Sunday, November 29, 2015

Love in a time of Hate

 It is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new Church year. A time of waiting and, more importantly, preparation...not just to encounter with the Lord at Christmas but for the personal encounter with the Lord that we will have either at the end of time or the end of our lives.

How shall we prepare?

I was struck by St. Paul’s advice in the second reading today:

“Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” (1 Thess. 3:12-13)

We must prepare by asking the Lord to increase our love.

That is a tall order, as these times seem to be short on love and long on anger, fear and hatred. To a great degree, the terrorism and violence in the world have succeeded: they have fanned the flames of fear, suspicion and mutual hatred.

Yet it is not any terrorists who are ‘winning’; they are losing, too. They are locked into their patterns of violence and hatred and, as our society becomes more bellicose by the day, we are increasingly being locked into those patterns as well.

We are all losing. The only one ‘winning’ anything is Satan. He is slowly winning our hearts.

But it is not too late. The grace of God has the power to break those patterns and allow us to “abound in love for one another and for all.” There is a Remedy—the power of the Cross, the power of Christ’s sacrifice. We, however, must be willing to enter into it.

Like Him, we must make a choice to love in a time of hate.

It is admittedly a dangerous and counter-intuitive choice. It is only logical to return violence with violence, hatred with hatred. Yet it is that logic that will destroy us if we are not careful. This is where faith comes into the picture. The real question is this: do we really believe in the Lord’s clear words to us? Do we really believe that we are to “love our enemies and do good to those who hate us” (Lk. 6:27)?

Do we really have faith that His counter-intuitive plan is our path to true victory?

As we enter this Year of Mercy, I encourage you to examine your hearts as St. Paul suggests and to find out who or what has taken root there. If it is not of God and His mercy, may He, through the intercession of His Holy Archangels, cast it back to the darkness from whence it came.

May the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ “strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father” this Advent!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Modern Discipleship, Part 3

The latest installment of my series on Modern Discipleship on the parish blog is now up, exploring how the very thing that ensures Catholicism's continued relevance in the modern world is its ancient roots.

Here is a teaser, go to the parish blog to read the rest:

Being ‘Relevant’ in the Modern World
The question often comes up: “How do we make the Church relevant in the modern world?” It is an important question, but also a dangerous one. It is easy to confuse ‘relevance’ with ‘being trendy’; as I wrote about previously, our first duty as disciples is to the Gospel and we can’t make the mistake of compromising the truth in our search to find relevance.
There are plenty of protestant mega-churches that have struggled with this problem. Rock concerts and hipster fashion will get people in the front door, but it won’t keep them in a pew. When the novelty is gone, so are they. 
And it isn’t a new problem either. This great article from Christianity Today back in 1984 talks to Rev. Robert Schuller, the pastor behind the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, about his focus on self-esteem: “His supporters say he has found the wavelength of the secular mind. His detractors say he has lost the gospel.”
Where is Rev. Schuller’s enormous, worshiper-filled Crystal Cathedral now? It is now the Cathedral for the Catholic Diocese of Orange (renamed Christ Cathedral). The self-esteem focus that was trendy in the ‘70s and ‘80s fell out of favor and that, among other factors, caused Rev. Schuller’s church to fall on hard times.
I point this out not to be triumphalist about Catholicism--we have certainly had our own issues--but to make a point about being relevant. Latching on to modern trends won’t sustain a church for the long haul...and it won’t sustain an individual disciple for the long haul that is our Christian life...

Again, go to the parish blog to read the rest!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A little bit about Holy Hour...

'Content re-use' of an article I wrote for the parish bulletin of the tradition of Holy Hours:

The tradition of making a 'holy hour‘ before the Blessed Sacrament is an ancient practice. Of course, anyone can make a private holy hour in our parish adoration chapel, but Sacred Heart Church also has a monthly public holy hour on the first Friday of each month, as part of the first-Friday devotion in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As Catholics, we have two kinds of public prayer: liturgy and devotions. Liturgies, such as the Mass and other sacraments, are structured worship services governed by the Church‘s liturgical books. Public devotions, such as processions and rosary rallies, are freer in form—the organizers decide the specific prayers and devotions that will be used. A parish holy hour is unique in that it contains both liturgy and devotions.