This, to me, is our Lord's hardest teaching, or at least one of the hardest. "Love your enemies...turn the other cheek...stop judging."
I once heard a priest say, "We love God as much as we love our least favorite person." Ouch!
Yes, it's a hard saying, but "with God all things are possible." That could be a simple prayer of yours this week. Think of a person with whom you struggle and simply offer a Hail Mary (or some other prayer) for that person each day this week. How powerful that could be!
This is the Commitment Weekend for the 2019 Annual Catholic Appeal. We are called to answer Jesus' call to follow Him and share the word by providing the necessary contribution to fund ministries and services to share God's love with many others in our parish and our Archdiocese. The Archdiocese of Chicago does so much for the City of Chicago and for the universal Church, and we all know how important St. Juliana is to the lives of so many. Your contribution to the ACA allows us to continue to function and make a difference. Please remember that the ACA is not a one-time special collection, but rather a pledge campaign where you can make a more generous gift payable in installments. Cardinal Cupich and I are deeply grateful for your generosity.
C.S. Lewis' fairy tale, which would be his last novel, Till We Have Faces, has a brilliant discourse towards the climax. The main character, Orual, is confronting the gods, whom she feels have gravely wronged her. She at last comes to the realization why she feels abandoned:
I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?
Orual understands the issue lies not so much with God, but with herself. She has not allowed herself to have a specific face for the gods to engage with. She has hidden herself. She has not owned her true identity, with all of its blessings and pains. She has forced herself to be almost anonymous, and so it is no fault of the gods that they cannot help her.
This is a crucial reality to grasp when it comes to pain and suffering in our lives. If we want to make some sense out of suffering, and particularly to have God speak to us and comfort us, we need to give ourselves a face. If we do not acknowledge our specific pain, and resulting anger with God, we are faceless. But if we do, then we are a real person and God can love us. It is the same reason why a husband and wife must articulate to one another why they are hurt.
Meister Eckhart wrote, "To get at the core of God at his greatest, one must first get into the core of himself at his least." We, in a way, are the key to opening the door to God.
Letters from a Pastor to His People- February 17, 2019
The Beatitudes. We're all familiar with these. They come from Christ's Sermon on the Mount (or, in Luke's Gospel, the 'Sermon on the Plain', for he delivers it "on a stretch of level ground").
I find myself throughout periods and seasons of my life appreciating a beatitude in particular more than others. Not that I don't appreciate the others; more than one beatitude just happens to resonate with me because of my life and spiritual circumstances. Maybe that is the case with you? Maybe something for you to at least pray about, if not?
“Blessed are you who are poor" is the beatitude that resonates with me right now. I've preached on poverty before. This doesn't have to mean material poverty. Christ isn't necessarily calling us to give away all our money and drain our retirement funds. He is calling us to spiritual poverty, or a dependence on him.
A poor person depends on others. He has to beg. We are called not to self-reliance, but a complete surrender of ourselves to God. It is blessed to beg Jesus!
The Constitutional Convention got off to a slow start in May 1787. Having met already for a week, on Sunday, May 20th, the group decided not to work, but instead to attend a religious service. Interestingly, they decided on a Catholic Mass. There were no Catholics present in the group (the Catholic delegate, Daniel Carroll, from Maryland, had not yet arrived in Philadelphia). Besides, Philadelphia held the country's largest Episcopalian church and, this same week, the city was hosting a national convention for the Presbyterian church.
Catholics, up to this point in the American colonies and the young American nation, had been overtly persecuted. Catholics were forbidden from voting or holding public office. John Jay, who would go on to become the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, procured a law in New York maintaining the ban on Catholic participation in politics. In Massachusetts, it was a capital offense for a priest to preach or celebrate Mass publicly.
When asked why they attended Mass, George Mason, a Protestant, wrote: "it was more out of Compliment than Religion, and more out of Curiosity than Compliment." Ah, the curiosity of Catholicism! Something that still draws people today.
Mason went on to describe what the experience was like: "While I was pleased with the Air of Solemnity so generally diffused through the Church, I was somewhat disgusted with the frequent tinkling of a little bell, which put me in mind of the drawing up of the curtain for a puppet-shew." I guess the altar bells are not for everyone!
Nonetheless, the experience was powerful that enough George Washington led a group of Protestants the following Sunday once again to Catholic Mass at St. Mary's Parish in downtown Philadelphia. His message was clear: bigotry against Catholicism would no longer stand. Thank you, President Washington.
The Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883 and designed by John Roebling, is a cable-suspension bridge. There are two towers connected by horizontal cables. The cable lines run to the land, ending at an anchorage. Emanating down from the horizontal cables are vertical cables that hold up the deck bridge. Weight transfers from the cables to the towers, which is then transferred down to the ground. In the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, two large pine boxes, called caissons, were floated down the East River. When the limestone towers began to be constructed on top of the caissons, they sank until they reached the bottom of the river. Workers were able to enter into these boxes to dig into the bedrock to allow the caissons to sink even further and form a solid foundation. They were then filled with brick and concrete. Everything rests, essentially, on these two pillars.
An interesting aside: vaulted chambers were built into the ramped anchorages at the ends of the bridge. Situated within limestone and maintaining a perfect temperature of 60 degrees, these vaults became perfect wine cellars. In fact, the city rented these cellars out to liquor vendors. On the Manhattan-side entry into one of the vaults was a shrine to the Blessed Mother with a statue of Mary. It was called the Blue Grotto.
Saint Catherine of Siena was no stranger to bridges. She invoked the bridge as an image of Christ. Our Lord is the span between heaven and earth, and the soul must traverse Christ to reach God. There are three stairways on this Christ-bridge. One stairway is our detachment from sin, the second is the practice of the virtues, and the third is the loving union with God. May we marvel at Christ, just as we do the Brooklyn Bridge.
This is a beautiful Gospel scene. There is a lot to unpack, a lot upon which to reflect. One thing immediately comes to my mind is inconvenience. Jesus does not mind inconveniencing people.
First, the crowd. The crowd is "pressing in on Jesus." They obviously want to be close to Jesus—to hear him more clearly and perhaps even touch him. Jesus leaves the throng and continues his lessons from a boat in the lake. 'Where are you going, Lord? Don't leave us!'
Second, the fishermen. They had just finished their long day of labor. They had secured their boats, were washing their nets, and ready to go home for the day. They must have thought, when Jesus chose their two boats, "Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" The day's not over yet, fisherman. They drag back the clean nets, unhinge the boat, and set off into the lake, as if it was morning already for the next day of work.
Third, the fishermen, part 2. Not only are the workers back out on the lake when they thought they were finished for the day, they are now instructed to throw the nets back in to resume their fishing. Not only was this laborious, it was emotionally draining. They were already demoralized, having caught nothing for the day. Being told to try fishing again must have been hard to swallow. It's like a father insisting to his boy to continue hitting the golf ball when he just can't get it right. 'Can't we just try again another day?' No!
At the start of the 20th Century, less than one percent of the population practiced any sporting activity. Sport was used only as a form of military training or as a pastime for the upper class. To increase participation in sports for the health of society, and help promote the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Olympics, called upon the Vatican for an endorsement. Pope Pius X readily agreed. "All right," responded the Pope to an audience, "if it is impossible to understand that this can be done, then I myself will do exercise in front of everyone so that they may see that, if the Pope can do it, anyone can do it."
Over a century later the vast majority of the population exercises. Pope Francis, the present Roman Pontiff, had this to say in audience:
In rugby one runs towards a goal. This word, which is so beautiful and so important, makes us think about life, because all our lives lead towards a goal. This search is tiring, and requires commitment and struggle, but the important thing is not to run alone. To arrive at the goal we need to run together, the ball is passed from hand to hand, and we advance together, until we reach the goal. And then we celebrate!
Sports are not only good for our health—Saint Paul spoke of "running the race" (1 Cor 9:24) and the need to present our bodies "as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Rom 12:1)—there are also moral and spiritual lessons sports instill, as Francis suggests. So, when enjoying the Super Bowl, perhaps we can be grateful to the Church to whom we owe, in part, its popularity.
Jeremiah's opening, in our first reading, is perhaps one of the most heart-warming lines in all of Scripture: "The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you" (Jer 1:4-5).
I don't know about you, but I find this very consoling. Pray on that line. God knows exactly who we are. He formed us in our mother's womb. He designed us and is with us always.
It's easy when we're discouraged about our failures to think we're alone. If we do see God (and the temptation is just not to think about him at all--he's ignored us when we're in darkness, we think), we feel God sees us as a failure, a disappointment.
But it's not true. God is with us, knows what's going on, and has a plan for us.