Thursday, April 5, 2018

Reflection on the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord

Icon of Christ the Pantocrator, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
(Photo by Andrew Shiva)

"Amid our silence, our overpowering silence, the stones begin to cry out (cf. Lk 19:40) [1] and to clear the way for the greatest message that history has ever heard: 'He is not here, for he has been raised' (Mt 28:6). The stone before the tomb cried out and proclaimed the opening of a new way for all. Creation itself was the first to echo the triumph of life over all that had attempted to silence and stifle the joy of the Gospel. The stone before the tomb was the first to leap up and in its own way intone a song of praise and wonder, of joy and hope, in which all of us are invited to join.

"Yesterday, we joined the women in contemplating 'the one who was pierced' (cf. Jn 19:36; cf. Zech 12:10). Today, with them, we are invited to contemplate the empty tomb and to hear the words of the angel: 'Do not be afraid… for he has been raised' (Mt 28:5-6). Those words should affect our deepest convictions and certainties, the ways we judge and deal with the events of our daily lives, especially the ways we relate to others. The empty tomb should challenge us and rally our spirits. It should make us think, but above all, it should encourage us to trust and believe that God “happens” in every situation and every person and that his light can shine in the least expected and most hidden corners of our lives. He rose from the dead, from that place where nobody waits for anything, and now he waits for us – as he did the women – to enable us to share in his saving work. On this basis and with this strength, we Christians place our lives and our energy, our intelligence, our affections and our will, at the service of discovering, and above all creating, paths of dignity.

"He is not here… he is risen! This is the message that sustains our hope and turns it into concrete gestures of charity. How greatly we need to let our frailty be anointed by this experience! How greatly we need to let our faith be revived! How greatly we need our myopic horizons to be challenged and renewed by this message! Christ is risen, and with him, he makes our hope and creativity rise so that we can face our present problems in the knowledge that we are not alone."

--Pope Francis, Homily at Easter Vigil Mass, March 31, 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Holy Week Reflection

"God cannot simply ignore man's disobedience and all the evil of history; he cannot treat it as if it were inconsequential or meaningless. Such 'mercy,' such 'unconditional forgiveness' would be that 'cheap grace' to which Dietrich Bonhoeffer rightly objected in the face of the appalling evil encountered in his day. That which is wrong, the reality of evil, cannot simply be ignored; it cannot just be left to stand. It must be dealt with; it must be overcome. Only this counts as true mercy. And the fact that God now confronts evil himself, because men are incapable of doing so--therein lies the 'unconditional' goodness of God, which can never be opposed to truth or the justice that goes with it. 'If we are faithless, he remains faithful--for he cannot deny himself', writes Paul to Timothy (2 Tim 2:13).

"This faithfulness of his means that he [Jesus] acts not only as God toward men, but also as man toward God, in this way establishing the Covenant irrevocably. So the figure of the Suffering Servant who bears the sins of many (Is 53:12) goes hand in hand with the promise of the new and indestructible covenant. This planting of the covenant in men's hearts, in mankind itself, in such a way that it can no longer be destroyed, takes place through the vicarious suffering of the Son who has become a servant. Ever since, standing against the whole flood of filth and evil is the obedience of the Son, in whom God himself suffered, and hence this obedience always infinitely surpasses the growing mass of evil (cf. Rom 5:16-20).

"The blood of animals could neither 'atone' for sin nor bring God and men together. It could only be a sign of hope, anticipating a greater obedience that would be truly redemptive. In Jesus' words over the chalice, all this is summed up and fulfilled: he gives us the 'new covenant in his blood'. 'His blood'--that is, the total gift of himself, in which he suffers to the end all human sinfulness and repairs every breach of fidelity by his unconditional fidelity. This is the new worship, which he establishes at the Last Supper, drawing mankind into his vicarious obedience. Our participation in Christ's body and blood indicates that his action is 'for many', for us, and that we are drawn into the 'many' through the sacrament."

--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Part Two: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press, 2011), pp. 132--134

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Sunshine and the Clouds: Five Years with Pope Francis

Today we celebrate the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis's election to the papacy. I recall five years ago watching EWTN's live broadcast of the conclave proceedings in Rome, where on a cold and rainy late winter evening, white smoke poured forth from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel and we were all surprised by the cardinals' choice of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. His simple faith and humility, charity and joy, his ability to communicate profound truths in accessible contemporary language, and the fidelity of his personal lifestyle to the Gospel of Christ immediately won our affection and esteem. With his extrovert personality and his emphasis on God's unfailing mercy, Francis promptly established himself as a charismatic leader of the universal church in the mold of John Paul II, drawing the attention and admiration of a vast global non-Catholic audience, elevating public interest in the church, and encouraging many fallen-away Catholics to return to their spiritual home.

Unfortunately, within the past five years since his accession to the Chair of Saint Peter, dark clouds of doubt, misunderstanding, suspicion, error, and confusion have gathered within the church to dim the blazing light of Pope Francis, leading an increasing number of good and faithful Catholics to view him as incompetent or even heretical. Some doubt his ability to govern the church effectively in these difficult times. Others misunderstand the meaning of his words and actions, viewing him as somehow "too liberal". Yet others suspect that Francis secretly intends to lead the church away from the deposit of faith. Still others erroneously believe that Francis has openly broken with the magisterial teaching of his predecessors by imposing heretical moral doctrines on the universal church. And finally, widely varying and conflicting interpretations and applications of the pontiff's words and actions across the worldwide church have left tens of millions of Catholics confused as to what Pope Francis really wants in terms of church policy and pastoral practice.

Many Catholics are blaming Pope Francis himself for this situation, claiming that his ambiguity, vagueness, and laxity with regard to church doctrine and practice is the source of the misunderstanding and confusion clouding his pontificate, and that his failure to clarify doctrine and set strict boundaries for pastoral practice is allowing the situation to continue, thus endangering the salvation of many souls. Francis' beautiful and lengthy post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) serves as the central proof of this thesis. As I've been observing this papacy develop and unfold during the past few years via Catholic and secular media coverage, paying attention on the one hand to the tremendous controversy surrounding this signature document and on the other hand to the actual words and deeds of Pope Francis--who, like all popes before him, is capable of making certain kinds of mistakes and may rightly be criticized for them--it has occurred to me that, in all fairness, the real source of the controversy is not Francis himself, but rather those Catholic dissidents (a.k.a. heretics), anti-Catholic organizations and pressure groups, and secular journalists and media pundits who are manipulating Francis's papacy with their own agenda in mind.

For an obvious example of this, those heretics and immoral activists (including some bishops) who for many years have been pushing the church to admit to Holy Communion divorced and remarried couples who are willfully living in mortal sin have interpreted certain passages of Amoris Laetitia as finally granting that long desired permission, and that this is what Pope Francis actually wants. The secular media has jumped on this and proclaimed it to the ends of the earth as gospel truth. By doing so, these pressure groups and their mouthpieces in the secular media have not only missed the real point of Amoris Laetitia and of Francis' papacy in general, but they have generated clouds of confusion and controversy to obscure his pontificate, calling into question his personal holiness and casting doubt on his intentions and his leadership in the minds of many faithful Catholics.

Those who accuse Pope Francis of doctrinal ambiguity and pastoral vagueness should re-read the full text of his opening address at the Synod on the Family in October of 2015. In that address, he beautifully spelled out perennial church teaching on the family and warned the bishops against numerous temptations to which they had been subject during their previous two weeks of discussion, including the temptation "to ignore the deposit of faith" in the development of pastoral practice. The ideas that Francis is out to change timeless doctrines of the Catholic faith, and that Amoris Laetitia is meant to be interpreted heretically, authorizing heretofore forbidden pastoral practices that violate Catholic moral teaching, are ridiculous. These ideas are concoctions of the aforesaid pressure groups and journalists who want the church to conform to their own agenda. They, not Francis, are responsible for the confusion regarding Francis' pontificate and the direction in which he is really trying to lead the church. From this perspective, it is entirely understandable why the growing chorus of calls for doctrinal and pastoral clarification addressed to Francis by well-meaning lay folk, priests, bishops, and cardinals have been met with a deafening silence. Why should the pope spend time and energy clarifying what he himself did not confuse?

Divine mercy is the proper hermeneutic for understanding Francis' papacy. He knows that we human beings are all sinners, so through his words and actions, he is reaching out to everyone and inviting everyone to experience God's mercy in their own lives, in whatever situation they find themselves in, through repentance and conversion. He wants pastors to go to the peripheries of their local churches and of human society and find creative ways to bring people who have fallen into the darkness of sin back into the light of God's grace. This is exactly what a Jewish rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth did two thousand years ago, and His ministry too was fraught with controversy as the religious leaders of his time made false accusations against him. Ultimately, however, Christ was vindicated--and eventually, Pope Francis will be vindicated as well.


Copyright © 2018 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Quote of the Day

"What kind of ground are we? What kind of terrain do we want to be? Maybe sometimes we are like the path: we hear the Lord’s word but it changes nothing in our lives because we let ourselves be numbed by all the superficial voices competing for our attention; or we are like the rocky ground: we receive Jesus with enthusiasm, but we falter and, faced with difficulties, we don’t have the courage to swim against the tide; or we are like the thorny ground: negativity, negative feelings choke the Lord’s word in us (cf. Mt 13:18-22). But today I am sure that the seed is falling on good soil, that you want to be good soil, not part-time Christians, not “starchy” and superficial, but real. 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 high, at long-lasting 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' (Jn 14:6). Let’s trust in him. Let’s make him our guide!"

--Pope Francis, Address to Young People at Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 27, 2013

Monday, January 1, 2018

Reflection for the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

 "To begin the year by recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary, in the maternal face of the Church, in the faces of our own mothers, protects us from the corrosive disease of being “spiritual orphans”. It is the sense of being orphaned that the soul experiences when it feels motherless and lacking the tenderness of God, when the sense of belonging to a family, a people, a land, to our God, grows dim. This sense of being orphaned lodges in a narcissistic heart capable of looking only to itself and its own interests. It grows when what we forget that life is a gift we have received – and owe to others – a gift we are called to share in this common home....

"Celebrating the feast of the Holy Mother of God makes us smile once more as we realize that we are a people, that we belong, that only within a community, within a family, can we as persons find the “climate”, the “warmth” that enables us to grow in humanity, and not merely as objects meant to “consume and be consumed”. To celebrate the feast of the Holy Mother of God reminds us that we are not interchangeable items of merchandise or information processors. We are children, we are family, we are God’s People."

--Pope Francis, Homily, January 1, 2017

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO!

by Justin Soutar

(NOTE: This article originally appeared in the November 2017 edition of The Shamrock, the quarterly newsletter of Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Lexington, Virginia.)

“’Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will’” (Lk. 2:14). This joyful proclamation of the Angels on the night of Christ’s birth more than two thousand years ago has continued to resound uninterruptedly through the ages in the Church’s liturgical tradition, in the pages of Sacred Scripture and in the hearts and voices of countless believers. Early in the Church’s history, this biblical text was developed into the great liturgical hymn of adoration, thanksgiving and petition known as the Gloria. Our current English Mass translation accurately reflects the centuries-old original Latin: “Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.” As Latin Rite Catholics, we sing or recite the Gloria not only during the Christmas season, but also on most Sundays and all solemnities and feasts of the liturgical year when the Church summons us to full-throated praise of the triune God.

The angelic Christmas carol hints at the twofold purpose of the sacred liturgy, which is to glorify God and to sanctify ourselves. From ancient times to the present, liturgical music—always sung and often accompanied by musical instruments—has played an essential role in achieving this dual purpose. Sacred music has the power to elevate the mind and heart to God and to express thoughts and prayers in ways that the spoken word simply cannot. As then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger put it in The Spirit of the Liturgy: “When man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough. Areas of his existence are awakened that spontaneously turn into song.” This comes into clear focus when we look at the Old Testament Book of Psalms, the great musical prayer book of ancient Israel which has shaped much of the Church’s liturgical and musical tradition. Intensely personal and written for specific situations, while also universal and timeless, the Psalms are classic expressions of adoration, thanksgiving, contrition, and petition representing the full range of human experiences in relation to God.

The Second Vatican Council underscored the essential link between church music and the words and actions of the liturgy, referring to the former as “a sacred chant wedded to words” that “constitutes a necessary and integral part of solemn liturgy.” In other words, music is not something extraneous added on to the liturgy like icing onto a cake; rather, it’s a key ingredient of the liturgy itself, and “the more intimately church music is linked with the liturgical action the holier it will be.” Following Vatican II, the Church identified three specific degrees of music within the liturgy. The first and highest degree is sung dialogue, with the priest’s greeting or prayer followed by the people’s reply (e.g. “The Lord be with you,” “And with your spirit”). Gregorian chant, which “should have the chief place in liturgical functions” according to the Council, is our mainstay for liturgical music of the first degree. The second degree includes the remaining prayers of the Mass, and the third and lowest degree is hymns and songs. According to the Instruction on Music in the Liturgy issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in 1967, the second and third degrees may not be used unless the first is in place.

A distinctive element of Catholic worship is the belief, and the fact, that during Mass we unite our voices to those of all the Angels of heaven, participating for a few brief moments in their endless hymn of praise to the Lord of all creation. Our solemn liturgical celebrations of the Nativity of the Lord at Christmas and the Resurrection of the Lord at Easter are moments when the Gloria rings out anew with intense joy and gladness, as accompanied by the organ, bells and other musical instruments, we join with the hosts of heaven in singing the celestial music that penetrated our sad and weary world on that holy night more than two millennia ago. May this year’s celebration of Christ’s birth renew our gratitude to God our Father for the priceless gift of His Only-Begotten Son and for all of the blessings, graces, and good things He has given us through Him and in the Holy Spirit.


Copyright © 2017 Justin D. Soutar.

ENDNOTES

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), p. 136.
[2] Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium, Chapter VI: Church Music, no. 112. From The Second Vatican Council: The Four Constitutions (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2013), p. 50.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium, Chapter VI: Church Music, no. 116. From The Second Vatican Council: The Four Constitutions (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2013), p. 51.
[5] Marguerite Mullee Duncan, “High Notes in Hymnals,” Crisis, April 1998, p. 22.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Advent Reflections

Last Sunday we Catholics began a new liturgical year, entering once again into the season of Advent, which is a period of preparation for the celebration of Christ's birthday. In our increasingly secularized neo-pagan society, which now kicks off its own celebration of the Christmas holiday right after Halloween, Advent generally functions as a sentimental preview of Christmas and a time of frenzied preparations characterized by seemingly endless shopping, decorating of homes and schools and offices, greeting card writing and exchanging, gift wrapping and giving, holiday music and concerts, cooking and baking of meals and treats, partying and entertaining. By the time Christmas Day actually arrives, millions of people have had their fill (or more) of the Christmas season as secular society celebrates it, have entirely missed the real (that is, the sacred) purpose of the holiday, and are ready to return to normal everyday living again, often with feelings of exhaustion and emptiness. That's a shame!

While none of the above mentioned cultural aspects of the holiday are bad or wrong in and of themselves, the problem is that our secularized society's whole approach to Christmas is backwards. Our dominant culture has no interest in, or reverence for, the true meaning of Christmas, which is the birthday of the Christ Child, the Eternal Son of God who became man in order to liberate us from the shackles of sin through His Passion and Resurrection. On the contrary, through the encouragement of rampant consumerism and hedonism, its chief aim is to make the big retailers as much money as possible. The essential religious and spiritual nature of Christmas has been completely gutted, replaced by the superficial material and commercial aspects.

Our secular culture did not used to be this way. Eighty years ago when my grandparents were growing up, it would be unthinkable for any shops or grocery or department stores to be open on Christmas Day. Today, this is not only commonplace, it is widely accepted and even expected. Christ is no longer part of civil society's Christmas celebration; thus, it's not surprising that even the word "Christmas" and the traditional greeting "Merry Christmas" are now used less and less frequently in public, replaced by generic terms such as "holiday season" or "Happy Holidays," as this devolves increasingly into a "multicultural" celebration of all of the religious and secular holidays that happen to coincide with Christmas but have little or nothing whatsoever to do with it. Our post-Christian secular society has fallen into idolatry, replacing the worship of the Christ Child with the worship of money and material things. Hence the incessant clamor and the frenzied pace of the "Christmas season" that is in full swing from November 1 to December 25--part of what Cardinal Robert Sarah has termed the "dictatorship of noise."

By contrast, the Catholic Church's liturgical season of Advent is a sacred time for prayer and quiet reflection as we prepare to celebrate Christ's birth. In fact, during this holy season, the Church calls us to reflect on three different ways in which Christ comes to us: in history, majesty, and mystery. The four Sundays of Advent symbolize the four thousand years humanity in general, and the Chosen People in particular, waited for the coming of our Savior and Redeemer following the Original Sin of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. During Advent, we recall and re-live to some extent these long ages of waiting, waiting for liberation from sin and looking forward to the Lord's coming into our fallen world. And yes, at the conclusion of the Advent season, we will celebrate the miraculous virginal birth of Christ in a shepherd's cave near Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago, which forever changed the course of human history.

