Saturday, October 12, 2013

Devotion for today: make a difference

Matthew 25:35-40: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Pope Francis is calling on all Catholics to work for social justice and perform charitable works with great enthusiasm and urgency. He stated while visiting a favela (slum) in Rio during his World Youth Day visit this year: “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty. We do not judge our progress based on how the wealthiest are doing. Instead, we evaluate our greatness by observing how the most vulnerable are fairing. And then, whenever we see deficiencies, we are called to respond in faith.”
When visiting Lampedusa on July 8th, he made the following comment: "Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: 'poor soul…!' and then go on our way. It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged."

As Catholics we must feel responsibility for more than our own personal wealth and well being. Pope Francis is calling us to open our eyes and see our world in a new light, a light which shines in the darkest and poorest of places, and on social issues that enslave and dehumanize our fellow man. To begin with, we should take a look at how the Catholic Bishops Conference distinguishes between the two concepts.

“Charitable works and social justice have been called the two feet of Catholic social teaching. Charitable works meets the immediate needs of persons and families. It treats the symptoms of social problems. Charitable works calls forth a generous response from individuals and responds to particular situations. Social justice changes social structures that attack human dignity, oppress people, and contribute to poverty. It focuses on the rights of people, addresses underlying social causes, and works for long term social change. Pope Benedict XVI expresses it in this way, “The church cannot neglect the service of charity anymore than she can neglect the sacraments and the word. Charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as ‘social charity.”

In caring for the poor, in feeding the hungry and in giving a hand to the elderly and weak in our neighborhoods, and in fighting for an end to human trafficking and other atrocities in the world, we can fulfill the commands of Jesus. All of this is done in completion of our plan for living: lots of prayer, frequent use of confession and reception of the Eucharist, attending Mass as often as possible, and making every attempt to learn, know and understand our faith. With this plan, we actually have no time to spend in useless activities. We can and must find a social cause that we feel God is drawing us to; we have to help those less fortunate around us. Don’t worry; once you ask God to make you an ambassador of mercy, He literally fills your life with people who need your attention.

Here are some ideas from the United States Bishops found on the above mentioned website. I think this gives us much food for thought. Also, check out your diocesan website for specific ways to make a difference.

Social Justice: Remove root causes and improve structures: find access to affordable housing; work to improve the educational system; extend legal protection to unborn children; support environmental protection laws; praticipate in a living wage campaign; promote peace; advocate for international assistance.

Charitable Works: Meet Basic Needs and Individual: volunteer at homeless shelters; tutor children; assist women who face a crisis pregnance; participate in a community beautification program; donate to food pantries and clothing closets; sponsor a refugee family; raise money for an overseas development project.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Devotion for today: The Rosary and the Circle of Life

Today we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

Luke 1:28-39: And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen

“It could be said that each mystery of the rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man. ‘Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you’ (Psalm 55:23). To pray the rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother. The rosary does indeed ‘mark the rhythm of human life,’ bringing it into harmony with the ‘rhythm’ of God’s own life, in the joyful communion of the Holy Trinity, our life’s destiny and deepest longing. Through the rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.” Blessed John Paul II (as printed in the October issue of The Magnificat, 2013).

As I mentioned before, I have just finished reading a wonderful book by Father Michael Gaitley, titled “The One Thing is Three” in which he reminds the reader over and over again that we as humans have come from the Trinity, and we must return to the Trinity some day. This is the great circle of life. This is the eternal truth. We came from God and we will one day return to Him, passing from life to death, to (hopefully) heavenly reward.

I contemplated on this truth today as I said my rosary. It dawned on me that all 20 decades of the rosary show this circle of life. To begin with, the rosary is shaped in a circle, beginning and ending at the Crucifix which is the source of our salvation.

 The Joyful Mysteries begin with the announcement of the coming of Jesus, just as our coming into the world was announced to our parents. It circles through Jesus’ birth, his presentation which would be similar to our baptism, and to his coming of age at 12 which is similar to our Confirmation.

We then circle through The Mysteries of Light which highlight the public ministry of Jesus, which for us is the role we play in the world through the career and life choices we make. Jesus is baptized in front of many people to begin his ministry, much like our graduation day where we announce our future plans to friends and family. Jesus performs his first miracle, something we will probably not do, but we will have our first “big day” right? The first day when our new skills are shown off to those around us. We move on to Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom, getting the job done so to speak, to his transformation, which is using all means possible to let the truth be known, as we have all had to do, and finally his gift of the Eucharist, bringing us the bread of eternal life. This took place at the Last Supper, where he prepared to say good-bye to his dearest friends. Having finished the job he started, it was time to move on to the next phase of the plan the Father had for his life. Sound familiar to any of you?

 We then wind our way through the Sorrowful mysteries, where we join Jesus in his agony in the garden every time we are suffering and beg for relief, yet prayerfully submit to the will of the Father. We share in his stripes at the scourging at the pillar every time we are attacked for what we believe, for who we are, and for the good we tried to do that was so misunderstood. We share the crown of thorns when our minds are tormented by thoughts and miseries that seem unbearable. We carry our crosses daily, and try to emulate Jesus in being accepting and uncomplaining about doing so. Finally, we die. Some of us will have difficult deaths; some of us will pass peacefully in our sleep. Yet each of us will place ourselves on that cross at the end and say, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Then we are thrilled to share in the Glorious Mysteries. Oh how wonderful for our spirits to rise out of our bodies, ascend to the Father, and share in the wisdom of life! How glorious to be like Mary, one day united with our earthly bodies in heaven, and to receive the crown of eternal life!

The Rosary brings us full circle from birth to death to eternal life. If we truly take the time to meditate on each mystery, we will find the stories of our lives in each of them. We are one with the Trinity. We were made by God the Father, redeemed by God the Son and filled with God the Holy Spirit. Use the Rosary to guide you through every day of your life. Meditate on each mystery and unite your life to Jesus’ and to Mary’s. If the repetition of saying so many Hail Mary’s bothers you, remember what Father de Foucauld once said, “Love is expressed with few words, always the same, and always repeated.” (found in the October issue of the Magnificat, 2013)