Archive for the ‘*Faith / Church’ Category

If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Trademarks of the True Messiah – A Homily for the 22nd Sunday of the Year

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

In Sunday’s Gospel the Lord firmly sets before us the need for the cross, not as an end in itself, but as the way to glory. Let’s consider the Gospel in three stages.

I.  The Pattern that is Announced – The text says, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.

The Lord announces not only the Cross but also the Resurrection. In effect, He announces the pattern of the Christian life, which we have come to call the “Paschal Mystery.”

The expression “Paschal Mystery” refers to the suffering, death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus as a whole. The word “Paschal” is related to the Hebrew word for Passover, “Pesach.” Just as the shed blood of a lamb saved the people from the angel of death and signaled their deliverance, so does Jesus’ death, his Blood, save us from death and deliver us from slavery to sin.

So He is announcing a pattern: the Cross leads somewhere; it accomplishes something. It is not an end in itself; it has a purpose; it is part of a pattern.

St. Paul articulates the pattern of the Paschal Mystery in this way: We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body (2 Cor 4:10). It is like an upward spiral in which the cross brings blessings we enjoy. We often circle back to the crosses God permits, but then there come even greater blessings and higher capacities. Cross, growth, cross, growth—so the pattern continues until we reach the end, dying with Christ so as to live with Him.

This is the pattern of our life. We are dying to our old self, to this world, to our sins; but rising to new life, rising to the Kingdom of God and becoming victorious over sin. The cross brings life; it is a prelude to growth. We die in order to live more richly. An old spiritual says of this repeated pattern that “every round goes higher, higher.”

Do you see the pattern that Jesus announces? Neither the Lord not the Church announces the cross so as to burden us. No, the cross is part of a pattern that, if accepted with faith, brings blessing, new life, and greater strength.

II.  The Prevention that is Attempted – The text says, Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Notice Peter’s exact wording: “No such thing shall ever happen to you.” We ought to ask, “What such thing?” Peter, in precluding that Jesus suffer and die, also implicitly blocks the rising and glorification of Jesus, for Christ cannot rise unless He dies.

Peter, of course, is not thinking this all the way through—but neither do we when we seek to avoid crosses for ourselves or to hinder others improperly from accepting their crosses. The cross brings glory and growth; we run the risk of depriving ourselves and others of these if we rush to eliminate all the demands and difficulties of life. We may do this through enabling behaviors or perhaps by spoiling our children.

We also hinder our own growth by refusing to accept the crosses of self-discipline, hard work, obedience, suffering, consequences, limits, and resistance of temptation. In rejecting the cross we also reject its fruits.

All of this serves to explain Jesus’ severe reaction to Peter’s words. He even goes so far as to call Peter, “Satan,” for it pertains to Satan to pretend to befriend us in protesting our crosses while really just wanting to thwart our blessings. Peter may not know what he is doing, but Satan does—he seeks to become an obstacle to Jesus’ work.

Jesus’ severe reaction is rooted in protecting our blessings.

III. The Prescription that is Awarding – Jesus goes on to teach further on the wisdom of and the need for the cross. The text says, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

The heart of Jesus’ teaching here is the deep paradox that in order to find our life we must lose it. More specifically, in order to gain Heaven, we must die to this world. That dying is a process more so than just an event at the end of our physical life here. Although we cling to life in this world, it is really not life at all. It is a mere spark compared to the fire of love that God offers; it is a single note compared to the great symphony God directs.

Jesus instructs us to be willing to exchange this tiny, dying life for that which is true life. The Lord says that whatever small blessings come from clinging to this life and this world are really no benefit at all.

Of course what the world’s cheap trinkets offer is immediate gratification and evasion of the cross. We may feel relief for a moment, but our growth is stunted and those cheap little trinkets slip through our fingers. We gain the world (cheap little trinket that it is) but lose our souls. It’s a total loss, or to use a modern expression, it’s a FAIL!

Jesus’ final words, however, remind us that the choice is ours. The day will come when He will respond to our choice. Either we accept true life and win or we choose the passing, dying life of this world and lose.

Addendum:

Hedonism – This is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life. It comes from the Greek word hēdonē, meaning “pleasure” and is akin to the Greek hēdys, meaning “sweet.”

Of course pleasure is to be desired and to some degree sought, but it is not the only good in life. Indeed, some of our greatest goods and accomplishments require sacrifice: years of study and preparation for a career; the blood, sweat, and tears of raising children.

Hedonism seeks to avoid sacrifice and suffering at all costs. It is directly opposed to the theology of the Cross. St. Paul spoke in his day of the enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (Php 3:18–19). He also taught that the cross was an absurdity to the Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23).

Things have not changed, my friends. The world reacts with great indignation whenever the cross or suffering is even implied. So the world will cry out with bewildered exasperation and ask incredulously of the Church, are you saying that a woman who was raped must carry the child to term and cannot abort? Yes, we are. Are you saying that a “gay” person must live celibately and may never “marry” his or her same-sex lover? Yes, we are. Are you saying that a handicapped child in the womb must be “condemned” to live in the world and cannot be aborted and put out of his (more accurately our) “misery”? Yes, we are. Are you saying that a suffering person cannot be euthanized to avoid the pain? Yes, we are.

The shock expressed in these sorts of questions shows how deeply hedonism has infected the modern mind. The concept of the cross is not only absurd, it is downright “immoral” in the hedonist mentality, which sees pleasure as the only true human good. To the hedonist, a life without enough pleasure is a life not worth living, and anyone who would seek to set limits on the lawful (and sometime unlawful) pleasures of others is mean, hateful, absurd, obtuse, intolerant, and just plain evil.

When pleasure is life’s only goal or good, how dare you, or the Church, or anyone seek to set limits on it let alone suggest that the way of the cross is better or required! You must be banished, silenced, and destroyed.

Many faithful Catholics in the pews are deeply infected with the illusion of hedonism and thus take up the voice of bewilderment, anger, and scoffing whenever the Church points to the cross and insists on self-denial, sacrifice, and doing the right thing even when the cost is great. The head wagging in congregations is often visible if a priest dares to preach that abortion, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, and contraception are wrong regardless of the cost, or if he speaks about the reality of the cross. The faithful who swim in the waters of a hedonistic culture are often shocked at anything that might limit the pleasure that others want to pursue.

Hedonism makes the central Christian mysteries of the cross and redemptive suffering seem like something from a distant planet or a parallel and strange universe. The opening word from Jesus’ mouth, “Repent,” seems strange to the hedonistic world, which has even reconstructed Jesus Himself to be someone who just wants us to be happy and content. The cry goes up, even among the faithful, doesn’t God want me to be happy? On this basis, all kinds of sinful behavior is supposed to be tolerated because insisting on the opposite is “hard” and because it seems “mean” to speak of the cross or of self-discipline in a hedonistic culture.

Bringing people back to the real Jesus and to the real message of the Gospel, which features the cross as the way to glory, takes a lot of work and a long conversation. We must be prepared to engage in that extended conversation with people.

This song speaks of life as a kind of spiraling climb between cross and glory. As the spiritual says, “Every round goes higher, higher, soldiers of the Cross.”

 

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Excerpts from Cardinal Raymond Burke’s address at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum entitled “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World” given at Galt House, Louisville, Kentucky 22 July 2017.[Source]

Developing Lives of Peace after the Heart of Mary

Recently, I participated in a three-day conference on the Sacred Liturgy in which many good young priests also participated. There were several occasions to visit with them about their priestly ministry. As is my experience in most places that I visit, the priests expressed a great concern about the situation in which the world and the Church find themselves. It is a situation which can most simply be described as confusion, division and error. Toward the end of the conference, one young pastor approached me and asked: “Cardinal, do you think that we are in the end times?” The expression on his face made clear the sincerity of his question and the profound concern which prompted it. I did not hesitate to respond: “It may be so.”

We are living in most troubled times in the world and also in the Church. Secularization has ravaged the culture of many nations, especially in the West, alienating culture from its only true source in God and His plan for us and our world. There is the daily and widespread attack on innocent and defenseless human life with the resulting unprecedented violence in family life and in society, in general. There is the ever more virulent gender ideology which propagates total confusion about our identity as male and female, and leads to the profound unhappiness and even self-destruction of many in society. There is also the denial of the freedom of religion which attempts to hinder, if not snuff out completely, any public discourse about God and our necessary relationship with Him. With the denial of the freedom of religion comes the attempt to force God-fearing individuals to act against their well-formed conscience, that is, against God’s law written upon the human heart. In supposedly free countries, the government forces upon society practices of abortion, sterilization, contraception, euthanasia, and lack of respect for human sexuality, even to the  point of indoctrinating small children in the iniquitous “gender theory.”

 At the same time, atheistic materialism and relativism leads to the unscrupulous pursuit of wealth, pleasure and power, while the rule of law, dictated by justice, is trampled underfoot. In such a pervasively disordered cultural condition, there is legitimate fear of a global confrontation which can only mean destruction and death for many. Clearly, the present situation of the world cannot continue without leading to total annihilation.

The world has never needed more the solid teaching and direction which Our Lord, in His immeasurable and unceasing love of man, wishes to give to the world through His Church and especially through her pastors: the Roman Pontiff, the Bishops in communion with the See of Peter, and their principal co-workers, the priests. But, in a diabolical way, the confusion and error which has led human culture in the way of death and destruction has also entered into the Church, so that she draws near to the culture without seeming to know her own identity and mission, without seeming to have the clarity and the courage to announce the Gospel of Life and Divine Love to the radically secularized culture. For example, after the June 30th decision of the German Parliament to accept so-called “samesex marriage,” the President of Conference of Bishops in Germany declared that the decision was not a major concern for the Church which, according to him, should be more concerned about intolerance towards persons suffering from same-sex attraction. Clearly, in such an approach, there is no longer the just and necessary distinction between the love which we as Christians must always have for the person involved in sin and the hatred which we also must always have for sinful acts.

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For whatever reason, many shepherds are silent about the situation in which the Church finds herself or have abandoned the clarity of the Church’s teaching for the confusion and error which is wrongly thought to address more effectively the total collapse of Christian culture. The young pastor who asked me the question about the possibly apocalyptic nature of the present time in the Church and in the world spoke from an experience of ever greater challenges in teaching the truths of the faith with integrity, while witnessing a seeming lack of clarity and courage on the part of higher ecclesial authority.

In fact, the totally materialist and relativist culture, embraced and powerfully supported by the secular means of communication and the political lobbying of wealthy secularists, encourages the confusion and division in the Church. Some time ago, a Cardinal in Rome commented on how good it is that the secular media are no longer attacking the Church, as they did so fiercely during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. My response was that the approval of the secular media is, on the contrary, for me a sign that the Church is failing badly in her clear and courageous witness to the world for the salvation of the world.

 :::

Describing what has become known as “the power of the keys,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that it is founded on Saint Peter’s confession of Our Lord as God the Son Incarnate for our eternal salvation and declares: Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.

Thus, it is absurd to think that Pope Francis can teach something which is not in accord with what his predecessors, for example Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Saint John Paul II, have solemnly taught.

Regarding the frequent statements of Pope Francis, there has developed a popular understanding that every statement of the Holy Father must be accepted as papal teaching or magisterium. The mass media has certainly wanted to pick and choose among the declarations of Pope Francis, in order to demonstrate that the Catholic Church is undergoing a revolution and is changing radically its teaching on certain key questions of faith and especially of morals. The matter is complicated because Pope Francis regularly chooses to speak in a colloquial manner, whether during interviews given on airplanes or to news outlets, or in spontaneous remarks to various groups. Such being the case, when one places his remarks within the proper context of the teaching and practice of the Church, he may be accused of speaking against the Holy Father. I recall one of the eminent Fathers of the Extraordinary Session of the Synod of Bishops, held during October of 2014, approaching me during a break to say: “What is going on? Those of us who are upholding what the Church has always taught and practiced are now called enemies of the Pope?” As a result, one is tempted to remain silent or to try to explain doctrinally a language which confuses or even contradicts doctrine.

The way in which I have come to understand the duty to correct the popular understanding regarding Church teaching and the declarations of the Pope is to distinguish, as the Church has always done, the words of the man who is Pope and the words of the Pope as Vicar of Christ on earth. In the Middle Ages, the Church spoke of the two bodies of the Pope: the body of the man and the body of the Vicar of Christ. In fact, the traditional Papal vesture, especially the red mozzetta with the stole depicting the Apostles Saint Peter and Paul, visibly represents the true body of the Pope when he is setting forth the teaching of the Church.

In recent times, the Church has not been accustomed to a Roman Pontiff who speaks  publicly in a colloquial manner. In fact, great care has always been taken, so that any published words of the Pope be clearly in accord with the Magisterium. Some months ago, I was speaking with a Cardinal who, as a young prelate, had worked closely with Blessed Pope Paul VI. Pope Paul VI was a gifted preacher who often spoke without a prepared text. These sermons were later transcribed for publication, but Pope Paul VI would never permit the publication of one of his sermons without thoroughly studying the printed text. As he told the young prelate, I am the Vicar of Christ on earth, and I have a most serious responsibility to make certain that no word of mine could be interpreted in a way contrary to Church teaching.

Pope Francis has chosen to speak often in his first body, the body of the man who is Pope. In fact, even in documents which, in the past, have represented more solemn teaching, he states clearly that he is not offering magisterial teaching but his own thinking. But those who are accustomed to a different manner of Papal speaking want to make his every statement somehow part of the Magisterium. To do so is contrary to reason and to what the Church has always understood. It is simply wrong and harmful to the Church to receive every declaration of the Holy Father as an expression of papal teaching or magisterium.
Making the distinction between the two types of discourse of the Roman Pontiff is, in no way, disrespectful of the Petrine Office. Much less, does it constitute enmity of Pope Francis. In fact, to the contrary, it shows ultimate respect for the Petrine Office and for the man to whom Our Lord has entrusted it. Without the distinction, we would easily lose respect for the Papacy or be led to think that, if we do not agree with the personal opinions of the man who is Roman Pontiff, then we must break communion with the Church.

In any case, any declaration of the Roman Pontiff must be understood within the context of the constant teaching and practice of the Church, lest confusion and division about the teaching and practice of the Church enter into her body to the great harm of souls and to the great harm of the evangelization of the world. Recall the words of Saint Paul at the  beginning of the Letter to the Galatians, a community of early Christians into which a grave confusion and division had entered. As a good shepherd of the flock, Saint Paul wrote the following words to address the most worrisome situation:

I marvel that you are so quickly deserting him who called you to the grace of Christ, changing to another gospel; which is not another gospel, except in this respect that there are some who trouble you, and wish to  pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel to you other than that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema! As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I seeking to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I should not be a servant of Christ.

While maintaining firmly the Catholic faith in what pertains to the Petrine Office, we cannot fall into an idolatry of the papacy which would make every word spoken by the Pope to be doctrine, even if it is construed to be contrary to the very word of Christ, for example, regarding the indissolubility of marriage. Rather, with the Successor of Peter, we should strive to understand more and more fully the word of Christ, in order to live it more and more perfectly.

Shockingly, some months ago, the Superior General of the Jesuits suggested that we cannot know what Christ really said about any given matter, since we do not have tape-recordings of his discourses. Apart from the absurdity of his statement, it gives the impression that there is no longer a constant teaching and practice of the faith as it has come down to us, in an unbroken line, from the time of Christ and the Apostles.

Likewise, it is not a question of a legitimate so-called “pluralism” in the Church, that is, of a legitimate difference of theological opinion. The faithful are not free to follow theological opinions which contradict the doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, and confirmed by the ordinary Magisterium, even if these opinions are finding a wide hearing in the Church and are not being corrected by the Church’s pastors as the pastors are obliged to do.

Observing the centennial of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, we must recall how her Message or, as it is sometimes called, her Secret, is principally meant to address a widespread apostasy in the Church and the failure of the Church’s shepherds to correct it. The triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is, first and foremost, the triumph of the Faith which teaches us what is our right relationship with God and with others.

What then must be our response to the exceedingly difficult times in which we are living, times which realistically seem to be apocalyptic? It must be the response of faith, of faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ Who is alive for us in the Church and Who never fails to teach, sanctify and guide us in the Church, even as He professed to remain with us always until His return on the Last Day to inaugurate “new heavens and a new earth,” to welcome the faithful to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. We know what Christ teaches us in the Church. It is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the official teaching of the Church. His teaching does not change. In the midst of the present confusion and division, we must study more attentively the teachings of the faith contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and be prepared to defend those teachings against any falsehood which would erode the faith and thus the unity of the Church.

In order to remain completely united to Christ, in order to be one heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we must go to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, in order to imitate the oneness of her Immaculate Heart with the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus and in order to seek her maternal intercession. The final words of the Virgin Mother of the Redeemer recorded in the Gospels are the words she spoke to the wine stewards at the Wedding Feast of Cana who came to her in anguish over the lack of sufficient wine for the guests of the newlyweds. She responded to them and their situation of great distress by leading them to her Divine Son, also a guest at the Wedding Feast, and instructing them: “Do whatever he tells you.”

These simple words express the mystery of the Divine Maternity by which the Virgin Mary became the Mother of God, bringing God the Son Incarnate into the world. By the same mystery, she continues to be the channel of all the graces which immeasurably and unceasingly pour forth from Her Divine Son’s glorious pierced Heart into the hearts of His faithful brothers and sisters on earthly pilgrimage to their lasting home with Him in Heaven. No less than she did for the wine stewards at the Wedding Feast of Cana, our Blessed Mother will draw us always closer to Christ Who alone brings us  peace in the midst of our trials.

Invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we must also invoke frequently throughout the day the intercession of Saint Michael the Archangel. There is no question that the Church is in the midst of a particularly fierce time of battle against the forces of evil, against Satan and his cohorts. There is a definitely diabolical involvement in the ever spreading confusion, division and error within the Church. As Saint Paul reminded us in the Letter to the Ephesians, “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high.” Saint Michael is our defender in the battle, he is our “safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil” who does not sleep as he “prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

Our Blessed Mother also makes us conscious of our communion with all the saints and, in a particular way, with her most chaste spouse and the foster-father of her Divine Son, Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph is the patron of the universal Church. We should pray to him daily for the peace of the Church, for her protection against all forms of confusion and division which are always the work of Satan. Not without reason, one of the titles of Saint Joseph is “Terror of Demons.” As a good father, he will intercede for the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Our Blessed Mother will likewise lead us to seek the intercession of Saint Peter for his successor, Pope Francis, in order that he know how best to address the grievous situation of the world and the Church, faithfully teaching the word of Christ and addressing it in the loving and firm way of a true spiritual father to the situation of the world today. We should also invoke the intercession of the great pope saints who guided the Church in difficult times with heroic sanctity. I think of Pope Saint Leo the Great, Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Pope Saint Gregory VII, Pope Saint Pius V, Pope Saint Pius X, and Pope Saint John Paul II.

In a particular way, we should pray for the Cardinals of the Church, who are the principal counselors of the Roman Pontiff, that they be of true assistance to the Holy Father in exercising his office as “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” In such times, the service of the Cardinals requires of them a particular clarity and courage, and a willingness to accept whatever suffering is required in order to be faithful to Christ and His Church, “even to the outpouring of their blood” (“usque ad effusionem sanguinis”).

Having drawn close to the Mother of God who unfailingly takes us to her Divine Son, we must remain serene because of our faith in Christ who will not permit the “gates of hell” to prevail against his Church.

Serenity does not mean that we ignore or deny the gravity of the situation in which the world and the Church find themselves. It means rather that we are fully conscious of the seriousness of the situation, while at the same time we address all of the needs of the world and the Church to Christ our Savior through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Joseph, and the whole company of the saints.

Serenity means that we do not give way to a worldly desperation which expresses itself in aggressive and uncharitable ways. Our confidence is in Christ. Yes, we must do all within our power to defend our Catholic faith in any circumstance in which it is under attack, but we know that the victory belongs ultimately and solely to Christ. Thus, when we have done all that we can do, we are at peace, even if we recognize that we remain “unprofitable servants.”

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To conclude, in my response to the young priest who expressed concern that we may be living in the end times, after saying that it may be so, I continued by saying that it is not for us to worry whether these times are apocalyptic or not, but to remain faithful, generous and courageous in serving Christ in His Mystical Body, the Church. For we know that the final chapter of the story of these times is already written. It is the story of the victory of Christ over sin and its most deadly fruit, eternal death. It remains for us to write, with Christ, the intervening chapters by our fidelity, courage and generosity as His true co-workers, as true soldiers of Christ. It remains for us to be the good and faithful servants who await to open the door for the Master at His Coming.

 It is my hope that these reflections are helpful to you in living your Catholic faith as fully and perfectly as possible in these most troubled times. In a particular way, it is my hope that they will help you to live lives of peace after the Immaculate Heart of Mary, under which God the Son took a human heart, in order to win peace for our hearts always. Let us make our own the oldest preserved extant hymn to the Virgin Mother of God, found already on an Egyptian papyrus of the 3rd century:
We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our  petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.
 
Similarly, let us pray in the words of the ancient hymn for Vespers on feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ave Maris Stella: Show thyself a mother; may the Word divine, born for us thine Infant, hear our prayers through thine.

Let us never doubt that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Divine Grace, will lead us to her Divine Son, in order that our hearts, one with her Immaculate Heart, may rest always in His Heart, the only source of our salvation. So we will find peace. We will know, love and serve Christ in our daily living.

Thank you for your kind attention. Please pray for me. May God bless you, your homes, and all your labor

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke

Read the entire reflection here.

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Which Do You Prefer: Melons and Leeks, or the Bread of Heaven?

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

The first reading for daily Mass on Monday (18th week of the year) was taken from the Book of Numbers. It features the Israelites grumbling about the manna in the wilderness:

Would that we had meat for food! We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now we are famished; we see nothing before us but this manna (Numbers 11:4-5).

While it is easy to be astonished at their insolence and ingratitude, the scene presented depicts very common human tendencies; it is not unique to these people once in the desert. Their complaints are too easily our own.

Let’s look at some of the issues raised and see how it is possible for many of us today to struggle in the same way.

I. They prefer the abundance of food and creature comforts that come along with slavery in Egypt, to the freedom of children of God and the chance to journey to the Promised Land. Too easily, this is our struggle as well. Jesus points to the cross, but we prefer the pillow. Heaven is a nice thought, but it is in the future and the journey is a long one.

Too easily we prefer our own version of “melons and leeks.” Perhaps it is possessions, or power, or popularity. Never mind that the price we pay for them is a kind of bondage to the world and its demands. When the world grants its blessings, we become enslaved by the fact that we have too much to lose. We are willing to compromise our freedom, which Christ died to purchase for us, and enter into bondage to sin. We will buy into lies, commit any number of sins, or perhaps suppress the truth—all in an attempt to stay popular and well-connected. Why? Because we have become so desperate for the world’s blessings that we will make compromises that harm our integrity or hurt other people just to get those things we think we can’t live without.

We don’t like to call it bondage, though. Instead, we call it being “relevant,” “modern,” “tolerant,” and “compassionate.”  Yes, as we descend into deeper darkness and bondage to sin and our passions, we are pressured to call it “enlightenment,” “choice,” and “freedom.” So, although we use other terms, it is still bondage for the many who are afraid to break free from it.

We are in bondage to Egypt, enslaved to Pharaoh. We prefer that to the freedom of the desert, with its difficult journey to a Promised Land (Heaven) that we have not yet fully seen. The pleasures of the world, its melons and leeks, are displayed to us in the present and available for immediate enjoyment.

And so the cry still goes up: “Give us melons; give us leeks; give us cucumbers and fleshpots! Away with the desert. Away with the cross. Away with the Promised Land, if it exists at all. It is too far off and too hard to get to. Melons and leeks, please. Give us meat; we are tired of manna!”

II. They are bored with the manna. While its exact composition is mysterious to us, it would seem that manna could be collected, kneaded like dough, and baked like bread. As such, it was a fairly plain substance, meant more to sustain than to be enjoyed.

Remembering the melons, leeks, and fleshpots of Egypt, they were bored with this plain manna. Never mind that it was miraculously provided every day by God, and in just the right quantity. Even miracles can seem boring after a while to our petulantly demanding desires. The Lord may show us miracles today, but too easily do we demand even more tomorrow.

We are also somewhat like little children who prefer Twinkies and cupcakes to vegetables and other more wholesome foods. Indeed, the Israelites’ boredom with and even repulsion to the miracle food from Heaven does not sound so different from the complaint of many Catholics today that “Mass is boring.”

While it is certainly true that we can work to ensure that the liturgy reflects the glory it offers, it is also true that God has a fairly stable and consistent diet for us. He exhorts us to stay faithful to the manna: the wholesome food of prayer, Scripture, the Sacraments, and stable, faithful fellowship in union with the Church.

In our fickle spirits, many of us run after the latest fads and movements. Many Catholics say, “Why can’t we be more like the mega-churches with all the latest, including a Starbucks Coffee Café, contemporary music, a rock-star-like pastor delivering sensitive, toned-down preaching with many promises and few demands, and all that jazz?”

But as an old spiritual says regarding this type of person, “Some go to church for to sing and shout, before six months, they’s all turned out!” Thus some will leave the Catholic Church and other traditional forms that feature the more routine but stable and steady manner, in favor of the hip and the latest. They often find that within six months they’re bored again.

While the Church is always in need of reform, there is a lot to be said for the slow and steady pace as she journeys through the desert relying on the less glamorous but more stable and sensible food: the manna of the Eucharist, the Word of God, the Sacred Liturgy, prayer, and fellowship.

III. Who feeds you? Beyond these liturgical preferences of many for melons and leeks over manna, there is also a manifest preference for the food of this world. There is a tragic tendency for many Catholics—even regular church-goers—to get most of their food not from the Lord, Scripture, and the Church, but from the Egypt of this world.

Most dine regularly at the banquet table of popular entertainment, and secular news media and talk radio. They seem to eat this food quite uncritically! The manna is complained about, but the melons and leeks are praised without qualification.

While Christians cannot wholly avoid all contact with the world or eschew all its food, when do the melons and leeks ever come up for criticism? When do Christians finally look closely and say, “That is not the mind of God!” When do they ever conclude that this food is inferior to what God offers? When do parents finally walk into the living room, turn off the television, and tell their children that what they have just seen and heard is not the mind of God?

Tragically, this is rare. The food of this world is eaten in amounts far surpassing the consumption of the food of God. The melons and leeks of the world are praised, while the manna of God is put on trial for not being like the food of this world.

For a Christian, of course, this is backwards. The world should be on trial based on the Word of God. Instead, even for most Catholics, the Word of God and the teachings of the Church are put on trial by the standards of the world.

So the question is this: who is it that feeds you? Is it the world or the Lord? What proportion of your food comes from the Lord and what from the world? Answer honestly! Which is more influential in your daily life and your thinking: the world or the Lord?  Who is really feeding you, informing you, and influencing you? Is it the melons and leeks of this world or is it the faithful, stable, even miraculous manna of the Lord and His Church?

These are some probing questions for all of us, drawn from an ancient wilderness. God’s people, who tired of the manna, harmed themselves and others. It is easy to blame others for the mess we’re in today, but there are too many Catholics who prefer the melons and leeks of this world and have failed to summon others to the manna given by the Lord.

Have mercy on us, Lord our God. Give us a deep desire for the manna you offer. And having given it to us in abundance, help us to share it as well!

 

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Give Me Jesus – A Sermon for the 17th Sunday of the Year

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

The Gospel today asks a fundamental question: “What is it that you value most?” In other words, He’s asking us what we want most. We tend to answer questions like this the way we think we should, rather than genuinely. When we’re with the doctor (and Jesus is our doctor) our best bet is to answer honestly so that we can begin a true healing process. The fact is, we all need a heart transplant; we need a new heart, one that desires God and the things awaiting us in Heaven more so than any earthly thing.

Let’s take a look at this Gospel, which sets forth in three fundamental movements the picture and price of the Kingdom of God along with a peril that reminds us that we must make a choice.

I. The Picture – The Gospel uses three images for the kingdom, two of which we will look at here (a buried treasure and a pearl), and the third of which (a net) we will examine later. Both the treasure and pearl symbols are used elsewhere in Scripture. Studying those other passages can be helpful in fine-tuning our understanding of the gift of the Kingdom, which Jesus is discussing in today’s Gospel.

Buried Treasure – The concept of treasure (buried in the case of today’s Gospel) is mentioned elsewhere by Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt 6:19-21).

Although we tend to think of treasure as a bunch of “stuff,” the image of treasure that Jesus uses in today’s Gospel is more a symbol for the heart and for our deepest desires, because our treasure is linked to our heart. One of the greatest gifts that God offers us is the gift a new heart, one that values most what He offers: holiness and Himself. One of the most fundamental prophetic texts of the Old Testament announces what Jesus has fulfilled:

Oh, my people, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

The great treasure of the Kingdom of God gives us a new heart, by choosing it our heart is changed. To have a new heart is to experience our desires changing. We become less focused on passing, worldly things and more interested in the lasting treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven. We begin to love what and whom God loves. We begin to love holiness, justice, chastity, goodness, righteousness, and truth. We begin to love our spouse, family, the poor, and even our enemies the way God loves them. Our heart becomes alive with joy and zeal for the Kingdom of God and an evangelical spirit impels us to speak what we know to be true.

Yes, the buried, hidden treasure of the Kingdom of God unlocks our heart, bringing new life coursing through our veins, through our very soul. In choosing this treasure we get a new heart, for where our treasure is, there also will be our heart.

A Pearl – The second image comes from the Wisdom tradition, in which holy Wisdom is likened to a pearl. Here, too, is described one of the most precious gifts of the Kingdom of God: a new mind through holy Wisdom. What is this new mind? It is one that begins to think more and more as God does, one that shares His priorities and vision, one that sees as He does; it is the mind of Christ (cf 1 Cor 2:16). With this new mind we see through and reject worldly thinking, priorities, and agendas. We come to rejoice in God’s truth and to grasp more deeply its beauty and sensibility. What a precious gift the new mind is, thinking with God and having the mind of Christ!

So here are two precious manifestations of the Kingdom of God: a new heart and a new mind, which is really another way of saying, “a whole new self.” God is offering us a new life, a new self, a complete transformation.

II. The Price – What are these offerings of the Kingdom worth and what do they ultimately cost? The answer is clear in today’s Gospel: they cost, and are worth, everything. Regarding the hidden treasure and the pearl, the text says that both men went and sold all they had for them. They were willing to forsake everything for these precious items.

Be careful not to reduce this Gospel to a moralism. Notice that these men were eager to go and sell, to forsake, everything else. They did this not so much because they had to, but because they wanted to. They wanted to pay the price and did so with eagerness because they were so enamored of the glory they had found. Here is the gift to seek from the Lord: a willing and eager heart for the Kingdom of God, so eager that we are willing to forsake anything and everything for it.

For ultimately the Kingdom of God does cost everything and we will not fully inherit it until we are fully done with this world and its claims on our heart.

The gift to seek from the Lord is not that we forsake the world with sullen faces and depressed spirits, as if we were paying taxes. No! The gift to seek is that we, like these men, be so taken by the glory of God and His kingdom that we are more than willing to set aside anything that gets in our way, that we are so eager for the things of the Kingdom that loss of the world’s intoxicating trinkets means almost nothing.

Do you see? This is the gift: a heart that appreciates the true worth of the Kingdom of God such that no price is too high. Scripture says elsewhere,

  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:8).

  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17).

  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom 8:18).

  No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).

  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13-14).

Yes, the Kingdom of God is more than worth any price we must pay, and ultimately we will pay all for it. Pray for an eager and willing spirit that comes from appreciating the unsurpassed worth of the Kingdom!

III. The Peril – The final movement contains a warning about our upcoming judgment. Ultimately, we either want the Kingdom of God or we don’t. Hence the Lord speaks of a net that captures everything (referring to our summons to the judgment). Those who want the Kingdom and have accepted its value and price will be gathered in; those who do not want the Kingdom of God and do not accept its value will be cast aside.

There are clearly some who do not value the Kingdom. They may desire “heaven,” but it is one of their own making, not the real Heaven. The true Heaven is the Kingdom of God in all its fullness. The Kingdom of God includes things like forgiveness, mercy, justice, chastity, love of the poor, love of one’s enemies, and the celebration of what is good, true, and beautiful. The Kingdom of God has God, not man, at its center.

Yes, there are many who neither want nor value some or even most of these things. When the net is drawn in, our decision is made final. Though we may wish for a fairy tale ending, one in which opponents of the Kingdom suddenly love it, God quite clearly says that at the judgment one’s decision for or against the Kingdom becomes final; it is fixed forever.

An old song says, “Better choose the Lord today, for tomorrow very well might be too late.” Thus we are warned that the judgment looms and that we ought to be earnest in seeking a heart from the Lord that eagerly desires the Kingdom and appreciates its worth above all people and all things. In the end, we get what we want. Either we will have chosen the Kingdom or not.

Pray for a new heart, one that values the Kingdom of Heaven above all else. We ought to consider ourselves warned.

The Gospel today is about what we truly value, and is presented in three movements.

This song says, “You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.

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In fact, it is urgent and we all must do our share!

Excerpt from ‘The Power of Silence’ by Robert Cardinal Sarah:

The Church today is going through unprecedented exterior and interior trials. Something like an earthquake is seeking to demolish her doctrinal foundations and her centuries-old moral teaching.

Mankind itself has always imposed demanding ethical rules, prohibitions, and essential laws to prevent man from giving in to momentary impulses and to help him to ensure a greater quality of personal and social life. This is the result of efforts that are necessarily long and often demanding and difficult. The Church is being shaken violently by a general apostasy in formerly Christian countries. She is suffering from the infidelity of traitors  who abandon and prostitute her. But this universal weakening, which affects the world, the faith, and believers, must be a special opportunity for the Church to take a stand for God (cf. Mt 10:32-33) with clarity, vigor, and determination by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is necessary to reinforce in every faithful Christian the love of God; it is necessary to revive staunch adherence to the Catholic faith, it is necessary to proclaim the consistency of the Church at the heart of a world that is in complete upheaval  and threatened with collapse.

More on this site by Cardinal Sarah.

The Power of Silence

Book details.

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Greed: A Meditation on an Underreported Sin

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

One of the more underreported sins is greed. It is easy to conclude that greed is something manifested by “that other person,” who has more than I do. Yes, that rich guy over there, the one who earns a dollar more per hour than I do; he’s greedy, but I’m not.

But honestly, does any one of us ever come to a point in our life when we say, “I earn more than enough money. I’ll just give the rest away”? Not on your life!

Almost never would such a thought even occur to the average person. Instead, most of us respond to a pay increase, for example, by expanding our lifestyle and continuing to complain that we don’t have enough. At some point, we ought to admit that we do cross over into greed.

What is greed? It is the insatiable desire for more. It is a deep drive in us that, no matter how much we have, makes us think that it’s not enough. We still want more, and if we get more we want more still. This is the experience of greed.

Familiar though this sounds, too few of us are willing to consider that greed is really a problem for us. Greed is always something that other guy has.

Of course it doesn’t help that we live in a culture of consumption, which constantly tells us that we don’t have enough. Commercials tell us that the car we’re driving isn’t as good as this other car we could be driving. And so even though we have a perfectly good car, one with four wheels, a working engine, and probably even air conditioning, it still it isn’t good enough. So it is with almost every other product or amenity that is sold to us on a daily basis. The clever marketing experts of Madison Avenue are great at making us feel deprived. As a result, it almost never occurs to most of us that we may have crossed the line into greed. Despite having even six- and seven-figure incomes, many still feel that they don’t have enough.

This is all the more reason that we should spend some time reflecting on the nature of greed. Greed is a deep drive of sin, one of the deadly sins, and it brings with it a kind of blindness that causes us to mistake mere wants for true needs. As we entertain this illusion, there’s very little to prompt us to consider that we actually have more than enough. There’s very little to cause me to say, “Gee, I’ve gotten greedy” or to work toward curbing this insatiable desire for more.

No, it’s the other guy who’s greedy; I’m not. It’s a problem that those nasty rich and powerful people have. Never mind that I’m pretty darned rich myself, living in a home with running water, air conditioning, and maybe even luxuries like granite countertops and widescreen TVs.

When was the last time you heard a sermon on greed? If you did, it was probably the priest talking about some abstract group of people (not those present, of course) who probably also hold the “wrong” political opinions, etc. Yes, greed is always someone else’s problem.

When do I honestly look at myself and wonder if I am greedy? When do I ever conclude that I have more than enough and need to be more generous with what has become excessive in my life? When do I ever apply the old precept that if I have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor? I do understand that it’s good to have something laid up for a rainy day, but do I ever ask myself if I’m really trusting in God or just in my rainy day fund? When do I ever wonder if I’ve crossed the line into greed?

I realize that some of you who read this post will find it disturbing. So do I. These are uncomfortable questions.

Let me assure you that I do not write this post from a political perspective. I do not want the government mandating how much I can or should earn, and how much I can or should give away. I am referring to a very personal moral assessment that we all should make.

I also do not write as an economist. I realize that market-based economies are complex and that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with meeting people’s needs with products and services. I am also aware that markets supply jobs. But still, I must insist that we all ask ourselves some personal questions about limits. We cannot simply conclude that greed is the other guy’s problem.

Greed is one of the seven deadly sins; we ought to take it more seriously than many of us do. Somewhere there’s room for most of us to reflect on one of the most underreported sins: greed.

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What You Should Know About the Prosperity Gospel Preached by Joel Osteen

What You Should Know About Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”

Or just be a faithful Catholic and ignore them both.

 

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