Saturday, January 31, 2009
The vows. The rings. The kiss. The three natural progressions that take place during a wedding. Yet in the liturgy we are in the midst of celebrating, the vows and the rings do not immediately give way to the kiss. They give way to something else - they give way to the celebration of Mass.
Chris and Sasha, when you are asked if you come here today freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage, you will be able to say yes in a way that gives a witness to what true freedom is, and what it is for. When you say yes to this question of your freedom, you say much more than simply stating that it didn't take any shotguns to get you here, nor did you have to resort to anesthesia to get the courage to come down the aisle. At least I hope you did not. No, those that know you, Sasha and Chris, know that you have found freedom in Christ Jesus, for it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. In Christ, you have discovered the truth that as unnatural as it is for man to live alone, without the benefit of human companionship and love, it is far more unnatural for man to live without God. You have found in Christ the completion of the mystery of who you are, for Christ came, as our late Holy Father John Paul II said, to fully reveal man to himself. Christ has set you each free, and so you enter into this sacrament with real freedom, the freedom of one whose heart and whose life has been completely redeemed by the love of Christ, the freedom of one who has decided to follow Jesus by loving another person just as He has first loved you.
In the spirit of this freedom you have received from Christ your Lord, it is natural for you to direct the minds and hearts of those who have come with great joy to celebrate the beauty of your romantic love for each other toward the love of Christ revealed most fully in the Holy Eucharist. After the exchange of vows and rings, there is of course great momentum for you to celebrate the new ontological reality of your marriage in a physical way, beginning with a kiss. Yet directed by the liturgy of the Church, you will turn instead and offer your bodies not first to each other, even as a new married couple, but to Christ. After the vows and the rings, you first act as a married couple will be to offer your bodies on this altar of sacrifice, asking God to take your bodies up into the one perfect sacrifice of His only Son, the acceptable sacrifice that brings salvation to the world.
Chris and Sasha, you proclaim in and through the liturgy of the Church today, that Christ is the source and the seal of your marriage. You place your new marriage within the eternal marriage of Christ to His bride, the Church, the one marriage that is fully free, and faithful and fruitful, as you wish your new marriage to be. You proclaim that the vocation you have received from Christ is to complete the mystery of another person, your spouse, by first sharing with your spouse the truth that Christ has completed the mystery of who you are. Before you kiss your spouse for the first time as a married couple, you turn to remember that you have first been kissed by Christ Himself, and are already one flesh, one mind, one heart, one Spirit with Him through the Holy Eucharist.
Chris and Sasha, as essential as it is that you use the human freedom given you by God to choose one another today, you proclaim all the more loudly that you have been chosen by God to be his adopted son and daughter through Jesus Christ, and by Christ you are chosen to go out and to bear fruit that will remain. May the eternal salvation that flows from the Holy Eucharist be always the greatest gift that you offer to each other and to your children, and to those of us so privileged to share in your marriage as your family and friends. Thank you for coming here in freedom today to strengthen the faith of all of us who know Jesus to be the way, the truth and the life. +m
Thursday, January 29, 2009
God is capable of big works. He is capable of big signs. The great flood. Check. The parting of the Red Sea. Check. He is the almighty. He can overwhelm us anytime He wants to.
Yet He chooses to come among us like a mustard seed planted in the ground. He chooses a young virgin to be His mother. He is born most humbly in an out of the way town. He throws his life away, delivering Himself into the hands of sinners.
The Lord loves our freedom so much, He finds us human beings to be so very good, created in His image and likeness, that even though it is His right to demand obedience from His creation, He humbly asks for it instead. The Lord usually invites in small ways. The Lord whispers to us. Our vocation usually starts out this way. As a seed. As a whisper. As an invitation to move forward in faith rather than in fear.
The author of the Hebrews tells us that if we move forward in fear, we will avoid sufferings, and latch on to the things that require no faith, the simple pleasures that are closest and easiest. If we move forward in fear, we will conform our lives to the standards of the world.
But the just one will live by faith, and joyfully endure whatever sufferings are necessary for him to move toward the fullness of life and his eternal destiny. To move towards life with faith instead of towards death with fear requires endurance. Once we move forward in faith, we must not turn back. Building upon that initial gift of faith, that initial vocation to holiness, that first invitation to follow the Lord, each time thereafter that we choose faith and not fear, we grow closer to bearing that beautiful fruit that the Lord has called us to produce! +m
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Before there was a Bible, there was a Church. Yes, even a church with presbyters. Our reading from Titus, a very early letter from St. Paul instructing Titus to appoint presbyters, or priests, testifies to this fact. From the earliest days of the Church, there was the reading of scripture and the presence of priests who both proclaimed the word, broke the bread just as Jesus had asked his disciples to do, and who worked to build the family of the new Church. There is no shame in our being the institutional Church. Paul, the great apostle, worked hard to build a family with structure that could sustain itself and be effective in proclaiming the Gospel.
The unforgivable sin described by Jesus is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Obviously, we lead others away from God by our sinful actions, but according to the words of the Gospel, such sins are forgivable. It is forgivable for us to tell our fellow Christians - do as I say, not as I do. What is not forgivable, however, is deliberately telling people that they cannot believe in God. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, who directs people toward truth and the knowledge of God, is deliberately leading someone away from faith that God is real, that He is love, that He is omnipotent, and that He is with us. Jesus came to reveal these eternal truths about God in the most humble and intimate of ways. To characterize Jesus as a master of deceit, as the scribes do in today's Gospel, is blasphemy against the one sent from God to give His life to reveal the truth of who God really is.
- pray for the intentions of the Holy Father
- go to confession
- turn away from serious sin
The plenary indulgence removes not the guilt of the sin (this is done in confession) but the debt owed because of the sin. This debt can be paid either in this life, through prayers and sufferings, or in purgatory. The plenary indulgence offered this year removes all the temporal punishment due to sin. It can be applied to the life of one seeking the indulgence or to the life of a soul in purgatory.
Friday, January 23, 2009
- We had some guardian angels helping on the way here. Our bus driver originally thought we left at 5am not 5pm on Tuesday, so his sleeping schedule was a little off, and he had a hard time staying awake, or so it seemed at times. Some brave pilgrims tried to keep talking to him throughout the night so we could get there safely, and we did!
- Should have had Powerbars, not fast food. Stomach ached a lot.
- Sleeping pills or no sleeping pills? I have one, but am scared to use it.
- 16,000 people at the Shrine Mass - it's neat, but so crowded - no way to do an outdoor Mass in DC in January, is there? The new football stadium? They have football there in January!! Jesus was born outside (almost) - am I crazy here?
- Young people are learning how to pray. No complaints from our group about Mass, rosary, Liturgy of the Hours - they eat prayer up and are always ready for more!
- Politically, it is still an advantage to be pro-life, up to 3% more of Americans are against abortion, but not many of those are 'single-issue' voters.
- Without Catholics, the March for Life would die, but with them, it is 200K strong, and is the most consistent and enduring civil rights demonstration in US history.
- One theme of the March is that if Obama wants to be like Lincoln, he should find a just cause and deliver the neglected and the innocent from oppression - there was optimism that He could really be converted to the cause of life. This surprised me.
- Obama was challenged to know what an abortion really is, to meet with mothers and fathers harmed by abortion (as President of all Americans) to define when his life began, to define when the lives of his daughters began, and to explain why abortion on demand is necessary.
- Another theme was that some Americans are for abortion because they do not see abortion. Again, greater effort must be made to show exactly what we have made legal in the country, and familiarize Americans with abortion procedures. It is not medicine.
- Pro-lifers were encourage to pray, to live joyfully, to make friends, to be community organizers, and to persevere until the cause is won.
- There is still great optimism among pro-lifers for our country. That our country can be a moral leader, and be the first country who once legalized abortion who later came to the defense of the unborn.
- We had a gorgeous day on which to March - 42 degrees and sunny! We didn't have to offer up the bad weather!
Deacon Greg Kandra in his blog is proposing that Pope Benedict is taking a more conciliar tone with the new American President than are the American bishops, who have immediately decided to challenge the new President on his stance on abortion while the Pope has only sent friendly greetings to date. Given that this Pope has been unpredictable in his decisions of when to push buttons (see dialogue with Muslims) and when not to, but has been successful when doing both, I can only assume that the Pope would like to see U.S. policy change in many areas, and sees a chance to build a friendship with President Obama on many fronts, before directly confronting his stance on abortion. How will it work? Time will tell.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.
At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and
virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
How appropriate is that night when George Washington and the small revolutionary army faced almost certain defeat, not only for the political situation that confronts our country today, but even more importantly, for the moral situation of our country that no longer guarantees the right to life. Allow me now to paraphrase for our current condition.
Those of us born after 1973 in a country that did not guarantee our right to be born go to our nation’s capital with righteous anger that so many of our brothers and sisters have been lost to the sin of abortion. We go also with hope and virtue and against great odds, because we refuse to let the story end as it now reads We refuse to let the American conscience be dulled anymore than it already is. We will not turn back, until we carry forth and deliver safely to our children the most fundamental right of every human person, the right to be born. The right to life!
There are many who consider the events of today to be a great miracle. Where there was once moral blindness, there is now light, and a person of African-American heritage is now the president of the United States. For those who worked to make this day a reality, for those who marched and suffered to end the dehumanization of persons, this day is understandably a great joy! Barack Obama is a person! Barack Obama is the president! We rejoice with them! It is good that 2 million people descended upon Washington DC today. We rejoice as a nation for the hope that President Obama represents, and for the possibility of change through his great gift of leadership. We pray for him and his family!
We pray as well, however, that our new President and our Congress will listen to our pleas for conversion of heart and mind! Tomorrow night we will wear purple, the liturgical color of repentance, to give witness, that although change is possible, and moral blindness can give way to light, that in our country since 1973, an even greater moral blindness has come upon us. The sin of abortion is the greatest sin in our country’s history because its victims, the unborn, are even more defenseless than any group of persons who have been persecuted within these borders. They are invisible. They are without a voice. We leave tonight to March for them. We leave tonight to make them visible and to be their voice. We march and suffer so that this greatest of moral blindnesses can one day be replaced by the light of truth and love. We march so that we can grow in virtue and holiness by this spiritual pilgrimage, so that we can change even when the laws of our land do not change, so that we will continue the struggle for life with hope and virtue no matter how long it takes. It is good that 2 million people descended upon Washington today. We will be a small group, maybe 100,000, maybe more. Yet we march with confidence that on the day Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land, tens of millions will join us in Washington to celebrate that great victory! In the meantime, do not lose hope because our numbers are not greater. Look with faith and see who is marching with us! If you look with faith, can you not see the invisible army marching by our side! 53 million children lost to abortion. They march with us. The great cloud of witnesses, led by the apostles and martyrs, who gave their lives so that we might believe in the Gospel of Life, and have life in abundance, march with us! Mary, who gave birth in the most challenging of circumstances, who is the mother of all who have eternal life, marches with us! Jesus, our Lord, who gave His life so that our sins, including the sin of abortion, may be forgiven, marches with us! Now that, my dear friends, is reason to hope. We are on the side that cannot lose, because in Christ the victory over sin and death has been won forever! Let us proclaim that not just in eternity, but also in time, and within the borders of this great country of ours, life will be victorious! Let us march with faith, hope and love! +m
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. It could be the voice of your conscience awakening you to the presence of God within you. It could be the voice calling you toward your perfect vocation. Harden not your hearts. Do not pretend you do not hear this voice. Do not rationalize away this voice. Do not ignore it. It is the voice of love. It is the voice of meaning. It is a voice sharpening your ability to distinguish between being merely subjectively good, versus hearing the call of the Lord to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect! +m