Monday, December 15, 2014

A Joy Which is Shared

 


Are you ready for a little more joy in your life?  If so, would you commit to (re)reading Pope Francis' The Joy of the Gospel in 2015?

Maybe you don't have time to take on all 288 paragraphs in one sitting, but what if you could receive one paragraph per day of The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), from January through October of 2015?! 
 
Call it a Christmas present to yourself.  Make it your New Year's resolution.  Or consider it an act of solidarity with Pope Francis, who is a walking witness to joy.  After all, the Holy Father wrote Evangelii Gaudium in a very personal way--for you and for me.
 
Indeed, in a recent interview, Pope Francis addressed those who have raised questions "what he really thinks," and he referred to this document as follows:  "That's what I think, not what the media says I think.  Check it out; it's very clear.  Evangelii Gaudium is very clear."
 
Very clear, indeed.  Very readable, as well.  And very relevant to our daily journey of missionary discipleship.
 
To subscribe, simply go to AJoyWhichIsShared.org.  After entering your email address into the "follow by email" section, you will receive a confirmation email; then, starting on January 1st, you'll receive one paragraph each day.  It is guaranteed to feed your mind, heart and soul in the months ahead!
 
Finally, feel free to spread the word about AJoyWhichIsShared.org by forwarding this link to friends and family.  Post it, pin it, or tweet it to your followers!  Join scores of other friends of Francis around the country, as we reflect with him on Jesus' invitation:

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete."
(Jn 15:11)

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us--

Monday, December 8, 2014

St. Joseph of the Incarnation

"St. Joseph and the Christ Child"  +Guido Reni

God's sneaky-awesome presence among us begins with the anxious expectations of Advent.  It culminates in the contemplative season of Christmas:  The divine Author, Producer and Director of the drama of human history enters the stage that he himself created as a seemingly insignificant actor--in diapers and swaddling clothes. 

From the start, St. Joseph was there with the marvelous Mother of God, who "kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart" (Lk 2: 19).  The Scriptures do not share a single word spoken by Joseph, of course, but they invite us to enter into his silent reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation:  What was Joseph thinking and feeling as the Holy Family journeyed through Mary's pregnancy?  What awe filled his heart as he pondered the arrival of the divine Messiah?
  
Before any of the Apostles or Evangelists or Doctors of the Church, it was humble Joseph who stood beside the Blessed Mother and contemplated the reality of God with us.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church articulates four reasons why the Word became flesh (nn. 457-460); can't you picture Joseph discussing God's mysterious ways with his beloved Mary?
  • "The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God" (CCC, n. 457).  Joseph knew that God's covenant with his chosen people was ultimately a promise of divine assistance in response to original sin.  He also knew that the promised salvation would be connected to the blood of the Passover lamb, and that the Messiah would deliver the definitive victory over slavery and death.  As he rocked baby Jesus to sleep, can't you imagine Joseph's heart quietly murmuring: "Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (Jn 1:29)?!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Watching and Preparing



Isn't surprising that the Lord's opening word of the Advent season is "Watch!" (Lk 13:37)?  We enter into these weeks of preparation not with an invitation, but with a sobering exhortation--the end is near!
 
Of course, even the wisdom of contemporary organizational gurus reminds us to "begin with the end in mind."  But the first weeks of Advent offer us even more urgent spiritual advice:  Be on guard for the return of Christ the King, today; be vigilant in preparing for the birth of the Christ child anew, here and now.
 
Advent raises many key questions of the spiritual life.  For example, how might I be be more attuned to the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God during this season of anticipation?  How can I make meaningful changes in the "footwork" of my daily life and so be better prepared to celebrate God coming to us as a helpless child?  How can I be more sensitive to the signs of Christ's daily comings, and therefore more prepared for his definitive arrival?
 
Since Advent ushers in the Church's liturgical "new year," one of my resolutions this year is to consider the ways in which I am too busy building my own kingdom, and not focusing on His.  This year my self-examination will also include an honest assessment of my daily distractions and my trivializing temptations:  What dulls my mind and heart, and what lulls me into a sense of self-generated security?  In short, what sucks the Life out of me?
 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The King and his Immigrant Peoples

Christ the Pantocrator, "the Enthroned"

Policy, politics and liturgy seem to have converged on one fundamental theme this past week: The question of the King.

Every year as the Catholic Church concludes her liturgical cycle, the same stunning Gospel passage confronts us.  Matthew 25's "Judgment of the Nations" rings out regarding the return of the King who will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left, based on one simple criterion:

"Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you...a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?'
...And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you,
whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’" 

(Mt 25:37-40)

The fundamental revelation is that the King is present in the "strangers" or "aliens" whom we welcome--or whom we fail to welcome.  How we treat--or mistreat--them is how we treat or mistreat the King himself.  Therefore, the Christian question regarding immigration policies needs to shift from the merely political to the very personal issue of what our stance will be toward those we see as "outsiders."

Additional questions abound, of course.  For example, in the uproar and furor over the President's recent executive action, will some Anglo Americans give their Hispanic brothers and sisters the not-so-subtle message that they are not welcome?  In the awkwardness surrounding the political polarization on this issue, will Christians unwittingly strike an unwelcoming stance toward the King--suggesting that our nation is somehow impoverished rather than enriched by the presence of hard-working families who want an opportunity to flourish?

Monday, November 17, 2014

These Walls Can Talk

Michelangelo's Pieta in St. Peter's Basilica

How do you "read" a church when you walk in?

Are your eyes drawn first to the altar and the sanctuary, or to the stained glass windows?  Are you more of a statue or a painting kind of person?  Do you have favorite symbols or saints whose presence lifts your heart?  (One of my nephews is a great fan of St. Bonaventure, and he feels awfully close to Heaven every time he gets to see his old friend!)

We live during an age in which most people are visual learners.  So we should take the opportunity to explore the visible symbols in our local churches, in order to allow ourselves to be drawn closer to the invisible realities represented.  We should strive to develop the spiritual eyesight which is so necessary for Christian discipleship.  And we should look for opportunities to explore the meaning behind such rich signs.

Many representations of saints depict them holding the instrument associated with their death (if they were martyrs), or with some great insight or pivotal moment from their life.  So who's the guy with the grill, or the young man holding the rocks?  With google images now at our finger tips, it's possible to discover answers to such riddles with relative ease.  (These two examples come from the widows in the chapel of the Diocese of Joliet's Blanchette Catholic Center, by the way, and the searches proved them to be St. Lawrence and St. Stephen, respectively.)

How about the tabernacle which holds the Blessed Sacrament or the mysterious and pivotal presence of the altar, which signifies Christ?  Every church is a treasure trove of real signs which help make present the realities that they represent.