Thursday, September 18, 2014

GOD IS GOOD

1 corinthians 15:1-11; Ps 118 Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; Luke 7:36-50

God is Good!  All the time!  All the time! God is Good!

This is a very familiar refrain at many youth events or activities.  God is Good.  We shout it from the roof times, well, not really that would be an infringement on safe environment rules and regulations, that is having children on roofs.

But you get my gist.  This refrain is pretty common.  It is the refrain for our psalm this morning, "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, the psalmist invites us to once again give it our gusto.

God is Good.

What is good?  Dessert is good.  A child that behaves well is considered good.  A master chef who is skilled is a good cook .  Good indicates a certain level of skillfulness, effectiveness, admiration.  God is all these things: skilled, effective, admirable.

God's goodness has little to do with us getting what we want, or having our way.  It has everything to do with who God is from all eternity.

How often do we reduce God's goodness to to our own personal gain, personal wants, personal needs.  We exclaim God's goodness out of self-centeredness.

God's goodness in the psalm today is intimately wrapped up in the hebrew word "hesed".

God's goodness is a result of his promise and covenant he made with creation, with humanity.  God is good because he keeps his promise, his end of the bargain.  He, God, owes it to himself to be Good.

His goodness has everything to do with his integrity.  God is Good and we rejoice in the light of that goodness, no matter what circumstances we are in at the present moment.

Give thanks to the lord of the is good.  He is goodness itself.  Thanks is a no brainer.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

MARTYRDOM

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; We are his people: the sheep of his flock Ps 100; Luke 7:11-17

Martyrs.

I remember when I was at the height or peak of my conversion experience, I would read the lives of the saints.  Many of these stories depicted the saints giving their life for the faith, for Christ.

It was easy to romanticize this reality.  How I would often think about staring the so called "bad guy" in the face and telling him, "go head make my day" or "do your worst" I am not going to turn my back of God.

It was romantic to think about shedding my blood for the faith as we celebrate with the martyrs of Cornelius and Cyprian today in the life of the church.

However, romance fades and reality sets in.  Though many may be asked to shed their blood for the faith most will not.  Most of us are asked to live the daily grind in what we call "white" martyrdom.  This simply means we don't shed our blood on the ground for Christ but rather we let the living blood within us fill the world around us with faith, hope, charity, truth and the like day in and day out.

This is what St paul is getting at when he states today in the reading, "Now you are Christ's Body, and individual parts of it."

We are Christ's body, Christ's presence into the world.  As in the gospel the people respond to Jesus with the following, "God has visited his people."

So the people around us should exclaim the same.  We are Christ's Body.  W make his presence known by how we live the daily grind.  Most importantly how we seek to be reconciled with others risking the mercy of God.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

SINGLE VERSE

Luke 6:27-38

Single verse spirituality

There is a tendency in our current culture that all one needs is a single verse of scripture to build a spiritual foundation.

I see this quite often.  I Meet guys in the prison or folks come into my office and I express spiritual world view and usually in revolves around one single verse of scripture.
Maybe its John 3:16, "God so loved the world he gave his only son that whoever believes in him might have eternal life."

This is just one example.  That verse whatever may be becomes the foundation they build on.

They neglect the rest of scripture, the rest of what Jesus has to say, what Paul teaches and so on.

This single verse spirituality is dangerous because often times scripture itself creates nuances that require the whole picture, the whole teaching.

True spirituality looks at the entirety of scripture and tradition and holds the tension that is created by the nuance of what is encountered.

For instance Jesus tells us to love our enemies but he also states that it be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around our neck then to cause one of these little ones to sin.  Love takes on a whole different reality when you put these together.

JEsus tells us to honor our mother and Father but at the same time he says unless you hate your mother, Father, brother, sister you cannot be my disciple.

Jesus commands us to turn the other cheek but he also unbraids the the scribes and pharisees of their stubbornness and misreading of scripture.

