Wednesday, January 13, 2021

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 7

 

            

Lockdowns, partial and about as far as they can get, lockdowns lifted, briefly, imposed again, time and time again such that time, in this pandemic, has become an odd, uncertain experience, divorced from the rhythm of life before all this began.

Some places around the world have instituted curfews, taking away those remaining hours when one might have strolled with family or friends, gone for an after-work bike right, skate, play hockey with friends. Another disruption of time as we had experienced it.

This evil virus has indeed run amuck. It is as invisible as it is persistent. It’s impact is the visible in the lives of our brothers and sisters who contract it, become ill or die; upon the overworked doctors, nurses, EMTS and other caregivers; the general destruction of what used to be ‘normal’ in most of daily life; most damaging of all are the restrictions on communities of faith: in some places outright closure of places of worship.

Living with all the physical, economic, emotional, spiritual impact of this pandemic, time for many has become amorphous. Yet this is not so in reality, for time, is rather a gift, given to each of us in the exact measure needed for us to become saints. True we may experience time in a variety of ways, not even as a delightful gift given us by Our Beloved Father, but as a burden.  Many teenagers experience time as slow because they are, often, in a rush, while elderly often experience time as moving too quickly. When anxious for human contact in this isolation, and an affirming word from those we love, emotionally our inner voice may scream ‘they never call’, translation: ‘they don’t care’. Even more painful is when God seems to take His time, lots of it, before answering our prayer and here it is the voice of satan who hisses God doesn’t care.

Listening to our inner raw emotional voice, worse to the hissing liar satan, is to waste the precious and holy gift of time.

St. John Paul II teaches about time: In Christianity time has a fundamental importance. Within the dimension of time the world was created; within it the history of salvation unfolds, finding its culmination in the "fullness of time" of the Incarnation, and its goal in the glorious return of the Son of God at the end of time. In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, time becomes a dimension of God, who is himself eternal. With the coming of Christ there begin "the last days" (cf. Heb 1:2), the "last hour" (cf. 1 Jn 2:18), and the time of the Church, which will last until the Parousia. From this relationship of God with time there arises the duty to sanctify time. This is done, for example, when individual times, days or weeks, are dedicated to God, as once happened in the religion of the Old Covenant, and as happens still, though in a new way, in Christianity. In the liturgy of the Easter Vigil the celebrant, as he blesses the candle which symbolizes the Risen Christ, proclaims: "Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him, and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age for ever". He says these words as he inscribes on the candle the numerals of the current year. The meaning of this rite is clear: it emphasizes the fact that Christ is the Lord of time; he is its beginning and its end; every year, every day and every moment are embraced by his Incarnation and Resurrection, and thus become part of the "fullness of time". [1]

That is the context, the true experience of time in these days, remembering as we pray in the Preface of the 1st Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation: Never did You turn away from us and, though time and again we have broken Your covenant, You have bound the human family to Yourself through Jesus Your Son, our Redeemer, with a new bond of love, so tight it can never be undone. [2]

It is within the above reality we have come to the lines in the Little Mandate: Preach the Gospel with your life – without compromise! Listen to the Spirit. He will lead you.

Before speaking/preaching the Gospel to anyone it is essential we first plunge into the depths, not merely the word-text, but the depths of the Gospel, contemplating, and being attentive to the primary teacher of the Gospel, the Most Holy Spirit who came upon Christ at His baptism in the Jordan, was with Jesus every step of the way from His Incarnation to His Ascension, then at Pentecost came upon the whole Church and comes to each of us in Baptism.

Thus, before we preach to others, filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, we will lead lives which radiate Christ, becoming less “I” and more Him until, like the Apostle, in truth we will no longer live but Christ truly lives in us. [Gal. 2:20]

To paraphrase St. Paul VI, we will discover very quickly negative reactions from people if we preach, indeed likely we will actually be preachy, before being living, radiant witnesses to Christ, seeing such light flowing from us people will indeed pause and be attentive to the proclaiming of the person and words of Christ.

Some may argue that’s all fine and dandy, but we are in lockdown, or bedridden in a hospital or nursing home, live alone, have a job, a family to care for, etc., etc. All true enough yet people see, know how we live, love, speak with others, whatever our day to day circumstances.

When we are offering our sufferings in our hearts to the Lord in union with Him, do our job, care in the many ways needed for our family, pray the Holy Rosary, participate in Holy Mass, even if in these trying times it is remotely via the internet, all this is preaching the Gospel with our lives, without compromise.

Remember that as Christians we are called to be apostles of the Good News continually, everywhere. We witness to Christ by our presence, by the way we sit, talk, eat. We evangelize at every second of the day and with each breath we take. [3]

 

 

1] http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19941110_tertio-millennio-adveniente.html  para.10

2] https://theeucharist.wordpress.com/index/appendix-of-eucharistic-prayers/eucharistic-prayer-of-reconciliation-i/    italics and underling are mine

3] LIVING THE GOSPEL WITHOUT COMPROMISE; p. 86; Catherine Doherty; Madonna House Publications, 2002

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Monday, January 11, 2021

ST. JOHN 12: 21-25

 

                                                       ST. JOHN 12: 21-25

It is now 2021!

We have entered the second year of the global covid pandemic which continues to surge and, as viruses do, is mutating.

The strain, on people’s faith and trust in God, among other stressors, has become intense.

These words from St. John Paul are a comfort: The reality of faith, of hope and of charity. The reality of suffering sanctified and sanctifying. The reality of the presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and His Church on earth: a presence particularly alive in that portion of the Church which consists of the sick and the suffering. [1] On this reality of the presence of Our Blessed Mother in these days of suffering and spiritual warfare Pope Francis reminds us: Monks of old recommended, in times of trail, that we take refuge beneath the mantle of the Holy Mother of God: calling upon Her as “Holy Mother of God” was already a guarantee of protection and help, this prayer over and again: “Holy Mother of God,” Holy Mother of God…..the Mother protects the faith, safeguards relationships, saves those in storms and preserves them from evil….Where our Mother is at home, the devil does not enter in. Where our Mother is present, turmoil does not prevail, fear does not conquer. [2]

The above from the two Pontiffs, as with the writings of the Fathers of the Church down to those of the Saints such as St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, even the great monastic rules of St. Benedict and St. Basil, the Canons and Prayers of Holy Mass/the Divine Liturgy, all are rooted in, trace back to, Sacred Scripture through immersion in Lectio Divina, in English: Divine Reading.

It is called divine reading because Sacred Scripture is not to be approached like reading any other text, our ‘reading’ should be prayerful, attentive, the source of inspiration for daily life.

The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body……. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently, these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: "For the word of God is living and active" (Heb. 4:12) and "it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thess. 2:13). [3]

Given the length of time since last a meditation was posted, best to begin with the last verse immersed in and continue from there.

Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast. [v. 20]

We owe much to the Greeks, such as the roots of philosophy. The Greeks were great searchers for answers to all life’s questions, hence they also sought for faith, exploring many religious traditions, seeking to appease their innumerable gods, and this led many to seek the knowledge faith in the One True God, many converting to Judaism. Some while believing in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did not embrace the fullness of Judaic practice. It was of these Greeks, known as proselytes, who approached Philip: They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. [vs. 21,22]

Jesus having previously told His disciples not to go to the Gentiles [cf. Mat. 10:5; 15L24], among whom were the Greeks, it is understandable Philip would have conferred with Andrew and they decided to approach Jesus on behalf of the Greeks. St. John does not indicate if then the Greeks were invited to speak with Jesus, however His words certainly are a powerful teaching for the Greeks, all others present, and for us in this immediate moment:  Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. [vs. 23,24]

So crucial are these words of Jesus regarding why He must die and what results from His death that the Synoptics quote it as well: (Mk 8:35; Mt 16:25; Lk 9:24; Mt 10:39; Lk 17:33).

We ourselves are plunged into the depths of this teaching through sacramental Baptism wherein we are plunged into Christ’s death and brought forth as a new being in His Holy Resurrection.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, there also will My servant be. The Father will honour whoever serves Me. [vs. 24, 25]

Here we have both an admonition and a promise.

The first is a warning that if we prioritize a life lived outside of union with and fidelity to Christ we may well die unrepentant and suffer the loss of the life we have been created for, an eternity of communion of love with and in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity, whereas if we prioritize a life of fidelity to Christ and live the Gospel with our lives, loving one another, therefore loving and serving Jesus in everyone, then indeed, in this and in eternal life as faithful servants of Christ we shall be with Him forever, this being the honour the Father will lavish upon us.

Commenting on the above passage Archbishop Fulton Sheen notes succinctly: No real good is ever done without some cost and pain to the doer. [4]

[1] PRAYERS AND DEVOTIONS, 365 daily meditations; Pope John Paul II; edited by Bishop Peter Canisius Johannes Van Lierde, o.s.a; pp.86,87; Viking, 1994

[2] POPE FRANCIS~REBUKUING THE DEVIL; p. 138; United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; 2019

[3] http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html  see chapter VI, para. 21

[4] LIFE OF CHRIST, Fulton Sheen; p. 267; Image Books, 1990

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 31

 




Over the years an oft read series of books by J.J.R. Tolkien, in particular the Lord of the Rings series, have been a comfort in trying times, as well as the films of those books.

Tolkien, who as born in the late 19th century and lived into the seventh decade of the 20th century, endured through, along with millions of others, the First World War, the Spanish flu pandemic, the Great Depression, the Second World War and the threat of global nuclear war which brought the whole human family to a knife’s edge in 1962 with the Cuban Missile crisis, when for all of us alive at that time we endured for more than a month not knowing from one day to the next if war would be upon us. Unlike the title often given, more in hope than in fact, about the First World War, that it was the one which would end all wars, certainly a nuclear war would have been just such, and likely depopulated the earth at the same time.

Because of Tolkien’s life experiences the one quote of his, acted powerfully, spoken with intense feeling in the film version of THE TWO TOWERS, [1] is this: Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

Today, in the shadows and darkness of this pandemic, many feel like Frodo, that this is too much to endure, this danger appears unending, weariness and discouragement are commonplace. Not everyone has a caring person to speak words of encouragement, not everyone has a Simon of Cyrene to help bear the cross of this pandemic in all its manifestations.

Everyone, believer or not, has the Holy Child Jesus, soon to be born anew among us, anew in the power and reality of Christmas. At the same time He has never left us, not a one of us, believer or not. For billions of Christians He dwells within us through Baptism, for non-believers He stands, tirelessly, at the door of their being, knocking at the door, asking permission – yes Jesus asks permission – to enter.

In the Roman Rite, in the Canon of the Mass, for eight days the Church proclaims THIS IS THE DAY! Not was but IS the day of Our Saviour’s birth.

In the depths of life on earth, in the collective and individual experience of this pandemic, in the midst of concentration and labour camps, on the fields of battle wherever there is civil war, in the tears and cries of the hungry, the homeless, in the midst of the caravans of refugees and immigrants, in the shadow-world of prisons, in hospitals, indeed in every human heart open to Him, He makes of such hearts His manger. At the door of every heart closed to Him Our Lady leaves Him at the door in a manger, waiting for the door to be open, the heart to welcome Him.

He is Love and born to love.

He is born in the depths of our fears, our discouragement, our need for courage to endure, our need for hope that this too will end and the light of a new day will dawn upon us.

He IS our hope, our light, our new day.

 

 

1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lord_of_the_Rings:_The_Two_Towers

 

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 


Monday, December 14, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 30

 

 Praying, for our entire human family that the very thick fog of this pandemic war, for fundamentally this is spiritual warfare, be dissipated by all Christ’s luminous beauty, His radiant Truth, His healing love, that we will invite Him to shine again in our hearts, filling our beings with His gifts of healing, peace, hope, it is well to also recall the instruction of St. Peter:

…..humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon Him because He cares for you. Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ Jesus will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To Him be dominion forever. Amen. [1Pt. 5:6-11]

Each moment of our personal life, the lives of those we love, the lives of every human being are gift, Love’s gift to us. This gift is so precious we can only know ourselves and others, through His gift to us of His Son who is always with us. Only in Christ can we if not understand all that happens in life, at least be able to persevere if we stand in the Light of Christ, with Him who helps us embrace all that the Heavenly Father permits, including this pandemic, for our ever-deeper union with Christ, who suffered and died for us, as the means by which the Holy Spirit comes to sanctify us.

Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. [Mk. 12:17]   Right now Caesar/governments are in various ways trying to protect public health and precisely because of those ways many people are angry and resisting. Loud voices stress infringement of human rights, which is a critical and moral thing to do, yet in the clamour we hear little about concurrent human responsibilities for the good of one another.

Political authorities are obliged to respect the fundamental rights of the human person. They will dispense justice humanely by respecting the rights of everyone, especially of families and the disadvantaged. The political rights attached to citizenship can and should be granted according to the requirements of the common good. They cannot be suspended by public authorities without legitimate and proportionate reasons. Political rights are meant to be exercised for the common good of the nation and the human community. Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts: "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution.... Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God." Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community. It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. the love and service of one's country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community. [1]

We are on the front lines of the current spiritual warfare, a major stressor as we try and navigate between protecting our own health and that of our families and community writ large yet not remaining silent and complicit as governments abrogate more of our rights to simultaneously grant themselves more and more power over the people.

There was a time when many young Christians would wear a bracelet with WWJD on it: what would Jesus to? In this pandemic:


Here Jesus is wearing a mask. [2] Why would He do this? This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. [Jn.15:12,13]

No doubt rather than focus on the point being made with the icon of Jesus showing Him masked, many will simply choose to react negatively because choosing always, or at least struggling to so choose what Jesus would do can be burdensome, frustrating, irritating and, frankly, embracing the Cross with Him, carrying our cross with Him is no easy task but is an act of love and fidelity and an intercessory offering for all our brothers and sisters.

Love Himself creates us gifting us with breath of life, with among His many gifts that of our free will.

Embracing freedom in accord with His Holy Will, clearly before us in the Ten Commandments, the Great Commandment and all teachings of Jesus, at times is akin to life as a juggler, or worse as a tight rope walker with poor balance!

God is present with us. This is an irrefutable fact. We, of course, are free to accept His loving presence and help, nonetheless He assures us: ….I chose you, I have not rejected you—Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. [Is.41:9,10]

When the Black Death, in the late Middle Ages, devastated the population of much of Eurasia the estimate is that bacteria infection took between 75,000,000 to 200,000,000 lives, more than the estimated Spanish Flu, a virus, deaths of the last century, 50,000,000 deaths. In the aftermath of the pandemic the feudal society of Europe in the first instance, and modern states, due to a combination of WWI and the pandemic, caused major shifts in matters of religion, politics, economics etc.

Such shifts are already emerging in our own day and already showing serious cracks in pre-covid society.

History also records during both the Black Death and the Spanish flu information was both accurate and in accurate, conspiracy theories were rife making discerning between objective-factual truth and fearmongering speculation, if not outright lies, nearly impossible. In this pandemic, finding objective truth, avoiding the quicksand of conspiracy theories and their attendant tar pit of anger and fear, is a tremendous challenge and cause of immense and unnecessary stress. With today’s modern media and the internet finding the objective truth about the pandemic, vaccines, etc., etc., makes finding a needle in a haystack child’s play.

More than ever we need the help of the Holy Spirit and His gift of discernment and deep union with Christ who tells us: “If you remain in My word, you will truly be My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” [Jn.8: 31,32] Jesus Himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life, as He says of Himself [Jn.14:6], only when we are Christ-centered will we have the spiritual, intellectual, emotional stamina to live and travel through this pandemic amidst the cacophony of voices clamouring for our attention, all claiming to have the truth about everything. Such a claim, of course, comes from the father of lies, the great deceiver and disrupter.

The more time we spend listening to media reports about the present global surge of infections and deaths, the more time we spend trolling the internet for voices that agree with our own, be we accepting it is a pandemic or not, the more stressed, angry, hopeless we become with what limits or interferes with our ability to accept what we cannot control and surrender to what is the permissive will of God.

As a human family we need to face this pandemic today, without wasting time challenging those who agree with us or not but having love for all to work together to get through this, accepting the fact as with any major social upheaval of any kind, no one individual has the whole picture and that the history of these days will be written decades hence. We are in the fog and quagmire, the stress and seeming unending of this. As human beings we need each other more than ever.

Now is not the time for arguments about the construction of the Titanic or whose responsible for the iceberg, whether or not she is actually sinking but to get into the boats and row.

Together.

……..during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone… How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all”. Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all. [3]

Decades ago psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross developed a theory on the stages of grief when we lose a loved one: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and in the end acceptance.

In terms of a beloved human being: grandparent, parent, spouse, child, millions of our brothers and sisters around the world already, and in the foreseeable future, have suffered, will suffer such pain-loss.

Either denied or being struggled with, the reality of a profound sense of loss impacts everyone in this pandemic for we have lost the normal of daily life, including the normal of communal worship, family gatherings were no one is excluded, the camaraderie of going to work with others, etc., etc., hence it is no surprise many, many people are in denial about many aspects of the pandemic and angry about it, the restrictions imposed by health officials etc. and the spike in people seeking help for depression, stress, anxiety is ongoing.

Among the faculties we are gifted with when Love Himself creates us, along with free will are: intellect, imagination, memory, all connected to our ability to dream.

How we use each of those gifts, -  in this time of war, war to defeat the virus, war to defeat satan and his minions who are taking advantage of the virus in their hatred to attack us, to weaken faith, love, hope, trust, -  is critical.

The Desert Fathers considered the imagination to be a bridge of the devils.

If, through any forms of modern media, prolonged conversations with people who are constantly angry about everything, or who are blamers of God for what is happening, if such preoccupies us, then we urgently need to use our intelligence to call to mind the truth: we are Beloved Children of the Father, Beloved Disciples of Christ, Beloved Temples of the Holy Spirit. Not doing so becomes the bridge of satan into our minds, will, soul.

People are pre-occupied with all aspects of this pandemic, the fracturing of society, many spending more time thinking about such things than having quiet, loving time with family, with Sacred Scripture, with prayer, all things which bring peace to mind, heart, soul, that peace which affirms hope is greater than any virus, love more powerful than the chaos of these days.

Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. [Eph. 6: 11-7]

This far north currently we get barely seven hours of day light, the rest is the darkness of night, eased only, on clear nights, by the moon and the stars. The weight of the darkness of the pandemic, which these many months is twenty-four seven and ongoing, can only be lightened by the hope and trust we have in Christ, soon to be born anew among us in the manger of the cave – caves have no doors so all may enter believer or not, rich or poor, holy or not – as Our Blessed Mother not only places the Holy Newborn in the manger but, if we are willing to open the door of our being, She places Him also in the manger of our hearts.

We should now, and not wait until Christmas, trust He is within us and gaze into His eyes.

What we see is Love Himself, Light Himself, Life Himself, Truth Himself, who comes as our way to the Father and gifts us with the Holy Spirit.

He is vulnerable that we might not be alone in our vulnerability, He is mercy that we are not fearful.

Like all little ones He kicks His feet and waves his arms beckoning, as His smile illuminates the entire universe while being focused on us because we are His joy.

He has come to meet us.

The light and joy flowing from His eyes heals, strengthens, comforts, vivifies and His Heart beats powerfully with the fire of His love for us telling us with each beat we are beloved and not to be afraid for He is our hope.

 

1] Teaching on the 4th Commandment:

https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P7W.HTM

2] https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=lOJAc0Ht&id=893C87B29BA404C04882B9E1C483947684B4C063&thid=OIP.lOJAc0HtZfneaufQrKJUwwHaE8&mediaurl=https%3a%2f%2fusercontent2.hubstatic.com%2f15034555_f520.jpg&exph=347&expw=520&q=jesus+wearing+a+mask&simid=608012093674097613&ck=7F7C1D34E010D0B248FCA1A8B9CCC932&selectedIndex=3&FORM=IRPRST&ajaxhist=0

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

 

 

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

Monday, November 30, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 29

 

 Pope Francis on November 1 said: On this solemn Feast of All Saints, the Church invites us to reflect on the great hope, that is based on Christ’s Resurrection: Christ is risen and we will also be with him. The Saints and Blesseds are the most authoritative witnesses of Christian hope, because they lived it fully in their lives, amidst joys and sufferings, putting into practice the Beatitudes that Jesus preached and which resound in the Liturgy today (cf. Mt 5:1-12a). The evangelical Beatitudes, in fact, are the path to holiness. [1]

{The Church names many saints who will intercede for us in times of plague like this pandemic.[2]}

On November 2, Holy Souls Day, Pope Francis said: ……we ask the Lord to help us consider aright the parable of their lives. We ask him to dispel that unholy grief which we occasionally feel, thinking that death is the end of everything. A feeling far from faith, yet part of that human fear of death felt by everyone. For this reason, before the riddle of death, believers too must be constantly converted. We are called daily to leave behind our instinctive image of death as the total destruction of a person. We are called to leave behind the visible world we take for granted, our usual, commonplace ways of thinking, and to entrust ourselves entirely to the Lord who tells us: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:25-26). [3]

When I started this, it was Remembrance Day in Canada, Veterans Day in the United States, in some allied countries still called Armistice Day, more than one hundred years after the guns fell silent, in 1918, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, and the feast day of a converted soldier and later a bishop, known as the Merciful St. Martin of Tours. 75 years after the end of World War the ceremonies are still a reminder that even secular society remembers its deceased heroes.

Both wars have given the Church many canonized martyrs and other saints. In the years to come given those in the medical field and others are placing their lives on the line for us, people in general just helping others in various ways, likely many from this pandemic will be added to the ranks of the Saints.

This pandemic is a war with an unseen enemy and more than ever we should recall that part of Christ’s promise not to leave us orphans, to be with us always, is the Communion of Saints, their love, intercession, and protection, likewise the Holy Souls in Purgatory, who know we pray for them. Once they enter heaven they too watch over and intercede for us.

My mentor as a writer was Fr. Eddie Doherty, priest of Madonna House and he often would say about writing: “Interruptions are my life!”, in other words people first and urged me always to move away from writing and pay attention to, serve people.

No surprise it is now Monday of the 1st week of Holy Advent, feast of the Apostles St. Andrew.

It is twilight of Monday, a peaceful time to write for Advent is the season of hope.

Hope is not only a gift of the Holy Spirit it is, even if our emotions due to the pandemic stress are raging against hope, remains a choice, not a feeling, an act of the will, thus the importance of simple acts of prayer such as: Jesus I hope in You, Jesus I trust You.

When in Luke 10:42 Jesus tells Martha: Porro unum est necessariu, only one thing is necessary, He is speaking of union with Himself. The way we are totally His, sitting at His feet and contemplating Him, or occupied with serving Him in others, contemplation and action, should be so integrated in our lives that our contemplation leads to self-forgetfulness in our loving service of others, and that our loving service of others leads to deeper contemplation.

It would be naïve to suggest in this time of plague that the intensity of emotional and other associated stress will evaporate like mist in the morning when the sun rises, or that it does not take extreme effort in such global suffering to stay focused on what truly matters: trusting in the love of Christ, His Presence and promise to always be with us, as is our Blessed Mother, the Angels and Saints.

In the aloneness of isolation with rolling shut-downs, especially for those in hospitals, nursing homes, with the burden of unemployment placing stress on families, who already deal  with increased food prices, etc., etc., faith and trust are under assault, and for many with restrictions on places of worship even the weekly comfort and strength of communal prayer and reception of the Holy Eucharist is denied: how can we believe in hope, live hope, when all this has our emotions screaming against it?

Indeed, there is with this pandemic a type of emotional and spiritual darkness weighing upon the entire human family.

In this book CIRCLING THE SUN, Meditations on Christ in Liturgy and Time, the author has a meditation in a chapter titled HOLY DARKNESS beginning by reflecting on twilight: ….It is the hour that, according to Tolkien, the elves call “undomiel,” the calm pause between sunset and starshine, twilight, when out star’s light is twice scattered by atmosphere and dust yet still hides the others’ from our view. [Then quoting Beston from: The Outermost House, pp.131-132], he inserts: …..Primitive folk……do not fear night; they fear, rather, the energies and creatures to whom night gives power……With lights and ever more lights we drive the holiness and beauty of night back to forests and the sea…..to live thus, to know only artificial night, is as absurd and evil as to know only artificial day. [4a]

The above touches the very core of what millions are experiencing during this pandemic. Bad enough the reality in modern times, in cities in particular, we have so artificially illuminated our lives that the sharp and wonderful delineation, in nature, between night and day, in our busy lives, has been obliterated by this pandemic where for months what we considered normal has become a tangled web of consistent uncertainty, it is a darkness invading twenty-four seven, as many see approaching the back robed sickle carrying figures of death following as closely as our own shadows. Our dreams are, at best, odd; relationships stressed to the max, we have become a human family living in a fireless cave in unending night and we have become blind. When it comes to the truth of who we are and Who speaks to our hearts, knocking constantly at the door of our hearts, asking leave to enter to comfort and heal, to nourish us with His words of hope’s certainty, reminding us we have being, life, because we are beloved, we have become deaf!

Yet Truth is Jesus Himself, He is the Light the darkness cannot shatter, thus: We are traveling into the Light of God, and for us, given new eyes by the risen Lord and His all-blessing Spirit, darkness is more than an image of evil….The one good God made both day and night, and His holiness is shining through His Son’s cross into every space, between the galaxies or within the most tightly clenched soul, that His love has fashioned. “We live by faith, not by sight.” [2 Cor. 5:7]……wholly transformed by the glory shining on the face of Jesus, we see our own true faces in the light of His and hear the Father speak to us His irrevocable word: “Let light shine out of darkness.” [2 Cor. 4:6]. [4b]

Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. [from the Holy Mass after the Our Father.]

What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [Jn. 1: 4,5]

First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent, this the 2nd Antiphon of Vespers: Know that the Lord is coming and with Him all His saints; that day will dawn with a wonderful light, alleluia.

 

[1] http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/angelus/2020/documents/papa-francesco_angelus_20201101.html

[2] https://catholicsaints.info/patrons-against-plague/

[3] http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2020/documents/papa-francesco_20201105_omelia-suffragio.html

[4a & 4b] CIRCLING THE SUN, Meditations on Christ in Liturgy and Time; Robert D. Pelton; pp.75-78; The Pastoral Press 1986 {italics are mine}

 

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Monday, October 26, 2020

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 6

 

               

Little – be always little! Be simple, poor, childlike.

In this line of the Little Mandate [1] we encounter the word ‘poor’ for the third time.

We know children are little in stature, until later in life simple in their needs and poor in their utter dependence.

The call to littleness, simplicity, poverty, childlikeness is not a call to change, per se, externals, rather it is a matter of the heart, of such complete imitation of Christ, who first came among us as a little child in Mary’s womb and first visible to us as a little child in a manger; Christ who was little among us because as St. Paul reminds us: Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. [Phil. 2:5-8]

We can ask for the grace to be little, simple, poor, childlike through this simple prayer the nuns taught us as children: Jesus meek and humble of Heart, make my heart like unto Thine own.

Meekness and poverty in spirit are two of the blessings in the Beatitudes: Mt: 5:3-12.

That simple yet powerful pray to the Sacred Heart enables us to enter into St. Paul’s prayer for us that Christ will: grant you in accord with the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self…..[Eph. 3:16], for our true selves are interior rooted in heart and soul, for we are essentially little children of our Heavenly Father, sons and daughters through Baptism in Christ, by the Holy Spirit.

Further He chooses to be one with those sometimes referred to as ‘little people’: the poor, outcasts, prisoners, all those, anyone we consider as ‘other, that is, not like us, so much so we will be judged on how we loved Him or not, cared for Him, or not, in ‘other’ thus embracing them as one like us: For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited Me.’  [Mt. 25:35,36].

In his commentary on Mt.25:31-46, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis [2] teaches how because through the enfleshment of Christ in the Incarnation none can have God as Father who does not have Christ as brother and it is therefore impossible for us to claim Christ as Brother, God as Father who does not see himself and live concretely as brother of every other human being, with everything that implies. Such brotherhood tends toward total identification, so that in my brother I can see only my own flesh……we are children of God, not each by virtue of his own separate existence, but only in the One Child – so that numerically we are many children but in mystical reality only One Child – so, too, Christ’s self-identification with human flesh and the whole human condition makes of all brothers but one single Brother of Christ, the One Child of God.

Pope Francis, using the Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us: The parable is clear and straightforward, yet it also evokes the interior struggle that each of us experiences as we gradually come to know ourselves through our relationships with our brothers and sisters. Sooner or later, we will all encounter a person who is suffering. Today there are more and more of them. The decision to include or exclude those lying wounded along the roadside can serve as a criterion for judging every economic, political, social and religious project. Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders. And if we extend our gaze to the history of our own lives and that of the entire world, all of us are, or have been, like each of the characters in the parable. All of us have in ourselves something of the wounded man, something of the robber, something of the passers-by, and something of the Good Samaritan. [3]

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Mother, exemplifies living out the call to be little, simple, poor and childlike by her response to the Archangel Gabriel: I am the handmaid of the Lord; in her Magnificat prayer: ….He has looked with favour on His lowly servant. She is silent when the Shepherds, later the Magi, come to see the Child Jesus, follows with simplicity the Lord’s word conveyed through Joseph to flee into Egypt and then to return to Nazareth; when the wine runs out at the Cana wedding she simply points to Jesus and urges the servants to obey Jesus. Indeed, nowhere in the Holy Gospels does she focus attention on herself, she simply is present, lovingly present, including during Christ’s crucifixion, accepting wordlessly to become our Mother and then in silent prayer is with the nascent Church at Pentecost. She lived a mostly hidden life with Joseph and Jesus, the hidden life of a widow and of a mother whose Son left to fulfill His public mission. Had she performed any miracles or lived a life other than that of littleness, simplicity, poverty with her childlike heart surely one of the Evangelists would have recorded the miracles.

She was one with all her brothers and sisters, everyone, in her love and care tending to their needs, actually living out the Gospel with her life, without compromise, the Gospel Jesus had gone to preach but which she knew in her heart.

Jesus teaches us: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven…..” [Mt. 18:3]

Catherine Doherty taught this prayer: Lord, grant me the heart of a child and the awesome courage to live it out.

Prayed daily, frequently each day, we will have hearts more and more like those of Jesus and Mary and more and more we will live out littleness, simplicity, beatitude poverty and be childlike, authentic brother/sister to everyone, that is to Christ, for like Christ we shall indeed live as children of our Father, and thus as real persons, true members of the one human family wherein we are, in Christ, ONE!

The final word is from St. Paul: I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. [Ep.4:1-6]

 

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

[2] FIRE OF MERCY HEART OF THE WORLD, Volume III; Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; p.838; Ignatius Press, 2012 ~ Italics are mine

[3] ENCYCLICAL LETTER FRATELLI TUTTI OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON FRATERNITY AND SOCIAL FRIENDSHIP; Chapter Two A Stranger on the Road; para. 69; http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20201003_enciclica-fratelli-tutti.html

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

Monday, October 12, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 28

 

                                       

 CONSOLATRIX AFFLICTORUM, in English consolation/comfort of the afflicted, is one of the beautiful titles of Our Lady in the Litany of Loreto.

