Verbum Domini

Verbum Domini is a Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Benedict XVI on  how the Church should approach the Bible, it is like a synthesis of the thoughts from Dei Verbum. It looks at what Dei Verbum said from Vatican II and how we have implemented it in our lives. If you want a real quick overview take a look at the “Table of Contents” before the exhortation begins.

The exhortation itself is broken down into three main parts with an introduction and conclusion. The introduction says that this come from the 12th Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, which focused on The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. Benedict uses the Prologue of the Gospel of John (1:1-18) as a guide. The Word was with God in the beginning and took on flesh to become one of us so that we all might live. This is as Benedict XVI says “a synthesis of the entire Christian faith.”

The first part is titled Verbum Dei, The Word of God. It begins with an analysis of the prologue of John’s Gospel ” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” This idea goes into the Incarnation (The Word become flesh) where Jesus is the condensation of God. Since the Incarnation took place within time and space it happened at one point and the writings are “The word of God is thus expressed in human words thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit”  but reflect both the human and divine. Once again Mary is offered as a model for us. This next part we shift our focus on the book itself. Here Benedict gets into hermeneutics and how to exegete scripture.  Benedict directs our attention to opening up the Bible and reading it however he notes that we enter it with a faith-filled approach as this way has been, “practiced from antiquity within Tradition, seeks saving truth for the life of the individual Christian and for the Church. It recognizes the historical value of the biblical tradition. Precisely because of the tradition’s value as an historical witness, this reading seeks to discover the living meaning of the sacred Scriptures for the lives of believers today”, while not ignoring the human mediation of the inspired text and its literary genres. Scriptures can be used as an Ecumenical building block as well, like with bible study, we can get into the nuts and bolts of religion through discussion of common scripture.  We can look at the lives of the Saints as they have lived truly lived the Word of God.

The second part is entitled Verbum in Ecclesia, The Word in Church. It begins by calling us back to the beginning of John’s Gospel as Augustine puts it “you were created through the word, but now through the word you must be recreated.” How are we recreated? Through the scripture notably by the sacraments and the liturgy. Significance is put on the Liturgy as for many people this is the only place they will hear from the Bible. Benedict notes that Lectors need to be trained since they need to understand what they are reading before they can read it to the congregation. Then the focus turns to the Homily. The quality of homilies need to improve as the faithful need to be able to understand what the priest is talking about and understand that Christ is at the center of it.  We move on to the Sacraments of Healing saying that Scripture is a major aspect of both Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. Next we are given The Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church as a way for us to get closer to the Scripture. Once again Benedict urges us all to read the Bible using Lectio Divina or even just praying the Rosary.

The third part is Verbum Mundo, The Word to the World. This section begins talk of Evangelization and mission. We are called to be not only hearers of the Word but heralds of the world, at the end of Mass we are told to go out into the world and bring what we have heard out into the world. This is has been our mission since baptism, bearing witness to the Gospel in our daily lives. We need to not only evangelize the world but re evangelize it. Next the focus is turned to special interest and how the youth, the migrants, the suffering, the poor and creation are all integral parts that need to be protected and nurtured by all of us but they are also a part of the evangelization. Even within the secular world the Bible is still a source of inspiration as so much of the world can follow the code of rules. We can also learn about the Bible through secular institutions as long as they are properly educated, the Bible can be used as inspiration for artists of all types and we should use all methods available to spread the word of God even this Internet thingy.

At the end Pope Benedict urges us all to read the Bible. One of the great lines in the Conclusion “Let us be silent in order to hear the Lord’s word and to meditate upon it, so that by the working of the Holy Spirit it may remain in our hearts and speak to us all the days of our lives.” As for many of us listening is something that is difficult for us to do.  Let us find quiet moments in our lives where we can listen and explore the word of the Lord.

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week the readings come from the first book of Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Psalm 16; Paul’s letter to the Galatians  5:1, 13-18; and Luke’s Gospel 9:51-62.

We hear about callings today, Elisha is called by Elijah in the first reading and Jesus talks about the call to follow the Lord. It’s a bit confusing since it seems that these reading are saying the exact opposite things Elisha asks to go back and say goodbye to his family while Jesus says let the dead bury the dead and those who go home aren’t fit to follow me. The thing is Jesus is saying that to follow him it will take everything that we have, but this is similar to what happens with Elisha he goes back and take the oxen and cooks it and gives it to the people, giving all his things to other to follow Elijah. Are we willing to give up everything that is important to us to follow Jesus, many of us struggle putting our phones down or not having constant contact through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or the countless other social networks that we belong to. To put it in simple terms we have to be changed people to be able to follow the Lord. It is not an easy thing to do, perhaps this is why we say we are “practicing” as we try to get it right, but that can only happen in the Lord.

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week the readings are found in the first book of Kings 17: 17-24, Psalm 30, Paul’s letter to the Galatians 1:11-19, and Luke’s Gospel 7:11-17.

This week we hear of three resurrections, two physical, Elijah and Jesus raising sons for their mothers and one spiritual, Paul’s conversion. I am sure that most of us can’t relate to dying and being reborn in a physical sense but we can understand what Paul went through. As this is something that happens to us all as we celebrate the sacraments, the Lord comes into our lives. For many we treat this as a thing to keep to ourselves and cherish it but we are called to go out into the world and share the presence of the Lord. Since by our baptism we are called to be prophets to the nations. This also is a call for us to learn more about the world around us and how to relate it to the message of the Lord.

Vatican II: The Decrees

Of the Vatican II documents the decrees are by and large forgotten about behind the Constitutions and Declarations but these Nine Decrees are pretty important. Some actually are pretty interesting as well but others are just dull.

Inter mirifica (Decree on the Media of Social Communication): This document is on the how the Church should interact with media. It states that the Church should use media to evangelize but the media itself should be moral as this is the only way the people can trust in the radio/tv/newspaper/cinema. Bottom line of this decree it is to help with the advancement of humankind’s being and their religious journey. This document has been criticized for not doing much. John Paul II would eventually set up the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in 1988, he also in 2005 sort of issued a better document on Communications with The Rapid Development which points out that the Church should be paying “attention to the culture created by communications media” notably the internet. Pope Benedict XVI also touch on this In 2010 when he issued a statement encouraging to all priest to become digital citizens.

Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite): This one says that the Eastern Catholics should be unique rites and retain their own traditions while remaining in communion with the Holy See.

Unitatis redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism): It calls for the reunion of all Christendom, offering something like what the Eastern Catholics have where the unique rites and traditions of the various rites would continue for the other Eastern and Oriental Churches. Of the Reformation Churches there are some other hurdles that would be faced (doctrinal). However, there is some talk of a first step in ecumenicism as we are all baptized.

Christus Dominus (Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church): Here the focus is on the Bishops across the world and that they are all brothers and should work together. This is where the National Episcopal Conference became a requirement for all nations, and some regions of the world also established regional conferences of Bishops as well.

Perfectae caritatis (Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life):  This one looks at religious life. It takes on the life and discipline of those institutes whose members make profession of chastity, poverty and obedience and to provide for their needs in our time. From here came a bunch of adaptations of Religious life, notably the habit being replaced with modern attire. This document is considered controversial as since many religious left religious life and the numbers of vocations hasn’t really recovered.

Optatam totius (Decree on Priestly Training): This one tackles the importance of priestly training and lays down principles which may be strengthened and by which those new elements can be added which correspond to the constitutions and decrees of this sacred council and to the changed conditions of our times. The one like the one on Religious life has been greeted with some controversy as there was a significant drop in priestly vocations in the Western World although some argue this has more to do with secularization, the sexual revolution and backlash against Humanae vitae.

Presbyterorum ordinis (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests): This is just like the one on Bishops or Religious which outlines their role in the modern Church. This time around it for priests, “they do not seek to please men but rather must follow Christian doctrine, living a Christian life, always striving for holiness, and voluntary poverty.” Key aspect in priestly life in the celebration of the Eucharist and recitation of the Divine Office. The role of the priest is like the sower in the parable, casting out seed and hoping that some will land in the good soil so that something with grow for the harvest. This one like the one of Religious life and Priestly training is controversial, with a sharp decline in vocations after this decree came out.

Apostolicam actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity): Here the Bishops offered some advice to encourage and guide lay people in their Christian service. It brings the laity and names them as of a the central importance for the Church. Cardinal Arinze summarizes this up nicely in his book The Layperson’s Distinctive Role that “lay people are called by Baptism to witness to Christ in the secular sphere of life; that is in the family, in work and leisure, in science and cultural, in politics and government, in trade and mass media, and in national and international relations.” I might look deeper into this one at a later time.

Ad gentes (Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church): To the Nations we are all sent out to evangelize, just like the apostles. With the Church’s current effort with the New Evangelization, it might be time for us all to look back here as a place to start the efforts.

Lesser known…

World Food Day: This is one of those UN Days this one is observed on October 16. This year the theme is Social Protection breaking the cycle of rural poverty. This is an important issue that we as the world need to focus on, since food security is a global issue.

Sweetest Day: In the Great Lakes region of the US on the third Saturday of October is Sweetest Day. It’s a made up holiday by the candy industry to increase sales of sweets, it’s basically like Valentine’s Day but in the Fall. So if you have some time grab some candy and give it to someone you care about this upcoming Saturday October 17.

