Our King, our Faith, our Parish

Solemnity and Psalm
The Solemnity of Christ the King always brings to my mind Psalm 8, and I can’t help but wonder about our King.

When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and stars that you set in place—
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and a son of man that you care for him?

The psalm goes on to wonder about what has been given to mankind. The nature of Christ the King goes against mankind’s understanding of what makes a ruler; authority must have power and that power must be used if a monarch is to survive. So what makes up this/our King?

Many Paths to the one who is finding us
Yesterday, I was watching the Rite of Acceptance from the Vatican.  Pope Francis spoke to the catechumens about the inclusiveness of the Church.  He spoke of the many different paths that make up that group and how they were a representation of the even greater variety of journeys that make their way to the gate of faith.  Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King and with it we celebrate the openness of our King.  Our King doesn’t use His power to rule, He doesn’t impose His will at all. He is not one who gives limited access, indeed no one needs to go to Him – He comes to us.

In his 1982 book ‘Seeking God’s Face’ the then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of the idea of kingship: ‘He has no rigid plan that he has at all costs to carry out.  On the contrary, he has many different ways of seeking man out and finding him. He even makes man’s devious and wrong ways into ways leading to him…This, then, is God’s kingship – a rule of love that seeks and finds man in ways that are always new.’ He continued with ‘The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those are who subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.

Realization and answer
What a relief, what a joy, the absolute monarch, the King of universe, looks directly into each of us.  He gives us His absolute attention and guides us on our journey – He is the Father who constantly is looking for us, we are His Prodigal Sons & Daughters; we only need to keep close and not push away.  The answer to the question ‘what makes up our King?’ is simple – Love.  Christ proclaimed this at His nativity, being born into mankind; at His baptism coming among us as a fellow sinner though He never sinned; and of course by His passion and death, offering Himself for us.

Our response
Today, is also the end of the Year of Faith; after Vespers we take down the banner. After Vespers we also take down the banners celebrating the Jubilee of St. Dominic Parish – the journey continues.  What are we to make of these three celebrations: our King; our Faith; our Parish?

As we enter into this next 50 years as a parish, let us take the confidence that our faith has given us about our King – that He is always with us, can always be found, never tires of forgiving; that He rules over us with love. Let us celebrate our king who allows, in fact uses, any and every action by us to help us in our journey.  But most importantly; let us take this and proclaim it to world. In our small ways we can make real the last verse in Psalm 8: ‘O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth!

Witness Outward

In the Gospel today we are forewarned about the fate of believers.  Christ goes through a rather apocalyptic vision for His followers; but He urges us to stay the course: ‘By your perseverance you will secure your lives.’ For us to realize the promised home we must bear witness to Christ no matter what; this is a hard task.  But our witness is not without help; God himself will come to our side to strengthen us.  Christ says in the Gospel today that: ‘I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.’ and that ‘not a hair on your head will be destroyed.’  He will watch over us.  We have the power of the heavenly hosts, Saints praying for us; Angels by our side fighting the battle on the spiritual level.

Throughout this battle of life we have been called to be heralds, Gospel witnesses, not only by persevering in the faith but by doing it joyfully.  And I suggest to you that this is not an added burden on our calling but the result of it; when we persevere through the trials of life and hold fast to the faith we can’t help but feel and radiate the joy it brings. When we embrace our encounter with Christ we are imbued with graces that cause us to rejoice – we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

But we can’t allow ourselves to turn inward with this gift, it must be turned outwards. Pope Francis warns us against this attitude, he calls those who turn inward towards the church ‘sacristy Christians’.  Let’s not withdraw into our ecclesial chambers and share among ourselves this precious gift – let us go outward and offer it to the world who so desires this joy and peace.  As this Year of Faith draws to a close let us not forget that one of the most important reasons it was called for was to build us up to participate in the New Evangelization – to go outward, to the fringes and share the joy by showing our peace that comes from Christ.






Fear of the Lord
The Hebrew word ‘yare’ means has two meanings, the first is: [to be afraid/to dread] and the second is [to have awe/respect], the Greek word ‘phobeō’ has the same two meanings – and even the English word ‘fear’ as both meanings. Look it up in the dictionary.

At the end of the reading from Malachi today we see the use of the word ‘yare’ that, at first glance might seem to mean [afraid/dread], but really is used with the second meaning [awe/repect]. ‘But for you who fear my name, there will arisethe sun of justice with its healing rays.

Our lives, especially in our practice of our faith should be based on this definition of ‘fear’ – awe/respect. We should at all times hold our God in that regard, we should continuously look to Him in all our actions because we hold him in such high esteem, strive to be like Him, and hope to never let Him down. As we would with a revered teacher, mentor, parent, loved one – but more so for He is our creator.

Do not prepare
With this in mind, today’s Gospel is both imminent and timeless. What we hear from Jesus about how we will be treated seems very current; but it is also timeless because no matter what age we live in people will always push back against the Gospel. It is also ominous and comforting. Even though we will meet with persecution in varying forms – that we must carry the cross; Jesus tells us that He will not leave us alone.

But today, remembering the words of Malachi, I want to focus on these Gospel lines:
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.

We don’t prepare answers; preparing means, taking our own ideas and using them. We saw in Luke 9:51-56 an example, when the disciples wanted to call fire down upon a village in response to their not welcoming Jesus. Jesus rebukes them – this is not the defense needed. His mission while walking on earth was to prepare them for the true answer, the best defense – His answer of love.

However, not preparing an answer doesn’t mean not understanding, learning. If we are to be open to Christ’s answer we need build that relationship between Him and us. In any relationship we need to get to know the other better in order to grow in the relationship. It is no different with our relationship with God whom we fear – hold in awe/respect. And to grow in our relationship we need to grow in our understanding of God, of His mystical body – the Church; we need to open our hearts and minds to His communication; learn about Him, study the Faith. We need to talk and listen to Him in prayer; participate with Him in the sacraments especially Mass with a full participation, both with God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit and with each other through Christ.

In other words, come to understand He whom we fear; learn what God has given us; learn what the Church teaches us. Bring to our lives the memory of salvation – the gift of ultimate Love. God never tires in delivering His gift of salvation, the only question is our response, our attitude towards this memory of salvation.

So let us ask ourselves; do we have a correct memory of this gift of Salvation? The Holy Father asked in a homily this past October: ‘is this memory close to us? Or is it a distant memory, a bit diffused, a bit archaic, as if it were in a museum. When the memory is not close to us, when we no longer experience the memory, it slowly turns into ‘mere recollection’.’ He continued: ‘When the memory comes, it does two things: it warms the heart and gives us joy… It is an event of salvation, an encounter with the love of God who has made history with us and has saved us. It is so beautiful that we have been saved, and we must celebrate this.’ He finished.

Indeed we must celebrate this memory, this living memory that affects us each moment of our life. Pope Francis says for us to hold it close. We must wade in to the deep and allow this memory to flood our being, for it is the primal memory of our souls. When we do this, when we allow this memory of He who we fear to fill us, our lives become one of constant communion with God, we hunger for a better understanding of our Savior, and we grow in the attitude of Christ – we will need no preparation for those we encounter, God is with us and He will fulfill His promise from the Gospel: ‘for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute’; even Hell will have no recourse to our wisdom for it will be God’s – and Hell fears God in the first meaning of the word.

Unfiltered Facts

The challenge usually comes suddenly; it is how you respond that makes the difference.

Just this past week, with the passage of the same-sex marriage law in Illinois I was approached by a few people with comments such as: Who is the Catholic Church that they can judge us?  You have no right to dictate to us your political agenda.  My answer to them was unsatisfactory in their eyes – as I expected.

Though I didn’t have it with me at the time, and I doubt it would have made a difference; his Holiness Benedict XVI wrote an essay titled ‘The Church on the Threshold of the New Millenium’ that was eventually published in a book of his works called: ‘Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith’ that contained a most full and robust explanation of why Holy Mother Church does what she does.

The Church is not there for her own sake.  She cannot be like an association that, in difficult circumstances, is simply trying to keep its head above water.  She has a task to perform for the world, for mankind.  The only reason she has to survive is because her disappearance would drag humanity into the whirlpool of the eclipse of God and, thus, into the eclipse, indeed the destruction, of all that is human.  We are not fighting for our own survival; we know that we have been entrusted with a mission that lays upon us a responsibility for everyone.  That is why the Church has to measure herself, and be measured by others, by the extent to which the presence of God, the knowledge of him, and the acceptance of his will are alive within her.  A church that was merely an organization pursuing its own ends would be the caricature of a Church.

I was reminded of this the other day when another person told me that she was thankful for the new pope; ‘his attitude seems to be more accommodating, more live and let live’ she said.  That with Pope Francis there wouldn’t be this rush to judgment and aggressive agenda against those who feel differently.  From other comments she said it was obvious she was reading the mainstream press’ selected quotes from Pope Francis.  I pointed out that it is only in his personality, his style of delivery, that he is different from Benedict XIV, the content remains the same.  I explained that she would know this if she just read more fully what both great men have written and said, instead of just taking filtered quotes.  I then read her an excerpt from the first homily given by the new pope and she was surprised.

We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. … When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

Not willing to give up her opinions of Pope Francis and Benedict XVI she mentioned Pope Francis’ comments to the press about homosexuality while flying back from World Youth Day; that we should just allow them to live their lives as they want.  I then pulled out the transcript of his comments (it is good to be near a computer when having these types of discussions).

Asked by a reporter:
‘I would like permission to ask a delicate question: another image that has been going around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his private life.  I would like to know, Your Holiness, what you intend to do about this?  How are you confronting this issue and how does Your Holiness intend to confront the whole question of the gay lobby?’

