The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

failures of Catholicism ...

According to Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi “Catholics during the last decades have shown the following weak points: the promotion of the notion of secularism as neutrality, thus weakening its identity; an inability to understand that the issues of life and bioethics are also social and political issues; and the failure to promote the Church's social doctrine in a systematic and comprehensive manner.

A theology of the separation between faith and politics has been alternating with a theology of direct engagement, while, at the same time and almost undetected, a culture of agnosticism and relativism was advancing, becoming imposing and almost dictatorial, striking the very heart of the Christian message and radically hindering its reception."

Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi is the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C

Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; 1 Cor 12:31—13:13 or 13:4-13; Lk 4:21-30

1. Some years ago a popular song told us, "What the world needs now is love, love, love." Perhaps the composer of this song was inspired by St Paul's letter to the Corinthians. At any rate, Paul of Tarsus would totally agree with the main lines of the song.

This chapter has been correctly called a hymn of love. I suppose too we might name it a hymn to love. Many would argue that the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians is not merely the finest prose in St Paul's letters but also in the entire New Testament. Authors of whatever stripe would consider their oeuvre complete if they could run off such a sublime message on their word processors. The Holy Spirit had full burners working when He inspired Paul of Tarsus on this passage.

All of us at some time have asked in one form or another, "What is love?" There are of course many answers to the query. The one offered by mystics is the one I find most satisfying. They would say simply that love is a person. His name is Jesus. And, if you want to be an authentic lover, become that Jesus. He is the "lure let down to tempt the soul to rise."

Someone suggests a trick for our instruction. Wherever Paul mentions the word "love," we should substitute the word "Jesus." Listen!

Jesus is always patient and kind. He is never jealous. Jesus is never boastful or conceited. He is never rude or selfish. Jesus does not take offense and is not resentful. He takes no pleasure in other people's sins but delights in the truth. Jesus is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

The glorious language does fit our Leader well, does it not?

But suppose that wherever St Paul mentions love, we substitute our own names. Is there anyone here who thinks the language fits us? If anything, we should grow red in the face - all of us - and hopefully sigh our regrets. Yet, the exercise does tell us the direction we, Christ followers should be heading.

2. Someone described a biblical prophet as one who comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable. Such a prophet was Jeremiah. Such a prophet is Jesus. Jesus' public ministry begins with a disaster. Think about it. Of his entire time on earth (33 years), Jesus spent about 90% in Nazareth. The Nazarenes knew him intimately - or at least they thought they did. When he stood up to do the reading, the people at first reacted with delight. But then came a change. He told them something that shocked them. This prophecy of Isaiah, he said, has been fulfilled ... in me. At those words the Nazarenes wanted to kill him.

We have to step back and consider what was going on. The Nazarenes knew Jesus as a neighbor - and no doubt a very good neighbor. What scandalized them was that this man was saying he is the axis of history. That was a big claim but Jesus was ready to back it up. The Nazarenes would have none of it.

It is difficult to accept any prophet—someone who comes along with a new way of thinking or a radical idea which undermines our established way of thinking. Jesus was no accepted in Nazareth because he dare to criticize, and the people didn’t expected from him a teaching but the miracles. It was the stubbornness and obstinacy of their harts that caused their anger. Is it not similar among us? Are we also not angry with somebody who is trying to correct us and to help us out of errors and mistakes?

And this is a pity, because those who dare to criticize us, those who have enough courage to make corrections are our true friends. We can even say: “Don’t listen to those who are applauding and admiring you, because you will become too proud and boastful. Listen rather to those who are strong and courageous enough to show you your mistakes. They will certainly improve the quality of your life. “

Roman Emperor, Mark Aurelius used to pray every day: “Lord, protect me from the false friends because with the true enemies I can handle myself”. Very often the false friends are glorifying and applauding causing the biggest damages.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C

Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Today's Gospel passage is in two distinct parts. It begins with the opening paragraph of Luke's account. It is addressed to a friend, Theophilus [whose name means 'beloved of God']. Luke implies that Theophilus has already been instructed orally in the message of Jesus but Luke will now present him with an "accurate and orderly" account of Jesus' life and teaching.

Luke clearly acknowledges that he himself never saw Jesus. His gospel was written at least 50 years after Jesus' death and resurrection. Yet he wants to assure his friend that what he writes is accurate and is based on the experiences of people who did know Jesus personally. At the same time, it is important to remember that Luke, like the other evangelists who have differing versions of the same events, is not writing a scientific biography. We can not read the Gospel as an historical dissertation. His first and most important purpose - as we see in the second part of today's passage - is to tell us the meaning of Jesus' life, death and resurrection for our personal lives and why we should accept and follow Jesus as our King and Lord.

And what do we hear in this passage? "He has anointed me." That is a way of saying "I am a king". A king was proclaimed by anointing. And what kind of king is Jesus going to be? There immediately follows a proclamation, a programme or manifesto of what we can expect from him. Today we might call it a 'mission statement'.
he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favour.

The words are to be taken both literally and symbolically.

They are addressed directly to the materially poor, those in prison, the physically blind, the oppressed and exploited of the world, to "you who are poor, weep, are hungry and oppressed". The message for them is one of hope, of healing and of liberation.

“He has sent me to proclaim liberty, recovery and freedom.” Jesus is ready to do all this, but He waits for my personal engagement. He expects that I will meet Hi personally. This is the necessary condition of healing, recovery and liberation.

A short story:

A shoemaker, in a dream was told that he would see Jesus the next day. He waited in his store all day. The only one who came in the morning was an old and poor man. His shoes were worn out. The shoemaker gave him a fresh pair at no charge. In the afternoon came an old woman. She was hungry. The shoemaker promptly gave her his own lunch. As evening approached, a child came in crying bitterly. She was lost. The shoemaker took her home to the other end of town. Returning, he was certain that he had missed his rendezvous with the Christ.

Then he heard a voice.
"...I kept my word. Three times today I came to your door.
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with bruised feet.
I was the woman you gave food to eat.
I was the lost child you took home."

There are no more shoemakers nowadays; we all are living in the modern society, but there are still the poor and needy and Jesus is constantly coming and asking:

How many times did I already come to you? And you didn’t recognize me.
How many times did I try to enter your life? And you didn’t accept me.

Actual reality of God is the reality of God constantly coming to me. He is coming and sometimes it is so embarrassing, so uncomfortable …

And so, what is the meaning of Jesus' life, death and resurrection for my personal live?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 14, 2007

Inviting Jesus to the wedding, inviting Jesus to our lives ... following the homily of Father Cantalamessa

The Gospel of the second Sunday in Ordinary Time is the episode of the wedding feast at Cana. What did Jesus want to tell us by participating in a wedding feast?

Above all, in this way he in fact honored the marriage between man and woman, implicitly reaffirming that it is a beautiful thing, willed by the Creator and blessed by him. But he wanted also to teach us something else. With his coming the marriage between God and humanity promised through the prophets was realized under the name of the "new and eternal covenant."

If we want to find out how the relationship between a man and woman in marriage should be according to the Bible, we must look at the relationship between Christ and the Church. Let us try to do it following the thought of St. Paul on this theme as it is expressed in Ephesians 5:35-33. At the origin and center of every matrimony, according to this vision, there must be love: "You, husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her." BENDEDICT XVI “God is love”  love is not amor but agape not a desire of getting but the urgent need of giving and sharing.

This affirmation -- that matrimony is based on love -- seems to us to be discounted today. It’s very easy to say “I love you”, but it’s much more difficult to be consistent and steady when the life become difficult, when this love demands or claims some sacrifices …. How often it is that the young people who during the ceremony of weeding were looking at each other with a genuine admiration few months later can not tolerate each other? Was it the love that directed them towards the marriage or only some kind of strong but yet not deep sentiments?

And wives, what can they learn from their model which is the Church? The Church makes herself beautiful only for her husband and not to please anyone else. She is proud and thrilled about her husband and does not cease to praise him. Translated onto the human plane this reminds fianceés and wives that their esteem and admiration is a very important thing for their fiancé or husband.

But there is something that the model of divine love calls husbands to above all: fidelity. God is faithful, always, despite everything. Today, this discourse about fidelity has become something rather delicate and no one any longer dares to risk it. And yet the principal reason for the disintegration of many marriages is precisely here, in infidelity. Some deny this, saying that adultery is the effect and not the cause of marriage crises. In other words, betrayal happens because there is nothing that exists any longer with one's spouse.

On occasion this is also true; but often what we have is a vicious circle. There is betrayal because the marriage is dead, but the marriage is dead precisely because treachery has already begun, perhaps at first only in the heart. That which is the most odious is when the traitor himself casts the fault entirely on the other and assumes the attitude of the victim.

But let us return to the Gospel episode, because it contains hope for all marriages, even the better ones. What happens in all marriages happens in the wedding feast at Cana. It begins with enthusiasm and joy (the wine is the symbol of this); but this initial enthusiasm, like the wine at Cana, comes to wane with the passage of time. Then things are done no longer for love and with joy, but out of habit. It descends upon the family, if we are not careful, like a cloud of sadness and boredom. Of this couple it must sadly be said: "They have no more wine!"

This Gospel episode points out to the couple a way to not fall into this situation or get out of if they are already in it: Invite Jesus to your wedding! If he is present, he can always be asked to repeat the miracle of Cana: transform the water into wine -- the water of habit, of routine, of frigidity, into the wine of love and joy better than the initial love and joy, just as the miraculous wine at Cana.

Inviting Jesus to your wedding means honoring the Gospel in your house, praying together, receiving the sacraments, taking part in the life of the Church, be present regularly at Sunday Eucharist. And don’t forget please that we always have the delicate and subtle, protective Mother. But she is constantly repeating what she said at the wedding at Cana: “Do whatever Jesus tells you.””

Saturday, January 06, 2007

06-07. 01. 2007 Epiphany of the Lord

The story of the Epiphany which is only recounted in the Gospel of Matthew is most curious. Who are these Magi? And what is this star that guides them first to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem?
There are all sorts of interesting allusions here and many connections to be made. By Magi we understand that they were probably Zoroastrian astrologers from Persia. But while Christians were strongly warned elsewhere in the New Testament against dabbling in astrology these Magi are presented by Matthew as truly commendable.
Some suggest that the homage that they pay to Jesus is a kind of giving way by astrology and other magical theories to the truth of Christianity. Others say that this incident is to show that even the pagan world had some understanding of the importance of Christ’s role and had inklings of his birth.

Then there is the curiosity of the star. One theory suggests that it was a supernova; others are of the opinion that it was a comet or a conjunction of planets. Or is Matthew simply using a literary device to explain how these astrologers were guided to the stable at Bethlehem?

I think that we have to look at all these things in the light of the title given to the feast. It is an Epiphany, a manifestation. God makes himself known to the world and to specific individuals.

Ironically the people who should have been most sensitive to the things of God are totally unaware of what is happening in their midst while these strangers from afar show a remarkable awareness of the great intervention of God that had occurred in Bethlehem.
God makes himself known; he leads and guides people on their journey through life. We believe that God continually draws all people to himself and often he does so in the most unobtrusive ways.

Recently I came upon a story that I would like to share with you. In this story the three wise men, Gaspar, Balthassar and Melchior, were three different ages. Gaspar was a young man, Balthassar a middle aged man and Melchior an elderly man. They found a cave where the Holy One was and entered to do him homage one at a time.

• Melchior the old man entered first. He found an old man like himself in the cave. They shared stories and spoke of memory and gratitude.

• Middle aged Balthassar entered next. He found a man his own age there. They spoke passionately about leadership and responsibility.

• Young Gaspar was the last to enter. He found a young prophet waiting for him. They spoke about reform and promise.

Afterward when the three kings spoke to each other about their encounter with the Christ, they were shocked at each other’s stories. So they got their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh together and all three went into the cave. They found a baby there, the infant Jesus only twelve days old.
There is a deep message here. Jesus reveals himself to all people, at all stages of their lives, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Our pictures of Jesus are basically those as conceived by Western European artists. That’s OK, but Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew. If you were to go to Mexico, representations of Jesus would be that of a Mexican. Or an Asian in many places in the East. That is all acceptable, because Jesus has revealed himself of coming for all people, all places. In the Second reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says that this is the great secret of the ages: that the Christ came not just for the Jews but to be one with all people, Gentiles or non-Jews alike. You are also included …