“The name of Jesus is a standard in battle, that is to say, in the fight against evil.” — St. Bernardine of Siena, OFM
The Holy Father has issued his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. I have yet to read it in its entirety, (I’m still working on it!) but from what I have read it is a clear challenge to us all. Here is the link to the text. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.pdf
I keep hoping to see something in it referring specifically to the diaconate and its evangelical mission. So far, I haven’t seen anything. Certainly, at the heart of the diaconate is preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One only needs to look at St. Stephen, deacon and martyr and St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr to see biblical examples of this. Inherent in the rite of ordination to the diaconate is the reception of the Book of the Gospels at which time the bishop reminds us we are heralds of the Gospel.
Certainly, too, our Holy Father is showing all of us deacons how to be deacons in his outreach to the poor and the marginalized. He lives out his diaconate. Just today I read in the Italian newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, how Francis is expecting the archbishop at the Vatican in charge of the giving of alms to the poor to sell his desk and to be out among the poor and not expect the poor to come knocking at his door. The article also mentioned how when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, then Cardinal Bergoglio would slip out at night dressed as a simple priest and spend time, in cognito, with the poor in the streets.
Francis’ biggest homily on the diaconate is the manner in which he is living and instructing all of us to live.
MIght I be asking too much if I were to ask him to mention deacons in his writings?
I have copied here in its entirety the homily delivered by Pope Francis at the closing Mass for the Year of Faith. It speaks for itself. By the way, the relics of St. Peter are now on public display for the first time. Peter’s bones were cradled by the Holy Father during the recitation of the Creed during this Mass. Quite a moving image.
This is the official Vatican translation.
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 24 November 2013
Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.
I offer a cordial and fraternal greeting to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches present. The exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price.
With this gesture, through them, I would like to reach all those Christians living in the Holy Land, in Syria and in the entire East, and obtain for them the gift of peace and concord.
The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ is at the centre, Christ is the centre. Christ is the centre of creation, Christ is the centre of his people and Christ is the centre of history.
1. The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the centre of all things, he is the beginning: Jesus Christ, the Lord. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Col 1:12-20). He is the Lord of creation, he is the Lord of reconciliation.
This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will be Christian words, words of Christ. But when this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.
2. Besides being the centre of creation and the centre of reconciliation, Christ is the centre of the people of God.Today, he is here in our midst. He is here right now in his word, and he will be here on the altar, alive and present amid us, his people. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them.
Christ, the descendant of King David, is really the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one, one people, united with him and sharing a single journey, a single destiny. Only in him, in him as the centre, do we receive our identity as a people.
3. Finally, Christ is the centre of the history of humanity and also the centre of the history of every individual. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.
Whereas all the others treat Jesus with disdain – “If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!” – the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clings to the crucified Jesus and begs him: “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). Jesus promises him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43), in his kingdom. Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. Today we can all think of our own history, our own journey. Each of us has his or her own history: we think of our mistakes, our sins, our good times and our bleak times. We would do well, each one of us, on this day, to think about our own personal history, to look at Jesus and to keep telling him, sincerely and quietly: “Remember me, Lord, now that you are in your kingdom! Jesus, remember me, because I want to be good, but I just don’t have the strength: I am a sinner, I am a sinner. But remember me, Jesus! You can remember me because you are at the centre, you are truly in your kingdom!” How beautiful this is! Let us all do this today, each one of us in his or her own heart, again and again. “Remember me, Lord, you who are at the centre, you who are in your kingdom”.
Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more, he is so generous, he always gives more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his kingdom!
Let us ask the Lord to remember us, in the certainty that by his mercy we will be able to share his glory in paradise. Let us go forward together on this road!
“So great the good I have in sight, that any pain is my delight.” — St. Francis of Assisi
We celebrate today the memorial of the Presentation of Mary. Ancient tradition — largely through non-biblical sources and oral tradition — tells us that Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, prayed for a child as they were childless. They promised to dedicate the child given to them to God. Their prayers were answered with Mary’s birth, and after Anna had weaned Mary at about three years of age, they brought her to the Temple in Jerusalem where they dedicated her to God. Mary remained in the temple until she was betrothed to Joseph.
The beauty and meaning of this feast lay in Mary’s complete and total dedication to God from her infancy. Mary went from the Holy of Holies in the Temple to becoming the Holy of Holies, i.e., the tabernacle of the Lord in conceiving and bearing Jesus in her womb. It was Mary’s complete dedication to God that we celebrate today.
St. Augustine would later write that Mary found greater joy and dignity being dedicated to God as a disciple of her Son than she did in being the mother of Jesus. Yes, even today’s Gospel reading at Mass for this memorial speaks of this when the people approach Jesus and tell him his mother and brothers were there asking to speak to him and he tells them that those who follow him and listen to his words are “mother and brother and sister” to him.
Today’s memorial is one of three memorials of Mary that correspond to three feast days of the Lord Jesus. On September 8 we celebrate the birth of Mary; on September 12 we celebrate the Holy Name of Mary; and today we celebrate the Presentation of Mary. Likewise, we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25; the Holy Name of Jesus (which Pope John Paul II put back into the Roman calendar) on January 3; and the Presentation of Jesus on February 3.
Let each of us remember our personal presentation in the temple when our parents brought us to the parish church and we were claimed by God and received the sacrament of baptism. Let us renew our dedication to the Lord by a renewal of our baptismal promises, and let us, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, become more faithful in following our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis continues to show us the way. He continues to show us how to love and how to be merciful. The Catholic News Agency has an article today that again highlights this aspect of the pope’s ministry. Click on the link to view and to learn: Pope Francis blesses man with severely disfigured face :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).
“When you lose your wealth, you’ve lost nothing. When you’ve lost your health, you’ve lost something. When you lose your character, you’ve lost everything.” — attributed to the Rev. Billy Graham
In today’s Gospel reading from Luke we hear Jesus proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is among us. He says that there will be men who will shout out, “He is here!” or “He is there!” but we are not to go off running frantically toward them, searching for the Kingdom that is already present.
I have a colleague who hangs a sign on her office door that reads, “Slow down! We don’t have much time.” I often chuckle reading it, and think to myself how common it is for us in our spiritual lives to scurry about from one place to another searching for God’s grace. Jesus uses the image of a lightening bolt in the Gospel. Have you ever tried to pursue a lightening bolt? Anyone who does finds out that they will fail miserably in reaching it before it disappears. Have you ever thought that if you went to a certain shrine, or perhaps listen to a particular preacher, or read a certain author, or attend a particular parish you would have an experience of God’s kingdom? Those of us who do, struggle with disappointment, feeling stressed, out-of-sorts and divided within ourselves. We end up tearing ourselves apart, and we run the risk of tearing apart the Church, the ecclesial community.
I believe we will not see unity in the Church until we come to recognize and live out Jesus’ declaration in today’s Gospel, “The Kingdom of God is among you.”
No one man possesses the Kingdom. No one parish alone. No one author or preacher or shrine or prophet. No, the Kingdom of God is among us here and now. We don’t have to run about searching. The Kingdom of God is the wise Word of God, made flesh. The Kingdom of God is Jesus Christ. He is among us, here and now. This was the core of Jesus’ proclamation.
It is Jesus who will unify us as a Church, unify us each as individuals. He is present in every Catholic parish, every Catholic home, and in every house of formation.
Let us have quiet, peaceful hearts, open to the presence of God’s Kingdom, ever present among us…. now, right where we find ourselves, at any time or place.
Here is a great video introduction of the new president of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky and his comments on Pope Francis and Church ministry.
Credits to the Catholic News Service.