His answer concluded with:
In this case, I conducted the preliminary investigation and we didn’t find anything.  This is the first question.  Then, you spoke about the gay lobby.  So much is written about the gay lobby.  I still haven’t found anyone with an identity card in the Vatican with “gay” on it.  They say there are some there.  I believe that when you are dealing with such a person, you must distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of someone forming a lobby, because not all lobbies are good.  This one is not good.  If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?    The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another, and there is this one and there is that one.  The problem is in making a lobby of this tendency: a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of masons, so many lobbies.  For me, this is the greater problem.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the message is clear, we are to proclaim the Gospel, in season and out.  If we do not – we fail in the mission given to us by our Lord and Savior.  Those who look at us as just another political faction trying to get the upper hand fail to understand both the intent and energy that drives us.  We love everyone, we don’t defeat anyone.  It is through love, Love himself, that we view the world, and help those who need it.  We hold no ideological political battle flag, we raise up the wood of the cross.  We proclaim the Gospel.  If people around us try to legitimize (socially, politically, legally) something contra to the Gospel we stand our ground and speak our piece.  But, nowhere do we attack a person.  We are not called to embrace error and allow it to continue, love calls us to another path.  We help, we point out, we discuss; we bring the Gospel message to those people.

This is has always been the path of a Christian, though we may fail in following it.  But part of this path is to know our faith, understand what our shepherds are saying, and to do this we need to go to the source, their own words, unfiltered.  You will be amazed at how similar the message is, regardless of the style in which it is delivered.

Sanctification of Families

First Monthly First-Friday Eucharistic Vigil for the Sanctification of Families held on:11/1/2013 (Solemnity of All Saints)
We come together this evening and throughout the night to hold vigil for the sanctification of families.  We look for help in achieving this.

We are not guaranteed success from the world; indeed with increasing pressure society is subverting the definition of family and throwing obstacles in the way of those who hold to God’s definition of family.  No, we can never assume to be supported and strengthened by the world for the prince of the world, Satan, is too strong.

But we can count on the support of God Himself, through Christ His Son; through Christ’s bride the Church; through each other – faithful members of the Mystical Body. God has given us Himself to strengthen our resolve; to heal our wounds; to protect our mission.  He has given us the witness of the Saints, who we just celebrated; by their examples we can learn how to persevere and by their prayers we are supported.

In fact, God trusts in us to be the light and leaven in this sin darkened world.  He counts on us to proclaim His Gospel.  We are to be the support of all those who hunger, who desire, for God’s plan.  By the witness of our families and by our proclamation of Truth we offer to them a choice: the chaotic subjective styles that society fleetingly follows, or the solid, stable, eternal plan that brings peace and joy.  We are confident that this choice is obvious, and we are secure in the knowledge that, given a true and honest chance, society will find this peace and joy.

But, as disciples we know that we follow our Lord and we carry His cross with our own cross. Nothing will be easy, but that is why He walks with us.  That is why the need for prayer and sacrifice are so important.  Tonight, we start with both: prayer and sacrifice.  We come in front of our Lord. We kneel in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament to pray for the sanctification of families, especially our own.  We offer our time and sleep as a sacrifice for the failures society’s and our own in achieving this goal.  And we won’t stop, every first Friday we will come here and do the same, pray and sacrifice in front of Jesus who gave himself for everyone.

May God bless our actions – our prayers and sacrifices – by helping us strengthen our families and those around us.

Fall Restlessness

In a talk at the General Chapter of the Augustinians the Holy Father talked of restlessness.  He was commenting on St. Augustine’s famous quote from his autobiography Confessions: ‘You made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’  Though this meeting took place in late August, his comments seem to me so appropriate right now.  The fall, to me, brings a wanderlust into my being.  The changing of the weather, the color of the trees, the obvious effects of time seem to make me want to go out and wander.  Fall brings a restlessness into me, I want to see what else it out there.  I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t also the knowledge of my life flowing past me, the natural course of our time in this reality. But mixed with this restlessness is an uneasiness about the unknown future and the desire to have a solid base on which to rest – I want to be safe and want to know that I will always be safe.

The Holy Father said of St. Augustine: ‘it was this very restlessness in his heart which brought him to a personal encounter with Christ, brought him to understand that the remote God he was seeking was the God who is close to every human being, the God close to our heart, who was ‘more inward than my innermost self’

It is so easy to go outward and search what is over the next hill. Though it may seem like a journey of exploration, one that will satiate the wanderlust we feel, it is also an escape from the ultimate exploration: God and each of us.  To turn inward, as St. Augustine finally realized, was the greatest of journeys.  To turn ourselves within and search the God of our true happiness was and is, the true exploration that we are made for.  It isn’t easy; to do so we need to get to the truth about ourselves, the absolute truth of who we are – without our self-created blinders and filters, for that is where we will find God.  We probably won’t like what we see, but this is who God knows us as, and in spite of this He is willing to reside there, to wait for us to journey to Him and to acknowledge how much we need Him.  He, in turn, will then lead us, the real us, into His peace; help us become restful instead of restless – or as so beautifully proclaimed in one of the Communion Antiphons for today: ‘You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, O Lord.