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Archive for September, 2013

 

Reblogged : The National Catholic Reporter.

 

  • Pope Francis embraces a young woman during an encounter with youth in Cagliari, Sardinia, Sept. 22. (CNS/Paul Haring)

 

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This is the first of a series of articles examining Pope Francis’ recent interviews. A new article will be published each day this week on NCRonline.org.

Pope Francis shows courage: not only in his brave appearance in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, but also by entering into an open dialogue with critical nonbelievers. He has written an open letter to leading Italian intellectual Eugenio Scalfari, founder and longtime editor in chief of the major liberal Roman daily newspaper La Repubblica. These are not papal instructions, but a friendly exchange of arguments on equal levels.

Among the 12 questions from Scalfari printed in La Repubblica Sept. 11, the fourth seems to me of particular importance for a church leadership ready for reforms: Jesus perceived his kingdom not to be of this world — “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” — but the Catholic church especially, writes Scalfari, all too often submits to the temptations of worldly power and represses the spiritual dimension of the church in favor of worldliness. Scalfari’s question: “Does Pope Francis represent after all the priority of a poor and pastoral church over an institutional and worldly church?”

Let’s focus on the facts:

  • From the beginning, Francis has dispensed with papal pomp and glory and engaged in direct contact with people.
  • In his words and gestures, he has not presented himself as the spiritual lord of lords, but rather as the “servant of the servants of God” (Gregory the Great).
  • Facing numerous financial scandals and the avarice of church leaders, he has initiated decisive reforms of the Vatican bank and the papal state and called for transparent financial politics.
  • By establishing a commission of eight cardinals from the different continents, he has underlined the need for curial reforms and collegiality with the bishops.

But he has not yet passed the decisive test of his will to reform. It is understandable and pleasing that a Latin American bishop puts the poor in the favelas of the great metropolises first. But the pope of the Catholic church cannot lose sight the fact that other groups of people in other countries suffer from other kinds of “poverty,” and also yearn for the improvement of their situation. And these are people whom the pope can support even more directly than he can those in the favelas, for whom state organizations and society in general are primarily responsible.

Explore our print edition, featuring our annual Health & Well Being special section.

The synoptic Gospels have developed a broader notion of poverty. In the Gospel of Luke, the beatitude of the poor refers without a doubt to the really poor, poor in a material sense. But in Matthew’s Gospel, this beatitude refers to the “poor in spirit,” the spiritually poor, who, as beggars before God, are aware of their spiritual poverty. Thus, in line with the other beatitudes, it includes not just the poor and hungry, but also those who cry, who are left out, marginalized, neglected, excluded, exploited, desperate. Jesus calls both the miserable and lost ones in a situation of extreme affliction (Luke) and those in a situation of inner distress (Matthew), all those who are weary and burdened, including those burdened by guilt.

Thus the number of poor who need support multiplies many times over. Support in particular from the pope, who can help more than others, due to his office. Support from him as the representative of the ecclesiastical institution and tradition means more than just comforting and encouraging words; it means deeds of mercy and charity. Offhand, three large groups of people come to mind who are “poor” in the Catholic church.

First, the divorced. From many countries and counted in the millions, many are excluded from the sacraments of the church for their whole life because they have remarried. Today’s greater social mobility, flexibility and liberality as well as a noticeably longer life expectancy make greater demands on partners in a lifelong relationship. Certainly, the pope will emphatically uphold the necessary indissolubility of marriage even under these aggravating conditions. But this commandment will not be understood as an apodictic condemnation of those who fail and cannot expect forgiveness.

Rather, this commandment expresses a goal that demands lifelong faithfulness, as it is lived by innumerous couples already, but cannot be guaranteed. The mercy that Francis calls for would allow the church to admit divorced and remarried persons to the sacraments if they seriously wish it.

Second, women who are ostracized in the church because of the ecclesiastical position regarding contraception, artificial insemination and also abortion, and often find themselves in a situation of spiritual distress. There are millions of them in the whole world. Only a tiny minority of Catholic women obey the papal prohibition to practice “artificial” contraception, and many with a good conscience use artificial insemination. Abortion should not be banalized or even be used as a means of birth control. But women who for serious reasons decided to have an abortion, often experiencing great moral conflict, deserve understanding and mercy.

Third, priests who had to leave the priesthood because they married. Across the continents, they number in the tens of thousands. Many suitable young men do not even become priests in the first place because of the commandment of celibacy. Without doubt, voluntary celibacy of priests will continue to have its place in the Catholic church. But the legal commandment that church officials remain unmarried contradicts the freedom guaranteed in the New Testament, the ecumenic tradition of the first millennium and modern human rights. The abolition of mandatory celibacy would represent the most effective means against the catastrophic shortage of priests noticeable everywhere and the related collapse of pastoral care. Should the church maintain mandatory celibacy, there is no thinking of the desirable ordination of women into the priesthood.

All these reforms are urgent and should first be discussed in the summit of eight cardinals, which is to meet Oct. 1-2. Francis faces important decisions here. He has already shown great sensitivity and empathy with the hardships of people, and proved considerable courage in various situations. These qualities enable him to make the necessary and forward-looking decisions regarding these issues, some of which have been a problem for centuries.

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter ...

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Cappella Sistina, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his interview, published Sept. 20 in Jesuit journals worldwide, including La Civiltà Cattolica and America, Francis recognizes the importance of questions such as contraception, homosexuality and abortion. But he refuses to put these questions too much at the center of the church’s mission. He rightly calls for a “new balance” between these moral issues and the essential impulses of the Gospel itself. But this balance can only be reached when reforms that were postponed again and again are realized, so that these fundamentally secondary moral issues will not rob the proclamation of the Gospel of its “freshness and attractiveness.” This will be the great challenge for Francis.

[Fr. Hans Küng, Swiss citizen, is professor emeritus of ecumenical theology at Tübingen University in Germany. He is the honorary president of the Global Ethic Foundation (www.weltethos.org). His book Can the Catholic Church Be Saved? will be available in English in February 2014.]

Tomorrow: Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr writes, “The top person can never be wrong.”

 

 

 

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Reblogged : JERICO TREE.

 

Filed in Catholic by on September 18, 2013 • 

ne2

I’ve just had a new booklet published by the Catholic Truth Society called The New Evangelisation: What it is and how to do it. They tapped into the World Youth Day Rio fervour by putting a photo of the Christ the Redeemer statue on the cover. You can order copies from the CTS website here.

Here is the back cover copy:

Why do we need a New Evangelisation? What is the history and theology of this idea? What does it look like in practice? How can we engage in the New Evangelisation in our parishes and communities? What are the key documents and resources we can turn to for inspiration?

These are some of the questions explored in this booklet, which also collects the most important writings about the New Evangelisation by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

The Introduction here gives you a taste of what it’s all about:

In 1983 Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke to the Catholic Bishops of Latin America in Haiti and called for a New Evangelisation: one that would be ‘new in its ardour, methods and expression’. More recently, in 2010, Pope Benedict established a Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation, to help the Church share ‘the inestimable gift’ that God has given us, the gift of being ‘sharers in his own life’. And when Pope Francis stepped onto the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica for the first time on the day of his election it was significant that he spoke about his hopes for ‘the evangelisation of this beautiful city’ – a city that many assumed had already been evangelised.

Evangelisation is not something new. Christians have been sharing their faith for two thousand years: giving witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ, and inviting others to share in that redeeming love through faith and the sacramental life of the Church.

Why, then, do we need a New Evangelisation? If the city of Rome has been a centre of Christian faith for many centuries, what does it mean for Pope Francis to say that it still needs evangelising?

First of all, we can make some straightforward distinctions. The word ‘evangelisation’ comes from a Greek verb that simply means ‘to bring good news to others’. Anything that involves sharing the Christian faith and bringing others to know Christ and his Church is part of the work of evangelisation.

Primary evangelisation is understood to be the task of reaching out to those people and cultures that have never known Christ and his Gospel. It is ‘missionary work’ in its traditional sense, sometimes called the mission ad gentes, meaning ‘to the (non-Christian) nations’. This is the first and in some senses the most important kind of evangelisation.

The New Evangelisation, according to Blessed John Paul II, concerns another situation. It involves the mission of the Church ‘particularly in countries with ancient Christian roots, and occasionally in the younger Churches as well, where entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel’ (Redemptoris Missio, Para 33). The New Evangelisation, on this first definition, involves the re-evangelisation of former Christian cultures and of Christians who have become disconnected from their faith. Pope Benedict explains very simply that it is the need for a renewed missionary impulse in territories that have traditionally been Christian.

On the other hand, the distinctions between different kinds of evangelisation are not always so clean. The New Evangelisation is a cluster of ideas about mission and culture that are not easy to define. Greg Willets has written that defining the New Evangelization ‘is like herding squirrels: it can take you in a multitude of different directions, sometimes all at once’ (CatholicDigest.com). And even Pope Benedict, when he established the new Pontifical Council, admitted that this involves a variety of situations that demands careful discernment: ‘to speak of a “new evangelization” does not in fact mean that a single formula should be developed that would hold the same for all circumstances’.

This booklet recognises this variety and in Part 1 sets out five distinct but connected reasons why the Church needs to engage in an evangelisation that is truly new. In Part 2 it then presents a number of New Evangelisation ‘projects’ that have developed in the UK over the last few years. In Part 3 it draws out from these projects some consistent features of the New Evangelisation as it has been practiced effectively in the UK. Finally, in Part 4, the booklet collects together some of the most significant writings about the New Evangelisation from recent papal teaching and Church documents, as a resource for further reflection.

This booklet is not intended to be an introduction to the very idea of evangelisation: it takes for granted a basic understanding of why Christians want to share their faith and what this involves – theologically and pastorally; and it does not enter into the practical aspects of what individuals or parishes can do to evangelise. The intention here is very limited: to write about the distinctive features of the New Evangelisation, and to stimulate people to consider what this could mean for them and their communities.

And here is the Table of Contents so you can see exactly what I deal with:

PART 1: FIVE REASONS WHY WE NEED A NEW EVANGELISATION

(a) Living in a post-Christian society

(b) Christians disconnected from their faith

(c) New culture, new media

(d) Confusion about the need for evangelisation

(e) Questions about the nature of Christian witness

PART 2: FIVE EXAMPLES OF THE NEW EVANGELISATION

(a) St Patrick’s Evangelisation School

(b) Spirit in the City

(c) Youth 2000

(d) Catholic Voices

(e) Ten Ten Theatre

PART 3: FIVE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS OF THE NEW EVANGELISATION

(a) Personal conviction

(b) Community

(c) The Word of God and the teaching of the Church

(d) Liturgy and the sacraments

(e) Courage and creativity

PART 4: FIVE KEY DOCUMENTS ABOUT THE NEW EVANGELISATION

(a) Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975).

(b) Blessed Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio (1990)

(c) Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in Europa (2003)

(d) Lineamanta for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation (2011)

(e) Pope Benedict XVI, Ubicumque et Semper (2010)

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About the Author ()

Fr Stephen Wang is a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Westminster. He is currently Senior University Chaplain for the Archdiocese. Some of his articles have previously been published on his personal blog, Bridges and Tangents. See: http://bridgesandtangents.wordpress.com/

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Rebloged : JunJun Faithbook

15th Sept 2013

prodigal sonA week ago, Pope Francis made news again by calling an Italian woman telling her that he will baptize the child personally as a token of the woman’s courageous decision not to abort the child even if the father “who unknown to her, was already married with a child and who demanded she terminate the pregnancy.”[i]
Ana Romano wrote to the pope about her concern because she had ‘no one
else to turn to’. Unexpectedly, the pope rang her and assured her she is
not alone. She said:

‘He reassured me and said a child was a gift from God, a sign of Divine Providence
and that I would never be left alone. He said that as Christians we
should never be afraid. ‘He told me I had been very brave and strong for
my unborn child. I told him that I wanted to baptise the baby when it
was born but I was afraid as I was divorced and a single mother but he
said he would be my spiritual father and he would baptise my baby
.”

It is just amazing to see right before us, in our day and age, the attitude of the Father of the prodigal son
that is still operating actively in so many of us like that of Pope
Francis. On this Sunday, we are reflecting on the gospel about the lost
sheep, the lost coin,
and the prodigal son. But for the purpose of today, I’d focus more on
the story of the prodigal son because this speaks so highly about us,
about our tendency to go on our own, to take matters into our hands and
to misuse our freedom.

We might
have heard this gospel of the prodigal son so many times. Many times we
might have identified ourselves with the younger son or the older son
or the Father in the story, but this gospel speaks loudly more on the
one basic attitude of our God– that of loving us unconditionally.  He loves us so much that he’d take all the trouble, all the risk and all that it takes just to show us that he cares.

How did he show this?

Three things from the gospel:

First, he gave to his son the share of his property, with no strings attached. He didn’t say: ‘I’m
not dead yet, and you already ask for your share, you’re killing me.
Okey, I give this to you, but don’t come back to me when things don’t go
right with you
.’ But it wasn’t the case because our God is a
generous giver. This is the beauty of our God. He gives without counting
the cost.

In more
ways than one, God has given us a share of his property, the life we
have, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the beauty of nature, the
people we can love and can love us back, the salvation we need, and
million other share of his property.

How many of these gifts are we taking for granted? How many of these gifts are we wasting?

How grateful are we to God for all these gifts?

Second, He is always waiting for us and welcomes us back with no words:I told you so’ or ‘Have I not reminded you?’ We heard in the gospel, ‘When the Father saw him coming’-
this implies that that the father has been waiting for his return. The
father was expecting him to return anytime, so he keeps on looking for
him and any sign of him. ‘Then he ran towards his son and hugged him.’
This sounds like a very  awkward situation- an old man running towards
his son when it should be the other way around. But God is like this. He
is willing to take the ridiculous step just to show us we are lovable
and worth saving. He did this on the cross. He took the risk and he
didn’t count how much it cost him to love us. If we can only put this
truth in our mind and heart.

Every Saturday,
except today, I come here to hear confession. Even if there is no one
who comes, or sometimes one, I would still sit there in the
confessional- because as a confessor, I am re- presenting God waiting
for any lost son or daughter of his  to come and reconcile with him. If
we don’t go to confession though, there is an underlying reason for
this, maybe, we are tired of asking forgiveness. But we must not get
tired of asking forgiveness. As Pope Francis in his First Angelus message as Pope would urge us: “Never forget this: The Lord never gets tired of forgiving us. It is we, who get tired of asking for forgiveness.”

Third, he goes out and searches for the one lost and tell us: ‘All I have is yours.’
Sometimes we failed to hear this beautiful assurance of our God because
we can’t be contented with all we have. We sometimes wish to get
everything we want. But this is not to be the case. Life is not about
hoarding stuff. It is not having some things or many things that can
make us alive. It is loving what we have even if we don’t have much or
if it doesn’t cost much.

Such is our God. But he needs us to let him be God in our lives. What can we do?

Let us be
thankful for having a God like him- God who eats with us, walks with us,
and even dies for us, sinners we may be. Let us also be grateful to all
the gifts we have been given even those gifts that we didn’t ask or
pray for. And like the prodigal son, let us strive to come back home to
our God  by humbling ourselves, in and through the sacrament of
reconciliation and penance. Amen.

Español: Regreso del hijo pródigo, Louvre

           Español: Regreso del hijo pródigo, Louvre          (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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English: Bytča (Nagybiccse) - mosaic in the ca...

English: Bytča (Nagybiccse) – mosaic in the catholic church Slovenčina: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bioarticles ) | September 09, 2013 5:23 PM

 

If you had to pick one central factor to explain both the
collapse of Western civilization and the contemporary crisis of the
Catholic Church, what would it be? For Martin R. Tripole, SJ, that
factor is the shift in the modern world from the primacy of faith over
reason to the primacy of reason over faith. In fact, this is the thesis
of Fr. Tripole’s 2012 book from Ave Maria University’s Sapientia Press, Church in Crisis: The Enlightenment and Its Impact upon Today’s Church.

Now, you may ask: Isn’t this thesis suspect? Isn’t it true that faith
itself must be subordinate to reason? With the great variety of
religious beliefs on offer, can any Catholic possibly advocate mere
credulity? And anyway, in what sense can things work the other way
around? In what sense can reason be considered subordinate to faith?

I could recommend that you read Church in Crisis to see how
the author answers these questions, but my recommendation would be
unfair without first acquainting you more thoroughly with this important
book. Fr. Tripole, who is professor emeritus of theology at St.
Joseph’s University
in Philadelphia, and who has devoted much of his
career to the study of Jesuit education and spirituality, has here
written a major work of intellectual history, some six hundred pages
long, both closely reasoned and well-documented. And while the labor
invested in reading the book will be richly rewarded, surely not
everyone who can benefit will want to read the whole thing.

History and Analysis

Church in Crisis traces the loss of the primacy of Faith
through four major sections. Part One presents the “Data of Impending
Crisis”, offering a thorough review of the various contemporary studies
which have demonstrated the gulf between what the Church teaches and
what Catholics actually believe and how they act. Many readers will
recall seeing references to these studies—as well as to the problem as a
whole—in our news and commentary over the years, but Fr. Tripole brings
them all together to thoroughly portray the gravity of our present
situation.

Part Two covers the preceding “History of Crisis in the
Enlightenment
”. While the focus is squarely on the intellectual history
of relativism, the Enlightenment, liberalism, modernism and
post-modernism, the author is not unmindful of more pragmatic causes,
such as the excessive entanglement of the Church with the political
order in Christendom, which bred its own less rarified reaction in
Protestantism, the rise of secular states, and de-Christianized
conceptions of human liberty. Back in my days as a practicing
intellectual historian, I might not have written this story exactly the
same way, but my conclusions would have been very nearly identical.

Part Three explores the relationship between “Enlightenment and
Crisis in the Contemporary Church”. Here, since Fr. Tripole can take
advantage of a shorter timespan to sink deep wells rather than merely
flooding the plain of our knowledge, he does some of his best work. The
four major chapters explore the following areas: (1) The intellectual,
as in the modern collapse of Catholic education; (2) The social, that
is, the rise of secularized concepts of social justice to replace the
Christian emphasis on transformative love; (3) the political, by which I
mean the confusions attendant upon our American concept of the
separation of Church and State; and (4) the ecclesiastical—the disarray
which followed the Second Vatican Council, and the clerical abuse
crisis, including its hierarchical cover-up.

As is perhaps most obvious in the political chapter, Church in Crisis
does have an American focus. But in most portions of the text, the
application may be broadened to the entire West with almost no strain at
all.

Solution

In Part Four, Fr. Tripole presents his “Solution to the Contemporary
Crisis”. This solution has two major parts. First, it is necessary to
reunite faith and reason. Fr. Tripole’s prescription is largely drawn
from Pope John Paul II’s brilliant 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason).
This is the problem with which we began, and I intend to return to it
in greater depth in a future commentary. Suffice it to say, by way
of answering our introductory questions, that Fr. Tripole is right when
he asserts that the Christian faith must have primacy in the
relationship between faith and reason, because only faith can open us to
the full dimensions of reality. Or, as Pope John Paul II explained,
only through faith can we overcome the barriers to knowledge that have been erected in the modern age.

This is a concept that stands the whole modern world on its head.

The second part of the solution is to restore the unity of the
Church. The author insists that this must be done along the lines
proposed at the Second Vatican Council. The Council saw that the unity
of the Church has its source in the Eucharist, the body of Christ; it
realized that the very mission of the Church requires unity (which
means that those willing to disrupt that unity must perforce place
little value on the Church’s mission); it recognized that the
pre-eminent servant of unity in the Church is the successor of Peter,
especially in the exercise of his Magisterium; and it follows from all
this that fidelity in self-giving love is the key to the recovery of
unity, as it is of all authentic reform and renewal.

This part of the conclusion actually answers a question that might be
raised in the minds of some readers earlier in the book. In the course
of his historical survey, Fr. Tripole treats the Council in terms of its
immediate ecclesiastical repercussions. In other words, he explains how
the shift in emphasis from a defensive “Counter Reformation” message
against the world to a message of widespread engagement with the world
tended to catch the Church unprepared. There were too many in roles both
high and low who were inadequately formed to respond to what they
unfortunately received (almost incredibly) as a kind of bombshell. The
author captures the resulting upheaval very well, but the inattentive
reader might temporarily wonder whether Fr. Tripole regards the
conciliar texts themselves as fundamentally flawed. Fortunately, this
doubt arises only from a failure to grasp the author’s method, and it is
soon thoroughly dispelled.

Outstanding Method

And in fact the author’s method is actually part of the greatness of
the book. He does not merely assert one thing or another at each point
in his narrative (such as I so often do in writing a couple of thousand
words or less). Instead, in proper scholarly fashion, he explores his
subject through the perceptions, accounts, and analyses of well-chosen
sociologists, historians, philosophers, theologians and commentators,
from whom he draws a very revealing portrait of both the nature and
genesis of the problems we face. And while Fr. Tripole is careful in
each chapter to explain what should be retained and what must be
rejected from various sources, the result is a dramatic increase in both
evidence and understanding—without “special pleading”.

Church in Crisis is a remarkable achievement. The work as a
whole is superbly crafted and organized, yet each section—and within the
sections each individual chapter—is so thoroughly developed that it can
stand alone as an analysis of its particular subject. Do you want the
statistical evidence of the mess we are in? It is all there in one
place. A history of the intellectual developments which created the
problem? Turn to Part Two. An analysis of key contemporary confusions
(like that between social justice and Christian love)? It is readily
available and easy to find. Or perhaps you prefer to cut to the chase by
reading only Fr. Tripole’s prescription for making things better. If
so, the last two chapters stand very well on their own.

It is precisely this characteristic which makes the book
extraordinarily valuable to a far wider audience than will read it from
beginning to end, even if I did find that to be a distinct pleasure. It
goes without saying that it should be in every significant Catholic
library, both institutional and personal. But the book deserves a place
in our slighter collections as well, simply because it can be used so
easily in so many different ways. Within Church in Crisis, both data and wisdom abound—in each chapter, and even more in the whole.

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Repost from BILTRIX

By Fr Joseph Tham

 

Recently, I read a book by Gilbert Meilaender, called Should We Live Forever? The Ethical Ambiguities of Aging.  The question of aging and immortality does not seem, at first glance, to be a bioethical topic.  This little book by the Methodist theologian offers profound insights to the oft-ignored questions underlying many bioethical debates today—from euthanasia and the right to die, to regenerative medicine which attempts to extend life using stem cells and cloning, to enhancement and transhumanism.  All these pressing issues lead, in one way or another, to the deeper question of why we want to control our lifespan, and why the idea of life-extension is so full of ambiguities.

 

In this work the author approaches the ethics of aging from philosophical, medical and theological perspectives.  Skillfully written and full of literary references, Meilaender succeeds in weaving a compelling analysis with references ranging from Greek philosophers to modern thinkers, from classical works and poetry to theological insights, together with a suitable input of psychology and biology.  He has a spectacular command of authors as diverse as Aristotle, Barth, Kierkegaard, Goethe, Dante, Kant, MacIntrye and Huxley.

 

As the subtitle indicates, the question of aging is filled with ethical ambiguities. Life is a good, but should we hang on to life at all cost? As technology allows us to live longer, is immortality necessarily desirable?  What are we to do if we can live indefinitely, wouldn’t we be bored? How would human virtues, especially the virtue of patience, help us to understand this? If we can conquer death, would our humanity be at risk? Would we still need or want to generate and propagate? These queries inevitably lead us to theology.  What does it mean to lead a good life, a life that is complete? What would a life of being forever young consist in? How does the belief of eternal life factor into this equation?

 

The book reviews three possible views on the ethics of indefinite life extension. The first view is naturalistic, characteristically embraced by the scientific community and most enthusiastically by the transhumanists. According to this understanding, earthly life is good and so to extend our existence as long as we can would also be good. They hope to achieve this by healthy diet, exercise and using all technologies at our disposal. Life would be good, however, only in a state of perpetual health and capacity.

