November 27, 2020

Pope Francis: A Crisis Reveals What Is in Our Hearts


To come out of this pandemic better than we went in, we must let ourselves be touched by others’ pain.

 

From "Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future," by Pope Francis

 

In this past year of change, my mind and heart have overflowed with people. People I think of and pray for, and sometimes cry with, people with names and faces, people who died without saying goodbye to those they loved, families in difficulty, even going hungry, because there’s no work.

 

Sometimes, when you think globally, you can be paralyzed: There are so many places of apparently ceaseless conflict; there’s so much suffering and need. I find it helps to focus on concrete situations: You see faces looking for life and love in the reality of each person, of each people. You see hope written in the story of every nation, glorious because it’s a story of daily struggle, of lives broken in self-sacrifice. So rather than overwhelm you, it invites you to ponder and to respond with hope.

 

These are moments in life that can be ripe for change and conversion. Each of us has had our own “stoppage,” or if we haven’t yet, we will someday: illness, the failure of a marriage or a business, some great disappointment or betrayal. As in the Covid-19 lockdown, those moments generate a tension, a crisis that reveals what is in our hearts.

 

In every personal “Covid,” so to speak, in every “stoppage,” what is revealed is what needs to change: our lack of internal freedom, the idols we have been serving, the ideologies we have tried to live by, the relationships we have neglected.

 

When I got really sick at the age of 21, I had my first experience of limit, of pain and loneliness. It changed the way I saw life. For months, I didn’t know who I was or whether I would live or die. The doctors had no idea whether I’d make it either. I remember hugging my mother and saying, “Just tell me if I’m going to die.” I was in the second year of training for the priesthood in the diocesan seminary of Buenos Aires.

 

I remember the date: Aug. 13, 1957. I got taken to a hospital by a prefect who realized mine was not the kind of flu you treat with aspirin. Straightaway they took a liter and a half of water out of my lungs, and I remained there fighting for my life. The following November they operated to take out the upper right lobe of one of the lungs. I have some sense of how people with Covid-19 feel as they struggle to breathe on a ventilator.

 

I remember especially two nurses from this time. One was the senior ward matron, a Dominican sister who had been a teacher in Athens before being sent to Buenos Aires. I learned later that following the first examination by the doctor, after he left she told the nurses to double the dose of medication he had prescribed — basically penicillin and streptomycin — because she knew from experience I was dying. Sister Cornelia Caraglio saved my life. Because of her regular contact with sick people, she understood better than the doctor what they needed, and she had the courage to act on her knowledge.

 

Another nurse, Micaela, did the same when I was in intense pain, secretly prescribing me extra doses of painkillers outside my due times. Cornelia and Micaela are in heaven now, but I’ll always owe them so much. They fought for me to the end, until my eventual recovery. They taught me what it is to use science but also to know when to go beyond it to meet particular needs. And the serious illness I lived through taught me to depend on the goodness and wisdom of others.

 

This theme of helping others has stayed with me these past months. In lockdown I’ve often gone in prayer to those who sought all means to save the lives of others. So many of the nurses, doctors and caregivers paid that price of love, together with priests, and religious and ordinary people whose vocations were service. We return their love by grieving for them and honoring them.

 

Whether or not they were conscious of it, their choice testified to a belief: that it is better to live a shorter life serving others than a longer one resisting that call. That’s why, in many countries, people stood at their windows or on their doorsteps to applaud them in gratitude and awe. They are the saints next door, who have awakened something important in our hearts, making credible once more what we desire to instill by our preaching.

 

They are the antibodies to the virus of indifference. They remind us that our lives are a gift and we grow by giving of ourselves, not preserving ourselves but losing ourselves in service.

 

With some exceptions, governments have made great efforts to put the well-being of their people first, acting decisively to protect health and to save lives. The exceptions have been some governments that shrugged off the painful evidence of mounting deaths, with inevitable, grievous consequences. But most governments acted responsibly, imposing strict measures to contain the outbreak.

 

Yet some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions — as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom! Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.

 

It is all too easy for some to take an idea — in this case, for example, personal freedom — and turn it into an ideology, creating a prism through which they judge everything.

 

The coronavirus crisis may seem special because it affects most of humankind. But it is special only in how visible it is. There are a thousand other crises that are just as dire, but are just far enough from some of us that we can act as if they don’t exist. Think, for example, of the wars scattered across different parts of the world; of the production and trade in weapons; of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing poverty, hunger and lack of opportunity; of climate change. These tragedies may seem distant from us, as part of the daily news that, sadly, fails to move us to change our agendas and priorities. But like the Covid-19 crisis, they affect the whole of humanity.

 

Look at us now: We put on face masks to protect ourselves and others from a virus we can’t see. But what about all those other unseen viruses we need to protect ourselves from? How will we deal with the hidden pandemics of this world, the pandemics of hunger and violence and climate change?

 

If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain. There’s a line in Friedrich Hölderlin’s “Hyperion” that speaks to me, about how the danger that threatens in a crisis is never total; there’s always a way out: “Where the danger is, also grows the saving power.” That’s the genius in the human story: There’s always a way to escape destruction. Where humankind has to act is precisely there, in the threat itself; that’s where the door opens.

 

This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities — what we value, what we want, what we seek — and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of.

 

God asks us to dare to create something new. We cannot return to the false securities of the political and economic systems we had before the crisis. We need economies that give to all access to the fruits of creation, to the basic needs of life: to land, lodging and labor. We need a politics that can integrate and dialogue with the poor, the excluded and the vulnerable, that gives people a say in the decisions that affect their lives. We need to slow down, take stock and design better ways of living together on this earth.

 

The pandemic has exposed the paradox that while we are more connected, we are also more divided. Feverish consumerism breaks the bonds of belonging. It causes us to focus on our self-preservation and makes us anxious. Our fears are exacerbated and exploited by a certain kind of populist politics that seeks power over society. It is hard to build a culture of encounter, in which we meet as people with a shared dignity, within a throwaway culture that regards the well-being of the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled and the unborn as peripheral to our own well-being.

 

To come out of this crisis better, we have to recover the knowledge that as a people we have a shared destination. The pandemic has reminded us that no one is saved alone. What ties us to one another is what we commonly call solidarity. Solidarity is more than acts of generosity, important as they are; it is the call to embrace the reality that we are bound by bonds of reciprocity. On this solid foundation we can build a better, different, human future.

October 24, 2020

FREE AT LAST


California has withdrawn a law that went into effect last January 1.

It forbade freelance writers, editors and photographers from providing more than 34 content submissions to a media organization per year unless the organization hired the freelancer as a salaried employee.

Patheos is a media organization, and I am a freelancer.

 So I had to limit my posts there to 34 per year, or 1 post about every 10 days.

Now that the law is no longer in effect, there is no limit to the frequency of my posting at Patheos.

So, for the time being, I don't need to use "Monk Notes" here to get around the limits of the California law.

Please find me at my Patheos column, "Turn. Love. Repeat."

October 11, 2020

The "Wedding Garment" Is Not About New Clothes to Wear, but New Ways of Being


Matthew 22:1-14 for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time.


The King’s invitation to his son’s wedding feast is all grace, graciousness and gratis.

The invitation is to all, bad or good, but all must come dressed worthily for a wedding.

Openness, but also conditionality: the same contrast and tension were present when Christ first began to preach in public.

Openness: The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Conditionality: Repent and believe in the Gospel!

The kingdom of heaven is open, but to walk into it is repentance: met├ínoia— a new mind— a challenge to one’s old ways of feeling, reasoning, choosing, acting and living.

Repentance is the worthy wedding garment.

To get one means to work, earn, save, spend, buy and put on a new way that challenges one’s old ways.

Heaven is open, and everyone has an invitation.

To step into heaven’s doors means to put aside what is old, and to work and spend to put on what is new.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Repent and believe in the Gospel!

God wants more and better for us than we can imagine.

He calls us to change into a wedding garment.

He alone makes it possible, but wants us to take up and do what he has made possible.

God in Christ lavishes on us a possibility and a reality better than anything else: he lavishes on us his very own self.

As our Creed at Mass puts it: For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.

He left heaven behind to be with us and like us in joy and sorrow, in life and death, in all things but sin.

In his Eucharistic Body and Blood, God opens for us the wedding feast of the kingdom of heaven, but if we do nothing we lock ourselves out.

There is hope for us in the Eucharist of Christ the Bridegroom, who for us all and for our salvation was tied up, thrown out of the holy city, stripped of his garment and crucified.

For us he suffered, died, was buried and descended into hell.

On the third day he rose from the dead, in the garment of nuptial Flesh and Blood made forever undying and glorious.

So, in his Eucharist, Christ lives, suffers, fulfills and surpasses the whole parable in today’s Gospel.

Here in the supreme goodness and love of his Eucharist, Christ clothes us with the wedding garment of his own ever-living, glorious Flesh and Blood.

The resurrection of God the Son in our humanity, our flesh, and blood is the Royal Wedding.

God the Spirit gives everlasting life and glory to our flesh and blood in Christ.

The Spirit is the Lord, the Giver of Life.

It falls to us to take hold, wear and live the life God freely gives.

This is the wedding feast, the supper of the Lamb.

Let us approach with joy and hope, but also with faithful love that repents.

Let us live what we receive, so that the Father may recognize us clothed with Christ his Son both now and in the life of the world to come.

 

Turn. Love. Repeat.

 

October 10, 2020

Is She "Blessed or Not?


 

Luke 11:27-28 for Saturday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time.

While Jesus was speaking,

a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,

“Blessed is the womb that carried you

and the breasts at which you nursed.”

He replied, “Rather BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD AND OBSERVE IT.”

In its first pages, this Gospel shows that Mary the mother of Christ was a BLESSED hearer and observer of the word of God.

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth to speak the word of God to Mary.

Gabriel gave her a godly BLESSING. [Lk. 1:28-30]

Hail, O Full of Grace!

The Lord is with you.

Mary, YOU HAVE FOUND FAVOR WITH GOD.

To have FAVOR with God is the heart and soul of all BLESSEDNESS and is the greatest of BLESSINGS.

It is the beginning and fulfillment of salvation.

Mary was the first in the Gospels and Christian history upon whom the word of salvation was pronounced.

You have found favor with God.

You will conceive in your womb and bear a son.

The Holy Spirit will overshadow you.

Therefore the child will be the Son of God. [Lk. 1:30,31,35]

To this word of God Mary chose freely to answer: Behold, I am the slave of the Lord— let it be to me according to your word. [Lk. 1:38]

She did indeed hear the word of God and observe it.

BLESSED are those who hear the word of God and observe it.

After overshadowing Mary, the Holy Spirit rushed upon Mary’s kinswoman Elizabeth, as the Gospel tells.

Using Elizabeth’s voice, GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT called out to Mary.

BLESSED are you among women,

and BLESSED is the fruit of your womb! [Lk. 1:42]

BLESSED is she who believed in the fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord! [Lk. 1:45]

Those are the words of GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT, not the words of the nameless woman in the crowd of today’s Gospel.

BLESSED is Mary who did indeed hear the word of God and observe it.

That is Gospel truth.

There is still more in the Gospel about Mary’s faithful obedience.

After Christ ascended into heaven, his disciples heeded his bidding to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Word of the Lord says ALL of them— THE WHOLE OF CHRISTIANITYwith one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with ... Mary the mother of Jesus. [Acts 1:14]

Years before the rest of Christianity was born, Mary in Nazareth was the one to whom the powerful, overshadowing Holy Spirit had already come.

Mary, woman of the Spirit, Mary in the midst of the praying Church, still calls down the Spirit upon the disciples of her Son.

Mary’s history and faith are signs of hope for us.

The Word of the Lord about Mary shows what happens when a human person does indeed willingly hear the word of God and observe it.

The Word of the Lord about Mary shows that the Spirit comes to us when we give our own word to God and observe God’s Word.

When the Spirit comes to us in our obedience, then the Son of God and his Flesh and Blood— both his Church and his Eucharist— come into the world as God’s saving work.

In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to us in person, in Flesh and Blood, in the power of the Spirit, offering each of US what the angel said of Mary.

HAIL, O FULL OF GRACE!

THE LORD IS WITH YOU.

YOU HAVE FOUND FAVOR WITH GOD.

In his Eucharist, Christ gives us favor and BLESSING by nursing us with his Blood and bearing us in his Body.

His BLESSING, however, is also a command: Do this in memory of me.

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.

 

Turn. Love. Repeat.

 

September 26, 2020

Orthodox Lip Service Versus Repentant Disobedience

 



For the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to Matthew [21:28-32].

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:

"What is your opinion?

A man had two sons.

He came to the first and said,

'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'

He said in reply, 'I will not, '

but afterwards changed his mind and went.

The man came to the other son and gave the same order.

He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.

Which of the two did his father's will?"

They answered, "The first."

Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you,

tax collectors and prostitutes

are entering the kingdom of God before you.

When John came to you in the way of righteousness,

you did not believe him;

but tax collectors and prostitutes did.

Yet even when you saw that,

you did not later change your minds and believe him."

The first son refused to be orthodox in his words and deeds.

But he repented, changed his mind and went to do his father’s will.

The second son gave his father orthodox lip service, but there was no orthodoxy in his real deeds after all.

Listen!

Amen, I say to you,

tax collectors and prostitutes

are entering the kingdom of God before you.

When John came to you in the way of righteousness,

you did not believe him;

but tax collectors and prostitutes did.

Yet even when you saw that,

you did not later change your minds and believe him.

Enough said.


Turn. Love. Repeat.


September 24, 2020

If Only We Were More Like Herod

 

"Feast of Herod," by Lucas Cranach the Elder.


Luke 9:7-9 for Thursday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time.

 

We also have heard the same things that left Herod greatly perplexed.

However, we acknowledge and venerate even more about Christ than Herod knew at the time in today’s Gospel.

How good it would be if only we were more like Herod in being greatly perplexed with amazement and curiosity.

Christ himself, the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God’s
creation
, wishes we were either cold or hot, but never merely lukewarm or room temperature. [See Rev. 3:14-16.]

We need to wake up and warm up to the fact that only God is necessary, and we are not.

The existence of all creation is a mystery of God’s freedom, his will, his grace and his love.

That we are alive at all should leave us greatly perplexed, amazed, full of wonder and thankfulness.

There is more.

In the face of our forgetfulness, rebellion, sin and ingratitude, God freely chose to become the SLAVE who with his own life and death undoes our sin and suffering, and re-creates us as his partners in glory.

That did not have to happen; and by all the RIGHTS of God should NOT have happened.

In the face of the extravagant, exorbitant, outrageous mystery of our redemption, we should be even more greatly perplexed than Herod.

The mystery of our redemption and glorification through Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection is so perplexing, so completely beyond the bounds of our capacity, that we must ultimately surrender and BORROW, as it were, CHRIST’S own wondrous thankfulness, Christ’s own wonderful sacrifice in order to thank worthily the Father for all that he has done in creating and redeeming us.

Here in the Eucharist, Christ in his personal thankfulness and sacrifice is really present.

Here, God re-creates us.

Here, God redeems us.

Here, through Christ, with him and in him we give God fitting honor, glory and thanksgiving for all that he has done for us.

 

Turn. Love. Repeat.

 

September 19, 2020

Nothings Who Owe Everything

 



Matthew 20:1-16 for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time


With today’s Gospel parable, Christ upholds God’s boundless freedom and openhandedness.

God acts with untold freedom, and is openhanded to the point of seeming foolish and unfair.

His freedom to do what he wills goes against the belief we might at first hold in hearing this parable.

For, whereas the parable’s vineyard owner OWES his workers their earnings, God— who MADE us from NOTHING— God OWES us NOTHING.

What he gives any of us is thoroughgoing grace and openhandedness beyond all earthly reckoning.

Owing us nothing and needing nothing, God is unfathomable in the freedom with which he gives his all to those he made from nothing.

It is the freedom of thoroughgoing love.

In the face of it the most and the best we can do is fall into grateful wonder and worship.

Even in our best and greatest worship, we borrow from God.

In Christ his Son, God himself becomes the payment for what we owe him.

We can do no better than throw ourselves utterly into Christ’s sacrifice of himself.

In taking, eating and drinking his Eucharistic Body and Blood with freedom and the right goal, we are taken IN and UP with Christ in his sacrifice of perfect thankfulness and worship.

If we give ourselves over to it, the Eucharist takes, eats and drinks US into Christ up to the Father in the oneness of the Holy Spirit.

In the Father’s kingdom the first are no longer first, and the last are no longer last.

All owe a debt to God, and none but Christ can pay.

All owe a debt, but Christ alone has paid for all.

What we have left is the mission of spending our lives to worship and imitate God in his goodness to us.

Our lives need to uphold, show and flow from the Eucharistic worship we offer to God.


Turn. Love. Repeat.


September 14, 2020

All Is Upside Down and Backwards



Numbers 21:4-9, Philippians2:6-11 and John 3:13-17 for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 14 September.


How odd to speak of the Exaltation of the Cross that is a tool of humiliation, torture and execution!

How odd all the Word of the Lord is today!

In all three readings things are upside down and backwards.

Moses lifted up the lifeless image of a serpent on a pole to heal the people of deadly snakebite that came as a punishment for their sin.

Then, God’s beloved Son is to be lifted up in death on the beams of a cross, so that whoever believes in him may be healed of sin and death, and gain eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son ... that the world might be saved through him.

To ransom a slave and rebel, God gave up his Son.

All-Holy God pays for our sins by his own death on the Cross.

However, our benefit is the smaller part of what took place on the Cross— the smaller part of what the Gospel reveals.

Today in his Gospel the Lord speaks of himself as the Son who has received himself from the Father, has come down from the Father to the earth, and goes up back to the Father.

Today his Gospel also tells us of the Father who in love gives his Word, overflowing himself in his Son that the world might be saved through him.

Today’s Gospel unfolds the meaning of earlier words about how the Father’s Spirit is at work in us through the Son.

By Baptismal Water and the Holy Spirit, our lives misshapen by sin and death are turned upside down and backwards, and we are reborn into the Son of God, reborn into his human life, reborn into his death, reborn into his resurrection, ascension and exaltation, reborn in him as royal sons and daughters of the heavenly Father.

The invincibly living mystery of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is present and powerful in the Crucified Death of Christ.

That is why we always name the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as we make the sign of the Cross.

God, who is Love lifted up on the Cross, draws us all to himself, to his fulfillment of love on the Cross.

That is the lure, the beauty, the triumph and Exaltation of the Cross, though by nature it be a tool of defeat and shame.

God in Christ in his love on the cross freely chose to undergo, undertake and underlie all that is human even unto death.

This truth, this historical event has the power to draw all that is in our hearts, minds, strength and will.

We need to know, have, and return this love emptying itself on the Cross— love absolutely present and absolutely fulfilled in history, flesh and blood.

Here in the humble and exalted Eucharistic Flesh and Blood of Christ:

the power of the Spirit gives us birth and life in God;

the Father reveals and gives his love;

and the Son offers himself and our own humanity,

through the power of the Spirit,

to the Father with obedience and gratitude.

On his Cross, in his Resurrection, Ascension and Eucharist, Christ our God and Savior gives us triumph and exaltation.

 

Turn. Love. Repeat.

 

September 12, 2020

Ugly Jesus: God Is a Bean Counter Who Uses Torture



 

Matthew 18:21-35 for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

 

It was Christ’s way to teach with tales that at times went over the top.

His teaching in today’s Gospel did it, and left no room for any if, and, or but.

God forgives us, so we must forgive others.

That was Christ’s teaching in today’s Gospel, but he hammered it out with a frightful tale.

Let us mark these ugly images, and so let Christ drive home his teaching.

First: that the kingdom of heaven is like a king who kept a reckoning of everything his servants owed him.

God as a bean counter!

Then Christ added to that ugliness.

One servant could not pay back his overwhelming borrowings.

So the king set to sell him along with his wife, children, and belongings to begin to get what was owed him.

That is a foul image of God.

But then Christ turned that ugliness into beauty.

The servant begged for mercy and time to pay the king back in full.

The king could have done well and good to say: I will give you time, and you shall pay me back in full.

However, Christ instead said the king mercifully forgave the loan and let the man go free.

Christ then went on with the lesson, but brought back into it more ugliness.

The servant went and without mercy jailed a fellow servant who owed him much less.

The king heard of it, took the merciless servant he had forgiven, and now handed him over to the TORTURERS.

TORTURE— and Christ using it as an image of God’s ways!

Torture, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church [2297] says, is a sin against respect for the person and for human dignity.

Speaking of TORTURE, Christ brings his tale to a threatening end.

So will my heavenly Father do to you, UNLESS each of you forgives your brother from your heart.

The heavenly Father as a bean-counting king who can be merciful, but also turns to TORTURE!

A tale of frightful, over-the-top ugliness!

However, the ugliness is not the goal, but only a tool to hammer home the teaching: God forgives us, so we must forgive others.

Christ filled out this teaching with the true tale of his own life, death, and resurrection.

We still have and witness the living true tale of Christ in the sacraments and the Mass throughout the Church year.

The living tale of Christ in all his truth, all his might and all his work comes to us whenever we celebrate, offer and receive his Eucharistic Body and Blood.

It is here for us at this hour in this church.

In this living, true tale, Christ is the king, while you and I owe him.

He does not sell us along with our families and belongings.

In the Eucharist, the Living True Tale of Christ in Flesh and Blood, our King and God has sold HIMSELF to buy us back for our own sakes and to pay off what WE owe HIM.

He shouldered our sin-guilt, the debt we owe him.

He is the Lamb of God who takes away on his own back the sins of the world.

He did so even before we dared to ask.

When we do ask him for mercy, we are asking our King to take onto HIS own self OUR sin-guilt.

But then the Living True Tale of Christ goes over the top unspeakably more.

He— our King, Master, Creator, Lord and God— willingly underwent TORTURE for the debt of our sins against him.

In return for his taking on our guilt, he lays his godliness, innocence and inheritance upon us.

This wonderful exchange of our humanity for his divinity, our guilt for his innocence, our sin-enslaved creaturehood for his divine sonship— all this is again present, renewed and strengthened in us when we celebrate, offer and receive the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist, food and drink really become the Body and Blood of Christ, exchanged for the debts of us sinners.

By the Eucharist we share in Christ’s Life, Work, Suffering, Death, Resurrection, Ascension and Holy Spirit.

As we draw near to it, we declare our guilt, so as to be eligible for Christ’s innocence.

For that exchange, we are over the top in owing thanksgiving and worship.

The tale is more than true: God has forgiven, so we must forgive, lest frightful ugliness be our only lot forever.

 

Turn. Love. Repeat.

 

September 10, 2020

Mercy: Diffuse It or Lose It

Pixabay / Public Domain.


Luke 6:27-38 for Thursday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

 

In today’s Gospel, Christ calls us to follow our heavenly Father and show him to the world through generosity that is boundless, unreasonable and careless.

God creates, loves, and saves us with boundless, unreasonable and careless generosity.

Natural human love normally has REASONS behind it.

Something in another draws us; or something in us pushes us toward another.

Faith in God who IS Love gives different reasons to love others than the natural and normal human reasons.

God creates and loves us without needing us or owing it to us.

God loves us for no reason but his own goodness and freedom.

Nothing in US gives God a reason, attraction, motive, or obligation to love us.

Love that is DESERVED or EARNED does not come from God, whose love is totally free.

God’s love has no needs, likes or dislikes.

God’s love is absolute might and freedom to be faithful forever, no matter how detestable the circumstances— even when we reject and deny him, even when we do evil.

God alone can love in THAT way.

God does NOT love us for what we HAVE or not, what we DO or not, what we ARE or not, HOW we are or not.

We cannot attract, deserve or obligate God’s love.

Nonetheless, God HAS chosen us, and God DOES love us.

Christian faith gives our self-esteem and sense of dignity a foundation in the mystery of God, who loves out of his own goodness and freedom.

So Christ calls us to let go of all other sources of security, comfort, confidence and self-esteem, because those are nothing before God.

God in Christ calls us to esteem and love others— whether friends or foes— NOT because of what they have, do or are, but because GOD esteems and loves them.

As Christ said in today’s Gospel: Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.

In that way we live mercifully as sons and daughters of God.

Here in the Eucharist of the Son of God, we eat and drink God’s merciful new and eternal covenant ... for the forgiveness of sins.

Thereby he commands us to live his mercy in our thoughts, words and deeds: Do this in memory of me.

 

Turn. Love. Repeat.

 

September 08, 2020

The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

The Mother of God, St. Joachim and St. Ann

Matthew 1:1-16,18-23


The Word of God tells us that everything our heavenly Father wills always meets with the eternal “yes” and living gratitude of the divine Son.

The Father’s will and the Son’s obedient gratitude are also alive with the eternal power and communion of the Holy Spirit.

The Father’s will, the Son’s obedience and gratitude, the Spirit’s power and communion— this is the Love that made the universe.

We came into being from the will of the Father, from the obedient “yes” and living gratitude of the Son, and from the power and communion of the Spirit.

However, through sin we have shut our eyes and turned our backs against this Love that made us.

Scripture tells us that after Adam sinned, he tried to hide from God.

We have shut our eyes and turned our backs against the will of the Father, against the obedience and gratitude of the Son, and against the power and unity of the Holy Spirit.

In the face of our sin, God who made us has chosen neither to annihilate us nor force himself upon our freedom.

Instead, God has given creation a new beginning, and freely offers us this new beginning of creation as a gift.

God has done this in Christ the New Adam.

In the beginning God made the body of the first Adam from the virgin earth.

To form the body of Christ, the Sinless New Adam, God again prepared the earth through the virgin and sinless humanity of Mary.

She whose birth we celebrate today is the dawn, the threshold and the mother of our salvation.

She is ever sinless and ever virgin by the will of the Father, through the obedience and gratitude of the Son, and in the power and unity of the Holy Spirit.

Upon receiving God’s message through an angel at Nazareth, Mary gave her own “yes” to God’s plan…

her “yes” to the will of the Father…

her “yes” to the obedience and gratitude of the Son…

her “yes” to the power and unity of the Spirit.

Pope John Paul II pointed out in a lovely manner that Mary is the human race’s “yes” to God’s plan, and that she is God’s “yes” to our salvation.

Out of Mary’s “yes” is born our salvation in Christ Jesus.

In him the Son of Mary, in him the New Adam:

we return to the will of the Father;

we return in the obedience and gratitude of the Son;

we return through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Mary gave birth to all of this.

Indeed, not only “happy” but most blessed is her birthday.

Blessed is she who bore and nursed our Savior.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death! Amen.


Turn. Love. Repeat.


September 06, 2020

Jesus, Remember Me When You Come Into Your Kingdom

Christ and Abbot Menas
“Christ and Abbot Menas,” Louvre Museum. Public Domain / Wikimedia.

 

Matthew 18:15-20 for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.


What is it to be two or three gathered in the name of Christ?

Today in his Gospel, Christ is speaking not to a crowd, but to his disciples only; and he uses the word church.

Speaking to his disciples as his church, he expects them to act and pray as those who are gathered together in my name.

We begin every Mass by having gathered together and invoking the name of the Lord— Father, Son and Holy Spirit— while we make the SIGNUM CRUCIS— the Sign of the Cross.

At the CRUCIfixion of the Lord, at the most literally CRUCIAL moment, only his mother, a few other women and the disciple John gathered together in Christ’s name at the event and sign of his cross.

Out of this small group, Christ singled out just two, and put them together as if these two were the closest to him in name and in deed.

They were his mother and his disciple John.

From his cross, Christ said to his mother: Woman, behold, your, son!

Then he said to his disciple: Behold, your mother!

It was from the CROSS that Christ assembled the CHURCH in his NAME.

From the cross, he spoke directly to only two other individuals besides his mother and John.

He spoke directly to the repentant criminal who was also suffering crucifixion, and he spoke directly to the Father in heaven.

To be two or three gathered in Christ’s name is not so simple or automatic, and it appears it is not entirely or always our initiative.

Even though Christ himself promised to be in the midst of those gathered in his name, it still belongs to Christ alone to judge who are REALLY gathered in his name.

At the most literally CRUCIAL moment— at his CRUCIfixion— the only individuals to whom Christ spoke directly were his heavenly Father, his mother, John his disciple and the repentant criminal.

Of these four, the only one whose relationship to Christ we could fully claim for ourselves would be that of the repentant criminal.

To gather in Christ’s name and to receive his presence in our midst, we must repent and confess that we are sinners.

Indeed, that is how the Church begins the Mass: confessing that we are sinners.

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned….

Then, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood Offered in Sacrifice on the Cross, the Crucial Sacrament, Christ himself makes good his promise to be in our midst.


Turn. Love. Repeat.


August 29, 2020

Our Revolting Lord


For the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Jeremiah 20:7-9. Romans 12:1-2. Matthew 16:21-27.

 

Everything in the Gospel today aims at our receiving as a reward our lives and our salvation when Christ returns with his angels in the glory of his Father.

Christ begins his Gospel today telling us that he will suffer and die at the hands of the nation’s elders and religious authorities.

Why?

It was for us men and for our salvation, as we say in the Creed every Sunday.

However, today Christ calls our salvation a repayment he shall give everyone according to his conduct.

A repayment to each CONDITIONED according to his conduct.

For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.

What is the conduct that earns the repayment, but also, what IS the repayment?

The conduct is the conduct of Christ himself, and the repayment is rising from the dead, as Christ rose from the dead.

Risen from the dead, Christ can die no more and can suffer no more.

Resurrection in Christ is life without bounds and joy without measure.

Faith in that truth can give us motivation to follow Christ, even though Christ today gives a repulsive description to his path.

Whoever wishes to come after me— come after me into the resurrection— must deny himself, take up his CROSS, and follow me.

Without a doubt, we can say those who first heard him found his words repulsive.

Taking on a CROSS— an ancient instrument of public SHAME, TORTURE and DEATH.

More recent versions?

Whoever wishes to come after me must undergo: public torture and lethal injection, or public torture and gas chamber, or electric chair, firing squad, guillotine, or noose.

The Gospel today is not inviting, but it’s revolting.

Is there an alternative to public torture and execution for someone who wants to follow Christ into the resurrection?

Yes and no.

Christ says today whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Christ lost his life for OUR sake, and he found a new life on the other side of resurrection.

It’s role-reversal in some respects.

All the trouble started with role-reversal.

In the Garden of Eden, we tried role-reversal; we tried to be God, to remake ourselves by ourselves, to redefine life and death.

The role-reversal required us to reject God as God and to reject ourselves as God had made us.

Try as we might, we can’t go back to the way things were in the beginning.

We cannot reverse our own attempted role-reversal.

The genius of God in Christ was to do the role-reversal himself.

God in Christ became a man.

God in Christ took on himself the lot of every sinner.

God in Christ suffered and died at the hands of sinners for the sake of sinners, and was buried.

On the third day he rose from the dead— thereby taking the role reversal beyond all its possibilities.

A dead man rose and ascended in flesh and blood to take God’s throne in heaven.

Humankind in Paradise was not able to take God’s place.

However, humankind in Christ sits on God’s throne.

Christ, the Son of Man and Son of God, has opened up for us the inviting possibility of following him onto God’s throne.

Sounds nice.

But still, what about taking on the cross, torture, execution?

The revolting condition for boundless life and joy at God’s throne simply means that we must not allow ourselves or anything to stand in the way of letting God be God.

We let God be God, and we push ourselves and everything out of the way to pray and worship God.

The second reading from the Word of the Lord today, the Letter to the Romans, tells us:

offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind....

We also let God be God whenever for his sake and imitation we serve the good of others.

We let God be God whenever we deny ourselves in the service of God and others.

We let God be God whenever we accept willingly whatever suffering comes our way for the sake of Christ and following Christ.

Here in his Eucharist, as always, Christ lives out his Gospel.

Here is role-reversal: God is the banquet for sinners.

Here he is alive for our sakes.

After we receive his life in his Eucharist, to live for him in return is to find our own joy and our lives everlastingly with the angels in the glory of the Father when Christ returns.


Turn. Love. Repeat.