Thursday, March 31, 2016

I Just Visited Mimi Silbert's Delancy Street in San Francisco and It Taught Fr. Paul Donlan, Fr. Mark Manion and Myself that the Following Text of Richard Rohr Holds For Us


In Need of Mercy
Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why does the Bible, and why does Jesus, tell us to care for the poor and the outsider? Is it first of all because people need help? Maybe, but I believe it has a much deeper genius. We are the ones who need to move into the worlds of powerlessness for our own conversion! We need to meet people whose faith, patience, and forgiveness tell us we are still in the kindergarten of love. We need to be influenced by people who are happy without having all the things we think are essential to happiness.
When we are too smug and content, we really have little need for the Gospel, so we make Christianity into pious devotions that ask nothing of us and do nothing for the world. We are never in need of forgiveness because we have constructed a world that allows us to always be right and "normal." We are highly insulated from the human situation. When we are self-sufficient, our religion will be corrupt because it doesn't understand the Mystery of how divine life is transferred, how people change, how life flows, how we become something more, and how we fall into the great compassion.
Only vulnerable people change. Only vulnerable people change others. Jesus presented us with an icon of absolute vulnerability, and said, "Gaze on this until you get the point. Gaze on this until you know what God is like!" That demanded too much of us, so we made the cross instead into a juridical transaction between Jesus and God ("substitutionary atonement theory"), which in great part robbed the cross of its deep transformative power.
It has been said that religion is largely filled with people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for people who have gone through hell. As all initiation rites say in one way or another:you have to die before you die, and then you know. Jesus is always on the side of the crucified ones. Jesus is what mythology called a "shape-shifter." He changes sides in the twinkling of an eye to go wherever the pain is. He is not loyal to one religion, to this or that group, or to the worthy; Jesus is loyal to suffering!
Do you realize that takes away all of our usual group-think? Jesus is just as loyal to the suffering of Iraqi and Russian soldiers as he is to the suffering of American and British soldiers. He grabs all our boundaries away from us, and suddenly we are forced to see that we are a universal people. Most people do not like being that exposed and that shared. Yes, God is on the side of the pain, and goes wherever the pain is (which is abundantly clear in the Gospels). We can no longer preempt Jesus for our own group, religion, or country. People seeking power cannot use him for their private purposes. He belongs to the powerless.  
A lawyer who joined the Catholic Church and then became a Franciscan said to me one day, "You know, this Church is harder and harder for me to understand. We claim to have the perfect medicine, the healing power to restore and renew hearts and souls, but we seem to say in the same breath, 'But make sure you don't really need it! Because if you really need it, you are a less than ideal member!'"  
Too often it seems forgiveness, reconciliation, compassion, and healing are mere concessions, carefully doled out, to those unfortunate sinners and outsiders, instead of the very path of salvation itself. Thank God, we live in a time where we have a Pope who is shouting mercy from the housetops--for everybody who needs it and wants it. Desire is the only pre-requisite. Some cardinals and bishops who apparently don't think they need mercy are very stingy and regulatory in handing it on to others. What does not come around, does not go around, it seems.

The Disturbing Fact of the Resurrection

“If Jesus was not raised from death, Christianity is a fraud and a joke; if he did rise from death, then Christianity is the fullness of God’s revelation, and Jesus must be the absolute center of our lives. There is no third option”

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the be-all and the end-all of the Christian faith. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, all bishops, priests, and Christian ministers should go home and get honest jobs, and all the Christian faithful should leave their churches immediately. As Paul himself put it: “If Jesus is not raised from the dead, our preaching is in vain and we are the most pitiable of men.” It’s no good, of course, trying to explain the resurrection away or rationalize it as a myth, a symbol, or an inner subjective experience. None of that does justice to the novelty and sheer strangeness of the Biblical message. It comes down finally to this: if Jesus was not raised from death, Christianity is a fraud and a joke; if he did rise from death, then Christianity is the fullness of God’s revelation, and Jesus must be the absolute center of our lives. There is no third option.
I want to explore, very briefly, a handful of lessons that follow from the disquieting fact of the Resurrection. First, this world is not it. What I mean is that this world is not all that there is. We live our lives with the reasonable assumption that the natural world as we’ve come to know it through the sciences and discern it through common sense is the final framework of our lives and activities. Everything (quite literally, everything) takes place within the theater of our ordinary experience. And one of the most powerful and frightening features of the common-sense world is death. Every living thing dies and stays dead. Indeed, everything in the universe, scientists tell us, comes into being and then fades away permanently.
But what if this is not in fact the case? What if the laws of nature are not as iron-clad as we thought? What if death and dissolution did not have the final say? What if, through God’s power and according to his providence, a “new heavens and a new earth” were being born? The resurrection of Jesus from the dead shows as definitively as possible that God is up to something greater than we had imagined or thought possible. And therefore we don’t have to live as though death were our master and as though nihilism were the only coherent point of view. After he had encountered the risen Christ, Paul could even taunt death: “Where is your sting?” In light of the resurrection, we can, in fact, begin to see this world as a place of gestation, growth and maturation toward something higher, more permanent, more splendid.
Here’s a second lesson derived from the resurrection: the tyrants know that their time is up. Remember that the cross was Rome’s way of asserting its authority. Roman authorities declared that if you run afoul of our system, we will torture you to death in the most excruciating (ex cruce, from the cross) way possible and then we will leave your body to waste away being devoured by the beasts of the field. The threat of violence is how tyrants up and down the centuries have always asserted their authority. Might makes right. The crucified Jesus appeared to anyone who was witnessing the awful events on Calvary to be one more affirmation of this principle: Caesar always wins in the end.
But when Jesus was raised from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit, the first Christians knew that Caesar’s days were numbered. Jesus had taken the worst that the world could throw at him and he returned, alive and triumphant. They knew that the Lord of the world was no longer Caesar, but rather someone whom Caesar had killed but whom God had raised from death. This is why the risen Christ has been the inspiration for resistance movements up and down the centuries. In our own time we saw how deftly John Paul II wielded the power of the cross in Communist Poland. Though he had no nuclear weapons or tanks or mighty armies, John Paul had the power of the resurrection, and that proved strong enough to bring down one of the most imposing empires in the history of the world. Once again, the faculty lounge interpretation of resurrection as a subjective event or a mere symbol is exactly what the tyrants of the world want, for it poses no real threat to them.

The third great lesson of the resurrection is that the path of salvation has been opened to everyone. Paul told us that “though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself and took the form of slave…accepting even death, death on a cross.” In a word, Jesus went all the way down, journeying into pain, despair, alienation, even godforsakenness. He went as far as you can go away from the Father. Why? In order to reach all of those who had wandered from God. Then, in light of the resurrection, the first Christians came to know that, even as we run as fast as we can away from the Father, all the way to godforsakenness, we are running into the arms of the Son. The opening up of the divine life allows everyone free access to the divine mercy. And this is why the Lord himself could say, “When the Son of Man is lifted up, he will draw all people to himself,” and why Paul could assert in 1 Corinthians, “When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.” The resurrection shows that Christ can gather back to the Father everyone whom he has embraced through his suffering love.
So on Easter Sunday, let us not domesticate the still stunning and disturbing message of resurrection. Rather, let us allow it to unnerve us, change us, set us on fire.

Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pope Francis: Mercy and love have conquered sin at Easter

2016-03-28 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said “we also stand today before the empty tomb of Jesus, and meditate with wonder and gratitude on the great mystery of the Resurrection of the Lord” during his  Easter Monday Regina Coeli address.
“Life has conquered death. Mercy and love have conquered sin! There is need of faith and hope to open this new and wonderful horizon,” Pope Francis said.
“And we know that faith and hope are a gift from God, and we have to ask: ‘Lord, give me faith, give me hope! We have so much need!’. Let us by pervaded by the emotions that resonate in the Easter sequence: ‘Yes, we are certain: Christ is truly risen.’ The Lord has risen among us! This truth marked in an indelible way the lives of the Apostles who, after the Resurrection, again felt the need to follow their Master and, receiving the Holy Spirit, went without fear to proclaim to all what they had seen with their own eyes and personally experienced.”
The Holy Father said “in this Jubilee Year we are called to rediscover and to welcome with particular intensity the comforting announcement of the resurrection: ‘Christ, my hope, is risen!’”, adding “if Christ is risen, we can look with new eyes and hearts at every event of our lives, even the most negative.”
“The moments of darkness, of failure, and also of sin can be transformed and announce a new path. When we have reached the base of our misery and our weakness, the risen Christ gives us the strength to lift ourselves up. If we have faith in Him, His grace saves us!” – Pope Francis continued – “The crucified and risen Lord is the full revelation of mercy, present and active in history. This is the Easter message that still resonates today and that will resonate throughout the time of Easter until Pentecost.”
The Pope said “the silent witness to the events of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus was Mary.”
“She was standing next to the cross: She did not collapse in the face of grief, but her faith made her stronger” – he explained – “In the broken heart of a mother, there was always the flame of hope. We ask her to also help us to accept in fullness the Easter proclamation of resurrection, to embody it concretely in our daily lives.”
He then invoked Our Lady before reciting the Regina Coeli prayer, which is prayed instead of the Angelus during the Easter season: “May the Virgin Mary give us the certainty of faith that suffered every step of our journey, illuminated by the light of Easter; that it will become a blessing and joy for us and for others, especially for those who suffer because of selfishness and indifference.”
After reciting the Regina Coeli, Pope Francis condemned the “reprehensible” terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan, and called on civil and other authorities to “do everything possible to restore security and peace to the population and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities.”
At the end of his address, the Holy Father encouraged everyone to spend a little bit of time every day reading from the Gospels.
“It takes no more than five minutes to read a passage from the Gospel. Remember this!...And do not forget to pray for me!” Pope Francis concluded.

Damage Done to the Human Sexuality as Self-Gift (and therefore the Holiness and Validity of Marriage)

Cardinal Carlo Cafarra asks the following question: ""Theologians, canonists, and pastors are rightly asking about the faith-sacrament relationship of marriage. But there is a more radical problem. Those who are asking for sacramental marriage, are they capable of natural marriage? Has there been such devastation, not of their faith but of their humanity, that they are no longer capable of marriage? 

Positivism and the De-mystification of Sex:

Roger Scruton

The difficulty with matrimony lived in a culture which is positivistically dominated is its superficiality of an experience that is on the level of the purely sensible and rational. There is no commitment of the self because there is no self, and what we are is merely an individual.
  In the realm of sexuality, consider what the reductive epistemology of sexuality to mere facts has does to validity. Roger Scruton writes: “There is a picture of human sexuality that is propagated by the media, by popular culture, and by much sex education in our schools, which tries both to discount the differences between us and the other animals and also to remove every hint of the forbidden, the dangerous, and the sacred. It is a picture that makes no place for shame, save as a lingering disability, and which describes the experience of sex as a kind of bodily sensation. Sexual initiation, according to this picture, means learning to overcome guilt and shame, to put aside our hesitations, and to enjoy what is described in the literature as ‘good sex.’ The function of sex education in schools – and especially in those schools controlled by the state – is to rescue children from the commitments that have been attached to desire by displaying sex as a matter of cost-fee pleasure. Even to describe desire as I have done in the foregoing paragraphs is regarded, by many educationists, as an offense – a way of cluttering the minds of children with unmanageable guilt. Such educationists regard the free play of sexual titillation as a far healthier option than the death-encompassing passions associated with the old conception of erotic love.”[3]

            Scruton offers the kiss as a synecdoche of the whole of pre- and post- modern sex.“When the erotic kiss first became obligatory on the cinema screen, it was construed as a coming together of faces, each fully personalized through dialogue. The two faces had carried the burden of a developing drama, and were inseparable in thought from the individuals whose faces they were. When, in the last seconds of the Hollywood movie, the faces tremblingly approached each other, to be clichéd together in a clinch, the characters sank away from us into their mutual desire. This desire was their own affair, a kind of avenue out of the story that took them quickly off the screen and into marriage.
 “Pornography is the opposite of that: the face is more or less ignored, and in any case is endowed with no personality and made party to no human dialogue. Only the sexual organs, construed not as agents but as patients, or rather impatient, carry the burden of contact. Sexual organs, unlike faces, can be treated as instruments; they are rival means to the common end of friction, and therefore essentially substitutable. Pornography refocuses desire, not only the other who is desired, but on the sexual act itself, viewed as a meeting of bodies. The intentionality of the sexual act, conceived in this disenchanted way, is radically changed. It ceases to be an expression of interpersonal longing, still less of the desire to hold, to possess, to be filled with love. It becomes a kind of sacrilege – a wiping away of freedom, personality, and transcendence, to reveal the passionless contortions of what is merely flesh. Pornography is therefore functional in relation to a society of uncommitted partnerships. It serves to desecrate and thereby neutralize our sense that the object of desire is made sacred and irreplaceable by our longing. By shifting the focus downwards, from the end to the means, from the subject to the object, pornography diverts sexual feeling away from its normal course which is commitment, and empties it of its existential seriousness.”[4]

   In the light of the above, Cardinal Carlo Cafarra asks: "Those who are asking for sacramental marriage, are they capable of natural marriage? Has there been such devastation, not of their faith but of their humanity, that they are no longer capable of marriage?" 

"The first dimension of the anthropological question is the following: it is well known that according to Catholic teaching the sacrament of marriage coincides with natural marriage. I think that there can no longer be any theological doubt about the coinciding of the two, even if with and after Duns Scotus - the first to deny it - there has long been discussion in the Latin Church in this regard.

"Now what the Church meant and means by “natural marriage” has been demolished in contemporary culture. If I may put it this way, the “matter” has been removed from the sacrament of marriage.

"Theologians, canonists, and pastors are rightly asking about the faith-sacrament relationship of marriage. But there is a more radical problem. Those who are asking for sacramental marriage, are they capable of natural marriage? Has there been such devastation, not of their faith but of their humanity, that they are no longer capable of marriage? Attention must certainly be paid to canons 1096 (“For matrimonial consent to exist, the contracting parties must be at least not ignorant that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring”) and 1099. Nevertheless, the “praesumptio iuris" of § 2 of canon 1096 (“This ignorance is not presumed after puberty”) must not be an occasion of disregard for the spiritual condition in which many find themselves with regard to natural marriage.

" - The anthropological question has a second dimension. This consists in the inability to perceive the truth and therefore the preciousness of human sexuality. It seems to me that Augustine described this condition is the most precise way possible: “Submerged and blinded as I was, I was not capable of thinking of the light of truth and of a beauty that was worthy of being loved for its own sake and was not visible to the eyes of the flesh, but within” (Confessions VI 16, 26).

"The Church must ask itself why it has in point of fact ignored the magisterium of Saint John Paul II on human sexuality and love. We must also ask ourselves is this: the Church possesses a great school in which it learns the profound truth of the body-person: the liturgy. How and why has it been unable to draw upon this also with regard to the anthropological question of which we are speaking? To what extend is the Church aware that “gender” theory is a real tsunami that is not aimed primarily at individual behavior but at the total destruction of marriage and the family?

In summary: the second fundamental problem that is raised today for the Christian presentation of marriage is the reconstruction of a theology and philosophy of the body and of sexuality capable of generating a new educational effort in the Church as a whole.

   In the realm of matrimony there is no difference between Christian faith as self-gift and the conjugal act as self-gift. For this reason, if matrimonial consent is not an intentionally total giving of the self, there is no marriage. That is why Cardinal Cafarra raises the question of the withering of the human capacity due to a pornographic and contraceptive culture.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Anniversary of the Priestly Ordination of St. Josemaria Escriva (March 28, 1925)

Historically, Opus Dei began with celibate laymen. There was need for ministerial priests who had the same spirit of becoming “other Christs” in secular life. It was not enough to be a good priest to serve these men and women with Holy Mass, preaching the Word and, above all, the sacrament of penance. To have this same spirit, Escriva understood that the priests had to come from among the lay vocations thus forming a single class of laity and ministerial priests with the same vocation pace the irreducible difference of the sacramental specificity of Baptism with its “character” and Order with its. [“Character” is the ontological difference of ontological orientation or relation]. The laity are ordered with mission to the secular world; ministerial priest is ordered to the laity as servants with the mission of activating their sharing in the priesthood of Christ. They do this by celebrating Mass, preaching the divine Word and administering the sacraments, especially Penance.

            What was convulsively earth shattering was the fact that laymen and ministerial priests, pace the irreducible differences, had the same vocation as “other Christs”, and the Church granted the nihil Obstat on this arrangement on the feast of our Lady’s act of faith that engendered the physical Christ in her, the feast of the divine Maternity (October 11, 1943). This pristine arrangement of the early Church had no place in the structural configurations of Canon Law (1917), and although now existing de facto with regard to Opus Dei, Opus Dei had to jury rig a canonical juridical form within the Church that did not fit it, but could do it the least damage in approving it. This was the secular institute that perdured until the approval of the personal prelature in 1982 that permitted Opus Dei to be what it really was in the words of Escriva: “a little bit of the Church.”

            It is most interesting to consider the proximity of John XXIII calling for the Second Vatican Council in 1958 and the development of the understanding of the Church in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). The first schema before Lumen Gentium was called De Ecclesia (November 1962). A comparison of the first and last version is revealing as to development. Maximilian Heinrich Heim in his “Joseph Ratzinger… Fundamentals of Ecclesiology with Reference to Lumen Gentium) writes “A comparison of the two versions shows that the Constitution on the Church, as Karl Rahner remarked, ‘was not conceived from the start as a symmetrical and complete outline of a comprehensive ecclesiology.’ Rather, it ‘grew slowly and to some extent by chance through the supplementation of the preconciliar schema, which initially intended simply to treat certain particular themes’ that the Roman Curia considered to be of current interest.’”[1] Further he says, “Reference to Lumen Gentium remains indispensable for the correct interpretation of these documents, inasmuch as they can be understood properly only in view of the image of the church on which they are based.”

            Heim then offers “What Was ‘New’ about Lumen Gentium” followed by “Revitalization of the entire tradition of the Church.” “One objection to the original schema on the Church, De Ecclesia, was that ‘it was too rigid, too scholastic, too conventional and employed an excessively juridical style.’ That is why the council Father attempted to formulate a synthesis of the Church’s self-understanding with her biblical and patristic roots and thus to free ecclesiology from its narrow, juridical-hierarchical confines. Specifically, as Gonzalez Hernandez explains, this happened through ‘a rediscovery of forgotten aspects that had always been part of her heritage, a novel experience of new dimensions of this one Church by means of the conscious and renewed assimilation of her old contents of maintaining the never-fading novelty of Christ as it constantly renews itself and making it accessible to all people of all times.”

   Heim goes on: “Lumen Gentium as ‘the work of the Council:’” “The definitive (third) version of the schema on the Church was finally passed on November 21, 1964 with 2, 151 yes-votes against 5 nays, and it was solemnly promulgated on the same day. Gerard Philips, the chief editor of Lumen Gentium, commented in retrospect on the work that had been accomplished: “During the time between the 1963 and 1964 sessions, the Theological Commission made use of the interval to bring the text that had been presented into agreement with the wishes of the Council Fathers. More than is generally believed, the Constitution on the Church is the work of the Council itself and of its most active members.”

            The point Heim wants to make is that Lumen Gentium is a work of the living Council and not simply the Council approval of the work of theologians. In a word, it is truly the work of the Spirit. He wants to show the “extent to which the suggestions of the Council Fathers influenced the final form of the document. The purpose of this survey is, first, to mention several central modifications of the second version of the text of Lumen Gentium and, secondly, to demonstrate the breadth of its image of the Church. Unlike the uncompleted Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I (July 1870) or even the schema De Ecclesia (November 1962), this image is no longer focused on the institutional dimension of the church but rather makes evident … ‘the dynamic of a living body, which is constantly growing.’

            “The first chapter, ‘The Mystery of the Church,’ was not planned at all in the schema De Ecclesia. The original title and contents of the first chapter of that schema, ‘The nature of the Church Militant,’ had been rejected by the majority of the Council Fathers already in the first session on account of the argument brought forward by Cardinals Frings, Lionart, and Dopfner: ‘The Church is a hidden mystery, and the study of it must be sustained by faith and love.’ According to Charles Moeller, it is ‘as good as certain that this perspective owes its place in De Ecclesia to the influence of the German theologians’…The expansion, in the second draft, of the passage about the ‘kingdom of God,’ which on earth has it beginning and core in the Church, underscores the dynamic understanding of the Church in Lumen Gentium….

            “The second chapter, ‘On the People of God,’ was inserted into the second draft of the schema on the Church from the year 1963, immediately after the chapter on the episcopate. In the final version of the Constitution on the Church, it was placed before the chapter on the hierarchy so as to indicate that all Christians – ordained and lay – belong to the one People of God and share in the common priesthood of the baptized. In this rearrangement, artaicle 13 of Lumen Gentium was completely rewritten. In it the foundation is laid for a universalism that is characteristic of the entire docuemtn and also builds an ecumenical bridge: ‘All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages”…

“The fourth chapter, ‘The Laity,’ was approved in the final vote by the largest majority. It emphasized the particular importance of the lay people by explaining that they share in their own way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ by living out their faith in the world. Through baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist they are enabled to carry on their specific apostolate in the world: “They must assist each other to live holier lives even in their daily occupations. In this way the world may be permeated by the spirit of Christ and it may more effectively fulfill its purpose in justice, charity, and peace. The laity have the principal role in the overall fulfillment of this duty. Therefore, by their competence in secular training and by their activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill, and civic culture for the benefit of all men according to the design of the Creator and the light of his Word. May the goods of this world by more equitably distributed among all men, and may they in their own way be conducive to universal progress in human and Christian freedom” (LG #36).

Escriva: “I want all of you my children, priest and laity, to have one thing clearly engraved on your minds and on your hearts: something which can never ge regarded as an external ornament, but which is indeed the very hinge and foundation of our divine vocation. Whether priest or layperson, each of us must have, in all things and at al times, a truly priestly soul and a fully lay mentality.”

Priestly Soul: “self-gift” is mediating between self and God in the service of others. It is the meaning of faith as receiving the Word with one’s whole self, and therefore, it must always involve deeds. Our Lady was the first one to hear the Word of God and doing it by the seed of self-gift as receptivity.

Lay Mentality: the freedom prior to choice that is self-determination. This deepest understanding of freedom is always within the horizon of the subject, the “I,” in that it is the self mastery of the self. This understanding of freedom is prior ontologically and chronologically to the freedom of choice of this and that.

            With the above, I hazard to suggest that the proclamation of the radical equality of all in the Church as lay faithful and ministerial priest would not have occurred without occurrences of 1943 in the life St. Josemaria Escriva. In fact, I would hazard to suggest that the Council would not have been called at all nor would it have taken the direction it took of rejecting schemas 1 and 2 of De Ecclesia and become Lumen Gentium with the radical equality of all the baptized as “People of God” with the equally ontological diversity of minister, laity and religious. I would add that this diversity is not merely “functional” but ontological as relational. That is, the divine Persons are ontologically “One” and ontologically “diverse” in that they are all ontologically homo ousios but the Father is greater than I” (Jn. 14, 28). The insight into the mystery is to see that the “person” is constitutively relational, and not accidentally so. This is so in the Trinity and in human persons imaging the Trinity. This equality and irreducible diversity is true in male and female, and in ministerial priest and lay faithful.  Such was the impact of Escriva’s priesthood on the understanding of the Church and personhood.

[1] M.H. Heim, “Joseph Ratzinger, Life in the Church and Living Theology – Fundamentals of Ecclesiology with Reference to Lumen Gentium,” Ignatius (2007) 30-31.

Learning To See: An Extraordinary Truth

Learning to See: 

Monday, March 28, 2016
I would have never seen my own white privilege if I had not been forced outside of my dominant white culture by travel, by working in the jail, by hearing stories from counselees, and frankly, by making a complete fool of myself in so many social settings--most of which I had the freedom to avoid! And so recognition was slow in coming. I am not only white, but I am male, overeducated, clergy (from cleros, the separated ones), a Catholic celibate, healthy, and American. I profited from white privilege on so many fronts that I had to misread the situation many, many times before I began to feel what others feel and see what others could clearly see. Many must have just rolled their eyes and hopefully forgiven me! Education about white privilege is the best doorway to help those of us who think we are not racists to recognize that structurally and often unconsciously we still are. Our easy advancement was too often at the cost of others not advancing at all.

Power never surrenders without a fight. If your entire life has been to live unquestioned in your position of power--a power that was culturally given to you, but you think you earned--there is almost no way you will give it up without major failure, suffering, humiliation, or defeat. The trouble is we cannot program that. All we can do is stop shoring up our power by our de facto idolization of money, possessions, power positions, superficial entertainment, the idolization of celebrities and athletes, and the war economy. All of these depend on our common enthrallment with being on top. As long as we really want to be on top and would do the same privileged things if we could get there, there will never be an actual love of equality, true freedom, or the Gospel. This challenges all of us to change and not just those folks who temporarily are "on the top."

Jesus' basic justice agenda was simple living, humility, and love of neighbor. We all have to live this way ourselves. From that position, God can do God's work rather easily. 