 

There are those, such as proponents of the “immortality project”, who foresee the possibility of a “virtual” existence without our bodies through interface with computers, cybernetics and artificial intelligence.  Critics of this position see the unrealistic prospect of this endeavour. In fact, as Meilaender observes, their goal may not be immortality per se, but the need to eliminate the mystery of death and contingency that is built into any biological organism. Besides, indefinite existence would strip us of our humanity because we would become narcissistic, without the drive growth in virtue, to share and to pass the baton on to future generations.

 

A second position sees life in terms of different stages of development. Youth is a time of preparation and projection often characterized by curiosity and rashness.  On the other spectrum, old age is a time of reminiscence, evaluation of our accomplishments and is characterized by prudence and relative inaction.  Lying inbetween is adulthood, where we are at our prime to carry out our life’s project. In this vision, life is complete when we manage to live out the different stages satisfactorily, achieving the goals we set for ourselves.  Thus, truncated life, for example caused by early death, would be a tragedy. Accordingly, prolonging our lifespan unnecessarily would also destroy the meaningfulness of life’s trajectory, since an “ending“ is also part of the story. We need to accept the nature of our life cycles, and a good life consists in growing virtuously in this life and passing on what we learnt to our progenies.

 

A third vision is religiously oriented. Life is good, and the desire for life without end is innate in us.  But this form of existence can be satisfying only if it lies beyond this earthly life.  That is, we are made to transcend ourselves, which in Christian theology means we are custom-made for eternity. Unlike the previous position, our life has meaning not so much in fulfilling a series of preset tasks, but in the journey itself which can take on different and often unexpected turns. Hope is necessary to keep us going, and every moment of this trajectory is meaningful because each is  equidistant from our destiny which is found in God.

 

With the vertiginous advance of medical technology which allows us to extend human lifespan, these questions are becoming ever more relevant and acute. This interesting volume is therefore valuable in addressing the underlying issues that are often left unexplored. Perhaps, what is a bit surprising is the lack of mention of Heidegger and Gabriel Marcel who have thought deeply about these questions, albeit as philosophers. Nonetheless, the author is commended for including abundant theological perspectives which is unfortunately a rarity in contemporary bioethical discussions.

 

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Repost: Junjun FAITHBOOK

Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013

carr our crossI always wanted to be a priest since I was in my grade school years. As far as I can remember I was on my third grade that this desire to be a priest became so strong in me. But, I didn’t tell this  to anyone, including my parents, my siblings and my classmates at school. I didn’t express this to anyone because at the time, I felt ashamed or embarrassed, or perhaps scared that people would just mock me saying: I am not fit to become a priest, or we don’t have money to pay for my studies, it costs a lot I tell you. Later on though, (in fact when I was already in the seminary) my mother told me that she had noticed me exhibiting some priestly gestures and mimics when I was still a kid. I can’t remember it either.

The other thing that held me back then was this general social expectation in the Philippines that the eldest son would have to be another father figure in the family once the father passed away especially if the family is big. This was really true to me. My father died when I was 18 years old. Though I am not the eldest in the family, because I have 5 sisters before me, but since I am the eldest son, reluctantly I had to stand up to assist my mother raised my 5 younger siblings. Yes, we are 11 in the family.

Being the eldest son, I had to stop my studies when my father got sick and died only a year later. I had to stop my schooling and assist my mother in the farm. I also found work as errand boy in the city just to help my family. But my desire to be a priest was still there. It didn’t go away. In fact, the farther I was to fulfilling it, the stronger it became.  But God calls me to be a priest. I know this through all the amazing and unreal opportunities he had laid out before me. So I listened to him. Some of my elder sisters were trying to discourage me not to leave my mother alone. Some of them said: I was being selfish because I just wanted to fulfil my own dream and ambition without considering the rest of my family whom I am also responsible with.  But I said to them: ‘If God calls me to be a priest, He’ll help me through and He will help all of us too. If God really called me to be a priest, he will let us all survive no matter how hard life and living may be.’ I left them with that. I entered the seminary. Eleven years later I was ordained a priest. My family got over with all the difficulties and challenges they had to face over those years.

 

Friends, dear brothers and sisters, I am sharing this with you all because this is for me the cost of my discipleship. I had to sacrifice many things that I could do to my family just to listen to the voice of God calling me to follow him as his priest. I had to go on following my dream despite the discouragement, the criticisms, and the financial difficulty I had to face when I entered the seminary. With the help of God and by the power of his grace, I got over all those worries and now I am here as a priest of God in your parish. And I am happy and have no regrets.

 Jesus in our gospel today also tells us of the cost discipleship if we are serious in our following of him. He noted that discipleship demands big from us. It entails total dedication and commitment to him even to the extent of making him our first priority over our families and loved ones. It also means detachment from any material possession- that is to be free from the enslaving power of worldly possessions, so as to be able to enter the kingdom of God. We, in Australia might find this cost of discipleship less challenging because we can express our faith quite freely if we want it to be, without people threatening to persecute us. We are living in a relative peace and in a certain degree indifference by some to religion or to faith. However, this time, we have sisters and brothers in many parts of the world who are facing the huge  cost of their Christian discipleship. I am talking about what  has been happening in Syria and in  many parts of the world. Many of our Christian counterparts, and those innocent civilians of other faith are facing threats, persecutions and even death right before their very eyes. They had to stand up for their faith. They had to face and pay the cost of their discipleship. There is a real challenge to  their Christian discipleship.

 In our gospel today, Jesus is also urging us to challenge our following of him. He is challenging us to ask ourselves how willing are we to pay the cost if we are serious in following him. Are we serious enough to prefer him even to our family and loved ones? Are we willing to carry our cross and follow him? Are we willing to detach ourselves from the enslaving power of material possessions so as to focus more God and for our salvation?

 How can we challenge ourselves if we are really a disciple of Christ?

One:  Fidelity to Christ, even in adversity. The Christians in Syria became easy target for the attackers or ‘the enemies’ because they wouldn’t take arms against them. They didn’t take vengeance to their oppressors. They were faithful to the word of Jesus: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”(Mt 5:44). They stood up for the faith in the Christ even if it means losing their own lives. Today we celebrate the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is a great example, a beautiful model of Christian discipleship. In fact she is upheld as the ‘first disciple.’ She listened to the Word of God. Believed in it and welcomed it. She took it in her heart. She generously and trustingly offered her womb for the Word of God to be made flesh and to dwell among us. As a disciple, she was faithful to following Christ from the womb to the tomb. As we celebrate her birthday today, let us ask her intercession that like her we may be faithful to Christ and to our vocations in life.

Two: Prayer. Bishop Joe Grech once said: ‘Prayer is not everything, but it is the first thing.’ Prayer is not doing something for God but being with God and allowing God to do something in and for us. Constant prayer gives us wisdom and makes us humble to realize that not everything is under our control and that we don’t know everything as the First Reading from the book of Wisdom  today hinted. We need to pray. This is our only way to grow into a real and personal relationship with God. We need to pray daily as part of our daily life. Such is the importance of prayer and the need for it in our time that Pope Francis calls all Christians in the world to be one with him in prayer for peace in the whole world especially in Syria. As a parish, I encourage you all to spend sometimes after mass remain in the Church and spend some times before the Blessed Sacrament and let us be one with the whole Church in prayer and in solidarity with all of the world to pray for peace.

Three: Treat one another as another ‘Christ’ coming in our way today.  Let us look at one another with the eyes of faith, with the eyes of Christ. Let us see Christ in our brothers and sisters- who is worthy of our love, respect and affection no matter who they are, how old are they, and what social status are they in. St Paul in our Second Reading today shows us this. He became friend with Onesimus– a runaway slave of Philemon. Paul looked at Onesimus not a slave but as a brother, a friend, so he also encouraged Philemon, his friend to love Onesimus as a brother too. We can learn from St Paul here.

One way to take on this challenge is to be one with the Church in Australia that observes this Sunday as a Child Protection Sunday. This is to acknowledge that each child calls for our respect, love, and care no matter who they are and what family background they are coming from.. This is in a way, being a disciple of Jesus: treating each one of us, child or adult, man or woman, with the eyes and the heart of Jesus- the loving, the caring and the compassionate heart of Christ to all sinners.

So as we continue our celebration today, let us assess our lives as a disciple of Christ. How are we as disciple of Christ today? What cost are we willing to pay to be called his disciple?

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