September 28, 2015

Sept. 28

September 28, 2015:  Monday, 26th week, Ordinary Time

Pope Francis in Philadelphia
To bishops:   The family is not primarily a cause for concern but the joyous confirmation of God’s blessing.  We rejoice in the Lord’s gift of families that remain faithful!  The foremost pastoral challenge is to recognize this gift.  Gratitude should prevail over concerns and complaints.  The family is the fundamental locus of the covenant between Church and creation; without it, the Church wouldn't exist or be “sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).  Changes in society affect family bonds.  The world is where we live, believe, and must proclaim.  Civil marriage and the Christian sacrament used to be similar, interrelated, and mutually supportive, but no longer.  To describe today's situation, I'll use the images of neighborhood stores and our large supermarkets:
One neighborhood store used to have everything you needed.  There was a personal bond between shopkeeper and customers.  Business was done on the basis of trust.  Then supermarkets arose, huge spaces with great selection.  The world seems to have become a great supermarket.  Business is no longer conducted on the basis of trust.  There are no longer close relationships.  Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to bond or trust, just to follow the latest trend.  This is even true of religion.  Consumerism determines what's important.  Consuming relationships, friendships, religions,… whatever the cost.  Social bonds are a mere means to satisfy “my needs.”  The important thing is no longer our neighbor.  The result is a culture that discards whatever isn't “useful” or “satisfying” to the consumer.  Society is a showcase tied to certain consumers' tastes, while others only “eat the crumbs from their masters’ table.”  This causes great harm.  There's an impoverishment born of radical loneliness.  Running after the latest fad, accumulating “friends” on a social network, we get caught up in what society has to offer:  loneliness with fear of commitment in an effort to feel recognized.
Should we blame our youth for having grown up in this kind of society?  I think not.  As shepherds, we're asked to seek out, accompany, lift up, and bind wounds.  To look at things realistically, with the eyes of one who feels called to action, to conversion.  The world demands our conversion.  But we'd be mistaken to see this “culture” as indifference towards marriage and the family, as selfishness.  Are today’s youth timid, weak, inconsistent?  Many have unconsciously acquiesced, paralyzed when they encounter the beautiful, noble, and necessary challenges faith sets before them.  Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions.  Meanwhile, life goes on, without being lived to the full, for life’s true pleasures only come out of a long-term, generous investment of our intelligence, enthusiasm, and passion.
We're called to rebuild enthusiasm for making families correspond more fully to the blessing they are!  We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing world problems and the merits of Christianity, but in inviting young people to be brave and opt for marriage and family.  We need holy parrhesia!  A Christianity which “does” little in practice, while “explaining” its teachings, is unbalanced, stuck in a vicious circle.  A pastor must show that the “Gospel of the family” is truly “good news” in a world of self-concern!  The perseverance called for in having and raising a family transforms the world.

A pastor proclaims God's word, encourages believers to aim high, enables them to experience God’s promise, which can give their parenthood the horizon of a new “familiarity” with God.  A pastor watches over his flock's dreams, lives, and growth.  Only one who stands “in the midst of” the flock can be watchful.  A pastor keeps watch with prayer and support; he helps people lift their gaze amid discouragement, frustration, and failure.  Are we ready to “waste” time and be present to our families?
We ourselves must experience joyful familiarity with God to spread the gospel's power, to become more like parents and less like people who've just learned to live without a family.  A good pastor renounces family love to focus on blessing the love of others, starting with those the lost, abandoned, wounded, broken, downtrodden, and those deprived of their dignity.  This surrender to God’s agape includes tenderness and affection!  Look to Jesus to understand.  A good pastor imitates the Son’s love for the Father, reflected in tender care of our human family.  If our ministry doesn't deepen the covenant between Church and family, it becomes arid, and people will grow distant from God’s joyful good news.  If we reflect God’s love, cultivate patience and serenity, and sow their seeds, then even a Samaritan woman with five “non-husbands” will discover she can give witness and publicans will come down from the tree and give to the poor.  May God grant us renewed closeness between family and Church.  The family is our window to the world and evidence of God's blessing to all!
Post-visit with sex abuse victims:  I hold the stories and the suffering of children sexually abused by priests deep in my heart.  I'm overwhelmed with shame that these men violated children and caused harm.  I am profoundly sorry. God weeps.  The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must not be kept secret.  I pledge our vigilance to protect children, and I promise accountability for all.  Survivors of abuse are heralds of hope and ministers of mercy; we owe them and their families our gratitude for their courage in shining Christ's light against evil.  I tell you this because I’ve just met with a group of sex abuse victims who are being helped and accompanied here in Philadelphia.
World Meeting of Families homily:  Joshua tells Moses two people are speaking God’s word without a mandate. John tells Jesus that the disciples stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in Jesus' name.  Moses and Jesus rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow!  Jesus encountered hostility from people who didn't accept what he said and did; they were intolerant of his openness to the faith of those not part of the chosen people.  The disciples were scandalized by God's freedom, sending rain on the just and unjust, and bypassing bureaucracy and inner circles, but Jesus was scandalized by what breaks down trust in the Spirit's work! 
Our generous Father scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, loving us first; that love assures us God seeks and awaits us.  This confidence makes disciples encourage, support, and nurture the good things around them.  God wants his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel.  “Don't hold back anything that's good; help it grow!”  To doubt that the Spirit's work can take place in "outsiders" is a perversion of faith and blocks conversion! 
Faith opens a window to the Spirit; it shows us holiness is tied to little gestures.  We learn to do these quiet things in the family; they get lost amid other things we do, but they make each day different.  They're little signs of tenderness, affection, and compassion, like the supper we look forward to, a bedtime blessing, or a hug after work.  Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs.  Faith grows when lived and shaped by love; that's why our families are true domestic churches, places for faith to become life, and life faith.  Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles but to encourage and spread them every day; they'resigns of his own presence.
How are we trying to live?  What world do we want to leave to our children?  We can't answer these questions by ourselves.  The Spirit challenges us to respond as part of the human family.  Our common house can't tolerate divisions. Protecting our home includes bringing everyone together to pursue sustainable, integral development.  May we be models of and incentives to communion, capable of joining others in bringing to fruition the seeds the Father has sown!
Jesus tells us, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father give the Spirit to those who ask!”  We don't have much goodness and purity, but we can be generous to our children.  Families, help us!  Would that we all were open to miracles of love and overcome the scandal of narrow, petty, closed-in, impatient love!  How beautiful if we appreciate and encourage this miracle!  We renew our faith in the Lord's invitation to the covenant of man and woman that generates life and reveals God!  We appreciate anyone who brings into the world a family that teaches children to be excited by overcoming evil, that shows the Spirit is alive.  May God make us worthy of purity of heart that's not scandalized by the Gospel!

  • 'Children in street' tie:  The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets (1st reading); Jesus placed a child by his side (gospel)

  • 'Girl with heart' pin:  Jesus realized the intention of their hearts (gospel)

  • 'Owl' tie pin:  The Lord's decree gives wisdom (Sunday psalm)

  • Green in shirt:  Ordinary Time season

  • Zec 8:1-8  Lord:  I am jealous for Zion.  I will return to dwell within Jerusalem.  The old shall sit in its streets; boys and girls will play in its streets.  I'll rescue my people and bring them back to Jerusalem.  They shall be my people, and I will be their faithful and just God.

  • Ps 102:16-21, 29, 22-23  "The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory."  The nations shall revere you when you've rebuilt Zion, appeared in your glory, and regarded the prayer of the destitute.  “The Lord looked down to hear prisoners' groaning, to release the doomed....”

  • Lk 9:46-50  The disciples were arguing about who was the greatest.  Jesus, realizing their intention, placed a child by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me and the one who sent me.  The least among you is the greatest.”  John / Jesus:  “We saw someone casting out demons in your name and tried to prevent him because he doesn't follow in our company.” / “Don't; whoever isn't against you is for you.”
    • Creighton:  Jesus turned the disciples' "Who's the greatest?"  argument around when he says a child is the greatest.  The greatest recognize their need.  As we grow, we can think we're less dependent, but he reminds us otherwise.  The greatest recognize their need for others and can rely on them; this recognition leads to humility.  When we accept our dependence on God and each other, and accept our own incompleteness, brokenness, and imperfection, we're less likely to exclude and judge others....
    • One Bread One Body:  "Faith-fight":  The Lord wants us to believe he can do the impossible.  The Lord wants our faith to be deeper and its effects greater.  The world promotes ever-decreasing faith, but attempts to debunk miracles are based on prejudice, not fact....
      St. Lorenzo Ruiz
    • Passionist:  The message Pope Francis is giving is today's, to be childlike and humble; he lives that out and challenges us to.  The disciples were caught up in trappings of power, but Jesus called them to look beyond power and control.  May we recommit ourselves to looking beyond our needs and focus on the less fortunate.  May we tear down barriers of race, creed, and gender and concentrate on the least in our midst.
    •  The appetite for glory seems to be inbred.  Jesus made a dramatic gesture by looking to a child to show his disciples who's really the greatest.  Jesus placed a child in a privileged position of honor at his right.  The greatest is the humble, the self-emptying servant.  Jesus is our model; he emptied himself and took the form of a slave.  To be filled with God's life and power, empty yourself of what stands in the way....  God wants empty vessels to fill with his glory, power, and love...
      • SS. Lorenzo Ruiz (1st Filipino martyr) and companions Dominic Ibañez de Erquicia, Francis Shoyemon, James Kyushei Tomonaga, Michael Kuroboiye, Lucas Alonso of the Holy Spirit, Matthew Kohioye of the Rosary, Antonio González, William Courtet / Thomas of St. Dominic, Niguel de Aozaraza, Vincent Schiwozuka of the Cross, and Lázaro of Kyoto, martyrs

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