Thursday, October 3, 2013

Devotion for today: Be Passionate

Revelation 3: 15-22: I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.  Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.  To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

I recently had a good deal of dental surgery done in the city, which required my taking many cabs back and forth from the Endodontist’s office. I enjoy talking to cab drivers around here, because we are a very international area and most drivers have fascinating stories to tell. Three of my drivers stand out in my mind. The first one had a PhD in Sociology and was from Nigeria. He is here in the U.S.A. writing a book on the negative influences Western infiltration is having on the African culture. I learned much about the meaning of all missionaries’ warning, “Do no harm.” He spoke passionately about the traditions, tribal life and can-do spirit which is dying do the amount of aide and assistance being offered. He said many African nations now rely too much on help and not enough on their own abilities.

My second driver was from the city itself, and spoke passionately about our current quarterback situation. He knew statistics, the history of the team, the nature of the injury that is plaguing the quarterback and a million and one reasons why our team cannot make it to the Super Bowl. He spends every Sunday in front of the television watching all the teams he can so he can figure out his team’s chances against them.

My third driver was from Ethiopia. We spoke about religion since he had head- rest covers with large crosses on a background of his country’s flag. He gave me a complete history of the persecution and bigotry people suffered in his country for so long when all religions but one were banned. He spoke passionately about the need to keep religious freedom alive and well in this country, how we all must respect each others’ religions , but as he witnessed and lived first- hand, the government must allow all people to follow their hearts and consciences on matters of faith.

Did you catch the word I repeated over again in each description. Passionately.  They spoke passionately about the thing closest to their hearts, whether it was the good of their people, the good of their team, or the good of their soul, they spoke passionately. They knew what they were talking about. They had their facts straight and had first-hand knowledge of the topic. They loved their country, team, faith. They were not afraid to share their passion with me, and I admired them and listened carefully to everything they said. I wanted to hear more. I wanted to learn from them. Their enthusiasm and passion were contagious.

Can we say that about our approach to our faith? If we were to share it with others, would we know what we were talking about? Would our love for it spill out into every word and facial  expression? Would our listener want to know more because of our love for our faith and our knowledge of it? I think because we have never really had to defend our faith, or suffer for it, as my one driver has done, we take it for granted and basically leave it alone. We have faith; it serves us when we need it. If it gets in the way of what we want to do we can rationalize it away. We feel we know all we need to know about it, and sometimes don’t even care if we ever learn more or grow in our love for God.

Our reading tells us that God is displeased with this kind of mentality. He wants us to be passionate, like my drivers. One has studied, analyzed and concluded, and is now ready to share his passion with the world in his book. One spends countless hours watching, studying and listening to everything he can so that he can be an informed football source. One has lived through horror and freedom and knows the value of the latter, and speaks passionately about the need to keep it alive.

We must become passionate people, not complacent. Complacency eventually leads to indifference, and indifference leads to laziness, and lazy people are easily manipulated. Let’s start today to study more, pray more and become passionate about our faith. Then let’s do as my drivers’ do, and set the world on fire with our passion, one person at a time.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Devotion for today: Always dig for the truth

 Proverbs 6:16-19: There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

Here is a letter from Fr. Frank Pavone of the Priests for Life movement I would like to share with you today. It clarifies the misunderstandings the media caused in misinterpreting Pope Francis’ recent interview.

September 23, 2013

Dear Sandy,

I just had a wonderful trip to Rome where I was again with Pope Francis. While there, I was asked to comment on the controversy caused by his recent interview, in which he shared some thoughts about the Church’s focus on abortion. I wrote several articles explaining why we do not need to be alarmed, and am awaiting some major papers to publish them. Meanwhile, below is another version of my commentary. Enjoy and pass along!


Fr. Frank

As the Director of Priests for Life, known worldwide as a ministry within the Catholic Church that urges more preaching, teaching, and action against abortion, I was asked by many alarmed and confused people these past few days about the reported comments of the Pope that the Church should not be "obsessed" with this issue, and that there should be "balance" and "context.

Is the pope saying we should talk less about abortion? Is he saying that the emphasis the Church has placed on this issue has been a mistaken emphasis?

When I first received these inquiries via emails and text messages, I was actually in the presence of Pope Francis, in the dining room of his residence. I had spoken just hours earlier, at the invitation of the Vatican, about the Church's defense of the unborn child, and about the clear and strong position of the Church, expressed in many documents, that the right to life is our first right and the foundation and condition for all the others.

So the news came to me with more than a little irony, and I immediately began to tell worried pro-life warriors that they had no reason to think that the Pope no longer wanted the Church to focus on abortion.

Pope Francis preaches on pro-life in a very integral way. He gives strong and clear messages that derive from the very substance of the Faith and a very broad vision of the demands that Faith places upon us. The conclusions and applications for the pro-life movement are undeniable, even if he does not use the specific words “pro-life movement” and “unborn.”

This was very clear in his homily at his installation onMarch 19, when he spoke of the need to protect every person, especially children, from the “Herods” of our day who plot death.

And it was clear again in his Palm Sunday homily, which contained the very strong message to have confidence in the victory of life over death.

He said it this way:
“Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money, power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation!

"Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection.

"Dear friends, we can all conquer the evil that is in us and in the world: with Christ, with the force of good!"
He mentions “crimes against human life,” using the same word the Second Vatican Council used inGaudium et Spes to describe abortion (an “unspeakable crime”). He urges us to see evil for what it is, and then never to lose confidence in the victory we have over evil, thanks to the death and Resurrection of Christ.

In his recent interview, he made it clear that the Church should put opposition to abortion "in context." This is neither new nor unwelcome. The Pope wants to see the renunciation of abortion put in the context of mercy toward the mother, and this is consistent with the pro-life movement's emphasis on "loving them both." In fact, in my personal conversations with the Pope, he particularly urged me to go forward with the work of Rachel's Vineyard, the largest ministry in the world for healing after abortion. He called it an "excellent work."

The Pope wants the teaching against abortion not to stand alone, as if it were a negotiable moral prohibition, but rather to stand in the context of our teaching about who God is. He made this clear in his June 16 homily at the worldwide "Day of the Gospel of Life" when he declared,
"The Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living one, the one who bestows life and points the way to the fullness of life…The commandments are not a litany of prohibitions -- you must not do this, you must not do that, you must not do the other; on the contrary, they are a great "Yes!": a yes to God, to Love, to life."

"All too often, as we know from experience, people do not choose life, they do not accept the "Gospel of Life" but let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power, and pleasure, and not by love…As a result, the Living God is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death."
This approach radically strengthens the Church's opposition to abortion, because the Pope is saying not simply that it breaks the Fifth Commandment ("You shall not kill"), but that more fundamentally it breaks the First Commandment ("You shall not have other gods besides me") and that to disrespect life is to abandon God himself.

Nobody should worry or think that the Pope is in any way diluting the Church's strong and unchangeable stance against abortion, or contradicting all that has already been said and written, in documents likeThe Gospel of Life, about the urgent priority that this issue deserves. Some 50 million children are killed by abortion around the world each year. If we want to know how much we should focus on it, we only have to use human reason and ask what our response would be if 50 million adults throughout the world were killed each year by terrorism.

Long live the pro-life movement, and long live the Pope!

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172
Staten Island, NY 10314
Phone: 888-PFL-3448
Fax: 718-980-6515