Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holy Family

Pope Paul VI calls the family a community of love and sharing.  And he says for the family setting, there is no substitute.  And Blessed Mother Teresa also pointed this out.  Her sisters provide for many orphans all over the world.  And she admitted that the love she and her sisters share with them is no substitute for a family.

The family is the basic building block of society, like bricks in a wall.  When we look at the concept of family, we see that it is definitely part of God’s plan of salvation for humanity.  Will we be open to God’s plan or not?  The evil one is trying to destroy the family so he can destroy society.  When we look around at all the ills in society, we see that the root of these ills is usually some problem with the family.  When family members are at each other’s throats, usually someone in the family is living outside the State of Grace.

We learn from others how to live, and God’s plan for this is the family.  It’s the setting where new people experience life.  It is also in the family setting where people encounter God.  We hear in the Gospel today that the Holy Family had a custom of making a pilgrimage to the temple for Passover every year.  This is a call to action for parents.  The only way the next generation will know what is important is through the example of their parents.  Children can pick up on what’s important just like they pick up the language.  Religious customs are so important that Mary and Joseph even showed them to Jesus, and he is God.  Are the children being prepared to be citizens of the Kingdom of God or merely citizens of the world?

Holiness is the goal.  Everything a parent does for a child should be out of love for the child.  If love means to do what is best for another person, then a parent should make sure their children are on the right track for becoming saints.  Our earthly life is very brief.  Eternal life with God is the ultimate good, and that should be the goal of every parent for their children. Education and sports are good things too, but they should be means to the end goal of eternal life, not ends in themselves.  Getting children on the right track as Christians is the work of the family.

This family setting fosters authentic human growth and development.  How do we know if it is authentic?  It leads to truth and love.  And we move beyond ourselves and learn to be in communion with others and with God.  Grace from the sacrament of marriage facilitates this task.  It is poured upon the family at the marriage of the mother and father.  My family is living proof if this grace.  But I better not tell any stories.

The key is to be open to this grace by being open to the Holy Spirit, who pours out the love of the Father that is made visible to us in Jesus Christ.  Parents then make this love visible in their lives.  Not being open to the work of the Holy Spirit leads to the ills that kill families.  The family is crucial to the Christian life.  Perhaps this is why Jesus says what he does about divorce.

Then we encounter another list of tactics the evil one uses to bring society down by making families weak:  Fornication leading to Single parenting or Abortion; Cohabitation outside of marriage leading to a 75% divorce rate; Contraception and Sterilizations tempting spouses to treating each other as objects; Lack of child supervision – What are they watching on TV?  What are they doing with their smart phones?

The family is automatically holy because it is part of God’s plan.  But we remember that holy does not mean perfect or automatically successful.  All families have their problems and crosses to bear.  But what makes us holy is how we respond to the problems that we face.  Even the Holy Family we celebrate today had their little mix-up we heard about in the Gospel.  They remained holy because of their love for God and each other.  May all families strive to do the same.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lamenting Loss of Life

The following is a segment from Bradley Mattes, Executive Director of Life Issues Institute regarding the school shooting in Newtown CT:
"The world outpouring of shock, grief and love has been as it should be. God created us to reach out to our fellow man at times like these. Then I thought of the other children who have been just as brutally and violently killed, and I wondered, where is the shock? Where is the grief? Where is the outcry?
Every day, about 3,300 unborn children are intentionally killed—yes murdered—not inside schools, but in America’s abortion mills. That’s 165-times the number of precious children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. Where are the headlines? Where is the Presidential condemnation?"
President Obama says he will use the full power of his office to protect children.  He needs to amend his statement.  He really only means to protect "wanted" children, not "unwanted" children in the womb.  I would like nothing more than to see him protect all children, wanted, unwanted, born, unborn.
Of course, the shooting has been the major topic of talk radio all week.  One host in Cincinnati was lamenting the horror because these children had hobbies.  One liked to play soccer.  One's hair color or eye color was this or that.  Our country needs major conversion of heart.  Having hobbies or playing soccer does not give us our worth.  Our personality, hair color or eye color, which are only known after birth, do not give us our worth.  All humans are worthy of love from the first moment of life.
Like Earl Pitts would say: "Wake up America!"

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Homily - Gaudete Sunday

In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul tells us twice to rejoice.  Ever since the first sin, humanity has been headed in one direction: eternal death.  Now we have the most awesome reason to rejoice: God sent us a savior to end the doom of death and give us an opportunity for eternal life.  We hear in another place in the New Testament:  The Father does not will the death of the sinner but rather that he be converted and live.  We rejoice in the Father’s gift of mercy.