We are told that God so loved the world that he sent his only son so that whoever believes in him my not perish but have eternal life and yet Jesus also mentions the real possibility of eternal fire and gnashing and grinding of teeth.

Building a spiritual foundation on one verse is very inviting because it means we get to pick and choose what we believe and how we understand it to be put in practice.  This is not healthy or holy.

We are invited to open ourselves wide to receive all that Jesus and his church teaches.

Which brings me to today's readings in particular today's gospel.  We find in it a verse that many cling to as the single verse of foundation: Do to others as you would have them do to you.

The so called golden rule.  If there is one verse that holds the tension of all of Jesus teachings and the teachings of the church this may be it.  The golden rule is vague enough to get us in trouble but also precise enough to lead us down the right path.

IT includes both a healthy critique as well as generous giving of respect.  It  is all inclusive.  But it only works when the whole of Christ's teachings and the church is understood.  IT is single verse that contains a thousands lessons.  We must study them all and then build a foundation rooted in Christ not just to our liking.







Thursday, September 4, 2014

COINCIDENCE

Luke 5:1-11

Coincidence?  Events or circumstances that link together without any apparent connection at least historically.  Things happen that make you scratch your head.

How often in our life have we had moments like this, and we are left scratching our heads?

could there really be  such a thing as coincidence especially in light of God's watchful gaze an providential care.

Yet, no matter how things come together they still require our "yes."  We have to respond to these moments.  For instance in today's gospel, Jesus trying to escape the pressing crowd spies two boats and just happens to get into the boat belonging to Simon Peter.  Coincidence? Or Godcidence!


One wonders whether Jesus was setting Simon up.
Obviously Simon knew who Jesus was, Jesus had just cured his mother in law the day before.  Jesus had spent time with him and his family.  Jesus was no stranger.  

Yet, there was more in store.  Perhaps Peter figured he would occasionally welcome Jesus into his homes and offer hospitality as he traveled "this"way.  Peter was already disposed or open to Jesus in his life.  This small opening became something more over time.

Jesus setting Peter up.

We go back to the boat and what do we get but an invitation to do more and to be more: Put out into the deepwater and lower your nets for a catch."

Jesus is basically telling Peter to not settle for less, to be open to so much more.

In this brief moment or encounter things would never be the same.  Stepping into Peter's boat, Jesus was unlocking Peter's heart and stretching his mind.   The miraculous catch overwhelmed them.  What were they thinking?  What were they feeling?

What an encounter with Christ!  Yet this brief moment, this small occurrence began a journey that would take Peter from a small town in Galilee to Rome, from being a leader on a boat to leader of the Church, from battling storms not he seas to facing down the crowd as he was crucified upside down.

What a moment.  All it took was a simple yes and they left everything and followed him.

What began as a casual encounter, a genuine welcome in to his life, became oh so much more.

Jesus was setting him up.  Perhaps he is setting us up too.  Be on the look out!




Wednesday, September 3, 2014

THE GOOD LIFE

1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Ps 33 Blessed the People the lord has chosen to be his own; Luke 4:38-44


Today we celebrate the memory of Gregory the Great, Pope and doctor of the church.  He lived in the 6th and 7th centuries.

He spent a good deal of his life bringing people together and seeking to avoid conflict or bring peace to existing conflicts.  It took a great deal of energy.

He also wrote extensively on the pastoral duties, moral life, homilies and correspondence with various folks including a certain Queen, seeking to aid her in her Catholic Faith.

In his book on the Moral life he coined a very simple way to enrich and enhance one's code of living.

He coined a few pairs of words meant to assist the faithful in staying true to their moral rectitude:
Know-do, speak-live, know-act.  Basically, word and action, thought and deed, prayer and duty must be aligned.  In this way God descends to man and man is lifted up to be one with God.

A very simple approach to the good life.

Which brings us to the psalm for today.  The Psalmist speaks these words: "From heaven the Lord looks down; he sees all mankind.  From his fixed throne he beholds all who dwell on the earth.  He who fashioned the heart of each, he who knows their work."


