Each week I try to fill a space in my parish’s bulletin with thoughts of some worth. Now and then I offer clippings from the Holy Father, or other significant writers. Here is a collection of these short articles.
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Human beings are social beings. We come into existence through others, in the midst of others, and throughout our lives, we remain dependent on others, in countless ways. We would not be the persons we are without other people. And sometimes that grates on us.
Perhaps the clearest example of the restraints of living in community is experienced by every person who drives on our highways. Yes, that is “our” highways, not “my” highways. Roads are built as a community project, and are intended to benefit all. Yet how often do we act as if the highway is “my” highway, and we wail and gnash our teeth at the person who dares to interfere with my unimpeded use of that road? Driving is a social activity, and we try to act as if we are the only person entitled to travel this highway. (Doesn’t he/she know I have to get to work?!?)
Or take something as timely these days as staying home with the flu. We are particularly pleased with paid sick leave, if we have it, which allows us to take time off from work when we are ill. We may even claim it as our personal right. But we are much slower to recognize that staying home with an infectious disease is actually something we owe to others. Conversely, I have no right to knowingly expose others to illness or disease, especially since some of them may be more vulnerable to complications, or even death, from something that I experience as mere inconvenience or at most, passing misery.
One of the bedrock principles of Catholic Social Teaching is to always speak of rights alongside responsibilities. Certainly there are a number of fundamental human rights which are inalienable, simply because we are created in the image and likeness of God, beginning with the right to life itself. However, every one of those rights is exercised in the midst of a particular community. It is wrong to think I can demand that my own rights be respected while refusing to respect the fundamental rights of others. Exercising our rights in community demands that we fulfill our responsibilities to others as well. And sometimes, that grates on us.
This illustrates the fundamental and grave error at the very heart of the so-called “pro-choice’ movement. Certainly there is a right to privacy which should be respected by all. But I cannot exercise that right without also living up to my responsibility to respect the rights of others. Every “choice” to have an abortion fails to recognize the right to life of the unborn child. That child, dependent and vulnerable, is within the woman’s body, not part of her body. (Check the DNA.) Abortion violates the most intimate community of all.
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Racism = Evil
In conjunction with our Bishop’s letter on the evils of racism read this weekend (you can read the entire letter on our web site—stpat.org), I offer excerpts and comments from a U.S. Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter issued in 1979, Brothers and Sisters to Us. Significant here are the things that have, and have not changed.
“Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church. Despite apparent advances and even significant changes in the last two decades, the reality of racism remains. In large part it is only external appearances which have changed. In 1958 we spoke out against the blatant forms of racism that divided people through discriminatory laws and enforced segregation. We pointed out the moral evil that denied human persons their dignity as children of God and their God-given rights. (1) A decade later in a second pastoral letter we again underscored the continuing scandal of racism called for decisive action to eradicate it from our society.(2) We recognize and applaud the readiness of many Americans to make new strides forward in reducing and eliminating prejudice against minorities. We are convinced that the majority of Americans realize that racial discrimination is both unjust and unworthy of this nation.“
Comment: Racism is still an evil and it still endures in our society. The moral evil that is racism continues to deny human persons the inherent dignity bestowed upon them by God. This is still unworthy of our society.
“We do not deny that changes have been made, that laws have been passed, that policies have been implemented. We do not deny that the ugly external features of racism which marred our society have in part been eliminated. But neither can it be denied that too often what has happened has only been a covering over, not a fundamental change. Today the sense of urgency has yielded to an apparent acceptance of the status quo. The climate of crisis engendered by demonstrations, protest, and confrontation has given way to a mood of indifference; and other issues occupy our attention.”
Comment: Some things have changed. But it seems that in some areas of our society, the ‘covering over’ of racism has continued. More to the point today, a vocal minority choose to wear their racism as some sort of perverted badge of honor, as racist groups (neo-Nazis, KKK, the ‘alt-right’) have become more visible in our society. For some people, “Make America Great Again” really means “Make America White Again”. This attitude, especially where it impacts refugees and immigrants and other people of color, must be named as the evil that it is. The ‘status quo’ that allows blatant racism cannot be accepted or tolerated. (see Matt 25)
Feast of the Epiphany
To Keep and To Ponder
As we celebrate Epiphany this Sunday, and on Monday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (which closes out the Christmas season), it feels like the Christmas season has flown by. So we wrap up with these words from Pope Francis’ homily on January 1st, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God:
“Let us now be guided by today’s Gospel. Only one thing is said about the Mother of God: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She kept them. She simply kept; Mary does not speak. The Gospel does not report a single word of hers in the entire account of Christmas. Here too, the Mother is one with her Son: Jesus is an “infant”, a child “unable to speak”. The Word of God, who “long ago spoke in many and various ways” (Heb 1:1), now, in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), is silent. The God before whom all fall silent is himself a speechless child. His Majesty is without words; his mystery of love is revealed in lowliness. This silence and lowliness is the language of his kingship. His Mother joins her Son and keeps these things in silence.
“That silence tells us that, if we would “keep” ourselves, we need silence. We need to remain silent as we gaze upon the crib. Pondering the crib, we discover anew that we are loved; we savour the real meaning of life. As we look on in silence, we let Jesus speak to our heart. His lowliness lays low our pride; his poverty challenges our outward display; his tender love touches our hardened hearts. To set aside a moment of silence each day to be with God is to “keep” our soul; it is to “keep” our freedom from being corroded by the banality of consumerism, the blare of commercials, the stream of empty words and the overpowering waves of empty chatter and loud shouting.
“The Gospel goes on to say that Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. What were these things? They were joys and sorrows. On the one hand, the birth of Jesus, the love of Joseph, the visit of the shepherds, that radiant night. But on the other, an uncertain future, homelessness “because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7), the desolation of rejection, the disappointment of having to give birth to Jesus in a stable. Hopes and worries, light and darkness: all these things dwelt in the heart of Mary. What did she do? She pondered them, that is to say she dwelt on them, with God, in her heart. She held nothing back; she locked nothing within out of self-pity or resentment. Instead, she gave everything over to God. That is how she “kept” those things. We “keep” things when we hand them over: by not letting our lives become prey to fear, distress or superstition, by not closing our hearts or trying to forget, but by turning everything into a dialogue with God. God, who keeps us in his heart, then comes to dwell in our lives.”