Saturday, April 03, 2021

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 34

 

                              ALREADY IN ROME: CHRIST IS RISEN! GLORIFY HIM!

Easter, for Christians is a celebration in and with faith, for others, in many countries, it is merely a long holiday weekend. For the second time in this pandemic, it is understandable that the vast majority of people are exhausted. The physical and mental stress of lockdowns and isolation, isolation especially from family, while particularly hard on the elderly, are compounded by the increase of mental illness, domestic violence, racism, and the seemingly unending, relentless tsunami of covid, ye or nay conspiracy theories, ye or nay vaccine arguments; then there is the proliferation of demonstrations, some violent, against government imposed restrictions on daily life, including the assault on religious practice through restrictive measures and in some countries using the pandemic as an excuse to enact laws which restrict freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

It is as if for more than a year we have been living and wandering in desert darkness.

In his General Audience address, before the Triduum, Pope Francis reminded us: Ever since Jesus took upon himself the wounds of humanity and death itself, God’s love has irrigated these deserts of ours, he has enlightened our darkness. Because the world is in darkness. Let us make a list of all the wars that are being fought in this moment; of all the children who die of hunger; of children who have no education; of entire populations destroyed by wars, by terrorism. Of the many, many people who, just to feel a bit better, need drugs, the drug industry that kills … It is a disaster, it is a desert! There are small “islands” of the people of God, both Christian and of all other faiths, that hold in their heart the desire to be better. But let us tell the truth: in this Calvary of death, it is Jesus who suffers in his disciples. During his ministry, the Son of God disseminated life by the handful, healing, forgiving, reviving… Now, in the hour of his supreme Sacrifice on the cross, he brings to fulfilment the task entrusted to him by the Father: he enters into the abyss of suffering, he enters into these disasters of this world, to redeem and transform. And also to free every one of us from the power of darkness, of pride, of resistance to being loved by God. And this, only God’s love can do this. By his wounds we have been healed (see 1 Pt 2: 24), the apostle Peter says, by his death we have been reborn, all of us. And thanks to him, abandoned on the cross, no-one will ever again be alone in the darkness of death. Never, he is always beside us: we need only open our heart and let ourselves be looked upon by him. [1]

If during this pandemic we allow ourselves to pay more attention to the cacophony of news and social media, go down and linger in rabbit-holes of conspiracies, or bend towards ourselves ceaselessly lamenting all that is happening in the world, thus being emotionally so stressed that our faith, our prayer lives, like water run through our fingers, shattering like glass on the ground. This because we deliberately or inadvertently listen to that black hyena, satan, who whispers the lie to us that we must take care of ourselves, cherry pick ‘truth’, trust no one, not even God for clearly, look around, He has abandoned us.

Lie, lie, lie!

The first step to easing the emotional, physical, spiritual stress of these days is to forget self, stand up, raise our eyes, look to Jesus on the Cross, our Lover and Redeemer, keeping vigil until His death and then to go, lay our heads against the stone rolled over the entrance of His tomb and wait!

Even if in forgetting self we can’t go physically to meet and comfort someone else we can phone, text, skype, write a letter. Most importantly since our brothers and sisters are suffering all over the world: in hospitals, old age homes, prisons, labour camps, migrant camps, in places of war and hunger, homeless in back alleys or shelters, we can follow the urging of St. Theodore the Studite: We should pray and lament for the world……should not be concerned just with ourselves, but also lament and pray for the whole world. [2]

We, as people of faith, should ask the Holy Trinity, these days of such suffering in the human family, to accept our acts of faith and fidelity to Christ and the Holy Gospel, from our loving hearts, as proxy for the whole human family, as theirs.

Roman Catholics and Orthodox embrace with joy the truth Christ remains with us: loving, glorified, in the Holy Eucharist and each time we receive Jesus in Holy Communion we are loved, vivified, glorified as salt of the earth and light in this darkness. Love, His love pouring out from our hearts is more powerful and real than any darkness, hate, discouragement, if we truly love everyone as He loves us.

