Sunday, August 25, 2013

"No one is excluded" from salvation | Pope Francis

NOTE:Moving text of Pope Francis' Angelus message today. "No one is excluded" from salvation. - FT

2013-08-25 Vatican Radio
(Vatican Radio) Here is the full text of Vatican Radio’s translation of Pope Francis’ Angelus address:

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.

Today's Gospel invites us to reflect on the theme of salvation. Jesus is going up from Galilee to the city of Jerusalem, and along the way, says St. Luke the Evangelist, someone asked him,

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” (13:23). Jesus did not answer the question directly: it is not important to know how many are saved, but rather, it is important to know what is the path of salvation. And so Jesus responds to the question by saying, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (v. 24). What does Jesus mean? What is the gate by which we enter? And why does Jesus speak about a narrow gate?

The image of the gate recurs several times in the Gospel and is reminiscent of home and hearth, where we find safety, love and warmth. Jesus tells us that there is a gate that allows us to enter into God's family, into the warmth of the house of God, of communion with Him. This gate is Jesus himself (cf. Jn 10:9). He is the gate. He is the gateway to salvation. He leads us to the Father. And the gate that is Jesus is never closed, this gate is never closed, it is always open and open to everyone, without distinction, without exclusions, without privileges. Because, you know, Jesus does not exclude anyone. Some of you might say to me, “But Father, surely I am excluded, because I am a great sinner. I have done so many things in my life.” No, you are not excluded! Precisely for that reason you are preferred, because Jesus prefers the sinner, always, in order to pardon him, to love him. Jesus is waiting for you, to embrace you, to pardon you. Don’t be afraid: He’s waiting for you. Be lively, have the courage to enter through His gate. All are invited to pass through this gate, to pass through the gate of faith, to enter into His life, and to allow Him to enter into our life, because He transforms it, renews it, the gifts of full and lasting joy.

Nowadays we pass many doors that invite us to enter, that promise a happiness that then we realise lasts but a moment, which is an end in itself and has no future. But I ask you: which gate do we want to enter? And who we want to through the gate of our lives? I want to say emphatically: don’t be afraid to pass through the gate of faith in Jesus, to let Him enter more and more into our lives, to go out of our selfishness, our being closed in, our indifference toward others. Because Jesus illuminates our life with a light that never goes out. It is not a firework, not a “flash”! No, it is a soft light that always endures and that gives us peace. That is the light that we meet if we enter through the gate of Jesus.

Certainly, it is a narrow gate, the gate of Jesus, not because it is a torture chamber. No, not because of that! But because it asks us to open our hearts to Him, to recognize ourselves as sinners, in need of His salvation, His forgiveness, His love, needing the humility to accept His mercy and to be renewed by Him. Jesus in the Gospel tells us that being a Christian is not having a “label”! I ask you, are you Christians because of a label, or in truth? And for each one the answer is within. Not Christians, never Christians because of a label! Christians in truth, in the heart. To be Christian is to live and witness to the faith in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice, in doing good. For the narrow gate which is Christ must pass into our whole life.

We ask the Virgin Mary, the Gate of Heaven, to help us to pass through the gate of faith, to allow her Son to transform our existence as He transformed hers, in order to bring everyone the joy of the Gospel.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father appealed for peace in Syria (see separate story) and went on to greet pilgrims in attendance in Saint Peter's Square.]

I affectionately greet all the pilgrims present: families, the numerous groups and the Associazione Albergoni. In particular I greet the Sisters of Santa Dorotea, the youth of Verona, Syracuse, Nave, Modica and Trento, the candidates for Confirmation of the Unità Pastorale of Angarano and Val Liona, seminarians and priests of the Pontifical North American College, the workers of Cuneo and the pilgrims Verrua Po, San Zeno Naviglio, Urago d'Oglio, Varano Borghi and Sao Paulo. For many people, these days mark the end of the summer vacation period. I wish you all a peaceful and committed return to normal daily life looking to the future with hope.

I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week! Buon pranzo, and arrivederci!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The most wonderful time of the year!