With the current rapid surge of Covid 19 cases around the world, who among us is not afflicted one way or another through suffering the disease itself, loss of spouses, children, friends, or work, of ability to pay rent or buy food, of human companionship because of isolation, having such infrequent contact with others we feel abandoned, alone, rejected even.

There is no panacea for all of this. While it is both a Gospel and life experience truth that the more we care for others, step outside of ourselves, the more we will know true love, His love, thus be less stressed by all of this, more at peace, it is also true pandemic anxiety, like the virus itself, is invasive so waves of anxiety may still afflict us.

At times we all experience the stress of mask wearing, social distancing, restrictions on gatherings, even in Church, that at times we may feel it has all become too much. The daily global, national, local body counts common during a war and lists of the wounded, these ceaseless news reports on how bad things are, or may become, have made of the news media itself an affliction compounding stress. Avoiding such news reports is a great de-stressor. 

It is time for us with trust to, to pray until this too shall pass.

It is also time to pray a “Pandemic” litany for the intercession of our Blessed Mother: Mother, this covid enemy is like satan, unseen yet prowling to see whom it may devour, this is a frightening affliction: protect and comfort us please O Mother.

Mother, millions of our sickened brothers and sisters are isolated in hospitals, their suffering immense, absence of visits from family and loved ones, heart wrenching: Mother, protect and comfort them please.

O Mother, throughout the world doctors, nurses, caregivers, first responders lay down their lives daily to care for the sick under immense stress: Mother protect and comfort them please.

O Mother, countless men and women around the world work to ensure we have police and fire protection, keep the food and other supply chains moving, collect the garbage, keep the streets clean, the lights on, the internet working, supply shelter and food for the homeless, all under the stress of knowing in their jobs they might get infected and bring the virus home, what an immense burden: Mother protect and comfort them please.

O Mother, numerous are the enslaved women and girls around the world, all the more vulnerable in this pandemic, numerous are our brothers and sisters, the elderly, men, women, children, languishing in refugee and migrants camps as if dwelling in petri dishes of disease, hopelessness, violence, loss of their dignity as persons: Mother protect and comfort them please.

O Mother, mothers and fathers, married or single, bear the daily challenge and worry about the health of their children, how to feed, cloth shelter them as purveyors of housing, food, etc., continue to increase their prices and then there is the stress of sending their children to crowded schools or educating them at home where predators are prowling the internet: Mother protect and comfort all parents and children please.

O Mother, in the darkness of this pandemic so many of our brothers and sisters have aggravated mental illness, addictions, suffer domestic and other forms of violence, are seen as other, rather than as one like ourselves: Mother protect and comfort each one please.

O Mother, governments, and health officials, making some decisions for the health and welfare of the people, also are making decisions draconian in nature, causing anger and divisions, which in some cases explode in various forms of violence and people taking risks with their health and at a time when closeness with Christ and grace in the liturgy is needed, governments have closed places of worship of all religions or restricted the numbers who may attend, please convert our government and health leaders to a more realistic and compassionate approach to the people: Mother comfort and protect us please.

O Mother, for Catholics and Orthodox in particular these stringent laws force many to be denied access to Holy Communion, a form of spiritual starvation; likewise, our brothers and sisters of other religions, their suffering too is acute: Mother open the places of worship please and comfort and protect us.

O Mother, numerous are our brothers and sisters in this pandemic suffering anxiety, depression, loss of faith, or never had belief in God who is Love, some even feel abandoned by Him, intercede for the gifts of faith, peace, healing for all who suffer emotionally and spiritually: Mother protect and comfort us please.

 O Mother, crush anew the head of satan and crush his minion this virus: Mother protect and comfort us please.

We are not orphans: we have a mother in heaven, who is the Holy Mother of God. Because she teaches us the virtue of waiting, even when everything seems meaningless: she always trusts in the mystery of God, even when He seems overshadowed by the world’s evil. In times of difficulty may Mary, the Mother whom Jesus has presented as a gift to all of us, always make our steps sure, may she always say to our hearts: “Get up! Look ahead, look to the horizon,” because she is the Mother of hope. [1]

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to you do I come; before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

 

[1] AVE MARIA, The Mystery of a Most Beloved Prayer; Pope Francis; p.118; 2019 Penguin Random House LLC [italics are mine]

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph