Monday, July 28, 2014

Signs of Undercover Catholics
We all know and admire them.  They impress us in various ways and inspire others to be better people.  As you move through this week, keep an eye out for friends and neighbors who bear these marks of being "undercover Catholics":
  1. They are drawn to beauty, and they know it's not just in the eye of the beholder.
  2. They want to make the world a better place.
  3. They ignore gossip and refrain from detraction.
  4. They know that love is more than just an emotion, and so they choose to love each day.
  5. They look first for the good in others.
  6. They own their possessions, not vice-versa (and they try to give them away as if they belong to someone else).
  7. They care about the common good.
  8. They understand that a person's soul is infinitely precious.
  9. They strive to live in solidarity with those who are vulnerable.
  10. They are willing to make sacrifices for others.
Like most practicing Catholics, these "undercover Catholics" don't necessarily exhibit all of these characteristics--but they wish they did.  In fact, deep down they want to be not just "nice" but holy, and they realize that "The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life is not to become a saint" (Leon Bloy). 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Christ in the Border Crisis

With so much violence spilling over around the world--witness the Ukraine, Syria, Israel and Palestine, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan--it's easy to gloss over the violence which lurks behind our nation's ongoing border crisis.
In recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Unaccompanied Children, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas emphasized that "Violence perpetrated by organized transnational gangs, loosely-affiliated criminal imitators of gangs, and drug cartels, has permeated all aspects of life in Central American and is one of the primary factors driving the migration of children from the region" (p. 7).  Isn't it time that we begin to address both the immediate crisis and the root causes--through both works of mercy and works of justice?
Of course, even to ask this question and raise this topic is bound to offend someone:  The political polarization is so extreme; visceral reactions simmer just below the surface of apparent civility.  As followers of Jesus, however, we should be willing to admit to ourselves and to others that we know what needs to be done.  Here are seven starting points for more meaningful conversations about the boarder crisis: 

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Metric for Missionary Disciples

What if we're all "on the spectrum"?  Wouldn't it be nice to evaluate to what extent we are "spiritually worldly" and to what extent we are becoming the "missionary disciples" Christ needs us to be?

The brief self-assessment below flows out of Pope Francis' commentary on "Spiritual Worldliness" in The Joy of the Gospel (EG, nn., 93-97).  The Holy Father lays out the issue as follows:  "Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in seeking not the Lord's glory but human glory and personal well-being" (EG, n. 93).  So, take a quick look at where you stand in relation to the goal of growing in holiness as a missionary disciple of Jesus:
Spiritual Worldliness                                                 Missionary Discipleship           
0       1        2         3            4          5          6          7          8         9         10    
Seeking human glory                                                     Seeking the Lord's glory
and personal well-being                                                 and the well-being of others
Subtly pursuing                                                               Openly pursing
one's own interests                                                          Christ's interests
Cultivating appearances                                                  Cultivating ongoing
                                                                                         conversion of heart
Concerned with feeling                                                    Concerned with the
superior to others                                                             Gospel and the good
                                                                                         of others
Pursuing the pleasure of                                                  Embracing evangelical
complacency and self-indulgence                                   fervor
Attracted by elitism                                                          Willing to open the door
and classifying others                                                       of grace to others

Preoccupied with the Church                                            Concerned with the
as an institution, the property                                            Church as the People of 
of a select few                                                                   God, especially the poor 
Enjoying talk about                                                            Offering of one's life
"what needs to be done"                                                    in a spirit of service
Fascinated with social                                                        Bearing the mark of
and political gain                                                                Christ crucified and risen

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Renewed Personal Encounter

"I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment,
to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ,
or at least an openness to letting him encounter them;
I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. 
No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her..."
(Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel [=EG], n. 3). 

What if you had a chance to hear the basic proclamation of the Gospel anew, as if for the first time?  Wouldn't it be wonderful to really hear not just that there is a God, but that he is both higher than the highest height and closer than our inmost self?

Wouldn't it be transformative and life-changing to hear that this one true God is a Father?  Your Father, and my Father.  Wouldn't it change our lives to know that the Father loves us intimately and personally--in and through the seemingly mundane details of our daily lives.

What if we could embrace the truth that this loving Father knows that our world is a mess and understands that each of us is wounded or hurting in some way?  So passionate and so compassionate is this Father that he is literally willing to give away his only-begotten Son.  For you, and for me.  Wouldn't it fill you with wonder and awe to learn that this heavenly Father purposefully sent his beloved Son to empty himself, so that the world might again be full of love?  He wants each of us to know that we are never alone and that the Son saves us--through his passion, death and Resurrection.

What if we could open our hearts to this beautiful revelation of the Triune God, as he pours out his Spirit upon us right now?  The salvation and wholeness offered by the God-Man is extended to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Wouldn't it bring us true peace and authentic hope if we really knew that the Son of God wants each of us to have so much more life?  Indeed, he knows we cannot be who we want to be on our own, so he reassures us that the Holy Spirit transforms us.  The Lord knows that we cannot find the fulfillment of our heart's deepest desires on our own; so, thanks to the work of the Spirit, he liberates us from self-centered slavery, for other-centered freedom.