Just in from the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops convened in Baltimore, as reported by www.usccb.org
“Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) during the bishops’ annual fall General Assembly, November 12, in Baltimore. Archbishop Kurtz has served as vice president of USCCB since 2010. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston was elected USCCB vice president.
Archbishop Kurtz and Cardinal DiNardo are elected to three-year terms and succeed Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop Kurtz, respectively. The new president and vice president’s terms begin at the conclusion of the General Assembly, November 14.
Archbishop Kurtz was elected president on the first ballot with 125 votes. Cardinal DiNardo was elected vice president on the third ballot by 147-87 in a runoff vote against Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia.
The president and vice president are elected by a simple majority from a slate of 10 nominees. If no president or vice president is chosen after the second round of voting, a third ballot is taken between only the top two vote getters on the second ballot.
Archbishop Kurtz was born August 18, 1946, and ordained a priest of Allentown, Pennsylvania on March 18, 1972. He previously served as bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee from 1999-2007 before being appointed to Louisville. Cardinal DiNardo was born May 23, 1949, and ordained a priest of Pittsburgh on June 16, 1977. He previously served as bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, from 1998-2004 before being appointed to coadjutor bishop, then archbishop, of Galveston-Houston. Pope Benedict XVI named him a cardinal in 2007, making him the first cardinal from Texas.”
By the way, I have heard Archbishop Kurtz is very “deacon friendly.” That is fine in my book!
Here is an excerpt (the italics and bold print are mine) from a speech the Apostolic Nuncio gave to the American bishops meeting today in Baltimore.
His talk was quite direct and revealing. I encourage you to read the entire text at this link: http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/2013-november-meeting/nuncio-address-2013.cfm
“Certainly, my brothers, no one can dispute the clear fact that our present Holy Father himself, as the Supreme Teacher. is giving us by, his own witness, an example of how to live a life attuned to the values of the Gospel. While each of us must take into consideration our adaptability to the many different circumstances and cultures in which we live and the people whom we serve, there has to be a noticeable life style characterized by simplicity and holiness of life. This is a sure way to bring our people to an awareness of the truth of our message. The model for bishops, St. Charles Borromeo, my patron, when he addressed the members of the last synod he attended for his Church of Milan, said: “Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise…”
The Holy Father wants bishops in tune with their people. When this past June I met with him in his simple apartment at the Casa Santa Marta for a fruitful discussion, he made a special point of saying that he wants ‘pastoral’ bishops, not bishops who profess or follow a particular ideology.”
–Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Vigano, November 11, 2013
Pope Francis had some strong and interesting comments this morning at his daily Mass at the Vatican’s Santa Marta during which he spoke of sin, forgiveness and corruption. He made a distinction between sin and corruption of which I hadn’t previously thought.
According to the report from Vatican Radio the Pope said that those who don’t truly repent and only pretend to be Christian are damaging the Church. The Pope said that, yes we must forgive our brother whenever he repents but he warned there is a difference between being a sinner and being corrupt. Sinners do wrong and are to ask for forgiveness. Those who lead a double life, the Pope said, are corrupt. He used as an example a person who takes from the state and from the poor, but gives to the Church. He said we all need to call ourselves sinners, but those who are corrupt do not understand humility. One who says he is a Christian but does not lead a Christian life is corrupt.
Log on to the link below for a full report. Food for thought.
Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless each of you!
32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C
November 9/10, 2013
2 Macc 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thes 2:16-3:5; Luke 20: 27-38
“He is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive.”
God is truly God of the living. He is God of life. He sustains life. He nourishes life. God does not create death, nor does he wish it on us. He so much wants us to live that he gave his only Son so that we might have life, resurrected life, and have it fully and have it for all eternity. If only we believe, remain faithful to his teachings, remain attached to the Church, and live by word and example the truth revealed to us by Jesus and handed on to us by the Church.
We are called to be alive and afire with the love of God! Called to live by God’s grace and his will, to live in the Spirit of God, to live so others may live!
You are alive in Christ Jesus! Alive, not dead! If you follow him and adhere to the Church which he established, you will live fully in this life and live forever with him in heaven! The life we now have as God’s adopted sons and daughters is a foretaste of the life that will be ours, if we remain firm in our faith, if we remain faithful to Jesus, if we remain members of his Church which is his Body, if we eat his body and drink his blood here at Mass, if we live a “worthy life” as the Gospel said. Yes, we will rise again to everlasting life in heaven.
My question to you is, “Do you believe this?”
Do you believe that you already participate in the resurrection that Jesus himself experienced?
Do you believe that when you die and your soul separates from your body, your soul lives on forever and when Jesus returns in glory on the last day your body will rise in a glorified perfected form and be once again reunited with your soul?
Do you believe that you will rise again someday? Creation itself speaks indirectly of the resurrection: the darkness of night gives rise to the light of day; the seed that is sown in the earth dies but then rises again to new growth and life.
We are already a resurrected people! We have experienced the resurrection to new life by our baptism. God works a miracle in our lives when we are baptized. He justifies us by his grace. He takes what is spiritually dead and he brings it to life. Certainly one of the great joys of being a deacon is to baptize someone. A great joy! Did you know that your deacons are here in this parish to do just that? We are here to bring the waters of baptism to those who ask for it. All you need to do is directly ask one of us and we will respond.
Yes, we are already a resurrected people AND we will rise again when Christ comes again on the last day! As St. Paul said in our second reading, if we direct our hearts to the love of God and we endure with Christ through the difficulties of this life, we will rise again to eternal life, we will rise as glorified sons and daughters of God. If we don’t love God and the People of God who are his Church, we will be lost forever.
We all are called to be saints. Yes, saints! We Catholics believe in the “Communion of Saints” which means we believe that if we die in the state of grace we will go to heaven after a period of purification, and there be with all those who have gone before us who have died in faith and maintained a relationship with Jesus and the Church. We believe we will see them again. We believe that those saints in heaven now pray for us and await with joy the resurrection of all the dead on the last day.
Because of the resurrection and the communion of saints we know that the relationships we have here on earth endure in a new way even into eternity.
Do you believe this? If you do, it has implications. It implies we must respect our bodies as well as our souls. We must reverence our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and at death give our bodies back to the earth to await the resurrection. It implies we must also respect the bodies of others, and never seek to harm them in anyway. This is why abortion is wrong, why self-mutilation is wrong, why violence to oneself or others is wrong, why terrorism and war are wrong, why pornography, illicit drug use and alcohol abuse are wrong. We must never do anything that may wound the human body for the body is sacred and to be resurrected someday.
Yes, we have died and have risen with Christ at our baptism and we will rise again on the last day. The resurrection is a great mystery of our faith. It is the source of hope and joy for all Catholics; it is the fulfillment of God’s promises. Jesus promised the resurrection to all who follow him faithfully. Jesus doesn’t lie; he fulfills his promises.
Let us remember at this Mass all that God had done for us in his love and mercy. Let us praise him now, alive in his Spirit, as we await his Son’s second coming and our new life with Him.
“My only concern is to carry out what God wants of me. In a word, father of my heart and soul, I desire to be as perfect a likeness of my Lord Jesus Christ as I possibly can.” — Blessed Didacus Joseph of Cadiz, OFM Cap.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a letter to all the United States bishops prohibiting the Catholic faithful and all clergy from participating in events that presume the authenticity of the “apparitions” of Medjugorje. This letter, perhaps, is a signal of what will be the Vatican’s definitive judgment regarding the authenticity of Medjugorje, something that the local bishops have judged inauthentic, as have many other authorities in the Church. Again, the Vatican has not issued a definitive statement to the universal Church, but this particular letter is rather clear as to its purpose. Apparently one of the visionaries was to have toured the United States and appear in several US parishes. These events are now reported to have been cancelled.
I cannot say I am surprised by this. I have never been to Medjugorje, nor have I read much about it except what has been in the secular and Church press, but I have always had a uncomfortable feeling and a great deal of skepticism about it all. As a cleric, I, of course, submit to the judgment of my bishop and the Holy Father in these matters. Time will tell what the final judgment will be.
Here is a link to the news story in the Catholic News Agency.
Our first reading at Mass today reminds us that whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s chosen ones. This is echoed loudly in today’s Gospel in Jesus’ two parables, the first about the lost sheep which he finds and rejoices, the second about the woman who searches for her lost coin and finds it.
I am convinced that if we could only wrap our minds and hearts around what happens at baptism, we would not only better understand these parables, but more imporantly, our conversions would be complete.
In baptism, God enters into a relationship with us individually. This relationship is so intimate, so complete, so permanent, so filled with love and with grace that we really cannot comprehend it. God claims us as his own, and he never lets us go. The grace that is made available to us in our baptisms is incalculable. God’s intimacy with us is so total through the waters of baptism that if we were able to comprehend it, embrace it, apprehend it, I don’t think we would ever sin. The good that is ours by this baptism is so paramount that our human wills would always choose it, if we were able to allow ourselves to experience it consciously.
It is with this preface that we can understand why God would leave 99 sheep in the wilderness, exposed to threats and danger, to search for the lost one. We, as individuals, are that important to him.
Yes, we can reject this gift of grace, love and commitment from our God. But I don’t think anyone really would if they only could apprehend it. For that reason, I pray that more of us spend time meditating on the sacrament of baptism, and beseech God to give us a greater ability to embrace this sacrament’s fruits in our lives.
Today, the Holy Father named Bishop Salvatore Ronald Matano bishop of Rochester, New York.
Bishop Matano was born in 1946 in Providence, Rhode Island. He entered seminary at Our Lady of Providence, and studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University from 1967 – 1972. He obtained a doctorate in Canon Law in 1983.
He was ordained a priest for the diocese of Providence in 1971 and held many positions in that diocese. He was named coadjutor bishop of the diocese of Burlingtion, Vermont in 2005, ordained a bishop in April of that year, and assumed governance of that diocese in November, 2005.
Congratulations, Diocese of Rochester!
“Fasting helps us to remember, to bring back into harmony our simple needs and the needs of all Creation.” — Keith Warner, OFM
Today’s Gospel has Jesus telling us to “strive to enter through the narrow gate.” He also warns that many will try and fail.
You have to ask, “What will make the difference between entering and not entering?”
There is a passage in the book of Wisdom that, to paraphrase, says, “The desire for Wisdom leads one into the Kingdom.” The desire for Wisdom….. As we know, wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who will lead us through that narrow gate. It is the Holy Spirit who softens our hearts and makes us flexible enough to go through a narrow gate. It is the Holy Spirit who, with inexpressible groaning, helps us make that passage.
There are two traps into which many of us fall. Trap number one: thinking, “If I only do one more thing to please God” or “If only I pray more perfectly” or “If only I try harder and be more perfect then I will make it.” Trap number two: thinking, “It’s all up to God anyway, so I will carry on like I am and leave it up to him. He will work his miracle in me when he wants. I’ll just wait and see.”
Anyone who has ever been caught up in the cycle of habitual sin, or maybe lost in an addiction, knows full well that they cannot recover by means of their own efforts alone; they need God’s help. They also know they have to do their part, one day at a time, to stay in recovery. Recovery from sin or from addiction is entering through the narrow gate.
May everyone of us, each day, either literally or figuratively, prostrate ourselves before the feet of the Lord and pray, “Holy Spirit, I am here this day. I will do whatever you set before me, but I need you help to bring it to completion. I am depending on you to strengthen and enlighten me this day.”
Strive, but strive with the Holy Spirit……
“It is Jesus you want to see, to gaze upon, to think about deeply and with desire to imitate.” – St. Clare of Assisi