Monday, April 16, 2018

Looking for Signs of a New Springtime?

Check out The Dating Project and Gaudete et Exsultate....

St. John Paul II repeatedly called for a "New Springtime" in the Church.  He had the vision to see that the wheat and the weeds were growing together at the beginning of the third millennium of Christianity.  Yet he also had the wisdom to focus his attention on the wheat, which is destined to become the bread of life for the world.

In the face of ongoing geopolitical crises, ecclesial turmoil, and cultural collapse, dare we "rejoice and be glad" about the new beginnings which continue to spring to life all around us?  Here are two opportunities to consider:

  • 4.17.18--The Dating Project in movie theaters--The way people find love has radically changed in an age of swiping left or right. The Dating Project follows five single people, as they search for meaningful relationships. Presented by Pure Flix and Paulist Productions, this is the perfect event for every single person!

Jesus Christ is the ever-present Sower who continues to plant seeds which are destined to bear fruit unto eternal life:  May we continue to say "Yes" to his daily invitations to bloom where we are planted!

P.S. For a sampling of Gaudete et exsultate, check out the Holy Father's commentary on this timely Beatitude:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”

"Peacemakers truly 'make' peace; they build peace and friendship in society.  To those who sow peace Jesus makes this magnificent promise:  'They will be called children of God' (Mt 5:9).... It is not easy to 'make' this evangelical peace, which excludes no one but embraces even those who are a bit odd, troublesome or difficult, demanding, different, beaten down by life or simply uninterested.  It is hard work; it calls for great openness of mind and heart, since it is not about creating 'a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority,' or a project 'by a few for the few.'  Nor can it attempt to ignore or disregard conflict; instead, it must 'face conflict head on, resolve it and make it a link in the chain of a new process.'  We need to be artisans of peace, for building peace is a craft that demands serenity, creativity, sensitivity and skill. Sowing peace all around us: that is holiness." (GE, nn. 88-89)

Monday, April 9, 2018

How to Respond to 5 Probing Resurrection Questions

Questions abound following Jesus' Resurrection.

Naturally, I want to make sure that I can get all of my questions about the Resurrection answered (and, thankfully, there are resources such as this: "Proof of Jesus' Resurrection and Divinity").  But in the Biblical accounts of this defining event in human history, the questions come not from the dumbfounded disciples but from the Risen Lord Jesus:
  1. "Whom are you looking for?" (Jn 20:15):  Am I alert to various ways that the Risen Lord reaches out to encounter me each day, or do I spend my days looking for someone or something else?  If I am not seeking the Living One here and now, then I am probably clinging to some past memory of the "good old days" or escaping into dreams about some fantastic future.

  2. "What are you discussing as you walk along?" (Lk 24: 17):  Am I engaged in conversations that move beyond the superficial, in an effort to explore the deeper meaning of daily events?  If I never take time to reflect on why it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and so enter into his glory, then I am probably going to miss the pattern of Cross and Resurrection in my own life's journey.

  3. "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?" (Lk 24:38):  Have I opened my mind to the fact that the Resurrection makes all things new?  If I cannot "rejoice and be glad" at the way Jesus' glorified body transforms the wounds of his passion into signs of victory, then I will fail to see how God's grace can sanctify my own life's scars.

  4. "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" (Jn 21:5):  Have I noticed that trying to live absent Jesus leads to aimless activity, marked by fruitless ventures and empty nets?  If I insist on returning to my plans and my comfort zones over and over again, then I will miss out on the super-abundance which comes from staying close to Christ.

  5. "Do you love me?" (Jn 21:15-17):  How many times have I heard Jesus repeat this question in my own life?  If I wallow in my past denials and frequent failures, then I will never utter a deeper "Yes" to this question, the question which determines both my temporal happiness during this earthly journey and my ultimate destiny.  I am made to be in relationship with Love--to love Love, and to be loved by Love--and the question is whether I will accept this invitation.

I am made to be in relationship with Love--to love Love, and to be loved by Love.  The Easter season is the time to discern which of these questions Jesus is asking at this stage of my journey, and whether I have the courage to respond affirmatively. 

Thankfully, in his Divine Mercy revelation, the Lord himself provides advice about how to begin my response to his probing questions:  "Jesus, I trust in you"!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Missionary Discipleship for Disciple-Makers

"Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past;
it contains a vital power which has permeated this world....
It is an irresistible force."
(EG, n. 276)

Jesus Christ is risen as he said, Alleluia!

This world-changing proclamation continues to shape the minds and hearts of all Jesus' followers.  This irresistible force compels Jesus' followers to journey the path of both discipleship--following the crucified and risen Lord ever more closely--and mission--bringing the Lord's saving message and presence to the whole world.

Pope Francis' evocative phrase, "Missionary Disciples," prompts and prods Catholics around the world to a deeper "Yes" to the call to holiness and to mission: 

"In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God
have become missionary disciples (cf. 
Every Christian is challenged,
here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization;
indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time

or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.
Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered
the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are 'disciples' and 'missionaries',
but rather that we are always 'missionary disciples'."
(EG, n. 120)

As an Easter people, perhaps it is time for serious self-evaluation on how we might continue to strengthen our response to this call.  The USCCB's mission-manual entitled Living as Missionary Disciples (LMD) outlines a four-fold method of formation for missionary disciples:
  1. Encounter.  Can I name and describe the ways that I have encountered Jesus Christ?  Can I identify both my initial conversion to Christ and my ongoing, lifelong process of conversion--metanoia--putting on the mind and heart of Christ (LMD, p. 11)?  How do I allow Jesus to speak to me through my personal prayer, the Scriptures, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and the Sacraments--above all in the Eucharist?  This experience of encountering Christ is the foundation and fountain from which missionary discipleship flows.
  2. Accompany.  Who has served as a model of the Christian life and who has helped mentor me in the life of faith?  How is the Lord Jesus calling me to walk with someone as they make the journey of discipleship?  Who might need me to practice the "art of listening" (EG, n. 171)?  As I know from looking back on how others have accompanied me, this step requires that I "be truly present to others" (LMD, p. 15)--striving for the "tenderness" which Pope Francis so often mentions.
  3.  Community.  How have I allowed the Holy Spirit to draw me more deeply into the mystery of the Church's liturgy?  Have I opened my eyes to the fact that "the Church's liturgy, by its very nature as a proclamation and enactment of the Good News of Salvation, is an evangelical act" (LMD, p. 16)?  My experiences of fellowship and solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Christ also reflects the Trinitarian Love which he has revealed.
  4. Send.  What if the message of salvation is not meant for me to hoard?  Of course, I first need to give witness to my new life in Christ by practicing what the Church preaches and growing in a life of Christian virtue, but do I also look for opportunities to proclaim Jesus with my words?  I need to overcome the fear of bringing Christ "into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent" (LMD, p. 17).

By virtue of the gift of Baptism, the Risen Lord gives every Christian the same task: Become disciple-makers in whatever mission territory Christ has chosen for us.  The only question is whether we will say "Yes" to being part of this ongoing event which has permeated the world.

Monday, March 26, 2018

(In)Credible Catholic: Faith and Reason for Essential Conversations

Every former, future and current Catholic needs to bookmark their browsers with  The genius behind the initiative is Fr. Robert Spitzer, who has created this inCredible resource for exploring research-based responses to today's big issues--with piercing logical clarity.

Got questions about faith and science--or know someone who does?!?  Just click through these narrated learning modules and reclaim a deeper appreciation of how scientific evidence supports core tenets of the Catholic faith:

Got questions about whether it is reasonable to believe that God exists and that Jesus is real--or know someone who does?!?  Check out these eminently logical arguments:

Got questions about how being Catholic relates to real life in a post-modern world--or know someone who does?!?  Here are three more essential resources:

The price is right:  FREE; the time is right:  Available 24/7.  And the content is right on: PDF "mini-books" of research and references accompany each of the seven modules.

Spread the word as if the very salvation of eternal souls were at stake!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Calling Forth St. Joseph's Spiritual Support

St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pray for us!

It's the topic which comes up with overwhelming frequency in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It's the subject which the U.S. Bishops felt compelled to address in their recent document, "Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography."

It's the one of the issues of the day which calls for the spiritual support of St. Joseph, universal patron of the Church:

  • According to a recent study, 64% of 13 to 24-year-olds actively seek out pornography each week.  Male and female, God created us; yet--male and female alike--the 97-billion-dollar "porn" industry is systematically stripping away basic human respect for the image of God within each person.
  • This is not just an issue of moral turpitude writ large.  Rather, it is a matter of intense spiritual warfare--a battle with powers and principalities for immortal souls.  We have an Enemy who wants not only to derail us from God's invitation to Eternal Life but also to destroy our peace and joy here on earth.

St. Joseph, the righteous man,
understands how the world, the flesh and the devil conspire to drive the human person into a pit of destruction.  St. Joseph also knows the surpassing power and glory of God's grace.

St. Joseph, the chaste spouse, understands that human sexuality must be integrated into a deeper appropriation of one's personal identity.  First and foremost, each human being is a beloved son or daughter of our Heavenly Father; every human person is made for communion with infinite love.  God's grace can properly order human sexuality toward this End, or goal, as long as we stop trying to make human sexuality into an end in itself.

St. Joseph, the foster-father of the Redeemer, knows that human sexuality is ordered toward transmitting infinite love, which is very different from the mere satisfaction of physical and emotional desires.  The function of the human body follows its form or design, not vice versa. God created the human race male and female so that a total gift of self to the other might bring new life into the world.

Finally, St. Joseph, always attentive to the Angel of the Lord, knows that God asked him to name the Baby "Jesus" because "he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21).  He also knows that the Angel told Mary that "nothing will be impossible for God" (Lk 1:37).

With St. Joseph's heavenly help, it is time for us to awake from our slumbers and to do as the angel of the Lord continues to command: Go forth and reclaim the glorious image of God inherent in each human person.