Embracing Christ’s Suffering

Pope Francis spoke about the sacrifice of the cross, explaining how as followers of Christ we must embrace suffering, because it is through the suffering and death of Christ that his love is made known to us.

“Always, even today, the temptation is to follow a Christ without a cross, rather, to teach God the right path,” the Pope said. Like Peter we maybe say: “No, this will never happen.”

“But Jesus reminds us that his way is the way of love,” Francis said, and there is no true love without Christ’s self-sacrifice. We must embrace suffering, because as Christ told his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Christians cannot be absorbed by the world’s vision to live an easy life, but rather to go “against the current,” pointing out the challenge to self-centeredness found in Christ’s words, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my cause will find it.”

“In this paradox is contained the golden rule that God has inscribed into the human nature created in Christ: the rule that only love gives meaning and happiness to life,” Pope Francis said.

Spending our time, talents and our energy only to save and take care of ourselves actually leads to loss, to a “sad and sterile existence,” he explained. Whereas, if we live our lives for the Lord, set on fire with love, then our lives will be fruitful and we will have genuine joy.


Psalms for Lent Week One


PSALM 25

Lord, I come before you in prayer.
My God, I trust in you. Please do not let me be humiliated; do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me!
Certainly, none who rely on you will be humiliated. Those who deal in treachery will be thwarted and humiliated.
Make me understand your ways, O LordTeach me your paths!
Guide me into your truth and teach me. For you are the God who delivers me; on you, I rely all day long.
Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O Lordfor you have always acted in this manner.
Do not hold against me the sins of my youth or my rebellious acts! Because you are faithful to me, extend to me your favor, O Lord!
The Lord is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live.
May he show the humble what is right! May he teach the humble his way!
The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant.
For the sake of your reputation, O Lordforgive my sin, because it is great.
The Lord shows his faithful followers the way they should live. (NET)

REFLECTION

The prayer begins with an entreaty that starts in a general way (vv. 1–3) and then becomes specific: the psalmist wants to be instructed by the Law of God, and to be forgiven (vv. 4–7). He then goes on to reflect on the way God does things, contemplating God’s goodness (vv. 8–10) and then (after a brief interruption to request forgiveness: v.11) describing the good things that the Lord does for those who fear him (vv. 12–15).

As well as petitioning for pardon and divine protection, this psalm pleads with the Lord to instruct the heart of man and help him follow the Lord’s ways. When making the same petition, the Christian relies on Jesus’ promise to send the Spirit of Truth from heaven who “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:2, 6; cf. 16:13) and asks the Father for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

Identity

Identity. Gender. Love. Chastity. The world is a difficult place for teens, and young adults.  It has become increasingly hard for parents and educators to help teens and young adults discover the truth about their bodies, their sexuality, and their unique call to love.

In an age of “selfies” and egocentrism, YOU: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body, cuts through the noise to present an authentic view of the human person. It presents all people with the extraordinary story of their creation as unrepeatable individuals. But the program doesn’t stop there. This series introduces teens to the truth that life is not, in fact, all about them; it is about going out of themselves to be a sincere gift for others.

This post presents everyone with an opportunity to hear from someone who has struggled with the gender identity. In Hudson’s Story, we hear about how those who have homosexual attractions are still sons and daughters of God first. While not shying away from the reality of his feelings, Hudson shares how he has found his true identity in Christ.

This is a wonderful program that touches today’s real-life challenges in an appropriate and relevant manner and is one that I recommend all parish formation teams investigate.


Another Way

Each week we look back at the past week’s Sunday homily and spotlight one of the nuggets to help us re-connect to the message as we seek to stay focused on the Lord.

This week, our Mission Connection comes from Fr. Michael Rubeling (with a little assist from singer James Taylor) on his talk given for The Epiphany of the Lord. Fr. Michael shares his thoughts on the Magi and their returning home “another way.”  How might that apply to our lives?

Let’s take a listen.


Something Out of Nothing

 

If you are like I am then you most likely act out a certain cycle every year. Each Jan. 1, you make New Year’s resolutions, keep them for a while, and then, eventually, sometimes by Jan. 2, break them and fall back into old habits.

If you are like I am then you also have a certain sense of why this is going on . . . even as you are seemingly powerless to change things. Old habits, especially bad ones, are hard to break.

Aristotle said that habit is second nature, it replaces instinct. Augustine, who knew more than most about the difficulty in breaking old habits, once put it this way: “I longed to give myself wholly to you, Lord, but I was bound by my own will, as by a chain. Because my will was perverse it changed to lust, and lust yielded to become habit, and habit not resisted became necessity. These were like links hanging one on to another—which is why I have called it a chain—and their bondage held me bound hand and foot.”

In a former time, before we had psychological words such as obsession, dysfunction, and neurosis, this was called being possessed by a demon. There was more wisdom and accuracy in that than our age sees fit to acknowledge. In our bad habits, we are indeed possessed!

Given all of that, it is no big wonder that we so easily break new resolutions. The wonder is that we continue to make them, knowing our own histories. Why do we? Why do we continue to want to make new resolutions when we know that, barring miracles, we will not, in the end, succeed in keeping them?

Robert Frost says that there is something inside of us that hates a wall, that wants it down. That is also true for the wall of bad habit and the part that wants it down is the best part of us. Stated positively, there is something inside us that hates our own moral fat, that refuses death, even in this sense.

There is something inside of us that is driven to the higher, that refuses to settle for second best, that wants to sing the new song that the psalmist speaks of, that believes in the possibility of resurrection. There is something inside of us that needs to keep on keeping on.

Thus it is a sign of health that we keep making new resolutions, despite a life-long history of failure. Why? Because in striving to renew ourselves in the face of our own falling we are making an important act of faith:

First of all, in making new resolutions we are saying: “I believe in a God who continues to love me, even when I can’t live up to it.” Every time I pick myself off the floor after a fall and begin again with some hope in my heart looking for a new start, I am saying the creed in a way that is considerably more radical, in terms of expressing actual belief in God, that is my too-easy Sunday recital of it.

To make a new resolution is to believe in God.

But it is more. To make new resolutions is to express faith in the God of the resurrection. To try for a new life, for a fresh start, precisely when bad habit has kept me so long in a certain helplessness, is to say: “I believe in the resurrection and the life!”

Why do I say this?

Martin Luther once put it this way: “Just as God in the beginning of creation made the world out of nothing, so his manner of working continues unchanged.” For anything to really change, including our capacity to live beyond our own wounds and selfishness, God still had to defy the impossible.

Our inner world, akin to the physical world, is, to all outward appearance and to our own feeling of it, a closed system, determined entirely by history, by cause and effect. Within it, certain things are possible and certain things are impossible. What has been will continue to be.

There is, it seems, and so says Qoheleth, nothing new under the sun. The case for the impossible is pretty strong, especially when the judge knows the history of failed resolutions.

That is where faith and the resurrection enter in. As the angel Gabriel tells Mary: “For with God nothing is impossible.” Somewhere, deep inside of us, in that place where we want to make New Year’s resolutions, we still carry that faith. In that place, we still say the creed and still believe in the resurrection. Because of that belief, because of new year’s resolutions, God can still make something out of nothing!

– Fr. Ron Rolheiser

2017 Tops in Catholic Social Media

Recognizing bold and effective evangelization in the new public square

The Fisher’s Net Awards is a way to encourage and recognize churches, ministries, and apostolates who have drawn from the Church’s rich history of using art, design, and technology to reinvent the proclamation of the Gospel for a modern age in the new public square.


TOP BLOGS

Yes, blogging is still a thing. This category recognizes the best Catholic blogs and their bloggity blogging bloggers. Here are the 2017 picks.

Carrots for Michaelmas carrotsformichaelmas.com

Fr. Z’s Blog wdtprs.com/blog

Life Teen lifeteen.com/blog

One Peter Five onepeterfive.com

Our Franciscan Fiat ourfranciscanfiat.wordpress.com

Shameless Popery shamelesspopery.com

Simcha Fisher simchafisher.com

These Stone Walls thesestonewalls.com 


TOP WEBSITES

The internet continues to be the place where people of all walks of life gather to exchange pieces of their lives. We share ideas, pictures, stories, movies, and more there. It is truly the new public square and undoubtedly where the apostles would go to proclaim the Kingdom if they were commissioned today. Here are the best overall 2017 websites.

Church of the Resurrection corlansing.org

EpicPew epicpew.com

EXALT exaltplano.com

Impacting Culture impactingculture.com

Migrants + Refugees migrants-refugees.va

St. John XXIII Catholic Community stjohn23.org

Those Catholic Men thosecatholicmen.com

Word on Fire wordonfire.org 


 

TOP PODCAST

With technology what it is today, anyone can have a ‘radio’ show. If you’ve got interesting things to say or interesting people to ask, this is an amazing way to share your Catholic identity with the world in a time when it’s desperately needed. Here are the 2017 picks.

Catholic Stuff You Should Know catholicstuffpodcast.com

How-to Catholic madetomagnify.com/category/podcast

The Art of Catholic matthewsleonard.com

Catholic Hipster catholicdrinkie.com/hipstercast

Catching Foxes catchingfoxes.fm

Coffee & Pearls sterlingjaquith.com/coffee-and-pearls

The Liturgy Guys liturgicalinstitute.org/the-liturgy-guys

Pints with Aquinas mattfradd.com/pints-with-aquinas

 

His Gift and Our Gift

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

In this wonderful season of hope that is fulfilled through the incarnation of God in his Son Jesus, the “Word becoming Flesh”, we joyfully receive the gift that is above all other possible gifts. Yet, in this time of celebration, many broken souls and relationships are trapped in a season of despair and a lack of hope.

As people of faith, what is our task in this world as it relates to reconciling one another? There are so many divisions that exist in this world. Noted priest, author and professor Henri Nouwen, asks us to consider what we intend to give as our gift at a time when we are receiving God’s gift of Jesus. “All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible. Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life.”

I would suggest we reflect on Henri’s words, and hopefully find that path of reconciliation with those we have hurt, or possibly accompanying others in finding the healing of reconciliation in this season of hope, joy, and peace. In Jesus, God and God’s love “hits the streets.” In this broken world, where can we bring God’s love and reconciliation as our gift?

Reflecting Reflections – Day Nine

St John Abby

Someone has put it memorably: “Nothing is so rare as the moment when we want to be where we are, doing what we are doing.” Attention, being truly present, can transform even the simplest moments of life. The present and what we are doing deserves respect. Our talk gives away how little we prize the present: We ‘catch’ a bus; ‘grab’ a bite to eat; ‘dash off’ a letter or a report; ‘run’ to the store; ‘get through the week.’ But this present moment and place are where God and others are, where real life is. Diana Eck says: “To be aware, alert, attentive is the greatest spiritual challenge we ever face, even the only one.” Could be.

Living Faith

Come to me. Matthew 11:28

How do I come to Jesus? Do I seek to run with the task and fail to be one with him in that task? I know that when I accept his initiation to come, he brings me into a personal relationship with him, where I enter an inner place of peace he has promised all will receive. It is the kind of peace that quiets the mind and heart and surpasses human understanding. It doesn’t tell me that I won’t continue to experience frustration, trials, and suffering, but I know that with him, these burdens become lighter and more bearable.

Henri Nouwen

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.  Isaiah 11:6

The marvelous vision of the peaceable Kingdom, in which all violence has been overcome and all men, women, and children live in loving unity with nature, calls for its realization in our day-to-day lives. We must remind one another constantly of the vision. Whenever it comes alive in us we will find new energy to live it out, right where we are. Instead of making us escape real life, this beautiful vision gets us involved.

Magnificat

Come to me. Matthew 11:28

Ann Voskamp brings another perspective to the above statement: “Jesus will go to impossible lengths to rescue you.” Sin is many things but most importantly it is separation from God. It is a willful movement away from him. And what does God do about this action on our part? He hastens to have us return. He unceasingly calls us back to communion with him through repentance, that opposite path of distancing. Stop running from him – stop – for he seeks to embrace you in his love.

Give Us This Day

In working for the Church, I often find myself fighting to do the good and realize that it’s too much about ‘me.’  As Dr. Carolyn Woo so clearly noted in her service for Catholic Relief Services, we have to put away our pride and anxiety and realize we are not only working for God, but we are also working with God.    Eventually, through prayers of pleading and frustration,

Psalm 127 reminds us that all is in vain if God is not part of our endeavors. When our work or other worries weigh us down, we can learn from the wisdom of St. Pope John XXIII, who at the end of a day would say: “I’ve done the best I could in your service this day, O Lord. I’m going to bed. It’s your church. Take care of it!”

Richard Rohr

How can my life be a reflection of divine love in this time and place? The classic Christian phrase for discipleship—the imitation of Christ—means that we were made by God to become like God, loving all others, loving universally. —Sallie McFague

Jesus told us, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” He called us to a presence that is a broader and deeper kind of knowing than just cognitive thinking. Thinking knows things by objectifying them, capturing them as an object of knowledge. But presence knows things by refusing to objectify them; instead, it shares in their very subjectivity. Presence allows full give and take, what Martin Buber called the “I/Thou” relationship with things as opposed to the mere “I/it” relationship. Buber summed it up in his often-quoted phrase: “All real living is meeting.”

Reflecting Reflections – Day Eight

Richard Rohr

Over and over, Jesus lays this path before us. There is nothing to be renounced or resisted. Everything can be embraced, but the catch is to cling to nothing. You let it go. You go through life like a knife goes through a done cake, picking up nothing, clinging to nothing, sticking to nothing.  And . . . you can then throw yourself out, pour yourself out, being able to give it all back, even giving back life itself. That’s the kenotic path in a nutshell. Very, very simple. It only costs everything.

Living Faith

We have seen incredible things today. Luke 5:26

We are rightly amazed when we read or see a miracle occur. Yet far too often, we characterize that action as being something others can do, certainly nothing we could never do, because, after all, it’s Jesus doing that. But we are called to be Jesus. We are called to be his love. Wouldn’t a kind word or action to someone who desperately needs some affirmation of their worthiness in life be something incredible or miraculous to them?

Henri Nouwen

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.  Isaiah 11:6

Jesus the Christ came to realize that vision. The final vision is that not only will all men and women recognize that they are brothers and sisters called to live in unity, but all members of God’s creation will come together in complete harmony. How can you keep the vision of the peaceable kingdom and God’s beloved community alive in your sphere of influence?

Magnificat

Your sins are forgiven. Luke 5:20

Sin is many things but most importantly it is separation from God. It is a willful movement away from him. And what does God do about this action on our part? He hastens to have us return. He unceasingly calls us back to communion with him through repentance, that opposite path of distancing. Stop running from him – stop – for he seeks to embrace you in his love.

The Word Among Us

Here is your God . . . he comes to save you. Isaiah 35:4

God is unconditionally devoted to us and continues to pursue us even when we continue to mess up and distance ourselves from him.  He never abandons us even though that is often our thought. He seeks us and desires us. But that doesn’t always mean he will solve the very thing that we are trapped in that keeps us from being open to him. We need to stop and listen for him.  

Give Us This Day

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. . . . I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
– Thomas Merton

 

Reflecting Reflections – Day Seven

Living Faith

And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Mark 1:7

Transparency for Jesus. John the Baptist was this wonderfully pure and focused messenger of preparing for salvation. History is replete with disciples of Christ who have helped us deepen our understanding and relationship with the Jesus by what they said and how they lived. Who has done that for you? How have you done that for others?

Henri Nouwen

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.  Isaiah 11:6

Jesus the Christ came to realize that vision. The final vision is that not only will all men and women recognize that they are brothers and sisters called to live in unity, but all members of God’s creation will come together in complete harmony. How can you keep the vision of the peaceable kingdom and God’s beloved community alive in your sphere of influence?

Magnificat

A voice cries out In the desert, prepare the way of the LORD!. Isaiah 40:3

The primary condition for a fruitful and rewarding Advent is abandonment and surrender. We must let go of all our mistaken dreams, our conceited poses and arrogant gestures – all the pretenses with which we deceive ourselves and others with. Have you looked in the mirror of your life yet? What is your life preparing for?

The Word Among Us

I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Mark 1:8

The Holy Spirit has many purposes. He reveals God’s love to us. He helps us understand Scripture. He teaches us how to live as brothers and sisters. He holds the Church together and moves us to work for the kingdom of God. And so much more! How is the Holy Spirit working in your life?   

Give Us This Day

I am not worthy. Mark 1:7

Worthiness. So many of us are challenged to see ourselves as worthy. John, the great messenger for the coming of the savior, Jesus, explains the inexpressible gift that was coming to all humankind – Christ’s gift of himself. While none is worthy of this wholly unmerited gift, it should, however, be the most precious gift that we seek in our lives. How do you value the gift of Jesus Christ in your life?

Richard Rohr

Kenosis, or self-emptying, is revealed in the Trinity. The Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century saw that God the Father, who is Love, completely empties God’s self into the Son; the Son empties into the Spirit; and the Spirit empties into the Father. Incarnation flows from this kenosis that is inherent to God’s nature. Jesus’ entire life demonstrates how God loves unconditionally and selflessly.

Jesus had only one “operational mode.” In whatever life circumstance, Jesus always responded with the same motion of self-emptying—or to put it another way, of the same motion of descent: going lower, taking the lower place, not the higher. We as Christians, need to get back to the foundations and the One we follow, Jesus Christ, through a practice of self-emptying and incarnation. These are both key to a deeper connection with our faith.