Light: the whole universe breathes light because it is the indivisible syllable of Light that from the beginning has spoken the universe itself into life. Light: more than ordinary air, a synonym for blood, the secret face of love…..Somewhere, sometime, Easter happened in you, even if it was only the moment of your conception. Somewhere, the light shone in you, and your heart know that this light is your life. Your heart know that if you keep looking, you will see the face of Light, and hear His voice speak your name. Then you will live because you have heard the voice of love. Then as you name the one who is the glory of love made visible, you will see light everywhere. It will be Easter. Always……….Light everywhere. “I will be with you all days, even until the end of the world” (Matt.28:20)………..Light everywhere. Light: Jesus the Christ risen from the dead. [3]

[1] https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2021/documents/papa-francesco_20210331_udienza-generale.html

italics are mine

[2] PENTOS, The Doctrine of Compunction in the Christian East; Irenee Hasher, SJ; pp.42,43; Cistercian Publications, 1982   italics are mine

[3] CIRCLING THE SUN; Meditations on Christ in Liturgy and Time; Robert D. Pelton; pp. 85 & 89; The Pastoral Press, 1986 [out of print] italics are mine

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

Monday, March 15, 2021

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 9

 

There is a foundational aspect to the line of the Little Mandate [1] Love…..love…..love, never counting the cost., we will now reflect upon for it is rooted in both the Great Commandment  [Mt. 22:35-40; Mk. 12:28-34; Lk. 10:27] and in Jesus’ further teaching on love: “…. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” [Jn. 13:34,35]

In some respects, love is a translucent reality, with a type of fragility about it because we are emotional beings, prone to misunderstandings and snap judgements if we experience other failing to respond to us the way we truly need or simply want.

In other respects, love, not the emotional aspect but the cause of our existence, the purpose of our lives, in a most sacred way through baptism, is a foundational reality.

Love and pain are inseparable as constitutive of our lives because while we hunger, and rightly so, to be beloved, and we are because Love Himself, the Holy Trinity, has created us as beloved persons, we keep tripping over the complex aspects of ‘human’ love: eros and philos, and the challenges of living out, by first accepting it, agape.

Eros is highly emotional and physical as it is romantic love, but often the love aspect gets trampled on by sheer lust and becomes demanding ‘love’, which is not authentic love at all. Philos is mostly authentic love of deep friendships, a treasured experience in anyone’s life and while it too can become demanding of other, usually is mutually kind and somewhat selfless.

Only agape, because it is the love of God poured into us, unconditionally, and the way we are called to love one another and self, is the experience of the pure reality of love, which love is always self-gift without any insistence that we be beloved from other in return.

Unfortunately, it is only in the Greek that Jesus’s triple ask of Peter if he loves Jesus is clear, so here the Greek is inserted in italics: When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you agape Me more than these? He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I philos You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you agape Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I philos You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you agape Me?” Peter was distressed that He had said to him a third time, “Do you agape Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I philos You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. [Jn.21:15-17]

By the time the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles Peter would grow from philos love to agape love to the point of that no greater agape than to embrace martyrdom for Christ.

The commandment laid down in the New Testament demands from man love for others, for his neighbours – in the fullest sense, then, love for persons. For God, whom the commandment to

love names first, is the most perfect personal Being. [2] Within the agape of sacramental marriage the desire and act of eros – if self-gift dominates all aspects of the desire and act – becomes purified of lust and thus the marriage bed becomes a type of altar where the self-sacrifice of spousal self-gift is offered as holy oblation.

Aided by the Most Holy Spirit we can not only love others and self as Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit love us, unconditionally, but also embrace the struggle and cross of loving without counting the cost. No easy task that, but it is when we forego counting the cost that the emotional component is purified and loving, that is agape-unconditional-self giving to other loving, becomes true joy, joy whose origin is the Holy Spirit’s gift to us.

The key to the grace, indeed the mystery, of actually loving as Christ does, without counting the cost, is to take up, as faithful disciples of Christ, our shared carrying of His Cross, that is to carry our cross of which the transverse beam is our very selves, the beam which stretches from horizon of our birth to horizon of our earthly death, pierces through the veil between time and eternity,  and the upright beam, divine ladder which enables us to move upward from being, as it were, planted on the earth, through every stages of our life, the lives of the human family whom we love, serve, pray for, right to were we are stretched out, crucified, face to face, eye to eye with the Crucified One Himself, Our Beloved, in whose arms we shall die and be lifted up with Him, by Him, through Him, into the heart of the Holy Trinity.

One way to understand this, appreciate it with joy and trust, is to stand contemplating Jesus on the Cross, arms outstretched, cruciform.

This is the month of March, traditionally, as is each Wednesday, dedicated to St. Joseph, whom Pope Francis speaks eloquently about in PATRIS CORDE [3], and therein gives us examples of loving without counting the cost we can surely imitate as we strive to live out the LITTLE MANDATE.

Pope Francis begins by asserting St. Joseph loved WITH A FATHER’S HEART…….that he had courage to become Jesus’ legal father, indeed St. John Paul calls St. Joseph the Custodian, thus the protector, of the Redeemer.

The following are words by Pope Francis about St. Joseph revealing how St. Joseph is the model of loving authentically, like Christ, like Our Blessed Mother, without counting the cost:…..He turned his vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart, and all his abilities……Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, His history and His plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that He can work even through our fears, our frailties, our weaknesses…..In every situation, Joseph declared his own “fiat”, like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane…… We should always consider whether we ourselves are protecting Jesus and Mary, for they are also mysteriously entrusted to our own responsibility, care and safekeeping. The Son of the Almighty came into our world in a state of great vulnerability. He needed to be defended, protected, cared for and raised by Joseph. God trusted Joseph, as did Mary, who found in him someone who would not only save her life, but would always provide for her and her child. In this sense, Saint Joseph could not be other than the Guardian of the Church, for the Church is the continuation of the Body of Christ in history, even as Mary’s motherhood is reflected in the motherhood of the Church. In his continued protection of the Church, Joseph continues to protect the child and his mother, and we too, by our love for the Church, continue to love the child and his mother…..Joseph acted as a father for his whole life. Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person……Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. In him, we never see frustration but only trust. His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust. Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction. Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood and consecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity. Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice; were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration…..We need only ask Saint Joseph for the grace of graces: our conversion.

Let us now make our prayer to him: Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.

 

[1] http://www.madonnahouse.org/mandate/

[2] LOVE AND RESPONSIBILITY, Karol Wojtyla [John Paul II]; p.40; William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, 1981 ~ italics are mine

[3] http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20201208_patris-corde.html       Italics are mine

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

Saturday, March 06, 2021

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 33

 

HOPE is a word often uttered as casually as asking someone ‘how are you?’ The interlocutor is not seeking a detailed list of how one is doing, rather it is a type of casual and somewhat sincere greeting. So, saying to someone we hope everything is going well for them is of the same ilk.

Far from its use referencing a gift of the Holy Spirit, the word hope for many simply means expectation of something material such as hoping for a raise at work or fine weather to go skiing, or that our favourite team will win the game.

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts……[1]

It is precisely because the Church, and all Her baptized members, are endowed with the virtue of hope at Baptism that every hope of every human being, no matter what is actually contained in those hopes, are taken into the heart of the Church, the hearts of all Christians.

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." "The Holy Spirit . . . poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life." The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity……..Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus' preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the "hope that does not disappoint." Hope is the "sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . . that enters . . . where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf." Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: "Let us . . . put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation." It affords us joy even under trial: "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation." Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire. [2]

Like all gifts of the Holy Spirit hope is offered, not imposed. We must accept and live rooted in all His gifts, such as the gift of hope, which can be a tough thing to do in this seemingly unending pandemic and the stress of lives turned upside down, not merely because of the virus but the sheer unceasing pressure of government edicts about masks, social distancing, the outright closing of places of worship or restricting how many people can attend and interfering with aspects of the Liturgy such as distribution of the Precious Blood.

There is both a graced and emotional component to hope: joy!

Here too it is a choice. If we obsess about the latest news, from whatever source, about the pandemic stats, the arguments about the vaccines, or focus too much on isolation, how food and everything we need keeps increasing in price, then the very size of our self pity swimming pool where we hold, all alone, self pity parties, will sap away our strength to live, to hope, to keep our gaze on Christ our hope who loves us so.

