Saturday, June 30, 2012

“All will be well” — Thirteenth Week of “Ordinary Time,” July 1 to 7, 2012

Sunday’s reading begins, “God did not make death.” But the truth is, we blame him for it. We blame him for sin too. Julian of Norwich wrote that, before God taught her, “In my foolishness I often wondered why, through the great foreseeing wisdom of God, sin was not prevented. For it seemed to me that then all would have been well.”

God could have kept sin from happening. Why didn’t he? Jesus answered her with three shocking words: “Sin is necessary.”

He didn’t mean sin itself. He was talking about what Julian was complaining of: all the suffering and sorrow sin causes on earth; the terrible things people do that their victims blame God for, including sometimes things they do to themselves.

Julian saw that “all which is not good” actually contributes to our good. “The shameful contempt and complete denial of himself that Jesus endured for us... all the pains and passions, spiritual and bodily, of all his creatures... this pain is something for a time. It purges us and makes us know ourselves and ask for mercy.”
There are recovering alcoholics who bless the day they “hit bottom” so hard it woke them up and made them turn to AA and to a “higher power.”
In this context Jesus spoke to Julian the words she is famous for: “All will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” God can be happy in spite of the sin and suffering in the world, because he sees an ending that is not just happy but perfect. “All will be well. All will be well. And every manner of thing will be well.”

That is the bottom line; just as resurrection was the bottom line of Jesus’ passion and death. And resurrection should be the first and bottom line of every Christian life on earth.
We should rise out of bed every morning as we rose out of the waters of Baptism: to let Jesus rise from the dead in our bodies, As soon as we wake, we should embrace consciously the mystery of our Baptism: “Jesus, I give you my body. Live this day with me, live this day in me, live this day through me.”

This should be the first line, the bottom line, and the repeated line we speak all during the day. “Lord, do this with me, do this in me, do this through me.” By Baptism we “became Christ.” This is the mystery of our life. We live to think with his thoughts, speak with his words, and act as his body on earth.

If we do this, “All will be well. All will be well. And every manner of thing will be well.”

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

“Nos morituri....” — Twelth Week of “Ordinary Time,” June 24 to 30, 2012

I missed this blog last week. I was at St. Leo’s University in Florida attending the first assembly of the Association of United States Catholic Priests: the only forum for the communal voice of those in the unique position of having “working ministerial contact” both with the hierarchy and the laity, the governing and the governed. Unlike the bishops, the priests see with their own eyes the effect — good and bad — that Vatican and diocesan decisions have on the people. But, unlike most of the laity, they also see how those decisions are made and where they come from.
For example, there was overwhelming distress over the new “Roman English” translation of the Mass. Typical comments: “We cannot pray it. The people can’t pray it.” To add to their distress, they know the process that produced and imposed this translation. Those interested can google the open letter of Benedictine Father Anthony Ruff in America magazine, Feb. 11, 2011. Father Ruff wrote:

I cannot promote the new missal translation with integrity. ... It has been an honor to serve until recently as chairman of the music committee... that prepared all the chants for the new missal. But my involvement in that process... has gradually opened my eyes to the deep problems in the structures of authority of our church... When I think of how secretive the translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests or laity, how the Holy See allowed a small group to hijack the translation at the final stage, how unsatisfactory the final text is, how this text was imposed on national conferences of bishops in violation of their legitimate episcopal authority, how much deception and mischief have marked this process—and then when I think of Our Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity…I weep.

The priests began their assembly “weeping” over all that afflicts them in their ministry today. Then they put that behind and asked, as a speaker remarked, “constructively, not wallowing in negativity,” what we as a Church can do. The intent of the Association — as quoted in the June 15 Tampa Tribune article, “New priests' group hopes to preserve vision of Vatican II” — is “not to be a controversial voice, but a collaborative one." These are not “rebel priests.” They are concerned priests.
Hence the title of this blog. “Nos morituri salutamus — We who are about to die salute you” — were the words of Roman gladiators condemned to fight each other to the death. I see them as the words of a generation of priests about to die, who are passing on their testimony to the Church.
Most of the 260 priests there were older. Together they offered between six and eight thousand years of combined experience of priestly ministry. In them I saw Christ in the final— and purgatorial — stage of being “brought to full stature.” They have “borne the heat of the day,” and their faces show it. In a few years none of them will be left. But they want to leave their legacy — the legacy of those who lived through the exultation and disappointments of Vatican II and its aftermath, who have seen vocations to priesthood pass “from flourishing to languishing,” who have seen the Church as it was, see it as it is, and hope in what it will be. “Nos morituri declaramus — We who are about to die declare to you" that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” And while he lives in them, they will keep laboring to “build up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-14).

May their ranks swell.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Who We Are — Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, June 10 to 16, 2012 (Tenth Week of “Ordinary Time”)

This feast tells us who we are. We are people who have become the body of Christ through the blood of Christ.

We did not become Christ’s body by “entering a second time into our mother’s womb and being born again.” Nicodemus had that right (see John 3:1 ff.). We are not ‘reborn” as the body of the baby Jesus.

Nor do we find our identity in following the words and example of Jesus “teaching... proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing people” in his ministry. We are not a “body politic,” as defined in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780: "a voluntary association of individuals... by which the whole people covenants with each citizen and each citizen with the whole people." Our covenant to live, not by human laws but by the word of God, does not make us the “body of Christ.” Nor does “joining the Church” by voluntary acceptance of her teachings, authority and structure.

We have to be “born from above.” By “water and Spirit.” We must go into the waters of Baptism as into the grave, die with Christ and rise with him. The Jesus whose body we are is “the one who came by water and blood; not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.” The only “body of Christ” we can be is his risen body.

To be this we first have to die. This is the significance of the blood sacrifices that sealed the covenants between God and Abraham, God and his people (Genesis 15; Exodus 24). By killing animals as symbols of themselves, the people expressed that they were not just pledging to God the behavior specified in the Covenant, but giving their whole selves to him: their being, their lives — as God was giving himself to them: life for life. The Covenant was a mutual pledge, not just of behavior for behavior, but of being for being, life for life. To keep the Covenant it was not enough to keep the rules. The Covenant meant mutual giving of self; living in total union with God.

This union would be brought to fullness only when the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” was revealed: the “favor” of actually sharing in the divine life of God by being incorporated into the body of Jesus on the cross, dying with him, and letting him rise from the grave of Baptism in us, to continue his life and ministry on earth in us as his risen body.

The Feast of “Corpus Christi” is the feast of “the Body and Blood of Christ.” We celebrate, not only his body in Eucharist. We celebrate ourselves as his body — his real body, risen from his blood.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

We Are Relationship — Trinity Sunday, June 3 to 9, 2012 (Ninth Week of “Ordinary Time”)

To live as the “risen Christ,” we must live as Father, Son and Spirit interacting with each other. Does that sound complicated?

It should. God is “mystery” — not truth that is unknowable but Truth so “infinitely,” “boundlessly” knowable that it “invites endless exploration.” The key to knowing God (and ourselves as created in the image of God plus sharing his own divine life by grace) is to explore how in God “Being Itself” is the reality of Three Persons who, though One in nature, differ from each other by the way they interact. That is, by relationship. What makes the Father “Father” is his interaction with the Son and Spirit. The Son is “Son” (or “Word”) because of his unique relationship with the Father and Spirit. The Spirit is “Spirit” because of his special interaction with the Father and Son. (Notice we are using “relationship” and “interaction” interchangeably). That is about as clear as light so blinding you can’t look at it, but it does give us something to work with. In a nutshell, the key to personal “be-ing” is relating, interacting. We are persons, and create ourselves as the persons we are becoming, by the way we “relate” — that is, interact — with others. To “be” is to relate, interact.

Did they teach us that in religion class?

Actually, they did. The Great Commandment is the rule for interacting with God: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart....” And all the other Commandments are ways of expressing love in our interactions with people. Check this out: go through them, seeing each one in this light. It is enlightening.

The Responsorial invites us to know God by focusing on his interaction with us: “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” So does the first reading: "Ask now... Did anything so great ever happen before?... Did a people ever hear the voice of God... as you did, and live?” And the second: “You received a Spirit of adoption... The Spirit himself bears witness....”

The Gospel tells us how, as the risen body of Jesus, we need to interact with others: “Go, therefore, and make disciples....” This means to bring others into participating in the divine interaction that is the life of God: “...baptizing them in the name of the Father,

and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

To live as a human is to interact with others. To live as Christ is to interact with the Father as the Son does, and with both Father and Son by the unitive, “joining” power of the Holy Spirit. To interact with others by “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is to let the Son in us express to them the ‘love of the Father,” drawing every person we deal with into “communion in the Holy Spirit.”

To live is to be caught up in the life of the Three Persons going on inside of us — in their relationships, their interaction — and to interact in the same ways with other people.

This might sound a little mystical, but that is what our graced, divine-human life is: a mystery that invites “endless exploration.”

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