Sunday, October 26, 2014

Our Spiritual Fathers


Some people live under the sign of their horoscope.  But what if, as Catholics, we are spiritually linked to the Holy Father who was pontiff when we were born?

My gut intuition is that our spiritual Holy Fathers have something personal to say to each of their sons and daughters.  So do you know who was pope when you were born?  Do you have a favorite saying or inspirational passage from your spiritual Holy Father?  Are you a Pius XII, a John XXIII, or a Paul VI Catholic (like me)--or are you part of the "Catholic boomer" generation, born during the epic papacy of John Paul II?  Wherever each of us falls demographically, we are blessed to be on an incredible run of holy Holy Fathers, so we can rest assured that they are interceding on our behalf.

Maybe our spiritual Holy Fathers complement the work of our earthly fathers and our baptismal Godfathers, supplementing where there were deficiencies or failures and reinforcing where there were solid foundations laid for us.  In honor of the recent beatification of Pope Paul VI, I'd like to share some "gratitude attitude" for his ongoing role in my life.

After guiding the Second Vatican Council to its conclusion, Paul VI stood courageously and prophetically on at least three major issues which have helped shape who I am:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Of Synods, Sinners, and Saints

"The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization":
The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 2014
The Pharisees and the Herodians join forces in trying to skewer Jesus on the horns of a dilemma, hoping to cause a schism among his followers.  But what if this is the story line not only of a recent Sunday Gospel (Mt 22:15-21), but also of the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family?

Might we imagine the following variation on the passage noted above:

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap the Synod Fathers in speech.
They sent their disciples to them, with the Herodians, saying,
"...Is it lawful to reach out to those in 'irregular' family situations or not?"

A simple "Yes" to this question would worry those who are concerned about truth:  Will the Church be faithful to her mission of safeguarding God's unchangeable teachings?  A blunt "No" to this question would worry those who are concerned about mercy:  Will the Church be faithful to her mission of offering God's universal gift of salvation to the world?

In the Gospel account noted above, of course, the Pharisees ostensibly care about observing the letter of the law, and they resent that Jesus invites sinners and tax collectors to a new life.  As collaborators with the Romans, the Herodians are concerned about making accommodations with the worldly powers-that-be, and they resent that Jesus brings a counter-cultural vision of the human person to those whose hearts are yearning for something more.

Both groups resent that Jesus holds truth and mercy together.  When Jesus says, "For the Son of man has come to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk 19:10), he in unafraid of calling "the lost" lost, even as he seeks them out and offers them a fresh start.  Thus Jesus reveals that presenting the truth without mercy is not truthful, just as offering mercy without the truth is not merciful. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Life vs. Indifference

Respect Life Sunday 2014

"I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."
(Jn 10:10)

But we live in such confusing and disorienting times.  The attitude seems to be "whatever"--as in "whatever goes," and "don't bother me".  Indeed, Pope Francis maintains that "a globalization of indifference has developed"; he writes that, "Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility and not our own" (EG, n. 34). 

So would we even recognize the abundant life if we saw it--or if it reached out to touch us?!  And are we even able to weep at the suffering of yet another "masterpiece of God's creation"?

Each October, the Church's celebration of Respect Life Sunday is intended to help us overcome our indifference.  If the theme seems at times politicized and polarizing, it may be because there are so many confusing and disorienting "Life" issues to sort out:

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Mystery of God
Each Sunday, Catholics around the world profess faith in a God who is higher than the highest height, and yet closer than my inmost self: "I believe in one God..."  This initial and most fundamental affirmation of the Christian faith immerses us in the Mystery of God. 

But our God is not a puzzle which we need to solve, or a logarithm which we must comprehend.  Rather, our God is a Person with whom we enter into relationship.  Indeed, St. Paul speaks of God as the One in whom "we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  We always already exist in relation to the Mystery of God, so the question for each of us becomes how we might grow in awareness of and openness to this living Presence.

But who is our God, and what are the implications of believing in him?

Our God is neither identical with his creation nor separate from it; our God is not an abstract or anonymous Power which kicked creation down the proverbial hill and then retreated to watch the show from a distance.  Rather, our God reveals his very name--"I AM" (Ex 3:15)--in order to assure us that He is not just one being among many.  Our God IS the very act of existence itself.