Monday, September 06, 2021

A VOICE FROM THE CATACOMBS ~ Part 1

 

                                          Most Christians are familiar with the catacombs where the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and other prayer took place in the first age of martyrs. Less familiar perhaps, particularly in 17th century Ireland, was the necessitated use of “Mass Rocks” in fields far from the prying eyes of British troops, when Catholic faith and practice was banned.

We need to pray, be vigilant, and courageous truth-speaking witnesses in our day that such necessary precautions will not be needed again, for the only remaining and acceptable discrimination is anti-Christianity, a potential gateway to concentration camps and martyrdom.

One of the powerful scenes in the film THE KING’S SPEECH, is when the about to be crowned King shouts: I HAVE VOICE!

Every human being has a voice, but not every human being is heard, because totalitarian governments suppress opposition voices either by imprisonment, shutting down media, while ersatz democratic governments use other less drastic but no less effective means to stifle dissent, such as the Liberal party of Canada banning all pro-life people from running as candidates for the party, giving so-called ‘financial help in these difficult times’ to pro-Liberal media outlets, by giving press passes mainly to those media who agree with the current government, while social media, in the main, eviscerates solidly Christian, pro-life, pro-family voices, even banning people outright, whose posts are not in line with the outlets leftist agenda and doing such banning with no process of adjudication.

So much for freedom of speech, so much for ‘I have a voice’, nope, not unless you join the chorus of the pro-death, anti-family, anti-Christian culture. A choir whose only ‘music’ echoes the banshee screams of the damned.

A minor example of political correctness run amok is the moment I typed “damned’ up pops a message, imbedded in Microsoft Word, advising me that word ‘damned’ might be offensive to some of my readers. Really?

Reminds me of the 1998 film: Enemy of the State. Not just totalitarian regimes but even western democracies through the symbiosis of leftist politicians, media, special interest groups, have made the state sacrosanct, treating any dissent as ersatz blasphemy.

It is extremely urgent we Catholics, indeed all Christians, rediscover the courage of martyrs, should things keep heading in the direction where martyrdom becomes a fact of life. Even more urgent is that we Catholics and all Christians have the courage to be Confessors of the Faith, no matter the cost.

Doing anything less means not even noticing the smoke of satan, which pervades within this time it history, and, as Pope St. Paul VI noted, having also penetrated the Church, has become so thick that breathing in and exhaling the True-breath of the Holy Spirit becomes well nigh impossible. If we choose to ignore the smoke of satan we will suffocate through cowardice. Wildfires in summer are a common occurrence and the smoke contains numerous chemicals, gases, and particulate matter such as burning embers and soot.

The main components of satanic smoke are: hedonism, secularism, relativism, humanism, atheism, a disdain for the sacredness of life from the womb to the tomb, and most pernicious of all: pride.

Breathing in wildfire smoke damages the body. Breathing in satan’s smoke corrodes the intellect, heart, and soul.

Equivalent to the winds that spread wildfire smoke thousands of kilometers from the source, ideas uncritically embraced by human beings and passed on to others, often globally, are the lies and pseudo ‘truth’ that originate with satan and his minions.

Ideas matter; but ideas that matter most are taken for granted…….Eventually one side of ideas or another comes to be accepted as what “right-thinking” or “realistic” people accept. These fundamental presuppositions are the environment in which the Church has to function…….I do not think enough care has been shown by churchmen in understanding and evaluating these ideas that shaped the modern world, and, as a result, it is the modern world that has begun to determine our understanding and preaching of the gospel, to the detriment of our common Christian tradition. [1]

…….a truth which the Church has always treasured: in the far reaches of the human heart there is a seed of desire and nostalgia for God. The Liturgy of Good Friday recalls this powerfully when, in praying for those who do not believe, we say: “Almighty and eternal God, you created mankind so that all might long to find you and have peace when you are found”. There is therefore a path which the human being may choose to take, a path which begins with reason's capacity to rise beyond what is contingent and set out towards the infinite……..People cannot be genuinely indifferent to the question of whether what they know is true or not. If they discover that it is false, they reject it; but if they can establish its truth, they feel themselves rewarded. It is this that Saint Augustine teaches when he writes: “I have met many who wanted to deceive, but none who wanted to be deceived”. It is rightly claimed that persons have reached adulthood when they can distinguish independently between truth and falsehood, making up their own minds about the objective reality of things. [2]

The attempt to set freedom in opposition to truth, and indeed to separate them radically, is the consequence, manifestation and consummation of another more serious and destructive dichotomy, that which separates faith from morality. This separation represents one of the most acute pastoral concerns of the Church amid today's growing secularism, wherein many, indeed too many, people think and live "as if God did not exist". We are speaking of a mentality which affects, often in a profound, extensive and all-embracing way, even the attitudes and behaviour of Christians, whose faith is weakened and loses its character as a new and original criterion for thinking and acting in personal, family and social life. In a widely dechristianized culture, the criteria employed by believers themselves in making judgments and decisions often appear extraneous or even contrary to those of the Gospel. [3]

There are groups, of no small influence, who are trying to talk us out of kneeling…..” It’s not appropriate for redeemed man – he has been set free by Christ and doesn’t need to kneel any more.”…..Kneeling is not only a Christian gesture, but a Christological one…..there is a story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked black and ugly, with frighteningly thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical. [4]

There we have it, for the dominate poison in the smoke of satan is pride.

It we are to be true Confessors of the Faith, have the courage of martyrs, dwelling in truth and radiating the light of Christ to hold back the spread of the darkness and smoke of satan poisoning the human family with lies, the culture of death, the desperation that flows from unbelief, the result of surrendering to the smoke of satan, then we must heed the words of Micah: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. [6:8]

 

[1] THE MASS AND MODERNITY, Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory; pps. 40-42; Ignatius Press, 2205 [italics are mine]

[2] FAITH AND REASON, John Paul II, paras. 24/25; [italics are mine] https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_14091998_fides-et-ratio.html

[3] THE SPLENDORS OF TRUTH, John Paul II, para. 88, [italics are mine] https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[4] JOSEPH RATZINER COLLECTED WORKS THEOLOGY OF THE LITURGY, pp.115, 120-21, Ignatius Press, 2014 [italics and emphasis are mine]

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

Thursday, August 26, 2021

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 12

 

                    Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbour’s feet. [1]

Here at first blush the Most Holy Spirit has given two seemingly contradictory words: hidden and light. Yet they are not. At it’s most basic hiddenness ensures the brightness of our light and that very light is what wraps us in hiddenness.

Jesus teaches us about the importance of being hidden. Two examples: …..when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you……..when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. [Mt.6:6 & 17,18]

To be hidden is not the same thing as to hide, neither is going into a room alone to pray in secret the same thing as hiding: to hide means to conceal; to be in secret is to keep something from being observed by others.

It is the false self, the ‘look at me’ self, the needy self we are asked by the Holy Spirit to keep hidden. Such self focused things are like a dirty window which keeps sunlight out, the warmth of lights from inside at night from easing the darkness for those passing by.

When it comes to windows in a building or the home we live it, cleaning the windows inside and out in spring to remove the grim accumulated over the winter to let in the bright, warming light of the sun, is a common practice.

Our hearts and souls need to be so transformed by the Holy Spirit that the fire-light of Christ permeates more deeply and that light then pours out from our being so brilliantly anyone who looks at us is transfixed by the light, just as people walking by a home where the lights are burning are more conscious of the light than of the clear glass of the windows.

To become that clear glass cannot be done by our own efforts, it is the work of the Divine Guest of our souls, the Most Holy Spirit. Yes our cooperation with Him is required and the process can be painful for the false self fights tooth and nail not to be diminished, not to be scrubbed away. Indeed, no matter what it costs that false self wants to survive!

Transformation by the Holy Spirit enables us to be Christocentric and like Christ focused on others, loving as Christ loves everyone without counting the cost.

Teaching about the Holy Spirit Archbishop Martinez writes: The intimate life with the Holy Spirit is, in reality, love…..To love Love is to live with Him, it is to allow ourself to be possessed by Him, it is to impregnate ourself with His divine fire and to let ourself be consumed by it. [2]

Gold only becomes precious and brilliant until, as from ancient times to this very day, it is purified by fire. The fire of the Most Holy Spirit, burning more brightly and intensely than even the fire of the sun, purifies us of the false self we tend to present to the world making us radiant! True this is a lifelong process of purification for the false self resists and wants to survive, hence since the false self, the unpurified self has many layers the Holy Spirit, if we say yes to Him, tirelessly purifies deeper and deeper until the real self becomes more and more visible, and we radiate the Light of Christ which gleams from us with the brilliance of all the suns in the universe.

To be truly “a light to our neighbours’ feet” we must also ask the Holy Spirit to grant us radiant fullness of faith, truth, charity, for we dwell at a time in history when the darkness of relativism is as solid as rock.

While solid rock is impenetrable by ordinary light, the Light of Christ makes the rock of the darkness of these days in the human family as permeable as the gossamer of a spider’s web.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. [Mt. 5:14-16] Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [Jn. 8:12]

If we constantly ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to burn ever more brightly with the Light of Christ poured into us at Baptism, then this light becomes as brilliant as sunlight which hides starlight. Christ’s Light will keep us hidden, because being a light means not to be noticed, rather it is Christ who is seen.

To be a light to our neighbours’ feet means also to preach the Gospel with our lives, so needed as Abbot Nault stresses: ……we urgently need to announce the Good News of salvation joyfully….If whole sectors of our Christian civilization seem to be falling, it is because it is time to get to work and facilitate the action of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and charity, so as to touch hearts and accomplish his work. Of course, the Lord is the one who brings about conversions, but he also willed to have need of us to announce him and to witness to him. [3]

 

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

[2] THE SANCTIFIER, Most Rev. Luis M. Martinez, p. 30; St. Paul Editions 1982; italics are mine

[3] THE NOONDAY DEVIL, by Jean-Charles Nault, O.S.B., p. 200; Ignatius Press, 2015

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~FINAL IN THE SERIES

 

 

                                Begun, in March of 2020, at the suggestion of someone whose love and wisdom I trust, the way things within the human family in virtually every country on earth, have unfolded, and continue to unfold, I discussed with two other people I trust about ending this series and beginning in due time a new one with a broader scope given the current conditions within the human family.

Close to 18 months into this pandemic with the almost innumerable casualties, death cutting a wide swath among the infected, with the hardened positions, the inflexible attitudes, of those both who accept it is a pandemic, those who do not, between those who get vaccinated and those who refuse to, there is so much anger and hatred within the human family, on a scale that in the past would have been constricted by geography.

Nowadays with the internet and ever-expanding social media sites, akin to the infamous clouds of gas that drifted silently, like huge green snakes, across the battlefields of WWI, we are increasingly loosing a willingness to accept objective fact. Facts have become the bailiwick of groupthink on both sides of virtually ever issue from the pandemic to………..each of us can fill in the blank, likely with a long list of contentious issues.

In mathematics we all learn as children that 1+1=2.

Today 1+1=equals whatever I say it does.

Anger and division flows between individuals, families, citizens, and governments, like an unending lava flow: hot, deadly, destroying everything in its path.

As a result, we live in nations where, democracies or totalitarian, politicians of all stripes, at every level of government from national to local have usurped the right of the people to have true freedom of government for the people. Thus: “Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty.” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” ― Victor Hugo

How much longer will this night last is unknowable, that at some point we will return to what was allegedly ‘normal’ before the pandemic is a mythological tapestry still being woven by the dreamers.

It is highly probable, besides new covid variants, there will be revolutions, wars, national bankruptcies, increased bitter and vengeful divisions within families, within nations, between nations, simply because we have become, in such a short time, more than ever preoccupied with self, with our own ideas, interpretations of the issues of the day.

“I” dominates. Other is no longer seen as one like me.

You are either with me or against me: with me tolerated friend, against me hated enemy.

Part of this tragedy is self-hatred has become as common place as the air we breathe.

All the above spills out of the stressed minds and wounded hearts of countless people I hear from, good people who unwittingly as they speak are crying out like the Psalmist:  Save me, God, for the waters have reached my neck. I have sunk into the mire of the deep, where there is no foothold. I have gone down to the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me. I am weary with crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, from looking for my God. [Ps. 69: 2-4]

There is no way, individually or collectively as the human family, by our own wits, we can get ourselves out of this global swamp. No amount of science, money, government legislation, revolutions or riots, no screaming arguments, nothing humanly devised can save us.

Individually and collectively, we need to cry out, like Peter sinking beneath the waves: “Lord, save us.”: [see Matthew 14:22-33].

Jesus stretches out His hand, for He loves us and wants to lift us out of the swamp.

The way we grip His hand and hold on tight – and this is our hope – is to live out: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’…….‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ [Mk. 12: 28-24]-and- You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. [Mt. 5: 43-45]

© 2021 F. Arthur Joseph

 

 

Monday, July 05, 2021

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 11

 

 Pray, fast. Pray always, fast. [1]

The template for this is Jesus in the desert [Mt. 4:1-11] where He both prays and fasts and rejects satan’s traps. There is frequently intense spiritual warfare when we are in prayer, so trusting the source of the gift to pray is critical: ….the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.[Rms.8:26].

All of creation prays, the whole cosmos prays, every creature prays by the very nature of their being reflections of the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. The stars and suns shimmer, the planets rotate, light travels, sound travels, the wind blows, rain and snow fall, trees, plants, grasses sway in the wind, dance really, mountains and hills, rocks and valleys, oceans waves and all creatures beneath the water, birds of the air and creatures like deer moving on the earth – all by their very existence pray. [Daniel 3:56-88]

When we ask: Let my prayer be incense before you….[Psalm 141.2] we can be confident it is so: Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel. [Rev.8:3,4]

Both prayer and fasting are very simple, easy to fulfill, however both can also be experienced as burdensome if we complicate matters by seeking to do either by our own efforts, for in essence neither should be primarily about us. Yes, both have a personal aspect, but that should be secondary to a focus on the Holy Trinity, with love and adoration and intercession for others, specific individuals and for the entire human family.

Jesus taught us one prayer, the Our Father which contains all aspects of humble, loving, recognition of right relationship with Our Abba – love, trust, dependence – and essential petitions for self and others.

There are many other forms of prayer: the Psalms, Holy Rosary, Litanies, and the most perfect form of prayer, which itself contains the Our Father: Holy Mass/Divine Liturgy.

We can easily, throughout the day or evening, while doing necessary tasks like dusting or washing dishes, and also perhaps taking a few moments in stillness to pray with the prayer drawn by the Desert Fathers from the prayer of the Publican, [Lk.18:9-14]: ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ The Desert Fathers thus prayed: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner. At night the beating of our hearts testifies to our loving prayer, awaiting either the grace-gift of a new earthly day or the arrival of the Divine Lover Himself, come to take us home. [Jn. 14:1-3]

A critical aspect of prayer, which we glean from all the times in the Holy Gospels we see Jesus

going off by Himself to pray, is the aspect of intimate conversational prayer with the Most Holy Trinity. This is not to try and get the Father or Jesus or the Holy Spirit to speak with us like we would expect in conversation with another human being, rather it is to trust Love Himself is attentive, and that we can speak unabashedly whatever joys, sorrows, doubts, burdens, gratitude, needs, fill our hearts. It is to have the heart of a child who chats with their parents or grandparents.

The ‘always’ aspect of this line from the Little Mandate is no burden since our hearts beat all day long, for our very existence is prayer, and fidelity to the duty of the moment is itself prayer. There is no dichotomy between the serving actions of Martha and the contemplative stance of Mary in the presence of Christ. Indeed, action must lead to contemplation and contemplation to action, the mobius strip of living the Gospel with our lives.

Fasting itself must be marked with love, lack of self interest, be done as act of intercession and remembering, intercede for Divine Mercy for our sins and those of the whole world and remembering that our real needed food and drink is the Holy Eucharist. Fasting should not be restricted to food. Indeed, better not to fast from food of any kind, or any kind of drink if we are unwilling to fast from a very long list of unholiness from self-interest, ego, judging others, etc. etc., etc. Yes the classic form of fasting, such as is common practice during Lent is blessed, but fasting from actions and attitudes that hurt or demean, judge, or reject others, etc., is very much blessed.

The absolute depths of Pray, fast. Pray always, fast, is best shown by the following: One day Father Lot went to Father Joseph and told him, “As far as I can I keep my rule. I eat little, I pray and I am silent. I work with my hands and share my bread with the poor. As best I can, I strive to purify my heart. What else should I do?” Then Father Joseph stood up and stretched out his arms, and from his fingers shot tongues of fire. “If you want,” he said, “you can become a living flame.”  After that quotation from the Desert Fathers, Pelton continues: To become a living flame: that is the Gospel proclaimed by Jesus the Master. That is what He Himself is, the blazing sun who lights the whole world………There is no secret about the nature of that fire. It is simply love……It is the living Spirit of the living God, alive in us. It is the Holy Spirit who pours God’s love into us and makes us living flames……Our Lord and Master has made Himself our food and drink as He has made Himself our fire and light. It we remain inconsolable until our own prayer pierces the clouds and the Father makes us also living flames, the reason is that our burning is ultimately for others. Everywhere our sisters and brothers are dying of hunger, cold, and disbelief. It we refuse the humility of Christ and the fire of His love, who will feed them or warm them – or light their way home to the tenderness of the Father? [2]

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

[2] CIRCLING THE SUN, Meditations on Christ in Liturgy and Time; pp. 122 & 123; Robert D. Pelton; The Pastoral Press, 1986 [out of print/italics and emphasis mine]

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 36

 

                                           The trouble about law has always been that it can diagnose the malady but cannot effect a cure…..There is in fact……a kind of terrible paradox in law. It is human nature that when a thing is forbidden it has a tendency to become desirable…..Law, therefore, can actually move a man to desire the very thing which it forbids. [1]

The purpose of law is regulating society for the common good. Since the expansion of cities with dense populations, particularly since the invention of the automobile, laws have been passed which indicate where pedestrians, all things being equal, may safely walk and where cars, trucks, buses are restricted, so the ordinary person out for a walk does not get crushed under the wheels of a vehicle. Traffic lights are law: stop on red, go on green, to avoid every intersection becoming a demolition derby, with human casualties.

Such laws are logical, have purpose for the common good. They are supposed to come forth from democratic governance within the parliamentary system.

Flowing from the establishment of the Estates General in France, [2] which were of no real common good, 98% of the population being uneducated, poor, voiceless in the places of power, revolutions in many countries of Europe, and the United States, the pressure to establish a confederation in Canada, more than two centuries of effort has brought about the era of one person-one vote parliamentary systems, allegedly with the so called “4th Estate” [media] keeping the head of government and the political parties honest.

How fragile and easily manipulated are both democracy and the machinery of government, how loosey-goosey with the truth have the media become, are, facts this pandemic has exposed. Infamously as in the fable, the secular Emperors have no clothes. [3]

People willingly obey laws, even exceptional to the circumstances of a crisis if they are clearly enacted for the common good based on objective fact, and IF the reason for them is explained clearly and they do no harm.

Governments, health officials, media continue to fail on all counts and so populations are seriously skeptical, rebellious, stressed, angry the more governments listen to the banshee screaming of those, in the midst of all this, demanding apologies for historical wrongs, apologies which have as yet, likely will never satisfy anyone, because anger is addictive, and no amount of caving into the screamers will ever end the addiction. The past is past and cannot be changed. Blaming/burdening this generation for historical events in which no part was taken by this generation, or future generations, disingenuous governments, with apologies, cash handouts, chiseling names off buildings, hiding statues, heals nothing, rather such self-serving political statements, such excising of visible historical-cultural memory, only creates new wounds causing hope of cross-cultural love and reconciliation to wither away while the equally disingenuous media feed the fires of gimmee anger to such a degree the majority of the population recoils in disgust, seeing themselves dismissed as irrelevant, then politicians come forth again with spurious declarations we are one society, one people, one country, which we no longer are. They have made us pawns in their leftist games of ineffective appeasement, which guts love and reconciliation out of the common good. 

Two more examples of how leaders are arbitrarily usurping the power of the people to make choices for the common good, not unlike despots around the world: the city of Victoria has decided to cancel Canada Day celebrations to be in solidarity with Indigenous people – this is destructive as it signals our Indigenous brothers are sisters are not Canadians like everyone else in this country otherwise the denizens of Victoria would invite their participation, an authentic act of solidarity for the common good,  plus such heavy handed leftist arrogance increases anger across the country further widening the divide and some Indigenous leaders are urging Roman Catholics to show solidarity by not participating in Holy Mass, while spray painting hateful statements on the walls of Catholic Churches, a truly hateful and diabolical suggestion, both of those examples signaling the death knell for reconciliation.

Even in the secular understanding of reconciliation to reconcile means working towards that mutual attentive dialogue which leads to mutual friendship. In the light of the Gospel the first step on the journey is forgiveness and learning to truly love on another.

Far too many leaders of the banshees don’t want any healing, love, reconciliation because that would mean the end of their alleged fame before the cameras and the shutting of government money spigots.

Destructive earthquakes, within the human family not just those in nature but even more so between human beings collectively and even between individuals, occur when the constant grinding of the plates of hardened positions reach a critical state of being stuck, a state of affairs contraindicate by the nature of tectonic plates as by the nature of the interdependence we have with one another. The result of the subsequent increased pressure is societal destruction, the two plates fracturing along the fault lines between intransigent groups in society, from the left and the right.

It is reality that, like the tectonic plates, we are always, in our personhood, experiencing the grinding of our wounded selves against the being healed by grace self. So long as that grinding indicates movement it is life lived. When the stuck-ness occurs is when marriages tear apart, for example, and worse we become spilt, fractured in our personhood, and start walking beside ourselves.

We need patience and inner reconciliation, which achievement comes from the Holy Spirit, with the real person I yearn to be and the as yet unsanctified person I am, and with compassion to see and understand all our brothers and sisters on earth live with the same struggles, day in and day out as we do.

Reconciliation, true reconciliation, can only occur when those needing reconciliation can meet in the space of mutual respect, attentive listening and understanding, with mutual compromise and that real love which affirms, no matter our histories or wounds, we are all brothers and sisters of one family.

Without going down the rabbit hole of is there or not a pandemic, viruses do not pick sides. They infect people of every race, religion, economic status, age. Untreated they kill. They don’t care because viruses have no heart, no soul.

Unless we rediscover our hearts and souls and live from them, and see every other human being is also endowed by God with a heart and soul, then democracy will be shattered and replaced by a new round of global totalitarianism.

When we hear the jackboots tramping down the street, it will be too late: You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labour pains. Then they will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name……..[Mt. 24:6-9]

The closer we come to God, the more patient we grow and the more we reflect that infinite respect for all beings which is the proper quality of God. [4]

In these times, beyond the poisoned and ever thickening fog of arrogant anger, the screaming, the self-centeredness of I am right and everybody who does not agree with me is an enemy, where is the hope for the human family?

In one place only, in one person only, IF we open the doors of our being, to Him will we find the source of authentic hope and the template for authentic reconciliation: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. [see Rev. 3:20]

Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, and he has bent down to heal body and soul…… Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst; it is born from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! And in this moment the enemy, the devil, comes, often disguised as an angel, and slyly speaks his word to us. Do not listen to him! Let us follow Jesus! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world. Please do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let hope be stolen! The hope that Jesus gives us. [5]

This is the living in light, truth, hope, joy, with love spread throughout the human family as the penultimate common good, personal good. [the ultimate good is communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity in heaven]: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [Mt. 5:3-12][1]

 

[1] From a commentary on THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS, Revised Edition; William Barclay; p.69; Westminster Press

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estates_General_(France)

[3] The Emperor's New Clothes, by Hans Christenson Anderson

[4] GREAT LENT, Alexander Schmemann, p. 37; St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974

[5] https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130324_palme.html

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Thursday, May 06, 2021

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 10

 

                     Go into the marketplace and stay with me. [1]

This is the second of the three times in the Little Mandate we are asked to go.

Marketplaces, in the narrow meaning of the word, prior to the expansion of modern malls, were places for getting a variety of items needed for family life, foodstuffs in particular.

The deep meaning of the word as used in the Little Mandate is any place outside of ourselves, home, family, parish, hermitage, wherever our brothers and sisters are.

As we go into the marketplace, that is to go outside of yourselves towards, and with Jesus, in others. The second aspect of this mandate line is very simple: stay with Me.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of His hands. Day unto day pours forth speech; night unto night whispers knowledge. There is no speech, no words; their voice is not heard; A report goes forth through all the earth, their messages, to the ends of the world. [Ps. 19: 2-5]

Presence!

We human beings seem so preoccupied with always doing something that stillness, just being, appears almost contra-indicated. The great living icon, of presence-stillness, is Jesus Himself in the tabernacle.

We really don’t have to ‘do’ anything in the marketplace other than ‘be’ in the marketplace with Jesus.

Because being necessarily comes before doing we can be presence with Christ even if the duty of the moment, in the macro sense of marketplace, means going for groceries, teaching a class, taking care of someone who is ill, driving a bus, participating in all aspects of family life, in Holy Mass and parish events.

If we understand the essence of being then necessary doing is done with greater selfless love, the doing of little things with exceeding love for Christ directly and Christ in others, which is the direct way of loving and doing for, of being for Christ.

The ‘staying with’ aspect is contemplation: contemplation in action.

There is only one great call, one great call in the Gospel, and it is that of following Jesus on the way of love. This is the summit and it is the centre of everything. In this sense, charity and contemplation are synonymous, they say the same thing. Saint John of the Cross believed that a small act of pure love is more useful to the Church than all the other works combined. What is born of prayer and not from the presumption of our ego, what is purified by humility, even if it is a hidden and silent act of love, is the greatest miracle that a Christian can perform. And this is the path of contemplative prayer: I look at Him and He looks at me. It is that act of love in silent dialogue with Jesus that does so much good for the Church. [2]

To live out this line of the Little Mandate we can draw upon love’s imagination to see and enter deeply the macro and micro dimensions of the marketplace: with lockdowns in many places having churches closed, with the warmer weather, we can stand, or bring a lawn chair and sit, outside the front of the church building, for Jesus is still there in the tabernacle, and be with Him, witnessing by our presence that adoration is a matter of presence, not physical distance, which applies as well if we are housebound and stream one of the exposition web sites. [3] In other words during these day of seemingly unending restrictions impacting the so-called normal of daily life, we can either obsess over the cant’s or use love’s imagination and discover the can-dos. It is within the can-dos that we will find the places in the marketplaces of life to be there with Christ, radiating Him and His love through us upon everyone we see, since the heart is not limited by time, or physical space. We can be with Him wherever the marketplace is, for example wherever on earth presence is needed for love, prayer, light, for through baptism we are living icons of light: You are the light of the world…… your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. [Mt. 5:14-16].

Staying with Jesus in the marketplace is all about love, His love for us, ours for Him and with Him loving everyone.

It is not enough for us to just love one another. Our love must, somehow or other, absolutely must, impenetrate, incarnate itself into the world…….As the sign of love becomes evident in our love for one another, spilling into every nook and corner of our modern world, then we can begin to preach the word with our voices. We can begin to preach the word with our voices, because we have first preached it with our lives. [4]

Being, loving, presence, staying: life with Christ in the marketplace.


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

[2] https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2021/documents/papa-francesco_20210505_udienza-generale.html 

[3] https://ondemand.ewtn.com/Home/Play/1

[4] LIVING THE GOSPEL WITHOUT COMPROMISE; Catherine Doherty; pp. 24,25; Madonna House Publications, 2002

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 35

 

                                          See, days are coming—oracle of the Lord GOD—when I will send a famine upon the land: Not a hunger for bread, or a thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD. [Amos 8:11]

With this ongoing pandemic, with more and more variants, there is such a hunger and thirst within the human family. Many of our brothers and sisters are stressed with the increase of loss of income and increasing food prices, with isolation, a type of famine from in person human contact, hungering for relief from stress, and with a thirst for real hope.

In his catecheses on prayer Pope Francis urges: We all have something to learn from the perseverance of the Russian pilgrim, mentioned in a famous work on spirituality, who learned the art of prayer by repeating the same invocation over and over again: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord, have mercy on us, sinners!” …... He only repeated this. If his life received graces, if prayer became so warm one day as to perceive the presence of the Kingdom among us, if his gaze was transformed until it became like that of a child, it is because he insisted on reciting a simple Christian exclamation. In the end, it became part of his breathing.  The story of the Russian pilgrim is beautiful: it is a book that is accessible to all. I recommend you read it; it will help you to understand what vocal prayer is. Therefore, we must not disregard vocal prayer….. Please, one must not succumb to the pride of scorning vocal prayer. It is the prayer of the simple, the one Jesus taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven…. The words we speak take us by the hand; at times they restore flavour, they awaken even the sleepiest of hearts; they reawaken feelings we had forgotten. And they lead us by the hand towards the experience of God. And above all, they are the only ones that, in a sure way, address to God the questions that he wants to hear. Jesus did not leave us in a fog. He told us: “when you pray, say this”. And he taught the Lord’s Prayer (cf. Mt 6:9). [1]

Pope Francis is calling not just the Church, East and West, but the whole world to pray throughout May for an end to the pandemic, with particular emphasis on prayer through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother who is our refuge, protectress, perpetual help. [2]

Within the treasury of the Church, we have prayers and litanies for every situation in life, the greatest of these being, East and West, the Divine Liturgy/Holy Mass. The one particular reference Pope Francis makes above is to THE WAY OF THE PILGRIM: …aware of our weakness and placing all our trust in the Lord, we should love His commandments more than life and direct all our attention to acquiring the habit of ceaseless calling on the name of the Lord. [3]

The great weakness we all human beings must face each day, at times excruciatingly, is when it comes to things like this pandemic we are powerless. True we can fight with all available resources and develop vaccines and follow distancing and other protocols but no single nor massive group of human beings can control this pandemic.

The Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. [4] This duty is not an institutional one of the Church but a duty for every member of the body of Christ, in order that, guided by the Holy Spirit, we may all proclaim the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of Life and Hope.

Besides the obvious reading of the signs of the times, for which Pope Francis has called for a month of prayer that the ‘sign’ of the pandemic end, there are other signs of the times in which we live that also should be brought to prayer: all the incidents of civil wars, oppression of peoples, the divisive arguments in the various print, television, radio, internet media about the pandemic, vaccines, government abuse of power under the cloak of public health measures and restrictions, the raw physical, emotional, spiritual stress of these times.

Only with the help of the Most Holy Spirit will we have the grace not to fall into any of the swamps of the cacophony of loud and contradictory voices. No one should risk in these days of agenda driven media of any type, to trust as objectively true any contemporary information, nor should we stress ourselves trying to sort through all the racket and agendas.

It would be less stressful, less emotionally and spiritually damaging to go find a massive haystack and search for the proverbial needle, and when taking in any contemporary information these days to do so while not merely taking a grain of salt but an entire fistful.

We need to ask the Most Holy Spirit to renew within us one of His gifts poured into us at our baptism, which both protects us from being overwhelmed by the tsunamis of information that keep rolling over the human family and gives us the strength to endure in these times: the gift of fortitude.

The Holy Spirit moves us by this gift so that we are able to overcome difficulties, to avoid dangers, to have confidence. “I can do all things,” exclaimed the Apostle Paul, “in Him who strengthens me.”……..The Holy Spirit is within us, and we can receive His efficacious aid whenever it is needed…..His graces and gifts are found in the sanctuary of our souls, and so we carry the divine world within us. [5]

[1] https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2021/documents/papa-francesco_20210421_udienza-generale.html

[2] https://www.catholicsun.org/2021/04/21/pope-calls-for-monthlong-global-prayer-marathon-for-end-of-pandemic/

[3] The Way of the Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His way; Helen Bacovcin translator[author is reputed to be an unknown 19th century peasant] p.185; Image Books, 1978

[4] http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html   para. 4

[5] THE SANCTIFIER, by Most Rev. Luis M. Martinez, pps. 137 & 140, 141; St. Paul Editions, 1982

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph