Sunday, September 13, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 27

 

                                      

This far north in the winter, snows have already arrived in the mountains and foothills, in fact July is the only month we can be assured the days and nights will not surprise with a snowfall, though the usual snowy months are October to April. At the same time while the normal cold days average minus 15, extended periods in the winter months of temperatures of minus 30 to minus 40 are common enough that the morning weather reports include frostbite warnings.

Before the pandemic, the sounds of the city were fortissimo while the normal winter sounds, always lessened by the snow cover and thin cold air are pianissimo.

This year city sounds, in particular the music of people talking, laughing, walking about, driving, or taking the bus to work, shop, etc., are inconsistent.

A strange silence has engulfed us in this pandemic, an oppressive silence which paradoxically is a banshee screaming: normal is gone.

A few days ago, with a plethora of new Covid protocols, the government re-opened the schools and as I walked past the large one in the neighbourhood, the building covers half a block and the field a block and a half, I heard the long silenced by Covid sound of children!

Each human voice is unique, has its own cadence, range of volume, while each syllable is voiced as a particular note.

The sounds of exuberant children are the consonance music of excitement of being alive among ones like themselves. That long silenced exuberance reminded me immediately of one of my favourite Louis Armstrong songs, whose melodic line in any of his performances was always his radiant smile: I see trees of green, red roses too

I see them bloom for me and you

And I say to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white

Bright sunny days, dark sacred nights

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The colours of the rainbow are so pretty in the skies

Are also on the faces of the people walking by

I see friends shaking hands saying

How do you do?

They're really saying I love you

I see babies cry, I watch them grow

They'll learn much more than I'll ever know

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world [1]

Many people these days, after months of this pandemic do not appear so wonderful, particularly when the music of respectful, even loving, human conversation has been replaced by the cacophony emanating from so many angry people with endless and ever varying demands of everyone they assume is not of their clan and therefore owes them redress for whatever lies behind all the screaming.

This is not to say there are no injustices needing redress, nor divisions needing to be bridged, rather that what should be the consonance of authentic dialogue, with ears and hearts open to listening, has become the dissonance of countries tearing themselves apart in anger.

Fundamentally it is a refusal to love.

Love creates us, sustains us just as Love created and sustains the cosmos.

Among the gifts given us are those of a voice, for our use and enjoyment in communicating with other, and the gift-ability to hear the voice of other. Yes, of our own too, a particular voice we should listen to when we speak to verify if it is lovingly melodic, comforting, or perhaps betrays we have an overly close relationship with banshees!

When the Lord is questioning Job, there is this wonderful line in chapter 38:7: While the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy…….

The Holy Trinity is surrounded by the musical voices and singing of all the choirs of angels, yet the above word reminds us all creation is musical, for example: wind in the trees, variable by the intensity of the wind, the seasons of the year, blizzards have their own sound as do rainstorms, the drops sounding various notes depending what surface they land on and thunderstorms are clearly the kettle drums of creation; waves rolling ashore, rushing streams, the rustle of dry leaves in the fall nudged along by the wind, the crunching sound co-mingled with the laughter of children stepping on them, or in spring splashing in puddles.

If we listen and contemplate the sounds of creation this will help tone down the dissonance of the widespread angry voices of our day.

When Jesus is born hosts of Angels sing the announcement, Luke 2:13,14 and while nowhere in the Gospel accounts is there mention of Jesus laughing, though undoubtedly as a human being like us He did, we do know, following Jewish liturgical practice singing, the Psalms in particular, was part of His gifting music, indeed both Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26, note that after the Last Supper singing a hymn: they went out to the Mount of Olives. [Mt. 26.30] The ‘they’ obviously including Jesus singing.

Chapter 5 is one of the more beautiful chapters in Revelation, both in the musical cadence of the words and it’s reference to the simultaneity of the music/singing/prayer in heaven and the exuberance of all creation in the presence of the Lamb: Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out…..Rev. 5:13

In his 1697 play THE MOURNING BRIDE, William Congreve wrote: music hath charms to sooth a savage breast.

That is consonance music, of creation, of language spoken, sung with respect for other, not falling into the trap of anger, the ‘savage breast’ being an angry heart.

If we strive to be charitably melodic in conversation, even with people we totally disagree with, such patient understanding is charity in action. If we strive to be so charitable a significant amount of the stress of this pandemic will be lifted from our hearts and that space will be filled with joyful peace for our interlocuter brother or sister, and ourselves.

It is critical then for our emotional and spiritual health we invoke the Holy Spirit for His gift of discernment when it comes to choosing the type of music which dominates our listening. Music that does indeed charm, sooth, the ‘savage breast’ or music which winds us up accelerating discontent, anger, restlessness, lack of hope.

As Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis truthfully and comfortingly reminds us: “……Since we are already a “new creation” in Christ [2 Cor. 5:17] and His power is ceaselessly at work within us [2 Cor. 13:3], we must bravely press on into every apparent cataclysm as Miriam and her band of trusting Israelite women blithely ventured into the desert at God’s bidding. Of them we read:

          Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the

          women went out after her with timbrels and dancing. And Miriam sang to them:

                                              “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously;

                                                the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea”

                                                                                                      [Ex. 15:20-21]

Remarking on this curious availability of musical instruments in the wilds of Sinai, one rabbi comments splendidly: “Where did Miriam and the other women obtain timbrels in the wilderness? These righteous women were so confident that God would work miracles for them that they brought timbrels along from Egypt, anticipating that God would give them cause to celebrate.”  Empowered by Christ’s presence within us, how could we Christians, too, not dance with confidence in the face of tribulation and shake timbrels at the darkness with a merry heart?” [2]

                                                                                          

[1] What a Wonderful World; Composed by Bob Thiele (as "George Douglas") and George David Weiss. First recorded and released by Louis Armstrong, 1967.

[2] FIRE OF MERCY HEART OF THE WORLD, Volume III, p. 719; Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; Ignatius Press 2012

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

 

 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 5~A

 

                    DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 5~A

 

Take up My cross (their cross) and:  immediately after, straight from the Holy Gospel, we hear Jesus again inviting us with His love-words: follow Me. [1]

Those two words follow Me are spoken to us by Jesus over twenty times in the Holy Gospel.

Me sequere is the Latin and places ‘me’ before follow. The English translation is grammatically correct for English and Suis-moi, the French translation incorporates: the word ‘suis’, translated in English as ‘m because the word ‘suis’ is always used in connection with an action such as the suis-moi and also with being: such as Je suis which means, in context, I am/I follow.

Ακολούθησέ με is the Greek for follow me, placing me second as in the French. In fact, the Greek term means to follow the thread of a discourse, hence when Jesus invites us to follow Him He is first and foremost inviting us to follow the discourse with Him, in a word into the depths and implications of all His words.

Following Jesus then is both a matter of heart-understanding attentiveness and being with Jesus wherever He leads.

The very text of St. Matthew 4:18-20 reveals Jesus, always with the fire-love of His Sacred Heart, is seeking us. His call is always a matter of love: our response makes real our love for Him. Once He sees them Jesus says: Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. They immediately left their nets and followed Him. *

Love calls, love responds!

Who among us has not, on occasion, when asked by someone to accompany them, or help with something responded with: “Be right with you as soon as…..”  Such a response is not a lack of willingness but a question of priorities.

St. Matthew illustrates this point when someone, defined by St. Matthew as already a disciple, obviously was asked by Jesus for a deeper commitment, but wavers saying in essence “Be right with You as soon as…..” to which Jesus replies: Follow Me and let the dead bury their dead. [Mt. 8:22] Jesus is not here denying the commandment to honour our parents, rather He is teaching us that our greatest priority must always be the Kingdom and the things of the Kingdom.

In 9:9 is the call of Matthew himself; in 10:38 and 16:24 the taking up of our cross as constituent of following Jesus; in 19:16-22 the story of the Rich Young Man, for whom dispossession of his great wealth as a condition of following Jesus was just too much.

St. Mark also tells of Jesus’ call to follow Him addressed to James and John in 1:17, to Levi in 2:14 and in 8:34 also gives Jesus’ teaching about taking up our cross as a vital component of following Him and repeats this in 10:21.

St. Luke’s first ‘follow Me’ account is in 5:27 with the call of Matthew, and showing Matthew’s exuberance at being converted, while in 9:23 he gives a detailed teaching by Jesus of what taking up one’s cross and following Him entails and later in 9:59 we encounter again Jesus’ teaching on priorities of choice. In St. Luke’s version the one with much wealth is defined as ‘a certain ruler’, 18:22 is the hunger of love for that man, an offering of love rebuffed because even though the weight of the man’s wealth makes him sorrowful the sorrow is not exchanged for the joy of following Jesus.

St. John tells us of Jesus finding Philip and the asking to be followed 1:43. It is St. John who gives us Jesus’ self-revelation teaching He is the Good Shepherd and notes how the sheep follow Him, 10:27. It is after His triumphal procession into Jerusalem that Jesus connects our faithful service with yet again the invitation to follow, 12:26 so that we may be where He is.

We easily remember Peter’s boast during the Last Supper, but we often forget this occurs in the context of wanting, in his burning love for Jesus, to follow Him: 13:36-38.

In chapter 21 affirming that Peter will die a martyr’s death, it is Jesus Risen, radiating fire, love, light upon Peter who in saying to Peter once more Follow Me, 21:19, shows to Peter and all of us the ultimate experience of responding to Jesus’ loving invitation to follow Him is that of resurrection and eternal life with Jesus in the heart of the Trinity.

Typical Peter of course seeing John, who self refers as the disciple Jesus loved, following Jesus, the old insecurity, if not jealously, flares, so Peter pushes Jesus on what will become of John and this is the one time in the Holy Gospels where the tone is not invitational but a command: YOU FOLLOW ME, 21:22.

For Peter, the literal “Follow Me” will come after the washing of the feet at the Last Supper (cf. Jn 13:36), and later, in a definitive way, after the resurrection, on the shore of Lake Tiberias (cf. Jn 21:19)……………we may ask: who is He who issues the call to follow Him, and promises to those who follow Him such great rewards, even eternal life? Can an ordinary human being promise so much and be believed and followed, and have such a hold not only on those happy disciples but also on thousands and millions of people throughout the centuries?.......In establishing the need of the response to the call to follow Him, Jesus concealed from no one that to follow Him involves sacrifice, sometimes also the supreme sacrifice……(Mt.16-24-25)……At the same time, however, Jesus proclaimed blessed those who are persecuted “on account of the Son of Man” (Lk 6:22) [2]

 

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

* The citations are only the verse where the word appears, unless otherwise indicated.

[2] A Catechesis on the Creed; John Paul II; Jesus Son and Saviour; Volume Two; pp. 246/247 & 249; Pauline Media 1996

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~26

 

                                                   

All humanity is being put to the test. The Covid-19 pandemic puts us in a situation of unprecedented, dramatic and global difficulty whose power to destabilize the plans we have for our lives is growing day by day…….the pandemic highlights with unexpected harshness the precariousness that radically characterizes our human condition……. [1a]

Released in March of this year by the Pontifical Academy For Life the entire document was/is prescient in looking deeply at the various components of the pandemic.

Part of the precariousness that characterizes the human condition, a condition deeply wounded by personal and collective sin, is the tendency towards a mentality that sees other as threat or other as owing me, often for some injustice the other has had nothing to do with, for example aggrieved individuals or groups demanding of the present generation compensation for the sins of ancestors committed against the aggrieved group or individual leading to a bizarre and heartbreaking placard I saw the other day: No lives matter until black lives matter.

…… we must learn to render our freedoms collaborative for the common good, to overcome the tendencies, which an epidemic can nourish, to see in the other an “infectious” threat from which to distance ourselves, an enemy from which to protect oneself……..We are part of humanity and humanity is part of us. We must accept this dependency and appreciate the responsibility that makes us participants and protagonists in it. There is no right that does not have a resultant corresponding duty: the coexistence of those who are free and equal is an exquisitely ethical question, not a technical one. We are therefore called to recognize, with new and deep emotion, that we are entrusted to each other. Never as much as today has the caring relationship presented itself as the fundamental paradigm for human coexistence. [1b]

As counter to the demanding mentality of those who cling to actual or imagined grievances/wounds of the past, a mentality which exacerbates the stress of the pandemic and only leads to more anger and divisions, we have the example of Ven. Pierre Toussaint born into slavery in Haiti and when, after finally being freed –  though his life witnesses actual slavery only is effective if interiorly we choose to be enslaved – he demanded no re-dress, did not choose anger, hatred, rather he lovingly poured himself out to care for the one who had once ‘owned’ him and for others throughout his entire life. [2]

There is the example too of St. Josephine Bakhita who was enslaved as a child, sold over and over again until an Italian diplomat deliberately bought her to set her free. Once in Italy she soon embraced the Catholic faith becoming a nun and caring for the poor. [3]

Numerous are the examples of men and women, priests and religious who in the living hells of the Nazi death camps, the gulag and all the modern concentration and labour camps, places of modern slavery, focus not on anger and hatred, not on demanding revenge, but on forgetting self and caring for others, breaking the back of evil and giving to others hope, the experience of human dignity, of love.

Let us not be naive.

Hatred, from those who oppose the Gospel of Life, oppose the Church’s defense of marriage and family life, this hatred like the yellow-green gas clouds snaking across the battlefields of WWI with all their lethality, yes hatred spews like that poison from the anti-Christian media, special interest groups, politicians, and others, demanding the Church change Her teachings, in a word that She and faithful Catholics abandon Christ and His Gospel: "The age of martyrs is not yet over, even today we can say, in truth, that the Church has more martyrs now than during the first centuries. The Church has many men and women who are maligned through calumny, who are persecuted, who are killed in hatred of Jesus, in hatred of the faith... they are our brothers and sisters who are suffering today, in this age of the martyrs. …..we have persecutions: with words, with insults…….. in order to bear witness to light and to truth, the Church experiences, in different places, harsh persecution, up to the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom. How many of our brothers and sisters in faith endure abuse and violence and are hated because of Jesus! …..  The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for holiness, mercy, the pure in heart and peacemakers may lead to persecution because of Christ….. ultimately this persecution is a cause of joy and of great reward in heaven. The way of the Beatitudes is an Easter path that leads us from a life in accord with the world to one of God, from a life led by the flesh — that is by selfishness — to one guided by the Spirit. It is painful to recall that in this very moment, there are many Christians in various parts of the world who are suffering from persecution, and we must hope and pray that their trials will soon end….We are a single body and these Christians are the bleeding limbs of the body of Christ who is the Church. In persecutions there is always the presence of Jesus who accompanies us, the presence of Jesus who comforts us and the strength of the Holy Spirit that helps us to go forward. Let us not be discouraged when a life that is faithful to the Gospel draws persecution from people. There is the Holy Spirit who sustains us in this journey.” [4]

Because we are called through Baptism to be living witnesses to Christ, to life, truth, perhaps not for most of us martyrdom by blood, certainly by oppression from media, ersatz Catholics who publicly reject Church teachings they don’t like. Our strength and courage, our peace and joyful hope in persecution and in the pandemic comes from the reality that Jesus, as He assures us, is with us in every moment: “….behold, I am with you always, until the end of time.” [Mt. 28:20]

Covid-19 has brought desolation to the world. We have lived it for so long, now, and it is not over yet. It might not be for a very long time. What to make of it? Surely, we are summoned to the courage of resistance…… Limitations of social contacts are frightening; they can lead to situations of isolation, despair, anger, and abuse. For elderly people in the last stages of life the suffering has been even more pronounced, for the physical distress is coupled by diminished quality of life and lack of visiting family and friends……The prevailing metaphors now encroaching on our ordinary language emphasize hostility and a pervasive sense of menace: the repeated encouragements to “fight” the virus, the press releases that sound like “bulletins of war,” the daily updates on the number of infected, soon turning into “fallen victims.” In the suffering and death of so many, we have learned the lesson of fragility….. Immense, unspeakable misery, and the struggle for basic survival needs, has brought into evidence the condition of prisoners, those living in extreme poverty at the margins of society, especially in developing countries, the abandoned destined to oblivion in refugee camps from hell. [5]

Phone calls from people across Canada and the US, emails, chats with people, masked face to masked face, when out walking, all affirm the stress and confusion as noted above. Under the stress of the pandemic people are filled with anger directed at whomever is the handiest target because, if we be honest, our anger is threefold: 1] obviously there is no God or if there is He simple doesn’t care about what’s happening and is absent; 2] government, i.e. whomever is supposed to take care of us is incapable of protecting us from this virus; 3] at ourselves because we really do hate not being in control.

Since much of contemporary Christianity is tainted, therefore weakened, by secularist notions, it behooves all Christians, Catholics above all, to heed these words of Pope Emeritus Benedict from a talk given when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger called: THE GOOD FRIDAY OF HISTORY: We must also learn – again, not just theoretically, but in the way we think and act – that in addition to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Church and in the Blessed Sacrament, there is that other, second real presence of Jesus in the least of our brethren in the downtrodden of this world, in the humblest; He wants us to find Him in all of them. To accept this truth ever anew is the decisive challenge that Good Friday presents to us year after year. [6]

This is the stark choice we have while enduring this pandemic: faithless anger, frustration, darkness of mind, heart, soul – or – to choose to put other first and choose to believe, to trust, to hope, to love as acting persons and thus living the reality that as baptized persons we are light in the darkness because He who is Light dwells within us and radiates from us towards everyone.

Our condition is a wounded freedom. We might reject it as a curse, a provisional situation to be soon overcome. Or we can learn a different patience: capable of consent to finitude, of renewed porosity to neighbourly proximity and distant otherness. [7]

To paraphrase Henri Nouwen, we can choose to be the ‘wounded healer’ for others or to wallow in just being wounded! We live in a society in which loneliness has become one of the most painful human wounds. [8] True before the pandemic it is more pervasive now and given the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down, much less ending, and given all the various isolation edicts we must become very creative in how we alleviate this parallel pandemic of loneliness, loss of faith and hope, and for some loss of love in their lives.

It can seem unfair, exhausting even when Christianity itself is under such attack, for we Christians to take seriously and live out the Great Commandment to love one another, that is everyone, as Jesus loves us.

If we do not, who will? Who will be the ears that hear the cry of the poor, the lonely, the homeless, the sick, the exhausted care-givers and respond not with altruistic humanism, as helpful as that may be, but with a love which bears the burdens of others and lifts them and their suffering and needs up to the heart of God in prayer?

We are baptized to be apostles of Christ, witnesses to Him and His love for everyone, for: As members of the Mystical Body, we are the minds to meditate and the eyes to look on the reality of the world, the ears to hear its cries and pleas, the arms to rescue and support; the feet to go to the suffering, the heart to bring compassion and love to those in need, the mouth to speak words of love and consolation. [9]

The more we move outside of ourselves, stop listening to the voices of doom and gloom, of anger and vengeance, of demands and blame, and seek voices of hope and comfort, like that of Pope Francis and ordinary people who speak kindly when we are out for a walk, or who join in prayer even if restrictions mean liturgies are viewed online more often than in person, then we will experience that peace and joy, the comfort and love rooted in Christ and the Gospel, experienced by St. Francis and we too will pray and live out: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy;  O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

[1a] http://www.academyforlife.va/content/dam/pav/documenti%20pdf/2020/Nota%20Covid19/Note%20on%20the%20Covid-1

[1b] op. cit.

[2] https://adw.org/living-the-faith/our-cultures/black-history-month/venerable-pierre-toussaint/

[3] https://catholicsaints.info/saint-josephine-bakhita/

[4] https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-08/pope-francis-christians-persecution-more-martyrs-now-today.html

[5] http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_pont-acd_life_doc_20200722_humanacomunitas-erapandemia_en.html

[6] FAITH AND POLITICS, Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI; 1 The Good Friday of History; pp.25,26; Ignatius Press; 2018

[7] http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_pont-acd_life_doc_20200722_humanacomunitas-erapandemia_en.html

[8] THE WOUNDED HEALER, Henri Nouwen, p. 83; Image Books 1979

[9] THE ROAD OF HOPE, a gospel from prison, Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan; p.92; Wellspring 2018

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 4

                    

When I last posted here back in May I noted my surprise I had not written about the LITTLE MANDATE since the feast of St. Joseph. Little did I know that within the week I would be taken seriously ill – not Covid thanks be to God – and would be hospitalized for several weeks. Now back in poustinia and recovering, time to resume writing.

Immediately after the directive about poverty the next directive in the Little Mandate is: Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me,…… [1]

What easily springs to mind and heart here are the words of Jesus describing the  last judgement, [Mt. 25: 31-46], which is both His revelation of identification with the poor, the needy, and His telling us that if we wish to touch Him, love Him, serve Him, we do so by loving, serving, touching our brothers and sisters.

Jesus should be everything to you: the object of all your desires, the reason behind all of your decisions, the motivation of all your emotions, and the model for all your actions. [2]

Because we are His and He is our Beloved we love our brothers and sisters – every human being, even enemies, is a brother, a sister – and we express this love by all the acts of love mentioned in Matthew 25:31 ff. and also, as St. Paul instructs us: Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. [Gal.6:2], thus ‘Take up My cross [their cross] and follow Me…..’

There is a pious tradition that before being cast into hell satan was shown the Holy Infant, the Incarnate One, and as that vile creature satan watched myriads of Angels love, adore, serve the Holy Child satan screamed: non serviam ~ I will not serve.

Christ the King reigns by serving, and only those will inherit the Kingdom who allow the lifeblood of the Kingdom – sacrificial service – to flow effectively through their own veins. [3]

The lifeblood of the Kingdom, when we open wide the door of our being to Christ, flows into us as that fire Christ sows within us and all creation [cf. Lk. 12:49] and this fire-lifeblood permeating our beings is transformative, transforming us from self-servers to, in imitation of and in union with Christ, true servants of everyone, true burden-bearers, true Simons of Cyrene.

In the fourth sorrowful mystery of the Rosary we try to see the whole of the Lord’s via dolorosa from one viewpoint only: Jesus burdened with the cross…….on His shoulders the full weight of the cross!......A weight under which He falls. His persecutors…..have to find someone to help Him…..[4a] We are called through Baptism to answer the call. It is a matter of embracing the gift of being beloved and of loving as Christ does. Love not only uplifts us, takes us out of ourselves, it also lays burdens on us. [4b] Taking up the cross of the poor, Christ’s cross, is love’s burden.

It is highly unlikely we can live out this line of the Little Mandate, with any modicum of peace and joy, unless we humbly accept the reality of our own cross, keeping in mind and heart, with gratitude, that since we are all poor, that is all in need of one another, through and with Christ someone[s] is/are helping us carry our cross. The cross is made up of our weaknesses and failings; it is constructed by our enthusiastic impulses and especially by the dark depths of our heart where a secret resistance and a shameful ugliness lurk, by all that complexity which is at this precise moment, the authentic I. “Love your neighbour as yourself,” allows a certain love of self. It is a call to love our cross. It means perhaps the most difficult act of all – to accept ourselves as we are. [5] Such humble self acceptance enables acceptance of others as they are.

The joy of dwelling peacefully in faith, love, hope, light, joy while taking up the cross of Christ, the cross of the poor and following Jesus wherever He goes is that: We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. [Rms.8:28]

These words of St. Paul point to Jesus’ teaching: “…..the kingdom of God is within you.” [Lk. 17:21] Some translations have it as ‘among you’ or ‘in your midst’. The kingdom experienced on earth is the spiritual reality of the abundance of divine life gifted within us [cf.Jn.10:10] and the fullness of divine joy [cf. Jn.15:11]  If we open our hearts to Jesus, Jesus of the poor, of everyone, then the fullness of the kingdom, when He knocks and we welcome Him into the depths of our being, transforms the restless, lonely “I” into the communal “WE”, with Him, the Father, the Holy Spirit, all human beings, and in that moment we will begin to hear, deep within ourselves the music of Divine Silence, the symphony of Divine Love pouring into us, an aspect of the living water designed to flow from our hearts into the hearts of everyone, and all this music, the music of Divine Light and Life we shall hear flowing towards and from all creation, flowing from the movement of the planets, the winds and gentle breezes, singing of birds, the sound of the swaying dance of trees and grasses, fields of wheat and bubbling brooks,  the giggling of the Newborn Child in the manger, the radiant icons of God: every child, man, woman, like gentle flickering votive lamps, a kingdom so alive, active, gentle in its power that yes it causes all tears to shimmer like diamonds, the cries of humans in pain and desolation to be heard carried in the hands of Angels to the very throne of God, piercing the heavens opened by the piercing of His Sacred Heart, while the love of spouses for each other, of parents for their children, of grandparents for future generations, is an ode to joy and love blending with the  sound of  choirs in great cathedrals, blending with the voices of men, women, children in the smallest and poorest of Churches, as the words of priests from the Pope to the just ordained “This IS My Body, this IS My Blood…..” reverberate to the ends of the cosmos as the music of love, hope, redemption, to hear all this is to experience The Kingdom of God is within you….as hearing the beating heart of the Gospel. [6]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

[2] THE ROAD OF HOPE, a gospel from prison; Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan; p. 70, #235; 2018 Wellspring

[3] FIRE OF MERCY HEART OF THE WORLD; Volume III, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; p. 615; Ignatius Press; 2012

[4a] SIGN OF CONTRADICTION, by Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II; p.77; St. Paul Publications

[4b] op. cit. p. 78

[5] From: THE STRUGGLE WITH GOD, Paul Evdokimov, p. 59; Paulist Press 1966

[6] Inspired by these words of Paul Evdokimov: “The Kingdom of God is within you.” The  beating heart of the Gospel can be heard in these words.

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~25

                                             

 After two weeks plus post hospital rest, I had a follow-up visit with my personal physician who informed me I had been much sicker and closer to death than I had understood. So now the duty of the moment is to do the necessary for the physical, emotional, and spiritual rehab.

Here in the hermitage I am once again able to celebrate Holy Mass, receive Holy Communion, pray the Divine Offices, the Holy Rosary etc., and spend time with lectio divina.

These gifts of encounter and companionship with Jesus give purpose and meaning to our lives as His disciples.

Sacred Scripture is the living, active, loving, voice of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, source of insight, understanding, guidance, comfort, particularly when we are in pain, confusion, or in the heat of the battle of spiritual warfare: Because He Himself was tested through what He suffered, He is able to help those who are being tested. [Hb.2:18]

While words, such as from Hebrews above, are spoken to the entire human family, it is crucial we hear the words personally, thus: able to help me while I am being tested.

For months now the entire human family has been, is being, tested in a manner few saw coming and in a manner which confronts us with how extraordinarily little, if any, control we actually have over how life unfolds.

This pandemic has gone on long enough, is virulent enough, that every corner of the earth, every nation, every family, each of us is impacted.

In the midst of all this with the psychological, spiritual, economic devastation that is increasingly part of the suffering, with so many people out of work with lots of time on their hands social unrest – sometimes under the guise of agitating for a more just society, sometimes just to rebel against things like social distancing – has become in places part of daily life.

Given, as throughout history from the beginning, the vast majority of our brothers and sisters, day in and day out, seek only to live lives that focus on raising a family, being kind to one another, praying and loving as children of God, that same majority is, frankly, deeply confused, even frightened, certainly exhausted as this pandemic and its attendant disruption of ‘ordinary life’ deepens.

Gifted with intellectual curiosity, creativity, imagination we human beings over the millennia have developed systems of communal living, agriculture, medicine, science, art: in a word we are creative, problem solvers, and intently seekers of the ‘why’, the favourite question of small children!

Why this pandemic with this particular virus at this time in history?

The longer it takes for finding a definitive, or at least somewhat clarifying answer or for

scientists to discover a vaccine, and for ‘normal’ life to resume, the greater the psychological, socio-familial toll within the human family and on each one of us.

If my stint of serious illness has taught me anything, above and beyond the importance of family, their love, the power of their prayer and that of loving friends, it is to accept – hopefully with no small degree of humility:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” [Jn.21:18]

While in the first instance this is Jesus directly telling Peter in his old age he will be martyred for Christ – and tradition tells us when the time came in Rome for Peter to be crucified in his humility he asked to be crucified upside down, not believing himself to be worthy of being crucified in the same manner as Jesus – there is another dimension to Jesus’ word to Peter, namely the personal word to each of us.

Most of us will not be taken away and martyred, however this pandemic is to experience  being led where we do not want to go’.

This pandemic certainly is to experience, irrespective of our age, a being dressed NOT by ourselves or with our own clothing but by governments with the restrictive clothing of isolation and myriad other ever changing regulations and being led into an abnormal daily life with all the attendant stress, uncertainly, confusion.

There will come a time, a day, in our lives when the being taken/led to death will indeed be entering into the experiential truth of:  In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be. [Jn.14:2,3]. In that moment when Jesus Himself has come for us we will surrender to the ultimate experience of: Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light. [Mt. 11:28-30]. For having lived this out faithfully each day, embracing Jesus’ yoke and burden, true rest will be Jesus taking us from the nomadic tent of chronological time into the home of His and our Father, there to dwell in the depths of true rest which is communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity.

Between now and then, bearing the cross of this pandemic, we must ask the help of the Holy Spirit and Our Blessed Mother so as not to be enmeshed in the media-hype, their obsession with body counts, infection counts, nor to fall into the burning tar pit of real or imagined theories about the origins of all this or how long it will last or the myriad of issues which suddenly dominate against the background of the pandemic, disturbingly distracting us from the unchangeable, which should be our comfort and joy, namely faith, love, family, and that hope which never fails for, like truth, it is the assurance of living in union with our Beloved who assures us He is indeed our way, truth, life. [cf. Jn. 14:6]

Satan is mucking around with peoples’ emotions and fears as he always does, he is messing around with the media, governments, and sowing disruption and confusion everywhere and information overload, much which information is of debatable accuracy, for he is a liar.

As disciples of Christ, we should ask for the grace to do as Our Blessed Mother did when Herod’s death squads were after Jesus, when Jesus left home and was away for most of the last three year’s of His life and Mary, undoubtedly Her motherly heart aching and missing Him, endured His absence, until it was time to witness His suffering on the Cross, to accept becoming Our Mother, then between Jesus’ Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost She held those in the Upper Room together, until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit after which, on earth at the heart of the Church until Her assumption, and now from heaven for each of us as Mother, She is penultimate icon of being faithful disciples of Christ: [In the Gospel for Christmas], only one thing is said about the Mother of God: she “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19)……What were these things? They were joys and sorrows: on the one hand the birth of Jesus, the love of Joseph, the visits of the shepherds, that radiant night. But on the other hand: an uncertain future; lack of shelter, “because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk. 2:7); the desolation of rejection; the disappointment of having to give birth to Jesus in a stable. Hopes and anxieties, light and shadow: all these things settled in the heart of Mary. And she, what did she do? She reflected on them, meaning that she went over them with God in her heart. She did not keep anything for herself, close anything off in solitude or smother it in bitterness; she brought everything to God. That is how she kept these things. Giving things up is how to keep them: not allowing life to fall prey to fear, to discouragement or superstition, not closing oneself off or seeking to forget, but making everything a dialogue with God. And God, whose heart is set on us, comes to dwell in our lives. [1]

This is the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Mother, showing us by Her own doing so first for us, how to endure and be faithful, to trust and have hope during this pandemic and beyond, with Her help, bringing everything to the Holy Trinity, speaking all that is on our hearts and listening, for in the listening we experience we are beloved and that all will be well.

 

[1] AVE MARIA, The Mystery Of A Most Beloved Prayer; Pope Francis; pp. 90-92; Penguin Random House 2019 ~ [italics and highlighting mine]

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~24

                                            

Not long after the last posting here, the evening of May 22, I became violently ill and the accompanying pain was so severe I called 911 and was taken by ambulance to the Community Hospital where I was put in ICU on oxygen and a morphine drip.

After a few days I was moved to the critical care wing, the drip was replaced with injections throughout the day and night for pain, and I was put on other IVs to deal with pneumonia, fluid on the lungs and another infection. CAT scans and x-rays, an ECG and blood tests, became part of the routine while I remained very weak and bed ridden. Also, I was only on fluids for nourishment. The team of 3 doctors said I was suffering severe pancreatitis, which had them baffled as I had none of the underlying conditions for such an illness.

While because of Covid-19 protocols, no visitors were permitted into the hospital I was able, as I had my cell phone from when I called the ambulance, to have my family drop off a charger so we were able to keep in touch. This was particularly helpful when – still in hospital, bed ridden, hooked up to oxygen and IVs, the doctors, on May 31, my 35th ordination anniversary, said no longer in my life could I consume even a teaspoon or less of wine for Holy Mass. This was stunning and heartbreaking, but I recalled something Pope Benedict had granted years ago for priests who cannot consume fermented wine, so called a friend who checked and verified that priests may use a non-fermented wine called Mustum, which my own doctor approved my using once I was back in the poustinia.

By June 1st I was off fluids and starting solid food, small amounts at first, off the oxygen, pneumonia and fluid on the lungs healed, though I remained on high doses of pain meds as the doctors said that aspect of healing would take a few weeks. The physiotherapists helped me start to walk after the long time in bed and by June 6th I was released and now in poustinia continue the long journey of recuperation.

Around the world in various ways people are saying thank-you to Frist Responders, Doctors, Nurses, and countless others caring for us during this pandemic.

Living in Canada where we are blessed with free universal medical care I did not have, as people in many countries do, the stress of wondering how things would be paid for and so I am grateful to those in government, politicians and civil servants, and to working men and women who pay taxes, for our system of medical care.

Deep gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and all the staff who took such care of myself and everyone in the hospital needing care.

Thank-you also to my family and friends whose phone calls, bringing me back from the hospital, getting prescriptions, groceries and lavishing love and prayer, helped me get through the long hospital stay and to continue this journey of recovery.

 

 © 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Monday, May 18, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~23

                                         

Whenever a priest celebrates Holy Mass/the Divine Liturgy, the entire Heavenly Court: the Holy Trinity, Our Blessed Mother, all the Angels, Saints, Martyrs, all the blessed who dwell therein, are present, surrounding the altar, filling the church, no matter how grand or small the edifice, with all the radiant love, joy, light which flows upon us, and, if we open wide the doors of our being, permeates us!

Psalm 149.9 proclaims the truth that: the Lord delights in His people, that’s each one of us first individually, for are all His children, and then communally as one human family. Through Baptism we become members of the body of Christ, and this too is both an individual and communal reality, as St. Paul teaches about the body of Christ: If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy. [1Cor.12:26]

Blaise Pascal in his Pensées, a series of reflections on faith and life, urges us: “In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart.”

The greatest beauty we can carry in our hearts is Christ Himself, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit delights in dwelling within us and if we strive to be true disciples of Christ then it is the beauty of the Holy Trinity which will radiate from our hearts upon all our brothers and sisters, for indeed these are the very difficult times when beauty is needed, a beauty which gives hope.

It is when we open our hearts also to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within that, we who have been created as delight of God, therefore for happiness, the real happiness which is gift, not the ersatz happiness of mere pleasure, experience the Holy Spirit’s gift of joy, which is also to experience the true freedom of the children of God.

Therein that freedom is experienced also the consolation of hope.

The freedom of the children of God is living in but not of the world, living not bent towards ourselves but walking open hearted, towards others in imitation of Christ, protected, comforted, interceded for and loved by those who have gone before us and now dwell in the eternal happiness, beauty, joy, that is the eternal communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity who delights in us.

Every time we pray-proclaim the Apostles’ Creed we profess belief in the Communion of Saints.

Communion with the saints: "It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself" [1]

Sometimes by ancient tradition, sometimes by designation at the time of their canonization, those in the heavenly kingdom, who have traveled the road of life, been pilgrims of the Absolute before us, are known as the patron saints of a particular country, city, town, village, parish, among these would be St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Protectress of Canada, while others are patrons of various professions such as St. Joseph patron of carpenters, others, like St. Jude, intercessor for ‘impossible situations’, are called upon for various needs.

While it is wonderful all the gestures of gratitude to the doctors, nurses and others caring for us, protecting us, assuring there is food, etc., it also is a time to call upon those Saints who are patrons both for those who care for us, and indeed for those sickened, physically or mentally, by the virus or the impact of isolation.

When this link appears: https://catholicsaints.info/   scrolling to ‘saints in the medical field’ shows not only the patron saints of doctors, such as St. Luke, and nurses but also those of, for example EMTs, or police officers for whom St. Michael the Archangel is one of the patrons.

Jesus’ promise not to leave us orphans, Jn.14:18, encompasses the Communion of Saints, whose Queen is our Blessed Mother, whom Jesus gave to us when St. John at the foot of the Cross stood in his own person and as representative of each one of us: Jn. 19:26,27.

Besides the intercession, love, protection of the Saints, closeness to them, for they all struggled, suffered, fell, sinned, confessed, began again, should deepen our hope, enhance our joy, strengthen our faith.

Unfortunately the best link I have found for Saints in a time of plague, which this pandemic is,  has bothersome ads, ads on internet sites being another form of plague, it is worth checking out: https://aleteia.org/2020/03/12/these-saints-know-firsthand-about-surviving-pandemics/

Yep, time to turn again to St. Monica, the patron saint of those in need of patience!

 

 

[1] para. 956 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 3B

                   

 

It came as somewhat of a shock to realize I have not worked on this commentary since the feast of St. Joseph, spending so much time focused on the Covid 19 Hope essays! However, that is actually part of living out selling all you possess and to: Give it directly, personally to the poor. [1]

While time is a gift given to us, and not per se something we possess, by and large we do control how we use the time gifted to us.

Helping one another in these dark days is both true charity and dispossession, the giving directly to the poor and everyone, in various ways, not all of them economic, is vitally important.

Some people, mostly unknown to us, do choose to sell or give away everything they possess and embrace a life of total poverty such as the ancient mendicants, and modern mendicants, continue to do so. Not only within Christianity but in other religions as well.

While St. Francis and his companions started out that way the expansion of their vocation from itinerant preachers to pastors of parishes, and other works, means more communal living and possessing what is necessary for their apostolate. St. Mother Teresa’s Sisters, Brothers and Priests live a stricter poverty, as do the men, women, and priests of Madonna House. Again, it is a matter of the particular vocation and apostolate.

Each of us who live other vocations, such as in Holy Marriage, as parents with children, consecrated men and women virgins living in the world, hermits, etc., need also to stand humbly before the Holy Spirit asking Him, as He will, to enlighten us how to be dispossessed, to give what we do possess directly, personally to the poor. Here too the guidance of a priest-spiritual director will help ensure that, for example as parents, we do not deprive the family of what is necessary.

Satan, if he cannot seduce us with obvious evil will use another pernicious tactic, that of seducing us with what appears to be a good, extreme dispossession: selling/giving away so much that we impoverish our family or are no longer able to properly care for our own lives.

The key is to understand the difference between need and want. I need good food to eat. I may want the best filet mignon several times a week, rather than say fish or less expensive cuts of meat. By ‘selling’ my want and embracing the selflessness of need, the difference in money saved becomes a gift I can give directly to the poor such as by keeping a few dollars in my pocket so I don’t pass by my homeless brother or sister begging for help but can give them, thus giving to Christ Himself, what I have.

Material dispossession and material generosity are comparatively easy next to cooperating with the Most Holy Spirit to be dispossessed of the false self, the self that strives to always be the center of attention, have the last word, have one’s opinions dominate conversations, the false self which seeks the first place in every aspect of life, is more interested in being loved and accepted than loving and accepting etc., and etc.! Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” [Mt.16:24ff] “…..everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be My disciple.” [Lk. 14:33]

To deny the self is to deny the false self, the egocentric self, the self who, if we be brutally honest, often acts, thinks, as if smarter than God. It is these possessions we truly need to be unburdened of, for they are the chains that bind us, weigh us down, keep a wall we build brick by brick between ourselves and God who is love. It is to sink more and more into the quagmire of a aloneness which destroys marriages, alienates parents from children, citizens/neighbours from one another and on the grand scale breeds hatreds, discriminations, conflicts/wars between nations. Only when we dwell within union with His Most Sacred Heart will we become poor as He became poor for us and then be able to see self and other as He sees us and love one another accordingly: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light.” [Mt.11:29] “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” [Jn.13:34] “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.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” [Mk.12:30,31]

“What then is it that we have to bring to the poor? First, it seems to me, the realization that we are the poorest of the poor. Secondly, a realization that unless we truly love ourselves, we cannot even begin to love our neighbours…..Among the ways of loving ourselves is this acceptance of our poverty which acknowledges that we are totally dependent on God, and which acts, therefore, always according to His will. But to act according to God’s will, one must empty oneself of all self-centredness, selfishness, egotism. Positively, one must have a listening heart that is free, poor, one that listens to the quiet voice of God and follows it.” [2]

 

 

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

[2] The Gospel Without Compromise, pp.101 & 106; Catherine de Hueck Doherty, 1989, Madonna House Publications.

 

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph