Friday, February 15, 2019

IT HAS COME TO THIS


                                                          

As a child

the crunch of boots

on frozen snow

made me laugh, filled with joy.

This dark, frigid night,

was warmed earlier with soup,

at the shelter.

But not allowed to stay,

too violent is how they identify me.

They did tell me to be careful,

the windchill, they said, is minus 40.

Here, in this alley, scrapped by city plows

down to bare pavement,

huge piles of snow, on either side,

are like arms, arms too distant to embrace.

I ache to be embraced.

Cannot remember when last that was.

No crunching of snow underfoot now.

Even if the alley were snow covered,

worn running shoes would make no sound.

They do not protect my feet, which are freezing.

I tremble, shake violently really, from cold and pain.

If you find this and notice the words are wavy, and spotted

with blood,

it is I shake and the blood on my fingers,

is sticky on this pencil

I found with this cardboard in a dumpster.

Let me tell you it was not the blade entering

my body which hurt.

It was when it was pulled out that I spasmed,

as if molten metal had been poured into the wound.

Why was I attacked and stabbed?

Because they found me alone and because,

though each of us on these streets is already

a gaping wound because of our history,

in our anger, in our hopelessness, in our despair,

we wound each other anew.

God, I am some cold. I hurt.

God?

I seem to have known You long ago when I was a child.

Do You remember me, see me, hear me?

Are You there?

Are You here?

So cold, such pain, one more line, then I must lie down, rest.

So, if you have found this, remember me.

Once I had a name but have forgotten it.



[In memoriam for a young man found frozen to death in this city. His name remains unknown.]



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph










Thursday, January 17, 2019

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR - PART 6


                                   

                               A TEMPLATE FOR HOLINESS, HOPE, PRESEVERANCE

Our vocation, through Baptism, as faithful disciples and soldiers of Christ, in the heart of the world, within the human family, in the heart of the Church, is to be love. [cf. Jn.13:34; 15: 12-14; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Jn.2:7-10; 3:23; 2 Jn. 1:5-6]

An Indigenous elder speaks gently to his grandson: “There are two wolves inside everyone which are always at war with each other. One of them is a good wolf and represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf and represents things like greed, hatred and fear. The grandson stops to think about this for awhile, then he looks up and asks: “Grandfather, which wolf wins the war?” The grandfather quietly replies: “The one that you feed.”  [1]

While it is easy to assume the enemies of faithful disciples of Christ constantly feed the bad wolf, we need to be humble enough, honest enough with ourselves about which wolf we are feeding.

We may fall into satan’s trap of suggesting we can get away with just giving the bad wolf tidbits, rather than a full meal. The danger is the bad wolf, like satan his mentor does when we give into any temptation, becomes more aggressively demanding and fear can cause us to abandon caring for the good wolf and just feeding the bad one.

We need to be nourished with the sacraments, reflecting upon Sacred Scripture with priority to the Gospel, with the Holy Rosary and other times of prayer, using sacramentals, reading the lives of the saints and their writing, in a word being nourished through all such means by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Some, rightly, will challenge the above and note that in the lives of the saints we see that even when they were totally faithful to the will of God in the present moment, even when they were filled with faith, lived truly holy lives – or perhaps because of their very fidelity – suffering was seemingly never absent, rejection, persecution, sometimes even the profound pain of the dark night of the soul, the profound absence of God, all this they experienced as we do.

There is no quick fix, no magic elixir, nothing that exempts faithful followers of Christ from the Cross, however we can trust that the will of God, always an invitation never an imposition, only takes us/invites us, where His grace will sustain us.

We are mistaken to understand love as primarily or only a feeling, likewise with faith, hope, forgiveness of self and others.

Pure, true love is an act of the will, a choice expressed in words and actions, so are faith, hope, charity, kindness, patience, etc., and when such virtues are lived out when the night is at its darkest, the burden-bearing of the actions of others at its heaviest, when the enemy and his human cohorts are most fiercely attacking, that is when the choice to love, to believe, to endure, to be faithful in the precise moment we are living, is truly to be living holiness, radiating the Light of Christ.

We should rejoice in and be comforted by the very fact we are living in these times because the Trinity granting, us life and grace in these times, shows the love and confidence God has in us to be His faithful disciples and witnesses in these very days.

Pope Francis, who understands very well the reality we are living in has given us a wonderful pastoral gift of encouragement, his call to holiness in the modern world: “REJOICE AND BE GLAD” (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for his sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1)…… The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”….. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better”. In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness. The Lord has bestowed on the Church the gifts of scripture, the sacraments, holy places, living communities, the witness of the saints and a multifaceted beauty that proceeds from God’s love, “like a bride bedecked with jewels” (Is 61:10)…… At times, life presents great challenges. Through them, the Lord calls us anew to a conversion that can make his grace more evident in our lives, “in order that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10). At other times, we need only find a more perfect way of doing what we are already doing: “There are inspirations that tend solely to perfect in an extraordinary way the ordinary things we do in life”. When Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên van Thuân was imprisoned, he refused to waste time waiting for the day he would be set free. Instead, he chose “to live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love”. He decided: “I will seize the occasions that present themselves every day; I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way”……. I would like these reflections to be crowned by Mary, because she lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other. She is that woman who rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword. Mary is the saint among the saints, blessed above all others. She teaches us the way of holiness and she walks ever at our side. She does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us. Our converse with her consoles, frees and sanctifies us. Mary our Mother does not need a flood of words. She does not need us to tell her what is happening in our lives. All we need do is whisper, time and time again: “Hail Mary…”



[1] An ancient Cree Legend quoted by Ken LaPointe in: Rouleauville, The Cradle of Calgary, © 2008-2018 by Ken LaPointe and (BVC)

[2] On The Call To Holiness in Today’s World: paras 6, 15, 17, 176: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Thursday, January 10, 2019

LIVING IN THE NEW REALITY OF WAR – PART 5


                                       

                         BEING GOOD SOLDIERS OF CHRIST, AS LIVING ICONS OF TRUTH



So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well. Bear your share of hardship along with me like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. To satisfy the one who recruited him, a soldier does not become entangled in the business affairs of life. [2Tim.2-4]

Soldiers, like all military personnel, are sworn to protect the people, to do battle against the enemy, even to laying down their lives.

These words of St. Paul are applicable in our own day. He is not calling us to be soldiers in terms of methods used by the military to defeat an enemy, for example the use of lethal force. He is calling us to fidelity to our baptismal oath, fidelity to the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of Life and Truth, fidelity to our vocation within and flowing from our baptismal vocation to be proclaimers of the Gospel with our lives without compromise while living within this world, this culture.

Being a good soldier means trusting and living out this from Christ’s prayer to His Father at the last supper: I speak this in the world so that they may share My joy completely. I gave them Your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. [Jn.17:13 ff.]

People often say how overwhelmed they feel under the weight of this culture of darkness and death. To borrow a military phrase, we all are suffering “battle fatigue.”

Not least because: Our enemies are trying to wipe us off the face of the earth, literally. Our enemies are not at the gates; they are inside the gates. The enemies of Christianity are trying to ensure that Christianity has no future. [1]

A major cause of battle fatigue is the very human, and understandable, need for acceptance by others, added to which for some Catholics and other Christians, there is a persistent mythology that in ages past we were not only accepted but admired, even dominant.

There are a few crumbs of truth in that mythology, but just a few. Martyrdom, by blood, oppression, rejection, is more normative than acceptance and dominance.

All Christ’s teachings on the Church are teachings about the power of littleness: the mustard seed, the leaven, a cup of water, salt, light, ordinary acts of charity such as giving food to someone who is hungry, the grain of wheat: [cf. Mt. 5:13-16; 10:42; 13: 31ff; 25:31ff; Jn. 12:24]

If we do seek to live lives of faith, hope, love, peace, active charity, with a sense of fulfillment, as both good soldiers of Christ and a bulwark against the culture of darkness and death it means taking up our cross each day, following Christ and as St. Paul teaches, we are called to make up in our lives: …. what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the church…[Col. 1:24], the ‘what is lacking’ is our willingness to take up the Cross each day, follow Jesus, be in every moment one with Him.

What makes this difficult is what we take in from the surrounding culture of darkness and death through various media, the music we listen to, the books we read, etc.

Garbage in, garbage out.

We have the treasuries of Sacred Scripture, access to Holy Mass, Holy Communion, Confession, adoration, the assistance of Our Lady, the Angels, to music, art, literature which uplifts.

Beauty in, beauty out.

It is our choice.

Do we take in what vivifies or what wearies?

A human tendency which satan uses to disrupt and discourage is having us look back at some point in history, in the life of the Church, the nation, our family, our own lives through frankly, as the saying goes, ‘rose coloured glasses.’

Instead of dwelling fully in the present moment, which is the precise moment in our lives where Christ is with us, we pine for some other moment, or regret, without trust in Divine Mercy, some previous moment.

What a waste of time and grace!

Our sanctification, our deepening our union with Christ, fulfilling our vocation, accomplishing the will of God in our lives, defeating satan, the real enemy in this reality of war, proclaiming the Gospel of Truth and Life with our lives, takes place in, and only in, this precise moment.

This precise moment is both a sacred place and a threshold place. We step deeply into this moment from the previous moment and this moment is simultaneously a threshold into the next moment of grace.

Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Lk.9:62]

From the moment of His Incarnation, through His birth, childhood, adulthood, public life, through the desert, the garden, on the Cross, in the tomb, in His Holy Resurrection, to this very moment Christ never looked back, never sought to somehow go back in time for any reason, rather He dwelt in and fulfilled the will of the Father for our redemption and to be with us in this precise moment.

He is the Good Shepherd leading us through every moment to the eternal moment, the unchanging yet for all eternity ever deepening moment of communion of love with Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. [Jn.15:20]

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon 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. [cf. 1Pt.2:11; 4:12-14; 5:8-11]

We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit. [cf. 1Jn.4:1-6]

Paul Evdokimov reminds us of an adage which affirms: “The hour that you are living, the task that you are doing, the man whom you are meeting in this moment, are the most important in your life.”

The greater reality than the reality of the war we experience is that Christ Himself is already our victory, that greater than all the noise and hatred is the deep silence of God, which is the sound of His loving voice.

We dwell in moments of grace.





[1] The Biggest Lie In the History Of Christianity, Matthew Kelly, p.61; Kakadu, LLC, 2018

[2] The Struggle With God, Paul Evdokimov, p.213, The Paulist Press 1966



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph