Well, I am on vacation as this reflection is being read. (I hope I am having a good vacation and recreating this world.) Well, while I am gone…I want to continue the reflection on why we do what we do when we worship God together and apart.
If you look at this week’s Gospel…Jesus makes this very point. As being the Body of Christ, we are united as a body and as individuals who make the body work (or can cause a cancer to the body). Jesus (and St. Paul writing to the Romans) tells how we are to care (and correct) each other in love. Ahh…love…the most mishandled word in the English language. We use it to mean everything! As Americans, we could learn from the rest of the world. Are you aware that in the Italian language there are over 1000 different words of endearment…so many…that it often impossible to properly translate them into English. Too often, they are translated (or miss the translation) as: “love”. This is why St. Paul…when referring to Christian love…used an out of use word that even the Romans and Greeks forgot to use: AGAPE.
But, once again, what does all this mean for our reflection? First, it becomes clear that worship and honoring of God and saints (seen in its true breadth and depth) goes beyond the action of the liturgy. Ultimately, (as St. Paul and Jesus speaks to us in this week’s reading) worship embraces the ordering of the whole of human life. Man becomes glory for God…puts God…so to speak, into the light (and that is what worship is), when a person lives by… looking toward God. On the other hand, as I pointed out two weeks ago…it is also true that law and ethics do not hold together when they are not anchored in the liturgical center and inspired by it.
What kind of reality, then, do we find in the liturgy? One answer we can now say this: The man who puts to one side any consideration of the reality of God is a realist only in appearance. He is removing himself from the One in whom we “live and move and have our being” (cf. Acts 17:28). It is only when man’s relationship with God is right that all of his other relationships—his relationships with his fellowmen, his dealings with the rest of creation—can be in good order. (This is the point of this week’s readings).
As we have reflected on in the pat, law is essential for freedom and community; worship—that is, the right way to relate to God—is, for its part, essential for law. We can now broaden the insight by taking a further step. Worship…that is, the right kind of worship (as God wants us to worship Him)…a kind that is in a relationship with God…essential for the right kind of human existence in the world. It is so precisely set up… because it reaches beyond everyday life. Worship gives us a share in heaven’s mode of existence, in the world of God…and allows light to fall from that divine world into ours. In this sense, worship—as we said when we were discussing play—has the character of anticipation. It lays hold in advance of a more perfect life and…when practiced…gives our present life its proper measure. A life without such anticipation…a life no longer opened up to heaven…would be empty (a leaden (burden) life). That is why there are (in reality) no societies altogether lacking in worship and honor. Even the decidedly atheistic, materialistic systems create their own forms of hero worship (though, of course, they can only be an illusion and strive in vain, by bombastic trumpeting, to conceal their nothingness). Maybe this is why some in our society today seek to tear down the saints like St. Junípero Serra of California or personages such as Christopher Columbus and put emptiness in their place.
Last week we celebrated Mother’s Day. As we honored one parent lst week, Jesus honors His Father this week. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about how He is going to glorify God. That glorification is seen in how He suffered the injustice of crucifixion, but rose from the dead and beyond all who tried to silence Him. He spoke (and taught) something that in the 21st century…is absolutely, politically incorrect. Saying – do what I tell you and you will be assured of being correct, and you will find an eternity of happiness. He said: “I am the way the truth and the life”. Well…who does Jesus think He is? After all…is Pontius Pilate more the model of the 21st century…when – looking at Jesus…do we say: “What is truth?” In looking at what is going on in our nation at this point and all the debates about different issues, respect for life must be at the forefront. Whenever we compromise or deny the truth, the seeds of destruction and disunity are planted. We who have the treasure of faith are not obliged to convert those who are not in agreement with us…but we are challenged to speak up for the truth about human life. There is no candidate that is perfect on this issue as far as action is concerned. Some Catholic politicians at least pay lip service…while others are clearly supportive of abortion. I am not a one issue person, but when a basic issue is ignored there will never be peace in our hearts, our nation, and in our world. To look past the issue of abortion is to allow evil to continue to destroy children in the womb and scar the hearts, minds, and souls of all those involved. How could the German people stand by and allow 12 million people to perish in the concentration camps? How can we continue to stand by as almost 60 million children have been aborted since this practice was legalized on January 22, 1973? Evil has wreaked havoc for the past 43 years. How much longer will it prosper? Who will speak up? Politicians promise jobs, reform, lower taxes, refugee programs, and the defeat of ISIS and other evils. (They speak as if they are an omnipotent God.) But wherever innocent life is attacked or threatened and nothing is done, our national spirit deteriorates.
We are grateful to all veterans who have sacrificed their time and even their lives to defend who we are as Americans. Easter time energizes us to muster the courage to look at what is most important to our nation. When we glorify God by our lives as Jesus did, our national health and moral fiber are strengthened.
The Resurrection of Jesus has many aspects. One of them is rising above our fears, hesitancy, lethargy, apathy, and ignorance to live and speak the truth about human life. Life is a gift from God. You who are parents have blessed your children in the God-like way you created them and continue to love and nurture them. You are more fully alive with them than you would have been without them.
As Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the life…let us say: Thank you Father for the gift of life. Thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus. May my gratitude inspire and sustain me in doing everything I can to respect all people and to do all in my power to end abortion and everything else that harms, abuses, or threatens human life. Give me the courage and strength to live in your image each day.
Henri Nouwen said: “Prayer is the way to both the heart of God and the heart of the world.”How blessed, challenged, grateful, and humbled we are to live in God’s world.
During the Advent and Christmas Season, we say Merry Christmas to each other as we pass by…wouldn’t it be great if, like modern Greeks, we would say publicly to each other… Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti! These Greek acclamations mean “Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen!”, and in the Christian East — both Catholic and Orthodox — these acclamations replace the usual greetings of hello and goodbye during the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, the liturgical season of Easter or Eastertide. During Eastertide, the first eight days have a special identity, and today (in the liturgical calendar) — eight days after Easter Sunday — has three names: 1) the Octave Day of Easter, 2) the Second Sunday of Easter, and 3) Divine Mercy Sunday.
Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti! The number eight has special meaning in the sacred liturgy because it is a symbol of the new creation (the eighth day of the week we await for Christ’s 2nd Coming). The drama of creation unfolded over seven symbolic days, and the eighth day is the sign of God’s pluperfect love revealed in the new creation. This is foreshadowed in the Old Covenant through circumcision taking place eight days after birth and is confirmed by the Resurrection taking place on Sunday, both the first day of the week and the eighth day. Accordingly, in the liturgical calendar the eight days from Easter Sunday until today are kept as one festive celebration of the Resurrection, and today completes the eighth day or Octave of Easter.
Moreover, because the Gospel appointed for today speaks of the Divine Power to forgive sins which the Lord Jesus gave to his Apostles when He first appeared to them after his Resurrection, the emphasis of the liturgy today is on the great mercy of God. Modern devotion to the Lord Jesus as the embodiment of Divine Mercy is connected to the spirituality of St. Faustina, a Polish mystic and religious Sister who was canonized by Pope Saint John Paul the Great. (You may remember, John Paul died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005, was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2011, and was canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2014.) It was Pope Saint John Paul who decreed that the Second Sunday of Easter would be kept as Divine Mercy Sunday, and with Pope Francis’ a Jubilee Year of Mercy which will conclude in on the Solemnity of Christ the King this year.
In his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (or Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis explained that as a teenager he had a life changing experience of mercy by going to Confession. “After making my confession I felt something had changed. I was not the same. I had heard something like a voice or a call.” This moment of mercy in the life of Jorge Bergoglio helps explain his burning desire to share God’s mercy with others, and now as Pope Francis he describes the Church as a “community [that] has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy” (EG, 24). Let us keep this Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, by resolving to seek the Lord’s mercy for ourselves and be instruments of that mercy for others. Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!
What was most interesting? The Catholic in the group said: “We don’t do that.”
We don’t? Since when? To surprise some out there, Catholics ARE REQUIRED to tithe. (Just as we are required to give up something on every Friday of the year…like meat. But, that is for a reflection later.)
The tithing tradition is first found being established by God in the Old Testament. Why? He did it for two reasons:
- so that we keep God the #1 priority in our lives; and,
- so we support His Church and the needy financially.
Tithing refers to giving one-tenth of our income to God in gratitude for His daily blessings (represented in the 21st century in the income we earn in order to live). How do we give money to God? We give the tithe to the Church…which is the visible household of God on earth. Giving 1/10 of our pay to the Church is a constant reminder of our dependence on God and a way to show our gratitude for being able to work and provide for our families. Moreover, it’s the way we help sustain the physical operation of the local Church and provide help to those in need of food, clothing, shelter, medicine and other assistance. (Recently, this theory has been put into reality in the Diocese of Sioux Falls through what is called: the Bishop Dudley House (located in the downtown area of Sioux Falls).
Now, the difference between the Catholic Church and those of other faiths is…the Catholic understanding of: “Give the tithe to the Church”
Many dioceses encourage the individual soul to pick and choose worthy charities to support; as well as, support the physical operation of the local and universal Church. So, practically speaking, one should currently give 5% of your tithe to the worthy Christian charities of your choice and 5% of your income to the Parish (which is then distributed to the Diocese and Rome). Now, if none goes to a chosen charity…then all 10% is to be given to the Church
One aspect that is disturbing among many Catholics…an attitude of worthiness. You know what I mean: “All they are going to do is waste it…that is why I don’t tithe.” To answer this: “It is a good thing God doesn’t judge by the same standard. Think of the trust He has in us when He gives each of us 100% of our blessings.” As God has trusted and invested in us, we need to trust and invest (in faith) in God’s guiding Hand. Surrendering ourselves to God (with our money especially) is faith in action. Attempting to control God is truly fruitless.
Our Easter celebrations are complete. The celebrations are over and we put the party favors away for another year. The Sunday Mass (the little Easters) is our remembrance of the party which (hopefully) is seen as our spiritual center. We can catch our breath and reflect where we were…and where we are now…on the spiritual journey (and grow further up and further in).
We typically spend about an hour together listening to God and beseeching God as a community of Catholic believers. Is that too long? I remember reading a newspaper article sometime back that noted:
“Some churches struggling with shrinking attendance are shortening their traditional Sunday services, promising to get a generation with limited attention spans out the door in less than 30 minutes.”
You know, when millions of people can stay in their stadium seat or sit glued to a TV at home to watch a 3-hour football game, I fail to agree with the assertion that this generation is suffering from a limited attention span.
What this generation is suffering from is a limited faith. Yes, thanks to many factors such as: broken homes, Godless colleges/schools and a general abandonment of good moral behavior in society, no seed of faith in an unseen God is being planted and nurtured in the hearts of our generation. And, as a result, some have no interest and no desire for a gathering with God. Shortening a Sunday service will have no effect on getting the young back into Church. They’re not staying away because they have limited attention…they’re staying away because they haven’t yet felt the love and the mercy of God!
Once people experience God, they want more…not less time to be with Him in the Sacred Liturgy. The article I refer to mentioned that the Catholic Church:
“has long accommodated hurried worshippers at daily Mass.”
What the Catholic Church has done for centuries on weekdays has nothing to do with catering to peoples limited attention spans…it has to do with their limited time!
Many people who seek a daily union with God in the Mass are bound by their start time at work or school. A shorter Mass enables them to attend and still get to their next stop on time. Sunday, if taken as a day of rest, has no such obstacles. Each Daily Mass still has a Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist…they’re just shorter. The homily is still present in weekday Mass…it’s 2 – 3 minutes as compared to 12 – 15 minutes on Sundays.
In a recent poll of practicing Catholic women, 75% of them stated that they get all of their moral direction for their lives from…the Homily at Mass! If that’s true, then the homily should be longer, not shorter! I promise that you will not see our weekend Masses shortened at our Parish! And my prayer will be, if I doing my job right, that you’ll soon be asking for the Mass to be longer…not shorter!
Core to who we are as Catholics is to recognize the inherent dignity of all persons gifted by God with life which is reflected in how we respect and relate to one another certainly in deed, but also in word. Words can be used to build up and support the common good or to tear down and divide.
When I was growing up a common saying was “sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me.” I defensively declared that when I was made fun of and called “four eyes” for having to wear glasses, “a shrimp” for being so short, or “a loser” because my parents had divorced. The fact is that denigrating words do hurt and often last longer than physical wounds that heal over time.
The incivility we see in politics and personal relationships, including bullying, can be attributed to hurtful words intentionally spoken to strike at another and demean him or her. Differences of opinion are natural and worthy of discussion. Greater insight and even wisdom can be revealed through robust debate undertaken with respect for one another based on truth and fullness of knowledge.
Much of the information we receive these days comes in short oral sound bites or brief headlines or strophe limited text messages that can only partially convey the fullness of that information. Often the incompleteness of the words leads to misjudgments and judgmentalism that can lead to disrespect based on untruth or inadequate knowledge.
Therefore in Christian charity we are called to be careful in how we receive and interpret information especially about individuals and what we share with others. We do not always need to know what we would like to know, nor do we need to share what we know with others who have no need to know.
Pope Francis regularly speaks of the responsibility to avoid gossip and to be respectful of the dignity of all persons in the words we choose to speak because gossip and rumors are works of the evil one and divide the Body of Christ. There is an old saying that someone who gossips to you will gossip about you.
The Eighth Commandment declares that we are not to bear false witness against our neighbor. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches what that means in concrete situations:
To read the entire article, go HERE.