Spend a a few moments pondering that reality.  Think about God looking down on us.  Try to see from his point of view.  Look with his eyes as you look upon others.

Ponder these words form Pope Gregory the Great: "What do they not see who see him who sees all things."

Thread of Joy

Here is an article written by Archbishop Chaput.  It is definitely worth the read.

"A Thread for Weaving Joy"

by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap.
Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput presented this address to the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, held January 22, 2012, in Washington, DC. It appears here with the archbishop’s kind permission.
***
The great French Jesuit Henri de Lubac once wrote, “Suffering is the thread from which the stuff of joy is woven. Never will the optimist know joy.”1 Those seem like strange words, especially for Americans.  We Americans take progress as an article of faith.  And faith in progress demands a spirit of optimism.

But Father de Lubac knew that optimism and hope are very different creatures.  In real life, bad things happen.  Progress is not assured, and things that claim to be “progress” can sometimes be wicked and murderous instead.  We can slip backward as a nation just as easily as we can advance.  This is why optimism — and all the political slogans that go with it — are so often a cheat. Real hope and real joy are precious.  They have a price.  They emerge from the experience of suffering, which is made noble and given meaning only by faith in a loving God.

As a young bishop I had the privilege of knowing Cardinal John O’Connor as a mentor and friend.  Later I had the great fortune to work closely with His Eminence and Bishop James McHugh as they developed the text of the 1998 US bishops’ pastoral letter Living the Gospel of Life — which is still, in my view, the best statement of pro-life convictions ever released by the Church in the United States.2 

Throughout our friendship, Cardinal O’Connor was a man of uncommon hope, integrity and kindness.  And these virtues were never more evident than during his final illness.  In the face of all of his suffering, he never lost his sense of joy in the goodness and sanctity of life.  So I’m very grateful to be part of this conference that bears his name.  And I’m very grateful to all of you today for honoring him with your presence and your witness.

I want to talk this morning about the kind of people we’re becoming, and what we can do about it.  Especially what you can do about it.  But it’s always good to start with a few facts.  So that’s what I’ll do.

A number of my friends have children with disabilities.  Their problems range from cerebral palsy to Turner’s syndrome to Trisomy 18, which is extremely serious.  But I want to focus on one fairly common genetic disability to make my point.  I’m referring to Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is not a disease.  It’s a genetic disorder with a variety of symptoms. Therapy can ease the burden of those symptoms, but Down syndrome is permanent.  There’s no cure.  People with Down syndrome have mild to moderate developmental delays.  They have low to middling cognitive function. They also tend to have a uniquely Down syndrome “look” — a flat facial profile, almond-shaped eyes, a small nose, short neck, thick stature, and a small mouth, which often causes the tongue to protrude and interferes with clear speech.  People with Down syndrome also tend to have low muscle tone.  This can affect their posture, breathing and speech.

Currently about 5,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year. They join a national Down syndrome population of about 400,000 persons. But that population may soon dwindle.  And the reason why it may decline illustrates, in a vivid way, a struggle within the American soul.  That struggle will shape the character of our society in the decades to come.

Prenatal testing can now detect up to 95 percent of pregnancies with a strong risk of Down syndrome.  The tests aren’t conclusive.  They can’t give a firm yes or no.  But they’re pretty good.  And the results of those tests are brutally practical.  Studies show that more than 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome now get terminated in the womb.  They’re killed because of a flaw in one of their chromosomes — a flaw that’s neither fatal nor contagious, but merely undesirable.

The older a woman gets, the higher her risk of bearing a child with Down syndrome.  And so, in medical offices around the country, pregnant women now hear from doctors or genetic counselors that their baby has “an increased likelihood” of Down syndrome based on one or more prenatal tests. Some doctors deliver this information with sensitivity and great support for the woman.  But, as my friends know from experience, too many others seem more concerned about avoiding lawsuits, or managing costs, or even, in a few ugly cases, cleaning up the gene pool.

In practice, medical professionals can now steer an expectant mother toward abortion simply by hinting at a list of the child’s possible defects. And the most debased thing about that kind of pressure is that doctors know better than anyone else how vulnerable a woman can be in hearing potentially tragic news about her unborn baby.
I’m not suggesting that doctors should hold back vital knowledge from parents. Nor should they paint an implausibly upbeat picture of life with a child who has a disability. Facts and resources are crucial in helping adult persons prepare themselves for difficult challenges. But doctors, genetic counselors, and medical school professors should have on staff — or at least on speed dial — experts of a different sort.

Parents of children with special needs, special education teachers and therapists, and pediatricians who have treated children with disabilities often have a hugely life-affirming perspective. Unlike prenatal caregivers, these professionals have direct knowledge of persons with special needs. They know their potential.  They’ve seen their accomplishments. They can testify to the benefits — often miraculous — of parental love and faith.  Expectant parents deserve to know that a child with Down syndrome can love, laugh, learn, work, feel hope and excitement, make friends, and create joy for others.  These things are beautiful precisely because they transcend what we expect.  They witness to the truth that every child with special needs has a value that matters eternally.

Raising a child with Down syndrome can be demanding.  It always involves some degree of suffering.  Parents grow up very fast.  None of my friends who has a daughter or son with a serious disability is melodramatic, or self-conscious, or even especially pious about it.  They speak about their special child with an unsentimental realism.  It’s a realism flowing out of love — real love, the kind that forces its way through fear and suffering to a decision, finally, to surround the child with their heart and trust in the goodness of God.  And that decision to trust, of course, demands not just real love, but also real courage

The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection.  None of us is perfect.  No child is perfect.  The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear.  That’s the choice we face when it happens in our personal experience.  And that’s the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not.
Nearly 50 percent of babies with Down syndrome are born with some sort of heart defect.  Most have a lifelong set of health challenges.  Some of them are serious.  Government help is a mixed bag.  Public policy is uneven. Some cities and states provide generous aid to the disabled and their families. In many other jurisdictions, though, a bad economy has forced very damaging budget cuts.  Services for the disabled — who often lack the resources, voting power and lobbyists to defend their interests — have shrunk. In still other places, the law mandates good support and care, but lawmakers neglect their funding obligations, and no one holds them accountable.  The vulgar economic fact about the disabled is that, in purely utilitarian terms, they rarely seem worth the investment.

That’s the bad news.  But there’s also good news.  Ironically, for those persons with Down syndrome who do make it out of the womb, life is better than at any time in our nation’s history. A baby with Down syndrome born in 1944, the year of my own birth, could expect to live about 25 years.  Many spent their entire lives mothballed in public institutions.  Today, people with Down syndrome routinely survive into their 50s and 60s.  Most can enjoy happy, productive lives.  Most live with their families or share group homes with modified supervision and some measure of personal autonomy.  Many hold steady jobs in the workplace.  Some marry.  A few have even attended college.  Federal law mandates a free and appropriate education for children with special needs through the age of 21.  Social Security provides modest monthly support for persons with Down syndrome and other severe disabilities from age 18 throughout their lives.  These are huge blessings.

And, just as some people resent the imperfection, the inconvenience and the expense of persons with disabilities, others see in them an invitation to learn how to love deeply and without counting the cost.

Hundreds of families in this country — like my young friends in Denver, Kate and JD Flynn — are now seeking to adopt children with Down syndrome. Many of these families already have, or know, a child with special needs.  They believe in the spirit of these beautiful children, because they’ve seen it firsthand. A Maryland-based organization, Reece’s Rainbow, helps arrange international adoptions of children with Down syndrome.  The late Eunice Shriver spent much of her life working to advance the dignity of children with Down syndrome and other disabilities.  The Anna and John J. Sie Foundation committed $34 million to the University of Colorado to focus on improving the medical conditions faced by those with Down syndrome. And many businesses all over the country now welcome workers with Down syndrome. Parents of these special employees say that having a job, however tedious, and earning a pay check, however small, gives their children pride and purpose.  These things are more precious than gold.

I said at the start of my remarks tonight that I wanted to talk about the kind of people we’re becoming, and what we can do about it.  And especially what you can do about it as Catholics who take their faith seriously. 

The Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer once wrote that, “A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives.”3 Every child with Down syndrome, every adult with special needs — in fact, every unwanted unborn child, every person who is poor, weak, abandoned, or homeless — each one of these persons is an icon of God’s face and a vessel of His love.  How we treat these persons — whether we revere them and welcome them, or throw them away in distaste — shows what we really believe about human dignity, both as individuals and as a nation.

The American Jesuit scholar Father John Courtney Murray once said that “Anyone who really believes in God must set God, and the truth of God, above all other considerations.”4 

Here’s what that means.  Catholic public officials who take God seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow Catholics.  God will demand an accounting.  Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family.  God will demand an accounting.  And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation’s life.  God will demand an accounting.  As individuals, we can claim to believe whatever we want.  We can posture, and rationalize our choices, and make alibis with each other all day long — but no excuse for our lack of honesty and zeal will work with the God who made us.  God knows our hearts better than we do.  If we don’t conform our hearts and actions to the faith we claim to believe, we’re only fooling ourselves.

We live in a culture where our marketers and entertainment media compulsively mislead us about the sustainability of youth; the indignity of old age; the avoidance of suffering; the denial of death; the nature of real beauty; the impermanence of every human love; the oppressiveness of children and family; the silliness of virtue; and the cynicism of religious faith.  It’s a culture of fantasy, selfishness, sexual confusion and illness that we’ve brought upon ourselves.  And we’ve done it by misusing the freedom that other — and greater — generations than our own worked for, bled for, and bequeathed to our safe-keeping.

What have we done with that freedom?  In whose service do we use it now?
John Courtney Murray is most often remembered for his work at Vatican II on the issue of religious liberty, and for his great defense of American democracy in his book We Hold These Truths.  Murray believed deeply in the ideas and moral principles of the American experiment.  He saw in the roots of the American Revolution the unique conditions for a mature people to exercise their freedom through intelligent public discourse, mutual cooperation and laws inspired by right moral character.  He argued that — at its best — American democracy is not only compatible with the Catholic faith, but congenial to it.

But he had a caveat.  It’s the caveat that George Washington implied in his farewell address, and that Charles Carroll — the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence — mentions in his own writings.  In order to work, America depends as a nation on a moral people shaped by their religious faith, and in a particular way, by the Christian faith.  Without that living faith, animating its people and informing its public life, America becomes something alien and hostile to the very ideals it was founded on.
This is why the same Father Murray who revered the best ideals of the American experiment could also write that “Our American culture, as it exists, is actually the quintessence of all that is decadent in the culture of the Western Christian world.  It would seem to be erected on the triple denial that has corrupted Western culture at its roots: the denial of metaphysical reality, of the primacy of the spiritual over the material, [and] of the social over the individual.... Its most striking characteristic is its profound materialism.... It has given citizens everything to live for and nothing to die for.  And its achievement may be summed up thus:  It has gained a continent and lost its own soul.”5
Catholics need to wake up from the illusion that the America we now live in — not the America of our nostalgia or imagination or best ideals, but the real America we live in here and now — is somehow friendly to our faith. What we’re watching emerge in this country is a new kind of paganism, an atheism with air-conditioning and digital TV.  And it is neither tolerant nor morally neutral.

As the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb observed more than a decade ago, “What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized.”  But even more importantly, she added, “As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant.  The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral — the ‘bourgeois’ family as it is invidiously called — is now seen as pathological” and exclusionary, concealing the worst forms of psychic and physical oppression.6 
My point is this: Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it.  So it always has been.  So it always will be.  And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God.

