Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
the day of temporary glory … the day of Hosanna, the day followed by Good Friday and “crucify him!!!”
For last few weeks media has been reporting intensely on the response of the Holy See and the Pope to the painful scandal of sexual abuse committed by priests in several countries. It is terribly tragic news, which saddens us profoundly as children of the Church. After this news offensive, some Catholics are weary and, I admit, so are we all. It seems to have become the only topic out there.
However, we cannot allow these atrocious crimes to make us forget the hundreds of thousands of men and women, the countless priests, men and women religious -- the great majority -- who day by day give their lives to God and to neighbour in so many hospitals, schools, parishes and missions. Today many of them are unjustly associated with the scandals because of superficial reporting.
The Pope paid homage "to all those who in silence, not with words but with deeds, strive to practice this evangelical law of love that propels the world forward. There are so many of them all around but they rarely hit the headlines. They are men and women of all ages, who have realized that it is not worth condemning, complaining or accusing; that it is better to respond to evil by doing good."
Pope Benedict is under sustained assault by the enemies of the moral principles of the Catholic Church. Yes, many bishops have been severely negligent about past sexual abuse incidents and need to be held personally accountable. Nothing wrong with that public campaign. However, the Holy Father is not one of those.
It cannot be a coincidence that this is occurring so soon after the health care battle when the Catholic Church stood against the Democrat anti-life factions and Catholic Church dissidents who are becoming very emboldened in their opposition to the authority of the Pope and those bishops in union with him.
They are enraged over the Church's unwillingness to bend on life and homosexuality and enraged over the new, more faithful translation of the liturgy, the Pope's welcoming into the Church of traditional and morally conservative Anglicans, his encouragement of the more traditional liturgies, the intensified questioning of the Catholicity of Catholic universities and his increasingly strong actions against dissent and moral corruption among the clergy and religious nuns and brothers. They fear that all their gains from the fraudulent "Spirit of Vatican II" revolution within the Church may be lost. Pray for Pope Benedict.
It is obvious to all with a balanced mind that the international media is out to smear the Pope. Why? Because he is the only voice which dares to speak against the evils of today's society: abortion, contraception, euthanasia, divorce, you name it. He is the only leader who really leads. His words are listened to by all who are genuine and honest. The media wants to bring him down. They cannot stand his words and authority.
Don't you think that this is a simple reaction against the Catholic Church because of the Catholic position in the cases of:
- same sex "marriages"
and other moral issues?
For me this is an open war against Church which doesn't accept the "modern liberalistic morality
These attacks are precisely because of the church's position on those issues. The liberals attack the church in order to alleviate their deeply hidden feelings of guilt regarding those issues. They know deep down that the church is right and so they like to point a finger and hope to discredit the total position of the church. By proving that the church is "wrong" on this issue they hope to tell their consciences that the church is therefore "wrong" on many similar issues.
War Secularism vs. Christianity
In recent weeks, Europe's secular media has launched what one Vatican official described as an "onslaught" on the Church, and clergy in particular, following continued revelations of clerical sexual abuse in various European countries over the past 50 years.
In the firing line have not only been clergy and bishops, but also Benedict XVI -- particularly in parts of the American, Italian, British and German press. The strength and unreasonableness of the criticism prompted Marcello Pera, an atheist philosopher, to write an open letter to the editor of Corriere della Sera last week. Pera an atheist wrote in 2004 a book "Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity and Islam".
In his article Pera wrote, "There is a war going on. It's not just against the person of the Pope, because, on these grounds, it would be impossible. Benedict XVI remains impregnable because of his image, his serenity, his clarity, firmness and doctrine. It's the war against the Catholic Church."
Pera, who is also a senator in the Italian parliament, noted that "the war is between secularism (liberalism) and Christianity." He said secularists know well that "if a fleck of mud lands on a white robe, the Church would be soiled, and by soiling the Church, so too would be the Christian religion. That is why, secularists question, without any evidence, whether the Church as a whole is capable of looking after children, educating them, or treating them in a Catholic hospital.
He warned that this is a "pitched battle of secularism against Christianity," adding that one would have to recall Nazism and Communism to find a similar conflict. The means have changed, but the end is the same: the destruction of religion. And he said it was "incredible" that secular Germany of all countries, while continuing to "beat its chest" over memories of wartime Europe, "forgets and does not understand that democracy itself would be lost if Christianity is again wiped out."
"The destruction of religion then entailed the destruction of reason," Pera wrote. "Today, it won't be secular reason that triumphs, but another kind of barbarism." He then listed what he saw as the various ethical and barbaric violations of today: "It is those who kill a fetus because his life would be detrimental to the 'mental health' of the mother. Those who say that an embryo is a 'clump of cells' good for experiments. It is killing an old man because he doesn't have a family to care for him anymore. It is about those who hasten the end of a child's life because he is no longer conscious and is incurable. It is those who think that Parent A and Parent B are the same as father and mother."
Political, secularist barbarism, he said, will lead to the destruction of Europe because what will be left will be multiculturalism, relativism and pacifism -- a Europe which says that it "mustn't have its own specific identity, but be a container of all identities."
"This war on Christianity would not be so dangerous if Christians understood it," continued Pera. "Instead, many of them participate in incomprehension." He cited weaknesses in the Church such as theologians "frustrated by the intellectual supremacy" of Benedict XVI; uncertain bishops "who believe any compromise with modernity" is the best way to promote the Christian message; and "cardinals who, in a crisis of faith, begin to suggest that priestly celibacy is not a dogma, and that perhaps it would be better to reconsider."
"The war of the secularists will continue," Pera wrote, "if not because of a Pope like Benedict XVI, who smiles but does not shrink one iota." He ended by calling on all those who understand why the Holy Father remains steadfast to "take the situation in hand" and not to wait "to take your next shot." Those who hide and limit themselves to being merely in empathy with him, he said, "don't understand why it's necessary."
According to Charol Shakeshaft, the researcher of a little-remembered 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, "the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests."
Despite these facts, however, “the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young.”
See Charol Shakeshaft report HERE
We cannot expect Christ to "Be with us" if we do not "Go forth and teach all nations," or if we do worse and teach half-truths, easy options and basic lies. Christ said, "Take up your cross daily," not do what you like on the earth.
A great deal of prayer is needed now before it is too late.
BETWEEN INNOVATION AND TRADITION
The reform of the liturgy, a term to be understood, according to the liturgical constitution of the Second Vatican Council, as instauratio, namely, as a re-establishment of the correct place in ecclesial life, did not begin with Benedict XVI but with the very history of the Church, from the Apostles to the age of the martyrs, from Pope Damasus to Gregory the Great, from Pius V and Pius X to Pius XII and Paul VI. The instauratio is continuous, because the risk that the Church will slide from her place, which is to be source of Christian life, always exists; decadence comes when divine worship is subjected to the personal sentimentalism and activism of clerics and laity who, penetrating in it, transform it into human work and spectacular entertainment. A symptom today, for example, is applause in the church, which indistinctly punctuates the baptism of a newborn and the departure of a coffin in a funeral. Does not a liturgy that has become entertainment need reform? This is what Benedict XVI is doing: the emblem of his reforming work will be the re-establishment of the cross in the center of the altar, to make it understood that the liturgy is addressed to the Lord and not to man, even if he is a sacred minister.
Standing With the Pope
The attempt of the press to implicate Benedict XVI in the question of pedophilia is only the most recent sign of the aversion that many have for the Pope.
It is necessary to ask oneself how this Pontiff, despite his evangelical meekness and honesty, the clarity of his words joined to the depth of his thought and of his teachings, arouses in some places sentiments of disgust and forms of anti-clericalism that it was believed had been surmounted. And this, it must be said, causes even greater astonishment and also distress when those who do not follow the Pope and criticize his alleged errors are men of the Church, whether theologians, priests or laymen.
These attacks are echoed sadly by those who do not listen to the Pope, also among ecclesiastics, professors of theology in seminaries, priests and laymen. Those who do not accuse the Pontiff openly, but are deaf to his teachings, who do not read the documents of his magisterium, who write and say exactly the contrary of what he says, give life to pastoral and cultural initiatives, for example in the area of bioethics or in that of the ecumenical dialogue, in open diverge with all that he teaches. The phenomenon is very grave as it is very widespread.
Benedict XVI has given teachings on the Second Vatican Council that many Catholics reject openly, promoting forms of counter-formation and of systematic parallel teaching, led by many "anti-popes"; he has given teachings on "non-negotiable values" which very many Catholics minimize or reinterpret, and this also happens on the part of theologians and famous commentators guests of the Catholic press in addition to secular press; he has given teachings on the primacy of the apostolic faith in the wise reading of events and very many continue talking of the primacy of the situation, or of the practice, or of the data of human sciences; he has given teachings on conscience and on the dictatorship of relativism but very many put democracy or the Constitution before the Gospel. For many, "Dominus Iesus," the Note of 2002 on Catholics in politics, the 2006 Regensburg address, "Caritas in Veritate," is as if they had never been written.
Friday, March 12, 2010
“The Prodigal Son”
The parable of the Prodigal son given to us by Jesus in today’s Gospel is really a beautiful story. It is a story about sin and hard Heartedness. A story about repentance and unconditional forgiveness.
When we hear a parable like this it often helps us to compare our own lives to the lives of the characters in the story. For example, let’s take a look at the younger son, the one called the prodigal son.
This younger son had a dissatisfaction with his present life. A sort of longing for something else. Perhaps he was bored with his lifestyle and felt he needed to get away and experience a little excitement in his life.
Maybe he felt stifled and so perhaps he felt that he needed to leave home, to get away from his parents and experience the excitement and pleasures that the world seemed to offer.
He had a longing for something and perhaps wasn’t too sure what it was that he was looking for. Often we too have a longing and are not too sure what it is that we are craving for.
And so maybe this son felt dissatisfied. Maybe his Heart was restless. And so he asked for and received his portion of the inheritance and took off for greener pastures.
He felt certain that the world and it’s pleasures would offer him the peace and satisfaction he was searching for.
And so he had to get away and get out there on his own and find out for himself what the world had to offer – away from the control of his father.
His father respected his son’s free will, gave him what he asked for and let him go.
And so after the young son had squandered all his fortune and was desperate he had to make a decision...
The bible tells us that He said “I will rise and go to my father” (Luke 15:18)
And so it was up to the son to make the decision to come back. The father was not going to force him.
That is the decision that we all have to make. At some point in time we have to decide. Do we stay with all the false happiness that the world offers or do we go back to our Father?
This image of the younger son that Jesus gives us in this parable is shocking but really it is just a symbol of the mess we can get ourselves into when we blindly follow the selfishness of the world.
When I foolishly think I can make it on my own without God or His grace, I become like the prodigal son. When I begin to believe that the really important things in this life are based upon what I do, upon my own abilities. When I insist on things being done my way, then I become like the prodigal son.
I demand what I believe is rightfully mine and off I go. This independent, self-sufficient approach to life is the fundamental sin of many of us. It is the refusal of grace. It is Adam and Eve reaching for the apple of happiness all over again.
But, self sufficiency can only take us so far, then sooner or later, like the prodigal son, we run into a brick wall. We run out of money, we run out of pleasures, we run out of drugs, we run out of time and we discover that in spite of all our temporary pleasures, we are still unhappy.
No matter how great they are at the time, none of the pleasures of life are lasting. After all is said and done there’s still something missing in our lives.
In 1965 the Rolling Stones released a hit song entitled “I can’t get no satisfaction”.
This song sums up our search in life for happiness based on the temporary pleasures that the world offers us.
After we have finished taking our pleasures, after we have finished eating our apples, we find to our unhappiness that a few hours later – we are still hungry.
We can’t get no satisfaction. And so we continue our search – because everyone seeks happiness, everyone was made for happiness. But not everyone knows where to look and so we search.
Our addictions make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink; and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love.
There’s a lot of truth in the statement “An alcoholic tries to find God in the bottle while a drug addict tries to find God in the needle”.
And so like the prodigal son, who found out the hard way, we too, often find out the hard way. The pleasures that this world offers are a lie, a temporary illusion that doesn’t last.
Like the prodigal son we find out that the only way to true happiness is to return to the Father. To come home. To turn to God.
Yes, if we are still dissatisfied with our life no matter what we do, if we feel there’s something missing, if we feel unhappy - perhaps we are like St. Augustine who said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord and our Hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
I am sure that each of us can see some similarities between the younger son in this parable and ourselves.
Now let‘s look at the elder son and see if we are in any way similar to him.
The elder son, despite the fact that he was with his father all those years, was shocked that his father threw a party upon the prodigal son’s return. After all these years he still didn’t know or understand his father’s Heart.
The elder son was distant from his father and aloof. He was like the Pharisees and scribes who complained about Jesus’ ministry to sinners in Luke 15:2
For years the elder brother had done the right thing but for all the wrong reasons. “Lo, these many years I have served you.” Luke 15:29
The elder son didn’t even acknowledge his younger brother as his brother. Instead He says to his father “this son of yours.” Luke 15:30
The elder son is sometimes called the prodigal son who stayed home. He is also lost but this is more difficult to see. This parable of Jesus’ is really about a loving father and two prodigal sons. When we fail to see the love that our Father in Heaven has for all his children then we are like the older son.
The attitude of the older brother towards his younger brother is a mirror-image of the attitude that the Pharisees had towards sinners.
The Pharisees were very religious people – but what’s the use of religion if it doesn’t make us more compassionate towards those who have fallen?
If we find ourselves sympathizing with the older brother then that should tell us just how much of the Pharisee is in all of us.
All of us, to a greater or lesser degree, are in the shoes of either or both the younger son and the elder son.
Which of us can say that we have always been faithful? Which of us can say that we are without sin?
Which of us can say that we have not squandered God’s grace and misused His gifts? Which of us has been merciful to others – even when they don’t deserve that mercy?
Which of us would like to be treated by God according to His strict justice – don’t all of us need more of God’s mercy than His justice? Is He not the merciful Father?
It’s so important for us to understand that the father did not force his mercy on his son. The father’s mercy was always there – the son needed only to turn away from sin and return to his father.
But he did need to do that in order to receive the father’s mercy. He needed to repent and to come back. The father did not force him. The father only waited for him.
And now let’s look at this wonderful father, the father of these two sons.
Obviously, the father in the parable represents God, Our Father in Heaven.
God Our Father in Heaven who loves us so much that He throws a party whenever we come back to Him.
You see, love is a risk. Love depends so much on the response of the other person. Yet, God has taken that gamble with us.
What is God’s reaction when we don’t respond to His love? The prophets tell us that God feels like a spouse who has been abandoned by their mate when we forget about God.
Does God ever grow tired of loving us? No! God keeps believing in love and in our potential to respond to His love.
God wants to find me much more than I want to find Him. God is not the patriarch who stays home, doesn’t move and expects His children to come to Him and to apologize for their bad behavior. God does not wait for us to beg for forgiveness and our promises to do better.
No. God is the Father who leaves the house, who ignores His dignity by running towards us. He is a Father who pays little attention to apologies and promises of change.
Rather He is a Father who runs towards us in order to bring us to His table. A table that He has richly prepared for us.
Our sin always gives us a warped outlook on life and on God.
God made us in His own image and likeness but since the Fall of Adam and Eve, we have made God into our own image and likeness.
Jesus parable about the Prodigal son and the picture He paints for us of our Father in Heaven is a beautiful image of a loving merciful Father coming towards us to meet us with arms wide open, always ready to forgive and to forget.
Only Jesus, the sinless one, could paint such a picture of God.
Remember what the Father says to the elder son. “All that is mine is yours”. That is the same thing that the Father says to each one of us, His beloved children.
When we repent of our sins and return to the Father, He runs to meet us and tells us “All that is mine is yours”.
Isn’t that the most beautiful statement in the whole parable?
“All that is mine is yours”.
One of the songs that I love is one that we often hear during Lent. It’s called “Hosea”. It’s a song in which we sing words of God's invitation to us to "Come back to me, with all your Heart."
This invitation to come back to me with all our heart is not always easy for us to fully accept.
The next line of the song says, "don't let fear keep us apart," but I wonder whether or not it really is always fear that keeps us apart.
For sure, it requires us not to fear, or at least to have a willingness to go forward in spite of our fear.
But it seems to me there’s something more.
Something more like the statement of St. Augustine's, "Give me chastity and continence, but not yet."
“I want to come, Lord, but not yet completely. Not yet really with all my heart. Maybe only just a little bit or maybe a lot, but just not all the way”.
“There are some things here I'd really rather not put aside for your sake. I’m not quite ready to give you everything Lord.”
I think part of the invitation of Lent, then, is to focus on what is it that makes it difficult for us to fully embrace God's love, to fully respond to the invitation to come back with all of our heart.
We have to look at what is causing us to hesitate? What are we worried about giving up? What part of our lives have we not surrendered completely to God?
God is patient. He has waited a long time for us. And He'll keep waiting for us to figure it out. Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, He is standing ready and willing to run towards us to welcome us with open arms, when we do decide to surrender everything to Him.
“Come back to me with all your hearts – don’t let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life”.
That is Jesus’ message to us today. If we have strayed, He invites us to come back home to Him. All will be forgiven if we repent of our sins and forgive one another, and surrender completely to Him.
He is waiting to tell us “My child, all that is mine is yours”.
Today we are invited to think deeply again about these words of Jesus.
When we turn from our sins and come home, He will run towards us saying “Come back to me with all your Hearts –
I forgive you. I love you. All that is mine is yours”.
Deacon Bernie Ouellette