 Richard Rohr

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Pope Francis: The Church Grows From the Bottom Up. Slowly. Not like An Organization. On April 24, 2013, He Affirmed:he Church, Body of Christ - Person

 “And when the Church wants to flex its muscles and sets up organizations and offices, becoming a bit bureaucratic, the Church loses it main substance and runs the risk of becoming an NGO. The Church is not an NGO. It is a love story. But there are bureaucrats who say – sorry, everything is necessary, the offices are necessary… okay, fine! But they are necessary to a certain point: as an aid to this love story. But when the organization takes first place, love grows cold and the Church, poor thing, becomes an NGO. This not the way.” Later on June1, 2014: “The Church is not an organization of culture, or even of religion, of social work.”

I add Richard Rohr to this: “In almost all of history, the vast majority of people understood the view from the bottom due to their own life circumstance. Most of the people who have ever lived on this planet have been oppressed and poor. But their history was seldom written except in the Bible (until very recently in such books as Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States). Only in modern times and wealthy countries do we find the strange phenomenon of masses of people having an establishment mentality.

This relatively new thing called "the middle class" gives many of us just enough comfort not to have to feel the pinch or worry about injustice for ourselves. Most of us in the Northern Hemisphere have a view from the top even though we are nowhere near the top ourselves. The mass of people can normally be bought off by just giving them "bread and circuses," as the Romans said. Many Americans can afford to be politically illiterate, hardly vote, and terribly naive about money, war, and power. One wonders how soon this is going to catch up with us.

Only by solidarity with other people's suffering can comfortable people be converted. Otherwise we are disconnected from the cross--of the world, of others, of Jesus, and finally of our own necessary participation in the great mystery of dying and rising. In the early Christian Scriptures, or the "New" Testament, we clearly see that it's mostly the lame, the poor, the blind, the prostitutes, the drunkards, the tax collectors, the sinners--those on the bottom and the outside--that really hear Jesus' teaching and get the point and respond to him. It's the leaders and insiders (the priests, scribes, Pharisees, teachers of the law, and Roman leaders) who crucify him. That is evident in the text.

How did we miss such a core point about how power coalesces and corrupts, no matter who has it? Once Christians were the empowered group, we kept this obvious point from hitting home by blaming the Jews, then heretics, then sinners. But arrogant power is always the problem, not the Jews or any other scapegoated group. When any racial, gender, or economic group has all the power it does the same thing--no exceptions. Catholics would have crucified Jesus too if he had critiqued the Catholic Church the way he did his own religion. 

After Jesus' death and resurrection, the first Christians go "underground." They are the persecuted ones, meeting in secrecy in the catacombs. During this time, we see a lot of good interpretation of the Scriptures, with a liberationist worldview (i.e., a view from the bottom). The Church was largely of the poor and for the poor.

The turning point, at which the Church moved from the bottom to the top, is the year 313 A.D. when Emperor Constantine supposedly did the Church a great favor by beginning to make Christianity the established religion of the Holy Roman Empire. That's how the Apostolic Church became RomanCatholicism. As the Church's interests became linked with imperial world views, our perspective changed from the view from the bottom and powerlessness (the persecuted, the outsiders) to the view from the top where we were now the ultimate insiders (with power, money, status, and control). Emperors convened (and controlled?) most of the early Councils of the Church, not bishops or popes. The Council in 325 was held at the Emperor's villa in a suburb of Constantinople called Nicea, where the highly abstract Nicene Creed was composed, in which the words love, justice, and peacemaking are never used once. The Nicene Creed is a far cry from the "creeds" spoken by Jesus three centuries before.”

 All of the above points up the point of living poverty as detachment. It does not mean that we are to have things and  perhaps many things, and of quality as means of giving ourselves in the service of others.But it does mean that we cannot understand the Person of Christ because we are attached to ourselves in the possession and use of many quality things. Man is more important for what he is than for what he has. And he, literally, may have nothing for self. Ref. Laborem Exercens #14. All has to be at the service of the others.

Easter 2016

Blogger: The Message is neither doctrine nor morality, but Personal Encounter and dialogue with the  Lord.                                                                                                                                                                      
 Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!

Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God’s mercy, out of love for us, died on the cross, and out of love he rose again from the dead. That is why we proclaim today: Jesus is Lord!

His resurrection fulfils the prophecy of the Psalm: God’s mercy endures for ever; it never dies. We can trust him completely, and we thank him because for our sake he descended into the depths of the abyss.

Before the spiritual and moral abysses of mankind, before the chasms that open up in hearts and provoke hatred and death, only an infinite mercy can bring us salvation. Only God can fill those chasms with his love, prevent us from falling into them and help us to continue our journey together towards the land of freedom and life.

The glorious Easter message, that Jesus, who was crucified is not here but risen (cf. Mt 28:5-6), offers us the comforting assurance that the abyss of death has been bridged and, with it, all mourning, lamentation and pain (cf. Rev 21:4). The Lord, who suffered abandonment by his disciples, the burden of an unjust condemnation and shame of an ignominious death, now makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence. Our world is full of persons suffering in body and spirit, even as the daily news is full of stories of brutal crimes which often take place within homes, and large-scale armed conflicts which cause indescribable suffering to entire peoples.

