Monday, June 19, 2017

Freedom for Mission: 6.21.17 -- 7.4.17

In an effort to focus on our fundamental "freedom for mission", the U.S. Bishops are again challenging Catholics across the country to embrace a fortnight of prayer, fasting and study.

Fourteen days may seem like a long time to address what should be an obvious freedom for Americans, but real threats require real resistance. One problem with current attacks on religious liberty is that they clothe themselves under the mantle of "justice."  Indeed, the prevailing secular orthodoxy often seeks to diminish and restrict this "first freedom" precisely in the name of freedom--shaming and silencing religious believers under the guise of preserving freedom from alleged "hate speech" or "bigotry."

However, followers of Jesus Christ don't discriminate; they just disagree with the myths and truth claims being propagated by opponents of religious liberty.

As we advocate for a renewed freedom for mission, maybe we should start by acknowledging that  "evangelical atheists" are actually promoting a meta-narrative about the human person and about the meaning of life.  This new quasi-religious world view stands in stark contrast with a Christian world view, and the simple act of naming it as such could lead to potentially fruitful conversations about authentic pluralism.  We might even be able to invite people to consider how respectful "coexistence" would differ from coerced compliance.

The identity of the human person and the destiny of the human family is at stake, so let's pray that the Holy Spirit will animate the national convocation on The Joy of the Gospel in America with a renewed missionary mandate.

And let's each make some small effort in the two weeks ahead to help promote authentic human freedom: As the Lord said following the healing of a boy afflicted with a mute and deaf spirit, "This kind can only come out through prayer" (Mk 9:29)!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Working with a "Catholic Climate Covenant" Mindset

Everything is connected...everything is connected...everything is connected: Ever since Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si' repeated this mantra dozens of times, we have been left with many practical questions about how best to address the complex crisis of social and environmental issues which we currently face. 

What follows is a sample letter from the Catholic Climate Covenant, designed for easy delivery to our nation's leaders. If it speaks to you, please feel free to send it to your elected officials (the link is below), and pass it along to family and friends:
“Our nation’s willingness to honor our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement is in doubt.   As a Catholic echoing, Pope Francis’ call for climate action, as your constituent, and for the sake of our shared present and future, I urge you to support our nation’s continued and constructive involvement in the Agreement.  I ask that our nation’s participation include honoring our commitments under the Agreement to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, so that we may do our part in the global effort to limit global average temperatures to well below 2°C.
Climate change is impacting poor and vulnerable peoples around the world right now in tragic ways.  More frequent and intense storms, prolonged droughts, food and water shortages, and reduced crop yields, threaten their ability to survive.  These circumstances foster suffering, desperation and displacement that lead to global instability and unrest.  It is our moral duty and in our national interest, to honor our pledge in the Paris Agreement and assist the poor and vulnerable among us to adapt to climate change.
Pope Francis makes it clear that our care for one another and our care for the Earth are intimately bound together. The Church calls all of us to be stewards of God’s creation, respectful and mindful of the fact that we depend on nature to survive. The Paris Agreement is a manifestation of this stewardship, recognizing we all contribute to the causes and solutions to climate change. 
As Pope Francis receives President Trump in the coming days, I hope that our nation’s commitment to the Paris Agreement will be affirmed.  The world’s leaders have an obligation to protect God’s creation, to ease the suffering of the poor and vulnerable, and to protect our nation and world from the harms of climate change.  Choosing to remain in the Paris Agreement helps further these goals.  I urge you to affirm our commitments to the Paris Agreement and the resources needed to implement the U.S. commitments to the Agreement.” 

To support the U.S. remaining part of the Paris agreement, simply follow this link and email this message to President Trump, as well as to your Representative and two Senators (you will also have the option to edit the letter).

As Pope Francis wrote in his environmental encyclical: "A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system....Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it." (LS, n. 23).

Isn't it time to act, given that "everything is interconnected" (LS, n. 138)?!

Transitioning into the Blessed Trinity

Jesus' apparently abrupt Ascension and promise of Pentecost just might give us a glimpse into the real depths of the Christian life.

If becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ was merely a matter of accepting him as one's personal savior or a matter of "meeting people where they are," then maybe the Lord would have extended his post-Resurrection appearances indefinitely--rather than returning to the right hand of the Father after forty days. No, the fullness of God's revelation in Jesus points to much deeper truths: The Risen Lord incorporates all of his followers into his new body, the Church, and then sends that body to complete his mission.

The human person longs for a personal relationship with God, but because of the brokenness and wounds caused by our sin, friendship with Jesus Christ and his Church is the only Way back to this restored relationship. It is both our vocation and our mission. As the Catechism puts it:

"The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church,
which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.... (n. 737)

"Thus the Church's mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit,
but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members,
the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread
the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity..." (n. 738)

Indeed, from the moment of the Incarnation, the mystery of Jesus Christ points us toward the Ascension and Pentecost. The Son of God became one with his creation, took on suffering and death, and then physically rose from the dead, in order to begin the dynamic process of re-ordering and re-integrating the entire creation back into full communion with the Creator. The mission of Jesus' followers is to participate in the return of the human race--and the whole cosmos--to the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit.

With Christ now seated at the right hand of his Father, we can better understand that we live and move and have our being in him. We can experience communion with him, walk with him, and talk with him thanks to the same bond of the Spirit which has united the Father and Son for all of eternity. We can meet him in and through the Sacraments which he has left us to fulfill his promise, "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28:20).

All we need to do is accept the gift of our Creation and Redemption. Let's pray that this process of becoming what we receive will continue to draw each of us into the fullness of life for which we long--the eternal and infinite Love of the Blessed Trinity.

Come, Holy Spirit!

P.S. If you are looking for a concrete way to be "part of something bigger," check out the Pentecost Vigil Project (6-3-17): "Let the Fire Fall".

Monday, May 15, 2017

"Christ's Resurrection is not an event of the past..."


"It is an irresistible force."

+Pope Francis (EG, n. 276


"The Trinity"

The reality of the Christ's Resurrection continues to shatter myths.  And the evidence continues to confound modern myth-makers!

Whether it be the myth of a pantheism which claims that everything is equally sacred thereby leaving nothing sacrosanct (including the human person), or the myth of a "therapeutic moralistic deism" which alleges that God is essentially a celestial butler whose job is to come and make me feel good about myself (as long as I'm trying to be a good person), or the myth of a "new" atheism which pretentiously claims that science can provide a total explanation of reality (or someday will!?), the ongoing and irresistible force of the Resurrection compels each of us to take a stand:

  • Given that the God-Man broke down the wall of death and now lives, I must admit that He is really Real and everything else is real only in relation to Him.

  • Given that the God-Man rose from the dead to bring Eternal life into temporal affairs indefinitely, I must admit that I am a beloved child of God to whom Christ has united himself--and that God is closer to me than I can ever imagine.

  • Given that the God-Man has destroyed the seemingly indestructible--death--and has ushered into history a new dimension of reality, I must admit that finite reason is unable to comprehend all the mysteries of an infinite Mind and Heart.

Are these merely challenges posed by a blind faith, or reasonable responses to irrefutable evidence?  It is reasonable to read the complementary--but not monolithic--accounts of the Resurrection in the four Gospels as signs of eye-witnesses trying to make sense of a sui generis and meta-historical event.  Why would fabricated accounts include the incredulity of the first disciples at this once-in-human-history event?

It is reasonable to read the 2000 year flourishing of the Church founded by Christ as a sign that He has continues to keep His promise to be with His followers until the end of the age. The Church is a divine body made up of frail human parts.  But what merely human institution has survived and thrived for so long, in so many cultures and contexts?

It is also reasonable to review the amazing and multi-faceted scientific research into the Shroud of Turin as a first-hand relic of the Resurrection. Treat yourself to Fr. Robert Spitzer's overview of peer-reviewed research about how an incredibly intense burst of energy from the body of the crucified Christ seared a mirror-image of his now Glorified Body onto the burial cloth.  This Ultimate Moment in human history is preserved in this sign of signs for a scientific age. (Feel free to share the clever meme below!)

For a number of additional Easter-season treats regarding the reasonableness of Christianity from Fr. Robert Spitzer, check out these four pillars of the resources on faith and reason (and share this resource with family and friends!):
  1. Questions about Science 
  2. Questions about Suffering
  3. Making the case for virtue
  4. The case for Jesus
"Do not let your hearts be troubled": Christ Jesus continues to lead all people to the Father--

First Selfie Ever!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sowing Seeds with our Mother

At a recent conference, a speaker described how she never understood why her two grandmothers were always working their Rosary beads when she was a child.  Only years later, she said she realized that they were "sowing seeds."

If we can only reap what we sow, it's worth considering what kind of seeds we will commit ourselves to sowing with our Rosary beads.

When the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children one hundred years ago (5.13.17--10.13.17), her simple message was to pray the Rosary in reparation for evil and sin.  Bead by bead, Mother Mary asks us to sow seeds of healing and hope.  Decade by decade, we are invited to nurture a garden destined to bear fruit unto eternal life.

So, what seeds shall we sow in honor of the Fatima Centennial year?  Here are a few possibilities for your consideration (feel free to make your own list!):

Seeds of Faith to pierce our smug rationalism with light;
  and of Healing for those who suffer silently each night.

Seeds of Conversion to Christ as our sole Lord;
  and of Peace for those brutalized by discord.

Seeds of Hope for those living without love,
and of Meaning which flows down from above.

Seeds of Life where death appears to reign,
and of Joy even for those who know pain.

Seeds of Glory borne from Christ's death and Resurrection,
and of our Childhood sealed with the Father's protection.

Seeds of a New Story made present in Christ Jesus,
  and of Awe for a Lord who so thirsts and so needs us.

Seeds of Devotion to our Mother, such as her Son has shown,
and seeds of Gratitude for reaping where Another has sown!

Finally, if you want to sow some seeds in solidarity with Catholics across America, check out this bold invitation from Dynamic Catholic:

5 Million Rosaries for America