today's Mass readings: i.e. Acts 20:28-38 Paul to the disciples at Ephesus: "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them." And John 17:11b-19: Jesus' prayer for his disciples: " I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One."
How many times in the Scriptures is the imagery of sheep or flock used to depict the followers of Jesus, (who presents himself as the good shepherd) and how many times is the imagery of wolves use to depict their worst enemy, the Evil one? Does the contemporary multicultural, non judgmental mentality really recognize that much of the culture around us and to be concrete, many of the people around us are anything but helpful to true discipleship? When are we going to wake up to the fact that we can't spend our lives floating along with the currents of contemporary mores and still honestly call ourselves followers of Christ? What does it mean to be "...in the world, but not of the world"?
Friday, April 27, 2012
This past Mon.(4/23/12) the Albany Times Union on its editorial page reprinted a Washington Post entry by Melinda Henneberger titled: “Vatican’s Mixed Message” i.e. her interpretation of the very recent “Doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious”. Is it news that the author’s evaluation was negative? Is it news that the media in general tends any chance it gets to put a negative interpretation on any directive coming from Rome? What is especially dismaying is recurrence of intellectual (if that is the correct word) dishonesty in the reporting. First of all the assessment is aimed not at nuns in general (which by the way the document specifically praises for their many good works in the U.S.A.) but at the Leadership Conference, (founded in the early 197ties - which does not represent all communities of women religious, and which has never been recognized by the Holy See as an approved official body – probably because of its repeated failure to operate under the authority of the Magisterium.) Instead of staying focused on the LCWR, Ms. Henneberger slants it as aimed at a “number of nuns” Moreover to say the the Holy See is concerned about some aspects of “radical feminism” is not the same as being opposed to all feminism – which Ms. Henneberger seems to equate (without foundation). Rather than continue to expose many other indications of emotive liberal reactive bias to anything which smacks of authority and its consistent failure to grasp the responsibility of Ecclesial authority to correct that which might lead people astray (can anyone these days still remember the spiritual works of mercy, which includes: to admonish the sinner as well as instruct the ignorant?) may I suggest reading the original 8 page document which can be found on the U.S.Bishops’ Conference website. There you will find that the concern is that speakers at the LCWR assemblies have made statements which are incompatible with Catholic teaching. Moreover some of its publications can also be misleading. And yet the LCWR has neither distanced itself from nor clarified such ideas and in some cases seems to have actually fostered dissent. When asked for an explanation by the Holy See, the LCWR apparently over an extended period of time, never really got around to addressing the issues head on, but rather adopted a stratagem of beating around the bush. Given the influence the LCWR inevitably wields over its member communities, especially in areas such as formation and governance, the Assessment document clearly states that (after 40 yrs. of inadequate responses), its purpose is to correct the errors and its consequent confusion of the LCWR for the spiritual wellbeing of all women religious.
The secular press continues to demonstrate that it is not a competent forum for grasping the import of spiritual realities, in this case the true nature and attributes of the consecrated life.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Jonah: Wed. Feb. 29,2012 1st reading of 2nd Wed. of Lent.
The brief little book of Jonah presents us with a very powerful challenge/lesson , especially for the season of Lent. It is a call of the prophet to preach repentance to one of the worst enemies of God’s people: the hated Assyrians who viciously conquered the northern 10 tribes of Israel. The Assyrian capital was Nineveh. Bear in mind that the inspired writers ultimately understood such a catastrophe of being conquered and carried off into slavery as a punishment from God for their infidelity. Considering that God had raised up many prophets before Jonah who preached repentance to His chosen people and time and again the people rejected those prophets and did not repent, it must have been utterly mind blowing for Jonah to be directed now to go preach the potential for forgiveness to these awful infidel enemies.
Thus in the first instance this vocation was so alien to Jonah’s way of thinking, that he tried to run away from it, rather than obey. So we have the more famous story of Jonah being swallowed by Leviathan (a whale) making his attempted flight unsuccessful, and God a second time challenging him to preach to the Ninevites. So we have this day’s first liturgical reading. Jonah finally goes to Nineveh and influenced no doubt by his own prejudices , in a half hearted way preaches repentance to the Ninevites.
Now comes the knife turning in the wound. How many times did the chosen people hear this message and yet continued to give it a deaf ear? Yet the hated infidel enemy needed only a reluctant half hearted announcement and they took it to heart. As the story goes, given but one chance, they grasped it wholeheatedly, while by comparison, how many times did His chosen ones ignore their opportunities?
I should think this should give us serious grounds for reflection. How many Lents have we heard the call to repentance: as St. Paul says: Now is the acceptable time; now is the time for repentance! Is our response to take a raincheck as the Israelites so often did? How many chances will we get before God goes elsewhere?
Monday, February 13, 2012
In the recent new translation of the Roman Missal, it seems that many priest celebrants often chose to use the second of the four regular Eucharistic prayers for the heart of the ritual. In the early part of it there appears a phrase we are not used to hearing: “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, …” Have you ever wondered, is that image simply a flight of poetic imagination? Or is there something else responsible for that image? May I suggest that in the Old Testament, the manna in the desert provided the daily bread for God’s people as they wandered in preparation for entering the promised land. The manna has from the earliest Fathers of the Church been seen as prefiguring the Eucharistic bread of life , just as the prayer Our Lord Himself taught us, alludes to the Eucharistic bread as well as ordinary sustinence.
The new translation of the Roman Missal tries to make clearer the numerous Biblical references contained in our Mass prayers. In light of the manna in the desert prefiguring the Eucharist, cf. Exodus 16: 12-14: “In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God. In the evening quail came up and covered the camp. In the morning a dew lay all about the camp, and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes ….(i.e manna)” Thus, just as the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament provided the staff of life to God’s people mediated by the dewfall, now we pray that the Spirit do so for our supernatural life.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Fifth Sun. in ordinary time: The Book of Job; the problem of evil; and Biblical Faith.
According to the Bible, mankind was so self-absorbed that in choosing to bring a people out of this darkness, God revealed Himself (everlasting Love: the Old Testament called it in Hebrew hesed we emeth – most frequently translated loving kindness and fidelity. Ck. e.g. how often this phrase appears in the Psalms) only little by little over a long period of time. At the time the Book of Job was written, from which comes today’s first reading, God had not yet clearly revealed that man has an immortal soul which lives on in a new kind of existence after death. Job and his contemporaries therefore, had the limited view that God’s favor/love would always be recognized by material prosperity and good fortune, with the other side of the coin being if one experienced bad fortune, poor health, poverty, etc., i.e. evil, it must be God’s punishment because of one’s sins. Holy (i.e. innocent) Job could not deny all the misfortunes and misery that had come upon him. We hear some of that in today’s reading. Yet his faith was so strong Job nertheless continued to believe in the goodness/love of God. (and only ultimately was he rewarded for this).
The other two readings today seem to focus on the importance of preaching (which can be either by one’s words or one’s life.) Remember that St. Paul vowed to preach only Christ Crucified (cf. 1 Cor.2:2). And Jesus in his preaching made it clear he was a sign of contradiction. What might that be? That we all must wade through the fog of the mystery of evil, having faith that by joining our sufferings to the sufferings of Christ, we will ultimately participate in his risen glory.