However, there is more to Advent than simply recalling and re-living Christ's humble and hidden coming in the distant past. During this season, we also anticipate and look towards Christ's glorious and public future coming, His Second Coming as Judge of the world at the end of time. While we know for certain that Christ will come again, we don't know exactly when this Second Coming will take place (although Christ Himself has revealed to us certain signs that will precede the Day of Judgment). Just like the ancient peoples who were awaiting the promised Messiah's first coming, but weren't sure exactly when it would happen, we are now awaiting Christ's promised return. Therefore, we are summoned to live in a state of vigilant preparedness by rejecting sinful ways, growing in our relationship with the Lord, and faithfully fulfilling our obligations to God and to one another. For many centuries, Christian believers expressed this interior attitude of vigilant anticipation of Christ's return by facing east toward the rising sun during the celebration of Mass.

But in addition to his past and future comings, there is a third, less visible, but no less important, coming of Christ for which we must prepare during Advent: his coming into our hearts and our lives right here in this present time. If we don't allow Christ to be born in our hearts through grace, filling us with peace and joy and empowering us to grow in genuine love for God and for each other, then our celebration of Christ's historic birth loses its meaning--and furthermore, we will not be prepared to meet Christ our Judge at the end of our lives or at the end of the world. During this season of Advent, we can prepare a fitting place for Christ within our hearts through prayer and reflection, the reading of Scripture, the worthy reception of the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, and practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Surrounded by our secularized culture's pervasive anti-Christian parody of Christmas, it may take some real effort to get ourselves mentally and spiritually immersed into the true spirit of Advent and to live this season in a truly meaningful way. In contrast to the noise and frenzied pace of "the holiday season," Advent is a time of watching and waiting, a time of hopeful anticipation, a time of yearning for the Lord to come and free us from our sins. Certainly, living Advent properly does not exclude material preparations for Christmas such as shopping, decorating, gift giving and the like within reasonable limits, but these external things should be done within the context of our spiritual preparation for the three comings of Christ.

Since the true spirit of Advent is obviously incompatible with the secular spirit of the holiday season, it's not enough simply to make a little room for Jesus in our lives while allowing the attitudes and dictates of secularized society to guide our Christmas preparations. As Catholics, we should be explicitly countercultural, rejecting the profanation of the sacred feast of Christ's birthday while planting the seeds of a vibrant new Christian culture for future generations. Keeping an Advent wreath on the kitchen table or an Advent calendar on the refrigerator, listening to a CD or MP3 of Advent music, erecting a Nativity scene in our house or front yard, waiting until closer to Christmas to set up the tree, and preparing within our hearts a personal birthday gift for Jesus are small but significant things we can and should do to prepare our hearts and minds for a spiritually profitable celebration of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. When Christ comes, may he truly find us awake and ready to meet Him.

I wish you a blessed and grace-filled Advent season!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"We should not bear it with bad grace if the answer to our prayer is long delayed. Rather let us because of this show great patience and resignation. For He delays for this reason: that we may offer Him a fitting occasion of honoring us through His divine providence."

--Saint John Chrysostom

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The joy of the Gospel fills the heart and whole life of those that encounter Jesus. Those who let themselves be saved by Him are freed from sin, from sadness, from interior emptiness, from isolation. Joy is ever born and reborn with Jesus Christ (Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, n 1). Today we are exhorted to contemplate the joy of the farmer and of the merchant of the parables. It is the joy of every one of us when we discover the closeness and consoling presence of Jesus in our life — a presence that transforms the heart and opens us to the needs and the reception of brothers, especially the weakest."

--Pope Francis, Angelus Address, July 30, 2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Quote of the Day

 
"Our time is now. If we carry the day and turn the tide, we can hope that as long as men speak of freedom and those who have protected it, they will remember us, and they will say, 'Here were the brave and here their place of honor.'"

--Ronald Reagan

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Reflection on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

"I would also like to highlight another aspect of Peter’s attitude in prison. In fact, we note that while the Christian community is praying earnestly from him, Peter 'was sleeping' (Acts 12:6). In a critical situation of serious danger, it is an attitude that might seem strange, but instead denotes tranquility and faith. He trusts God. He knows he is surrounded by the solidarity and prayers of his own people and completely abandons himself into the hands of the Lord. So it must be with our prayer, assiduous, in solidarity with others, fully trusting that God knows us in our depths and takes care of us to the point that Jesus says 'even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore' (Mt 10:30-31). Peter lives through that night of imprisonment and release from prison as a moment of his discipleship with the Lord who overcomes the darkness of night and frees him from the chains of slavery and the threat of death. His is a miraculous release, marked by various accurately described steps, guided by the Angel, despite the monitoring of the guards, through the first and second guard posts, up to the iron doors to exit to the city, with the door opening by itself in front of them (cf. Acts 12:10). Peter and the Angel of the Lord make their way together down a stretch of the street until, coming back to himself, the Apostle realizes that the Lord really freed him and, after having reflected on the matter, went to the house of Mary the mother of Mark where many disciples were gathered in prayer. Once again the community’s response to difficulty and danger is to trust in God, strengthening the relationship with Him."

--Benedict XVI, General Audience, May 9, 2012

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The Day of the Sun is the day on which we all gather in a common meeting, because it is the first day, the day on which God, changing darkness and matter, created the world; and it is the day on which Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead. For he was crucified on the day before that of Saturn; and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the Day of the Sun, He appeared to his Apostles and disciples, and taught them these things which we have also submitted to you for your consideration."

--Saint Justin, First Apology, ca. A.D. 155

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Reflection on the Ascension of the Lord


"The old manner of human companionship and encounter is over. From now on we can touch Jesus only 'with the Father'. Now we can touch him only by ascending. From the Father's perspective, in his communion with the Father, he is accessible and close to us in a new way.

"This new accessibility presupposes a newness on our part as well. Through Baptism, our life is already hidden with Christ in God--in our current existence we are already 'raised' with him at the Father's right hand (cf. Col. 3:1-3). If we enter fully into the essence of our Christian life, then we really do touch the risen Lord, then we really do become fully ourselves. Touching Christ and ascending belong together. And let us not forget that for John the place of Christ's 'exaltation' is his Cross and that our own ever-necessary 'ascension', our 'going up on high' in order to touch him, has to be traveled in company with the crucified Jesus.

"Christ, at the Father's right hand, is not far away from us. At most we are far from him, but the path that joins us to one another is open. And this path is not a matter of space travel of a cosmic-geographical nature: it is the 'space travel' of the heart, from the dimension of self-enclosed isolation to the new dimension of world-embracing divine love."

--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press, 2011), p. 286

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Jesus is not one who adapts Himself to the world, tolerating that in it death, sadness, hatred, the moral destruction of persons should endure … Our God is not inert, But our God – I permit myself the word – is a dreamer: He dreams of the transformation of the world, and He realized it in the mystery of the Resurrection."

--Pope Francis, General Audience, May 17, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Reflection

"This week is the week of joy: we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. It is a true, profound joy, based on the certainty that the Risen Christ dies no more, but is alive and working in the Church and in the world. This certainty has dwelt in the heart of believers since that Easter morning, when the women went to Jesus’ sepulcher and the Angels said to them: 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' (Luke 24:5). 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' These words are as a milestone in history, but also an 'obstacle stone' if we do not open ourselves to the Good News, if we think that a dead Jesus bothers us less than a living Jesus! Instead, how many times in our daily journey do we need to hear said: “Why are you seeking the living among the dead?” How many times do we seek life among dead things, among things that cannot give life, among things that today exist and tomorrow are no longer, things that pass … 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?'

"We are in need of this when we shut ourselves in some form of egoism or self-complacency; when we allow ourselves to be seduced by earthly powers and by the things of this world, forgetting God and our neighbor; when we put our hopes in worldly vanity, in money, in success. Then the Word of God says to us: 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' Why are you looking there? That thing cannot give you life! Yes, perhaps it will give you the joy of a minute, a day, a week, a month … and then? 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?' This phrase must enter our heart and we must repeat it...Today, when we go home, we will say it from our heart, in silence, and we will ask ourselves this question: why do I in life seek the living among the dead? It will do us good."

--Pope Francis, General Audience, April 23, 2014