to do so.IN the end, the only way the radical
government could take action is to accuse the priests of inciting armed insurrection
 against the government. Ironically, after these executions, such an uprising did tak
e place, and would drag on for a few years until a peace was brokered  by the US
with the help of the Knights of Columbus.

The rational behind the governent's position was simple : " The Catholic
 Church in Mexico is a political movement, and must be eliminated in order 
to proceed with a Socialist 
government free of religious hypnotism which fools the people... within one year 
without the sacraments, the people will forget the faith" 

 The response of the Christo Rey was a expressed in this hymn: " 

The Virgin Mary is our protector and defender when we have to fear
She will vanquish all demons with a cry of "Long live Christ the King!" (x2)
Soldiers of Christ, let us follow this flag, for its cross points to the army of God
Let us follow the flag and declare, "Long live Christ the King!"

(Source Wikipedia)


In case it hasn't dawned on us yet, the readings today point 
to the fact that being a Christian is hard stuff. Never mind the long 
litany of martyrs for the faith that span 2000 years, never mind the 
complicated theology that has been developed over the centuries that keeps us on our toes...the fact, the raw truth about our faith, is that as servants of God, we must be 'prepared to suffer'. Jesus did it, not so that we wouldn't, but so that we could have strength and power through his own weakness and humility. That's what the reading from Sirach boils down to today.
  With that in mind, how are we to understand the Christo Rey uprisings? Should the rebels not have ' accept whatever evil was brought upon then' and suffer in silence? Did not France and England, two countries where the faith was also actively  persecuted, finally see a non violent victory of the faith in the 19th century -only to have that victory nullified as secularism has crept into both these cultures in the 20th and 21st century-? Should the Mexicans have turned the other cheek and done their best to preserve the faith underground -as happened in England during the anti catholic years of the 16th and 17th century and beyond.-? Perhaps, but they responded with righteous anger instead. It's one thing to say 'you're not allowed to celebrate Mass anymore'. It's  another to start shooting priests who are merely doing their duties as servants of God and accuse them of political activities.  The gut reaction of self preservation may have been justified, but it certainly was a very different response than the one that should be expected from our religion of peace.
 For the power that we experience, is experienced through humiliation.  Even the Apostles in today's readings have a bit of a power trip going on....and they are humbled...none of them is the greatest...but this one child, a kid who has no sense of ambitions, or lust for power, but just a genuine trust, and desire for God.
 We hear this theme echoed in the Psalm as well: Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  In short, it is when we are humbled that we are made strong. It is when we are belittled that we are following God's path for us. Christ didn't turn away from his Calvary, and neither shall we. 
Nobody ever said being a Catholic was going to be easy!!

Sirach 2: 1 - 11

1My child, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation.2Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be hasty in time of calamity.3Cleave to him and do not depart, that you may be honored at the end of your life.4Accept whatever is brought upon you, and in changes that humble you be patient.5For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.6Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him.7You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; and turn not aside, lest you fall.8You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not fail;9you who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for everlasting joy and mercy.10Consider the ancient generations and see: who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame? Or who ever persevered in the fear of the Lord and was forsaken? Or who ever called upon him and was overlooked?11For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; he forgives sins and saves in time of affliction.

Psalms 37: 3 - 4, 18 - 19, 27 - 28, 39 - 40

3Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.4Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.18The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will abide for ever;19they are not put to shame in evil times, in the days of famine they have abundance.27Depart from evil, and do good; so shall you abide for ever.28For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. The righteous shall be preserved for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.39The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their refuge in the time of trouble.40The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him. ------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mark 9: 30 - 37

30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it;31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise."32But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him.33And they came to Caper'na-um; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you discussing on the way?"34But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest.35And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, "If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."36And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them,37"Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me."

Monday, 20 May 2013

Back to Basics: Monday, May 20th

St. Bernardine of Siena

Unlike many of the other Saints we encounter, St Bernardine -besides having an intriguing name that could  

Feast Day:May 20
Born:1380, Massa Marittima, Italy
Died:1444, Aquila, Italy
Canonized:24 May 1450 by Pope Nicholas V
Patron of:advertisers; advertising; Aquila, Italy; chest problems; Italy; gambling addicts; public relations personnel; public relations work;

be feminine!!- is actually 'mentioned' in the calendar as an optional Saint for the day.  So the Calendar remains officially Green -We're in Ordinary time now my good people!!- but for those a little more interested in our Saints, a White option does exist for Good old St Bernadette...I mean Bernardine!
 One reason for that, is that he had an impact on people. Many of our Saints were inflamed with love for God, but kept that fire almost as a private devotion. Not this guy! St. Bernardine, a true disciple of St. Francis,  was an admirable preacher of the word of God, and  was made by God an instrument to kindle the same holy fire in innumerable souls, and to inspire them with his spirit of humility and meekness.  Another fine example of someone who would be counter cultural today!! Who would be inspired by humility and meekness today?  Well, our pope would! Catholics should be, but we don't always appear to be. I should add, he was counter cultural even in his time. The account of his life speaks of many episodes of young people chasing him around, throwing rocks at him. Perhaps the humble figure was too much even for them to handle.