I don’t know if you’ve seen the Staples commercial that involves a parent and children shopping for school supplies.  The children are walking along like they’re in a funeral march depressed at the concept of heading back to school, while the parent dances through the aisles singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”?  This is indeed for many a conflicted time of year – for parents, rejoicing; for the kids, dread – but I think today we can learn something valuable from it in terms of our faith.

Summer is such a wonderful time.  This has been a busy summer, but filled with so many different and fun events – the Steubenville East Youth Conference, cookouts, baseball games, the beach, a trip to Ireland, and so on. Especially at this time of year, we really want the fun and relaxation and adventure of summer to go on forever.  It is just so carefree.  But, the reality is that we know we must return to the orderliness, the discipline, the work of the school year.  There’s just no quick or easy way around it.  Despite the fact that many of us perhaps don’t want to go to school, or work, or back to the regular pace of life, we have to.  We must return to gain knowledge, to learn how to live and interact in our society, to gain and perfect the skills we need in life.  And, no matter how much we convince ourselves that we could find an easy way around it, there simply isn’t one.

Well, there is a similarly conflicted nature in what Jesus is telling his followers in today’s Gospel passage.  Someone asks him the question, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” And Jesus gives an answer that perhaps they didn’t want to hear.  He says, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”   This isn’t the answer we were looking for.  We probably wanted Jesus to tell us, “Don’t worry, be happy. Do what you want, everyone is saved!”  We hope that all we have to say to Jesus is, “I am a good person, isn’t that enough? Does it really matter that I don’t worship the lord as I should? That I don’t follow His commands as I should?”   Jesus gives us the tough answer that this simply isn’t enough.  Our relationship with God must come first. We must follow God’s commandments and Jesus’ example and that it is indeed a narrow gate that leads to salvation. Perhaps the man in our Gospel isn’t asking the right question, “Will only a few be saved?”  Perhaps what he really should have asked was, “Lord, how can I be saved?” Just think back before the turn of the year 2000, everyone was in a tizzy about the coming millennium and whether or not it would signal the end of the world.  Did anyone ask, “Lord, how can I be saved?”  No, they asked, “When will the world come to an end? When is the Armageddon coming? Who will the Anti-Christ be?”  If salvation is what you’re after, these are the wrong questions!

Rather than the curiosity of who will be saved, we need to be asking questions of personal importance like, “What do I need to do to be saved? How can I serve God better in my life today, right now? How can I make use of the opportunities God gives me here and now for my eternal salvation?”   Are we more worried about getting into a certain school, a particular sport or club, a better job or home than we are about getting into Heaven?

Christ has shown us in Word and in Sacrament everything we need to know for our salvation.  Perhaps you’ve heard the acronym for the BIBLE – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth?  The gate is indeed narrow and we have to do the hard work to be ready to walk through it.  Just like the impending school year, there’s no easy way around it.  The only way we can go through the narrow gate is by turning our whole lives over to God who is our salvation.

This is the key – our openness to God’s leadership.  Do we believe that God’s Word is good for us?  Do we believe that God’s way is the best way?  Do we believe that the Commandments are absolutes in our life that lead to Heaven?  Or do we try and find the quick and easy way around it creating a God and a Bible of our own making?  One that suits our own whims, will, ways and sins?  Without an openness to letting God lead us, surrendering to Him, we are discouraged when we hear of those who were turned away who said, “But, we ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.”  We might feel the same way, “Lord, we have eaten your body and we drank of your blood and you taught in our Church. Isn’t this enough?”

To this Jesus says: Eating and drinking beside Me is not the same as eating and drinking with Me.  You can be near Me and not a part of Me.  You can hear Me without ever listening to Me.  You can know Me and still not accept Me.  You can like Me while never loving Me. You see, I am not the one that is locking you out.  You are locking yourself out.  I’m not closing the door on you.  It is you who close the door on Me. The door you are knocking on doesn’t lock from the inside. It is locked from the outside.  And the only key that will open it is – YOU.  Acknowledge Me, accept Me, love Me and the door – the very Kingdom – will open itself to you.

This is how we pass through the Narrow Gate – by allowing God to change us, to form us, and transform us.  Remember, Jesus tells us, “I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved.”  Jesus says, “You cannot earn your place in heaven.  I earned it for you when I spread my arms on that cross.  It was my sacrifice for you that opened the Gates of Heaven.  I was innocent, you were guilty, and I stood in your place – willingly, lovingly – all for you.  And now, you have a choice – one choice – enter through Me.  Be changed, be transformed, not into your image of yourself, but into My image.  Let My love save you.  Come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and recline at table in the kingdom of God.”

My friends, let us ask with every fiber of our being, “Lord, what must I do to be saved?”  And may God give us the strength to follow.

May God give you peace.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Domani" no more! The day is today! The hour is now!

The wonderful, classic children’s book, The Little Prince tells the story of a prince who lived on a tiny planet far from Earth that was going to be destroyed unless the prince could save it.   So he traveled across the universe to see if he could learn anything to help, eventually coming to Earth.  Here, he learned many things about life, love and friendship; and also taught earthlings many things from his own simplicity and goodness.  During his time here, the he befriended a fox.  They both learned a lot from each other, but eventually the prince knew that he must leave in order to continue his journey.  They had both grown very close and so were naturally sad when the prince finally had to leave. The two sat together in sadness and in silence until the fox finally spoke up, “Little prince, tell me something: will you ever come back to me?”  The prince answered, “Of course I will; I have to.  I love you - you know that.”  Then, the fox asked, “Tell me, when you do come back, what time of the day will it be?” “What do you mean ‘What time of the day will it be?’  That doesn’t really matter, does it?”  the prince asked.  “It matters a whole lot!” the fox responded passionately, “Because if you tell me that you are going to come back at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I can start being happy.”

We heard in our Gospel today, “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."   We who are lucky enough to live here in the North End live deep in the heart of Boston’s Italian culture.  One of the wonderful aspects of this culture is that Italians are known for their relaxed approach to life and are fond of responding “Domani” to many requests.  Can you help me today?  Domani, come have some wine; domani, have some prosciutto; have a little pasta. It is a domani culture. For those who don’t know, the word “domani” means “tomorrow.”  In most ways this is an admirable approach to living. It’s an approach that places family and friends and engaging the other first over the more mundane and tiresome aspects of life.  But, as we are reminded today, there is one area of our life that we cannot take a domani approach and that is in our life of faith.

Today’s Gospel challenges us to not be people of tomorrow, not to be faith seekers of tomorrow, but rather, people who are filled with the love of God, who live lives dedicated to Christ, who are ready for his return - today.  There’s a bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is coming – look busy.”  But, think about that for a minute - if Jesus were to come today, right now, during this very Mass what would He find?  Would He find a Church full of people who had prepared themselves for His return? Ready for His judgment? Or would He find a Church full of people who have said, Domani, tomorrow Lord; tomorrow I will get my relationship with You in order.  Tomorrow I will work on my sins. Tomorrow I will say I’m sorry. Tomorrow I will right that wrong.  I love you Lord and dedicate myself to You, but not today – tomorrow, domani

“You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."  Jesus is right, we do not know the day or the hour that He will return, but we do know the day and the hour that we can get ready – the day and the hour are right now.  So, what are we waiting for?  The only thing that holds us back from fully embracing the faith that Jesus calls us to is ourselves.  Jesus wants us to live completely and fully in His love; to be freed completely and fully from our sins through the great gift and grace of Confession; to be filled with the power and holiness that comes through His Body and Blood.  He wants us, quite simply and quite profoundly, to be the son or the daughter that He created us to be.  He wants us to be that today, not tomorrow.  And all we have to do is choose it.  Choose Christ. Choose holiness. Choose goodness and kindness and compassion. So what are we waiting for?  Is it fear? Or a lack of trust? Or a weak faith? Whatever it is, Jesus is the answer.

Pope Francis said recently at World Youth Day in Brazil, “I am sure that you don’t want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads. I know that you are aiming at decisions which will make your lives meaningful. Jesus is capable of letting you do this: He is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life.’ Let’s trust in him. Let’s make Him our guide! ‘Put on Christ’ in your life, and you will find a friend in whom you can always trust; ‘put on Christ’ and you will see the wings of hope spreading and letting you journey with joy towards the future; ‘put on Christ’ and your life will be full of his love; it will be a fruitful life.”

So my friends, the time has come to cast off our fear, to cast off our lack of trust, to cast off whatever it is that has kept us up until this point from living fully and completely for God. 

In fact, we do know the day and the hour of our faith.  The day is today and the hour is now. Let us be the ones who are ready for the Savior’s return.  Let us surrender our hearts and our lives to Him.  Let us ‘put on Christ’ and live for God alone and our lives will be full and happy and holy and fruitful.  Let us make our cry – Jesus is coming, I am ready!  Let us be excited in faith for our Lord.

May the Lord give you peace.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A revolution underway with Pope Francis | National Catholic Reporter

By John L. Allen Jr. | August 5, 2013

ROME - Revolutions are funny things. Some are launched by one group but hijacked by others, as in Egypt, where liberal democrats have become bystanders to the real contest between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. Some are born amid great idealism that quickly becomes a smokescreen for hypocrisy, as in the various communist uprisings.
Still others fizzle out, while a handful eventually produce new systems that, despite their flaws, really do change the world -- the French and American revolutions, for instance.
It's too early to know which trajectory will apply to the upheaval launched by Pope Francis, in part because at the level of structures and personnel he still hasn't made many sweeping changes, and in part because the parallels are inexact anyway -- Catholicism, after all, is a family of faith, not a political society.
Perhaps the lone certainty is that a revolution is, indeed, underway. In mid-July, the Italian newsmagazine L'Espresso ran a cover story on the new pope under the banner headline "Ce la farà?" The phrase translates roughly as "Will he make it?" or "Will he pull it off?"
There was no need to explain what "it" meant -- everyone, it seems, knows that Francis is trying to engineer a Catholic glasnost.
Among other innovations, Francis has decided to skip his summer break, staying in the Vatican rather than heading off to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, Italy. (He made a brief visit there July 14.) Nonetheless, the expectation is that August will be a period of calm, after his taxing homecoming to Latin America for World Youth Day in Brazil, as a prelude to dramatic action in the fall.
It's thus a good time to stand back and ask a few big-picture questions:
  • What are the main lines of the Francis revolution?
  • What's already changed, and what's still to come?
  • Who are those most put out by the changes -- who may seek to resist or reverse them?
  • What are the looming moments that will determine how much change to expect, and whether it's for real?
The answers suggest that L'Espresso is onto something: There really is a revolution going on, even if some of its content has yet to arrive.
Change is here
One could argue that in most of the ways that matter, the change has already arrived.
In just four months, Francis has revived the international prestige of the papacy and its moral capital. The Italian edition of Vanity Fair recently declared him its "Man of the Year," including snippets of praise from unlikely quarters such as Elton John, who termed the pontiff "a miracle of humility in the era of vanity."
Polling in various parts of the world show approval ratings that would be the envy of any politician or celebrity. A recent survey in Italy showed Francis' popularity at 85 percent, with spillover effects for the church; the percentage of Italians saying they trust the church was up to 63 percent, from 46 percent in January during the twilight of Benedict XVI's papacy.
"There has been a worldwide change in attitudes toward the papacy since the election of Francis," said veteran Vatican watcher Marco Politi, a columnist for the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano. "There has been a great outpouring of sympathy, not only among believers but also from people who are very secular or far from the church."
If anything, Politi may be understating it.
In terms of public opinion, Francis is already on the cusp of achieving the iconic status of Nelson Mandela, a figure of unquestioned moral authority. It's telling that during his trip to Brazil, protagonists in the nation's current unrest virtually tripped over one another in a contest to see who could demonstrate more deference and respect.
There's also a sense in which Francis is the "Teflon pope," in that nothing bad seems to stick. When anything scandalous happens, reaction isn't to blame the pope, but to see it as additional proof of why he's needed.
Case in point: In late July, an Italian media outlet published reports that the pope's handpicked prelate to reform the Vatican bank had been involved in brazen gay affairs while serving as a Vatican diplomat in Uruguay more than a decade ago. Those inclined to take the reports at face value saw them as proof of a "gay lobby" that Francis will upend; those disposed to dismiss them said they're evidence that Francis' reform is eliciting resistance.
What everyone could agree on is that Francis is the solution, not the problem.
Truth to be told, most ordinary folk aren't paying attention to such inside baseball anyway. Vatican watchers may fixate on questions such as who Francis will name as the next cardinal secretary of state, or what changes he'll make at the Institute for the Works of Religion (the Vatican bank), but the only question most people have about a pope is, "Does he inspire?"
For now, the answer seems to be yes. Given all the scandals, bad press and controversy the Catholic church has weathered over the past decade, if that's not a revolution, it's hard to know what one would look like.
In Rome, too, there are clear signs that a new order has already arisen.
Clergy who chafed under what they perceived as a mounting liturgical fastidiousness during the late John Paul II and Benedict years -- showing up for a papal Mass, for instance, only to be told they weren't properly dressed because they weren't sporting enough crimson and lace -- report all that ended in mid-March.
Francis' humbler lifestyle is having a ripple effect. Princes of the church today are more likely to be spotted wearing simple black clerical dress rather than the usual sartorial splendor, and some have begun to sign their names in official correspondence simply as "Don So-and-So," avoiding "His Eminence" or other bits of court nomenclature.
Even beggars who ply their trade around the Vatican have clued in that something has changed. Vatican personnel say that if they spurn a request for spare change today, they're likely to hear back, "Cosa direbbe Papa Francesco?" -- meaning, "What would Pope Francis say?"
The game' is over
All that might be written off as superficial matters of style, but there's also a sense that the plates are shifting at a deeper level.
To take the most obvious example, there's long been an in-group/out-group distinction in the Vatican, between a majority who show up for work and try to do their job, and an elite minority who run "the game" -- who monopolize access to the pope, who control the allocation of personnel and resources, and who otherwise pull the strings of power on the basis of patronage and political savvy.
As recently as four months ago, this game was in full swing. Ambitious personnel knew precisely who they should try to befriend, which receptions to attend, which movements they should cozy up to, which devotions to embrace and so on. Many Vatican officials found that repugnant, while others worked it to perfection, but in any event they knew the lay of the land.
Today, this insider/outsider distinction is largely defunct. By living in the Casa Santa Marta, by working the phone for himself, and by bypassing the usual gatekeepers, Francis has ensured that no one has a monopoly on his ear.
"He's very charming, but he's also very controlling, as all powerful people are," said Omar Bello, an Argentine Catholic journalist and author of a new book on the pope.
Efforts to descry a new cabal around the pope have been fruitless. In May and June, for instance, Francis was often seen in the company of Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, because of public events related to the Vatican's "Year of Faith." Some thought Fisichella was emerging as a man of influence -- then, of course, Francis left Fisichella standing at the altar at a Vatican concert June 22.
What Vatican watchers have realized is that trying to figure out who's up and who's down misses the point. The novelty is that the game, as it has long been understood and played, is finished.
Over and over, Vatican personnel speaking on background say that Francis is his own man, collecting his own information and making his own decisions -- governing, in a sense, like the Jesuit provincial he once was. There is no éminence grise, and no figure like Msgr. (now Cardinal) Stanislaw Dziwisz under John Paul or Msgr. (now Archbishop) Georg Gänswein under Benedict, serving as the power behind the throne.
With Francis, what you see is basically what you get.
Hallmarks of the new order
Four hallmarks of the new order seem clear.
First, this Latin American outsider seems determined to break the Italian monopoly on governance of the universal church.
Francis has set up three bodies to flesh out his reform: a group of cardinals to assist him in governance, a committee to investigate the Vatican bank, and a pontifical commission to study the Vatican's economic and administrative structures. All told, they include 21 people now in positions of real influence, with just three Italians among them.
(As a footnote, one could argue that it's two and a half Italians, since the Italian named to the panel for the economic and administrative reform, a laywoman named Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, is the child of an Italian mother and an Egyptian father.)
Beneath that is a calculation that de-Italianization is a sine qua non of reform, especially on the financial front. As one non-Vatican cardinal said to NCR on background, "If you want transparency on money, then you don't look to Italy as an example."
Second, Francis clearly wants to enhance the lay role -- not just in ceremonial ways, but in the nuts and bolts task of reforming the Vatican and governing the church.
His commission to study the economic and administrative structures, for instance, is made up of eight people, only one of whom is a priest -- Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, a Spaniard who serves as secretary of the Vatican's Prefecture for Economic Affairs, and who's a member of the Opus Dei-affiliated Priestly Society of Holy Cross. The other seven are laypeople drawn from the worlds of economics, law and business management.
Logically speaking, this implies clipping the wings of the Vatican's clerical overlords. In the Italian paper La Repubblica, journalist Marco Ansaldo called the commission a "complete subversion" of the Roman Curia -- noting, among other things, that its members don't report to the Vatican's power structure but directly to the pope.
Four months ago, if someone wanted to influence the Vatican's financial operations, they had to call an Italian cardinal. Today they'd be better advised to ring up a lay economist from Malta -- Joseph F.X. Zahra, who heads the new commission.
New accountability
Third, Francis is giving rise to a new culture of accountability, moving toward a more Anglo-Saxon understanding that "accountability" means somebody can actually get fired.
Two critical moves were the July 2 resignations of the top officials of the Vatican bank, director Paolo Cipriani and vice director Massimo Tulli, as well as the suspension in early June of Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, an accountant at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. Scarano was shortly thereafter arrested in connection with an alleged plot to smuggle almost $30 million into Italy, and also faces a separate money-laundering investigation related to accounts he held at the Vatican bank.
Historically it was almost impossible for someone to lose a job in the Vatican, in part because of its tough labor protections, and in part because officials would insist that the church is a family rather than a Fortune 500 corporation.
Whatever the merits of that system, insiders say it tended to discourage potential whistle-blowers, because the perception was that wrongdoers would never suffer any consequences.
Scarano is a good case in point. Insiders knew that his Vatican salary of roughly $2,000 a month couldn't possibly sustain his lavish lifestyle, which, according to Italian prosecutors, included a collection of artwork featuring pieces by Giorgio de Chirico and Marc Chagall.
Two Vatican officials who spoke to NCR on background, and who knew Scarano, said they always found something off about him, but never reported it because they didn't see any point. Both said that today they would have come forward.
Fourth, whether it's a matter of instinct or conscious strategy, Francis seems to be repositioning the church in the political center, after a fairly lengthy period in which many observers perceived it to be drifting to the right.
Veteran Italian journalist Sandro Magister recently observed, "It cannot be an accident that after 120 days of his pontificate, Pope Francis has not yet spoken the words abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage," adding that "this silence of his is another of the factors that explain the benevolence of secular public opinion."
Yet Francis has imposed no such gag order on himself when it comes to other political topics, such as poverty, the environment and immigration. It's telling that for this first trip outside Rome, Francis chose the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, a major point of arrival for impoverished African and Middle Eastern immigrants seeking to reach Europe. The pope called for greater compassion for these migrants, chiding the world for a "globalization of indifference."
While the trip played to generally rapturous reviews, the anti-immigration right in Europe was outraged. Erminio Boso, a spokesman for Italy's far-right Northern League, said: "I don't care about the pope. … What I'd ask is that he provide money and land for these extra-communitarians," referring to undocumented immigrants.
The shift to the center also seems clear in ecclesiastical terms. In Rome, the perception is that power brokers associated with moderate positions, such as Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, coordinator of the commission of cardinals, are on the ascendant, while those linked to neoconservative or traditionalist stances, such as Cardinal Raymond Burke of the United States, head of the Vatican's supreme court, are in decline.
The church may not veer sharply in its political allegiances, but there seems a clear preference for the social Gospel over the culture wars.
These points alone are arguably significant enough to constitute a "revolution," but there's likely more to come, especially when the commissions tasked with studying reform report in. Next, in Part 2, we'll consider what's still on the horizon -- and, equally importantly, where the blowback is likely to emerge.
[John L. Allen Jr. is NCR senior correspondent. His email address is]

Saturday, August 3, 2013

"What will you give today?"

I remember a few years ago hearing someone on TV who was trying to get young people to think about making a difference in the world.  He said, “Some people get up in the morning and their first thought is ‘What can I get today?’ and others get up in the morning and their first thought is, ‘What can I give today?’  The second question is the only one that will ever make you happy.”   Reflecting upon our Scripture readings for today, I think Jesus would agree well with this sentiment.

We heard proclaimed in our Gospel passage, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.”  What can I get today or what can I give today? “One’s life does not consist of possessions.”  This would be the very definition of a counter-cultural message as we live in a world that is obsessed with acquiring possessions.  All that matters is getting more and more and more.  More money, bigger house, better job, fancier car, newer toys and so on.  And all for what?  “One’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Things, of course, are nice and even necessary for life. But possessions can assume such an importance in our lives that they become obsessions. When we are so concerned about the things that we can have, so much so that we no longer hear the urgent call of God, then we have got our priorities all mixed up. Such is the man in today’s Gospel who asks Jesus to come and make his brother give him his share of the family inheritance. Jesus isn’t against him having more wealth, nor is he against justice being done between him and his brother. But Jesus is disappointed that after listening to all His preaching, the man’s concern is still about his money. The very Words of Life were falling on deaf ears.

Jesus, fearing there could be more people in the crowd like this man, turns and says to them, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.” To illustrate His point Jesus tells the Parable of the Rich Fool. Now when you read the parable you might ask, “What wrong did this man do?” Think about it. He did honest work on his farm and the land gave a bumper crop, so he decided do build larger storage so that he could live the rest of his life on Easy Street. Only he did not know that the rest of his life was less than 24 hours. Jesus uses him to illustrate greed in its many forms.  The man did not take from others.  In this sense, he didn’t do something wrong. His greed lies in what he failed to do.  Instead of using his material wealth for the good of the world, to do the things that God calls us to do – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, etc. – he used it only to better himself.

Pope Francis has talked about this same theme calling it the Cult of Money in our world.  In May he said, “Today, and it breaks my heart to say it, finding a homeless person who has died of the cold, is not news. Today, the news is scandals – that is news. But the many children who don't have food - that's not news. This is grave. We can't rest easy while things are this way. Today, if investments in banks fail, it is a ‘tragedy’ and people say 'what are we going to do?' but if people die of hunger, have nothing to eat or suffer from poor health, that's nothing. This is our crisis today. A Church that is poor and for the poor has to fight this mentality."

There is a quote that says, greed is “the belief that there is no life after death. We grab what we can, while we can, however we can, and then hold on to it hard.” The rich man in our Gospel – and many people in our world today - qualify as examples of this greed. That’s why Jesus was so hard on greed.  That’s why the Holy Father, already in his young papacy, has spoken so frequently about this. Greed is the worship of another god – the god of Money or Materialism or Possessions.

Today’s Gospel invites us to believe in the God of Jesus Christ who alone can give eternal life and not in the god of this world who gives us the false promise of immortality and happiness through the accumulation of trivial and transitory things. “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”  Material wealth, of course, is not bad in and of itself – what can be bad is what we do – or rather what we fail to do with it.  Do we use what we have to make the world a better place? Or do we use what we have merely for our own pleasure? God calls us to realize that the most valuable possession in the world is faith in His Son; and He wants us to be rich in what matters to Him.

So, let us all pray today that we might become rich – rich in the Words, rich in the Will and rich in the Way of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  And let us ask: what will we give today?

May the Lord give you peace. 

Changing the impossible

HOMILY FOR THE 2nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, January 20, 2019: When my parents got married more than 50 years ago, my Mom came from a pract...