Secondly, we rejoice in the grace of the Holy Spirit.  This joy overcomes any misery the world can throw at us.  And finally, we also rejoice in Christ’s presence.  He said he would be with us until the end of time.  If we call ourselves Christians, we believe it.  For example: It is very proper for us to rejoice in his real presence in the Eucharist.  We encounter the living God here today.  Has it become commonplace or do we remember to rejoice in it?  It is time to rejoice because God’s plan of salvation is underway.  The time of misfortune is over.  God is in our midst.  Can we rejoice in the impending coming of our savior?

In this season of Advent, we hear from John the Baptist once again.  He’s the one who preached the need of repentance.  Notice how much we need that repentance and conversion of heart.  We want a preacher who is gentle and focuses on God’s mercy, one who says: The way of salvation is broad and spacious.  But God sends us what we need, not what we want, a preacher who is severe, John the Baptist.  Reminding us that the way of salvation is narrow, and not always easy.

John gives us very concrete examples:  Generosity, Honesty, avoid being greedy.  Be faithful to the ordinary circumstances of life.  God is not asking us to be something we are not.  If we are a father, husband, wife, mother, electrician; he is telling us to be the best father, husband, wife, mother, electrician we can be.  This also shows us that God can be found in the ordinary circumstances of life.  And staying faithful to him, we rejoice in those.

John’s message continues.  He talks about the one coming after him who will separate the wheat from the chaff.  The wheat gets gathered into his barn and the chaff gets burned in the fire.  I think we know what that means.  This is a little more difficult to hear than a motivational speech that makes us feel good.

That’s not a popular message to the world.  We want to feel good and be told we are OK.  But giving in to sin means rejecting Jesus.  When we hold on to sin, we are saying:  I don’t need a savior.  I’m seeking fulfillment in my sins.  Advent is the time of the year to let go of sin.  Free ourselves from it.  Holding on to sin is like a drowning man holding on to lead weights.  But they’re such pretty lead weights.  They’re painted real nice.

This is a great time of year for us to ask ourselves:  What are the lead weights that are making me sink?  We get this great advent opportunity to ask ourselves if we are living like the wheat on the path to God’s barn or like the chaff on the path to the fire.  John the Baptist was blunt and no-nonsense.  The amazing thing is that the truth he preached was true then.  And it’s still true today.

Another thing that’s amazing is that John was so holy and authentic that people wondered if he was the Christ.  He is a great example for us.  We have the opportunity to ask ourselves as we prepare to meet the Lord:  Am I living in such a way that people might confuse me with the Christ? We are called to take on the holiness and authenticity of John the Baptist.  And if someone asks us:  Are you the Christ?  We simply say what John said:  No, one mightier than I is coming.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Catholics Come Home

With lay leadership and funding, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati recently began an advertising campaign called Catholics Come Home.  This campaign includes television commercials on local networks and cable inviting lapsed Catholics to come back to Mass.
These dedicated people who are bringing this to the masses recognize the infinite beauty of the Mass and experience profound joy in practicing their Catholic faith.  That kind of joy is meant to be shared.  We can't help but share it.
At the archdiocesan level Michael Vanderburgh is the point man as Director of Stewardship.
Below is a link to Scott Sloan's radio show with Vanderburgh as a guest in late November.  As I listened, I noticed several things:  Sloan, who labels himself a "Cafeteria Catholic," brings up the usual laundry list of objections to the Catholic faith: abuse crisis, homosexuality, all male clergy, celibacy, birth control, divorce and even bad preaching.  Notice that every single item on this list has been thoroughly addressed by the Church with charity, clarity, compassion, wisdom, reason and divine revelation.  One would be hard pressed to come up with a new question for the Church that has not been answered in her 2,000 year history.  I only listened to about half the clip.  In that time I heard the first couple of callers after Vanderburgh was finished.  The ignorance of the self-proclaimed "Recovering Catholics" who call in will blow your mind!  One thing is very evident: Neither they nor Sloan never took the opportunity to find out what the Church actually teaches in the first place. This is the link to the segment on Sloan's show.  Click here to see the "Catholics Come Home" ads.
It seems to me that defying the Church on any of her teachings could easily lead to a rejection of the complete Christian Gospel as a whole.  Defying Church teaching makes Christ a liar.  Did he not say: "I am with you until the end of the age (world)"?  And at what point did the Holy Spirit abandon the Church?  Of course, the answer is "Never".  The Holy Spirit of Pentecost some 2,000 years ago is active in the Church working through the successors of the Apostles, the bishops.  One who believes in the New Testament will readily acknowledge that the Father gives all authority in the Universe to the Son.  It is very obvious that the Son gives authority (to bind and loose) to his Apostles.  Does that authority die with them?  Of course not.  Jesus would not have gone through all the trouble of setting up the structured institution he did.  The Apostles pass on that authority to their successors.  The living, breathing, teaching office of the Church lives on today in the bishops.