Thursday, October 16, 2014
The silence in the youth room was near deafening. And it wasn’t just the teens that were visibly uncomfortable. What started for me as a slightly less than critical self-assessment of faith in practice, turned into serious examination of my relationship with God and the Four Last Things.
Have I loved God with my whole heart and soul? How have I (or have I?) introduced my neighbor to the love of Christ? As I grappled with these questions – looking over my life and the prospect of an eternity with or without God – I felt more than a little unsure that the evidence to convict me indeed existed …
Who would testify on my behalf? Who would be my witness?
Sacred Scripture tells us that the testimony of two or three reliable witnesses is required as evidence to convict (Deut 19:15; Mt 18:16). As if to underscore the point, Jesus always seemed to keep His faithful disciples – Peter, James, and John – close by when He wished to reveal something extraordinary about Himself. Credible witnesses perfect and help serve justice.
But history teaches us that witnessing can be hazardous to your health, too. There was no Witness Protection Program for the prophets in the Old Testament, for Lazarus or John the Baptist. Jesus said that the very reason He was born and came into the world was to testify to the truth. But that testimony got Him abandoned, rejected, humiliated, convicted, and ultimately, crucified. Countless Christian martyrs from the first century onward shared the same fate. Since His disciples are held to the standard He set, they may passively see, hear, and believe, but then must actively witness – without compromise – to what they came to know by faith.
Friday, November 16, 2012
Recently I received an email from a Jewish friend, which read: "I finally figured out that the rule of Gemilut Hasidim is you should always do what is right - even if others do not. Tradition holds that a Jew must give to a beggar in the street when asked. Equally important, Jewish commentary insists that a beggar or poor person be treated with dignity. There are many reasons for this, but two stand out. By performing Gemilut Hasidim, people cultivate the divine qualities within them. Also important within Judaism is the notion that anyone who suffers diminishes every member of the community."
"Brilliant!" I emailed back, and thought, "vaguely familiar." So I started reading. What I discovered upon digging deeper into this Jewish rule of 'loving kindness' was a heritage that we as Christians and Catholics draw richly upon as well.
First, we recognize God as the Master of Charity - that He sustains all creation through His acts of kindness and that as recipients of this kindness, we emulate Him when we act in a like manner to one another. If we recognize that we are totally dependent on this loving Creator, that everything we have is a gift from Him and we own nothing of ourselves, then pride and feelings of superiority are non-existant - we give, we share, with the same reckless and selfless abandon.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Regardless of whether it’s merited or not, whether a consequence of a conscious choice or a turn of an unfriendly card, suffering is part of our fallen human nature. There’s no escaping it in this life. We may try to fight it and we may not admit it, but ultimately, we all serve, we all sacrifice, and we all suffer.
There are questions we need to ask ourselves in the face of suffering: What do we do with it? What is our attitude towards it? Like tempering steel, it can be a source of great strength and growth if we let it. If it becomes more than merely something to endure or plow through, we (or someone else) may merit from it.
Even with God’s grace and the dignity brought about through endurance, sometimes the meaning of suffering can only be discerned by looking at it through the lens of time. “Misfortunes” may become blessings with the proper perspective. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote: “... suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice.”
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Watching the Olympic competitions presently underway in England, one observes the performances of awesome, world class athletes in competition with the best of the best. Whether in an individual or team sport, the winning participants often reach their goals measured in tenths or thousands of a second. These athletes draw on resources accessible to them from their extensive training, from their sacrifices and commitment to their sport, and from skills acquired through intensive training. Their performances are built on skills perfected over time to the point where excelling is natural, even taken for granted. They have acquired an exceptional power individually or as a member of a team.
A few days ago, we saw an extraordinary example of the power that individuals can have under the most horrendous of conditions. People across the country and around the world, watched newscasters recount the details of horrendous carnage that was perpetrated during a premier showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado. The media pounced on this killing field for days recording and presenting the “story” from every accessible angle. However, what emerged, from at least some of these televised reports, was not only the detailing of the acts of the lone gunman, but also the reports of the awesome, heroic and powerful life-saving services rendered by some of these “Batman” movie fans. From this one incident many viewers were reminded of the “power of One.” From where does the courage arise to respond and do such brave deeds with such selfless disregard for themselves? Do we as average men and women of God have the same capacity to excel?
Sunday, March 4, 2012
The Christian Family - A Centripetal Force
A great deal of attention and much discussion has recently centered on a subject that should interest Holy Name Society members tremendously. It is the state of the American family. The family is a microcosm of the Church; it has an important place in God’s plan for the salvation of individual souls throughout the world.
There is growing unrest today among Holy Name Society members on what is believed to be a decline in family values. Family values can best be described as the values or beliefs that provide for a safe and secure environment for children to learn true moral values as taught to us by our Christian faith – values that keep a family in harmony and peace.
There seems to be a “centrifugal” force at work in our families. This describes the phenomenon that seems to pull our families apart, a force that should concern us greatly. The word centrifugal means literally to flee the center or fly from the center. A simple dictionary definition speaks of a force or action proceeding away from a center (see pictorial above). Scientists speak of this as a force that an object moving along a circular path exerts on that object constraining the object and acts outwardly driving it away from the center of rotation. An example would be a stone whirled on a string exerts centrifugal force on the string. The opposite force is called "centripetal" force i.e. “seeking the center” and so proceeding in a direction to the center of rotation – a force directly opposed to centrifugal force.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
“Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh and I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body which is the Church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.” Col 1:24-26
Amazing to think of it in this context and much easier to understand when we are told to “offer up our sufferings” for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ok, now you will ask, “Offer it Up?” Yes, we offer it up in order to unite our sufferings to those of Jesus, in order to complete the salvation that he indeed fulfilled on Calvary over 2000 years ago. When we join our suffering to His it gives us a sense of being complete within the mystery of the Mass.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
There are many lessons we can learn from history if we pay attention to them. I would like to talk about these lessons. It shows how evil can triumph over a nation, if it is done gradually, and no one responds.
In 1932 a man with a funny looking mustache was seen in many parts of Germany campaigning to be the leader of the nation. He talked about the “Jewish menace”. Many people thought he was goofy and they paid little attention to him. No one did anything. As time went on this man formed a political party, the Nazis’. He encouraged them to persecute the Jewish people, and they listened to him. No one stepped up to say or do anything. This man then came to power. He began to take away the rights of the Jewish people. He would not allow them to teach in the Universities, or to practice their professions. He even forced them to leave the country. No one did anything. One night the persecution went a step farther. Jewish businesses were vandalized. No one did anything. Next he deported the Jewish people to concentration camps for slave labor. No one did anything. Lastly, the “final step” took place - genocide. Over six million Jewish people were murdered, and along with them many Catholic Religious (e.g. Maximillian Kolbe)