The risen Christ points out paths of hope to beloved Syria, a country torn by a lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord. To the power of the risen Lord we entrust the talks now in course, that good will and the cooperation of all will bear fruit in peace and initiate the building of a fraternal society respectful of the dignity and rights of each citizen. May the message of life, proclaimed by the Angel beside the overturned stone of the tomb, overcome hardened hearts and promote a fruitful encounter of peoples and cultures in other areas of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Yemen and Libya. May the image of the new man, shining on the face of Christ, favour concord between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land, as well as patience, openness and daily commitment to laying the foundations of a just and lasting peace through direct and sincere negotiations. May the Lord of life also accompany efforts to attain a definitive solution to the war in Ukraine, inspiring and sustaining initiatives of humanitarian aid, including the liberation of those who are detained.

The Lord Jesus, our peace (Eph 2:14), by his resurrection triumphed over evil and sin. May he draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world, as in the recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire. May he water the seeds of hope and prospects for peace in Africa; I think in particular of Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, marked by political and social tensions.

With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death. His son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all. May his Easter message be felt ever more powerfully by the beloved people of Venezuela in the difficult conditions which they are experiencing, and by those responsible for the country’s future, that everyone may work for the common good, seeking spaces of dialogue and cooperation with all. May efforts be made everywhere to promote the culture of counter, justice and reciprocal respect, which alone can guarantee the spiritual and material welfare of all people.

The Easter message of the risen Christ, a message of life for all humanity, echoes down the ages and invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice. All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance. May the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit not fail to be centred on the human person and his or her dignity, and to come up with policies capable of assisting and protecting the victims of conflicts and other emergencies, especially those who are most vulnerable and all those persecuted for ethnic and religious reasons.

On this glorious day, "let the earth rejoice, in shining splendour” (cf. Easter Proclamation), even though it is so often mistreated and greedily exploited, resulting in an alteration of natural equilibria. I think especially of those areas affected by climate change, which not infrequently causes drought or violent flooding, which then lead to food crises in different parts of the world.

Along with our brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith and their fidelity to the name of Christ, and before the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people, let us hear once again the comforting words of the Lord: "Take courage; I have conquered the world! (Jn 16:33). Today is the radiant day of this victory, for Christ has trampled death and destruction underfoot. By his resurrection he has brought life and immortality to light (cf. 2 Tim 1:10). "He has made us pass from enslavement to freedom, from sadness to joy, from mourning to jubilation, from darkness to light, from slavery to redemption. Therefore let us acclaim in his presence: Alleluia!” (Melito of Sardis, Easter Homily).

To those in our society who have lost all hope and joy in life, to the elderly who struggle alone and feel their strength waning, to young people who seem to have no future, to all I once more address the words of the Risen One: "See, I am making all things new… To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life” (Rev 21:5-6). May this comforting message of Jesus help each of us to set out anew with greater courage to blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters.

Faith and Ideology: Francis, John Paul II and Benedict XVI

Francis: Faith and Ideology

John 20, 16: Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means "Teacher").
      Ideology is an abstraction of reality. Abstractions falsify the Gospel. The Gospel is a narrative of the living Christ. Francis: “Ideologues falsify the Gospel. Every ideological interpretation, from whatever side it may come – from one side or the other – is a falsification of the Gospel. And these ideologues – we have seen this in the history of the Church – end up being, they have become intellectuals without talent, ethicists without goodness. And let’s not talk about beauty, because they don’t know a thing about it.” (Francis, April 19, 2013 (no. 19)

       Fr. Anthony Spadaro: “What is the problem with ideology? Faith is a personal encounter; it is not adherence to a program or an idea. Doctrine without trust is hollow. ‘Christians who think of the faith as a system of ideas’ (February 21, 2014, no. 175) instead do not believe in a a personal relationship but in a project, in an abstraction. One cannot truly ‘give’ an idea, as good and beautiful as it may be, one cannot ‘pray an idea. So ‘the ideologue does not know what love is, because he does not know how to give himself.’ (May 14, 2013k no. 38), he does not pray, he remains closed off in his mentality. His knowledge of Jesus turns into an ideological and moralistic knowledge. The faithful or pastor becomes a ‘scholar of the law’ who wants ‘the door locked and the key in his pocket’ (October 17, 2013, no. 113)
      “In the ideologies – the pope said on October 17, 2013 – ‘there is no room for Jesus…: his tenderness, love, meekness. And the ideologies are rigid, always’ in their attempt to homogenize, ‘normalize,’ interpret, and study the evangelical message. ;Paul does not say to the Athenians: ‘This is the encyclopedia of truth. Study this and you will have the truth, the truth!’ No! The truth does not fit in an encyclopedia. Truth is an encounter; it is an encounter with the supreme truth Jesus, the great truth. No one is master of the truth. Truth is received in the encounter (May 8, 2013, no. 34). The truth of faith is only in the personal encounter with Christ, even, at times, in a real ‘hand-to-hand combat’’
        “And ideology kills true prophecy: ‘When there is no prophecy, the accent falls on legalism’ (December 16, 2013, no. 144), on the formal superficial aspects. The fire is missing, while the appearances remain, clericalism and functionalism. While ideology is rigid and closed off in its abstractions, ‘the prophet is aware of the promise and has within his heart the promise of God; he keeps it alive, remembers it, repeats it. Then he looks at the present, looks at his people, and feels the power of the Spirit to speak a word to them that will help them to get  up, to continue their journey toward the future’ (ibid). The prophet, a man of faith, has a dynamic relationship with history.
            “So this is the prayer of Francis: ‘Let’s ask the Lord for the grace of giving all of the wisdom to trust only in him, not in things, in human strength, only in him’ (March 20, 2014, no. 186).”[1]

            John Paul II: Faith and Ideology

          “(T)he Pope returned to the quotation from the Council, ‘These admirably compact and precise words do not yet speak of faith but of Revelation. Revelation is ‘God communicating himself ,’ It thus possesses the character of a gift or a grace: a person-to-person gift, in the communion of persons. A perfectly gratuitous free gift which cannot be explained by anything but love.

            All this concerns Revelation. What about faith?

            We read further on in the same text: ‘To God who reveals himself we must bring the obedience of faith by which man entrusts himself entirely, freely, to God, bringing to him who reveals the complete submission of his intelligence and heart and giving with all his willfull assent to the Revelation which he has made. Thus faith is man’s reply to the Revelation by which God ‘communicates himself.’ The constitution Dei Verbum (#5) expresses perfectly the essentially personal character of faith.

            In the words ‘man entrusts himself to God by the obedience of faith,’ one must see, if only indirectly, the thought that faith, as response to the revelation by which God ‘gives himself to man, ‘implies through  its internal dynamism a reciprocal gift on the part of man, who in a way ‘also gives himself to God.’ This gift of oneself  is the profoundest and most personal structure of faith.

            In the act of faith, man does not respond to God with the gift of a bit of himself, but with the gift of his whole person. Of course, in this reciprocal relationship the disproportion remains.’

            So misapprehension is frequent. Those who say, ‘faith is a gift,’ implying that they have not received it, are at the same time both right and wrong. Right, because there really is a gift on the part of God. Wrong, because his gift is not one of those which require only a banal acknowledgement of receipt; it only takes effect when there is reciprocity….
Thus while the old definition in my catechism principally of the acceptance as truth ‘of all that God has revealed,’ the Conciliar text, in speaking of surrender to God, emphasizes rather the personal character of faith. This does not mean that the cognitive aspect is concealed or displaced, but it is, so to speak, organically integrated in the broad context of the subject responding to God by faith. …

            I have already drawn your attention to the difference between the catechism formula, ‘accepting as true all that God reveals,’ and surrender to God. In the first definition faith is primarily intellectual, in so far as it is the welcoming and assimilation of revealed fact. On the other hand, when the constitution Dei Verbum (#5) tells us that man entrusts himself to God ‘by the obedience of faith,’ we are confronted with the whole ontological and existential dimension and, so to speak, the drama of existence proper to man.

            In faith, man discovers the relativity of his being in comparison with an absolute I and the contingent character of his own existence with all its transcendent greatness, but also with its limits, its fragility and its mortal condition, to Someone who announces himself as the beginning and the end, transcending all that is created and contingent, but who also reveals himself at the same time as a Person who invites us to companionship, participation and communion. An absolute person – or better, personal Absolute.

            The surrender to God through faith (through the obedience of faith) penetrates to the very depths of human existence, in the very heart of personal existence. This is how we should understand this ‘commitment’ which you mentioned in your question and which presents itself as the solution to the very problem of existence or to the personal drama of human existence. It is much more than a purely intellectual theism and goes deeper and further than the act of ‘accepting as true what God has revealed.’
       When God reveals himself and faith accepts him, it is man who sees himself revealed to himself and confirmed in his being as man and person.”[1]

Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI explains that Revelation only takes place within the human person. Christ Himself is the revelation of the Father. The Father is revealed within man only when man goes out self self to become "another Christ." The act of faith is the act of prayer and love for others, perticuarly, the "least of these." Faith is the going out of self, not an abstraction of concepts. Revelation is the result of that going out. The lights go on only with prayer as in the Transfiguration (Lk. 9, 28).

As Joseph Ratzinger, he wrote: "I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of 'revelation,' by which we are normally in the habit of referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as 'revelation. Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. Here, '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.' Where there is no one to perceive 'revelation,' no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removd. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation. Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scriptue but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura [Protestantism]... because an esential element of Scripture is the Chruch as  understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given." [Joseph Ratzinger "Milestones - Memoirs 1927-1977" Ignatius 1998].

[1] "Be Not Afraid," Andre Frossard and Pope John Paul II, St. Martins Press (1984) 64-67. Note: the reason for this is that man becomes (finds) himself by the sincere gift of himself (Gaudium et spes #24). To give himself away, he must own himself. To own himself, he must subdue and master the entire self by the action of free self-determination. [The self can determine the self because the Person of Christ (uncreated) determines His (created) human will, and this because Christ is the "Prototype" of man]. This is revealed in Genesis 1 where God commands man to take possession of the earth by subduing it. Man was taken from the slime of the earth into whom spirit (person) was breathed. Hence, man reveals himself to himself as "I" by the free act of self-determination. This is the anthropology of Judeo-Christian faith.