Urbi et Orbi from Pope Francis

As always, the Holy Father has sent his Easter greetings to the city of Rome and to the entire world (Urbi et Orbi).  Here it is for you to read. Blessings to all of you .

Dear Brothers and Sisters, a Happy and Holy Easter!

The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” (Mt 28:5-6).

This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.

That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.

With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord!

Help us to seek you and to find you, to realize that we have a Father and are not orphans; that we can love and adore you.

Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible.

Enable us to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned.

Enable us to care for our brothers and sisters struck by the Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to care for those suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty.

Comfort all those who cannot celebrate this Easter with their loved ones because they have been unjustly torn from their affections, like the many persons, priests and laity, who in various parts of the world have been kidnapped.

Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith.

We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent.

We pray in a particular way for Syria, beloved Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue!

Jesus, Lord of glory, we ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan.

We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela.

By your resurrection, which this year we celebrate together with the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future. On this day, may they be able to proclaim, as brothers and sisters, that Christ is risen, Khrystos voskres!

Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: you who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace!”Christus surrexit, venite et videte!”

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!

The Lord Has Risen!

There is no doubt about it. The Lord has risen! The tomb was found empty not by one witness but by many. Jesus in fact appeared to Peter and Mary Magdalene. He ate real food with his Apostles.

My friends, Jesus is alive and among us! He who was brutalized to death on the Cross is resurrected and truly lives again. He is among us.

God is not dead, to use a currently popular phrase. No, He  lives as suredly as He has from all eternity. Not only that, but He  has made us like Him and renewed our friendship with Him.

The Blood of Jesus has paid the price of our redemption and we have been set free from sin and death.

Happy Easter everyone!  Alleluia!!

Easter Vigil Homily of Pope Francis

I give you the Vatican’s official English translation of our Holy Father’s homily at the Easter Vigil. Happy Easter everyone!

The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begins with the journey of the women to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath. They go to the tomb to honour the body of the Lord, but they find it open and empty. A mighty angel says to them: “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5) and orders them to go and tell the disciples: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee” (v. 7). The women quickly depart and on the way Jesus himself meets them and says: “Do not fear; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10). “Do not be afraid”, “do not fear”: these are words that encourage us to open our hearts to receive the message.
After the death of the Master, the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died. But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness. The news spread: Jesus is risen as he said. And then there was his command to go toGalilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me”. “Do not fear” and “go to Galilee”.
Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).
To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory, fearlessly: “do not be afraid”. To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.
For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus. “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience. To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.
In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also another “Galilee”, a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. To return there means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.
Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? I need to remind myself, to go back and remember. Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Seek and you will find it! There the Lord is waiting for you. Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy. Do not be afraid, do not fear, return to Galilee!
The Gospel is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth. Go back to Galilee, without fear!
“Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15; Is 8:23)! Horizon of the Risen Lord, horizon of the Church; intense desire of encounter… Let us be on our way!

Silentium Magnum

Holy Saturday is always a day of the unusual for the observant Christian. It is a day of the Grand Silence, or Silentium Magnum in Latin. Silence…… the Lord is in the tomb and the apostles are struck with silence, uncomprehending what happened yesterday. Struck silent, save for the weeping of the women, perhaps of John too.

Silence, each one pondering, “Why?”

Why did the people turn on him? Why did Pilate turn him over when he knew he was innocent?  Where is Judas now? Perhaps they were unaware as of yet of Judas’ deed. Perhaps they were thinking, “He too was killed, unknown to us.” I suspect they hadn’t found him yet, hanging from a tree. Why didn’t all that they thought would transpire happen? Why didn’t Jesus convincingly defend himself? Why didn’t I defend him? When are they going to come for us? When will we die?

Silence had overcome them. They could scarcely speak.

I suspect they were not in a blaming mood that day. I suspect they weren’t at that point. They were simply stunned to silence.

The Church from that day onward has struggled to understand the human betrayal of Judas Iscariot. We are so quick to condemn him. We ought be slow to do so. Yes, his deed was fatal, in more than one way. Are not our own misdeeds? Yes, my friends, we are very quick, aren’t we to assume the veniality of our sins. Yes, we are quick to rationalize our betrayals of Jesus. We are reluctant to see in ourselves the life of Judas. Judas chose money over God. His god was, at least for a few hours, mammon, not his Lord and Savior. We must admit, friends, that the same is true for us. We worship money, and this worship betrays our Lord.

O yes, we are quick to assume Judas has been condemned for his sin. We are quick to assume that he is in hell. Be careful what you assume. God’s mercy is infinite. The Church has never, and will never, definitively define that anyone is in hell. Be careful, for Judas may be the first to welcome you into heaven. We don’t know. But our quick condemnation of the person of Judas only serves to falsely protect us from the judgment that is due us. Our automatic casting Judas into hell reflects our inability to separate the person from the deed. His betrayal is to be condemned. How Judas is judged is God’s business, not our own. Remember the Scriptures which tell us that how we judge others will be how we are judged.

Today, the day of the Great Silence, is a day to withhold judgment. We are not to condemn. Enough of that has was done yesterday. Today is a day of acceptance and expectation. A day of reflection and wonder.

Tomorrow will be the day of rejoicing.

Deacon Bob’s Homily for Palm Sunday 2014

Here is my homily for Palm Sunday.

God bless each of you!

Palm Sunday – Cycle A

April 12/13, 2014

Isaiah 50: 4-7; Phil 2: 6-11; Matthew 26: 14-27:66

 I am always struck by the contrast on Palm Sunday, the contrast between the tone and tenor of the Gospel that is proclaimed before the procession with palms at the beginning of Mass and the mood of the reading of the Passion.

We first hear of Jesus riding on the back of a colt. He rides through the people of his time, trying to inch his way forward toward the gates of the city. It isn’t smooth going for him in many ways because there are so many people in front of him, behind him, to his right and to his left. There are so many men and women who lived in the countryside and on the roads because they didn’t have the money or the ability to live inside the city. They didn’t have the power, but they acclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. “Hosanna, Son of David!” they exclaimed. They hailed him and greeted him with joy.

Then, Jesus entered the city walls, the walls that kept the poor out and the powerful in. Everything changed at that moment. Now Jesus was in the presence of people who counted for something in the world; he was with the rich and influential. These people did not cheer or acclaim him; rather they complained about him. They accused him of blasphemy and sedition. The powerful saw him as a threat and they sought to kill him… and they did.

Even though the Scriptures were clear that the Messiah would come riding on a donkey, not a horse or some fancy chariot, many people inside those city walls didn’t understand. They wanted their Messiah to come with worldly power, not on the back of a lowly colt.

My friends, where do you look for him? Where do you find the Lord today? Look for him, if you will, in the lives of the mentally ill and the addicted. Look for him in the lives of the homeless. Look for him in the victims of injustice. Do you really want to see Jesus? Look for him, if you will, not in the halls of power, but in the backstreets and in the neighborhoods where the powerless live. Look for him, if you will, with the people who do not count for much, who are ignored and looked down upon, and when you find him, follow him.

Meditate on the cross and the crucifixion. Jesus on the cross is in the presence of criminals, foreigners, women and soldiers. The rich and the powerful have abandoned him and left him to die. Who received him? The cross received him. The repentant thief received him. The centurion received him. His mother Mary received him. God the Father received him.

Follow him to Golgotha. Follow him to the cross.

Walk with Jesus this Holy Week! Walk with him by sharing his Word with a hungry world, a world that yearns for him. We are not to keep his Word locked up inside the walls of our lives. We are, as Pope Francis tells us, to go out of these walls, this church building, out into the “peripheries” to those who cannot or do not enter these walls, and accept them and bring them in.

Let us walk with Jesus this Holy Week by attending all the Holy Week liturgies offered to you, walk with Jesus to the Cross and beyond, to the Resurrection.

Let us acclaim him our Messiah and King!

Pope Francis Speaks to Faculty and Students of the Gregorian University

The Holy Father spoke to the faculty and some others from the Pontifical Gregorian University, which is located in Rome. “The Greg”, as the university is affectionately known by those of us who have studied there (I in 1977-78) is a grand university extending back centuries and from its alumni have come many popes and bishops.

The Greg is a Jesuit-run institution. Its professors come from all around the globe, as do the student body. In years past, all the classes were conducted in Latin. When I arrived on the scene in 1977, the classes were conducted in Italian and oral exams could be taken in English, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, or French. I always felt for those professors, because they were required to understand all of those languages when spoken to them!

I would like to translate for my readers the Holy Father’s remarks. This is my translation, so it is unofficial. Italics and bold print are mine.

Dear Cardinals, venerable brothers in the Episcopacy and Priesthood, dearest brothers and sisters,

I welcome you all, professors, students and teaching personnel of the Pontifical Gregorian University, of the Pontifical BIblical Institute and of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. I greet Father Nicolas, the Father delegates and all the other Superiors, and indeed the Cardinals and bishops here present. Thank you!

The institutions to which you belong, united in 1928 by Pope Pius XI, are entrusted to the Society of Jesus and share the same desire to “fight for God under the banner of the Cross and to serve only the Lord and the Church his spouse, at the pleasure of the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth” (Formula, 1). It is important that between them there develops a a collaboration and synergy, keeping custody of the memory of history and at the same time taking on present tasks and looking to the future, as the Father General was saying “to look from afar” toward the horizon, looking at the future with creativity and imagination, seeking to have a global vision of actual situations and challenges  and in a shared way to confront them, finding new ways without fear.

The first aspect I would like to underscore, thinking of your task, whether as a teacher or as a student, or as personnel of these institutions, is that of appreciating the very place in which you find yourselves studying and working, that is, the city and above all the Church of Rome. Here there is a past and there is a present. Here there are the roots of faith; the memories of the Apostles and Martyrs; and here there is the ecclesial “today”, there is the actual journey of this Church which presides in charity, in the service of unity and universality. All this is not given to us to be discounted! It is to be appreciated and lived, a task that is in part institutional and in part personal, left to the initiative of each person.

But at the same time, you bring here the various Churches from which you come and your cultures. This is one of the inestimable riches of the Roman institutions. They offer a precious occasion to grow in faith and to open the mind and heart to the Catholic horizon. Within this horizon the dialectic between the “center” and the “periphery”  assumes its proper form, i.e., the evangelical form, according to the logic of a God who reaches the center leaving the periphery so as to return to the periphery.

The other aspect that I want to share is that of the rapport between study and the spiritual life. Your intellectual tasks, in teaching and research, in study and in a fuller formation, will be that much more fertile and effective the more it is animated by the love for Christ and the Church, the more the solid and harmonious the relationship between study and prayer will be. This is not an ancient idea, it is at the center!

This is one of the challenges of our times: to transmit knowledge and offer it as the key to a vital comprehension, not a accumulation of notions that are not connected to each other. There is a need for a true evangelical hermeneutic so as to understand better life, the world, men in a spiritual atmosphere of research and certainty based on the truth of faith and reason. The philosopher and the theologian make possible the acquisition of convictions that structure and fortify intelligence and illuminate the will…. but all this is fertile only if one accomplishes it with an open mind and on the knees. The theologian who is satisfied with his own thought and conclusion is a mediocre theologian. The good theologian and philosopher have open thoughts although incomplete, always open to the good of God and the truth, always in development according to that law that St. Vincent of Lerins describes as “annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate” (Commonitorium primum, 23; PL 50, 668). It comes together as the years pass, expands with time, and deepens with age. This is the theologian who has an open mind. The theologian who does not pray and does not adore God ends up in a most disgusting narcissism. This a an ecclesial sickness. The narcissism of the theologians, of the thinkers does much harm and is disgusting.

The purpose of studying in each Pontifical University is ecclesial. Research and study are integrated with personal and communal life, with the missionary task, with fraternal charity and sharing with the poor, with the care of the interior life with the Lord. Your institutes are not machines to produce theologians and philosophers; the are communities in which one can grow, and growth comes in families. In the University family there is the charism of government, entrusted to the superiors, and there is the diaconate of non-teaching personnel that is indispensable in creating a comfortable environment for daily life and in creating an attitude of humanity and concrete wisdom that will make today’s students capable of building up humanity, transmitting the truth of the humanity and knowing that if the goodness and the beauty of belonging to a working family is lacking, then one ends up being an intellectual without talent, an ethicist without goodness, a caring thinker of splendor and beauty that is adorned with formalisms. The respectful and daily contact with the work and witness of the men and women that labor in your institutions will give you a measure of realism so necessary for our knowledge to be human knowledge, and not knowledge from a laboratory.

Dear brothers, I entrust to each of you, to your study and your work to the intercession of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, to St. Ignatius of Loyola and the other patron saints.I bless you from the heart and I pray for you. Please pray for me! Thank you! And now, before I give you the blessings, I invite you to pray to the Madonna, the Mother, so that she helps us and protects us. Ave Maria…..

So there it is…. narcissism in theology and philosophy. I know that to which he refers.

The Two Popes Who Will Be Saints

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This April 27th, Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II. In preparation for this event, the Vatican has launched a website. At this time, it is only in Italian, but even if you do not read Italian it is a beautiful site to take a look at.

I was privileged to have been in Rome during the initial months of Pope John Paul II’s papacy, being in the crowd when he was elected and attending his Mass of Installation. Wonderful memories.

Here is the link: www.2papisanti.org

The Three Great Temptations for the Deacon

There seems to me to be three enticing temptations for the deacon in his life and ministry. I have been thinking of them in the context of an article I am writing about diaconal spirituality that I hope to have prepared by the end of the summer.

If you are aware of what has been written by others about kenosis in diaconal theology and spirituality (kenosis, to oversimplify but perhaps sufficient for this posting meaning self-emptying, descending into the human condition even to the point of martyrdom) and theosis (again oversimplifying but essentially meaning an ascent into divine life), then perhaps the following reflection will resonate.

There is a great temptation for the deacon to concupiscence, to a sensual focus on oneself for the sake of centralizing one’s own needs in ministry. This is a temptation largely arising out of our passions, and allowing those passions to dominate our lives rather than reinforce them.  We are tempted to no longer focus on the object of our ministry, i.e., the human person and human condition with compassion, but rather focus on our own joys and sorrows and using ministry as a means of assuaging those sorrows or magnifying those joys. Of course, it doesn’t ever really work, but we easily convince ourselves otherwise. The temptation to concupiscence is opposed to diaconal kenosis which really means it is opposed to Christ.

There is the great temptation of egoism. We all know about this, at least from time to time. In this temptation, we measure ourselves against others so as to find in the other frailties, faults, and failures so that we may feel  good about ourselves. Egoism is opposed to obedience and it is a false theosis. It leads us into criticism, stubbornness, subordination, conflicts and a disrespect for authority. It ultimately can be an assertion of ourselves as gods. Is it not true that many deacons are griping about their assignments, their brother priests and bishops? Isn’t it true that it is so easy to become dissatisfied because we think we deserve better, that our talents are not being appreciated? Obedience is listening and responding to what we have heard from those whom God has placed at our head to lead and shepherd the flock. When we get caught up in egoism, perhaps it would be best if we were to place ourselves at the feet of Jesus and took a look at how we measure up to him.

Finally, there is the great temptation to claim temporal or ecclesial power, which some would described as the worship of clericalism. Now, of course, every deacon is a cleric, but that is different from clericalism. Clericalism is a claim to power and privilege. A deacon is called to see his power as a cleric in his sacrificial love for God’s people. The ultimate expression of diaconal power is martyrdom. Yes, martyrdom. Look at St. Stephen and St. Lawrence if you need examples of this. Do we reflect on martyrdom each time we elevate the chalice at Mass? The claim to temporal or ecclesial power in the form of clericalism is opposed to humility. It is a capitulation to pride, the deadliest of sins.

We all easily see men in the diaconate who have succumbed to these temptations. What we don’t see as clearly is when we are falling for these temptations ourselves.

Deacons of the world, may we have clear vision, and may we always remain true to our identities as humble clerics prepared for martyrdom in whatever manner it comes to us, and to  nurture the spirit of obedience in our lives. In this way we will have the authority to shape the world in which we live.

Maybe my next posting will be following up on all this. Until then, I welcome your responses.

Gotta go to Confession Now!

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Photo Credit: ANSA/Osservatore Romano

Courtesy of Catholic News Service, take a look at this. Pope Francis unexpectedly decided to go to confession before hearing the confessions of others at St. Peter’s yesterday.

I doubt this has ever been seen by the general public, much less by the entire world via the internet, of a Pope.

Inspired me to receive the sacrament today. How about you?

 

Quote for the Day

“It seems to me that, were we only to correspond to God’s graces, continually being showered down on every one of us, we would be able to pass from being great sinners one day to great saints the next.” — Ven. Solanus Casey, OFM Cap.

What do YOU attribute to God?

In my homily for the early morning Mass today, in response to the Gospel in which Jesus is accused of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebub, I asked those present why it is so common for us to attribute to God things that are not of him, and conversely, attribute to something other than God things that are good and holy.

We all have heard of someone who may be going through a truly tragic event such as a loss of a job or the death of a dear one and be very angry with God, accusing God of willing and creating the tragedy. In the intensity of their emotional upset, they blame God for something that is not of Him.

We also have heard in our lives how someone will attribute a truly good event not to God but to the presence of anything but God, even at times something evil. Glaring examples of this are the reported “good things” that come from evil dictators in the world, or more to home, the “good things” that come from that which is morally objectionable such as abortion, euthanasia, war, consumerism, etc.

God is the source of all that is good. He is not the source of evil. God does not will illness or injury, death or disease. These things exist as the result of sin and its effects.

In the movie,  Pope John Paul I, there is a scene in which the young Fr. Luciani is speaking with a friend and fellow priest. World War II is raging in the country, and Luciani’s friend approaches him with the headlines in the newspaper. It is filled with reports of the atrocities of war. He confronts Luciani with the question, “Where is God?” Luciani responds, “Where is Man?” Luciani’s friend could not see God in the midst of the tragedy. Because of this, he abandoned the priesthood. Luciani saw God present even when confronted with evil. He refused to attribute to God what was not of him.

What blinds us to God’s presence, especially when we go through difficult times?

So often it seems to be the intensity of our emotional reactions. Our emotions cloud our vision, our ability to see clearly. Yet we must admit that another reason is that our vision is stained, soiled and marked by sin and its effects. When the eyes of faith and the spirit are obscured by the sin in our lives, we lose sight of God and attribute to him what is not of him, and attribute to evil what is from God.

This results in tremendous confusion and distress.

We hear in the Gospel according to Matthew, “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” Yes, it is the person who has a clean heart, who has scoured clear the lenses of his spiritual eyes through conversion and repentance, who sees God clearly even in the midst of tragedy and pain. Such a person knows that God is present and that he wills only the good and that he provides the strength to endure the cross.

So all of this begs the question, “What do YOU attribute to God? Good or evil?”

“Not the Smallest Letter of the Law Shall Pass Away….”

If you attended Mass this morning, you heard the Gospel from Matthew in which Jesus tells his followers that he has come not to abolish but to fulfill the Law, and until that time even the smallest part of the Law remains. He adds that those who fail to teach this Law will be considered the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Since Matthew was writing to a primarily Jewish audience, he used the phrase, “Kingdom of Heaven” rather than what the other Synoptics used, i.e., “Kingdom of God.” As you know, the Jews would never dare utter God’s name, so Matthew refrained from using the word “God” in favor of “heaven.” Whether the former or the latter phrase is used, the meaning is the same: The Kingdom of God is God who is now among us.

You may wonder how to understand Jesus’ admonition about the Law, and the strong words he uses to describe those who fail to teach the Law and observe it. Does what he say lend itself to scrupulosity and legalism?

No.

It is necessary to consider that the entire Old Testament is to be understood in the context of Jesus Christ. One cannot understand the Old Testament without coming to know Jesus from Nazareth who is the Son of Man, Emmanuel, the fulfillment of the Law.

The Old Testament is the revelation of God to his chosen people, a revelation which was progressive and continual. The manner in which God revealed himself to them — the burning bush, the plagues of Egypt, the multitude of prophets sent to Israel, the Ten Commandments, the manna and quail, the Law of Moses, to name a few — was his way of preparing his people, indeed the entire world, for the great and definitive revelation in his Son Jesus Christ. The Mosaic Law, then, and the people of God as a whole, prefigure and predict the Kingdom, the real presence of God in Jesus Christ.

God was present, one can say, in a indistinct manner in the Law and more evidently in his chosen people Israel, yet his presence was a veiled presence, a presence that could not be gazed upon directly. You might say looking at the Mosaic Law, of which Jesus speaks today in the Gospel, was like seeing the backside of God, His face was hidden from view. In Jesus Christ we are able to see God distinctly, for he took on our flesh and became one with us and thus visible to us. When we look at Jesus, we see God-revealed; we see the “Kingdom.” We see him as if we were to gaze on God’s face and be seen by him. Thus, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law a fulfillment that does not destroy, but rather brings to complete fruition.

There is another aspect to today’s Gospel that needs our reflection. Jesus is giving us a clear mission: “Teach God’s law to the next generation. Woe to you if you do not!” we can almost hear Jesus say. Yes, today’s Gospel is a call to action, a call to teach the Gospel to those for whom we are responsible. We who are parents need pay heed. Have we taught our children the faith? We who are ordained, have we preached and taught well the faith handed on to us?

If we haven’t, Jesus says we will be the least in God’s eyes.

Least…..

Deacons of the Diocese of Sioux City, Evangelization and Celibacy

I had a wonderful time yesterday with the deacons of the Diocese of Sioux City. In case you are unfamiliar with the geography, this diocese is the northwest corner on Iowa. Purely rural. Farmland for miles to be seen, all of it black earth and richly productive.

I conducted for them a day of reflection, and the themes were Evangelization and the New Evangelization. I was grateful for the invitation to lead them, as I am always when asked to lead such gatherings in reflection and prayer.

I wish to complement them in a few ways.

First, they chanted in unison Morning Prayer. It was beautifully done, and brought back still fresh (although 37 years old) memories of my brief time at New Melleray Abbey with the Trappists. The chanting of the deacons and their wives was inspiring.

Second, they seemed to have a genuinely positive fraternity.

Third, their group of soon-to-be ordained candidates were very interested and interactive.

Finally, I enjoyed a great deal speaking at lunch with an older widowed deacon. His wife had died after a lengthy battle with cancer many years ago. He spoke of his awe of his brother deacons, his sense of his own limitations, and of how after the death of a wife a now celibate deacon can move on to a new life unlike he would have known before. He spoke simply, but meaningfully, and I don’t think I will forget his words or his witness, or his kindness.

The distinct reality that we married deacons will one day be called to live out the understanding we all had at ordination, i.e., that we may one day be called to celibacy and continence should our wives die before us, is something perhaps we do not pray about or consider adequately. The deacon I mentioned above has done just that. I sensed with a great deal of grief and loss, but he has done it nonetheless, and I wish all of us could have had the opportunity to hear him as I did yesterday.

Thank you, deacon!

Deacons as Viewed in Rome

Thanks to deacon Greg Kandra, I read with interest an interview conducted by Vatican Insider on the diaconate in the Diocese of Rome.

The responder is Msgr. Nicola Filippi, the delegate for the diaconate in Rome.

Does the Church’s credibility when the Gospel is announced depend on how faithful deacons are to their ministry of service and charity and on with what authority they exercise their ministry?

“In point no. 65 of the “Evangelii Gaudium”, Francis wrote: “Despite the tide of secularism which has swept our societies, in many countries – even those where Christians are a minority – the Catholic Church is considered a credible institution by public opinion, and trusted for her solidarity and concern for those in greatest need.” So if the deacon is faithful to his vocation, he will contribute greatly to the Church’s credibility and will help show its maternal side by announcing the truth on life and the family, areas which public opinion does not often look favourably upon.”

Read it all at this link:

http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/inquiries-and-interviews/detail/articolo/diaconi-deacons-diaconos-32746/