Tuesday, September 30, 2014

(Class 3) Liturgy: Action of Christ

Why Consider Liturgy before the Sacraments? Because the sacraments are the power source for the action of identity with Christ: self-gift. But they have historically and existentially been cut off from the ascetical dynamics of personal holiness that is the liturgy.

History of the separation of sacramental theology and the life of the Church (and its liturgy).

The CCC teaches “The New Evangelization” by presenting Liturgy before the Sacraments. Background:. Ratzinger writes: “Alberigo [‘Sviluppo e caratteri della teologia come scienza,’ in Cristianesimo nella storia (Zurich, 1992, 25, 81, 130] demonstrates  how at the close of the 12th and 13th centuries theology rushed as impetuously as a flash flood from its traditional centers – the bishop’s residence, the monastery and the chapter of the canons regular – to a new, ecclesiastically neutral center, the university, and in so doing radically altered its spiritual and scientific complexion. Alberigo also shows clearly the inevitability of this process, considering the exhaustion of patristic and monastic theology. He draws out the gain which accrued to theology thanks to this shift, a gain which consisted not least of all in ‘greater freedom for theological research.’ But this well-known historian also brings to light the reverse side of this ‘dislocation,’ of teaching… which led away from ‘the most vital centers of the Church,’ the diocese and the monastery, and thus signified a removal from the pastoral and spiritual context of local church realities. The orientation of theology toward a scientific status initiated a movement tending to divorce theology from the life of the Church: an ever more pronounced ‘hiatus develops between the Christian community and the institutional Church herself, herself, on the one hand, and the guild of theologians , on the other….(It) severed theology from vital contact with spiritual experiences….(It) distanced Christian thought drastically from the pattern of the first millennium and from Oriental and  Greek culture. ‘Scientific theology soon found itself Western and Latin, far beyond its conscious choice.’ [1]
Louis Boyer: Result of the Separation 15th to the 18th century: Opera.

Liturgy during the Renaissance Baroque and Romantic period of the 15th – 18th centuries in the West had become pure externalism. “for there was a time, - not so far from our own (1958), and not yet entirely past, - when it was taken for granted by many Catholics that the liturgy was sometimes to be performed, but that to understand it was, at best, optional, never necessary or highly desirable, and, occasionally, considered even objectionable. That the liturgy was not anything in which the common people were to participate, of course went without saying…. Now it is from the sixteenth and seventeenth century idea of court life that Catholics of this kind derived their false notions of public worship. An earthly king must be honored daily by the pageant of court ceremonial, and so also the heavenly King. The courtly atmosphere around Him was to be provided by the liturgy. The liturgy, as many handbooks of the period actually say, was considered to be `the etiquette of the great King.’ … The lack of any intelligible meaning in so many rites and even in the sacred words themselves, was, therefore, praised as enhancing the impression of awe to be given to the dazzled multitude;” Louis Bouyer, Liturgical Piety, UNDP (1954) 3-4.
J. Ratzinger: Recovery of the union of liturgy and sacraments: “Current Doctrinal Relevance of the CCC,” October 9, 2000”:
Since it is completely determined by Vatican II, the newness of the second part [of the CCC] which deals with the Sacraments is immediately visible in its title: "The Celebration of the Christian Mystery". This means that the sacraments are envisaged entirely in terms of salvation history, based upon the Paschal mysterythe Paschal center of the life and work of Christas a re-presentation of the Paschal mystery, in which we are included. This also means that the sacraments are understood entirely as liturgy, in terms of the concrete liturgical celebration. In this the Catechism has accomplished an important step beyond the traditional neo-scholastic teaching on the sacraments. Already medieval theology to a large extent had separated the theological consideration of the sacraments from their liturgical realization and, prescinding from this, treated the categories of institution, sign, efficacy, minister, and recipient, such that only what referred to the sign kept a connection with the liturgical celebration. Certainly, the sign was not considered so much in the living and concrete liturgical form, as it was analyzed according to the philosophical categories of matter and form. Increasingly, liturgy and theology were ever more separated from one another; dogmatics did not interpret the liturgy, rather its abstract theological content, so that the liturgy appeared almost to be a collection of ceremonies, which clothed the essentialthe matter and the formand for this reason could also be replaceable. In its turn, the "liturgical science" (to the extent to which one can call this a science) became a teaching of the liturgical norms in force and thus came closer to becoming a sort of juridical positivism. The liturgical movement of the 1920's tried to overcome this dangerous separation and sought to understand the nature of the sacraments based upon their liturgical form; to understand the liturgy not simply as a more or less casual collection of ceremonies, but as the development of what came from within the sacrament to have its consistent expression in the liturgical celebration.
Mandate of Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Liturgy highlighted this synthesis in an excellent, if very modest, way and so, based upon this connection, offered to theology and to catechesis the mandate of understanding in a new and deeper way the liturgy of the Church and her sacraments.”
John Paul II: 
“What did the renewal envisioned by Sacrosanctum Concilium bring to the Church? It brought her, above all, a new concept of liturgy. Previously, people had an idea of liturgy that regularly did not go beyond external aspects: ceremonies, rubrics and norms for properly carrying out liturgical actions. While those aspects are also worthy of respect, the constitution told us that the liturgy is something more. In it we find the very action of Christ the Priest, in which he associates his very self with the Church. It is the action of the Head and the members (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 7). Thus, the liturgy becomes the privileged `place’ of meeting between Christians and God and with him whom God sent, Jesus Christ.[2]
            “Throughout the entire Constitution, the leitmotif is participation. Liturgy is not assisting at an action that others carry out; it is celebrating something, or better, Someone. And in that celebration, all are and must be involved.
            “This new concept of liturgy brought many fruits to the life of the postconciliar Church. It led to a deeper theological consideration of Christian worship. It helped to overcome formalism and reduced the distance between clergy and people during the celebrations. This encouraged initiatives in favor of active and personal participation, freeing the Christian from the role of mere `spectator’ and leading the Christian forward towards unity with God and his brothers and sisters….
            “It is clear that the Mass is something more than a feast of fraternal unity. It is much more than a meal among friends or a free supper for the poor. Nor is it a time for `celebrating’ human dignity and purely earthly accomplishments and hopes. It is the Sacrifice that makes Christ really present in the Sacrament….
            “The primary function of all liturgy lies in this: `To lead us untiringly back to the Easter pilgrimage initiated by Christ, in which we accept death in order to enter into life” (Vicesimus Quintus Annus, 6. Origins, May 25, 1989, Vol. 19, No. 2).
            “The liturgy is the authentic expression of the universal Church’s faith…” (faith as the moral act of the whole person making the gift of self in obedience to God’s Revelation of Himself).


1066 In the Symbol of the faith the Church confesses the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the plan of God's "good pleasure" for all creation: the Father accomplishes the "mystery of his will" by giving his beloved Son and his Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world and for the glory of his name.1

1067 "The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God. He accomplished this work principally by the Paschal mystery of his blessed Passion, Resurrection from the dead, and glorious Ascension, whereby 'dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life.' For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth 'the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church."'3

For this reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation. [Me: therefore the sacrament of the Eucharist is introduced as the liturgy of the sacrifice of Christ’s death]
1068 It is this mystery of Christ that the Church proclaims and celebrates in her liturgy so that the faithful may live from it and bear witness to it in the world:

For it is in the liturgy, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, that "the work of our redemption is accomplished," and it is through the liturgy especially that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.4

What does the word liturgy mean?

1069 The word "liturgy" originally meant a "public work" or a "service in the name of/on behalf of the people."
In Christian tradition it means the participation of the People of God in "the work of God."
5 Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church.

Notice the meaning of liturgy is “opus Dei” which is the Mass.

1070 In the New Testament the word "liturgy" refers not only to the celebration of divine worship but also to the proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity.6 In all of these situations it is a question of the service of God and neighbor.
In a liturgical celebration the Church is servant in the image of her Lord, the one "leitourgos";
7 she shares in Christ's priesthood (worship), which is both prophetic (proclamation) and kingly (service of charity):
The liturgy then is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ.
It involves the 
presentation of man's sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs.
In it full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members.
From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others.
No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same 

Liturgy as source of life:

1071 As the work of Christ liturgy is also an action of his Church. It makes the Church present and manifests her as the visible sign of the communion in Christ between God and men. It engages the faithful in the new life of the community and involves the "conscious, active, and fruitful participation" of everyone.9

1072 "The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church":10 it must be preceded by evangelization, faith, and conversion. It can then produce its fruits in the lives of the faithful: new life in the Spirit, involvement in the mission of the Church, and service to her unity.

St, Josemaria Escriva N.B. Our Father called the Mass “the center and root” of our lives interior and exterior.
Prayer and liturgy: 1073 The liturgy is also a participation in Christ's own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, all Christian prayer finds its source and goal. Through the liturgy the inner man is rooted and grounded in "the great love with which [the Father] loved us" in his beloved Son.11 It is the same "marvelous work of God" that is lived and internalized by all prayer, "at all times in the Spirit."12
Catechesis and liturgy

1074 "The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows."13 It is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the People of God. [That is, they know [consciously] Christ only by doing Christ (= self-gift). Again, it is GS #24.

"Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of men."14
1075 Liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ (It is "mystagogy.”) by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the "sacraments" to the "mysteries.

Such catechesis is to be presented by local and regional catechisms.
This Catechism, which aims to serve the whole Church in all the diversity of her rites and cultures,
15 will present what is fundamental and common to the whole Church in the liturgy as mystery and as celebration, and then the seven sacraments and the sacramentals.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
II. Christ's Work in the Liturgy

Christ glorified . . .

1084 "Seated at the right hand of the Father" and pouring out the Holy Spirit on his Body which is the Church, Christ now acts through the sacraments he instituted to communicate his grace. The sacraments are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify.

1085 In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father "once for all."8 His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is - all that he did and suffered for all men - participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.

Explanation (me): The “I” of the Son continues to be the Son of the Father outside of time while He dies on the Cross in time and place. Since the cosmic death on the Cross in time is the action of the eternal Son, that action of the divine “I” – that took place in time and place - is “instantiated” wherever and whenever bread and wine are trans-substantiated into His Body and Blood. The Paschal mystery perdures because the divine “I” of Christ perdures.

. . . from the time of the Church of the Apostles . . .
1086 "Accordingly, just as Christ was sent by the Father so also he sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. This he did so that they might preach the Gospel to every creature and proclaim that the Son of God by his death and resurrection had freed us from the power of Satan and from death and brought us into the Kingdom of his Father. But he also willed that the work of salvation which they preached should be set in train through the sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves."9

1087 Thus the risen Christ, by giving the Holy Spirit to the apostles, entrusted to them his power of sanctifying:10 they became sacramental signs of Christ. By the power of the same Holy Spirit they entrusted this power to their successors. This
"apostolic succession" structures the whole liturgical life of the Church and is itself sacramental, handed on by the sacrament of Holy Orders.
. . . is present in the earthly liturgy . . .

1088 "To accomplish so great a work" - the dispensation or communication of his work of salvation - "Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, 'the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,' but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised 'where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them."'11

1089 "Christ, indeed, always associates the Church with himself in this great work in which God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is his beloved Bride who calls to her Lord and through him offers worship to the eternal Father."12

[1] J. Ratzinger in his “The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian” in  The Nature and Mission of Theology, Ignatius (1995) 115-116.
[2] Consider that the way Simon experienced and became conscious of the divine Person of Christ was to pray (Lk. 9, 18: “And it came to pass as he was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him, and he asked them…But who do you say that I am?’… Simon Peter answered and said, ‘The Christ of God.”)

Revelation: On the Occasion of Reading Robert Barron on St. Thomas

What is Revelation?

Word of God as Scripture

Word of God as Idea or Concept:  “And the Word was made flesh,” and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1, 14). We hear and read the verse, but it remains merely conceptual in us as a fact of this world. We accept it, but it remains veiled as part of the world. We believe it, but it is not yet mind-blowing as “revelation” in me where – as an act - “God shows himself.”[1]

I)                    The Rationalization of the Word of God as a Communication of Ideas:

“(F)or the Jews contemporary with the origins of Christianity, ‘Word of God’ meant something much more and something quite different from the way it is understood by the majority of modern Christians. Most of the time our theological manuals prefer to speak of ‘revelation’ rather than ‘Word of God.’ The Word of God seems to interest them only to the extent that it reveals certain truths inaccessible to human reason. These ‘truths’ themselves are conceived as separate doctrinal statements, and the Word of God finally is reduced to a collection of formulas. They are detached from it, moreover, so that they can be reorganized into a more logically satisfactory sequence, even to the point of retouching them or remodeling them to make them clearer and more precise. After that the only thing that remains of th divine Word seems to be sort of residuum, a kind of conjunctive material that of itself has no interest. Whether we realize if or not, the result is that the Word of God appears as a sort of nondescript hodgepodge from which the professional theologian extracts, like a mineral out of its matrix, small but precious bits of knowledge which it is his job to clarify and systematize. In this view the Word of God is no longer anything but an elementary, rough and confused presentation of more or less shrouded truth [me: conceptual]; the theologians’ task is to bring them out and to put them in order….”[2]

Word of God as Revelation: The Experience of a Person

II)                  Now, consider that revelation is the removal of a veil, as in re-vel-ation. Ratzinger commented that in the High Middle Ages, “’revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’’ [Me:  I.e., one must experience becoming Christ Himself]. Where there is not one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because not veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone[3] who apprehends it.”

Word of God  - “And the Word [Creator] was made flesh” - as “revelation” whereby the believer experiences a transformation into Christ by a response of self-gift, and the verse becomes “revelation.”  The “veil” is removed.

Robert Barron comments on a verse from St. Thomas: “for there is nothing greater than for God to become incarnate:” (S. Th. IIIa, q. 1, art.1). Barron comments: “It is the last comment that I find the most intriguing. Had God never become incarnate, human beings would never have developed an adequate sense of the greatness, the sheer transcendence, the unknowability of God. Prior to the Incarnation, Thomas implies, humans indeed worshiped and reverenced God, reflected on God philosophically, honored God in various ways. But they always fell short of seeing the true extent, the strangeness and uncanniness of God’s being. It is the shocking condescension of the Incarnation, God’s stooping low to join us as one of us, that ‘blows open’ the mind, introducing the human spirit for the first time to an adequate conception of God’s otherness and transcendence. What Thomas implies is this: only a reality that is not a being in the world, even the supreme being, could ever become a creature while at the same time remaining true to itself. The God who comes to join us in Jesus Christ must be a reality with a greater ‘stretch,’ a greater flexibility, a greater power of being than we could possibly have imagined. Whatever notion one might have had of God must be discarded in the presence of the incarnate Word; even the highest titles of praise fall short of the glory revealed in the face of Christ. That God  creates and governs the world, that God loves and nurtures the beings of the universe, even that God guides us to a life after death – all of that was, to varying degrees, accepted and believed prior to the Incarnation. But that God would become a creature while still remaining God, that God would take on all of the ‘weakness of his handiwork,’ feeling limitation, suffering, death itself, that was simply unimaginable before Jesus Christ. That was simply too ‘great’ to be hoped for, simply too ludicrous to be believed. In Paul’s terms, ‘a stumbling block for the Jews and a folly for the Gentiles.’ It is in this unheard of surprise, Thomas hints, that true revelation takes place, for it is only in this shock that we realize how marvelous God is and therefore what a transcendent destiny is open for us. “[4]

The Word of God  Creates. It is an “Action:” Before the Word, there is nothing. After the Word, things are.
“For the pious Jew… the divine Word at the end of all that we call the Old Testament, the divine Word signified an intensely living reality….

                “The first experience of the human word is that of someone else entering into our life. And the still fresh and in a certain sense already complete experience of the divine Word at the end of the old covenant, was that of an analogous intervention, but one that was still infinitely more griping and more vital” the intervention of Almighty God in the life of men…. It is not a discourse, but an action: the action whereby God intervenes as the master in our existence, ‘The lion has roared,’ says Amos, ‘who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken, who can but prophesy?’[5](…)[6]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones – Memoirs 1927-1977” Ignatius (1977) 108.
[2] Louis Bouyer, “Eucharist,” UNDP (1968) 32-33.
[3] And that “someone” must be becoming “another Christ.” I.e, only God knows God; cf. Mt. 11, 27).
[4] R. Barron, “Thomas Aquinas, Spiritual Master, Crossroad (1996) 42-42.
[5] Amos, 3: 8.
[6] This conviction is so powerful in Israel, that “:even the ungodly… could not escape from it. The unfaithful kings torment the prophets to prophesy what pleases them or at least to keep silent because they are persuaded that the moment the divine Word makes itwself heard, even through the mouth of a simple shepherd like Amos, it goes traight toward its fulfilment.” 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

This Takes Constant Conversion

Pope: No 'magic wand'; evangelizing takes hard work, trust in God

  • Pope Francis blesses a family Friday during a special audience with participants at a meeting for the new evangelization in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNS/Reuters/Tony Gentile)
Bring the Gospel to those who need it most: the poor, the frazzled and the lost, who wander the world without any guidance or protection, Pope Francis told pastoral workers.
Remember the church's ministry is like working a field hospital, where the attitude is helping the wounded and holding those who are hurt more than guarding laws that only keep people away, he said.
There are "so many people who are hurt and they are asking us to be close. They are asking us the same thing they asked Jesus," to be by their side, he said Friday.
The pope met with more than 2,000 pastoral workers from 60 countries who were at the Vatican attending an international meeting on "The Pastoral Project of 'Evangelii Guadium,' the Joy of Announcing the Gospel." The meeting Sept. 18-20 had participating bishops, religious and laypeople look at ways Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation could guide their work of evangelization.
The pope said the church's main task is evangelizing, especially to those most in need of Christ and his good news.
The pope also said that when Jesus went to towns and villages to teach, his heart broke seeing the crowds because, according to the Gospel of Matthew, "they were troubled and abandoned like sheep without a shepherd."
"How many people in the many existential peripheries of our day are 'troubled and abandoned' and wait for the church, they are waiting for us!
"How much poverty and loneliness unfortunately we see in the world today! How many people live in great suffering and ask the church to be a sign of the Lord's closeness, goodness, solidarity and mercy," he said.
In the hard work of sharing the Gospel, he told them, do not get discouraged, but have "patience and perseverance."
"We don't have a magic wand for everything, but we do have trust in the Lord, who accompanies us and never abandons us,"
The pope said the enormous amount of work and demands being made on pastoral workers "make us run the risk of becoming frightened and withdrawing in on ourselves out of fear and self-defense."
"And out of that springs the temptation of self-sufficiency and clericalism, that codifying the faith into rules and instructions, which the scribes, Pharisees and doctors of the law did during the time of Jesus. We will have everything exact and everything just-so, but the faithful and those who are seeking willcontinue to be hungry and thirsty for God," he explained.
If pastoral ministry uses the same approach the scribes and Pharisees took, "never, never will we be witnesses of being close" to people like Jesus was, he said.
The pope encouraged church members to go out into the larger community at all times of day and night to see who may be looking to be fellow "workers in the vineyard."
Do not overlook "the weakest and the most disadvantaged," he said, but be generous with them, letting them be useful contributors to the church's ministry.
He also warned people working in pastoral ministry against getting too caught up in "the song of the Sirens," that call them to engage in countless "frenetic series of initiatives" and campaigns that keep them busy, but neglect paying attention to spiritual growth and an encounter with God.
"Let's not forget to do like Jesus did" with his disciples, he said. After a long day proclaiming the Gospel, they would go to a quiet place to be together to pray and reflect.
"Pastoral programs without prayer and contemplation will never touch people's hearts. They will stop at the surface never allowing the seed of the Word of God to take root, sprout, grow and bear fruit," he said.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to offering credible testimony with one's life, he said.
"Words without witness don't work, they don't help," he said.
"Witness is the start of an evangelization that touches the heart and transforms it."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Have Courage to Acknowledge You Are a Sinner

Those Who Feel Themselves Sinners Are Able to Encounter Jesus, Pope Says
By Staff Reporter

VATICAN CITY, September 18, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Having the courage to acknowledge that we are sinners enables us to receive Christ’s caress, His forgiveness, said Pope Francis Thursday morning during Mass at Santa Marta.
The day's liturgy presents the Gospel of the sinful woman who washes Jesus' feet with her tears and anoints them with perfume drying them with her hair. Jesus is invited to the house of a Pharisee, "a person of a certain level of culture", the Pope said, who "wanted to listen to Jesus", hear his doctrine, find out more. In his own mind, he judges both Jesus and the sinful woman, thinking if Jesus "truly were a prophet he would know want kind of woman is touching him”. The Pharisee “is not a bad man” he simply “cannot understand the woman’s actions”.
"He cannot understand the simple gesture: the simple gestures of the people. Perhaps this man had forgotten how to caress a baby, how to console a grandmother. In his theories, his thoughts, his life of government - because perhaps he was a councilor of the Pharisees – he had forgotten the simple gestures of life, the very first things that we all, as newborns, received from our parents".

Pope Francis said that Jesus rebukes the Pharisee "with humility and tenderness", "his patience, his love, the desire to save everyone" leads him to explain the woman’s gesture to the Pharisee, and at the same time point to the Pharisee’s own lack of courtesy.  And amid the shocked murmuring of the crowd, he says to the woman: "Your sins are forgiven". "Go in peace, your faith has saved you!"

"He only says the word salvation - 'Your faith has saved you' – to the woman, who is a sinner. And he says it because she was able to weep for her sins, to confess her sins, to say 'I am a sinner', and admit it to herself. He doesn’t say the same to those people, who were not bad people: they simply did not believe themselves to be sinners. Other people were sinners: the tax collectors, prostitutes ... These were the sinners. Jesus says this word - 'You are saved, you are safe - only to those who open their hearts and acknowledge that they are sinners. Salvation only enters our hearts when we open them to the truth of our sins".

"The privileged place to encounter  Jesus Christ is in our sins". Pope Francis observed that this may seem like "heresy” but St. Paul also said as much when he said he would boast of only two things: his sins and the Risen Christ who saved him.

"This is why the ability to acknowledge our own sins, to acknowledge our misery, to acknowledge what we are and what we are capable of doing or have done is the very door that opens us to the Lord’s caress, His forgiveness, to His Word 'Go in peace, your faith has saved you!', because you were brave, you were brave enough to open your heart to the only One who can save you".

Jesus said to the hypocrites, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you".  These are strong words, concluded the Pope, because those who feel themselves sinners "open their hearts in the confession of their sins, to encounter Jesus, who gave His blood for us all".

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Robert Moynihan - Inside the Vatican, September 13, 2014, Saturday — Little Wars = World War III?

Without the Recovery of Reason, Little Wars = III World War: Now

"War is caused not only by those who wage it directly but also by those who do not do everything in their power to avoid it."—St. John Paul II, 1979

Has "World War III" already begun, without any formal declaration?

Perhaps... if Pope Francis is right.

This morning, Francis visited a cemetery in northern Italy, near Venice.

He went to the cemetery to commemorate soldiers who died in World War I, which began exactly 100 years ago, and continued for more than 4 years (Summer 1914-Autumn 1918).

In his reflection, Francis suggested that all of the "little wars" now occurring around the world -- especially in the Middle East and in Ukraine -- actually make up "World War III" which has already begun.

The devastation that a "World War III" is bringing and will bring, the suffering for all of us, means that those of us (even ordinary journalists) who would like to protect our families, our children, our parents, our friends, from harm, must do what we can to prevent the outbreak of such a tragedy.

Or, if the tragedy has already begun to unfold, we must do what we can to prevent it from unfolding completely -- to stop it before it grows wider.

And that is a fundamental purpose of these letters (and why they are sometimes so long).

The Pope's message today was essentially this: "No more war."

Resolve disputes by peaceful means, by negotiation, by the use of reason, not by maiming and killing, Francis is saying.

And, like several of the Middle Eastern Christian Patriarchs who were in Washington D.C. this week to draw attention to the sad plight of the region's Christians, who are fleeing the region due to civil war, the Pope denounced the global armaments industry which provides weapons to all sides in these conflicts.

The mysterious army of ISIS (the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria"), for example, has no technological infrastructure, no modern weapons' factories, to produce the up-to-date weapons it is using. Who do they get them from?

Essentially, the Pope, and the Patriarchs, are saying this: the world's manufacturers of arms, and the merchants who sell those arms, have a real share in the responsibility for the death and destruction that follows the production and distribution of these weapons.

Francis and the Patriarchs are calling on all of us to "beat swords into plowshares" -- to put the  astonishing technological capacities of mankind at the service of human welfare, of the common good of all, of providing food, shelter, clothing, running water, for all, rather than to expend and explode our limited resources in the service of military agendas, costing countless lives.

To become effective good stewards of this fragile earth would take all of our energy and daring. All of our time and money. That would be a "battle" requiring commitment and courage.

But we are far from committing ourselves to such a noble "war."

The words of Pope Francis and of the patriarchs are falling on deaf ears, and the relatively small global conflicts now occurring continue to widen and grow more numerous.

We must find a better way.

We are faced, in fact, with a spiritual battle, a battle for the soul of the West -- and for the soul of Russia.

The West should return to its ancient Christian faith, and in that faith find a basis for friendship, collaboration, and the building globally of a just peace.

And Russia should do the same.

We should not be witnesses to a tragic Third World War.

The desired end is rather mutual conversion, truth-telling about our past, and then, a strong, mutually respectful America-Russia alliance — not a Third World War.