2nd Sunday of Advent–Pope Francis on the Joy of the Gospel

Recently our Holy Father, Pope Francis, issued a document called Evangelii Gaudium, or the Joy of the Gospel.  It’s fairly long, almost 70 pages, and frankly, I’ve only read about 2/3 of it, but I’m getting there.  As usual, the media is trying to spin it as something that it isn’t.  In the past week our president has quoted from it and several conservative commentators, including Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly have attacked it; an interesting turn of events to be sure.  Our local paper, the Saint Louis Post Dispatch even joined in the fun.

 

But, of the 70 pages the Pope has written, the critics have focused on just a few paragraphs on the subject of economics.  As Catholics, you and I are called to follow the Pope’s guidance in matters of faith and morals.  Francis is a brilliant theologian, but he’s not an economist and I don’t think he’s trying to be one.  I don’t believe, as some would suggest, that he’s condemning capitalism in favor or socialism.  What he’s written reflects the current problems of the poor.  The idea that we should help the poor, to share what we’ve been given with those in need, isn’t a new idea.  It’s what Jesus told us 2,000 years ago.

 

The problem with our society today isn’t one of economic systems, it’s a problem of greed and corruption in governments and in business.  He writes, Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.”

I think most business leaders are basically good people.  Sadly, there are some who aren’t.  The real issue isn’t that making a profit is bad.  The issue is what do we do with that profit?  Do we buy bigger houses and better cars, or do we share it with those in need?  Is it really a problem with our capitalist system, or is it a problem of minds and hearts?

 

He also writes, “Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good.”  Again, we have the greatest political system in the world, but I’m afraid that too many of our politicians don’t see their jobs as a vocation, but as a way to line their own pockets.  As Francis says, “no government can act without regard for shared responsibility.”

 

What I believe the Holy Father is saying in this lengthy document is that we must help the poor.  Other than a few paragraphs, his focus is on the Gospel, not on politics or economics.

 

In the second reading today, Paul writes to the Romans, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God”  Our call is to work together for the Glory of God.

 

In Matthew’s Gospel John the Baptist tells the Pharisees and Sadducees to “produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.”  And he warns them that “every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

So, what does all this mean for you and me.  We’re not business tycoons.  We’re not politicians.  We’re just average people doing our best to get through this life and to make our ways to heaven.  But are we really just average?  John says that Jesus will baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  That’s pretty strong.  For most of us it’s been a long time since our baptism.  But the great thing about baptism is that it’s forever.  We have just as much Holy Spirit and fire in us today as we did on our baptism day.  It never leave us, but maybe our fire isn’t burning as brightly as it once was.  It may just be embers but it’s still there, waiting for us to fan the flames.

 

The title of Francis’ document is “The Joy of the Gospel.”  In the third paragraph he gives us a very profound prayer, “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you.  I need you.  Save me once again.  Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.”  Think about that.  Why are we here at mass. We’re here to renew our covenant with Him.  We do need Him, much more than He need us.  If the fire of our baptism needs to be rekindled, the mass is the place to find the fuel.  Maybe we take the Eucharist for granted.  Maybe it’s just something we do because we’ve always done it.  Let’s make this season of Advent a time of renewal.  In a few minutes we’ll receive Christ into our own bodies through the sacrament of the Eucharist.  What a great gift!  That’s what keeps our fire going.  If it’s not burning as brightly as it once was, it’s not the Father’s fault.  It’s not Jesus’ fault.  It’s not the Holy Spirit’s fault.  God gives us the fuel, it’s up to us to use it properly.

 

The joy of the Gospel!  There is no greater gift!  Praise God!

Let’s say the Holy Father’s prayer together:

 

“Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you.  I need you.  Save me once again.  Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.”  Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (3)

 

 

 

Advertisements

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Merry ChristmasAlright, it’s time for my annual rant.  When are Christians, who happen to be a majority in the United States, going to stand up and defend the faith.  Here we are, getting ready for the birth of Christ, you know, the guy who let Himself be crucified to save us from our sins.  There has never been a greater sacrifice, yet we’re allowing non-Christians deny us our celebration of this greatest day.

First, many  of the largest retailers refuse to recognize Christmas, even though they have no problem selling us tons of stuff.  Signs and ads proclaim “Happy Holidays”, “Seasons Greetings” and other politically correct nonsense while refusing to wish us a Merry Christmas.  Next we have the relatively new phenomenon of “Black Friday” creeping into Thanksgiving.

Of course, the government has joined in the fun by refusing to allow Christmas displays on public property, though that’s been kind of hit-and-miss.  Some places allow it.  Some don’t.  But the attack are getting more serious and at the same time more ridiculous.  Here are just two examples posted by Tod Starnes of Fox News.

Georgia School Confiscates Christmas Cards.  For years the teachers at Brooklet Elementary School have posted Christmas cards outside their classrooms…..until this year.  School administrators have removed the cards calling them “offensive”.  After all some of them contained the word “Christmas” and some featured Nativity scenes

Next, homeowners in Orange County, CA have been ordered to remove their outdoor Christmas lights.  One community is known for their light displays and draw visitors from great distances, similar to “Candy Cane Lane“, here in Saint Louis.  The county claims the lights are “an obstruction” and violate local ordinances.  Give me a break!

Abraham Lincoln once said that America wouldn’t be destroyed by outside forces, but from within.  Complacency is our greatest enemy.  Every little attack on our faith that goes unchallenged adds to the total religious persecution that we’re experiencing right here in the once God-fearing United States.  We need to wake up!  Don’t just accept anti-Christian persecution.  Don’t say, “Oh, it’s just one school.”  or “Hey, it’s just one neighborhood.”  Speak up.

When a store clerk says “happy holidays” smile and say, “Merry Christmas.”  Maybe you don’t like to make a fuss.  Maybe you don’t want to embarrass someone else (or yourself).

Tell it to the Guy hanging on the cross.

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Rosary...

Rosary… (Photo credit: miqul)

Here we are at the beginning of the 1st week of Advent.  Once again, the secular media and the retail industry are trying to get us into the “holiday” spirit, which means we should spend, spend, spend.  Don’t get me wrong.  I spent most of my adult life in the retail and/or wholesale business.  I understand the need for a company to make a profit.  Millions of jobs depend on companies staying in business and it’s no secret that the month of December is make it or break it time for most companies in the consumer products businesses.

In fact, the term “black Friday” (which I never did like) stems from the fact that most retailers (if they’re lucky) run at a break-even pace for the first eleven months of the year and only begin to make a profit (get “in the black”) on the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s often true.  I have no problem with that.  In fact, my annual bonus in my previous life depended on lots of people buying lots of stuff in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But, here’s the thing.  You and I, as faithful Catholics, are called to spend the four weeks of Advent preparing ourselves for the coming of the Savior of the world.  It’s a time to pray and reflect on the meaning of Christ’s coming.  Sometimes it’s hard to focus on this critically important day in the history of the world when we’re overwhelmed with ads, and sales, and special events.  It’s just the 2nd Day of December and I’m already tired of all the hype.  If I see one more luxury car with a big red bow on top I may throw my shoe through the TV screen.  Enough!

Father John Mayer was the celebrant at our 4:30 mass this past Saturday.  In his homily he made an excellent suggestion.  He was speaking of the evening news, but I would suggest you try this whenever you’re sitting in front of the television.  When the commercials come on hit the mute button.  There are 44 minutes of actual programming in the typical prime time hour.  That means there are 16 minutes of commercials per hour.  If you were to spend those sixteen minutes talking to or reflecting on God every hour that you’re in front of the TV, how much better a person might you be by December 25?

How long does it take to pray the Rosary?  About 15 minutes?  How often are you praying the Rosary now?  See what I mean?  I know this blog isn’t going to change the world, but imagine  how the world would change if every Catholic in America prayed the Rosary once each day instead of watching commercials, every single day.  I’m just sayin’…….

Why not give it a try.  After all, you’ve probably heard all the commercials you really need to hear.

1st Sunday of Advent

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Church year.  As we begin the preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth, it’s very easy to get caught up in the material things and lose sight of the “reason for the season”.  Christmas is truly a reason to celebrate and there’s nothing wrong with all the trees and lights and gift-giving.  But, it’s important that we keep in mind that December 25 is a religious feast, one of the two major celebrations each year.

 

The birth of Christ is such an important occasion that we measure time, even in non-Christian parts of the world, beginning with Jesus’ birth.  The secular world urges us to celebrate, to shop, and to spend during the weeks between now and Christmas, with the Christmas season culminating on December 25.  The Church teaches us to spend the Advent season preparing for Christ’s coming with His birth being the beginning of the celebration.  Obviously these two philosophies are in conflict, but as faithful Catholics there’s no reason why we can’t balance the two keeping in mind that our spiritual life is what’s most important with the office Christmas party coming in a distant second.