 Perhaps because of the not always so favorable reaction he received, his affection for the poor was strong from an early age. One story says that one day, when a beggar was turned away from his Aunt's house, he begged and pleaded with his aunt that something be given to this man who may not have anything to eat that night. it's said about St Bernardine that he also had a phenomenal memory for scripture and homilies, but his real wisdom came from his compassion, his ability to recognize the need of others, and to answer those needs to the best of his abilities -including as a hospital administrator in a time when Europe was being ravaged  by plagues, and 20 people a day could die in any one city.-

 He did eventually become a bright amber for the souls of the Church, not just in Italy but across Europe, where his fame as a speaker spread and he was able to infuse the faithful with the same deep love for God that he carried.

Read more:

 Today, we return to Ordinary time in the Church liturgical calendar, but in truth, there is absolutely nothing ordinary in either the readings or the Saint. We may feel daunted even, when looking at Saints like Bernardine, and think 'but I could never do anything like that' and feel that the call to sainthood is limited to the select few. Likewise, we may commiserate with the Apostles today, who, no matter how much they love and devote themselves to Jesus, just fall short of doing what he did because of their 'faithlessness'. We may think 'yup, I would have a made a great apostle if NOT doing miracles is a criterion for the job!'.

 But the powerful message that sends us back to the basics of our faith is that, neither the miracles, nor the life of Saints are rooted in complicated things. They are instead rooted in prayer. As Pope Francis expressed this morning in his homily, a simple, but "courageous, humble and strong prayer (is what) can accomplish miracles." (there's a poignant story that he tells that goes with it. To read it and the rest of the that homily, follow the link And this is exactly what Jesus is trying to explain to the Apostles. Yes they are a faithless generation, not divine as Jesus is, and they resist many of his teachings...but all of this could be dealt with through a simple but persistent prayer life. Therein is the genius of any religion. People who are spiritual, are not wise because of years and years of studies. They are wise because they are connected, and in tune with God through a profound prayer life. They are connected to divine Wisdom, which exists all around us and within us.

 We see an expression of this in the book of Sirach (*sigh* how wonderful to be back to the old Testament for our first readings! And to come back to Wisdom literature...I'm in heaven!). The entire chapter is an exploration of God's wisdom as expressed in creation, in humans and in the divine.  What I find exciting about this portrayal of wisdom is that, it's described as attainable, but at the same time, eternally mysterious. Completely withing our reach like drops of rains, but at the same time, drops of rains!! Now, of course we 'understand' rain. We can predict it (most of the times!) and there's not much mysterious about it to us...and yet, we don't control it.  We don't own it. We can't count it -not really, not each individual drops!-. It, remains in many ways, is unfathomable to us. Much like God's wisdom. And yet, our lives are filled with it -both the rain and the divine Wisdom!!-. What we do it, how we understand it, how we let that wisdom shape us...that will depend on us. On the depth of our prayer, and the freedom we have to respond to it, and to God's love for us.

 Enough deep stuff for today. Onto Ordinary time! All readings are in Green to celebrate our switch in the calendar!

Sirach 1: 1 - 10

1All wisdom comes from the Lord and is with him for ever.2The sand of the sea, the drops of rain, and the days of eternity -- who can count them?3The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth, the abyss, and wisdom -- who can search them out?4Wisdom was created before all things, and prudent understanding from eternity.5The root of wisdom -- to whom has it been revealed? Her clever devices -- who knows them?6There is One who is wise, greatly to be feared, sitting upon his throne.7The Lord himself created wisdom; he saw her and apportioned her, he poured her out upon all his works.8She dwells with all flesh according to his gift, and he supplied her to those who love him.9The fear of the Lord is glory and exultation, and gladness and a crown of rejoicing.10The fear of the Lord delights the heart, and gives gladness and joy and long life.

Psalms 93: 1 - 2, 5

1The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
2thy throne is established from of old; thou art from everlasting.
5Thy decrees are very sure; holiness befits thy house, O LORD, for evermore

Mark 9: 14 - 29

14And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them.15And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him.16And he asked them, "What are you discussing with them?"17And one of the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit;18and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able."19And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me."20And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.21And Jesus asked his father, "How long has he had this?" And he said, "From childhood.22And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us."23And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes."24Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"25And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again."26And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, "He is dead."27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.28And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?"29And he said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer."