Sunday, January 25, 2015
If you looked at Thursday, January 22nd on your Catholic calendar, you know it was described as a day of penance because of the atrocity of abortion and also a day of prayer for the legal guarantee of the right to life. This day of reflection has occurred every January since the Supreme Court upheld the legalization of abortion in 1973. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have participated in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., lobbying for pro-life legislation.
But what does it really mean to be “pro-life?”
As Catholics, we understand that because life begins at conception, abortion is wrong. The Catechism says, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. …” (Paragraph 2270) For this reason, we must be concerned with protecting the lives of unborn children. For some, that means praying outside clinics or volunteering at organizations that support unwed mothers; for others, it means working to change a system that disenfranchises young, pregnant women.
But being pro-life involves so much more, and as Catholics, we are called to be pro-life even when it is difficult. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wants us to broaden the scope of our parish pro-life activities by pointing out life issues deserving of our attention and efforts: Capital Punishment; People Living with Disabilities; End of Life Issues; Health Care; War; and Hunger, to name just a few.
The USCCB says that, “Increasingly, our society looks to violent measures to deal with some of our most difficult social problems – millions of abortions to address problem pregnancies, advocacy of euthanasia and assisted suicide to cope with the burdens of age and illness, and increased reliance on the death penalty to deal with crime. We are tragically turning to violence in the search for quick and easy answers to complex human problems…”
As we consider our stand on life issues, we must embrace the concept that being pro-life is more than simply being anti-abortion. It is not for us to judge which lives are innocent and which are not – that discernment is for God alone. Rather, we must believe, as the Catechism tells us, that every human life is sacred because we are all made in the image and likeness of God. (Paragraph 2319) “Our witness to respect for life shines most brightly when we demand respect for each and every human life…”
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Traditionally, the Church celebrates the Octave of Christian Unity between January 18th and 25th which are appropriately the Feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul. These feasts have symbolic importance as Peter was the Apostle to the Jews and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.
During these eight days we are to concentrate on what all Christians have in common and to stop focusing upon our differences. We are to pray as Jesus did to His Father, “that they may be one as you and I are one.”
Instead of unity the Church experiences greater and greater division as we enter further into an era of religious competition whereby some Congregational churches seek to increase their membership by denigrating and insulting traditional churches, like the Catholic Church.
Instead of denigrating and insulting each other we are to reach out to those who share a belief in Jesus the Christ. A major focus of the Second Vatican Council was the work of Christian unity, known as ecumenism. In the years leading up to the Council, Saint John XXIII showed a great attentiveness and openness to the Holy Spirit, making it clear that work and prayer for Christian unity is inseparable from the Church’s mission to evangelize.
In his opening address to the Council he said, "The Catholic Church considers it her duty to work actively so that there may be fulfilled the great mystery of… unity, which Jesus Christ invoked with fervent prayer from His heavenly Father on the eve of His sacrifice…”
With the arrival of Pope Francis and his insistence on trusting others and learning from them, a resurgence in the ecumenical movement is underway. The Christian churches seem poised, for the first time in a long time, for a major reconciliatory breakthrough.
In his encyclical “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis calls for unity when he writes, “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord””.
We are the messengers Jesus is using in the world today to bring His message of love and unity to everyone we encounter.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord which ends the season of Christmas. The Church recalls Our Lord's second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism by John in the Jordan River. It was John who said of Jesus that, “He must grow greater and I must become less.” These are among the strongest words and most moving testimony with regard to the identity of Christ: his greatness compared with our littleness.
John teaches his disciples, and us, that we are called to make ourselves less and allow Jesus to become more. How unlike most of us who strive constantly to become more: to gather more possessions, to become greater than those around us. We are students who think we are teachers; workers who act like we are bosses; servants pretending to be masters.
John the Baptist knew well that the original sin was pride. It’s dangerous for us to forget the nothing that we are, and the everything that God is. That original temptation seems ever on the ready to rise in our soul. How good it is for us to acknowledge now and then, that the Lord alone is everything! Right at the beginning of her spiritual journey, the Lord said to Catherine of Sienna: “do you know daughter, who you are and who I am? If you know these two things, you will be happy: You are not, and I am who is.”
Although with different words, John the Baptist offered his disciples the same teaching: “He must grow greater and I must grow less”; in order to make way for the Everything God is, we who are nothing must forget ourselves. This is the extraordinary conversion announced by John the Baptist and repeated by Jesus: lose oneself in order to find God, become little in order to be great, be the least in order to become the first in the Kingdom of Heaven!
The path of humility teaches us to see a sign of the goodness God pours into the hearts of ourselves and in others. When we follow the example of John the Baptist, we will be open to the joyous testimony of God's gifts and remove from our souls all trace of jealously and rivalry, envy and ambition. It’s only in emptying ourselves that we can begin to understand that true greatness lies in allowing God to be in charge.