Granted it may be these days we only see the eyes of another above the compulsory masks, or see their actual beautiful faces via video chats, in all cases the truth is we actually see, in every human face, the beautiful Holy Face of Christ and His eyes burning with the fire of His love for us. Indeed: It is only in the eyes of another, in the face of another, that we can find the icon or image of Christ. There are many ways of praising God, many ways of praying to Him, many ways of searching for Him. But today there is one great way, one profound way, one gentle, tender, and compassionate way. It is by a person-to-person love…..[3]

Spiritual warfare is the moment by moment reality of life, and in this pandemic it is intense and may well be felt as simply too much on top of all the impact of the pandemic. This is what satan wants us to think so that we will bend towards ourselves, abandon hope, faith and trust in the God who loves us, redeems us, strengthens us, is Himself our hope, dwells with us every step of the way on our pilgrimage to Him from whom we originate.

Yes it is reasonable, even necessary, we pray for an end to this pandemic scourge. Our Elder Brothers and Sisters in faith, the Jewish people, struggled on the long journey of forty years in the desert and during the Holocaust as well. Surely in both instances some gave into despair, some felt God had abandoned them, but those who kept faith, continued to hope, reached the Promised Land in the first instance, and in the latter were alive when the camps were liberated.

In the first centuries of the Christian era our ancestors were martyred by the thousands, as has happened across the millennia to this day, in the death camps of WWII, the Russian Gulag, the modern concentration camps of today, and we are also persecuted not by blood but in various nefarious means by leftist governments and media.

This is what is means to be faithful disciples of Christ: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”  [Jn. 15: 18-20]

St. John Paul II reminded us that: “Christ, Crucified and Risen, is our only true hope.”

No vaccines, changes of government, economies, etc., etc., can give true hope, only Christ. Our

loving task, through prayer, word, gesture, is to radiate Christ to everyone so that in the darkness of this pandemic everyone, in the Light of Christ, has true hope.

[1] Gaudium et Spes, # 1 ~ italics are mine

https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, paras: 1817, 1818, 1820 ~ italics are mine

https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P66.HTM

[3] LIVING THE GOSPEL WITHOUT COMPROMISE, Catherine Doherty; p. 17; Madonna House Publications, 2002 edition, italics are mine.

 

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Monday, February 22, 2021

ST. JOHN 12:29~36

 

We have entered the season of Holy Lent, the second such during the pandemic, which in itself provides opportunities for sacrifice: adhering to public health guidelines as an act of charity towards others, and appropriate love of self in doing what we can to protect ourselves from being infected. It is a strain, which we can unite with the extreme stress Jesus endured as He moved ever closer to His Passion and Death.

St. John, in noting the reaction of the crowd who heard the voice of the Father speaking to Jesus and through Jesus to the people, reveals two examples of how human beings witnessing an event can experience the event dramatically differently: Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” [v.29]

Some commentators see the first group as lacking faith, the other group has having a little faith. Perhaps. It is Jesus Himself who makes things clear: Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for My sake but for yours.” [v.30] Whenever we hear the voice of the Father here or in the Synoptics it is the voice of Love Himself for us, the very voice which speaks in Genesis and throughout the Old Testament, and always when we hear the voice of the Father, the voice of Jesus we also hear the voice of the Holy Spirit for all love, all grace, all mercy lavished upon us, spoken to us, is Trinitarian.

The voice of the Father had come to Him on two other occasions when His mission to the Cross was foremost: at His baptism, when He appeared as the Lamb of God to be sacrificed for sin; at His Transfiguration, when He spoke of his death to Moses and Elijah while bathed in radiant glory……In each of the three manifestations of the Father, Our Lord was in prayer to His Father, and His sufferings were predominantly before Him. On this occasion, it was the effects of His ransoming death that were proclaimed. [1]

This close to His Passion we hear in His words, as Jesus continues to teach, an urgency, the urgency of Love for those to whom He speaks in this moment for each of us, such is the inexhaustible fire of His love for us: “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death He would die.” [vs. 31-33]

How is it then that satan, driven out of the world is still active? How is it that Jesus having drawn everyone across the millennia, this very day, and until the end of time, so many still refuse to believe, or have abandoned the faith they once had?

Simply because the Holy Trinity offers love, offers salvation, but never imposes, never takes away our free will, but always offers and offers the grace, as needed, for us to repent and begin again, for it is we humans, by our choices, who invite satan back into the world, we are the persons who, when we sin, turn our backs on Christ.

So the crowd answered Him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. Then how can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man? [v.34]

While Christians, who meditate upon the Holy Gospel, or at least are attentive to the Sacred Scriptures proclaimed during Sunday liturgies, know the answer to the questions posed by the crowd, they had only the Hebrew Scriptures, what we Christians call the Old Testament, to rely upon. Nonetheless it is both interesting and poignant the longing wrapped up in their questions.

Jesus said to them, “The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light.” [v.35,36]

People who live in modern cities, towns, villages have little experience of walking in the absence of light, unless perhaps camping in the bush, though even there total darkness is rarely experienced because of the light of the moon and the stars.

Enter a deep cave in a mountain side, turn off any manmade source of light and the darkness is total, so much so even holding our own hands so close to our eyes, perhaps even touching them, the thick darkness prevents our eyes ability to discern palm or fingers.

Jesus’ words point beyond our external experiences of light and darkness.

It is a matter of the heart, soul, mind.

It is therefore a matter of choice, choice to be people of faith or not.

The key is Jesus urging us to believe in the light – and He is LIGHT – or not, to choose to be, as He says, children of the light, not children of darkness.

Before St. John tells us the crowd’s reaction, he ends verse 36 with words that are stark in their brevity: These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.

Note it is not that Jesus goes into hiding, rather than He is hidden from the crowd.

No one can see Jesus, our Light, if we choose not to believe that is to choose a blindness of mind, heart and soul, a more devastating blindness than loss of physical sight.

 

 

 

[1] LIFE OF CHRIST; Fulton Sheen; pp. 268,269; Image Books, 1990 ~italics are mine.

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 8

                    

 The line in the Little Mandate [1] being reflected upon here is: Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.

The key words in this line are: little, exceedingly, love.

One example of a ‘little thing’ is our ability to smile, and how we smile at someone: tight lipped, a type of reluctant smile, if it can really be called a smile, or a broader smile, obvious in its movement, radiating joy and love. A little thing when it is a real smile is done, gifted, exceedingly well for love of Jesus within the other.

We live in a time in history when doing big seems to occupy many of our brothers and sisters.

Everyone’s definition of a big thing or a big deal is personal, likewise for what is considered a little thing.

It would be audacious here to codify what constitutes either big or little for someone else.

That said, little things we might do are things most people would not notice we have done, or perhaps not even notice they need doing. To do little things is, since in a sense they are hidden, a wonderful way to love Jesus sort of in secret.

There are countless, and important ways and things to do witnessing to our love for Jesus that are by necessity not hidden, or barely hidden, such as giving what we can to a homeless person begging or volunteering in a soup kitchen or a hospice, participating in Sunday Mass and other aspects of the life of the parish, and in these days of the pandemic and lockdown isolation, particularly stressful on the elderly and people who live alone, a phone call is both a little thing and a big deal for the person comforted by the sound of a human voice that cares.

Each of us, and if we are not sure then we can ask Our Lady to show us, can discern the little things that need doing within our homes, for example.

Often, we don’t do them because we believe they are someone else’s job!

The neat thing about doing little things, in particular when perhaps they are indeed someone else’s job, is they bring us joy, when done exceedingly well for love of others, which is love for Jesus, that joy intensifies!

 

1] http://www.madonnahouse.org/mandate/

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

  

Thursday, February 11, 2021

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 32

 

The ambient temperature this morning in this city was minus 32 and the windchill was minus 40. The cause is the polar vortex, and it has lingered for days, is forecast to linger days more, with things dropping during the night between minus 40 to minus 50 and this vortex is reaching deep into the United States as well.

Being homeless is difficult in the warmer weather of late spring to early fall, in winter being homeless is brutal, dangerous and at times our homeless brothers and sisters risk freezing to death. No matter the weather in these days of mask wearing, social distancing, lockdowns, the homeless do not have the means to do any of that. Shelters are not designed for social distancing, or any of the other rules put in place in most of the world’s countries, besides vulnerability to the vagaries of weather our homeless brothers and sisters are vulnerable to this pernicious virus.

Every homeless person, whatever their age right now, however they came to be homeless, each was a child, born into this time in human history. Some may well have grown up in a loving family, others not. Most, until whatever happened, quickly or by degrees that they are now homeless, had dreams, plans, ideas, hopes, as children, as teenagers, about where their own path in life would lead.

To be homeless is a word painful in its very utterance for it means to be without. Without a home. Note we never say of our brothers and sisters they are ‘house-less’! Home implies more than shelter in the physical structure of a house. Home is the reality of love dwelling within: spousal love, parental love, sibling love, meant to flow from the previous generations to the current generation, to generations yet to be born.

It is family which makes ‘home’ the normative reality. It matters not if the structure is a palace, a mansion, ordinary house, a shack, even a tent in a refugee camp. What matters is the love dwelling within, the love which places spouse, parent, child, sibling before self, as Christ does for us for He dwells within us, transforming our bodies from structure into the home wherein He, the Father, the Holy Spirit delight to dwell.

Without getting into the raging debates about this pandemic, pro and con, how governments are responding to it all, rightly or wrongly, it is critical we be aware of the impact in these continuing days of the fog and shadows of the pandemic, on the family and family life.

Family is the foundational bedrock of civilization: first school of love, faith, hope, trust, and all that is authentically human, from art to zoology and everything in between, originates in the heart of the family.

No family is perfect or without conflict, hurt, disappointment, grief, for we all know that as human beings we have weaknesses and inner struggles which impact all familial relationships, sometimes even rupturing the cohesion of the family.

It is perhaps a harsh reality to accept that ever since Cain slew his brother the human family, individual families, the entire human family, the family of nations – except for the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – has been dysfunctional. Even the most cursory glance any day of the week at international, national, local news reveals this dysfunction, often times on a horrific scale when it comes to violence and hatreds within the human family and, tragically, within individual families. The political, economic, lockdowns and other aspects of this pandemic means both international, national and individual families are under extreme stress.

Often times, because we as individuals cannot control world events of any type, there is a very real danger of turning this frustration inward and taking it out upon members of our own immediate family.

Satan is active in the swamp of frustration, the desire we have to be in control, if not of the world or our own government then of some individual in, or our entire, family. Satan’s goal in all that is to disrupt, destroy, authentic love at every level and in ever aspect of human life, individual, familial, global.

In 1994 St. John Paul wrote a letter to families in which, towards the end, he teaches: I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every fatherhood and motherhood is named, "that he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man" (Eph 3:16). I willingly return to these words of the Apostle, which I mentioned in the first part of this Letter. In a certain sense they are pivotal words. The family, fatherhood and motherhood all go together. The family is the first human setting in which is formed that "inner man" of which the Apostle speaks. The growth of the inner man in strength and vigour is a gift of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. [1]

For the above to come about, by grace ardently asked for, the “I am third” [God first, my neighbour second, I am third] principle applies, for our proximate neighbour is right before us in our own family: Grandparents place their children, their children’s spouses and their children, the grandchildren, in that second place, spouses likewise for each other, for their own parents, now elderly and very much needing family still, and the children for their parents, siblings, grandparents, must also love likewise.

The hope for our nations, for all the nations of the world, lies in this familial communion of love. Yes, it demands humility, selflessness, loving and forgiving hearts. Given that we are weak human beings we may well have to begin to build this familial communion of love anew each morning, which is why it is critical we never go to sleep with anger in our hearts towards anyone, not even towards self or God.

The following wisdom applies to each of us, to our ‘I am third’ baptismal vocation within our individual families and as persons within the human family: Many around us, in fact the whole of humanity, are struggling to find their way through a terrible mist. We must dedicate our lives to building bridges of hope which will lead them to God, who is their supreme goal, everlasting love, and total fulfillment. In Him, no one is estranged from one another, and we are all brothers and sisters. [2a] The secret to understanding events in our world is very simple. Use the Gospel to nourish your soul. Once you are united with Christ, you will share in His Spirit which leads you to ask, “How does God look at the world?” The answer is at the center of our faith: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) [2]

Each of us needs to look deeply into our hearts in front of the members of our own family and the entire human family and ask: Am I loving them as the Holy Trinity loves me?

 

1] http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/letters/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_02021994_families.html   para. 23

2a & 2b] THE ROAD TO HOPE, a gospel from prison; Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan; pp. 161/162 & 166; Wellspring 2018

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

 

Friday, February 05, 2021

ST. JOHN 12:26-28

 

                                                               

Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, there also will My servant be. The Father will honour whoever serves Me. [v.26]

One of the striking things about Jesus’ love for us is how often He includes in His teaching fidelity to Him encapsulates promise: promise of intimacy with He the Divine Lover, thus through Him with our Beloved Abba and the Beloved Holy Spirit: And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be. [14:3]; Father, they are Your gift to Me. I wish that where I am they also may be with Me, that they may see My glory that you gave Me, because You loved Me before the foundation of the world. [17:24] [see also: Mt. 16:24; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:23]

Love has created us to be beloved and to love the Holy Trinity in return through loving one another and ourselves, that is to rejoice that we are, others are, human beings in the image and likeness of God who is Love.

Suddenly, as if wrenched from His Heart, so filled with love for us, with such divine fire of love that fire makes the core of the sun cold as ice in comparison, Jesus states: “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” [v.27]

No longer the expression: “My hour has not yet come.”, now it IS this hour. In St. John, the Synoptics and in Hebrews we see both Jesus’ love for and obedience to the Father and the absolute agony in His Heart, and in His body: the price of our redemption is His suffering and death. [cf. Jn. 6:38; 18:11; Mt. 26: 38,39; Mk. 14: 34-36; Lk. 22:43; Heb. 5:7-8] While we may, should, have empathy for anyone we see suffering, and Jesus sees all of our suffering, the weight of our sins and the way they wound us, compounding our sufferings, He sees us – you and me and everyone – not as an amorphous collective but as the beloved individuals we are: His, the Father’s, the Holy Spirit’s Beloved and He sees too that not every human being, from Adam to the last person to be given breath of life, accepts this love, nor accepts redemption.

This latter, the rejection of love and redemption, makes His suffering acute for the very purpose of His Passion and Death, is to redeem, heal, for He is Divine Mercy.

All of us have experienced at some point in our lives the rejection of our pro-offered love, an offer to help someone we love. It hurts that rejection; it burns and gashes the heart.

Every sin is just such rejection, of Christ Himself in the other and gashes the Heart of Jesus, whose infinite of infinite redeeming love for us is greater than out capacity for sin. He pays the price, through His Passion and death for our redemption from sin, renewed in the gift of the Sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation, that we might be converted again and need not be lost in our sin nor cut off from His love, if we repent and try anew to live lives that are loving, peaceful and without sin.

“Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” [v. 28]

The Father glorified His Name through Christ’s Incarnation, Nativity, Passion, Death and Resurrection, for Jesus is the face of God in the flesh. This is made manifest powerfully at Jesus’ baptism, a Trinitarian moment when Jesus, taking all our sin upon Himself, emerges from the water and: After Jesus was baptized, He came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove coming upon Him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” [Mt. 3:16,17] On coming up out of the water He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” [Mk. 1:10,11] After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” [Lk. 3:21,22] and St. John notes about the wedding feast at Cana and the changing by Jesus of water into wine: Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him. [Jn.2:11]

Jesus himself is the presence of the living God. God and man, God and the world, touch one another in him………In his self-offering on the Cross, Jesus, as it were, brings all the sin of the world deep within the love of God, and wipes it away. Accepting the Cross, entering into fellowship with Christ, means entering the realm of transformation and expiation. [1]

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [1 Cor. 1:18]

Discipleship is to be one with Christ in the Garden, on the Cross, in the Tomb that when the day comes, and through the portal of death we are taken up into the heart of the Trinity, this is to be one with Christ in His Glorious Resurrection.

 

 

[1] JESUS of Nazareth; HOLY WEEK: from the entrance to Jerusalem to the Resurrection; p.40; Joseph Ratzinger Pope Benedict XVI; Ignatius Press 2012

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph