Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Prayer to our Lady of Guadalupe for Justice - from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development

I picked up a prayer card with this prayer on it when I was at St Lawrence Catholic Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.  

Most merciful mother, you came to us out of your compassion when you appeared to humble Juan Diego, who called the smallest and dearest of your sons.  Give us your strength and protection, especially to the poor, the young, the elderly, and the vulnerable.  Plead on their behalf to the Father, that they may experience divine love tangibly in their daily lives, that all who work for justice on their behalf may grow in fortitude and humility.  In these ways, manifest your charity and concern in their lives, that the cry of humanity may be heard, that all of our suffering, pain, and misfortune may be filled with divine comfort and healing.  May we always know the peace of being in the cradle of your arms.  Bring us safely home to your son, Jesus.  AMEN.  

6/30/2017 – Friday of the 12th week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:1-4

     After the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus performs a series of miracles and healings. They demonstrate the authority of Jesus’ teachings and emphasize his proclamation of God’s kingdom, which is the context in which we hear Jesus healing the leper in today’s Gospel.
        Leprosy is not a disease that confronts us in the daily lived reality in modern America. However, when I read this story of the leper in today’s reading, I thought of the Louisiana Leper Home located on the banks of the Mississippi River, founded in 1894 in Carville, Louisiana on the site of an abandoned sugar plantation.  I remember the first year I was a priest at St Richard, I was planning a funeral with the sons of an elderly parishioner who had passed away.   We had picked out all of the readings, choosing traditional ones from the funeral planning guide, when we started talking about their father’s life.   These men mentioned that their dad had been an occupational therapist, with the thing he was most proud of in his career was the several years he spent as a young man working with the lepers in Carville.  I told the sons that we should pass over the Gospel reading we had originally chosen and pick this Gospel reading from Matthew about the healing of the leper. Their father had been so devoted to helping the lepers function as best they could through the effects of this terrible disease, so they thought that this Gospel reading of the healing of the leper reflected their dad and the values by which he lived. 
        We can wait for miracles to happen in our lives, and sometimes they do happen, but what wonderful initiative the leper takes today in approaching Jesus and having faith that his touch has the power to heal.  The psalm response today announces: "See how the Lord blesses those who fear him."  Instead of thinking of fear as being afraid of punishment, we should see fear in this context as having a healthy respect for God, being in awe in his presence, and recognizing his power and omniscience.  Do we approach God in prayer with the problems and struggles that we face in life?  Do we come to him in humility and gratitude?  Jesus can heal our bodies and our souls, but only if we place our trust in him.

28 June 2017 - Wednesday of 12th week in Ordinary Time - St Irenaeus - Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

      St Irenaeus was one of the first great theologians in our Catholic faith, having been born into a Greek family in Asia minor in the early 2nd century.  He was friends with St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna who was a disciples of St John the Evangelist, who himself was an important figure in the Early Church.  Irenaeus was a priest Lyons in current day France, having served there during the time of the persecutions under Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.  He later became Bishop of that city.  Irenaeus is best known for his writings in apologetics and against the heresies of his time, especially Gnosticism.  Jesus in the Gospel today has a similar message, of warning us against the false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing and who try to lure us away from the faith.  Indeed, the world and many other things can lure us away from the faith.   Against the dualism of Gnosticism that saw the spirit as superior and the body and matter as inferior, Irenaeus declared that the soul and body of a human being are inseparably bound together, that the soul would have no individuality or identity independent of the body.  Irenaeus saw humanity as being created in God’s image, created with the capacity for relationship to God in obedience: its fulfillment is in this relationship.  “The life of man is the vision of God”, declared Irenaeus.  We hear of the on-going relationship between God and Abraham, with Abraham wondering how he will create a great nation if he is not able to produce a child.  God fulfills that promise through his covenant with Abraham and Abraham’s obedience.  As Abraham is instructed by God not to fear, may we also have confidence and faith on our journey. 

27 June 2017 - Tuesday of the 12th week in Ordinary Time - Genesis 13:2, 5-18

     For the last couple of weeks, we had been hearing from Paul’s second letter to the Church at Corinth in our first readings in our daily masses, hearing about the advice he was giving to one of the early Church communities that formed after Christ’s death and resurrection in that first century.  In that letter, Paul reached out to the Corinthians in the midst of the day-to-day struggles and challenges they were having in their community of faith.  This week we hear from the book of Genesis about God reaching out to Abraham and establishing a covenant with him. In the days when the Early Church was growing and developing, particularly in the second century AD, the philosophy of Gnosticism was also gaining in popularity.  Gnosticism, which was eventually declared a heresy, claimed that salvation could be gained through secret knowledge.  Gnostics believed that the material world was evil, being inferior to and in opposition to the spiritual world. Gnostics also regarded the Old Testament as a embarrassment to the Christian faith, as a record of a nation bound to crude, superstitious beliefs about God and creation. In hearing the details about the story of Abraham, I thought about how our Christian faith sees the continuity of God’s activity and interaction with humanity and with creation, how God’s redemptive action is spread over the trajectory of the history of the nations of Israel, of how God at work in the prophets and patriarchs of Israel laid the ground work for the arrival of Jesus and his ministry.  In the covenant with Abraham, God reveal himself in the midst of human history, a process that continues today. Even in the midst of Abraham’s disagreements with Lot and in his decision to move, he gave thanks to the Lord in the midst of his reality, building a temple to the Lord, displaying the faith and trust he has in God.  As God kept his faithful promises to Abraham and his descendants, God remains faithful to us.  

29 June 2017 - Thursday - Fortnight for Freedom - For the Freedom of the Church

When we Americans look at other countries who have been traditionally Catholic for many centuries, such as Mexico, Spain, and France, sometimes we assume that the Church has been safe and protected in those countries and would not have experienced trouble in being a part of society.  However, all three of those countries I mentioned have had terrible times of persecution, when society and government have turned against the Church and have initiated a time a great persecution.  We in the US have often taken the Church for granted, but given our current political and cultural climate and the signs of the times throughout the world, the freedom that the Church has to proclaim God’s kingdom can not be taken for granted any longer.  We pray for the freedom for the Church to fulfill its calling in American society and throughout the world.  

From the USCCB website (American Bishops):

Pray: That the Church would have the space to carry out her mission of service and mercy for the whole world.

Reflect:  The Church is the body of Christ, the pilgrim people of God. She is not simply another charitable organization. The Church is called to carry forward the mission of Jesus Christ in all times and places. Much current work for religious freedom asks for exemptions from the state. But we should keep in mind that the government is not granting us rights. Rather, the state is correctly acknowledging the right of the Church to fulfill her purposes. As Pope Francis, echoing Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, has said, the Church is not merely an “NGO” (nongovernmental organization). The Church is empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out the mission of Christ, and a well-functioning government will recognize its own limits and allow the Church the space to do her work.

Act:  Our freedom for mission is difficult to appreciate if it is not exercised.  Get in touch with a local parish or diocese, find out what your local church is doing in your community, and see how you can get involved. Even if you don’t have time to volunteer, prayer can be an important way to stay connected to the work.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Fortnight for Freedom - 6-28-2017 - Wednesday - Freedom to serve through Education

When I was serving the Catholic communities in the city of Yazoo City in the Mississippi Delta, I saw first hand the impact Catholic education can have in a community.  The African American parish in that town, St Francis of Assisi, had an elementary school and high school for many years.  When many of those children and youth had to work on the farms and in the cotton fields during harvest time, getting an education was difficult and a challenge.  Many of them went on to become professionals and were very successful in their field of work.  They credited the education they received from the nuns in the Catholic school as the foundation of their success and their achievements.  We in the Catholic Church need to have the freedom to run our schools and to pass down the faith to our children and youth. 

From the US Bishops’ webs: 

Pray:  That Catholic schools would have the freedom to teach and bear witness to the truth about God and creation.

Reflect:  God has created people with a capacity to exercise reason. The Christian commitment to reason and service has meant that education is a central aspect of the Church’s mission. One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to teach. In the U.S., Catholic schools have played an important role in offering hope in impoverished, primarily urban, areas. Catholic schools have been significant anchor institutions in many neighborhoods, and thus they benefit even those who are not their students. Catholic leaders played a leading role in ensuring that AfricanAmerican children could have access to quality education. Education is what Catholics do, and it is difficult to imagine an America without Catholic schools. Catholic schools need the space, the freedom, to operate in accordance with Catholic convictions if they are to continue to be a source of vitality for our society. 

Act:  Consider getting in touch with your local Catholic schools to find out about how they serve their communities and how you might participate in their work. Or, sign up for the USCCB Catholic Education Newsletter to keep up with the latest in Catholic education.

Fortnight for Freedom - Tuesday - 6-27-2017 - For Christians in the Middle East

For so long, we in the US took for granted that religious persecution was something that took place in the past or places far away from us.  In recent years, since Christianity has come under attack here in our own country, we have paid more attention to the religious persecutions that take place in different parts of the world.  In the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, persecution of Christianity is a dire reality.  We pray for those who are persecuted for their Christian faith in the Middle East.  We pray for reconciliation and understanding.  

From the US Bishops website

Pray:  For our sisters and brothers in the Middle East; that through the intercession of the Apostles, who established these most ancient churches,
Christians and all religious minorities would be freed from violent persecution.

Reflect: In July 2015, Pope Francis said, “Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus…. [I]n this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide – I insist on the word – is taking place, and it must end.” Today, Christians are among those religious minorities confronted with persecution, despite their having been critical to the vitality and pluralism of the region since the earliest days of Christianity.

Act:  Catholic Relief Services, Aid to the Church in Need, Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and the Knights of Columbus have all worked to assist Christians in the Middle East. Consider getting in touch with these organizations and finding out how you can participate in their work.