Friday, May 28, 2010
Do you ever consider what Adam and Eve discussed in the Garden of Eden? Do you think they conversed endlessly about the beauty all around them and how glorious it was to be alive? Or do you think they complained about the lack of good roads and health care and the need for clear signage around a certain tree?
Who knows what they talked about, but sometimes it seems like our conversations with one another often center on what is wrong with society. Taxes are too high, the speed limit is too low, crime is up, and morale is down. Yet, when the opportunity to change things comes along – the chance to vote in elections – we decline. It’s too much trouble, and it won’t make any difference in my life anyway, right?
While we are called to love ourselves because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are also called to look out for others. In Scripture, God makes it clear that not only are we our brother’s keeper, but our neighbor’s keeper as well – and our neighbor is everyone. Jesus’ message in the story of the Good Samaritan was that we should love everyone, including our enemies, and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
This Golden Rule, coupled with the Great Commandment to “love God and love your neighbor as yourself,” forms the basis of Catholic Social Teaching, which is a blueprint for taking care of one another. The principles of Catholic Social Teaching include the right to life and dignity of the human person, the dignity of workers and their rights, caring for God’s creation, and the rights and responsibilities necessary to foster the common good.
The Catholic Church does great works of charity and supports the common good, and these efforts can be multiplied through the far-reaching scope of local and national governments.
As our conversations turn from the blessings of life to the ills of society, let us remember our responsibility to one another and the power we have to effect change.
The Catholic Church does not tell us how to vote. However, the Church does provide, though Catholic Social Teaching, principles which should guide our consciences. Become a knowledgeable voter by taking the time to study the issues and candidates. Talk about them at the dinner table with your children so that you can help them form a political conscience as well. As Catholics, we are called to mix religion and politics as faithful citizens.
Friday, May 21, 2010
In Judaism, there is a major festival that commemorates when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, as well as the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. While Passover freed the Jews physically from bondage, the giving of the Torah redeemed the people spiritually from bondage to idolatry and immorality. This feast, Shavu'ot, is also known as Pentecost – which means 50 – because it falls on the 50th day following Passover; however, it bears no similarity to the Christian holy day of Pentecost, which occurs 50 days after Easter.
Pentecost is one of the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. For the followers of Jesus, it supplants the Jewish feast of Pentecost. The second chapter of Acts recounts the story. Jews from all over were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast. On that Sunday, the Apostles and Mary were gathered in the Upper Room, where they had seen Christ after His Resurrection. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach the Gospel in all of the languages that the Jews who were gathered there spoke, and about 3,000 people were converted and baptized that day.
On this day, with the descent of the Holy Spirit, Christ's mission is completed, and the New Covenant is inaugurated.
In many Eastern churches, the entire period between Easter and Pentecost Sunday was known as Pentecost, and during that time, both fasting and kneeling were strictly forbidden, because this period was supposed to give us a foretaste of the life of Heaven.
In more recent times, parishes celebrate the approach of Pentecost with the public recitation of the Novena to the Holy Spirit, mirroring the nine days of prayer in the Upper Room.
From Pentecost onward, the Church began her earthly pilgrimage that will be fulfilled one day in glory. The first community of believers in Jerusalem devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to prayers.
The disciples recognized that Jesus’ Ascension marked not an end, but a beginning. As we remember and celebrate the many beginnings in the coming weeks and months – graduations from high school and college, summer weddings – let us remember to give thanks and glory to God, our Creator, for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Before His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus spent 40 days on earth, preparing his apostles for their mission of evangelization. In the story of the Emmaus journey, two of the disciples walk with Jesus but do not initially recognize Him. Why is this? Did His resurrected body really look that different?
The resurrection of the body has been doctrine for Christians for 2000 years. In the Nicene Creed, we state that we believe in “the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” But do we really believe in the resurrection of our bodies? We say the words, but when it comes to the afterlife, millions of faithful Catholics seem to think that their souls alone count
The idea that the physical is bad and only the spiritual is good is a heresy. This mistaken teaching is one that church leaders have tried to eliminate from Christianity from its earliest days.
According to the Catechism, “From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection (of the body) has met with incomprehension and opposition.” So why is there so much resistance to the belief in bodily resurrection?
There are many reasons why Christians do not easily accept this doctrine. First, it defies what we know of science. How can something that has died be made to live again? How can bodies that have been cremated and remains scattered become whole again? Yet many beliefs held by Catholics are also hard for science to explain, like the real presence, and the virgin birth.
Maybe it’s because it’s so hard to love our bodies. It is easy to understand why, for example, the elderly and sick look toward an eternity without a body that has become a burden for them.
But anyone who remembers the best things about having a body – dancing and listening to music, shushing down a ski slope, smelling and tasting a freshly made cookie – can find great hope in the promise of a glorified body. If the Risen Jesus could walk through walls, and show up when and where he chose, how could our own raised bodies possibly be a hindrance? Won’t they enhance our experience of God?
The Catechism says that, “By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives for ever, so all of us will rise at the last day.”
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Think back to when you were baptized. Chances are, you were a tiny baby, and your parents and relatives gathered at the church around the baptismal font, along with your godparents. Okay, maybe you don’t remember, but someone no doubt has told you the story of your baptism! Who were your godparents? Why were they chosen? What were their qualifications, and what were their duties?
Canon law stipulates that godparents be at least 16 years old and have been fully initiated: that is, they have received the three sacraments of Baptism, First Eucharist, and Confirmation. The other requirements stipulate that parents should not be godparents for their own children, and that if two godparents are chosen, one must be male and one female.
Choosing godparents is not a decision to be made lightly: a great deal of consideration should go into the choice. Often, parents want to honor a special relative, or encourage a family friend to have a closer relationship with their child. While the intentions are good, these are not sufficient reasons for asking someone to be a godparent.
Godparents should be role models in the Faith, people who are active, practicing Catholics. They should be men and women who are comfortable in their relationship with God, who feel at home in the Catholic Church. Beyond going to a preparation class with the parents, and holding and speaking for the child at Baptism, they should be people who are interested in the faith formation of their godchild and willing to offer support in the years ahead.
If we remember a few basic things about Baptism – that it gives a person a new and special status as a child of God, and it makes a person a member of the Body of Christ – then what you are looking for are godparents who can truly represent that Christian community.
You may be surprised to learn that it is occasionally permitted for a non Catholic Christian to be designated a “Christian witness” to a baptism. Though not officially a godparent, such an individual can still function as a role model for someone who is trying to learn about Christian discipleship. In such situations, another person should be designated as the official godparent, someone who fits into the traditional categories.
Godparents, hand-in-hand with the parents and faith formation teachers in the church community, are invaluable assets to our children as they journey and grow in faith.