Monday, February 28, 2011

S Hillary, pope: “Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!"

“For men it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”
-- Mk 10:17-27

What God commands he makes possible by his grace.
-- CCC 2082

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Wk 8: "do not worry"

Anxiety is born of materialism and obsession with money.

"The Lord grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods. 'Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.' Abandonment to the providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow. Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God." (CCC 2547)

We do need to eat and the protection of clothing and shelter, but we are more than these. When we become mired in concern for earthly wants our deepest needs, for spiritual realities, for God, are unmet and we become unhappy. The answer for those who crave peace is to hand themselves over to the Father in total trust as does Christ.

" 'Our bread': The Father who gives us life cannot not but give us the nourishment life requires - all appropriate goods and blessings, both material and spiritual. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists on the filial trust that cooperates with our Father's providence. He is not inviting us to idleness, but wants to relieve us from nagging worry and preoccupation. Such is the filial surrender of the children of God:

"To those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he has promised to give all else besides. Since everything indeed belongs to God, he who possesses God wants for nothing, if he himself is not found wanting before God." (CCC 2830)
The power of Faith is experienced in the strength to refuse worldly preoccupations that feed doubts which corrode our faith.

"The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith: Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness." (CCC 2088)

To be strong in Faith is to reject the sources of anxiety that leave us vulnerable to the wiles of the evil One.

"When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ's return By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has 'the keys of Death and Hades,' who 'is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'

"Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." (CCC 2854)
Art: Hildesheim Cathedral, Christussäule: The miraculous feeding of the multitude, ca. 1020.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday, Wk 7: "God from the earth created man"

... and in his own image he made him.
-- Sir 17:1-15

" 'God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.' Man occupies a unique place in creation: (I) he is 'in the image of God'; (II) in his own nature he unites the spiritual and material worlds; (III) he is created 'male and female'; (IV) God established him in his friendship.
-- CCC 355

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday, Wk 7: "A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter"

a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
-- Mk 10:1-12

Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good that the man should be alone." The woman, "flesh of his flesh," his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been "in the beginning": "So they are no longer two, but one flesh."
-- CCC 1605

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday, Wk 7: "Rely not on your wealth"

Delay not your conversion to the LORD,
put it not off from day to day.

The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement - however beneficial it may be - such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love:
All bow down before wealth. Wealth is that to which the multitude of men pay an instinctive homage. They measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability. . . . It is a homage resulting from a profound faith . . . that with wealth he may do all things. Wealth is one idol of the day and notoriety is a second. . . . Notoriety, or the making of a noise in the world - it may be called "newspaper fame" - has come to be considered a great good in itself, and a ground of veneration.
-- CCC 1723

Monday, February 21, 2011

S Peter Damian: "All wisdom comes from the LORD"

There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring, seated upon his throne:
There is but one, Most High all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one
-- Sir 1:1-10

God's almighty power is in no way arbitrary: "In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God's power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect."
-- CCC 271

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Give to the one who asks of you": aid to the poor and all in need demonstrates love for the poor Christ, present in His Body the Church

"Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow."

All that we have, both material and spiritual, are gifts from the heavenly Father, on loan as it were and to be shared with all.

" 'The Church's love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition.' This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to 'be able to give to those in need.' It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty." (CCC 2444)

Every human person is a sister or brother. The love of Christ demands of us that we treat them as such.

"The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of 'friendship' or 'social charity,' is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood.

"An error, 'today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity.' (CCC 1939)
Within our liturgy, the highest prayer of the Christian people, we have the collection and the offering of our gifts, to include monetary ones, as an expression of the love of Christ and a means of solidarity with everyone in need of any kind.

"From the very beginning Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need. This custom of the collection, ever appropriate, is inspired by the example of Christ who became poor to make us rich:

"Those who are well off, and who are also willing, give as each chooses. What is gathered is given to him who presides to assist orphans and widows, those whom illness or any other cause has deprived of resources, prisoners, immigrants and, in a word, all who are in need."
(CCC 1351)

St. Alvarez of Corova: "he led them...up a high mountain"

... it is good that we are here!
-- Mk 9:2-13

Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night. He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that "his brethren" experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them. It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.
-- CCC 2602

Friday, February 18, 2011

Il Beato Angelico / Blessed Fra Angelico: "the plan of the LORD stands forever"

... the design of his heart, through all generations.
-- Ps 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15

Sacred art is true and beautiful when its form corresponds to its particular vocation: evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God - the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ, who "reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature," in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily." This spiritual beauty of God is reflected in the most holy Virgin Mother of God, the angels, and saints. Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God, Creator and Savior, the Holy One and Sanctifier.
-- CCC 2502

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seven Founders of the Order of Servites: "the peoples gather together"

... and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
"From the God-given seed of the counsels a wonderful and wide-spreading tree has grown up in the field of the Lord, branching out into various forms of the religious life lived in solitude or in community. Different religious families have come into existence in which spiritual resources are multiplied for the progress in holiness of their members and for the good of the entire Body of Christ."
-- CCC 917

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

St Gilbert of Sempringham: "My vows to the Lord I will repay"

... in the sight of all his people.

The Church recognizes an exemplary value in the vows to practice the evangelical counsels:

Mother Church rejoices that she has within herself many men and women who pursue the Savior's self-emptying more closely and show it forth more clearly, by undertaking poverty with the freedom of the children of God, and renouncing their own will: they submit themselves to man for the sake of God, thus going beyond what is of precept in the matter of perfection, so as to conform themselves more fully to the obedient Christ.

-- CCC 2103

Photo credit: Ed O'Keefe.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

St. Claude la Colombière. "... great was man's wickedness on earth" alone have I found to be just on earth.
From the very beginning God blessed all living beings, especially man and woman. The covenant with Noah and with all living things renewed this blessing of fruitfulness despite man's sin which had brought a curse on the ground.
-- CCC 1080

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"I fulfill" the law: some disappointed in love and marriage blame the Church when in fact it is the law of Christ with which they disagree

As Saint Valentine's Day approaches those with significant others are sometimes shrilly reminded, not necessarily by their "Valentine", that they had better send chocolates, flowers or a card to the object of their love if they want such person to remain that way. The commercialization of love around this time of year is amusing to many and perhaps some are grateful for the reminder to send a sign of their affection to a loved one.

But there others who, during these days of celebration of the affairs of the heart, are reminded of Valentines loved and lost, perhaps even finding themselves bitter in a state of disappointment and disillusionment. These include the not insignificant numbers of those with failed marriages which we are told increases with time. Divorce is always a tragedy and those who suffer it must be approached with pastoral solicitude and lovingly supported in every way possible in the Christian community. The truth, however, must also be spoken with regard to the difficulty of their situation, for this too is the ministry of the love of Christ.

"Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ - "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence." (CCC 1650)

The numbers also of those who seek declarations of nullity in the United States are many. This acknowledgment of the laws of Christ with regard to marriage is a positive indicator. But not every marriage that ends in divorce is for that reason also necessarily invalid. That remains to be proven in each case.

The Church always presumes in favor of the marriage. The process of submitting a marriage to a church tribunal is thus for the purpose of proving that a marriage never existed from the moment that the couple exchanged vows, ideally in church and before priest and people. This process is not assured. Evidence is sometimes lacking. In such a case the couple remain married, the legal declaration of divorce having no standing in a sacramental sense. This means that such a couple cannot marry anew, because the two remain married to each other. And, because they are married, neither can they "date" anyone else. Such persons sometimes react with anger, blaming the Church for their state of affairs. But actions have consequences, including the decision to marry. The laws which Christ came to fulfill include the laws of marriage, about which He was most clear. One man can only be married to one woman at a time and vice versa.

Marriage is "indissoluble", that is, it cannot be broken once joined as Christ taught: "What God has joined let no man put assunder".

"This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy - heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to "receive" the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life."(CCC 1615)

God's laws, including those regarding marriage, presume our freedom and responsibility, holding us to the consequences of our actions:

"The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; 'to be free' means:

"- not being under constraint;

"- not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law."
-- CCC 1625
Husbands and wives must have the highest reverence for the sacrament of marriage, shunning any persons, places or things that may tempt them to be unfaithful to their vows, as much as any Christian in any vocation.

"Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:

"If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another's husband to herself." (CCC 2384)

How wonderful is the love of marriage pursued as a positive good, when any anything potentially contrary to the love of the spouses is far from thought or view and all efforts are spent with the desire of growing in the graced communion of Holy Matrimony.

Jesus Christ is the "fulfillment of the law" so that God's love might open the freedom of every human person to the fullness of Life!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wed, Wk 5: "what comes out of the man ... defiles"

From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission. The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man." But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds.
-- CCC 1853

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday, Week 5: "Let there be light"

... God saw how good it was.

- Genesis

God is good and all His works are infinitely good.

- CCC 385

Saturday, February 5, 2011

5th Sunday, Ordinary Time: The Faith of God's holy people is the praise of His glory and the "salt and light" of the world

Henry and Thomas were friends. Their friendship was built largely around the enjoyment of earthly pleasures and worldly pursuits together as the king and his chancellor. But one day, in a desire to move against the power of God's Church, Henry named Thomas the archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas warned Henry that things would not turn out as he desired, that when the bishop's mitre is placed upon a man's head he is called to put the honor of God even above the friendship and love of a king.

The story ends with the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in the cathedral and the shame of his former friend who in a moment of tormented agony seemed to be calling for his murder. Henry lives to see Thomas canonized a Saint and does public penance for his part in Thomas' murder.

Thomas Becket lived as salt and light, as the praise of God's glory, refusing even the proffered friendship of the most powerful man, his king, in preference to the love of the honor of God. His witness continues to shine before us even today, guiding our own way of faith in this world of competing loyalties and lesser gods.

What is this "faith" we share with Saint Thomas, which can transform us from weak and changing creatures into heros whose names are proclaimed down through the ages as Thomas' is today?

"Faith is a personal act - the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith."(CCC 166)

We are free, made in God's image and likeness, and it is our free acceptance of loyalty to God above every other man or woman that opens us up to our greatest dignity, to live as "salt" and "light" bringing into the world in a fuller and more beautiful way that which can only come from God and not from men: his saving grace. This grace of faith, giving birth to our salvation and that of others, is the goodness of God which overcomes the cynicism and selfishness that refuses any good other than that of oneself, through conversion of heart to the true and lasting love of God.

This is your life, setting you apart through Faith from every other people in this world:

"The People of God is marked by characteristics that clearly distinguish it from all other religious, ethnic, political, or cultural groups found in history:

"- It is the People of God: God is not the property of any one people. But he acquired a people for himself from those who previously were not a people: 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.'

"- One becomes a member of this people not by a physical birth, but by being 'born anew,' a birth 'of water and the Spirit,' that is, by faith in Christ, and Baptism.

"- This People has for its Head Jesus the Christ (the anointed, the Messiah). Because the same anointing, the Holy Spirit, flows from the head into the body, this is 'the messianic people.'

"-'The status of this people is that of the dignity and freedom of the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple.'

"- 'Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us.' This is the 'new' law of the Holy Spirit.

"- Its mission is to be salt of the earth and light of the world. This people is 'a most sure seed of unity, hope, and salvation for the whole human race.'

"-Its destiny, finally, 'is the Kingdom of God which has been begun by God himself on earth and which must be further extended until it has been brought to perfection by him at the end of time.'" (CCC 782)

Through his witness Saint Thomas Becket salts others with the savor of Christ and through his persevering Faith unto martyrdom burns as a light on the pathway to heaven for those who follow. You are God's holy people, His Church, and through faith you live as the "salt of the earth and the light of the world". And as you act and speak in Faith, seeking His glory and honor above every earthly reality, you live as the praise of His glory now and forever.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.


Friday, February 4, 2011

First Friday: "The LORD is my life’s refuge"

of whom should I be afraid?
-- Ps 27:1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc

Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father's will. The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.
-- CCC 1009

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

S Brigid of Ireland: "Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses"

let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us
-- Heb 12:1-4

From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. Within the unity of the People of God, a multiplicity of peoples and cultures is gathered together. Among the Church's members, there are different gifts, offices, conditions, and ways of life. "Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions." The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church's unity. Yet sin and the burden of its consequences constantly threaten the gift of unity. And so the Apostle has to exhort Christians to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
-- CCC 814