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Archive for October, 2013

Reblog : CatholicCulture.org

By Dr. Jeff Mirus  | October 23, 2013 4:00 PM

 

 

In his famous interview with the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro in August, Pope Francis initiated what has become a spirited discussion about the image and the reality of the Catholic Church, and about the relationship between the Church’s mission to evangelize and her necessary opposition to the predominant moral evils of our age. The Pope suggested that the Church is too often viewed almost exclusively negatively, in terms of this moral opposition, and that a renewed emphasis on evangelization will be necessary for substantial progress to be made.

 

This message confused those in the pews who have heard very little about moral evils like abortion and contraception from their pastors. But the Pope was focusing on the image of the Church in the secular world, where her public opposition to abortion, contraception, sterilization, gay marriage, divorce (and so on) is the first thing that comes to mind. It is just here that, in spite of the faint-heartedness of too many Catholics, the Church is rightly seen as an enormous sign of contradiction.

 

The Pope’s concern, clearly, is that there must be another face of the Church—a consistent effort to present the full message of Christ, a message of hope and redemption that is not only preached but lived in daily service to others. It is this face which outsiders will find attractive, and which (if it were omnipresent) would dramatically alter the image most people have of the Church. Only when they are attracted to this face of Christ in the heart of the Church, will people begin to respond to His light and love through moral change. This is Pope Francis’ central message.

 

Still, some pro-life Catholics are extremely leery of any emphasis on living and preaching the Faith which reduces the priority given to pro-life work, and particularly to pro-life political action. In extreme cases, this anxiety has led a few to blame those who advocate a broader and more positive approach for the “death of babies”. I have received more than one email here at CatholicCulture.org sarcastically asserting that it is a shame that so many babies must die because of the Pope’s remarks.

 

There are several ways of responding to this concern. One is to emphasize that the Christian fight against abortion is not primarily an effort to save the individual lives of persons we know, but a strategic struggle against a grave moral evil which, once defeated, will reduce the incidence of murder enormously in the long run. As in any war, one cannot achieve every desirable outcome. One must develop and pursue the strategy which is most likely to bring victory in the end, recognizing that lives are going to be lost along the way, lives that simply cannot be saved. Thus, for example, if we conclude that the chances of restricting abortion significantly through political action are now extraordinarily slim, precisely because our society must first be transformed in more fundamental ways, then even from a pro-life strategic perspective, an emphasis on evangelization is perfectly justified.

 

But there is also another way of addressing this anxiety, and that is to insist that we Catholics recognize not only natural but supernatural evils. It is possible to become so focused on the natural horror of abortion that we lose sight of the even graver spiritual issues which it entails. Our Lord Himself instructed us: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28). Even in pro-life work we need to keep this in mind.

 

The Adult is Exposed to the More Serious Danger

 

The Church has been left in considerable ignorance concerning “how salvation works” for those who cannot take advantage of her sacramental system. Nonetheless, she knows that those without personal sin cannot be consigned Hell, and so her theologians have long affirmed that infants who die unbaptized will enjoy happiness eternally to the full measure of their capacity. There is some question whether this capacity can be anything more than natural, that is, whether it entails only the happiness natural to the unregenerate human soul, or whether it entails the vision of God Himself. In any case, the Church’s emphasis is best summarized in this statement of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

 

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. [#1261]

 

Note that the word “hope” here is intended theologically, not as a sort of worldly wish, but as a supernatural confidence in the love of Christ. But the case of the women who abort their children (and those who pressure them or collaborate with them) is very different. What of them? In addition to opening themselves to a life of deep psychological regret, they also open themselves to grave sin, a critical step in a life lived apart from God. Odd as it may sound to some of us, committing this sin and falling into a life of estrangement from God are both graver by far than suffering bodily death. It is, after all, the death of the soul that is paramount, as Our Lord says.

 

From this reality, the most important question arises: What approach is calculated to minimize the incidence of spiritual death? Or to put the matter positively, what must we do to help people to inherit eternal life (Mt 19:16; Mk 10:17; Lk 10:25;Lk 18:18)? In the temporal arena, I think it is hard to argue that an unrelenting emphasis on political action ought to be the preferred strategy. In the spiritual arena, it is equally hard to argue that a dominant emphasis on the evils to be avoided ought to be the preferred strategy. There is little reason to avoid evil without a vision of the Good, and especially without a relationship with the One who alone is Good (Mt 19:17; Mk 10:18; Lk 18:19).

Pope Francis, it seems, is calling us to recollect ourselves precisely as Catholics. Sometimes, just when we are convinced we have made the deepest and most vigorous of Catholic commitments, we find that we have not. Life does not end with the death of the body. Insofar as we act as if it does, none of our strategies can possibly work. Everything that matters most comes through a relationship—by which I mean an eternal union—with Jesus Christ.

 

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Reblog ; CatholicCulture.org

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller

Vatican, October 23, 2013

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

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Fresco, 335 x 550 cm Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Ελληνικά: Λεπτομέρεια από την νωπογραφία του Πιέτρο Περουτζίνο, Ο Χριστός Παραδίδει τα Κλειδιά στον Πέτρο, 335 x 600 cm, Καπέλα Σιξτίνα, Πόλη του Βατικανού. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The problem concerning members of the faithful who have

entered into a new civil union after a divorce is not new. The Church

has always taken this question very seriously and with a view to helping

the people who find themselves in this situation. Marriage is a

sacrament that affects people particularly deeply in their personal,

social and historical circumstances. Given the increasing number of

persons affected in countries of ancient Christian tradition, this

pastoral problem has taken on significant dimensions. Today even firm

believers are seriously wondering: can the Church not admit the divorced

and remarried to the sacraments under certain conditions? Are her hands

permanently tied on this matter? Have theologians really explored all

the implications and consequences?

These questions must be

explored in a manner that is consistent with Catholic doctrine on

marriage. A responsible pastoral approach presupposes a theology that

offers “the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,

freely assenting to the truth revealed by him” (Dei Verbum 5).

In order to make the Church’s authentic doctrine intelligible, we must

begin with the word of God that is found in sacred Scripture, expounded

in the Church’s Tradition and interpreted by the Magisterium in a

binding way.

The Testimony of Sacred Scripture

Looking

directly to the Old Testament for answers to our question is not

without its difficulties, because at that time marriage was not yet

regarded as a sacrament. Yet the word of God in the Old Covenant is

significant for us to the extent that Jesus belongs within this

tradition and argues on the basis of it. In the Decalogue, we find the

commandment “thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14), but elsewhere divorce is presented as a possibility. According to Dt

24:1-4, Moses lays down that a man may present his wife with a

certificate of dismissal and send her away from his house, if she no

longer finds favour with him. Thereafter, both husband and wife may

embark upon a new marriage. In addition to this acceptance of divorce,

the Old Testament also expresses certain reservations in its regard. The

comparison drawn by the prophets between God’s covenant with Israel and

the marriage bond includes not only the ideal of monogamy, but also

that of indissolubility. The prophet Malachi expresses this clearly: “Do

not be faithless to the wife of your youth … with whom you have made a

covenant” (Mal 2:14-15).

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Above all, it was his

controversies with the Pharisees that gave Jesus occasion to address

this theme. He distanced himself explicitly from the Old Testament

practice of divorce, which Moses had permitted because men were “so hard

of heart”, and he pointed to God’s original will: “from the beginning

of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall

leave his father and mother and … the two shall become one flesh. What

therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder” (Mk 10:5-9; cf. Mt 19:4-9; Lk

16:18). The Catholic Church has always based its doctrine and practice

upon these sayings of Jesus concerning the indissolubility of marriage.

The inner bond that joins the spouses to one another was forged by God

himself. It designates a reality that comes from God and is therefore no

longer at man’s disposal.

Today some exegetes take the viewthat even in the Apostolic era these dominical sayings were applied witha degree of flexibility: notably in the case of porneia/unchastity (cf. Mt 5:32; 19:9) and in the case of a separation between a Christian and a non-Christian partner (cf. 1 Cor7:12-15). The unchastity clauses have been the object of fierce debateamong exegetes from the beginning. Many take the view that they refernot to exceptions to the indissolubility of marriage, but to invalid marital unions. Clearly, however, the Church cannot build its doctrine and practice on controversial exegetical hypotheses. She must adhere to the clear teaching of Christ.

Saint Paul presents the

prohibition on divorce as the express will of Christ: “To the married I

give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from

her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be

reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not divorce his

wife” (1 Cor 7:10-11). At the same time he permits, on his own

authority, that a non-Christian may separate from a partner who has

become Christian. In this case, the Christian is “not bound” to remain

unmarried (1 Cor 7:12-16). On the basis of this passage, the

Church has come to recognize that only a marriage between a baptized man

and a baptized woman is a sacrament in the true sense, and only in this

instance does unconditional indissolubility apply. The marriage of the

unbaptized is indeed ordered to indissolubility, but can under certain

circumstances – for the sake of a higher good – be dissolved (privilegium Paulinum).

Here, then, we are not dealing with an exception to our Lord’s

teaching. The indissolubility of sacramental marriage, that is to say,

marriage that takes place within the mystery of Christ, remains assured.

Of greater significance for the biblical basis of the

sacramental view of marriage is the Letter to the Ephesians, where we

read: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave

himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). And shortly afterwards, the

Apostle adds: “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother

and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This

mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and

the Church” (Eph 5:31-32). Christian marriage is an effective

sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church. Because it

designates and communicates the grace of this covenant, marriage between

the baptized is a sacrament.

The Testimony of the Church’s Tradition

The

Church Fathers and Councils provide important testimony regarding the

way the Church’s position evolved. For the Fathers, the biblical

precepts on the subject are binding. They reject the State’s divorce

laws as incompatible with the teaching of Jesus. The Church of the

Fathers rejected divorce and remarriage, and did so out of obedience to

the Gospel. On this question, the Fathers’ testimony is unanimous.

In patristic times, divorced members of the faithful who had civilly

remarried could not even be readmitted to the sacraments after a period

of penance. Some patristic texts, however, seem to imply that abuses

were not always rigorously corrected and that from time to time pastoral

solutions were sought for very rare borderline cases.

In manyregions, greater compromises emerged later, particularly as a result of

the increasing interdependence of Church and State. In the East this

development continued to evolve, and especially after the separation

from the See of Peter, it moved towards an increasingly liberal praxis.

In the Orthodox Churches today, there are a great many grounds for

divorce, which are mostly justified in terms of oikonomia, or

pastoral leniency in difficult individual cases, and they open the path

to a second or third marriage marked by a penitential character. This

practice cannot be reconciled with God’s will, as expressed

unambiguously in Jesus’ sayings about the indissolubility of marriage.

But it represents an ecumenical problem that is not to be

underestimated.

In the West, the Gregorian reform countered

these liberalizing tendencies and gave fresh impetus to the original

understanding of Scripture and the Fathers. The Catholic Church defended

the absolute indissolubility of marriage even at the cost of great

sacrifice and suffering. The schism of a “Church of England” detached

from the Successor of Peter came about not because of doctrinal

differences, but because the Pope, out of obedience to the sayings of

Jesus, could not accommodate the demands of King Henry VIII for the

dissolution of his marriage.

The Council of Trent confirmed the

doctrine of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage and explained

that this corresponded to the teaching of the Gospel (cf. DH 1807).

Sometimes it is maintained that the Church de facto tolerated

the Eastern practice. But this is not correct. The canonists constantly

referred to it as an abuse. And there is evidence that groups of

Orthodox Christians on becoming Catholic had to subscribe to an express

acknowledgment of the impossibility of second or third marriages.

The Second Vatican Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes

on “The Church in the Modern World”, presents a theologically and

spiritually profound doctrine of marriage. It upholds the

indissolubility of marriage clearly and distinctly. Marriage is

understood as an all-embracing communion of life and love, body and

spirit, between a man and a woman who mutually give themselves and

receive one another as persons. Through the personally free act of their

reciprocal consent, an enduring, divinely ordered institution is

brought into being, which is directed to the good of the spouses and of

their offspring and is no longer dependent on human caprice: “As a

mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the

children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an

unbreakable oneness between them” (no. 48). Through the sacrament God

bestows a special grace upon the spouses: “For as God of old made

himself present to his people through a covenant of love and fidelity,

so now the Saviour of men and the Spouse of the Church comes into the

lives of married Christians through the sacrament of matrimony. He

abides with them thereafter so that just as he loved the Church and

handed himself over on her behalf, the spouses may love each other with

perpetual fidelity through mutual self-bestowal.” Through the sacrament

the indissolubility of marriage acquires a new and deeper sense: it

becomes the image of God’s enduring love for his people and of Christ’s

irrevocable fidelity to his Church.

Marriage can be understood

and lived as a sacrament only in the context of the mystery of Christ.

If marriage is secularized or regarded as a purely natural reality, its

sacramental character is obscured. Sacramental marriage belongs to the

order of grace, it is taken up into the definitive communion of love

between Christ and his Church. Christians are called to live their

marriage within the eschatological horizon of the coming of God’s

kingdom in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God.

The Testimony of the Magisterium in the Present Day

The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio

– issued by John Paul II on 22 November 1981 in the wake of the Synod

of Bishops on the Christian family in the modern world, and of

fundamental importance ever since – emphatically confirms the Church’s

dogmatic teaching on marriage. But it shows pastoral concern for the

civilly remarried faithful who are still bound by an ecclesially valid

marriage. The Pope shows a high degree of concern and understanding.

Paragraph 84 on “divorced persons who have remarried” contains the

following key statements: 1. Pastors are obliged, by love for the truth,

“to exercise careful discernment of situations”. Not everything and

everyone are to be assessed in an identical way. 2. Pastors and parish

communities are bound to stand by the faithful who find themselves in

this situation, with “attentive love”. They too belong to the Church,

they are entitled to pastoral care and they should take part in the

Church’s life. 3. And yet they cannot be admitted to the Eucharist. Two

reasons are given for this: a) “their state and condition of life

objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church

which is signified and effected by the Eucharist” b) “if these people

were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and

confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of

marriage”. Reconciliation through sacramental confession, which opens

the way to reception of the Eucharist, can only be granted in the case

of repentance over what has happened and a “readiness to undertake a way

of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of

marriage.” Concretely this means that if for serious reasons, such as

the children’s upbringing, the new union cannot be dissolved, then the

two partners must “bind themselves to live in complete continence”. 4.

Clergy are expressly forbidden, for intrinsically sacramental and

theological reasons and not through legalistic pressures, to “perform

ceremonies of any kind” for divorced people who remarry civilly, as long

as the first sacramentally valid marriage still exists.

The

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s statement of 14 September

1994 on reception of holy communion by divorced and remarried members of

the faithful emphasizes that the Church’s practice in this question

“cannot be modified because of different situations” (no. 5). It also

makes clear that the faithful concerned may not present themselves for

holy communion on the basis of their own conscience: “Should they judge

it possible to do so, pastors and confessors … have the serious duty

to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts

the Church’s teaching” (no. 6). If doubts remain over the validity of a

failed marriage, these must be examined by the competent marriage

tribunals (cf. no. 9). It remains of the utmost importance, “with

solicitous charity to do everything that can be done to strengthen in

the love of Christ and the Church those faithful in irregular marriage

situations. Only thus will it be possible for them fully to receive the

message of Christian marriage and endure in faith the distress of their

situation. In pastoral action one must do everything possible to ensure

that this is understood not to be a matter of discrimination but only of

absolute fidelity to the will of Christ who has restored and entrusted

to us anew the indissolubility of marriage as a gift of the Creator”

(no. 10).

In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis

of 22 February 2007, Benedict XVI summarizes the work of the Synod of

Bishops on the theme of the Eucharist and he develops it further. In No.

29 he addresses the situation of divorced and remarried faithful. For

Benedict XVI too, this is a “complex and troubling pastoral problem”. He

confirms “the Church’s practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk

10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the

sacraments”, but he urges pastors at the same time, to devote “special

concern” to those affected: in the wish that they “live as fully as

possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass,

albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God,

eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the

community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director,

dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to

the education of their children”. If there are doubts concerning the

validity of the failed marriage, these are to be carefully examined by

the competent marriage tribunals. Today’s mentality is largely opposed

to the Christian understanding of marriage, with regard to its

indissolubility and its openness to children. Because many Christians

are influenced by this, marriages nowadays are probably invalid more

often than they were previously, because there is a lack of desire for

marriage in accordance with Catholic teaching, and there is too little

socialization within an environment of faith. Therefore assessment of

the validity of marriage is important and can help to solve problems.

Where nullity of marriage cannot be demonstrated, the requirement for

absolution and reception of communion, according to the Church’s

established and approved practice, is that the couple live “as friends,

as brother and sister”. Blessings of irregular unions are to be avoided,

“lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of

marriage”. A blessing (bene-dictio: divine sanctioning) of a relationship that contradicts the will of God is a contradiction in terms.

During

his homily at the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan on 3 June

2012, Benedict XVI once again had occasion to speak of this painful

problem: “I should also like to address a word to the faithful who, even

though they agree with the Church’s teachings on the family, have had

painful experiences of breakdown and separation. I want you to know that

the Pope and the Church support you in your struggle. I encourage you

to remain united to your communities, and I earnestly hope that your

dioceses are developing suitable initiatives to welcome and accompany

you.”

The most recent Synod of Bishops on the theme “New

evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith” (7-28

October 2012) addressed once again the situation of the faithful who

after the failure of a marital relationship (not the failure of a

marriage, which being a sacrament still remains) have entered a new

union and live together without a sacramental marriage bond. In the

concluding Message, the Synod Fathers addressed those concerned as

follows: “To all of them we want to say that God’s love does not abandon

anyone, that the Church loves them, too, that the Church is a house

that welcomes all, that they remain members of the Church even if they

cannot receive sacramental absolution and the Eucharist. May our

Catholic communities welcome all who live in such situations and support

those who are in the path of conversion and reconciliation.”

Observations based on Anthropology and Sacramental Theology

The

doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage is often met with

incomprehension in a secularized environment. Where the fundamental

insights of Christian faith have been lost, church affiliation of a

purely conventional kind can no longer sustain major life decisions or

provide a firm foothold in the midst of marital crises – as well as

crises in priestly and religious life. Many people ask: how can I bind

myself to one woman or one man for an entire lifetime? Who can tell me

what my marriage will be like in ten, twenty, thirty, forty years? Is a

definitive bond to one person possible at all? The many marital

relationships that founder today reinforce the scepticism of young

people regarding definitive life choices.

On the other hand, the

ideal – built into the order of creation – of faithfulness between one

man and one woman has lost none of its fascination, as is apparent from

recent opinion surveys among young people. Most of them long for a

stable, lasting relationship, in keeping with the spiritual and moral

nature of the human person. Moreover, one must not forget the

anthropological value of indissoluble marriage: it withdraws the

partners from caprice and from the tyranny of feelings and moods. It

helps them to survive personal difficulties and to overcome painful

experiences. Above all it protects the children, who have most to suffer

from marital breakdown.

Love is more than a feeling or an

instinct. Of its nature it is self-giving. In marital love, two people

say consciously and intentionally to one another: only you – and you for

ever. The word of the Lord: “What God has joined together” corresponds

to the promise of the spouses: “I take you as my husband … I take you

as my wife … I will love, esteem and honour you, as long as I live,

till death us do part.” The priest blesses the covenant that the spouses

have sealed with one another before God. If anyone should doubt whether

the marriage bond is ontological, let him learn from the word of God:

“He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and

said: for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be

joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no

longer two but one flesh” (Mt 19:4-6).

For Christians,

the marriage of baptized persons incorporated into the Body of Christ

has sacramental character and therefore represents a supernatural

reality. A serious pastoral problem arises from the fact that many

people today judge Christian marriage exclusively by worldly and

pragmatic criteria. Those who think according to the “spirit of the

world” (1 Cor 2:12) cannot understand the sacramentality of

marriage. The Church cannot respond to the growing incomprehension of

the sanctity of marriage by pragmatically accommodating the supposedly

inevitable, but only by trusting in “the Spirit which is from God, that

we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God” (1 Cor

2:12). Sacramental marriage is a testimony to the power of grace, which

changes man and prepares the whole Church for the holy city, the new

Jerusalem, the Church, which is prepared “as a bride adorned for her

husband” (Rev 21:2). The Gospel of the sanctity of marriage is

to be proclaimed with prophetic candour. By adapting to the spirit of

the age, a weary prophet seeks his own salvation but not the salvation

of the world in Jesus Christ. Faithfulness to marital consent is a

prophetic sign of the salvation that God bestows upon the world. “He who

is able to receive this, let him receive it” (Mt 19:12).

Through sacramental grace, married love is purified, strengthened and

ennobled. “Sealed by mutual faithfulness and hallowed above all by

Christ’s sacrament, this love remains steadfastly true in body and in

mind, in bright days or dark. It will never be profaned by adultery or

divorce” (Gaudium et Spes, 49). In the strength of the

sacrament of marriage, the spouses participate in God’s definitive,

irrevocable love. They can therefore be witnesses of God’s faithful

love, but they must nourish their love constantly through living by

faith and love.

Admittedly there are situations – as every

pastor knows – in which marital cohabitation becomes for all intents and

purposes impossible for compelling reasons, such as physical or

psychological violence. In such hard cases, the Church has always

permitted the spouses to separate and no longer live together. It must

be remembered, though, that the marriage bond of a valid union remains

intact in the sight of God, and the individual parties are not free to

contract a new marriage, as long as the spouse is alive. Pastors and

Christian communities must therefore take pains to promote paths of

reconciliation in these cases too, or, should that not be possible, to

help the people concerned to confront their difficult situation in

faith.

Observations based on Moral Theology

It

is frequently suggested that remarried divorcees should be allowed to

decide for themselves, according to their conscience, whether or not to

present themselves for holy communion. This argument, based on a

problematical concept of “conscience”, was rejected by a document of the

CDF in 1994. Naturally, the faithful must consider every time they

attend Mass whether it is possible to receive communion, and a grave

unconfessed sin would always be an impediment. At the same time they

have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth.

In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps

them “not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather,

especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with

certainty and to abide in it” (Veritatis Splendor, 64). If

remarried divorcees are subjectively convinced in their conscience that a

previous marriage was invalid, this must be proven objectively by the

competent marriage tribunals. Marriage is not simply about the

relationship of two people to God, it is also a reality of the Church, a

sacrament, and it is not for the individuals concerned to decide on its

validity, but rather for the Church, into which the individuals are

incorporated by faith and baptism. “If the prior marriage of two

divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no

circumstances can their new union be considered lawful, and therefore

reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible. The conscience

of the individual is bound to this norm without exception” (Cardinal

Joseph Ratzinger, “The Pastoral approach to marriage must be founded on

truth” L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 7 December 2011, p. 4)

The teaching on epikeia,

too – according to which a law may be generally valid, but does not

always apply to concrete human situations – may not be invoked here,

because in the case of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage we

are dealing with a divine norm that is not at the disposal of the

Church. Nevertheless – as we see from the privilegium Paulinum

the Church does have the authority to clarify the conditions that must

be fulfilled for an indissoluble marriage, as taught by Jesus, to come

about. On this basis, the Church has established impediments to

marriage, she has recognized grounds for annulment, and she has

developed a detailed process for examining these.

A further case

for the admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments is argued in

terms of mercy. Given that Jesus himself showed solidarity with the

suffering and poured out his merciful love upon them, mercy is said to

be a distinctive quality of true discipleship. This is correct, but it

misses the mark when adopted as an argument in the field of sacramental

theology. The entire sacramental economy is a work of divine mercy and

it cannot simply be swept aside by an appeal to the same. An objectively

false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of

God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive. The mystery of

God includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and his justice.

If one were to suppress these characteristics of God and refuse to take

sin seriously, ultimately it would not even be possible to bring God’s

mercy to man. Jesus encountered the adulteress with great compassion,

but he said to her “Go and do not sin again” (Jn 8:11). God’s

mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules

of the Church. Rather it supplies us with the grace and strength needed

to fulfil them, to pick ourselves up after a fall, and to live life in

its fullness according to the image of our heavenly Father.

Pastoral care

Even

if there is no possibility of admitting remarried divorcees to the

sacraments, in view of their intrinsic nature, it is all the more

imperative to show pastoral concern for these members of the faithful,

so as to point them clearly towards what the theology of revelation and

the Magisterium have to say. The path indicated by the Church is not

easy for those concerned. Yet they should know and sense that the Church

as a community of salvation accompanies them on their journey. Insofar

as the parties make an effort to understand the Church’s practice and to

abstain from communion, they provide their own testimony to the

indissolubility of marriage.

Clearly, the care of remarried

divorcees must not be reduced to the question of receiving the

Eucharist. It involves a much more wide-ranging pastoral approach, which

seeks to do justice to to the different situations. It is important to

realize that there are other ways, apart from sacramental communion, of

being in fellowship with God. One can draw close to God by turning to

him in faith, hope and charity, in repentance and prayer. God can grant

his closeness and his salvation to people on different paths, even if

they find themselves in a contradictory life situation. As recent

documents of the Magisterium have emphasized, pastors and Christian

communities are called to welcome people in irregular situations openly

and sincerely, to stand by them sympathetically and helpfully, and to

make them aware of the love of the Good Shepherd. If pastoral care is

rooted in truth and love, it will discover the right paths and

approaches in constantly new ways.

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller

© L’Osservatore Romano 2013

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The Holy See
Catechism of the Catholic Church

21st October 2013

PART FOUR
CHRISTIAN PRAYER

SECTION ONE
PRAYER IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

CHAPTER THREE
THE LIFE OF PRAYER

ARTICLE 2
THE BATTLE OF PRAYER

Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostol...

Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2725
Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part.
It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old
Covenant
before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he
himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against
ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to
turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live,
because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually
according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his
name. The “spiritual battle” of the Christian’s new life is inseparable
from the battle of prayer.

I. OBJECTIONS TO PRAYER

2726 In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer.
Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as
an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce
prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously
regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other
things they have to do: they “don’t have the time.” Those who seek God
by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer
comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.

2727 We must also face the fact that certain attitudes deriving from the mentality of
“this present world” can penetrate our lives if we are not vigilant.
For example, some would have it that only that is true which can be
verified by reason and science; yet prayer is a mystery that overflows
both our conscious and unconscious lives. Others overly prize production
and profit; thus prayer, being unproductive, is useless. Still others
exalt sensuality and comfort as the criteria of the true, the good, and
the beautiful; whereas prayer, the “love of beauty” (philokalia),
is caught up in the glory of the living and true God. Finally, some see
prayer as a flight from the world in reaction against activism; but in
fact, Christian prayer is neither an escape from reality nor a divorce
from life.

2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have “great possessions,”15
we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard
according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity
that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a
free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the
same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must
battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.

II. HUMBLE VIGILANCE OF HEART

Facing difficulties in prayer

2729 The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction.
It can affect words and their meaning in vocal prayer; it can concern,
more profoundly, him to whom we are praying, in vocal prayer (liturgical
or personal), meditation, and contemplative prayer. To set about
hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all
that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction
reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before
the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us
resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the
battle, the choice of which master to serve.16

2730
In positive terms, the battle against the possessive and dominating
self requires vigilance, sobriety of heart. When Jesus insists on vigilance, he always relates it to himself, to his coming on the last day and every day: today.
The bridegroom comes in the middle of the night; the light that must
not be extinguished is that of faith: “‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his
face!'”17

2731 Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness.
Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated
from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even
spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith clinging faithfully to
Jesus in his agony and in his tomb. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into
the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if dies, it bears much
fruit.”18 If dryness is due to the lack of roots, because the word has fallen on rocky soil, the battle requires conversion.19

Facing temptations in prayer

2732 The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith.
It expresses itself less by declared incredulity than by our actual
preferences. When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought
to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for
the heart: what is its real love? Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a
last resort, but do we really believe he is? Sometimes we enlist the
Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptuous. In each case, our
lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a
humble heart: “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”20

2733 Another temptation, to which presumption opens the gate, is acedia.
The spiritual writers understand by this a form of depression due to
lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart.
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”21 The
greater the height, the harder the fall. Painful as discouragement is,
it is the reverse of presumption. The humble are not surprised by their
distress; it leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy.

III. FILIAL TRUST

2734 Filial trust is tested – it proves itself – in tribulation.22 The principal difficulty concerns the prayer of petition,
for oneself or for others in intercession. Some even stop praying
because they think their petition is not heard. Here two questions
should be asked: Why do we think our petition has not been heard? How is
our prayer heard, how is it “efficacious”?

Why do we complain of not being heard?

2735 In the
first place, we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God
or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly
concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other
hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image
of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?

2736 Are we convinced that “we do not know how to pray as we ought”?23 Are we asking God for “what is good for us”? Our Father knows what we need before we ask him,24
but he awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in
their freedom. We must pray, then, with his Spirit of freedom, to be
able truly to know what he wants.25

2737 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”26 If we ask with a divided heart, we are “adulterers”;27
God cannot answer us, for he desires our well-being, our life. “Or do
you suppose that it is in vain that the scripture says, ‘He yearns
jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us?'”28
That our God is “jealous” for us is the sign of how true his love is.
If we enter into the desire of his Spirit, we shall be heard.

Do not be troubled if you do not
immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do
something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer.29
God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give.30

How is our prayer efficacious?

2738 The
revelation of prayer in the economy of salvation teaches us that faith
rests on God’s action in history. Our filial trust is enkindled by his
supreme act: the Passion and Resurrection of his Son. Christian prayer
is cooperation with his providence, his plan of love for men.

2739
For St. Paul, this trust is bold, founded on the prayer of the Spirit
in us and on the faithful love of the Father who has given us his only
Son.31 Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition.

2740
The prayer of Jesus makes Christian prayer an efficacious petition. He
is its model, he prays in us and with us. Since the heart of the Son
seeks only what pleases the Father, how could the prayer of the children
of adoption be centered on the gifts rather than the Giver?

2741
Jesus also prays for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our
petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and,
in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to
intercede for us with the Father.32 If our prayer is
resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children,
we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular
thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.

IV. PERSERVERING IN LOVE

2742 “Pray constantly . . . always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”33
St. Paul adds, “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and
supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making
supplication for all the saints.”34 For “we have not been
commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been
laid down that we are to pray without ceasing.”35 This
tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and
laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and
persevering love. This love opens our hearts to three enlightening and
life-giving facts of faith about prayer.

2743 It is always possible to pray: The time of the Christian is that of the risen Christ who is with us always, no matter what tempests may arise.36 Our time is in the hands of God:

It is possible to offer fervent prayer
even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop,
. . . while buying or selling, . . . or even while cooking.37

2744 Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin.38 How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him?

Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is
impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy. . . . For it is
impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and
invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.39
Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.40

2745 Prayer and Christian life are inseparable,
for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding
from love; the same filial and loving conformity with the Father’s plan
of love; the same transforming union in the Holy Spirit who conforms us
more and more to Christ Jesus; the same love for all men, the love with
which Jesus has loved us. “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he
[will] give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.”41

He “prays without ceasing” who unites
prayer to works and good works to prayer.
Only in this way can we
consider as realizable the principle of praying without ceasing.42

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October 20, 2013

 

Listening is as important as asking in prayer

Listening is as important as asking in prayer

Somewhere between faith and hope lies the virtue of trust, which among the three is perhaps the one that counts most on us.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 18:1-8), the Lord shows us how and where we
can exercise and measure our trust. The measure of our trust in God
reveals itself when we examine our prayer.

Jesus uses a parable to illustrate this point.

The woman who seeks justice will pester the unjust judge until she
gets what she wants, and eventually the judge will cave in to her
requests, simply because he wants her off his back. What an unusual
example for Jesus to give! Why compare God the Father to an unjust
judge?

The point to this comparison is when we give up on God, we treat him worse than we would treat an unjust judge. What an insult! What a lack of trust!

There is a deeper point that I would like to focus on here. Perhaps
he example above does not apply to you. After all, on the surface, Jesus
is asking have you given up on prayer? Are you praying enough? Do you
even have confidence in God? These are all important questions to which
people can give different answers — that is, if they consider these
questions in the first place. One can only give answers to these
questions if one takes the time to examine one’s prayer.

I think that is a more pertinent question for most of us: Do you take time to examine your prayer?

If take a little time each day to ask yourself how we you paying —
this can take just 5 or 10 minutes — you can learn a lot about yourself
and your relationship with God.

You can ask yourself:

  • Am I opening my heart to God?
  • Am I holding anything back?
  • Am I focusing on the right things?
  • Am I distracted with the wrong things?
  • What are my distractions and why am I distracted by these things ?
  • How much of my prayer do I focus on myself?
  • Am I listening for God’s response?
  • In what ways might God have responded to me in my prayer?
  • What can I do to pray better? Is there a better time or place for me to pray?

You can take any of these questions or come up with other ones that apply to your particular situation.

The best time to examine your prayer is right at the end of the
prayer itself. This does not mean you have to add more prayer time to
your schedule. Rather, you can simply reserve the last 5 to 10 minutes
of the time you have set aside for prayer to examine your prayer. More
often than not, people find that this is when they reap the fruit from
their prayer, so it is time well spent.

If you would like more suggestions on how and what to examine in your prayer, a good place to consult is the part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that deals with prayer, particularly in the  section dedicated to objections to prayer.
The paragraphs in this section include distractions and temptations in
prayer, filial trust, and perseverance. You may find something here that
applies specifically to your own prayer life in general or during a
particular phase in your life. You may find many things that present
difficulties to you in prayer.

If that’s the case, don’t try to take it all on at once. It’s a good
idea to deal with one thing at a time.  Focus on one point, say,
distractions in prayer for a week. Keep a journal where you jot down
your obstacles, your progress, and any lights or inspirations that come
to you during the examination. At the end of the week review your
progress and see how much you’ve grown.

Give it a try and you will realize that the examination is the part
of the prayer when God speaks to you the most, or better said, the time
when you can best see that God was speaking to you and answering your
prayer.

English: Illustration of the Parable of the Un...

 Illustration of the Parable of the Unjust Judge from the New Testament Gospel of Luke (Luke 18:1-9) by John Everett Millais for The Parables of Our Lord (1863) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Reblog : JunJun Faithbook

Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013

Never-Give-Up-Winston-Churchill-715349Our Readings today remind us of one of the basics yet also one of the most important aspects of our faith- prayer. We need to pray because we need God whether we acknowledge him or not. We need to pray because only God can satisfy all our needs. No amount of worldly wealth can make us happy forever. We need to pray because our human flourishing could not only be achieved through human relationships. In fact, we can attain the fullness of our humanity also in relationship with God– a real and a personal one. It is in relationship with God that our lives can get  its full meaning and significance and purpose.

So today we are to sit down and ask ourselves: How’s our relationship with God? How’s our prayer life? How do I pray?

We can see how is our relationship with God by the way we pray. “Prayer is relationship” says our former Spiritual director in the seminary, Fr Pat O’Sullivan. Fr Pat would add that to grow in this relationship, “It is a great help for prayer if there is a certain discipline in our life.”

So what kind of discipline could we take to grow in our prayer life?

Jesus in our gospel today would invite us to practice this certain discipline in our prayers and that is “To pray continually and never lose heart.” This means persistence, perseverance, and patience. This is one point of the parable that Jesus tells us in our gospel today. By telling us the parable of the unjust judge and the needy widow, Jesus is telling us that we must persist in our prayers, even if they are not answered immediately or even if the answers are not the answers we are expecting or we are wanting. All our prayers get to  God, though not all are answered according to what we want. “God’s response to our prayers”, according to Fr Francis Moloney, SDB, “often calls upon us to accept his ways, rather than our own.” We only have to persist in our prayer and we will surely be reaping its fruits.

This beautiful story of persistence might inspire us.

There was a man who was born poor. Almost all of his life he had to confront defeats and failure.  Maybe, we can call him a born loser. In 1816, his family was forced out of their home so he had to work to support them. Shortly after that his mother died. He ventured into business,but he failed. He ran for the office in the government, he lost. Then he lost his job. He wanted to go to law school but he couldn’t get in. He borrowed some money from a friend to start a business on his own, but went bankrupt by the end of that year. He then spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt. But he never learned a lesson, so it seemed. He ran for state legislature again  and he won. He was engaged to be married, but his fiancée died and that caused him a total nervous breakdown. Once again, he sought to become speaker of the state legislature but was defeated. Then, he sought to become elector was defeated. He ran for Congress but lost. Then he ran for Congress again and this time he won.  He went to Washington and did a good job. But at the next term, he ran for re-election to Congress, he lost. He tried to work as a land officer in his home state but was rejected. He just never gave up. It seemed like the politician in him was boiling up that he would try all means just to get it. So he ran for Senate of the United States. Once again he lost. He suffered another defeat when in 1856, he sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention. Another blow for him was in 1958 when he ran for U.S. Senate again which he lost too. He could have stopped. We could tell him, politics is not really for him. He has got more defeats than victory. But no, he persisted. So at last, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. A beautiful story of persistence.

St Paul in our Second Reading today would also offer us another way: Make our faith concrete and alive in our lives by getting to know Jesus Christ more personally and more intimately- and St Paul would say to us by : ‘Knowing the Holy Scriptures.’ This means we are to read the Sacred Scriptures prayerfully and reflectively for, according to St Paul: ‘From these we can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation…[and it can] be used to teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and  teaching them to be holy. This is how the person who is dedicated to God,’ St Paul continues, ‘becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work.’ St Ignatius of Loyola is one good model for praying with the Scriptures. And he has got a hint for us. He said: “We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.

Another discipline for prayer is offered  by the First Reading today- that is we support each other in prayer. Yes, prayer leads us to personal and intimate relationship with God, but it should be reflected on the community.  We have heard that the Israelites were under attacked by the Amalekites. So Moses resorted to prayer for God’s help, with arms raised, a gesture of complete abandonment, trust and surrender. It helped but he could only raise his arms up to a point. Here is a beautiful imagery of a communal prayer. Aaron and Hur helped him by providing a stone for him to sit on, then they supported Moses’ arms one on one side and on the other. That is why, I always urged you all that we pray for one another, not only at Mass which is the highest form of prayer, but also in our communal acts of prayer for the whole world.

But there is one more thing we need to aid us in prayer: Faith. Let’s keep up with it. You might have heard of the terrible earthquake happening in Cebu and Bohol,  Philippines last Tuesday. It caused much damage to the centuries-old churches and buildings. But then I am consoled by the optimism shown by the people to cope up with the loss and devastation. They said: ‘Our Churches might be damaged, and shaken, but our faith remained firm.’ Such is the power of faith in our lives. It might not change the situation or circumstance, but it can really change and influence our attitudes towards adversities, challenges and trials. So as we continue this Eucharistic celebration let us ask ourselves these two questions: How real and personal our relationship with God? How’s my life?

 

Church of Saint-Eutrope in Clermont-Ferrand, s...

Church of Saint-Eutrope in Clermont-Ferrand, stained glasses (Puy-de-Dôme, France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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byPope Francis

 

 

English: Mary and Jesus

English: Mary and Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

In the Psalm we said: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things” (Ps 98:1).

 

Today we consider one of the marvellous things which the Lord has done: Mary! A lowly and weak creature like ourselves, she was chosen to be the Mother of God, the Mother of her Creator.

 

Considering Mary in the light of the readings we have just heard, I would like to reflect with you on three things: first, God surprises us, second, God asks us to be faithful, and third, God is our strength.

 

1. First: God surprises us. The story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, is remarkable. In order to be healed of leprosy, he turns to the prophet of God, Elisha, who does not perform magic or demand anything unusual of him, but asks him simply to trust in God and to wash in the waters of the river. Not, however, in one of the great rivers of Damascus, but in the little stream of the Jordan. Naaman is left surprised, even taken aback. What kind of God is this who asks for something so simple? He wants to turn back, but then he goes ahead, he immerses himself in the Jordan and is immediately healed (cf. 2 Kg 5:1-4). There it is: God surprises us. It is precisely in poverty, in weakness and in humility that he reveals himself and grants us his love, which saves us, heals us and gives us strength. He asks us only to obey his word and to trust in him.

 

This was the experience of the Virgin Mary. At the message of the angel, she does not hide her surprise. It is the astonishment of realizing that God, to become man, had chosen her, a simple maid of Nazareth. Not someone who lived in a palace amid power and riches, or one who had done extraordinary things, but simply someone who was open to God and put her trust in him, even without understanding everything: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). That was her answer. God constantly surprises us, he bursts our categories, he wreaks havoc with our plans. And he tells us: Trust me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow me!

 

Today let us all ask ourselves whether we are afraid of what God might ask, or of what he does ask. Do I let myself be surprised by God, as Mary was, or do I remain caught up in my own safety zone: in forms of material, intellectual or ideological security, taking refuge in my own projects and plans? Do I truly let God into my life? How do I answer him?

 

2. In the passage from Saint Paul which we have heard, the Apostle tells his disciple Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ; if we persevere with him, we will also reign with him (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-13). This is the second thing: to remember Christ always – to be mindful of Jesus Christ – and thus to persevere in faith. God surprises us with his love, but he demands that we be faithful in following him. We can be unfaithful, but he cannot: he is “the faithful one” and he demands of us that same fidelity. Think of all the times when we were excited about something or other, some initiative, some task, but afterwards, at the first sign of difficulty, we threw in the towel. Sadly, this also happens in the case of fundamental decisions, such as marriage. It is the difficulty of remaining steadfast, faithful to decisions we have made and to commitments we have made. Often it is easy enough to say “yes”, but then we fail to repeat this “yes” each and every day. We fail to be faithful.

 

Mary said her “yes” to God: a “yes” which threw her simple life in Nazareth into turmoil, and not only once. Any number of times she had to utter a heartfelt “yes” at moments of joy and sorrow, culminating in the “yes” she spoke at the foot of the Cross. Here today there are many mothers present; think of the full extent of Mary’s faithfulness to God: seeing her only Son hanging on the Cross. The faithful woman, still standing, utterly heartbroken, yet faithful and strong.

 

And I ask myself: Am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time? Our culture of the ephemeral, the relative, also takes it toll on the way we live our faith. God asks us to be faithful to him, daily, in our everyday life. He goes on to say that, even if we are sometimes unfaithful to him, he remains faithful. In his mercy, he never tires of stretching out his hand to lift us up, to encourage us to continue our journey, to come back and tell him of our weakness, so that he can grant us his strength. This is the real journey: to walk with the Lord always, even at moments of weakness, even in our sins. Never to prefer a makeshift path of our own. That kills us. Faith is ultimate fidelity, like that of Mary.

 

3. The last thing: God is our strength. I think of the ten lepers in the Gospel who were healed by Jesus. They approach him and, keeping their distance, they call out: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Lk 17:13). They are sick, they need love and strength, and they are looking for someone to heal them. Jesus responds by freeing them from their disease. Strikingly, however, only one of them comes back, praising God and thanking him in a loud voice. Jesus notes this: ten asked to be healed and only one returned to praise God in a loud voice and to acknowledge that he is our strength. Knowing how to give thanks, to give praise for everything that the Lord has done for us.

 

Take Mary. After the Annunciation, her first act is one of charity towards her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Her first words are: “My soul magnifies the Lord”, in other words, a song of praise and thanksgiving to God not only for what he did for her, but for what he had done throughout the history of salvation. Everything is his gift. If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is his gift. He is our strength! Saying “thank you” is such an easy thing, and yet so hard! How often do we say “thank you” to one another in our families? These are essential words for our life in common. “Sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”. If families can say these three things, they will be fine. “Sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”. How often do we say “thank you” in our families? How often do we say “thank you” to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted! This happens with God too. It is easy to approach the Lord to ask for something, but to go and thank him: “Well, I don’t need to”.

 

As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist, let us invoke Mary’s intercession. May she help us to be open to God’s surprises, to be faithful to him each and every day, and to praise and thank him, for he is our strength. Amen.

 

 

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October 13, 2013


Has Sunday ever snuck up on you before?

That’s what happened to me this week, which is why this post is going to be just a little different, but I’m taking advantage of providence to share what’s on my mind regarding the Liturgy we are gradually walking into this time of the year. But first…

Our usual brief reflection on today’s liturgy — very brief this time.

The first reading from 2 Kings 5:14-17 and the Gospel of Luke 17:11-19 teach us a lesson in faith, obedience, and gratitude. More specifically, that these three virtues go hand in hand with one another.

Namaan the Leper wants a miracle as do the lepers Jesus heals in the Gospel. In both cases, they are healed because of their faith and because of their obedience. What’s important to note here is that in both cases something ritualistic is required — bathing in a river 7 times, on the one hand, following the prescribed law of Moses, on the other. But in neither case is the ritual the most important thing.

The important thing in both cases is obedience, as an outward sign of practical faith. In both cases, they were healed on account of their faith, shown outwardly by their obedience. In both cases, faith was not a result of the the miracle they received (although they received the reward of having their faith increased as a result); rather, the miracle was a result of their faith.

Let us learn from this example to ask the Lord to increase our faith, which we can be sure he will do when we put our trust in him and follow his will through our obedience — as hard as that may be sometimes.

Lastly, our Lord reminds us of the virtue of gratitude.

Sometimes we can turn sour grapes when we don’t get what we want, what we believe we need when we ask for it in prayer. Last week, our we were told, “Wait for it, and it will come.” Today, Christ gives us the follow up on this lesson: When it comes, be sure to praise the Lord and thank him for it.

Perhaps, a latent lesson can be gleaned from this teaching too. When we start to feel like sour grapes, because we’ve been waiting for it, and waiting for it to come, and we feel ourselves starting to lose hope, we may want to stop and ask:

  • Have I been duly grateful for what I have received or have I taken it for granted?
  • Have a taken the time, as the one Samaritan leper did in today’s Gospel, to thank God?
  • Is there something I should be grateful for that I’ve been overlooking?

Or am I just expecting to get more? More of what I don’t necessarily need or deserve — especially if I have not been grateful for the gifts I’ve received.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it might be a good idea to do a little “personal advent” to prepare ourselves to really enjoy that feast for what it is meant to be — Turkey and Football!

Just kidding (but also that too)… Thankful for the gift of life, of liberty, of happiness, family, and faith.

Speaking of advents and thieves in the night…

2014 liturgical calendar (click here to see more)

2014 liturgical calendar (click here to see more)

This liturgical year is quickly coming to a close. The liturgy itself reminds us of this as the feast of Christ the King approaches. I like to think of this waning period of Ordinary Time as the advent before the Advent. Everything points toward the return of the King. Let’s be prayerful and vigilant as this great day approaches, and not be caught of guard (as I was for this Sunday).

Rather, let’s prepare ourselves to join him for the feast and celebrate with him, both in this world on the Feast of Christ our King, and in the eternal banquet in the next.

God bless you all!

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