Friday, January 23, 2015

VOCATIONAL LIFE

Heb 8:6-13; Ps 85 Kindness and truth shall meet; Mark 3:13-19

Jesus selects his inner circle.  From amongst the many who follow twelve are chosen to be an extension of himself.  "He summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him."

What a beautiful description of the call and response that we speak of so often in regards to vocational living.

Vocational living is for all of us not just clergy or those in consecrated life.  All of us must at some point in our life respond to His summons if we are to discover happiness or encounter the joy Jesus holds out to us. We must draw close to him before we go out tot he world.

The selection process must have been quite the experience because the diversity of such a small group is quite astounding.  Matthew the tax collector who has thrown his lot in with the occupying Roman authorities is asked to stand side by side with Simon the Cananean or the zealot, the one who wishes to over throw the Roman oppressors.  Then of course there is Judas Iscariot himself called by name to follow and become something more.

There is definitely not a uniformity of personality in this group of twelve summoned and called.  Rather, it is friendship with Jesus that refines and perfects each distinctive personality empowering them to get along for the sake of the mission at hand.  It is the purpose that ultimate decides the union not the personalities or the personal traits of each.   It isn't a cause that unites but a relationship that holds them together.  It is there personal belonging to Jesus that invigorates the mission and acts as the glue that holds them tightly together.

when that personal relationship with Jesus is broken or neglected that is when the union is threatened.

They are called to be with Jesus then sent to preach.  It is being with him they are transformed into a united force to transform the world.  This is the paradigm.  We gather with Jesus and are transformed and then we are sent out where we further our transformation by seeking to bring his message to a world that it might also be transformed.


The twelve form the foundational reality of the church.  Jesus doesn't call individuals to stand alone but a group to unite.  There is no opposition between Christ and the church.  It is the gathering that communicates his presence and power to the world.  Jesus calls into question this individualistic approach that is so contemporary.






Friday, January 16, 2015

WHY SUNDAY

Heb 4:1-5,11; Ps 78 Do not forget the works of the Lord; Mark 2:1-12

"Let us be on guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains...for we who believed enter into that rest...And God rested on the seventh day from all his works...Therefore let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.."

We continue to follow the Letter to the Hebrews.  Once again, we are invited to reflect on the disobedience of the Israelites as that which kept them from entering the promised Land, the symbol of the rest of God.

We are also asked to reflect on Exdus 20:8-11, where the Israelites are invited to unite themselves to God weekly on the Sabbath and ultimately in the attainment of salvation (Rev 14:13, CCC 345).

We are reminded that God does not rest from his work because he is tired or exhausted or in need of a break but rather he rest to show us our need to live and work for the "rest" that lies ahead or for the "rest" of our lives.

The Sabbath rest was meant to help us keep our top priority in the top place of our life.  The "rest"  kept everything in its right perspective and right order.  The sabbath rest helped to reorganize our life just in case we began to think temporal things were more important than eternal matters.

Perhaps this is why we are told in chapter 13 in the Letter to the Hebrew that we should not neglect the Holy Assembly.

There is an old axiom that says the last in execution was the first in intention. at least according to St Thomas Aquinas.  Whatever is done last was intended first.  God creates the world looking forward to the day of rest so that he might instill in us what is most important of all.  The sabbath rest points to worship and union with God.  And it is in imitating God we enter into communion with him.   All of creation is ordered to worship and adoration of God.

If we get that right then the rest of our life falls in harmony with the Divine will.  For us as Christians, the eight day marks a day of new creation.  The seventh day was a completion of the first creation, but the resurrection of Jesus marks a new creation for humanity and the world.  The first creation finds its meaning in the new creation.  The last in execution is the first in intention.  This is why the Sabbath for us is on Sunday not Saturday.  This of course directs us to the "final rest" that awaits us.  It is in the culmination of history, that we find our truest purpose and rediscover the meaning of life, which is to be with God forever.  As the Baltimore Catechism teaches us, "to know him, to love him, to serve him, and to be with him forever in heaven."

This is the rest we should strive after daily in our goings and comings.

Sunday Celebration is essential to true Christian living because it puts things in its proper place.  It helps eternal matters first and foremost.

Hopefully this helps answer the question I get so often, "why should I go to Sunday worship?"  "Why should I go to Mass?"  We go because we keep temporal and eternal matters straight in our hearts and mind.  We let our ultimate end give direction to our daily life.   And we allow the Sunday rest to connect us to the heavenly rest that is our end.  We imitate Christ who said "do this in memory of me."  We reconnect to the new creation that directs to our ultimate union with God,  which promise a new heaven and new earth.

We keep the end in mind then it where change how we get there and whether we arrive or not.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

OPPORTUNITY

Hebrews 3:7-14

"The Holy Spirit says: Oh, that today you would hear his voice, "harden not your hearts as at the rebellion in the day of testing in the desert, where your ancestors tested and tried me and saw my works for forty years.  Because of this I was provoked with that generation and said, "they have always been of erring heart, and they do not know my ways.  As i swore in my wrath they shall not enter into my rest. Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God.  Encourage yourselves daily while it is still "today," so that  non  of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.  We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end."

St paul above alludes to the experience of the Israelites as can be found in Numbers 14:1-38.  On this occasion the Israelites were so paralyzed by fear that they refused to seize possession of the Promised Land.  A few of the scouts sent out to he reconnoiter the land came back breathing fear and anxiety into the hearts of the people, and the people allowed fear to trump their trust in God's word spoken to them.

The people of Israel were on the threshold of entering the gift God had promised and they allowed fear to rule the day and thus they were denied entrance, only Caleb and Joshua were trustworthy.

Same is true for the people St paul is writing to in the letter, as well as, for us. We find ourselves each day on the threshold of heavenly inheritance and we too must not let fear trump our faith and trust in the living God.   It seems St Paul is reminding the folks of his time and us that we too can forfeit our inheritance by forsaking the lord and allowing deceit to cause a degeneration of our faith and loyalty.

This is why  St paul insist that we encourage each other daily.  Daily we need a boost.
We take vitamins daily.  We have our daily cup of coffee.  We watch the daily news.  Perhaps we ride or walk or run a few miles daily.  We have daily routine that keeps us percolating in life.

What routines do we have in our faith journey that encourages us and gives us that daily boost?

St Paul is clear that we need to encourage one another while it is today.  Today is the only opportunity we may have.  We only have a limited number of 'todays'.  We need to embrace the opportunity as it comes.

Here is a prayer to the Holy Spirit penned by St Augustine that might be beneficial for us

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

DESTROY US

We follow Jesus into the Synagogue at Caphernaum.  There he encounters a man with an unclean spirit.  What is striking is the question posed by the unclean spirit to Jesus, "Have you come here to destroy us?"

Wow!

What a statement.  Should we not ask the same question.  Has Jesus come to destroy us?

Jesus says he as come to set the world on fire.  He also says that we must die daily.  He tells us that we can not let any relationship trump our relationship with him.

There is in a certain degree truth to the statement posed by the spirit.

I think Jesus has come to destroy something in us.  We need to be aware of this truth as we journey each day and encounter challenges and obstacles and opportunities.

St Laura who was canonized in 2013 reveals a certain secret to life and in relationship with God.  She would pray daily this prayer, "Lord, destroy me, and upon my ruins build a monument to your glory."

Wow!

Think on that today.  What in us needs to be destroyed so that a true building worthy of God's glory can be raised in and through our life and love that we share.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

ALL GROWN UP

Over the last few days the gospels for daily mass have been intriguing. Take a look at them: Matthew 4:12-17,23-25; Mark 6:34-44; Mark 6:45-52.

What do you notice?

Well, considering that over the last two weeks we have liturgically been introduced to the incarnation, God becoming man, Jesus as a child, the reading should be surprising.  We have spent all of 12 days on Jesus as an infant.

We were invited to peer into Bethlehem and see his birth.  We were invited to acknowledge the beauty of the Holy Family.  We walked in the footsteps of the Magi as they followed the star to adoration and gifts of gold, Frankincense, Myrrh. We witness the slaughter of the Innocents, the presentation in the Temple,  purification rite of Mary as well after childbirth.

Yet, just a 12 days have elapsed and Jesus is already all grown up.  This is the surprise of the last few days gospel readings.  We have already moved on.  Jesus is already a grown man ready for ministry, ready for action.

It always amazes me how quickly we move from the infant narrative to the public ministry of Jesus the 30 plus year old.

The church reminds us that we aren't meant to stare at the manger forever.  We are not meant to be lost in the swaddling clothes.  Jesus was born for a reason.  Jesus' life has direction, purpose, meaning.

So does ours.  We are not meant to stay young and immature either.  At some point we have to choose to grow up and become the men and women God created us, destined us to be.

Maybe this is why we move ahead so quickly from Bethlehem to the Jordan banks and Jesus beginning his ministry.  He came that we might have life and we can only have that life when we choose to man up and let his show us the way.


So stop looking for your childhood and start being grown up for a change and get busy doing God business and let life flow abundantly.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

POPE ON FAMILY AND SPOUSES

Homily given by Pope Francis Sept 2014

Today’s first reading speaks to us of the people’s journey through the desert. We can imagine them as they walked, led by Moses; they were families: fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, grandparents, men and women of all ages, accompanied by many children and the elderly who struggled to make the journey. This people reminds us of the Church as she makes her way across the desert of the contemporary world, reminds us of the People of God composed, for the most part, of families.
This makes us think of families, our families, walking along the paths of life with all their day to day experiences. It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties. Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the “bricks” for the building up of society.
Let us return to the biblical story. At a certain point, “the people became impatient on the way” (Num 21:4). They are tired, water supplies are low and all they have for food is manna, which, although plentiful and sent by God, seems far too meagre in a time of crisis. And so they complain and protest against God and against Moses: “Why did you make us leave?...” (cf. Num. 21:5). They are tempted to turn back and abandon the journey.
Here our thoughts turn to married couples who “become impatient on the way”, the way of conjugal and family life. The hardship of the journey causes them to experience interior weariness; they lose the flavour of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament. Daily life becomes burdensome, and often, even “nauseating”.
During such moments of disorientation – the Bible says – poisonous serpents come and bite the people, and many die. This causes the people to repent and to turn to Moses for forgiveness, asking him to beseech the Lord so that he will cast out the snakes. Moses prays to the Lord, and the Lord offers a remedy: a bronze serpent set on a pole; whoever looks at it will be saved from the deadly poison of the vipers.
What is the meaning of this symbol? God does not destroy the serpents, but rather offers an “antidote”: by means of the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, God transmits his healing strength, namely his mercy, which is more potent than the Tempter’s poison.
As we have heard in the Gospel, Jesus identifies himself with this symbol: out of love the Father “has given” his only begotten Son so that men and women might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:13-17). Such immense love of the Father spurs the Son to become man, to become a servant and to die for us upon a cross. Out of such love, the Father raises up his son, giving him dominion over the entire universe. This is expressed by Saint Paul in his hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus crucified receives the mercy of God and finds healing from the deadly poison of sin.
The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who “have become impatient on the way” and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment... To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.
The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. This is the task that you both share. “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman”; “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man”. Here we see the reciprocity of differences. The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life! Within this theology which the word of God offers us concerning the people on a journey, spouses on a journey, I would like to give you some advice. It is normal for husband and wife to argue: it’s normal. It always happens. But my advice is this: never let the day end without having first made peace. Never! A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue. Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not “fiction”! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross. My desire for you is that you have a good journey, a fruitful one, growing in love. I wish you happiness. There will be crosses! But the Lord is always there to help us move forward. May the Lord bless you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

THE POPE"S LIST OF 15

Dear Brothers,
At the end of Advent we meet for the traditional greetings. In a few days we will have the joy of celebrating the Lord’s birth; the event of God who makes himself man to save men; the manifestation of the love of God who does not limit himself to give us something or to send us some message or some messengers, but gives himself to us; the mystery of God that takes our human condition and our sins on himself to reveal his divine life to us, his immense grace and his gratuitous forgiveness. It is the meeting with God who is born in the poverty of the cave of Bethlehem to teach us the power of humility. In fact, Christmas is also the feast of light that was not received by the “Chosen People” but by the “poor and simple people,” who awaited the Lord’s salvation.
First of all, I would like to wish you all – collaborators, brothers and sisters, papal representatives scattered throughout the world – and all your dear ones, a Holy Christmas and a happy New Year. I want to thank you cordially for your daily commitment at the service of the Holy See, of the Catholic Church, of the particular Churches and of the Successor of Peter.
We being persons and not numbers or just denominations, I remember in a special way those that, during this year, finished their service having reached the age limit or having taken on other roles or because they were called to the House of the Father. To all of them also, and to their families, go my thoughts and gratitude.
Together with you I wish to elevate to the Lord a heartfelt and profound gratitude for the year we are leaving behind, for the events lived and for all the good that He willed generously to fulfil through the service of the Holy See, asking Him humbly for forgiveness for the faults committed “in thoughts, words, deeds and omissions.”
And, in fact, beginning from this request for forgiveness, I would like our meeting and the reflections that I will share with you to become, for us all, a support and stimulus to a true examination of conscience to prepare our hearts for Holy Christmas.
Thinking of this, our meeting, there came to mind the image of the Church as “the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.” It is an expression that, as Pope Pius XII explained, “flows and almost sprouts from what is frequently exposed in Sacred Scripture and in the Holy Fathers.”[1] In this connection, Saint Paul writes: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12)[2]
In this connection, the Second Vatican Council reminds us that, “there is in the structure of the Mystical Body of Christ a diversity of members and of offices. The Spirit is one, who for the use of the Church distributes the variety of his gifts with magnificence proportioned to His richness and to the needs of the ministries (Cf. 1 Corinthians  12:1-11).”[3] Therefore ‘Christ and the Church’ form the “total Christ.” [“Christus totus”]. The Church “is one with Christ.”[4]
It is good to think of the Roman Curia as a small model of the Church, namely, as a “body” that seeks seriously and daily to be more alive, healthier, more harmonious and more united in itself and with Christ.
In reality, the Roman Curia is a complex body, made up of many Dicasteries, Councils, Offices, Tribunals, Commissions and of numerous elements that do not all have the same task, but are coordinated for efficient, edifying, disciplined and exemplary functioning, despite the cultural, linguistic and national differences of its members.[5]
In any case, the Curia being a dynamic body, it cannot live without being nourished and without taking care of itself. In fact, like the Church, the Curia cannot live without having a vital, personal, authentic and strong relation with Christ.[6] A member of the Curia that does not nourish himself daily with that food will become a bureaucrat (a formalist, a functionalist, an employee): a shoot that dries up and little by little dies and is thrown away. Daily prayer, assiduous participation in the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation, daily contact with the Word of God and spirituality translated into lived charity are the vital nourishment for each one of us. May it be clear to us all that without Him we can do nothing (Cf. John 15:8).
Consequently, the living relation with God also nourishes and reinforces communion with others, that is, the more we are profoundly joined to God the more we will be united among ourselves because the Spirit of God unites and the spirit of the Evil One divides.
The Curia is called to improve itself, to improve itself always and to grow in communion, holiness and wisdom to realize its mission fully.[7] However, it, like every body, like every human body, is also exposed to sicknesses, to malfunctioning and to infirmity. And here I would like to mention some of these probable illnesses, curial illnesses – they are the more usual illnesses in our life of Curia. They are sicknesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord. I think a “catalogue” of illnesses will help us – following the way of the Desert Fathers who made those catalogues of which we speak today. It will help us to prepare ourselves for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which will be a good step for us all to prepare ourselves for Christmas.
1.    The sickness of feeling oneself “immortal,” “immune” or in fact “indispensable,” neglecting the necessary and usual controls. A Curia that does not criticize itself, which does not update itself, which does not seek to improve itself is a sick body. An ordinary visit to cemeteries would help us to see the names of so many persons, some of whom thought they were immortal, immune and indispensable! It is the sickness of the foolish rich man of the Gospel who thought he would live eternally (Cf. Luke 12:13-21) and also of those who transform themselves into bosses and feel themselves superior to all and not at the service of all. This often stems from the pathology of power, of the “complex of the Elect,” of narcissism that looks passionately at its own image and does not see the image of God imprinted on the face of others, especially the weakest and neediest.[8] The antidote to this epidemic is the grace to see ourselves as sinners and to say with all our heart: “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10).
2.    There is another: the sickness of “Martha-ism” (which stems from Martha), of excessive busyness: namely of those who immerse themselves in work, neglecting, inevitably, “the better part”: to be seated at Jesus’ feet (Cf. Luke 10:38-42). This is why Jesus called his disciples to “rest a while” (Cf. Mark 6:31), because to neglect necessary rest leads to stress and agitation. The time of rest, for one who has carried out his mission, is necessary, right and is lived seriously: in spending some time with relatives and in respecting holidays as moments for spiritual and physical recharging; we must learn what Quoleth teaches that “there is a time for everything” (3:1-15).
3.    There is also the sickness of mental and spiritual “petrification”: namely those who have a heart of stone and a “stiff-neck” (Acts 7:51-60); those that, along the way, lose interior serenity, vivacity and daring and hide themselves under papers becoming “practice machines” and not “men of God” (Cf. Hebrews 3:12). It is dangerous to lose the necessary human sensibility to make us weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice! It is the sickness of those who lose “the sentiments of Jesus” (Cf. Philippians 2:5-11) because, with the passing of time, their heart is hardened and becomes incapable of loving unconditionally the Father and their neighbor (Cf. Matthew 22:34-40). To be Christian, in fact, means: “to have the same sentiments that were in Christ Jesus, sentiments of humility and of self-giving, of detachment and generosity.”
4.    The sickness of excessive planning and functionalism: When the apostle plans everything minutely and thinks that with perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming an accountant or a businessman. It is necessary to prepare everything well but without ever falling into the temptation of wanting to enclose and pilot the freedom of the Holy Spirit who remains always greater, more generous than any human planning (Cf. John 3:8). One falls into this sickness because “it is always easier and more comfortable to settle down in one’s own static and unchanging positions. In reality, the Church shows herself faithful to the Holy Spirit in the measure in which she does not have the pretext of regulating or domesticating Him. To domesticate the Holy Spirit … He is freshness, imagination, novelty.”[9]
5.    The sickness of bad coordination: when the members lose communion among themselves and the body loses its harmonious functioning and its temperance becoming an orchestra that produces noise because its members do not collaborate and do not live the spirit of communion and of team. When the foot says to the arm: ”I have no need of you,” or the hand to the head: “I command,” thus causing harm and scandal.
6.    There is also the sickness of spiritual Alzheimer’s disease: namely the forgetfulness of the “history of Salvation,” of one’s personal history with the Lord, of one’s “first love” (Revelation 2:4). It is a progressive decline of the spiritual faculty which in a longer or shorter interval of time causes serious handicaps to the person, making him become incapable of carrying out an autonomous activity, living in a state of absolute dependence of his often imaginary views. We see it in those who have lost the memory of their encounter with the Lord; in those who do not make the Deuteronomic sense of life; in those that depend completely on their “present,” on their passions, whims and fixations; those who build walls and habits around themselves, becoming ever more slaves of idols that they have sculpted with their own hands.
7.    The sickness of rivalry and vainglory[10][11]: when appearance, the color of garments and signs of honor become the primary objective of life, forgetting Saint Paul’s words: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4). It is the sickness that leads us to be false men and women and to live a false “mysticism” and a false “Quietism.” Saint Paul himself describes them as “enemies of the Cross of Christ” because “they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).
8.    The sickness of existential schizophrenia: it is the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that degrees and academic titles cannot fill. A sickness that often strikes those that, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic affairs, thus losing contact with the reality, with concrete persons, thus creating a parallel world for themselves where they put aside all that they severely teach others and they begin to live a hidden and often dissolute life. Conversion is all the more urgent and indispensable for this very serious sickness (Cf. Luke 15:11-32).
9.    The sickness of gossip, of grumbling and of tittle-tattle: I have already spoken so many times of this sickness but never enough: it is a grave sickness that begins simply, perhaps just having two chats and then it takes hold of the person making him become a “sower of discord” (like Satan), and in many cases “murderer in cold blood” of the reputation of his colleagues and brothers. It is the sickness of guarded persons who, not having the courage to speak directly, speak behind one’s back. Saint Paul admonishes us: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent” (Philippians 2:14-18). Brothers, beware of the terrorism of gossip!
10. The sickness of divinizing directors: it is the sickness of those who court their Superiors, hoping to obtain their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and of opportunism, they honor persons and not God (Cf. Matthew 23:8-12). They are persons who live the service thinking only of what they must obtain and not of that what they must do. Mean, unhappy persons and inspired only by their own fatal egoism (Cf. Galatians 5:16-25). This sickness can also strike Superiors when they court some of their collaborators to obtain their submission, loyalty and psychological dependence, but the final result is a real complicity.
11. The sickness of indifference to others: when one thinks only of oneself and loses the sincerity and warmth of human relations. When the most expert does not put his knowledge at the service of colleagues who are less expert. When one acquires the knowledge of something and keeps it to himself instead of sharing it positively with others.  When, because of jealousy or cunning, one feels joy in seeing the other fall instead of lifting him up again and encouraging him.
12. The sickness of the mournful face: namely of brusque and sullen persons, who believe that to be serious they must depend on a melancholy and severe face and treat others, especially those regarded as inferior – with rigidity, harshness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism[12] are often symptoms of fear and of one’s own insecurity. The apostle must force himself to be a courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful person who transmits joy wherever he is. A heart full of God is a happy heart that radiates and infects with joy all those around him: it is seen immediately! Therefore, let us not lose that joyful spirit, full of humor, and even self-critical, which renders us affable persons, also in difficult situations.[13] How much good a good dosis of humor does! It will do us much good to recite often the prayer of Saint Thomas More[14]: I pray it every day, it does me much good.
13.  The sickness of accumulating: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential void in his heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but only to feel secure. In reality, we can take nothing material with us because “the shroud does not have pockets” and all our earthly treasures – also if they are gifts – will never be able to fill that void, in fact, they will render it ever more exacting and more profound. To these persons, the Lord repeats: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked … Therefore, be zealous and be converted” (Revelation 3:17-19). Accumulation only weighs down and slows the inexorable journey! And I think of an anecdote: one time the Spanish Jesuits described the Society of Jesus as the “light cavalry of the Church.” I remember the transfer of a young Jesuit that while loading his many belongings on a truck: bags, books, objects and gifts, heard an old Jesuit who was observing him say, with a wise smile: is this the Church’s “light cavalry”?! Our transfers give a sign of this sickness.
14. The sickness of closed circles: where belonging to a little group becomes more important than that of belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ himself. This sickness also begins always with good intentions but with the passing of time enslaves the members, becoming “a cancer” that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes so much evil – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers. Self-destruction or “friendly fire” of fellow soldiers is the most deceitful danger.[15] It is the evil that strikes from within[16] and, as Christ says: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste” (Luke 11:17).
15. And the last one: the sickness of worldly profit, of exhibitionism[17]when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into merchandise to obtain worldly profits or more powers. It is the sickness of persons who seek insatiably to multiply powers and for this purpose, they are capable of calumniating, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines. Naturally to exhibit themselves and to show themselves more capable than others. This sickness also does much evil to the body because it leads persons to justify the use of any means so long as they reach their purpose, often in the name of justice and of transparency! And here there comes to mind the memory of a priest who called journalists to tell them (and to invent) private and reserved things about his fellow priests and parishioners. What mattered to him was only to see himself on the front pages, because in this way he felt “powerful and fascinating,” causing so much harm to others and to the Church. Poor thing!
Brothers, these sicknesses and these temptations are, naturally, a danger for every Christian and for every Curia, community, Congregation, parish, Ecclesial Movement, etc. and they can strike at the individual as much as at the communal level.
We must clarify that it is only the Holy Spirit – the soul of the Mystical Body of Christ, as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed affirms: “I believe … in the Holy Spirit, Lord and giver of life” – to heal every infirmity. It is the Holy Spirit who supports every sincere effort of purification and every good will of conversion. He it is who makes us understand that every member participates in the sanctification of the Body and in its weakening. He is the promoter of harmony[18]“ipse harmonia est,” says Saint Basil. Saint Augustine says to us: “While a part adheres to the body, its healing is not despaired of; instead, what was cut off cannot be taken care of or healed.”[19]
Healing is also the fruit of the awareness of the sickness and of the personal and communal decision to be cured, enduring the cure patiently and with perseverance.[20]
Therefore, in this Christmas season and for the whole time of our service and our existence, we are called to live “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Dear brothers!
Once I read that: “priests are like airplanes, they make news only when they fall, but there are so many that are flying. Many criticize and few pray for them.” It is a very nice phrase but also very true because it delineates the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service and how much evil one priest who “falls” can do to the whole Body of the Church.
Therefore, in order not to fall in these days in which we prepare for Confession, we ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, to heal the wounds of sin that each one of us bears in his heart and to support the Church and the Curia so that they are healthy and restored; holy and sanctifying, to the glory of her Son and for our salvation and that of the whole world. We ask her to make us love the Church as Christ loved her, her Son and our Lord, and to have the courage to acknowledge that we are sinners and in need of His Mercy and of not being afraid to leave our hands between her maternal hands.
Many good wishes for a Holy Christmas to you all, to your families and to your collaborators and, please, do not forget to pray for me! My heartfelt thanks!