Monday, December 30, 2013

Persons of the Year

Wasn't it incredible to see how much more attention Pope Francis received thanks to being named Time "Person of the Year"?  As if the walking face of the new evangelization doesn't already draw the eyes of the world with some new gesture of love each week, the secular press continues flocking to Francis.  They seem intrigued by the new light which he continues shining on old problems.

Perhaps one of the main reasons Time chose him was the simple fact that Pope Francis continues to be one of the best conversation starters as we head into 2014:  Isn't it fun to ask people what they think about the new pope, and then to sit back and see where the conversation leads?!

One theme which often emerges, however implicitly, is the sense that Francis is so different from his predecessor, Pope Benedict.  If our only categories of thought are "liberal" or "conservative," they certainly seem like a story of contrasts:  The "little poor man" following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, the Latin American herald of compassion, turns the Church onto dramatic new paths (hello "liberal" pope!); meanwhile his predecessor, the erudite European defender of Church dogma, retreats into the annals of history (farewell "conservative" pope!).  But perhaps both Benedict and Francis have challenged us to search for a new, more "catholic" perspective on life--beyond the tired alternatives of left or right, progressive or conservative.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Birth of God in History

Given the Mystery before which we kneel, perhaps words should cede to silence--clamor give way to contemplation. 
God who IS, and who has already been incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin for nine months, enters into the transient world of human history.  Being itself experiences becoming.  The divine Artist enter into the canvas of his own creation.  The Author and Director of Life becomes the protagonist in his own divine drama. 
The birth of Jesus speaks of something utterly unique and unrepeatable--inconceivable, really.  Except for this fact:  God so loved the world that he did indeed conceive such a marvelous plan: "Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lk 1:35).
A precious commentary by Oswald Chambers puts it thus:  "Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it.  He did not evolve out of history; he came into history from the outside.  Jesus Christ is not the best human being, he is a Being who cannot be accounted for by the human race at all.  He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate, God coming into human flesh, coming into it from outside.  His life is the Highest and the Holiest entering in at the Lowliest door." 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Signs of the Season
Advent is a time to renew our awareness of the countless ways that God discloses himself through signs, great and small.  In the events and moments and seeming coincidences of our daily lives, God charts a personalized plan for each of our lives.

But sometimes it is difficult to read God's signs.  Upon first glance, they can seem accidental, even obscure or irrelevant.  When we have eyes to see, however, everything fits together according to God's will.  The question is whether we will attune our vision to the most essential details of our daily lives.  After all, God's signs are usually small--like a grain of wheat fallen to the ground, or a "bump" in the womb of a young mother.

As we celebrate the fact that almighty God humbled himself to become one of us, let's remember that Jesus chooses to unite himself in a special way with the weak and the poor.  Our Lord centralizes the marginalized, even as he marginalizes those in central power (for their own good, of course). 

Let's remember that his Presence is a sign of hope for the least, and a cause of celebration for those of humble heart.  Thus, after Elizabeth rejoices at Mary's visitation, the Blessed Virgin sings out her praise of the Lord:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Light in the Darkness

Flickering candles guide our journey
through a sometimes shadowy season of Advent.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear?" (Ps 27:1).

The darkness lurks, and yet flees the approaching Light.

"The true light, which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world."
(Jn 1:9)
Like a spark from a flint, an uncreated burst of Energy enters time-- 
 a spark destined to be extinguished and then rise as a flaming furnace of Mercy.

"A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel" (Lk 3:11b).

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Joy of the Gospel

"What I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance
and important consequences.
I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort
to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion
which cannot leave things as they presently are.
‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough.
Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission’."

(EG, n. 25)
Whose world couldn't use more joy?!  And who hasn't had the sense that the Church, the mystical body of Christ in the world, "cannot leave things as they presently are"?
Although it is book-length and will take a commitment, lay men and women everywhere should consider diving into the full text of Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel.  At this point, I've only finished the first 1/3, but its precious and often pointed commentary, written in a swashbuckling style, offers gems like these:
  • Christ's joy in us: "The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ's cross, constantly invites us to rejoice" (n. 5).
  • The missionaries to the margins: "Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the 'peripheries' in need of the light of the Gospel" (n. 20).
  • The totality of the Christian message: "Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others" (n. 39). 
  • A missionary heart: "never closes itself off, never retreats into its own security, never opts for rigidity and always does what good it can, even if in the process, its shoes get soiled by the mud of the street" (n. 45).
  • Going forth to offer everyone the life of Christ: "I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and clinging to its own security" (n. 49).