August 07, 2022

Waiting Mindfully?

Year C, the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Readings at Mass.
Wisdom 18:6-9. Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19. Luke 12:32-48.

The first two of today’s three readings speak of the bold faith of the ancestors of God’s people— faith that God would bring about great blessings for their family tree in time to come.

The old promise of those blessings echoed in today’s Cóllect prayer that we offered right before we sat for the readings.
... Father,
bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts
the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters,
that we may merit to enter into the inheritance
which you have promised.
And then in today’s Gospel, Christ promises that the gift of his Father’s kingdom is for those who keep watch to be worthy of it, since Christ’s return will break in on us without warning.

You and I, with the whole human race, live between the first coming of Christ and his second coming.

Both comings of Christ touch our freedom that stretches between two realities.

The one reality is the original sin of humankind.

The other is the free offer God makes to us in Christ.

God adopted us in Baptism, freely giving us an entitled share in the kingdom of heaven.

Because of Baptism, we no longer bear the guilt of original sin.

God the Father has washed it from us with the Baptismal waters of grace and the Spirit that bear the might and truth of the death and resurrection of his Son.

Although the GUILT of original sin is no longer ours, we are still weak and can still turn away from God with other sins.

Nonetheless, GOD has freed us to be free IN God and free FOR God.

Freedom always brings with it RESPONSIBILITY.

Freedom is ALIVE not in doing merely what we LIKE, but in doing GOOD.

IF freedom meant it were RIGHT for us to do WHATEVER we LIKED, then we would have to accept ANY sin that OTHERS might commit against US in THEIR freedom to do what THEY liked.

On the contrary, TRUE freedom brings with it MORAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Freedom LIVES and GROWS in choosing to do GOOD.

The everlasting fullness of our freedom is in Christ the master, who says in today’s Gospel:
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, HE will GIRD himself,
HAVE them recline at table, and proceed to WAIT on them.
In that outcome, Christ the master will be like fathers and mothers who serve and feed the children they have gladly adopted.

The goodness of Christ is the fulfillment, the perfection, the pattern, and the goal of our human freedom.

To seek and follow CHRIST is to seek and follow FREEDOM.

He tells us in his Gospel today:
Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return...
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Waiting for Christ in this way means to be mindful in taking responsibility for every free choice we make in how we live and how we think.

Waiting for the Lord is also a way of prayer.

To wait in prayer is to be aware that something needed and good is missing, and that it comes in the person of the Lord.

Sincere prayer also helps and teaches us to live and grow in freedom.

In his Gospel, Christ asks, calls, and bids us be on the lookout for him, to watch for him, to stay awake for him, to hunt and wish for him.

He has sworn that he is always with us and will come back one day.

He is really with us in his Eucharistic Body and Blood.

But his Eucharistic Body and Blood also feed us the mystery of his Second Coming.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
In his Eucharistic Body and Blood, Christ the master becomes the servant of his servants.

In his Eucharist, even though he comes among us as our servant, he remains both the standard and the judge of our freedom.

As the standard of our freedom, Christ freely hands himself over in his Eucharistic Body and Blood as food and drink for our welfare.

In doing so, he is also already our judge, for he measures us by what we freely dare to receive.

As he says in today’s Gospel:  Much will be required of the person entrusted with much....

When we receive him in his Eucharist, we hand ourselves over to his judgment.

And yet our God and Judge, Almighty-in-His-Love, Innocent and Pure, chose to take a place on earth among the guilty and condemned.

He freely took our guilt upon himself, and freely chose to be condemned as a sinner among us sinners.

The master freely chose to be nailed to a cross of deadly punishment.

God freely chose to die among us guilty sinners.

That is the one who comes as Judge in his Eucharist.

In his Eucharistic Body and Blood, our Judge offers us a covenant ... for the forgiveness of sins, but also a covenant of being WITH US EVEN UNTO DEATH.

He was OBEDIENT to being God-with-us EVEN UNTO DEATH.

And then his RESURRECTION is our human body and soul FREE AND OBEDIENT in the LIFE and GLORY of God.

To say it again:  our RESURRECTION is our human body and soul FREE AND OBEDIENT in the LIFE and GLORY of God.
Christ the Son in his Obedient Body and Blood lets us share in his freedom and glory as sons and daughters of his Father.

Obedience, forgiveness, life, freedom, and glory are in his Body and Blood that call us to turn away from sin and to rise with Christ in his goodness.
Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return...
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

June 09, 2022

He found himself guarding the door at his daughter's elementary school graduation.

Parenting as a Catholic pacifist in an era of mass shootings

Jon M. Sweeney, 9 June 2022, in the magazine, “America: The Jesuit Review”

Only two days after the horrific killing of 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Tex., I filed into an auditorium to watch my daughter’s elementary school graduation ceremony.

She attends Golda Meir, a public school in downtown Milwaukee, Wis., and the 85 children finishing fifth grade were participating in a “bridging ceremony,” celebrating their move next year across the street to the middle school campus.

Some time before the speeches and the video presentation that paired a contemporary photo of each child’s face beside one of each as toddlers, I found myself lingering near the front door.

In some ways it was just like any other school function throughout the year. Students and parents arrived, masked, and sat down in the auditorium. The latest school shooting was everywhere in the news, but I didn’t hear a word of fear nor a mention of the gun violence in the quiet conversation of people near me. But as we gathered to celebrate this group of school children, those children who died in Texas, who would never make it to their own graduations, were at the forefront of my mind. Surely others felt the same.

My wife and I had arrived early, and from our seats near the front, I kept looking back toward the entrance we had walked through. It occurred to me, Should there be a guard here? And then, Is anyone watching the front door? So I got up and did that.

Admittedly, this is an unusual move for someone who considers himself a pacifist. When I turned 18 and had to register with Selective Service, I did so by writing “Conscientious Objector” on the form. Since then, I have called myself a peacemaker. I have never held a gun and never want to. But I am also a father. So on this day, I found myself leaving my seat to stand near the entrance and eye every guy who walked through the door.

If I’d seen someone with a weapon, I’d have thrown my 195 pounds at him as best I could.

I often feel that it's inevitable: Someday I'll be throwing myself in front of a stream of bullets. Maybe I won’t be called on to throw myself in front of a stream of bullets, but I will need to be ready to do so. The thought occurs to me at synagogue, too, since not only is the tally of mass shootings going up, but so is the hate that fuels them.

I’m a Catholic married to a rabbi, and I see how anti-Semitism is growing. At the synagogue, I keep an eye on the door while services are going on and make a mental note about which metal chair I might pick up to throw at a gun-toting intruder, or from what angle I might rush at him if he has come to get the rabbi.

Ever since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, schools have created safety drills and discussion and training sessions for teachers, staff and students to prepare them to respond to crisis situations involving guns. “Active shooter” has become a phrase known to all. My oldest child was only 6 when the Columbine shooting happened. Our family has grown up in this world.

There is no question that mass shootings are more common at public schools than private ones. I have not read much analysis as to why. And I am not eager to. But the other day I asked a friend whose children attend one of our Milwaukee Catholic schools if he thinks his kids are safer there. He said he thought the small size of the school, along with practical safety measures, created what he felt was a relatively safe environment for his children. His answer spoke to the importance of community in keeping children safe, the vigilance we owe one another at every school.

As a Christian I am told not to fear, and as a pacifist I am told not to defend myself. Just look at the exchange between Jesus and Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26). When the soldiers come to take Jesus away, Peter strikes at one of them with his sword. Clearly, Peter is armed. But Jesus rebukes his friend, the first pope. Put your sword away, Jesus tells him. Do you really believe that is how the will of God is accomplished? The church allows for self-defense. But attacking someone, even someone threatening violence, is not what I have been taught to do as a follower of Jesus and a pacifist. But these commands are getting harder to follow.

A Christian is called to be a martyr, a word that means “witness,” and the examples given by Jesus of martyr-witnesses are those whom we have come to understand as saints. They are people who, when faced with danger or violence, are willing to sacrifice their lives without harming others, even those who try to hurt them. Even from the cross, with violence all around him, Jesus did not fight back. Instead he said, “Father, forgive them.” I want to show forgiveness. I want to respond peacefully. But I also want to keep my eye on the auditorium door.

My wife, the congregational rabbi, is not a Jesus-follower, but she shares my feelings of not wanting guns in religious services, despite the risks religious people face by gathering together. Our local Jewish federation recently provided funding for every synagogue to have an armed guard at high holiday services each fall. My wife accepted the offer but now feels uneasy about it.

There is now a worldly reality that may require armed guards under certain circumstances. In St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, for instance. At the Western Wall in Jerusalem. But the presence of weapons fundamentally changes a space. The result of this capitulation, for me anyway, is that I cannot really pray in those places. Can you really promote a sense of peace by surrounding a place with guns? Does an armed guard make prayer possible, or does an armed guard make a place unholy?

Everyone walking through the door at my daughter’s fifth grade graduation turned out to be a parent, grandparent, sibling or friend. I returned to my seat before the presentations began, and the door to the auditorium remained open. It felt like a risk, but what was I to do, really? Every day at school is now a day when our children are at risk. I will not be there to protect my children 99 percent of the time. But I also know that if I am there, I will not hesitate to lead the charge against an attacker.

As that video presentation rolled, showing the beautiful grinning faces of my daughter and her classmates, I wept quietly in my seat, thinking of those parents who, on that same day, were burying their children in the hot sun.

March 18, 2022

To Pray for Peace and to Consecrate and Entrust Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?


Some persons have fashioned a “subreligion” out of the Fatima children’s private revelation messages about Mary.
This cultism, its exaggerations, and its distortions have been and are wildly in conflict with the popes, with authentic Catholic teaching, and even with one of the Fatima children, Sister Lucia.
Catholic teaching is that private revelations do not belong to the deposit of the faith, and so Catholics are free to ignore them.
What to think of Pope Francis inviting the world’s clergy to join him on March 25 in a worldwide prayer for peace and in a “Fatima-style” consecration and entrustment of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?
Some distorting exaggerators of cultist Fatimism are already barking that what Pope Francis is doing will be wrong and dangerous.
Catholics are free to ignore the Fatima allusions and connections of the upcoming event.
What will be authentically Catholic is that the event will unite Catholics around the word in praying for peace and justice for Ukraine.