Rise and Go

Pope Francis recently had some harsh words for parishes that don’t proactively reach out to evangelize those in their community and others whom they encounter.  Here are some excerpts from the Vatican synopsis of the Pope’s homily:

Pope Francis called for a Church that “does not remain seated”

[…]

“Rise and go”. The Spirit “does not say: ‘remain seated, at ease, in your home’. No! In order to be ever faithful to the Lord, the Church must be on her feet and on the move: ‘Rise and go’”. In fact, Pope Francis continued, “a church that does not rise, that does not journey, becomes sick and ends up closed with much psychological and spiritual trauma, closed within a world of gossip, of things … closed, without horizons”. The invitation, however, is clear: Rise and go; get on your feet and get moving.

Our duty to proclaim Jesus

Today’s Gospel Reading at Mass (Mt 10:26-33) is a segment of the instructions which Jesus gave to His Apostles (ref Mt 10:1,5) just prior to sending them out on their first missionary expedition.  It concludes with Mt 10:32-33

So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

What does Jesus mean by “acknowledge me”?  CCC n. 1816 teaches us (quoting these exact verses) (emboldened text is my emphasis added):

The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

In Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) n. 120, Pope Francis describes our duty to acknowledge Jesus before others (emboldened text is my emphasis added):

In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”….So what are we waiting for?

Any parish that is not engaging in a substantial amount of evangelization, and whose parishoners themselves are not “actively engaged in evangelization” is failing to heed the demand of Jesus and His Church echoed by Pope Francis.  On the vigil of Pentecost (June 3rd), Abp Vigneron inaugurated his extraordinarily innovative plan — entitled Unleash the Gospel — to have each parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit become a parish of missionary disciples.

For the latest teaching of the US Bishops on being missionary disciples, you can read this booklet that they published last month.

Imitate the tender, personal self-giving of God

From the homily of Pope Francis at midnight Mass for Christmas 2014:

On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? “But I am searching for the Lord” – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to seek me, find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me?

More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today! The patience of God, the closeness of God, the tenderness of God.

The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: “Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict”.

Francis Christmas 2014

Why do we go to Mass?

During the Consecration at Mass, I always try to focus my gaze upon the priest at the altar, and especially on the newly-consecrated Body and Blood of Our Lord during the elevations.  Occasionally my line-of-sight will include someone who seems to be inattentive.  I’ve even seen people conversing during the Consecration.  The thought “I wonder if they understand why they are here at Mass?” will pass quickly through my mind.

Based on some conversations I’ve had, many Catholics nowadays think that the primary purpose of coming to Mass (beyond fulfilling the Sunday obligation, and avoiding mortal sin) is to gather with the parish community in order to celebrate our life together.

On his recent trip to the Holy Land, in his homily at the Mass in the Upper Room, Pope Francis touched a bit on why we go to Mass:

“In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering God our lives, our joys, and our sorrows…offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.”

Here’s how I would answer if someone asked me why I go to Mass:

  • To give thanks (Eucharist) to God by offering and worship, and express my love to Him
  • To offer Jesus to the Father
  • To offer myself and all aspects of my life, in union with Jesus and my brethren, to the Father
  • To hear God’s word in Sacred Scripture (and be changed by it, through the power of the Holy Spirit)
  • To have the Paschal sacrifice of Jesus re-presented to me
  • To worthily receive the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion (and be changed by Him, through the power of the Holy Spirit)
  • To unite myself with the unceasing heavenly liturgy, and remember with hope that Jesus will come again in glory at the end of history
  • To be sent forth (Ite, missa est) to proclaim by my life and words the love I have received, that the world might be imbued with Christian values

How would you answer the question??

Knowing Jesus personally

One of the primary elements of being a Catholic should be our personal love relationship with Jesus, lived out in a daily striving to know, love and serve our Lord so as to abide in full communion with Him.  Each of our days should include “our own constantly renewed experience of savouring Christ’s friendship and his message.” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, n. 266)

Unfortunately, many Catholics, enamored of and craving the comforts, satisfactions and experiences of life, are blocking out that which they should recognize as the truth and the meaning of life, prompting Pope Francis to plead:

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “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”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. (The Joy of the Gospel, n. 3)

HerbeckThis week, Catholic missionary disciple and evangelist, Peter Herbeck of Renewal Ministries, has dedicated his five weekday radio programs to helping us to understand exactly what it means to know Jesus personally, and how we can nurture a personal relationship with Jesus.  Each of Peter’s daily talks is only about 12-minutes long.  They will be available for several weeks in the Renewal Ministries audio archive.  For your convenience, here are links to each day’s segment:

May 19
May 20
May 21
May 22
May 23

How to reflect on Sacred Scripture

Francis - Palm 2014The Jesuit training of Pope Francis was very evident in his Palm Sunday homily.  The type of reflection on the Gospels proposed by our Holy Father is exactly that which St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, taught to his followers, and recorded in his Spiritual Exercises.  Both St Ignatius and Pope Francis realize how the Holy Spirit can work powerfully in this type of scriptural reflection to lead us to know, desire and follow Jesus in a more heartfelt way.

st-ignatius

…if the person who is making the Contemplation, takes the true groundwork of the narrative, and, discussing and considering for himself, finds something which makes the events a little clearer or brings them a little more home to him—whether this comes through his own reasoning, or because his intellect is enlightened by the Divine power—he will get more spiritual relish and fruit, than if he who is giving the Exercises had much explained and amplified the meaning of the events. For it is not knowing much, but realizing and relishing things interiorly, that contents and satisfies the soul.  (Second Annotation)

If you’re unfamiliar with the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, this talk presents a nice overview in the first 45-minutes.

More on Conversion

In the General Audience teaching which Pope Francis gave on Ash Wednesday, he pointed out that:

Lent is to be lived as a time of conversion, of personal and communal renewal through drawing close to God and confident adherence to the Gospel.

Looking ahead to the Easter Triduum, the memorial of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord, he notes:

Lent prepares us for this moment that is so important, for this “intense” time, a turning point which can foster a change in each one of us, conversion. We all have need to become better, to change for the better. Lent helps us and thus [allows us] to come out of our weary habits and lazy addiction to the evil that deceives us.

He advises that reflection on Christ’s redemptive work will help me to change my heart:

The awareness of the wonders that the Lord has done for our salvation disposes our mind and our heart to an attitude of gratitude to God, for all that He has given us, for all that he fulfills for His people and the whole of humanity. Our conversion begins here: it is our grateful answer to the stupendous mystery of the love of God. When we see this love that God has for us, we feel the need to come closer to him: this is conversion.

To enhance my reflection on what Jesus has done for me, I’ve been ruminating on these sections of the Catechism:  nn. 51-53, and 599-618.

This is how I see it:  If I do not live as a faithful intentional missionary disciple of Jesus – completely ‘sold out’ for Christ, willing to lay down every aspect of my life for Him – I am at great risk of experiencing eternal death – separation from God for all eternity.  My selfishness-based sin deserves that eternal death.  The sacrificial self-giving love of Jesus has saved me from eternal death, due to the mercy of Our Father.  My own extreme faith in, love for, and service to Jesus is the only appropriate response.

This needs to be the goal of my conversion.