Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Sinner's Dinner. By: C.C.

"Perhaps we would obtain a more vivid impression of our Lord's personality and of his character if Luke had described this scene from the point of view of the sinners at table with Jesus in addition to telling us of the highly critical attitude expressed in the comments of the learned scribes and religiously observant Pharisees.  Had he done that he might well have added such words as these: "Tax collectors and sinners upon hearing Jesus as he preached were so impressed with his warmth and the friendly message he so simply and winningly conveyed that they eagerly invited him to share a meal with them. They wanted to know more about him and his message.  At table they hoped to hear at greater length what he had to say about God of whom he spoke so naturally and who displayed such familiar spontaneity as he referred to God as his Father. They wished to know better this person so friendly who could speak of such serious matters with a captivating charm.   He caused them to feel a new kind of self-respect by his whole manner of treating them.   He made them interested for the first time in religious teachings that were presented not as burdensome prescriptions of law but rather as a more appealing, more worthy way of life.   In his presence these hardened men no longer felt despised by someone they recognized as being highly intelligent and cultivated with a new kind of learning in the Torah that caused them to recognize that he was somehow more concerned for their welfare than in imposing observances." (Abbot John Eudes Bamberger)

    There is a perspective presented here that draws our attention and compassion onto that of the sinners who ate with Jesus. In doing this, Eudes succeeds in highlighting some ways that we as followers of Christ are called to imitate the way of our Lord through humility and compassion. We are presented with the opportunity to reflect upon the way that we share Christ and encounter the truth of our own inner state. Do we share the love of our Lord? Do we act with compassion? Are we quick to judge and label others as sinners--before first looking at ourselves? Through the eyes of others do we appear as self-righteous hypocrites or do we truly show Jesus? It can be suggested that the most effective part of our journey as followers of Christ is striving to be "Christ-like". 
     Today's first reading reminds us of the unavoidable reality of God's judgement....

"Why then do you judge your brother or sister?
Or you, why do you look down on your brother or sister?
For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; "

   It is dangerous to place ourselves in a position of superiority to others as if to appoint ourselves to the judgement seat of God. We must set our gaze upon our own affairs being harsh to examine our own deeds and recognize our own inadequacies and lack of faith. We should be so busy striving toward the Lord in love with a fullness of devotion and repentance, thus leaving little time to regard the faults of others.
   We must be humble, seeing ourselves and our own affairs before we condemn. Let us love our neighbour through all faults, gently guiding them along a path by our witness that we too attempt to walk. 
   Like the Sinners who saw Jesus as a man of love and compassion, so too should we strive to share the love of our Lord and not concern ourselves with condemning and judging our bothers and sisters.  We must take the time to know our faith, take the time to recognize that it is not a collection of "burdensome prescriptions of law", but rather a way of attaining life. Perhaps many would be more apt to embracing religious observances if they witnessed the authentic freedom and living joy of those who follow the Lord.
      "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" May we pray for the humility to see ourselves among the sinners, understanding that it is only by the grace of God and His mercy that we can acquire holiness. May we strive each day to "imitate Christ" sharing the love of God and being true examples of Who it is we follow. (C.C.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

A `Bushel Of Falsehood` & A Lesson From Archbishop Lynch. By:C.C.

"The Ecumenical Council of the Vatican is only known to the world in general from reports of newspaper correspondents. These reports are generally very unreliable, many totally false, others containing a grain of truth in a bushel of falsehood, and cannot be relied upon. These reports generally came back to us in Rome, and amused and often surprised us, as each bishop received the leading newspaper of his city. A weekly Toronto journal kept me posted in the news of the day here and brought me news from Rome that I was entirely ignorant of. The secular newspapers, as a rule, were what we term in opposition." (Archbishop John Joseph Lynch-Lecture at St. Michael's Cathedral Toronto, following the first Vatican Council)

    I have chosen to revisit these words from the first Archbishop of Toronto as I see them rather fitting in regards to what we are currently experiencing throughout much of the media coverage on the current Synod taking place in Rome. 
   Due to the nature of this Synod there is much being discussed that is hitting home with many people. There is a danger however when the information that one is reading and receiving is flawed. It is important to remember as  Fr. John Zuhlsdorf  reminds us that "there is a Synod and there is a Synod of the media". 
   Through revisiting this excerpt from a lecture given by Late Archbishop John Joseph Lynch at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto -following his return from the first Vatican Council,  I could not help but be drawn to his eloquent words about newspaper reports concerning matters of Vatican events. These words from long ago echo today and offer some insight as to how one should treat secular and politically driven media reporting today.
   It is important to unearth these words from Bishop Lynch as I find that they affirm the fallibility and error in much of what we may read, hear, and receive today.  
   The immediate accessibility of information has allowed for a large number of articles, interviews, and video footage to surface about our Pope and our Bishops. Their words are often misused, misunderstood, or related in such a manner to serve one's own ideals/agenda. This rapid sharing of news carries both positive and negative elements. It is important to approach information that we receive regarding the matters of our Holy Catholic Church with great discernment and understanding of our faith. 
   Many are often inclined to cling to the `grain of truth`within the `bushel of falsehood` as a result of personal agendas and many other varying reasons.        While seeking to know more about matters concerning the faith can be leading one closer to encountering the fullness of Truth, it can also damage or alter perceptions of this Truth if what is being absorbed is flawed.. 
    The `grain of truth` that we may cling to amidst the `bushel of falsehood` may be a reflection of our own selfish desire and our unwillingness to surrender to the complete Truth found in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;Truth that is unwavering and does not bend with the opinions, views, and wants of a majority, but remains fixed and concrete as when it was proclaimed by Christ. I do not desire to judge the opinions and values of others or to determine that their sentiments or desire for `change` is wrong, I am simply at peace with what has always been and remains consistently right and just (C.C.)

More from Archbishop Lynch...

``The secular newspaper correspondents have published that Papal Infallibility means that the Pope is like unto God, Supreme, not subject to any error, and can make truth falsehood, and falsehood truth. I need hardly say that this definition is utterly false. Another journal says that Papal Infallibility means that the Pope is impeccable — cannot err — and that all his sayings and doings are infallible; that also is false. He is subject to human weaknesses, and confesses them, like every good child of the Church, and receives absolution and penance. An other writer says that the Pope can prophesy and invent a new religion as he pleases — well, that also is false. He receives no gift of prophesy by his election to the Popedom and can invent no new dogma or religion ; he can only pronounce that such and such truth has been always in the Church, and has been revealed to the Church by the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, according to the words of Christ, " I will send you another Paraclete who will teach you ALL truth — not truth, but ALL truth.`` (Archbishop John Joseph Lynch)

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Papal Voyage and Profound Mission. By: C.C.

"In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life's different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course." (St.Boniface)
   To be a part of The Mystical Body of Christ calls us to a noble task. It is a demand that reminds us of our need to be a true reflection of Christ and His love. As Venerable Fulton Sheen once said  "We can't claim to be Christian unless we reflect the Person, the mind, the will, the heart & the humanity of Christ". This demands great things of each member of the Church. These demands are those that rightfully can not be fulfilled by man alone but must be entrusted to our Lord in faith.
To keep the Church on Her course is not a matter of criticizing everything one perceives wrong with Her, but to seek and learn more about everything She truly is and what this means for each of us as followers of Christ.
Our duty above all is to love as Christ loved and to pursue the path He walked in our daily walk through wherever our lives lead us. We carry out the mission of the Church in a powerful way when we personally commit to living our lives authentically in pursuit of Christian virtues. We keep the Church on Her course by keeping ourselves aligned with the teachings of Christ. A true exemplar of this is the Holy Father Pope Francis.
    It is difficult to navigate the internet these days without stumbling upon Pope Francis. Secular media in the western world has imploded with coverage and stories about the recent Papal visit to America. 
   As always there is heated talk and debate about what the Holy Father has said or has not said. We can remain attached to these words and to the absence of those that we wish he said, or we can turn our hearts and minds toward the One that our Holy Father is a reflection of. 
    It is alarming to me how many "devout Catholics" at times can be up in arms with criticism over the actions of our Holy Father. Such animosity toward his living out of the Gospel calls into question the authenticity of one's faith and perhaps exposes some vice(s) that need attention! 
    Pope Francis has repeatedly been misunderstood, poorly translated, and criticized. As too was Jesus. It is not the allure of political power nor a progressive desire that drives the Holy Father, it is the greatness of our Lord and the well being of the Holy Catholic Church entrusted to him. Many may have difficulty accepting the Catholic Church and what She demands through faith, but through a profound witness of living out the Gospel message those of us who claim to be Catholic can gently encourage another to encounter Christ. It can invite people beyond the idealistic and self-centred wants they may have of the Church and lead them to embrace the beautiful reality of what She already is. "Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course".
   The witness of Pope Francis this past week is much more than what he did or did not speak about. His actions and his presence reflect the love of the Lord and the truth of joy belonging to the faith alone that no script can proclaim. (CC) 


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Faithful Action By: C.C.

"The Lord God has given me a disciple's tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple.The Lord God has opened my ear and I have not resisted, I have not turned away.I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I have not turned my face away from insult and spitting.For the Lord God helps me; this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face like flint and know that I shall not be put to shame." (Isaiah 50: 4-7)
   We are not our own. All that God gives to us is not for us. Rather than being a seemingly harsh statement it is meant to lead us toward contemplating the reality that our Lord has made us for Himself. We are not made out of a selfish possessiveness but created by God who is love. His design in creating us for Himself alone is so that we may come to know the fullness of joy and fulfilment that He intends for us in this life and in the one to come. 
    Freely we either deny Him or lovingly turn toward Him so that we may be sent forth in love to others. By faith we can see that all given to us by God is for God. And in His love we come to see how the giving of ourselves away in service to others is a means of showing gratitude to God for the gifts He has given. Despite the receptivity of others to our kindness we are sent forth in love to give unconditionally. As today's first reading reminds us the Lord God is our help and we will not be put to shame for acting with virtue. 
   Thanksgiving to God for the grace that is given to us is manifested in the giving away of ourselves in the service of love to others. This reality can present a great challenge for us as we are surrounded by messages that promote and value self-preservation or personal merit as the ideal. 
    If we are given the gift of faith then we are also presented with the responsibility of it's demands. Today's second reading reflects upon faith and works. Our lives should be a living testimony of the faith that we profess. Most of us are called to serve Christ in the active vineyard of the world and are not cloistered in a cave in silent prayer. We can often seek monstrous ministries when the Lord calls us to first minister in the most simple ordinary moments of our lives. The impact of our actions as a reflection of the faith we claim to have does more for another, and in doing so does more to serve the Lord.  
   Our actions speak to ears that have not yet been opened. An act done out of faithful love and service can invite the opportunity for one to listen and come to know the Lord. Our mouths may be busy with prayerful ramblings , but if we do not "walk the talk" then these moments of prayer should be for our own increased faith. (CC)
  “The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”- St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, September 10, 2015

All Knowledge Belongs to God. By: C.C.

"Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears;it never reaches the heart.But when God's grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding,his word which has been received by the ear sinks deep into the heart."(St. Isidore of Seville)

  To thirst for knowledge is a wonderful thing. But if we forget the role of our Divine Instructor then our thirst and desire for learning may be rooted in a selfish hunger. The primacy of our desire to know anything must be to know Christ, as to better understand ourselves and our own human condition. The desire to know God is noble and one that will turn one's heart and mind to things that matter most. This seeking should lead us above all toward the heart of our Lord so that we may work to cultivate love for all according to His will (as we hear echoed in today's Gospel reading).
   To know Christ should lead us to serve Him most ardently with great fervour. Yet, many seek the Lord at times only to accredit themselves with knowledge. This knowledge does not belong to them, but most intimately with our Lord. An empty pursuit of wisdom leads one into themselves and not into the depth of Christ. In turn, one serves self violently, becoming disillusioned and only giving rise to their ego. Perhaps, at first this is unintentional and without malice. It is a slow winding path born from an apparent good and leading to the ill of pride. The subtle manner in which sin grasps the heart must be safe guarded by continuous surrender and love of the Sacraments. 

   The authentic desire to know God and love Him will be rewarded with a pure gift of wisdom. Such a gift demands responsibility. It must be embraced by humility, harvested by charity, and always shown through love. The wisdom that God gives to us should cultivate and foster love for His ways. It is not meant for division but for unity. Another's salvation is not to become our business or our pursuit if in doing this work we place ourselves above them and not among them! God has pursued us. It is He who saves. We are to concern ourself most with serving Him. We must recall time and time again our baseness and unworthiness, and His generous mercy!

  The hard hearted man remains in his head and pursues intellect alone, the virtuous man enters into his most inner self to grow in virtue and to gain wisdom. Let us pray to seek and serve with purity of intention so that the fruits may be plenty. (CC)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Praising the Thorns. By: C.C.

"God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). He does not take account of nobility of birth, length of time in his service, or the number of our good works. What counts with God is a devout soul's increased fervor and more ardent love. He does not consider how you once behaved , but what you have now begun to be."(St. Bonaventure)
   One of my favourite Scripture passages is from a letter St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in which he mentions the "thorn in his flesh". This thorn was permitted by God in order to prevent St. Paul from becoming too proud or elated in the many consolations that had been sent to him.
  The presence of this thorn serves as a reminder to St. Paul of his humanity and weakness. It leaves Him nothing to boast of except our Lord. In fact, this is where the beautiful gift and grace of his suffering blossoms. As a broken instrument St. Paul shines forth the majesty and works of our Lord through the simplicity of his surrender and the silent shout of his struggles to God. 
  St. Paul, like all of us battles with imperfection and the toil of temptation. The experience of temptation may vary from one person to the next, but there is struggle. We can at times live in the shadow of our past experiences and wounds. Some of our sins can still linger in the corners of our hearts and minds even after many Confessions and moments of repentance. There are wounds that may resurface and still burn. 
   God's mercy and love is unconditional. As St. Bonaventure reminds us God "does not consider how you once behaved, but what you have now begun to be". We can often become so self-absorbed with the difficulties we face and the "thorns in our side" that we overlook the profound grace God has sent us. We can long for the quickest fix to our problems and pain, especially when faced with many messages in our surroundings preaching instant gratification. From fast food to instant communication we can fall into the temptation of longing to have even our deepest hurts healed with the press of a button. Unfortunately, and thankfully thorns remain. 
   If we remain rooted in Christ and honestly seek to follow Him with "increased fervor and more ardent love" we can be assured that our "Divine Physician" will bring about the healing we need in order to carry out the mission He has called us to at the pace that we can handle for His good. Should we be pricked by a thorn or two from time to time let us recognize in these moments the way that this too is for our good and the good of others. We are not polished and perfected because we strive to live in accordance to God's plan. We are broken and wounded and in that we share good company with some of the best! I question the motive of those who claim to have it "all" together as they strive to witness to God's goodness. The truth is we are all as together as we can possibly be because of the goodness of God. The only thing we should claim to hold together are our hands in perpetual prayer. 
    I live with the thorn of my past in my side. Not in a scrupulous way but it reminds me time and time again of God's goodness and mercy in my life. It reminds me of the ongoing journey of conversion. I used to fear encountering those who knew me before I began practising my faith. I was worried about their judgement and truthfully a bit self absorbed in how "they" would see me, or remember me. Over time I began to recognize the amazing way God's transforming grace spoke through in these encounters and eventually brought great joy. Hearing "there's something so different about you" reminded me of the Someone greater than all of us that knocked me off my horse! The memories, not so glorious have been healed by our Lord, but every now and then there is the grace of a thorn prick to remind me Who God is and who I am not. A prick that corrects my judgement and allows me to recognize that being perfect is not important to serve God. The prick of the thorn reminds me to see others through the lens of my own brokenness and not with partiality.
God "does not consider how you once behaved , but what you have now begun to be."  May we strive to remember how we once behaved, so that we may forever live rejoicing to God by the witness of our lives and what we have begun to be by His mercy. (CC)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Three Persons One Divine Love. By: C.C.

"It is not just individual man and woman that image the Trinity (in the unity of body, soul, and spirit), but in a yet more perfect way men and women together, because together they form a union of love from which proceeds a third person, their child. Thus all three persons in the human family, mother, father, and child, are wrapped with a bond of self-giving love–and in this way they image the Trinity. (Gretchen- The Catholic Company) 

"Do you pray together?" The question stopped me mid sentence and demanded a response. When the priest asked me this I was forced to silence. The Confessional is one of my favourite places, not because I am a scrupulous person or a 'repeat offender',  but because I recognize my vast sin(s) and my need to reconcile with our Lord and prayerfully reconcile with others.
    God is truly full of surprises and I am amazed at how often the Confessional is the very place where He most astounds me. My last Confession was one of these particular moments when out of no where and in no way relating to the topic of my ceaseless ramblings the priest asked that question. I was almost embarrassed to admit that since the birth of Eliana and throughout my pregnancy it had often been difficult to pray regularly with my husband outside of Mass. This had little to do with him and in fact much more to do with me. My husband prefers night prayer and I prefer the dark solitude of the early morning. He was always willing to compromise and I just fell into my own habit of personal private solitary prayer. I always used the excuse of attending daily Mass (whenever we managed to together) as praying together. In my heart I knew the importance and need for establishing a prayer time as husband and wife. 
   Before humbly answering Father with the right answer I entertained him with a bunch of excuses. Then in the back of my mind I was fully convinced that my husband had been talking to him in his confessions. I was so convinced that I began my response by saying "Well Fr, despite what he'll tell you..." (more on that later)
   The priest began to counsel me on the importance of the Sacrament of marriage and the grace that belongs to us intimately as husband and wife. Admittedly I was almost losing sight of this primary role as wife and was being consumed with my new role as mother. The priest reminded me that the grace to be a mother flows from the sacramental grace on our wedding day.
  As I sat in the Church following Confession I reflected upon the Trinity and how it truly is the icon of family life. I was able to better understand the role that I have in maintaining and nurturing our very own domestic Trinity.It is a continual outpouring of self into the other as the Father pours into the Son and to the Holy Spirit. The fullness of God's love is manifested in the Holy Trinity just as the fullness of family life manifests in the perpetual 'self giving love' of all persons within the family. 
  It is through this realization that the family stays united in Christ. It is by striving to fulfill my vocation as a wife that I am a better mother to my daughter and in being a devoted husband that my spouse is too a better father.  
   I came home from Church on a prayer mission!! I spoke at length with my husband about constructing a routine prayer time together that would be manageable for us. I found out that he actually did not confess to this priest in months, and even though our prayer life had been on his heart he never did share this. 
   "Do you pray together?" was a prompting of the Holy Spirit from the love of our heavenly Father and Son so that our domestic Trinity could grow in love and serve Him more abundantly. Though it is cliché "The family that prays together stays together". May all families strive to live out their vocation of fruitful love and be as an icon of God in the world. (CC)