Monday, February 22, 2021

ST. JOHN 12:29~36

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

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

                    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

  

Thursday, February 11, 2021

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 32

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

 

Friday, February 05, 2021

ST. JOHN 12:26-28

 

                                                               

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID 19 ~ 31

 

 Many people have written, phoned, stopped to chat when I am out walking – chatting six feet apart through masks is weird – expressing their stress trying to sort through the tsunami of information as to what is actually, objectively true and what is not. This is not a new phenomenon in human communication but in this oddly ‘new normal’ there does seem to be more intense confusion. Only Christ our Light can disperse the shadows of confusion, Only Christ is our hope and peace. This essay is an attempt to look at the issue of truth and non-truth, through Christ who is always with us, walking with, listening to, comforting and teaching us as He did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. [Lk.24:13-35]

“What is truth?”

St. John 18: 38 Pilate asks that question of Jesus, yet he remains so disinterested in the answer he does not bother to pay attention to reality.

Most acutely since the pandemic, be it about politics, the virus, climate, gender identity, Church teachings, science, etc., etc., we seem to be stuck in a daily whirlpool of excessive information, with little communal agreement on what is factual truth and what is not.

It is fundamentally relativism, and no little fear mixed with anger, run amok. Relativism being the individual decides what is true subjectively, not objectively. The fear-anger is we live in a time when uncertainty from day to day terrifies, for more than ever we are experiencing how little control we have over most things, experiencing our vulnerability and powerlessness. So, when gathering information, trying to make some sense of things, there is a tendency to seek that which confirms our preconceived notion of how things out to be, thus, paradoxically, while that may momentarily give a false sense of reassurance, if we can find information that confirms our notion, eventually, inevitably, the reassurance dissipates like mist in the morning sun and morphs into fear-anger, because there is no communal consensus to support us.

Ultimately truth is not some piece of information, much less an opinion, nor is it what the majority with power or the minority demanding some right insist it is.

Truth, first, now, always, is a Person, the Incarnate One who is the way, the truth, the life. This is Jesus who is with us: St. John 14:1-31. Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who enables us to cry out: Abba! Father! It is the Holy Trinity who gifts all grace needed for us to discern in our own lives, and within the communal life in time and history, what is of truth and what is not.

This can be a painful process of facing the truth about our wounded selves, so we take heart and hope in St. Paul’s: ……Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. [2 Cor. 12:7-10]

 God the Holy Spirit IS the Spirit of Truth. We should constantly ask, when checking any source of information, for prudence and discernment before accepting the information at face value.

…the Logos, the truth in person, is also the atonement, the transforming forgiveness that is above and beyond our capability and incapability…..Yet the yoke of truth in fact became “easy” (Mt. 11:30) when the Truth came, loved us, and consumed our guilt in the fire of His love. Only when we know and experience this from within will we be free to hear the message of conscience with joy and without fear……Truth is controversial, and the attempt to impose on all persons what one part of the citizenry holds to be true looks like the enslavement of people’s consciences. The concept of “truth” has in fact moved into the zone of antidemocratic intolerance. It is not now a public good, but something private. It may perhaps be the good of specific groups, but it is not the truth of society as a whole. To make this point in other terms: the modern concept of democracy seems indissolubly linked to that of relativism. It is relativism that appears to be the real guarantee of freedom and especially of the very heart of human freedom, namely, freedom of religion and conscience. [1]

Satan is the father of lies, the seducer with untruth, like a snake spewing venom he spits disinformation. Too often we narrow our understanding of St. Peter’s warning about the devil seeking whom he may devour [1Pt.5:8] to vigilance against being tempted to obvious sins: avarice, judging others, lust, etc., and are less vigilant about temptations which can poison the mind, destroy relationships, wreak havoc in the heart of families, parishes, society in general: Preventing and identifying the way disinformation works also calls for a profound and careful process of discernment. We need to unmask what could be called the “snake-tactics” used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place……The strategy of this skilled “Father of lies” [Jn.8:44] is precisely mimicry, that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring argument…..there is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences. Even a seemingly slight distortion of the truth can have dangerous effects. [2]

……man has a natural right to be respected. He has a right to his good name. He has a right to freedom in investigating the truth, and—within the limits of the moral order and the common good—to freedom of speech and publication, and to freedom to pursue whatever profession he may choose. He has the right, also, to be accurately informed about public events…….Hence, before a society can be considered well-ordered, creative, and consonant with human dignity, it must be based on truth. St. Paul expressed this as follows: "Putting away lying, speak ye the truth every man with his neighbor, for we are members one of another."….. And so will it be, if each man acknowledges sincerely his own rights and his own duties toward others…..[3]

There was a time when the fundamental principle for reporting the news was that the five w’s had to be verified by at least two reliable sources: Who, What, When, Where, Why. Nowadays the main and social media blatantly state, for example, a plethora of reports overusing expressions such as: all scientists agree, the medical profession agrees, economists state, our experts tell us, as if these experts are the sole custodians of what is true, indeed their credentials are often questionable, yet their opinion[s] is/are stated as fact. Hence the whirlpool of information/disinformation spins with all the more vigor, trapping more and more people in, at best, bewilderment, at worst deception.

Within modern society the communications media play a major role in information, cultural promotion, and formation. This role is increasing, as a result of technological progress, the extent and diversity of the news transmitted, and the influence exercised on public opinion. The information provided by the media is at the service of the common good…. Society has a right to information based on truth, freedom, justice, and solidarity: The proper exercise of this right demands that the content of the communication be true and - within the limits set by justice and charity - complete. Further, it should be communicated honestly and properly. This means that in the gathering and in the publication of news, the moral law and the legitimate rights and dignity of man should be upheld…….. The means of social communication (especially the mass media) can give rise to a certain passivity among users, making them less than vigilant consumers of what is said or shown. Users should practice moderation and discipline in their approach to the mass media. They will want to form enlightened and correct consciences the more easily to resist unwholesome influences. By the very nature of their profession, journalists have an obligation to serve the truth and not offend against charity in disseminating information. They should strive to respect, with equal care, the nature of the facts and the limits of critical judgment concerning individuals. They should not stoop to defamation………Society has a right to information based on truth, freedom, and justice. One should practice moderation and discipline in the use of the social communications media. [4]

As exhausting as it may be to sort through the tsunami of information from a seemingly ever expanding means of communication, Abba Gregory said, “These three things God requires of all the baptized: right faith in the heart, truth on the tongue, temperance in the body.”  [5] Right faith includes calling upon the Holy Spirit for prudence and discernment, truth on the tongue means not to repeat, verbally or social media-wise anything that is not clearly, objectively true, and in the context of this essay temperance in the body means not to browbeat those who disagree with whatever information we are insisting must be accepted.

To disagree is a matter of freedom. To give into anger or other strong emotions towards the person who disagrees with us is to seek to control the other.

Ultimately satan’s goal is to deceive, disrupt, divide us within ourselves and between us and others: family, friends, fellow parishioners, fellow citizens, nation against nation, religion against religion.

But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. [2 Cor. 4:7-10]

Trapped in the whirlpool of deception we will soon forget who we are, persons created in the image and likeness of God: Children of the Father, Disciples of Christ, Living Temples of the Holy Spirit, unless we cry out for freeing and healing light, that we never succumb to deception.

A prayer for the help of the Most Holy Spirit: Spirit of Truth prevail, show me where I am wrong, make of me a real person.

 

[1] FAITH AND POLITICS, Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI; selected writings; pp. 130-131, 133; Ignatius Press, 2018

[2] POPE FRANCIS, REBUKING THE DEVIL; PP. 53-55; 2019, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

[3] Pacem in Terris, encyclical of Pope John XXIII; paras 12 & 35; April 1963

http://www.vatican.va/content/john-xxiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_j-xxiii_enc_11041963_pacem.html  

[4]   https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM                                                                           paras: 2493, 94, 96, 97, 2512

[5] THE SAYINGS OF THE DESERT FATHERS, The Alphabetical Collection; translated by Benedicta Ward, slg; p. 45; A.R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd. 1981

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

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

 

            

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Monday, January 11, 2021

ST. JOHN 12: 21-25

 

                                                       ST. JOHN 12: 21-25

It is now 2021!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we have both an admonition and a promise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph