Thursday, January 28, 2010

Happy feast of St Thomas Aquinas!

St Thomas Aquinas was one of the Church's greatest theologians and thinkers, but the main thing about him is that he was a saint. Holiness was the most important aspect of his life.
He was a very humble man. In his life in the Dominican community, he never sought special privileges because of his high status teaching position at the University of Paris and other places. He lived the life of an ordinary monk, and put all his talents into the service of God.

Here is a quote from him about becoming holy:

"Not to go along the way of God is to go back."

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On retreat

I'll be on retreat for the next week and will remember in prayer the intentions of all those people who visit this blog. God bless you all!


We're all mourning for the terrible earthquake disaster in Haiti. What devastation for such a poor country. Besides prayers, any material aid sent to reputable organizations to help the people is greatly needed.

Just a word about the statement of Pat Robertson. He said this yesterday:
"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French . . . and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' . . . Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another, desperately poor."

First of all, I doubt this story of a pact with the devil is even true. But even if it were, Robertson's statement is NOT good Christian theology. He's basically saying that the people in Haiti deserved what happened because of some sins they committed.
God doesn't work like that. If he did, why is the United States still standing after having committed around 50 million abortions since Roe v. Wade? God is merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness, as the Psalm says. God wants to bring us to conversion. When disasters such as this earthquake happens, they are the result of natural forces. The earth's crust is geologically active and earthquakes are a normal result. They don't happen because God is throwing thunderbolts at us in anger.

In the Gospel, some people told Jesus about a tower that fell and killed 18 people. He asked them, "Do you think those people were more guilty than anyone else?" He said no, they weren't. Then he told his listeners to repent. We never know when we might die. Calamaties can remind us of how fragile our life is, and how we need to always live in God's grace.

Going deeper, though, Robertson's remarks show he doesn't understand the mystery of the Cross. Jesus promised "in the world you will have trouble. But take courage, I have overcome the world." He died on the cross, showing us that if we follow him we'll have to suffer too. The paschal mystery is a fundamental mystery. If following Jesus meant we'd never have to suffer, all the world would be Christian--but for the wrong reason. It would be what Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace." It's through the cross that we come to life. The mystery of suffering is a deep mystery and probably the hardest to understand, and we can never really grasp it here. All we can do sometimes is look at the crucifix.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back to ordinary time

Yesterday's feast of the Baptism of the Lord ended the Christmas season. So we're back to "ordinary time." For now it will only last about a month until Lent begins.
Today's Gospel is from the first chapter of Mark. In it, Jesus calls the first disciples.

Peter and Andrew were in their fishing boat with their father Zebedee, mending the nets. Jesus came walking by the sea. He called them, and they immmediately dropped what they were doing and followed after him. The Gospel says that they left their father in the boat with the hired men. What did Zebedee think about it? We don't know, but he may not have been too pleased!

Jesus must have radiated something very special, a unique presence that drew people to him. We can't see him like the first disciples did, in person with our own eyes. But we can know him by faith. The journey of "ordinary time" involves getting to know Jesus just like they did. He reveals himself to us too.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

God's love for us

The first reading at Mass this week is taken from the first letter of John, which could be called a love letter in the truest sense. Today's reading says, "we have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us." The Greek word that John uses here for love (pepisteukamen) is in the perfect tense. That tense is often used to express great theological truths. It refers to something that happened in the past but continues to have present effects.
In this context, it indicates that our believing in the love God has for us didn't just happen in the past, but keeps on affecting our lives every day.
That has lots of meaning, but one thing came to me about it this morning. God doesn't stop loving us when we sin. That doesn't mean we shouldn't care about sin, but that when we do sin we can have confidence in God's mercy.
It's a very human thing to beat ourselves up when we do something wrong or even just make a mistake. But if we sincerely want to follow the Lord, we can repent of the sin and maintain confidence in God's love. In other words, we don't have to identify with the sin as if it defines us and makes us "bad" somehow. The key is repentance. We can separate ourselves from what we did and take it as feedback in order to do better in the future.

Monday, January 04, 2010

An epiphany for Alexander

At Mass on the feast of the Epiphany yesterday, the priest told a beautiful story that happened to him recently. When he was visiting people in the hospital last year, he became acquainted with a young man named Alexander. He was only 31 and had a serious case of cancer. Alexander hadn't been raised in any faith, and he was a "seeker." His mother, of Jewish descent, had come from Russia. She was affected by the official atheism of the Communist regime and did not believe in God.
Through several visits, Father was able to speak to Alexander about God and religious faith and found him to be very open to grace.
His condition worsened. In fact, he was almost at the point of death. His mother called the priest and asked him to come see him. Despite her atheism, the mother was very supportive of Alexander's desire to find God. I suppose she wanted him to be happy and thought that if his wishes were granted, he would find happiness.

Father entered the hospital room that day to find Alexander in an extreme condition. But he was still aware. Father asked him, "Do you want to be baptized?" A smile spread across Alexander's face and he said with all the strength he could muster, "Yes!" Father then asked him a few questions to enable him to profess his faith. Then he baptized him, and Alexander died not long after that.

His search was ended. He was safe in the arms of our loving God.