A friend of mine has a son with Down syndrome, and she calls him a “sniffer of souls”.  I know him, and it’s true.  He is.  He may have an IQ of 47, and he’ll never read The Brothers Karamazov, but he has a piercingly quick sense of the people he meets.  He knows when he’s loved — and he knows when he’s not.  Ultimately, I think we’re all like her son.  We hunger for people to confirm that we have meaning by showing us love.  We need that love.  And we suffer when that love is withheld. 

These children with disabilities are not a burden; they’re a priceless gift to all of us.  They’re a doorway to the real meaning of our humanity.  Whatever suffering we endure to welcome, protect and ennoble these special children is worth it because they’re a pathway to real hope and real joy.  Abortion kills a child; it wounds a precious part of a woman’s own dignity and identity; and it steals hope.  That’s why it’s wrong.  That’s why it needs to end.  That’s why we march.

The task you need to take home with you today is this.  Never give up the struggle that the March for Life embodies.  No matter how long it takes; no matter how many times you march — it matters, eternally.  Because of you, some young woman will choose life, and that new life will have the love of God forever. 

The great Green Bay Packer theologian, Vince Lombardi, liked to say that real glory consists in getting knocked flat on the ground, again and again and again, and getting back up — just one more time than the other guy.  That’s real glory.  And there’s no better metaphor for the Christian life.  Don’t give up.  Your pro-life witness gives glory to God.  Be the best Catholics you can be.  Pour your love for Jesus Christ into building and struggling for a culture of life.  By your words and by your actions, be an apostle to your friends and colleagues. Speak up for what you believe.  Love the Church.  Defend her teaching.  Trust in God.  Believe in the Gospel.  And don’t be afraid.  Fear is beneath your dignity as sons and daughters of the God of life. 

Changing the course of American culture seems like such a huge task; so far beyond the reach of this gathering today.  But Saint Paul felt exactly the same way.  Redeeming and converting a civilization has already been done once.  It can be done again. But we need to understand that God is calling you and me to do it.  He chose us.  He calls us.  He’s waiting, and now we need to answer Him.  Thanks, and God bless you.
- See more at: http://www.wf-f.org/12-1-Chaput.html#sthash.3hE5Ew9L.dpuf

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

SUNDAY RECAP

This past Sunday I spoke a little about Happiness.

Fill in the blank:  I will be happy if_____.

What does that blank consist of in your life.  I suspect that if we have to put something extra in to our life or take something out of our life in order to be happy then we will never be happy.

Why do we put conditions on our happiness?
In large part we have bought in to the lie of secular society that has told us from early on that we need to add this or that in to our life for happiness.  Secular society has fed us the garbage for years.  ANd we have equated happiness with things outside of us.

What is the greatest obstacle to happiness?  A mentor of mind,  bishop, once said that he thinks the greatest obstacle to happiness is the fact we try to control what will make us happy.

As long as we try to control what will make us happy then we will always be dissatisfied.

We need leave ourselves open to surprises.  Pope Francis often speaks about God being a God of surprises and we are too closed in on ourselves to realize the beauty of those surprises.

We have to stop manipulating our life and the lives of those around us.

God invites us to leave ourselves open to the unexpected, unimagined, inconvenient.  If we can do this we can begin to experience happiness.

Like Peter in the gospel we cannot get in front of JEsus but we must stay behind and learn to pick up our cross daily.  The cross is about opening ourselves up to the unexpected, unimagined, inconvenient.

Does we can think like God not like man.  Man consumes himself with himself.  We all want to be at the center of our lives: self preservation self-serving.

God always thinks of the other first regardless of the conditions.  The cross of Christ reveals that God is self-giving, seeks the good of the other, he is one of service.

If we can flip our mind set, have a true renewal of the mind, happiness will be no longer at our finger tips but in full grasp.