Monday, November 25, 2013

Encountering Jesus Daily

Now that the Year of Faith has come to a close, it's fitting to return to one of the fundamental issues it addressed regarding the new evangelization--that is, fostering a living relationship with Jesus.

While Catholics rightly focus on listening to the Word of God in Scriptures and receiving Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we often forget to emphasize the importance of our personal prayer life as a place of encounter with the Risen Lord.  Indeed, if you're like me, you might even find yourself muttering the early plea of the disciples, "Lord, teach us how to pray"!

The following letter from Mother Teresa to her Missionaries of Charity--written on March 25, 1993--sheds much light on the living relationship which Jesus longs to have with each of us.  It speaks to the kind of simple, yet really real, prayer life that the Lord wants from each of us.  When I saw this, it felt like Mother Teresa was writing it just for me; maybe it will strike you the same way:
Jesus wants me to tell you much love He has for each one of you--
beyond all you can imagine. 
I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus--
one to one--you and Jesus alone. 
We may spend time in chapel--
but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? 
Do you really know the living Jesus--
not from books but from being with Him in your heart? 
Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? 
Ask for the grace, He is longing to give it. 
Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart,
you will not be able to hear Him saying "I thirst" in the hearts of the poor. 
Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person--
not just the idea. 
How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say 'I love you'--impossible. 
Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. 
If not, prayer is dead--meditation only thinking. 
Jesus wants you each to hear Him--speaking in the silence of your heart.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Testimony about "End Times"

If the third time is actually the charm, then here it is.  Within the last several weeks, I have twice seen the following quote from then-Cardinal Wojtyla. The first was as the Magnificat's meditation on John Paul II's feast day; the second was during last week's dramatic address by Archbishop Vigano, the pope's official representative in the U.S., at the annual meeting of the U.S. bishops. 

The full text of the Papal Nuncio's Comments provide additional insights and challenges--including a call for nay-sayers to respect and accept the way that Pope Francis is choosing to exercise the office of the papacy.  But here is the immediate context and commentary for the prophetic claim of Wojtyla at an address during the Eucharistic Congress in 1976:

We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God's Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously... 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The "Maybes" of Redefining Marriage

"Who am I to judge?"

This now famous question from Pope Francis simultaneously encouraged and shocked many.  Shouldn't we all want people who experience same-sex attractions to be treated with dignity and respect?  But why would the pope, of all people, speak so non-judgmentally about persons with same sex attractions? 

The Holy Father was reminding us that we are all sinners in need of God's saving mercy, and he was also calling us all to a deeper, more authentic respect for all of our fellow brothers and sisters.  But was the pope advocating "marriage equality" as a logical next step? 

Illinois legislators recently voted to change the legal definition of marriage in the Land of Lincoln, and some of them cited Pope Francis as part of the explanation for their actions.  Lost in the discussion was a less well known but very relevant quote from Cardinal Bergoglio shortly before he became Pope Francis--that is, comments made in 2010 when he fought to defend marriage from being redefined in Argentina:
“In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

Cardinal Bergoglio continued: “Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Keep the Faith--Live Forever

"Whoever loves me will keep my word,
    and my Father will love him,
    and we will come to him
    and make our dwelling with him."
                  (Jn 14:23)
One of my regular routines when I taught high school religion classes was the daily "closing ceremony":  After we wrapped up the lesson for the day, I would pause somewhat dramatically and ask the class, "What are you going to do on your journey home?!?"  And they were programmed to shout out, "Keep the faith!"
I'm not sure whether the students completely understood my intention.  Basically, my hope and prayer was that the Holy Spirit would work on their hearts to inspire them to know, love and live the fullness of the faith.  It seems to me that the Year of Faith was something akin to this.  As part of the "closing ceremonies" of his pontificate, Pope Benedict wanted to leave us with an inspiring gift, in the hopes that we would keep on keeping the faith in our respective journeys of life.
Even the logo for the Year helps reinforce the message:  The boat, representing the Church, sails along the sea with the cross of Christ as it's mast; the sails billow under the steady breeze of the Holy Spirit, in signs which form the trigram of Christ (IHS); in the background of the sails we see the sun, which also suggests the ever-present gift of the Blessed Sacrament.  It's as if the graphic artist wanted to remind us that we are a people on a journey.  The question is whether we will let the mystery of Christ's cross guide our voyage home, whether we will allow the Holy Spirit propel us onward, and whether we will open ourselves to the guiding light of the Eucharist.