Sunday, June 29, 2014

"The love of Jesus must suffice!" | Pope Francis | Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

SOLEMNITY OF STS. PETER AND PAUL, June 29, 2014 | Homily of Pope Francis:

On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal patrons of Rome, we welcome with joy and gratitude the Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, our venerable and beloved brother Bartholomaios, and led by Metropolitan Ioannis. Let us ask the Lord that this visit too may strengthen our fraternal bonds as we journey toward that full communion between the two sister Churches which we so greatly desire.

“Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:11). When Peter began his ministry to the Christian community of Jerusalem, great fear was still in the air because of Herod’s persecution of members of the Church. There had been the killing of James, and then the imprisonment of Peter himself, in order to placate the people. While Peter was imprisoned and in chains, he heard the voice of the angel telling him, “Get up quickly… dress yourself and put on your sandals… Put on your mantle and follow me!” (Acts 12:7-8). The chains fell from him and the door of the prison opened before him. Peter realized that the Lord had “rescued him from the hand of Herod”; he realized that the Lord had freed him from fear and from chains. Yes, the Lord liberates us from every fear and from all that enslaves us, so that we can be truly free. Today’s liturgical celebration expresses this truth well in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord has freed me from all my fears”.

The problem for us, then, is fear and looking for refuge in our pastoral responsibilities.

I wonder, dear brother bishops, are we afraid? What are we afraid of? And if we are afraid, what forms of refuge do we seek, in our pastoral life, to find security? Do we look for support from those who wield worldly power? Or do we let ourselves be deceived by the pride which seeks gratification and recognition, thinking that these will offer us security? Dear brother Bishops, where do we find our security?

The witness of the Apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is trust in God. Trust in God banishes all fear and sets us free from every form of slavery and all worldly temptation. Today the Bishop of Rome and other bishops, particularly the metropolitans who have received the pallium, feel challenged by the example of Saint Peter to assess to what extent each of us puts his trust in the Lord.

Peter recovered this trust when Jesus said to him three times: “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21: 15,16,17). Peter thrice confessed his love for Jesus, thus making up for his threefold denial of Christ during the passion. Peter still regrets the disappointment which he caused the Lord on the night of his betrayal. Now that the Lord asks him: “Do you love me?”, Peter does not trust himself and his own strength, but instead entrusts himself to Jesus and his mercy: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). Precisely at this moment fear, insecurity and cowardice dissipate.

Peter experienced how God’s fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity, stronger than our denials. He realizes that the God’s fidelity dispels our fears and exceeds every human reckoning. Today Jesus also asks us: “Do you love me?”. He does so because he knows our fears and our struggles. Peter shows us the way: we need to trust in the Lord, who “knows everything” that is in us, not counting on our capacity to be faithful, but on his unshakable fidelity. Jesus never abandons us, for he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). He is faithful. The fidelity which God constantly shows to us pastors, far in excess of our merits, is the source of our confidence and our peace. The Lord’s fidelity to us keeps kindled within us the desire to serve him and to serve our sisters and brothers in charity.

The love of Jesus must suffice for Peter. He must no longer yield to the temptation to curiosity, jealousy, as when, seeing John nearby, he asks Jesus: “Lord, what about this man?” (Jn 21:21). But Jesus, in the face of these temptations, says to him in reply: “What is it to you? Follow me” (Jn 21:22). This experience of Peter is a message for us too, dear brother archbishops. Today the Lord repeats to me, to you, and to all pastors: Follow me! Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not dwell on secondary things, but look to what is essential and follow me. Follow me without regard for the difficulties. Follow me in preaching the Gospel. Follow me by the witness of a life shaped by the grace you received in baptism and holy orders. Follow me by speaking of me to those with whom you live, day after day, in your work, your conversations and among your friends. Follow me by proclaiming the Gospel to all, especially to the least among us, so that no one will fail to hear the word of life which sets us free from every fear and enables us to trust in the faithfulness of God. Follow me!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Living the Trinity

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, June 15, 2014:

(This is a homily that I have delivered in the past on Trinity Sunday)

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – the mystery of God as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in one God. It is perhaps one of the most challenging mysteries of the faith to understand from an intellectual perspective. How can three things be one? St. Patrick famously tried to explain this using the image of the shamrock – three leaves, yet one shamrock. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the Trinity, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the mystery of God in Himself…The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to people.” Does that clear things up for you? Probably not. And yet, I think we can come to a better understanding of the Trinity in our lives.

We all remember what we did at the beginning of Mass today. It is the same thing we do at the beginning of every Mass. We did this and please join me. + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. It is a familiar gesture that we do often more as a reflex than a conscious movement. But it is a gesture that points to today’s feast. When we are conscious of what we are doing in that act, it is a simple act of faith in the complexity of God who is revealed to us in the mystery of the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit.

I say “revealed to us” because we wouldn’t have a clue about the Trinity if Jesus didn’t tell us about it. Jesus talked about His Father in Heaven, He talked about Himself as the Son of God, He talked about going back to Heaven and sending to us the Holy Spirit. This is what the Catechism means when it says, “The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way by which the one true God…reveals himself to people.” This is how God reveals Himself - precisely as Trinity; as three Persons in one God. Although the Trinity is a mystery revealed by God, it doesn’t mean it is mystifying; rather it is a mystery that God wants us to be drawn deeply into.

So, let’s think about the sign of the cross and how it can draw us deeply into this mystery. First we touch our forehead and say, “In the Name of the Father…” When I hear those words, I think of the beauty of the trees, and flowers and plant life coming into bloom this time of year; I recall beautiful red sunsets at the beach as the setting sun shimmers on the water; the grandeur of the mountains; the feel of the warm breeze in Spring; I think of all the beautiful children who received First Communion last month; the giggling and crying babies baptized; and the pride and happiness on the faces of their parents. I think of all these things because God the Father is the Creator of a beautiful world – something we should always be aware of and should always cause us to marvel at His nature! That finger on my forehead is a reminder not only of a Creator but of God so totally in love with us that He sent His only Son to draw us back into His embrace. This same Father we speak of as “Our Father who art in Heaven.”

Next we move to our chest, to the place where our heart resides and say, “and of the Son.” Here I think of the love the Son of God showed us when He multiplied the loaves for the hungry, when He reached across the social and racial barriers of His time to the Samaritans, when He made room at His table for outcasts and sinners, when He chased the scavengers away from woman caught in adultery hungry for her blood, when He gave the ultimate and agonizing proof of His love for us on the cross. “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”

And then we move to our shoulders and say, “and of the Holy Spirit.” We recall the Holy Spirit who gives so widely of Himself that it takes the full span of our shoulders to remind us of that – left to right, from one side of the world to the other. And I think of God’s desire to be close to all of us; to be your friend and my friend, to be in your heart and my heart; to be in Boston, in Los Angeles, in Afghanistan, in Jerusalem, Rome, Tokyo and every corner of this world – all at the same time. I think of the Holy Spirit as a power in my life – the power in my life – as a great force for goodness and holiness, as one to turn to when decisions are to be made, as one who consoles me through difficult moments in my life. With the Holy Spirit around, no one is ever alone. God in His Holy Spirit is always with us. What we span in blessing, the Holy Spirit strengthens in life so that we may better shoulder our burdens and responsibilities.

And so, we come to the end of the blessing – the joining of hands and the concluding, “Amen.” And we remind ourselves that the word “amen” means “so be it;” it is itself an expression of assent, in itself an act of faith in all that has gone before. And so with my “amen” I renew my faith. I believe in you Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

My brothers and sisters, may all the signs of the cross we ever make be nothing less than a proclamation of our belief in a God who has revealed Himself to us as Trinity; as Father, Son and Spirit. May it signal our grateful acceptance of God’s love and our willingness to share that love with others. May the hands we join in faith be generous in giving and eager in helping others. May the shared life and love of the Trinity be reflected in our lives too. This is the lived, real meaning of the Most Holy Trinity in our lives.

And may God bless us all in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pope to Priests: How is your love today, the love of Jesus? Is it like first love?

(Vatican Radio) Priests must be pastors first, scholars second, and they should never forget Christ, their "first love".  This was Pope Francis’ message to all men consecrated to God in the priesthood, at Friday morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta.
"How is your first love?". That is, are they still as in love with you as the first day? Are they happy with you or so they ignore you?These are universal questions which we should all ask ourselves regularly, says Pope Francis.And not just couples, but priests, bishops too, in front of Jesus.  Because He asks us just as he one day asked Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me?".
The Pope began his homily reflecting on the this dialogue in the Gospel where Christ asks the first of the Apostles three times if he loves Him more than others: "This is the question I ask myself, my brother bishops and priests: how is your love today, the love of Jesus? Is it like first love? Am I as in love today as on the first day? Or does work and worries lead me to look at other things, and forget love a little? There are arguments in marriage. That's normal. When there is no love, there are no arguments: it breaks. Do I argue, with the Lord? This is a sign of love. This question that Jesus asks of Peter brings him to first love. Never forget your first love.Never".
In addition to this first aspect, says Pope Francis, there are three others to be considered in relation to a priest’s dialogue with Jesus. First of all – before study, before wanting to become "a scholar of of philosophy or theology or patrology – [a priest must be ] a "shepherd", as Jesus urged Peter: "Feed my sheep". The rest, says the Pope, comes "after":
"Feed. With theology, philosophy, with patrology, with what you study, but feed. Be the shepherd. For the Lord has called us to this. And the bishop's hands on our head is to be shepherds. This is a second question, is not it? The first is: 'How is your first love?'. This, the second: 'Am I a shepherd, or an employee of this NGO that is called the Church?'. There is a difference. Am I a shepherd? A  question that I have to ask myself, that bishops need to ask, even priests: all of us. Feed. Lead. Go forward".
Pope Francis continued,  there is no "glory" or "majesty” for the pastor consecrated to Jesus: "No, brother. You will end up in the most common, even humiliating circumstances: in bed, having to be fed, dressed ... useless, sick ... ". It is our destiny is "to end up like Him": Love that dies "as the seed of wheat, that will bear fruit. But I will not see it".
Finally, the fourth aspect, the "strongest word", with which Jesus concludes his conversation with Peter, "Follow me!".
"If we have lost the way or do not know how to respond to love, we do not know how to respond to being pastors, we do not know how to respond or we do not have the certainty that the Lord will not abandon us even in the worst moments of life, in sickness. He says, 'Follow me'. This is our certainty. In the footsteps of Jesus. On that path. 'Follow me”.
Pope Francis concludes, may the Lord give all of us priests and bishops "the grace to always find or remember our first love, to be pastors, not to be ashamed of ending up humiliated on a bed or even losing our faculties. And that He always give us the grace to follow Jesus, in the footsteps of Jesus: the grace to follow Him".

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Audacity of Pope: The ‘Francis Doctrine’ puts the Vatican back on the world stage | RNS

(RNS) When Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet at the Vatican next Sunday (June 8), it will be another sign of how Pope Francis has returned the Vatican to the global stage to a degree not seen since the 1980s, when John Paul II’s shuttle pilgrimages helped end the Cold War.

The upcoming Israeli-Palestinian prayer summit is drawing particular attention because it comes as traditional diplomatic efforts in the region have once again stalled. It also follows on the heels of Francis’ three-day pilgrimage through the Holy Land, where he spoke forcefully on behalf of peace, and often matched his words with bold actions.

That approach raised both hopes and the Vatican’s profile, and it’s the formula Francis has used since he was elected in March last year: repeatedly calling for reconciliation in global hot zones like South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ukraine and Latin America, and dispatching emissaries or launching initiatives when he can.

Francis has been especially engaged in the intractable Syria conflict, organizing a fast and a public prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square last year and insisting that the Holy See be present at peace talks in Switzerland this year.

‘A new age of political audacity’
“Francis is not resigned to a passive vision of world affairs,” Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic organization active in conflict resolution and peace brokering, said last summer. “We must prepare for a new age of political audacity for the Holy See.”

Yet this Argentine pope — who intentionally took the name of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of peace — is also wading into a geopolitical arena that is in many respects much more complicated than the binary, East-West rivalry that confronted John Paul.

Moreover, while the end of the Cold War greatly reduced the existential threat of nuclear annihilation, today’s world is marked by regular spasms of bloodshed that are less likely to find a dramatic resolution akin to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Back then, the stakes were clear, as were the major players — and the way forward.

Now, however, the world is dominated by “the simultaneous increasing integration and increasing fragmentation,” the Rev. Bryan Hehir, a professor of religion and public life at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, said in a talk marking Francis’ first year as pope.

“Increasing integration is what globalization is about,” Hehir told representatives of FADICA, a network of Catholic philanthropies. “Increasing fragmentation is what Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda and Syria are about, and so you’ve got to deal with both.”

Dealing with two such complex and contradictory dynamics is a daunting prospect — and one for Francis that is complicated by the legacy of John Paul’s success in the Cold War.
The end of Soviet communism was almost miraculous in its suddenness, and it left the impression that a charismatic pope could change (or at least shape) the course of human events. In addition, those events capped a decade of the Catholic Church playing a crucial role in ousting longtime dictators in the Philippines and Haiti, and serving as a powerful voice for ending apartheid in South Africa and promoting human rights across Latin America.

Yet the “new world order” heralded by the end of the Cold War instead became a new world disorder, and marked the start of a new era of ethnic hatred, national rivalries, and growing societal strife between the haves and have nots.

The Berlin Wall crumbled, yes. But now other barriers have gone up.

A case in point was a memorable scene during Francis’ visit to Bethlehem, when he stopped the papal motorcade and stepped out to bow his head before the 26-foot high security wall separating Palestinians from Israel. It was a telling moment that recalled the Mass on behalf of immigrants that U.S. bishops celebrated in April at the 30-foot wall in Arizona along the U.S.-Mexico border.

That liturgy was itself inspired by a Mass that Francis celebrated early in his pontificate on an altar made from a refugee boat on the island of Lampedusa off the Italian coast, where untold numbers of Africans have drowned in desperate efforts to flee poverty and danger.

It’s a world of heart-wrenching suffering, and also frustratingly difficult to navigate. Leaders from President Obama to Russia’s Vladimir Putin often seem like helpless actors controlled by events rather than directing them.

Francis may also risk that fate, and his faith-first approach to diplomacy has already prompted some sharp criticism.
‘The culture of encounter’
“A sort of slacktivism writ large,” as the Washington Post’s Max Fisher wrote in a tough critiqueof Francis’ foreign policy. Fisher’s rip came in January after seagulls attacked two white doves the pope released to symbolize a desire for peace in Ukraine — “the perfect metaphor for Pope Francis’s first year,” Fisher said of the doves’ fate.

Writing in Time magazine in March, Robert Christian, a doctoral candidate in politics at Catholic University of America, called Francis’ idealistic peace initiative in Syria “an abject failure” that worsened the violence. After the pope’s Holy Land trip in May, Daniel Petri, a colleague of Christian’s, also blasted the pope’s Syria plans and he cast doubts on the upcoming Peres-Abbas meeting.

Still, much as John Paul’s love of great ideas and grand gestures worked in an era of global ideological combat, Francis’ focus on personal diplomacy may be the best approach for an era of personalized conflict.

As Hehir noted, while John Paul grew up in Poland under the foreign oppression of Soviet rule, Francis lived through the military repression of Argentina’s “dirty war” during the 1970s, when Catholics turned on each other and the church itself was complicit in human rights violations — not the liberating force it was in other regions.

Francis’ experience of poverty and structural inequality in his homeland also influenced his view that economic injustice is at the heart of the world’s conflicts. It’s the lens he used to explain his ideas on peacemaking in his major document from last year, “The Joy of the Gospel.” To promote peace in this context, Francis said last December, diplomacy should “promote the culture of encounter.”

That personal style was front and center during the Middle East trip, as Francis issued his invitation to Abbas and Peres on the spur of the moment, a spontaneous gesture like the stop at the security wall. While some questioned the usefulness of the impromptu gestures, they were also hailed as welcome novelties by outlets like the BBC and The New York Times, and byCatholic media as well.

Reviewing the Holy Land trip on his return, the pope himself may have done the best job of formulating a “Francis Doctrine” for the 21st century, telling an audience in St. Peter’s Square that peace is not mass-produced but is instead “handcrafted” every day by individuals.

The question, of course, is whether such tactical, “artisanal” peacemaking can replace the high-stakes chess match approach of superpower strategizing that governed the world for so many years — or, more important, whether it can succeed where those old ways are failing.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Massachusetts Catholic Bishops united in support of gun legislation

NOTE: Thank you to the Bishops of Massachusetts for standing united in support of this gun legislation. - FT

STATEMENT OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF THE COMMONWEALTH ON PROPOSED FIREARM LEGISLATION
 
“The Roman Catholic Bishops of the Commonwealth are in support of adjustments to existing firearm laws.  Any law that would address the role that violence, some mental illnesses, and substance abuse play in many tragedies involving firearms would be a welcomed advance in this area of the law and would be a great benefit to our society.
 
It appears that the legislation introduced Tuesday is measured and reasonable; it does not infringe upon the rights of sportsmen and others who possess firearms for legal and legitimate purposes. It would help to prevent tragedies such as those in Newtown, Connecticut or more recently in Isla Vista, California.  No community is immune to the possibility of a devastating tragedy.  Whatever its final form, it is abundantly clear that legislation aimed toward the reduction of preventable deaths is necessary.” 
 
His Eminence Seán P. Cardinal O’Malley, OFM, Cap.
Archbishop of Boston
 
Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell
Bishop of Springfield
 
Most Rev. Robert J. McManus
Bishop of Worcester
 
Most Rev. George W. Coleman

Bishop of Fall River