Sunday, January 27, 2019

Jesus, Messiah and Lord

Readings: Nehemiah 8:2-4a.5-6.8-10; Ps 19:8-10.15; 1 Corinthians 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4.4:14-21

Our Gospel reading today consists of the opening passage of St. Luke's Gospel and then, skipping the entire infancy narrative, along with his baptism by John and his 40 days and nights in the desert, goes to the formal beginning of Jesus's public ministry. I say "formal beginning" because, according to Luke's account, prior to is Messianic proclamation in his hometown on a Sabbath and presumably after his return from his desert sojourn, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all" (Luke 4:14-15).

By configuring the reading in his way, the lectionary conforms Luke to the modality used by the inspired author of the Gospel According to St. Mark (see Mark 1:1-15). In short, our reading seeks to get to the heart of the matter: Jesus is Messiah and Lord. The passage from Isaiah that Jesus proclaims contains a Messianic aspiration that we can call a prophecy, prediction. In other words, when Jesus delivers his nine-word homily, there is no doubt in the minds of his hearers what he has just said: he publicly proclaimed himself to be the Messiah. What response did this elicit? The congregation attempted to kill him (Luke 4:28-30).

Jesus was forced to extend his homily when, in response to his initial nine-word declaration, he hears people asking, "Isn’t this the son of Joseph?" (Luke 4:22), he responds to this murmuring with a rebuke:
"Surely you will quote me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself,' and say, 'Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'" And he said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian"

His rebuke points to two instances in the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament) in which the glory of God was made manifest, not through his chosen people, but through Gentiles. This itself points to the universal implications of Israel's election, which universality is realized in and through Jesus Christ. Jesus issued this rebuke in anticipation of their demand, in response to his Messianic claim, to perform some sign, to given them some proof to back-up his bold claim. It was his rebuke that so infuriated the congregation, most of whom would've been related to Jesus.

Through our Baptism and Confirmation, we are filled with Christ's Spirit, the same Spirit he declared, using Isaiah's words in today's Gospel, to "be upon him." In our epistle reading, St. Paul details the results of being, not individually, but corporately, filled with the Spirit of the Lord. In the first instance, the Spirit makes us one spirit, one body in Christ. Every member of Christ's body, without exception, is given some gift for the building up and growth of the Body of Christ. Belonging to a parish, a community, which is a microcosm of the Body of Christ, the Body of Christ not in but for a specific place and the people who inhabit it, provides us with opportunities to be of service to each other and our larger community.

Pairing the passage in Nehemiah about the public proclamation of the recovered Law with Luke's account of the formal beginning of Jesus's public ministry, complete with his explication, taken from Isaiah, about what constitutes his Messianic mission, serves to demonstrate that the Law is not an end in itself but the means to the end of loving God with your entire being by loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Towards the end, our reading from Nehemiah gives us a hint: "Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD" (emboldening and italicized emphasis mine). It is on these two commandments on which the law and the prophets depend (Matt 22:40).

Friday, January 25, 2019

"Roam if you want to/Without anything but the love we feel"

The weeks of 2019 are rolling by. This is the last traditio of the first month of the new year. I suppose the new year is still young. If we take the Biblical "threescore years and ten" (Psalm 90:10- KJV) as our baseline, 2019 isn't quite six years old yet. Whew!

Last Friday posted about the March for Life and how instead of becoming a right-wing political rally narrowly focused on overturning Roe v. Wade- the aftermath of which may be worse than the status quo- it needed to be more holistically pro-life. As if a case-in-point were needed, along came the students of Covington Catholic high school wearing pro-Trump MAGA hats. I know there has been a lot of back-and-forth about whether the behavior of these students was reprehensible, naïve, or entirely non-threatening. I am going with reprehensible and naïve. I will point to two articles that represent my views on what happened. The first is an opinion piece by Bishop John Stowe: "Wearing a Trump hat? That’s not exactly pro-life". Stowe serves as bishop of Kentucky diocese that neighbors the Diocese of Covington, the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. In his op-ed he stated his view of the matter very clearly:
I am ashamed that the actions of Kentucky Catholic high school students have become a contradiction of the very reverence for human life that the march is supposed to manifest. As such, I believe that U.S. Catholics must take a look at how our support of the fundamental right to life has become separated from the even more basic truth of the dignity of each human person.

Without engaging the discussion about the context of the viral video or placing the blame entirely on these adolescents, it astonishes me that any students participating in a pro-life activity on behalf of their school and their Catholic faith could be wearing apparel sporting the slogans of a president who denigrates the lives of immigrants, refugees and people from countries that he describes with indecent words and haphazardly endangers with life-threatening policies
I appreciate Bishop Stowe's intervention very much. It takes some courage, given where he serves for him to publicly express these views. I must admit that I am a little stumped that being "fair-minded" has come to mean believing and promulgating the right-wing spin on what happened.

This brings me to the second piece, written by Jason Wilson for The Guardian: "How conservative media transformed the Covington Catholic students from pariahs to heroes." Don't get me wrong, I feel bad for the young people involved, even the kid, Nick Sandmann, who was standing and leering at Native American marcher Nathan Phillips, who was participating in a different march- that for Indigenous Peoples. These young people needed savvy adult chaperons and now they need guidance and correction, not vilification. But, as Christians, they should've known better. Suffice it say, no black teen would be given a revisit or the benefit of the doubt. Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin come immediately to mind.

Sadly, the March for Life has largely become a right-wing political rally. As I noted last week, it has a very narrow focus, one that is certainly not full-spectrum pro-life. As a result, an increasing number of pro-lifers would not be caught within 10 miles of any March for Life.

In further developments, I've read claims that the Native American marchers had plans to disrupt Mass in D.C. (see "Basilica confirms Nathan Phillips protest attempted Mass disruption"). Granting the truthfulness of what Ed Condon's article asserts, I would say such an attempt is not a good thing. Even if true, it's doubtful these young people knew about it. Even if it is true AND these young people knew about it, theirs was not a Christian response.

I've also seen a meme featuring a picture of the leering lad with an Orwell quote from 1984 about what in Newspeak is called "facecrime." To my knowledge, the young Mr. Sandmann violated no law is in no danger of being arrested and sent to a reeducation camp where he must learn to love Big Brother. The point is, rather, whether his behavior and attitude bore the hallmarks of Christian witness or even respect for the human dignity of the Native American protestors. Digging a little deeper, it seems the irony of invoking Orwell was completely lost on whoever created the meme and those who re-posted it. In light of actual history, as opposed white-washed history, a young white man leering ominously at an elderly Native American man smacks more of this: "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

Today the Holy See released the Holy Father's Message for 53rd World Communications Day. The beginning of the Pope Francis's Message is worth quoting:
Ever since the internet first became available, the Church has always sought to promote its use in the service of the encounter between persons, and of solidarity among all. With this Message I would like to invite you once again to reflect on the foundation and importance of our being-in-relation and to rediscover, in the vast array of challenges of the current communications context, the desire of the human person who does not want to be left isolated and alone
World Youth Day(s) is going on this week in warm, sunny Panama. I am so grateful that my youngest daughter, who went on her own dime, is there. Pope Francis himself has arrived to be with the youth of Church. During his in-flight press conference on the way to Panama, referring the fear of immigrants, of migration, of the other, the Pontiff noted that this fear "is making us crazy." I take this as an implicit plea by the Bishop of Rome for Christians to be missionary disciples by creating a culture of encounter. Judging from my daughter's What'sApp messages and photos, this is what is happening in Panama. Since she is staying with a friend, she is participating in WYD events with a Panamanian parish. She is utterly in awe of how easy it has been to meet so many different people from all over the world, to encounter different languages, cultures, etc. and in that to discover our common humanity. This is what our young people need to experience. It is how they will experience being truly Catholic. Perhaps WYD would've been a better destination for the students of Covington Catholic than Washington, D.C.

In his opening address to the young people gathered in Panama, Pope Francis hit just this theme:
We come from different cultures and peoples, we speak different languages and we wear different clothes. Each of our peoples has had a different history and lived through different situations. We are different in so many ways! But none of it has stopped us from meeting one another and rejoicing to be together. The reason for this, we know, is that something unites us. Someone is a brother to us. You, dear friends, have made many sacrifices to be able to meet one another and in this way you have become true teachers and builders of the culture of encounter.
Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. And so, it is a good day to pray for conversion, for my own, for that of the young people celebrating WYD, as well as that of the entire People of God. Specifically, may Catholics in the U.S. learn how our support for the most fundamental of all rights- the right to life- flows from what Bishop Stowe characterized as "the even more basic truth of the dignity of each human person." As missionary disciples of the Lord Jesus, may our words and actions express these truths as love. Such a conversion can only result in becoming full-spectrum pro-life, as opposed merely to being "pro-birth," as important as that is.

Our Friday traditio- I didn't forget- is B-52's "Roam."

Thursday, January 24, 2019

On the anniversary of my ordination

It just occurred to me that I was ordained 15 years ago today. In light of this realization and my borderline neurotic dedication to anything and everything I I undertake, my first thought after remembering today's anniversary was "I should've composed a meaningful blog post." In my effort to live more peacefully with myself, I then thought, "Nah. What matters isn't the anniversary or even 15 years of past service. What matters is what lies ahead." Jesus always summons us forward.

My classmates and I received the Sacrament of Orders from the late George Hugh Niederauer, who then served as Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. He went on to serve as Archbishop of San Francisco, the metropolitan province to which my diocese belongs. We were ordained in The Cathedral of the Madeleine, where I had the privilege of serving for the first 11+ years of my diaconate. Archbishop Niederauer died 2 May 2017. I only mention the date of his death because he shared a birthday with our youngest daughter, 14 June and died on the birthday of our oldest son, with whom he would visit and entertain when he was little and I served at the Cathedral. He was a delightful person.

It was then- Bishop Niederauer's original desire to ordain us the anniversary of his episcopal ordination- 25 January- the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. In 2004 that day fell on a Sunday. So we were ordained on Saturday, 24 January 2004- the Memorial of St Francis de Sales.

Our official class photograph

Circling back to living at peace with myself brings to mind a popular quote attributed to St. Francis de Sales, the evangelistic Roman Catholic bishop of post-Reformation Geneva: "Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself." This is important because the grace of diaconal ordination largely consists of the strength to make yourself a gift to others so that they can experience his love directly. In this way, the deacon imitates Jesus, who is the model deacon. Making myself present to others in persona Christi servi (in the person of Christ the servant) means helping them see that Christ comes among us "as the one who serves" (Luke 22:27).

I remember after the ordination Mass going with my family and Father Patrick Elliott, a friend who passed away last November, to Buca di Beppo. My wife reserved "the Pope room." A few years later, as a gift for presiding at the wedding of one of the co-owners of this restaurant, I received a ceramic bust of Pope John Paul II from this room.

I was ordained with 24 other men. One of those with whom I was ordained was living here but moving to Tennessee shortly after ordination. Five of my classmates have died. It feels right to remember them by name in this post. They are named in the chronological order of their deaths: Gerald Shea, Aniceto Armendariz, C. Scott Chisholm, Willie Folks, Ricardo Arias. Four members of the Diocese of Salt Lake City diaconal ordination class of 2004 are no longer in active ministry due to age and health-related issues. Another one or two minister as they are able due to physical limitations.

As deacon classes in the United States go, my class featured both older members (i.e., a few guys approaching 70) and younger members (i.e., five or six guys under 45- I was youngest- 38 years-old at ordination).

To all my classmates who are alive and to those still serving, Ad multos annos!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Year C Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Isa 62:1-5; Ps 96:1-3.; 1 Cor 12:4-11; John 2:1-11

Like Luke’s account of Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the Temple disputing with the doctors of the Law when he was twelve, today’s Gospel reading might leave us with the impression that the Lord was being a bit harsh with his Mother. In response to her plea that he do something to rectify the terrible faux pas of running out of wine during a wedding celebration, Jesus says, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

In the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus’s public ministry begins with his proclamation of the Gospel upon his emergence from the desert (see Matthew 4:12-17; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:14-21). According to these accounts, after his Baptism by John in the Jordan, he went into the wilderness for forty days. While there he prayed, fasted, and was tempted by the devil. In John’s Gospel, by contrast, his public ministry begins, at Mary’s prompting, with this miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana.

Last week we celebrated the Lord’s Baptism, this week, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear about Jesus the beginning of Lord’s public ministry according to the Gospel of John. Next week we will hear Luke’s account of the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. These three events constitute the first three of the Luminous Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Traditionally, the Rosary consisted of three sets of mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. The Joyful mysteries of the Rosary bid us meditate on the events of Jesus’s birth. The Sorrowful mysteries provide us a way to contemplate his passion and death. The Glorious mysteries bring to mind his resurrection, ascension, and his abiding with us by means of the Holy Spirit, as well as a way to meditate on the Blessed Virgin’s Bodily Assumption and her Coronation as Queen of Heaven. Formerly, we meditated on the beginning and end of Christ's mortal life as well as on the mysteries arising from his Resurrection, skipping his life and ministry entirely.

It was Pope John Paul II who noticed that there was a gap in the mysteries of the Rosary. As a result, his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary), issued in October 2002- the month dedicated to the Rosary- John Paul II promulgated the Luminous mysteries, the “Mysteries of Light” (sec. 21). In order, these mysteries are: “(1) his Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration... (5) his institution of the Eucharist...” (Ibid).

Jesus beginning his ministry at the prompting of his Mother as well as at a wedding are both very significant. If you read through all four Gospels as though they were one book, the last words the Virgin Mary speaks are the ones she speaks to “the servers” in our reading today: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Hearkening back to what likely struck you as the Lord’s terse words to his Mother, it is important to note that, like a good mother, she does not argue with her Son. She is confident that her concern will affect him. This is why she instructs the servers- and by extension, you and me- to do whatever the Lord instructs them to do.

As to the wedding, it is important to keep in mind that salvation begins with the wedding in the garden of Eden and will culminate with the Wedding of Feast of the Lamb (Genesis 2:21-25; Revelation 19:3-10). Reminiscent of the absence of any mysteries concerning the Lord’s life and ministry, we might well ask: What about in between the first and last weddings? As you no doubt heard over Advent, we live between the already, or the establishment of the reign of God, which began with the Incarnation of the Son of God, and the not yet of its full realization. The key to living the tension between the already and not yet of God’s reign is living as if God’s reign is fully established. Like the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Eucharist we are celebrating at this very moment is also a participation in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

The Wedding at Cana, by Giuseppe Maria Crespi, 1681-1691

The wedding feast in today’s Gospel is the beginning of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. The fine wine into which Jesus transforms the water “represents the revelation and wisdom [Jesus] brings from God” (Raymond Brown, Introduction to the New Testament, 340). The imagery of wine clearly points to “the messianic wedding feast” Pheme Perkins, “The Gospel According to John,” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 954). The inauguration of God’s reign in John is very consonant with the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry as set forth in the Synoptic Gospels.

Let’s briefly preview next week’s Gospel, which is St Luke’s account of the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry. It occurs on a Sabbath when Jesus enters the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. He goes to the front and, reclining, the posture of teaching at that time in that culture, reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. The passage he reads is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. His homily on this reading is very short. In both Greek and English, it consists of nine words: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

Being the model Christian disciple, Mary’s faith in Jesus is manifested in today’s Gospel both by her petition and her persistence. At this early stage of the Lord’s earthly ministry, the hour for his glorification has not yet come. According to the theology of the Gospel of John, Jesus’s glorification happened when he was nailed to the cross. Referring to his glorification elsewhere in John, the Lord said: “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32).

After the Wedding Feast at Cana, the next time Jesus’s Mother (who John never names) appears in John’s Gospel is along with the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross. It is then that Jesus, speaking to his Mother, says, “Woman, behold, your son” (John 19:26). Then, speaking to his Beloved Disciple, who stands in for all disciples, that is, for you and me, he says, “Behold, your mother” (John 19:27). In turn, pointing back to her son, the Blessed Virgin bids us, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

What does Jesus tell us to do? Later in John’s Gospel, during his Last Supper Discourse, the Lord tells those gathered at table with him: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Looked at in the horizontal plane, that is, simply in the context of the narrative and not “theologically,” isn’t the Blessed Mother’s request for her Son to provide more wine for a wedding feast that has run dry a simple act of love for her neighbor? Always bearing this in mind, let’s never hesitate to make recourse to our Blessed Mother. We can be confident her request will affect the Lord. What does it mean to “affect” someone? It means to influence, act upon, or even change another. As her children, we refer to our Blessed Mother's response to our various pleas as “intercession.” To intercede means to intervene on behalf of another.
Inspired by this confidence, [we] I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, [our] mother; to thee do [we] come, before thee [we] stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not [our] petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer [us]

Friday, January 18, 2019

"I know you've got a little life in you yet"

Dear God in heaven, are we really more than half-way through the first month of 2019? Is it really Martin Luther King, Jr./Civil Rights Day weekend? Yes! Tempus fugit!

One feature of this weekend is the annual March for Life, which seeks to bring an end to abortion in the United States. While it seems fortuitous to march for the most fundamental of all human rights on this weekend, the march also falls within proximity of the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the case of Roe v. Wade: 21 January 1973.

Even for someone who has read as much Orwell as I have, one of the strangest conflations ever is the conflation, at least in the political discourse of the United States, that not only reduces "pro-life" to mean "opposed to abortion" but restricting it even further to mean being in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. And so, for many people, especially many professing Christians, being "pro-life" means having a singular focus. This is not what it means to be wholly pro-life.

At least for Catholics, Church teaching is clear that opposing the death penalty is a pro-life issue (see "State your piece tonight"). It's difficult for me to think of an issue more pro-life than guaranteed healthcare coverage for everyone. I could easily provide other examples of what it means to be wholly pro-life, including the deep-seated issues of racism and sexism. One might say that a commitment to reducing or even eliminating elective abortions (i.e., a physically healthy mother aborting a healthy child) is necessary for being pro-life but it is far from sufficient.

Just as supply-side economics has proven disastrous for the United States, the exclusive focus on reducing the supply of abortion "services" results in almost the complete neglect of reducing demand. To provide just a hint of what I mean, an empirically proven way of reducing abortions is by enacting social policies that make it easier for a woman who is pregnant and in difficult circumstances not only to give birth but to keep and raise her child.

Now, before you get too carried away, I realize some pro-life Christians do things along these lines. But let's face it, Pregnancy Resource Centers are underfunded and under-resourced. If people were as interested in constructive engagement and loving their distressed pregnant neighbor as much as they seem to love engaging in occasional (annual) political action, which hasn't yielded much by way of success and for which many Christians have sold their votes, along with a piece of their souls, we'd be doing much more to support the sanctity of all human life, something I believe in with every fiber of my being.

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, courtesy of America magazine

Early last month, I listened to an episode of the Can I Say This At Church? podcast. Seth Price's guest for this episode was Dr. David Gushee, a Christian ethicist. Shortly after it was published in 2017, I read Gushee's spiritual memoir: Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism. It's a book I highly recommend, especially for those who are feeling a little let-down and uncertain about what it means to follow Christ in our present moment.

In their discussion Price and Gushee spend some time discussing what it means to be pro-life and how reducing being pro-life not only to one issue but to one goal (i.e., overturning Roe) is ethically problematic. Rightly, Price begins by stating that he thinks those dedicated to overturning Roe are not ready for all the implications such an immediate and dramatic change would have. Most are not because they mistakenly believe that that overturning Roe would quickly bring about an end to abortion in the U.S.

Price goes on to observe that he doesn't think most Christians are pro-life, "at least they don't act that way." He provides support for this assertion by pointing out that among Christians there seems to be little concern for feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, ensuring access to healthcare, etc. Picking up on this, Gushee notes that the U.S. (this would be true of other developed Western nations too), has grown culturally dependent on abortion. This is the result of the nearly complete uncoupling of sex from marriage. Non-judgmentally, he states that because of this uncoupling people tend to rely heavily on contraception. When contraception fails (this happens with a frequency that would surprise most people) or is not used and pregnancy results, recourse is often made to abortion. This analysis goes some distance towards explaining why currently one out of 5 or 6 pregnancies in this country ends in elective abortion.

After objectively pointing out how heavily the U.S. has come to rely on abortion, Gushee then notes that in a free society it is extremely rare for something that has been established and exercised as a right, especially for so long, to be rolled back. He then states that unless there is sea-change in our sexual mores, the result of overturning Roe and the near-total elimination of abortion in a number of states (not all, some would no doubt have even more permissive abortion laws) would be catastrophic for women's health. It would do nothing to decrease the demand for abortions. Gushee acknowledges that such a sea-change is not likely anytime soon, if ever. It certainly won't result from a resurgence of moralistic harping. While raised Roman Catholic, Gushee became a Baptist as a teen and still teaches at Baptist university and a Baptist seminary. Hence, he does not support legal action to make contraception less accessible.

Far from accepting elective abortion as morally permissible, those of us who are pro-life, need to engage and vote more constructively. Rather than taking a moralistic stance vis-à-vis the cultural situation in which we find ourselves and in which most (if not all) of us are complicit to some degree or another, Gushee's approach strikes me as far more Christian. In other words, his solution is not to roll back the clock to some imagined golden age of "societal consensus" on matters of sexual morality but to engage constructively for love of neighbor. While some might deem me misguided for saying so, there are some aspects of the sexual revolution that represent true progress.

What prompted this entire post was listening to the most recent episode of the Jesuitical podcast while I was at the gym this morning. The guest for his episode is Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa. Herndon-De La Rosa is the founder of New Wave Feminists. She is a pro-life feminist and a self-described agnostic. Her analysis of what currently passes for the pro-life movement (right-wing and ridiculous, my words, not hers - she is very kind and constructive while being very honest in her remarks) versus what a true pro-life movement could and should be is a breath of fresh air. If the pro-life movement has a future it looks a lot like Destiny (sorry, I couldn't resist).

To seal the deal, when asked the standard question the podcast hosts ask each guest at the end of the interview- "What person, living or dead, Catholic or non-Catholic do you think should be canonized?"- Destiny answered, "David Sedaris."

Oh yeah, our Friday traditio ... I think Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work," which I first heard while watching John Hughes's still outstanding 1988 movie, She's Having a Baby, is perfect:

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Baptism of the Lord

Readings: Isa 42:1-4.6-7; Ps 29:1-4.9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Luke 3:15-16; 21-22

At least for Roman Catholics in the United States, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord brings the liturgical season of Christmas to an end. It was wonderful to baptize two children on the penultimate day of Christmas (as with "juxtapose," I always look for opportunities to use "penultimate"). This morning I had the privilege and pleasure of baptizing a seven year-old girl and her three year-old brother. Their parents were formally received into full communion with the Catholic Church last Sunday, on Epiphany.

On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, I was privileged to baptize a 2-week old infant. This Baptism occurred at the parish in which, at 24, I was baptized during the Easter Vigil of 1990: St Catherine of Siena Newman Center. Of course, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent in Year C of the Sunday Lectionary cycle (this liturgical year), we read about the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the house of her kinswoman, Elizabeth- the mother of John the Baptist. Like Mary, but unlike her husband, Zechariah, Elizabeth believed and responded to God's loving initiative with love and fidelity. What made celebrating the Baptism of little Millie-Josephine on this day so special was that her parents had been trying and deeply desiring to have a child for quite a few years. Prior to her conception, Millie-Jo's Mom and Dad were going through arduous process of adopting a child, something they found to be nearly as discouraging as not being able to conceive.

Needless to say, Baptism has been much on my mind since the Third Week of Advent when I began preparing for these Baptisms. I love that the primary option for today's New Testament reading is from the portion of the Acts of the Apostles that tells us of a Second Pentecost- the Pentecost of the Gentiles (see "Year B Sixth Sunday of Easter"). The message of this reading is clear: "God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34b-35). These days, at least in advanced Western societies, the assertion that anyone who "fears" God is acceptable to him doesn't typically evoke more than a shrug of the shoulders. This shoulder shrug, I think, can be attributed to Christian influence, even as we can acknowledge those times in history, some not so long ago, when Christians have acted contrary to this truth and been unfaithful to God's revelation in Christ. Suffice it to say, at that time the assertion that God shows no partiality was revolutionary, especially in the almost exclusively Judaic milieu of the primitive Christian Church. Our reading from Acts gives us part of Peter's Spirit-led preaching at the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius (for the whole thing see Acts 10:34-43)

Largely thanks to marketing, which trumpets many things as "revolutionary," to say something was "revolutionary" doesn't mean much. It is important to bear in mind, however, that up until that point the status of Gentiles in the nascent Christian church was very unclear, But then, it's very likely the case Christian Gentiles were practically non-existent. Those Gentiles who were Christians were probably also observant Jewish converts. Stated simply, the primitive Church in Jerusalem remained deeply rooted in Judaism. Hence, it was not entirely distinguishable, even to its members, as something other than a form of Messianic Judaism.

In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul more clearly expounds the revolutionary nature of what happened at Cornelius's house- the second Pentecost event:
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:27-29)

Using the passage from Isaiah 42 as our first reading we can make reference not only Jesus's Baptism by John in the river Jordan but to his confirmation as well: "Upon [my servant] I have put my spirit" (Is 42:1). Yes, Jesus's identity as the Only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh, which was revealed in Baptism, was confirmed as he came up out of the water and "the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased'" (Luke 3:22). There was not a bishop in miter and crozier with a vial of Chrism waiting on the other side of the Jordan. Rather, he was anointed with the Spirit and his divine Sonship was announced by the Father.

Moreover, the passage from Isaiah 42 focuses on God bringing about justice through his anointed servant. It was to bring about justice in the world that God called Israel. Jesus, the Messiah (i.e., "Anointed"), is the crowning achievement of what God accomplished through Israel. It is Christ who opens "the eyes of the blind," who brings "out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness" (Isa 42:7).

Thinking back to last week, we discussed the difference between an epiphany and a theophany, Jesus's Baptism is truly "an appearance of God," which is what θεοφάνεια (transliterates as theophaneia) means. Are you looking for the Trinity in Sacred Scripture? Jesus's Baptism, an account of which is included each of the four canonical Gospels, is a great one. The theophany that occurred at Jesus's Baptism also sanctified water. Rather than being an element of destruction, as it was in the flood and for the Egyptians in Red Sea, by Christ Baptism water became the matter of salvation, our way of deliverance, like the ancient Israelites fleeing Pharoah's army, that through which we are reborn as God's children, that into which we are buried after we "paschally" die and from which we rise to new life, eternal life.

When you were baptized you were reborn as a child of God through Christ by the power of their holy Spirit. When one considers Baptism in light of the reality that every human being bears the imago Dei (the image of God), it becomes clear that Baptism makes what is implicit in us explicit. It's like when a detectorist (i.e., someone who searches for treasures using a metal detector) detects something metallic. Once she digs the object up, it is typically covered with mud. And so, to see what it is and if it is of value, the detectorist must wash it with water. Like all analogies, this one limps, because even before you are baptized you are worth more to God than you will ever possibly imagine. Just as Christ's identity was revealed at his Baptism by his subsequent Confirmation, our identity as God's adopted children (through Christ by the power of their Spirit) is revealed in Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation.

Baptism, then, is the fundamental sacrament of Christian life. It is important to state this fact very clearly because very often for both laity and clergy alike people view ordination as the apex of Christian life. Of course, the source and summit of life together in Christ (there is no life in Christ that is not together) is the Eucharist. Every Eucharist seeks to include all the baptized. It is a very human tendency to want to exclude others, those who are different, those who do not meet one's standards, belong to one's tribe, or do not, in your view, consistently "keep the rules," etc. But in Baptism we made all the commitment we need to be Christians: we renounced sin and the devil and professed our Father God, Father, Son, and holy Spirit.

In short, what continues to scandalize people, what continues to scandalize far too many Christians, is the radical inclusivity of the Gospel. Well, it's not called Good News for nothing! Learning to get over yourself and not only welcoming but inviting others to "Come and see" (John 1:39) is what your Baptism bids you do with all the acceptance and hospitality with which Christ and his Church welcomed you. This is the justice of God. God's justice (in Hebrew מִשְׁפָט, or mishpat) cannot be separated from God's lovingkindness (in Hebrew חֶסֶד or ḥesed)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Books and the world; Catholicism versus Catholisilly

As a result of an article posted on the website of the dissident "Catholic" website Church Militant, the husband of a dear friend is under fire and perhaps in danger of losing his job. The husband of my friend is Dr. Stephen Lewis. Dr. Lewis chairs the English Department at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. On a couple of occasions a number of years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Lewis. Through my paltry participation in the ecclesial movement of Communion and Liberation, with which I have been affiliated more or less (these days less) since around 2007, I have been good friends with his lovely wife Suzanne.

If you can bring yourself to do so, you can read the initial Church Militant article: "Franciscan Univ Defends Use of Pornographic, Blasphemous Book." If you (understandably) can't bring yourself to give Church Militant any clicks, then just know that at the heart of the controversy is Dr. Lewis's assignment of the English translation of a book by French author Emmanuel Carrère, Le royaume, or, in English, The Kingdom. Originally published in France back in 2014, the book was translated into English and published in 2017. Church Militant, in truly prurient fashion (i.e., masked as moral outrage), does a great job laying out the salacious details found in Carrère's prose. I can only imagine their excitement is "discovering" something so titillating to "report" on and read (about).

To say that Carrère is a provocative writer is to understate matters by orders of magnitude. Perhaps the most provocative aspect of Carrère's work is his genre-bending, a term lifted from Tim Whitmarsh's February 2017 review of The Kingdom for The Guardian newspaper. Whitmarsh goes on to describe what he means by genre-bending: "Carrère is not an easy writer to categorise, working as he does at the intersection between fiction, biography, autobiography and history."

As someone who has written, (though not in-depth- see "Martin Scorcese") about the role The Last Temptation of Christ- first the movie and then the book- played in my own conversion, I have to say, Carrère's book looks fascinating to me. In addition to writing his fictional-autobiographical-historical books, Carrère, as Whitmarsh notes, "is also – importantly – a screenwriter, and a sensualist who likes to feel the world he describes." The Kingdom, the review continues, "is his attempt to get under the skin of Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, and to imagine his way back into that world." After noting that, like most scholars who study the New Testament, Carrère takes Acts to be a work by the same author who wrote the Gospel According to St Luke, Whitmarsh is correct to point out that Carrère is all on his own when, in The Kingdom, he asserts "that Luke wrote the New Testament’s epistles of Peter, James and John."

Emmanuel Carrère

If your stomach can take it, Church Militant did a follow-up piece in response to the University's apology for one of its professors having the audacity to assign a provocative and challenging book to students: "Concerns Remain After Franciscan Univ Apologizes for Blasphemous Book." Predictably, this article contains the raging of the "righteous," who seem oblivious to self-righteousness their harsh words exhibit to anyone not sharing their soda straw view of the world, a view that can hardly be considered Catholic in any meaningful sense. Of course, a number of those quoted make all kinds of threats and demands. Their threats mostly consist of not sending prospective students to Franciscan U and/or withdrawing financial support. Their demand? That Prof Lewis be harshly disciplined or even fired.

While it may seem they are outraged by Carrère's far less than pious thoughts about the Blessed Virgin Mary, there is a passage in Whitmarsh's review that, I believe, gets to the heart of the matter, which is fear. It has to do with the autobiographical aspect of the book:
The first part of [The Kingdom] is called "The Crisis", and deals with the transformation of a secular cynic – "the egocentric and mocking Emmanuel Carrère" – into an obsessive Catholic, attending Mass every day, and filling notebooks with endless pious commentaries on John’s Gospel. He paints himself here with a Knausgaardian palette, as an unlovable narcissist whose self-absorption leads him to neglect all around him, particularly his family. Gradually, faith deserts him. It’s a tale of slow disenchantment with the intellectual acrobatics of belief. His pious episode, however, has changed him irreparably; there is no going back to his cynical former self. 'Case closed? It can’t have been completely.' Like many a 'post-Christian', he ends up with a great faith-shaped hole inside, which he is desperate to fill somehow. The rest of the book is his attempt to come to terms with that loss
This is what really worries the angry mob.

This is no insult to Stephen Lewis, but looking at his academic credentials (B.A. Swarthmore College and then M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago), I am surprised that Franciscan University was able to land such an academic heavy-hitter. It is to his credit that he not only brought but has kept his erudition at Franciscan U. Lest you think I am simply engaging in degreeism by mentioning the institutions from which he graduated, Lewis is the English translator of a number of important works by contemporary French philosophers. Chief among these authors is Jean-Luc Marion, at least five of whose works Lewis has translated: Giveness and Revelation Negative Certainties, The Reason of the Gift, The Erotic Phenomenon, and Prolegomena to Charity.

There are many, many days I am glad that I received my philosophical undergraduate and graduate education at a state university. Today is one of those days. It was as an undergraduate Philosophy student that I was baptized and became a Roman Catholic. My conversion was in no way a reaction against my academic formation but very much the product of it.

Both because Carrère's book fascinates me and in solidarity with Stephen Lewis, I ordered a copy of The Kingdom this very afternoon. Is there anything more interesting than a book placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum or a banned book? I will not begin reading it, however, until I finish the Philip Roth novel the author loved best: Sabbath's Theater. But then, being a literary heretic, which makes me pretty Catholic, I also read and enjoyed Cain, the controversial novel by Nobel laureate José Saramago (see "Cain by José Saramago – review"). With no sarcasm or facetiousness whatsoever, I can say, like a "good" Catholic, I have been including the Lewis family in my daily Rosary petitions.

Jesus, kenosis, Jonah and a decent tune

How is 2019 going? I hope it's going well for you so far. Me? It's going well. If I am being honest, my only complaint is that, like 2018, this year is shaping up to be busier than I would care for it to be.

I have been busily working on my tome on the theological foundations of a diaconal spirituality in the hopes of soon completing my Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree. Currently I am about two-thirds of the way to completing the third (of an anticipated six) chapter. It is on kenosis, or self-emptying. You know, that verse from the New Testament (Philippians 2:7) in which St Paul, using what is likely an early Christian hymn- now called by Bible scholars "the Kenotic Hymn"- writes about Jesus that "he emptied himself." By taking on our humanity, Jesus is said to have emptied himself of his divinity. I agree with Jesuit scripture scholar Brendan Byrne when he insists that saying Jesus emptied himself of his divinity in order to become human is metaphorical. In other words, the divinity Jesus is said to have emptied himself of is not divinity at all, but an all too human misconception of it. To see Jesus is to see God (John 14:9; Colossians 2:9).

As I was pondering this week's Friday traditio I heard the group Burning Sensation's song "Bell of the Whale" this morning. As I sat down and began to write this I thought the whale, or large fish, or whatever certainly emptied itself when it spit Jonah up on the Mediterranean shore nearest Nineveh, which, were this story historical, would have required the recalcitrant prophet to cover a lot of desert before arriving at his destination. This led me to mentally make the leap to Heidegger's concept of "thrownness." The German word is Geworfen. Geworfen is the word Heidegger used to denote the inscrutably arbitrary nature of Dasein (i.e., human being). Yeah, not much there yet by way of concrete linkage but there's certainly some intellectual raw material with which to work.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Epiphany of the Lord

Readings: Isa 60:1-6; Ps 72:1-2.7-8.10-13; Eph 3:2-3a.5-6; Matt 2:1-12

An epiphany is not merely a revelation. The term revelation is too generic to describe an epiphany. Neither is an epiphany simply a "manifestation" of something significant, a moment of insight. Then what is it? At least on Christian terms, an epiphany is a manifestation of God. As Christians, we need to distinguish epiphany from theophany. In a theophany it is clear that God is making himself manifest.

Looking forward to next Sunday's Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which will bring this Christmas season to an end for Roman Catholics in the United States, we have an example of a theophany. Turning to St Matthew's account of Jesus's Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, the theophany occurs as Jesus
came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased'" (Matt 3:16-17)
By way of contrast, an example of an epiphany, apart from the one had by he magi in their encounter with the child Jesus, is found in St Mark's account of Jesus's crucifixion. The Roman centurion standing guard at the place of execution "seeing how [Jesus] breathed his last" declared: "Truly this man was the Son of God" (Mark 1:39). Using Mark as a source, Matthew's account also conveys this episode but does so with the gloss typical of the inspired author of that Gospel when incorporating Markan material into his narrative (see Matt 27:54). Rather than Jesus's manner of death (arguably) being the source of the centurion's epiphany, as in Mark, for Matthew, it is the earthquake and all the other things that prompt their recognition of the executed Jew as the Son of God. But even in Matthew's account, there is a contrast between epiphany and theophany.

Judging from the centurion's epiphany at the Cross and the epiphany the unspecified number of magi had in the house at Bethlehem, we can define epiphany from a Christian perspective more precisely: an epiphany is a manifestation of God through ordinary circumstances. In other words, to have an epiphany you must have eyes to see and ears to hear. The founder of the Society of Jesus (i.e., the Jesuits), St Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the order in 1540, instructed his earliest confrères to "find God in all things."

Christianity that is worthy of the designation, far from loathing creation, creatures, and human beings, holds it as axiomatic that God is always present and active in the world. Hence, an epiphany is possible at any moment, even in what we might see as the least likely of people and/or circumstances. Provocatively, because every single person bears the imago Dei, the image of God, you can find God in everyone you meet. I know, this sounds foolishly naïve, especially when someone considers all the crappy things people do to each other and the propensity of some people (i.e., me at times) to do really terrible things. To assert that everyone bears the image of God and to even more boldly assert that it is possible to see the divine image in everyone is not to say for one minute that it is intuitively obvious, that is, easy.

Not only is it often not intuitively obvious, but to the casual observer or the Christian who operates solely on the basis of certain preconceptions, ones that are usually derived from a reductive, and so destructive, theology conveyed by misguided preaching and catechesis, the contrary is often the case. To pass along some idea as to how this might "work," I turn to a quote that is usually attributed to G.K. Chesterton. But so far as anyone can tell, Chesterton neither wrote nor said anything like: "the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God." The actual author of this line is Scottish novelist Bruce Marshall. The lines appeared in his 1945 novel The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith. For the fairly scintillating context of this quote, which Marshall puts in the mouth of his main character, see "FactChecker: C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton Quotes". Returning to my point, sometimes you have to look really hard to see God manifested in another. Furthermore, how God's image is made manifest in another just might be in a counter-intuitive or paradoxical way. It is most likely due to the fact that Marshall's line is paradoxical that it is often attributed to Chesterton, whose many, many paradoxical sayings, frankly, tire me.

Another oft-used and mis-attributed quote that brings home the point I am trying to make about the nature of epiphany, but with a significantly different emphasis, is this one by St John Chrysostom: "If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find him in the chalice." While John the Golden-Mouthed preacher never said that using those words, it has been noted that what this quote amounts to is "somebody's crisp paraphrase of [Chrysostom's] Homily 50.4 on Matthew" (see "If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find him in the chalice").

What enabled the magi to see God in the baby at Bethlehem is that they were looking, they were seeking, they were open, not operating under debilitating preconceptions of what they might find. It is salutary to note that Epiphany is when the Gentiles come to worship the God of Israel. I suppose you could say the preconceptions had by many in Israel about the coming of the Messiah is precisely what prevented them from recognizing Jesus of Nazareth as God's Anointed, the successor of King David, whose kingdom is everlasting.

A bit further on in St Matthew's Gospel, after the start of his ministry, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches exactly what the magi heeded:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Matt 7:7-8)
Sounds like a very good New Year's resolution to me. How about you?

Friday, January 4, 2019

Christmas continues as Epiphany approaches

Okay, it's the first Friday of the New Year. Time for the first traditio of 2019. I must admit that, uncharacteristically, I haven't been listening to a lot of music as of late (see "Listening to podcasts and longing for home"). Since I have been listening to Michael Card's "In the Studio" podcast, I've been listening to some Card's music.

El Greco - St Joseph and the Christ Child

Since Epiphany is this Sunday, 6 January, which means this year Roman Catholics in United States will celebrate this glorious solemnity on the correct day for once! Nonetheless, U.S. Catholics will still have a whole week of Christmas left after Epiphany. This is not a bad thing, just as listening to Michael Card's music is not a bad thing. The Vatican leaves up its public Christmas tree until Candlemas, which is on 22 February.

Our first traditio of the New Year, then, is "Joseph's Song." If I might be permitted, here is a short excerpt from my homily for last Sunday's Feast of the Holy Family: Nuclear families produce individuals. Because we were made for communion by a communion of divine persons, we know that one person is no person. Along with Jesus, Mary and Joseph constituted the Holy Family because, like the Son of God made man, both of them were wholly committed to doing the Father’s will come what may. No matter how literally or not-literally you take Matthew's Infancy Narrative, Joseph is a fascinating figure, one worthy of our emulation. Joseph is also a bit of a blank canvas on which we can paint using our theological imagination.

We'll pick up the pace as the year progresses.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

For Roman Catholics, 1 January marks the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. In many places, today is a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics. In my diocese, however, today's solemnity has been abrogated as a holy day.

Since 1966, New Year's Day has also been observed as the World Day of Peace. I would be hard-pressed to think of better foci for the first day of the New Year. It is customary for the Pope to issue a message for the World Day of Peace. This year was no exception, click here to read this year's message. Among other things, in his message this year, Pope Francis addressed politics:
2. The challenge of good politics

Peace is like the hope which the poet Charles Péguy celebrated.[ Cf. Le Porche du mystère de la deuxième vertu, Paris, 1986.] It is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence. We know that the thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and injustice. Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.

Jesus tells us that, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). In the words of Pope Paul VI, “to take politics seriously at its different levels – local, regional, national and worldwide – is to affirm the duty of each individual to acknowledge the reality and value of the freedom offered him to work at one and the same time for the good of the city, the nation and all mankind” (Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (14 May 1971), 46)

Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity
Instead of focusing on Mary as Mother God, I want to focus on one implication of her being Theotokos, which implication was recognized by Pope Paul VI in his speech ending the Third Session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. In this speech, which he delivered to the Council on 21 November 1964, the then-Pontiff declared: "For the glory of the Virgin and our consolation, we proclaim Mary the Most Holy Mother of the Church, that is, the Mother of the whole People of God, both the faithful and the pastors." To flesh this out a bit, I turn to an Anglican theologian, the late John Macquarrie. Macquarrie's work played an important part in shaping and forming me as a Christian for the past quarter century. What follows comes from his one volume systematic theology: Principles of Christian Theology (2nd Edition. Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, 1977, 398-399):
It will be noted that I have said nothing about the supposed relation between reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary and the need for a feminine element in religion. It may well be true, as a matter of historical fact, that the veneration of the Virgin is related to ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean worship of the Mother Goddess, just as many other features of Christian worship have pagan precursors. It may also be true that reverence for the Virgin satisfies a psychological need, missed by a too masculine conception of God; and that such reverence encourages a kind of piety that is warmer and more personal than the austere and not very attractive virtues of the Puritans. But these considerations have no direct bearing on the theological question about Mary, and can be used neither to support nor to detract from the place traditionally given to her in the Church. Berdyaev is completely correct when he affirms that reverence for the Blessed Virgin "is essentially distinct from pagan worship of the feminine principle"34 The practical benefits or, as has sometimes happened, abuses, which reverence for Mary has brought, cannot be determinative of her place in Christian thought and devotion. This has to be considered in theological terms, that is to say, in the light of christology, ecclesiology, and the transformed anthropology that goes with them, as we have tried to show. If we have consistently held throughout this book that theological thinking must be rooted in the existential dimension of faith, we have maintained equally that practical attitudes have to be correlated with theological reflection and, where necessary, corrected by it. It seems to me, however, that it is precisely a renewed theological consideration of the issues involved that will increasingly lead Protestants (as it has led some of them already) to abandon their negative attitudes toward Mary, and to join with the Catholic brethren (and with the New Testament) in a glad Ave Maria!
Fresco in Sacro Speco in Subiaco, from scenes in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This lengthy paragraph ends a section of Macquarrie's work that considers Pope Paul VI's declaration that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Mater Ecclesiae or Mother of the Church. In the section, he also considers the other major Marian dogmas, but given the newness of Pope Paul's designation when Macquarrie first wrote his book (1966), Mary's relationship to the Church constitutes the majority of this section on the Blessed Mother.

Because Mary is Mater Ecclesiae, far from being an obstacle to ecumenism and ultimately to Christian unity, she is instrumental to achieving it, just as she is instrumental to realizing peace in the world. If it is true that peace on earth begins with me, with realizing peace in my own soul, then I recommit myself to making recourse to the Blessed Virgin Mary daily by praying her Most Holy Rosary, the Angelus, and her Memoraré daily. I urge you, dear reader, to do the same.

Happy New Year! Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, through your intercession, unite all those who in believe in your Son. By the unification of all the baptized, pray that the world becomes more peaceful.

34The Beginning and the End, p. 246

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Hosea 2:16.17c.18.21-22; Ps 145:2-9; Matthew 9:18-26 Our Gospel today is Saint Matthew’s version of events first written about ...