Monday, March 31, 2008

The Annunciation

This year the Annunciation was moved from its usual date (March 25) because that fell during the octave of Easter, and Easter supersedes all other feasts.
It was fortuitous, though, because the Annunciation was celebrated the day after Divine Mercy Sunday. The special grace of the Divine Mercy feast is not only the forgiveness of sins, but the grace of conversion in particular--to turn from sin and live a new life. It's an Easter grace, because through his death and resurrection Jesus merited for us the grace to die to sin and rise to new life with him.

Mary has a special place in all this. There's a great book called Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant by Fr. Ignace de la Potterie. He explains that when Mary said "yes" to God at the Annunciation, she was saying it in a wholehearted, enthusiastic way. That's not just a pious thought, but backed up by some good Scriptural scholarship. Potterie tells us that the Greek form of the verb used when Mary says, "Let it be done to me.." is an optative. It's a form used only rarely in the New Testament, and it is used to express a joyous desire to do something. The "yes" of Mary was a joyous "yes," one that she said with an eagerness to do what God was asking of her.

Mary, obtain for us, too, your eagerness and joy in doing God's will!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Sacred Triduum

This evening the Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord's Supper.
We ponder in awe and love the incredible gift of the Eucharist that Jesus gave us at the Last Supper--his own Body and Blood.
Tonight we receive it with some sorrow and unease, knowing what Good Friday will bring. That is why the Church also has another feast of the Eucharist, Corpus Christi, celebrated after the Easter season, when a more joyful atmostphere is possible.

Today is a good day to re-read all or part of Pope John Paul's encyclical on the Eucharist. He wrote: "The saving efficacy of the [Eucharistic] sacrifice is fully realized when the Lord's body and blood are received in Communion. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion; we receive the very One who offered himself for us, we receive his body which he gave up for us on the cross, and his blood which he 'poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'"

Friday, March 14, 2008

Persecution of Christians in Iraq

The murder of the Catholic bishop in Iraq is a grim reminder of the persecution being carried on against Christians by militant Muslim groups. This article has details. Among other facts, it notes:

"Sunni militants from a mosque in Baghdad’s religiously integrated Dora neighborhood issued a fatwa specifically commanding the 2,000 Christian families residing there to convert or be killed."

The Christian community in Iraq is being forced to flee into exile. May the sacrifice of Bishop Paulos Rahho, who is surely a martyr, be the seed that grows into a flowering of Christianity.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pakistan bombing

We heard some news from our sisters in Pakistan. Thanks be to God, none of the sisters were injured, nor were any of the people who were in the bookcenter at the time. But there was extensive damage to the building. One wall was blown out and part of the roof came down.

The sisters are going to repair the damage and keep on doing their mission.

Another martyr

The Catholic archbishop in Iraq who was kidnapped has been found dead.
He is another martyr, bearing witness to Christ in the face of violence against Christians and Catholics.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bombing in Pakistan near our bookcenter

We just got word that a suicide bombing in Pakistan hit several Catholic buildings, including our bookcenter (the St. Paul Communication Center). As of now we do not have word on the extent of the damage. Thank you for your prayers for everyone involved, especially our sisters. Here is the release from NC News Service:

By Catholic News Service

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNS) -- A massive suicide bomb targeting a government building killed 23 people and badly damaged Catholic buildings in Lahore.

The bomb exploded at 9:30 a.m. March 11 outside the Federal Investigation Agency office, causing serious damage to nearby Sacred Heart Cathedral, Sacred Heart Cathedral High School, St. Anthony's College, St. Paul Communication Center, the Caritas Pakistan building, a Catholic press building, a convent and catechists' house, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

How's your Lent going?

This morning I happened to pick up a personal notebook that I had kept about 14 years ago. In it I had written some resolutions and ways I could grow spiritually, along with behaviors I wanted to avoid.

Not much has changed in 14 years! I had to laugh at myself because I realized that despite all my plans and good intentions, I still have to work on a lot of the same areas that I was working on back then. I'm pretty much the same person.

I suppose I could get discouraged at that. But in reality it's probably the same for most people. We do grow, change and mature, and I believe I have in many ways. But we also have our same personality, genetic makeup and personal background that greatly influence us throughout our lives. I'll probably have the same faults until the day I die. If I live that long, I'll probably be writing the same resolutions for Lent when I'm in my 80's or beyond.

And that's OK. God doesn't expect us to be perfect in the sense of not having any faults. He just expects us to keep on trying, to never give up the fight and to keep on plodding along in our spiritual life. The line in the Gospel that says we "must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect" is not meant in the sense of flawlessness. The Greek word used there for "perfect" (teleios) really means tending to grow to maturity. God wants us not to BE perfect as if it's some static state, to be arrived at once and for all, but to strive for growth. That can happen for our whole lives. The best way to strive for it is to be loving.