Monday, September 28, 2015

A Papal Voyage and Profound Mission. By: C.C.

"In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life's different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course." (St.Boniface)
   To be a part of The Mystical Body of Christ calls us to a noble task. It is a demand that reminds us of our need to be a true reflection of Christ and His love. As Venerable Fulton Sheen once said  "We can't claim to be Christian unless we reflect the Person, the mind, the will, the heart & the humanity of Christ". This demands great things of each member of the Church. These demands are those that rightfully can not be fulfilled by man alone but must be entrusted to our Lord in faith.
To keep the Church on Her course is not a matter of criticizing everything one perceives wrong with Her, but to seek and learn more about everything She truly is and what this means for each of us as followers of Christ.
Our duty above all is to love as Christ loved and to pursue the path He walked in our daily walk through wherever our lives lead us. We carry out the mission of the Church in a powerful way when we personally commit to living our lives authentically in pursuit of Christian virtues. We keep the Church on Her course by keeping ourselves aligned with the teachings of Christ. A true exemplar of this is the Holy Father Pope Francis.
    It is difficult to navigate the internet these days without stumbling upon Pope Francis. Secular media in the western world has imploded with coverage and stories about the recent Papal visit to America. 
   As always there is heated talk and debate about what the Holy Father has said or has not said. We can remain attached to these words and to the absence of those that we wish he said, or we can turn our hearts and minds toward the One that our Holy Father is a reflection of. 
    It is alarming to me how many "devout Catholics" at times can be up in arms with criticism over the actions of our Holy Father. Such animosity toward his living out of the Gospel calls into question the authenticity of one's faith and perhaps exposes some vice(s) that need attention! 
    Pope Francis has repeatedly been misunderstood, poorly translated, and criticized. As too was Jesus. It is not the allure of political power nor a progressive desire that drives the Holy Father, it is the greatness of our Lord and the well being of the Holy Catholic Church entrusted to him. Many may have difficulty accepting the Catholic Church and what She demands through faith, but through a profound witness of living out the Gospel message those of us who claim to be Catholic can gently encourage another to encounter Christ. It can invite people beyond the idealistic and self-centred wants they may have of the Church and lead them to embrace the beautiful reality of what She already is. "Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course".
   The witness of Pope Francis this past week is much more than what he did or did not speak about. His actions and his presence reflect the love of the Lord and the truth of joy belonging to the faith alone that no script can proclaim. (CC) 


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Faithful Action By: C.C.

"The Lord God has given me a disciple's tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple.The Lord God has opened my ear and I have not resisted, I have not turned away.I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I have not turned my face away from insult and spitting.For the Lord God helps me; this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face like flint and know that I shall not be put to shame." (Isaiah 50: 4-7)
   We are not our own. All that God gives to us is not for us. Rather than being a seemingly harsh statement it is meant to lead us toward contemplating the reality that our Lord has made us for Himself. We are not made out of a selfish possessiveness but created by God who is love. His design in creating us for Himself alone is so that we may come to know the fullness of joy and fulfilment that He intends for us in this life and in the one to come. 
    Freely we either deny Him or lovingly turn toward Him so that we may be sent forth in love to others. By faith we can see that all given to us by God is for God. And in His love we come to see how the giving of ourselves away in service to others is a means of showing gratitude to God for the gifts He has given. Despite the receptivity of others to our kindness we are sent forth in love to give unconditionally. As today's first reading reminds us the Lord God is our help and we will not be put to shame for acting with virtue. 
   Thanksgiving to God for the grace that is given to us is manifested in the giving away of ourselves in the service of love to others. This reality can present a great challenge for us as we are surrounded by messages that promote and value self-preservation or personal merit as the ideal. 
    If we are given the gift of faith then we are also presented with the responsibility of it's demands. Today's second reading reflects upon faith and works. Our lives should be a living testimony of the faith that we profess. Most of us are called to serve Christ in the active vineyard of the world and are not cloistered in a cave in silent prayer. We can often seek monstrous ministries when the Lord calls us to first minister in the most simple ordinary moments of our lives. The impact of our actions as a reflection of the faith we claim to have does more for another, and in doing so does more to serve the Lord.  
   Our actions speak to ears that have not yet been opened. An act done out of faithful love and service can invite the opportunity for one to listen and come to know the Lord. Our mouths may be busy with prayerful ramblings , but if we do not "walk the talk" then these moments of prayer should be for our own increased faith. (CC)
  “The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”- St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, September 10, 2015

All Knowledge Belongs to God. By: C.C.

"Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears;it never reaches the heart.But when God's grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding,his word which has been received by the ear sinks deep into the heart."(St. Isidore of Seville)

  To thirst for knowledge is a wonderful thing. But if we forget the role of our Divine Instructor then our thirst and desire for learning may be rooted in a selfish hunger. The primacy of our desire to know anything must be to know Christ, as to better understand ourselves and our own human condition. The desire to know God is noble and one that will turn one's heart and mind to things that matter most. This seeking should lead us above all toward the heart of our Lord so that we may work to cultivate love for all according to His will (as we hear echoed in today's Gospel reading).
   To know Christ should lead us to serve Him most ardently with great fervour. Yet, many seek the Lord at times only to accredit themselves with knowledge. This knowledge does not belong to them, but most intimately with our Lord. An empty pursuit of wisdom leads one into themselves and not into the depth of Christ. In turn, one serves self violently, becoming disillusioned and only giving rise to their ego. Perhaps, at first this is unintentional and without malice. It is a slow winding path born from an apparent good and leading to the ill of pride. The subtle manner in which sin grasps the heart must be safe guarded by continuous surrender and love of the Sacraments. 

   The authentic desire to know God and love Him will be rewarded with a pure gift of wisdom. Such a gift demands responsibility. It must be embraced by humility, harvested by charity, and always shown through love. The wisdom that God gives to us should cultivate and foster love for His ways. It is not meant for division but for unity. Another's salvation is not to become our business or our pursuit if in doing this work we place ourselves above them and not among them! God has pursued us. It is He who saves. We are to concern ourself most with serving Him. We must recall time and time again our baseness and unworthiness, and His generous mercy!

  The hard hearted man remains in his head and pursues intellect alone, the virtuous man enters into his most inner self to grow in virtue and to gain wisdom. Let us pray to seek and serve with purity of intention so that the fruits may be plenty. (CC)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Praising the Thorns. By: C.C.

"God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). He does not take account of nobility of birth, length of time in his service, or the number of our good works. What counts with God is a devout soul's increased fervor and more ardent love. He does not consider how you once behaved , but what you have now begun to be."(St. Bonaventure)
   One of my favourite Scripture passages is from a letter St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in which he mentions the "thorn in his flesh". This thorn was permitted by God in order to prevent St. Paul from becoming too proud or elated in the many consolations that had been sent to him.
  The presence of this thorn serves as a reminder to St. Paul of his humanity and weakness. It leaves Him nothing to boast of except our Lord. In fact, this is where the beautiful gift and grace of his suffering blossoms. As a broken instrument St. Paul shines forth the majesty and works of our Lord through the simplicity of his surrender and the silent shout of his struggles to God. 
  St. Paul, like all of us battles with imperfection and the toil of temptation. The experience of temptation may vary from one person to the next, but there is struggle. We can at times live in the shadow of our past experiences and wounds. Some of our sins can still linger in the corners of our hearts and minds even after many Confessions and moments of repentance. There are wounds that may resurface and still burn. 
   God's mercy and love is unconditional. As St. Bonaventure reminds us God "does not consider how you once behaved, but what you have now begun to be". We can often become so self-absorbed with the difficulties we face and the "thorns in our side" that we overlook the profound grace God has sent us. We can long for the quickest fix to our problems and pain, especially when faced with many messages in our surroundings preaching instant gratification. From fast food to instant communication we can fall into the temptation of longing to have even our deepest hurts healed with the press of a button. Unfortunately, and thankfully thorns remain. 
   If we remain rooted in Christ and honestly seek to follow Him with "increased fervor and more ardent love" we can be assured that our "Divine Physician" will bring about the healing we need in order to carry out the mission He has called us to at the pace that we can handle for His good. Should we be pricked by a thorn or two from time to time let us recognize in these moments the way that this too is for our good and the good of others. We are not polished and perfected because we strive to live in accordance to God's plan. We are broken and wounded and in that we share good company with some of the best! I question the motive of those who claim to have it "all" together as they strive to witness to God's goodness. The truth is we are all as together as we can possibly be because of the goodness of God. The only thing we should claim to hold together are our hands in perpetual prayer. 
    I live with the thorn of my past in my side. Not in a scrupulous way but it reminds me time and time again of God's goodness and mercy in my life. It reminds me of the ongoing journey of conversion. I used to fear encountering those who knew me before I began practising my faith. I was worried about their judgement and truthfully a bit self absorbed in how "they" would see me, or remember me. Over time I began to recognize the amazing way God's transforming grace spoke through in these encounters and eventually brought great joy. Hearing "there's something so different about you" reminded me of the Someone greater than all of us that knocked me off my horse! The memories, not so glorious have been healed by our Lord, but every now and then there is the grace of a thorn prick to remind me Who God is and who I am not. A prick that corrects my judgement and allows me to recognize that being perfect is not important to serve God. The prick of the thorn reminds me to see others through the lens of my own brokenness and not with partiality.
God "does not consider how you once behaved , but what you have now begun to be."  May we strive to remember how we once behaved, so that we may forever live rejoicing to God by the witness of our lives and what we have begun to be by His mercy. (CC)