Magdalene of Nagasaki (1611- 16 October 1634)
Magdalene was born to Christian couple who were martyred around 1620. When the Augustinians came to Japan she became a tertiary and served as interpreter and catechist for Fathers Francis of Jesus Terrero and Vincent of Saint Anthony Simoens. In 1632 they were both burned alive after this she attached herself to another pair of Augustinians, they to were both killed.  Magdalene then turned to a Dominican Giordano Ansaloni de San Esteban.  As time passed Magdalene eventually turned herself in, wearing her Augustinian habit, she declared herself a follower of Jesus Christ. At age 23, she died on October 16, 1634 after thirteen days of torture, suffocated to death by Tsurushi.

Blessed Kunjachan (1 April 1891-16 October 1973)
Thevarparampil Kunjachan was born into a Syro-Malabar Catholic family, not much is really known about his early life but in 1921 he was ordained a priest Kunjachan, is a nickname meaning little priest, Augustine just wanted to be a regular priest and was humble, kind, service-minded and charitably disposed to the poor and the downtrodden people. He worked with the Dalits (untouchables) and it is said that he baptized over 5000. Kunjachan preached using his actions rather than words this is something that we all need to do more of today.  For all of the talk about the New Evangelization that needs to happen with the Catholic Church this is the way that it needs to be done not through words but through actions.

Ingravescentiubus Malis

Ingravescentiubus Malis is the last encyclical of Pope Pius XI and it focuses on the Rosary. Pius XI begins by calling back to a couple of his previous encyclicals Mit Brennender Sorge (On the Church and the German Reich) and Divini Redemptoris (On Atheistic Communism) saying that “there is no remedy for the ever-growing evils of our times except a return to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to His most holy precepts. However, Pius continues that any real student of the Church should know that often time we have turned to the Virgin Mother when times get tough and the victory won through her brought a return to tranquility. Pius even mentions Our Lady of Victory who if you remember last week it was Pope Pius V who urge Europeans to pray the Rosary. As we pray in the Memorare, Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Pius XI notes the “Faithful of every age, both in public misfortune and in private need, turn to Mary, so that she may come to their aid and grant help and remedy against sorrows of body and soul. And never was her most powerful aid hoped for in vain by those who besought it with pious and trustful prayer.”

So to fight the problems in the world we should turn to Mary our Mother and ask for help and pray the Psalter of the Virgin or Breviary of the Gospel and of Christian life, or the Rosary which Pope Leo XIII wrote volumes on. Pius then does an overview on the Our Father and Hail Mary.  Pius continues by saying that “if men in our century, with its derisive pride, refuse the Holy Rosary, there is an innumerable multitude of holy men of every age and every condition who have always held it dear. They have recited it with great devotion, and in every moment they have used it as a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight, to preserve the integrity of life, to acquire virtue more easily, and in a word to attain real peace among men.” Pius urges fathers and mother to pray the Rosary with their families.  These words could have been written last month and would have the same relevance. We need to get down on our knees and pray to our Blessed Mother.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The St. Joseph Missal indicates that the theme of this week’s readings is the priest’s ministry, while this seems apropos I think the message is meant for all of us as at baptism we are all called to be priest, prophet and king. So it is more about the universal call to ministry. We begin the readings in the book of the prophet Ezekiel and we hear from early on in this book as we hear that as the Lord spoke to Ezekiel the spirit entered into Ezekiel and he hear a call to go minister to the Israelites as they are rebels who have rebelled against the Lord, they are hard of face and an obstinate of heart. This same description can perfectly sum up society today as well. So we are called to go out saying “Thus says the Lord…” so that people know that a prophet has been amongst them.

We look at the second letter from Paul to the Corinthians and we hear a similar problems has been facing those in Corinth. They are dealing with false preachers and Paul sees this as a problem since these false ones are preaching about how their message is from the Lord. However, Paul will tell you that he has problems as well and that through Paul’s flaws we are directed towards Christ. As Paul writes “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” this here is a call to be a suffering servant. For some many of us we see the strengths in ourselves and want to emphasize them but Paul says that we should be emphasizing our weakness as they bring us closer to Christ.

As we turn to the Gospel we have the story of Jesus going to the synagogue at his home and preaching but the crowds are more interested in that fact that it’s Jesus, the “Hey, I know that guy” effect and they don’t listen to what Jesus has to say. Mark notes that Jesus didn’t do many miracles except for a couple because the people of his home town were lacking faith. So to sum it all up we have to be willing to embrace our weaknesses and go out of our communities to preach the good news.

The Ascension

We haven’t done one of these in a while since in May we looked at John Paul II’s encyclical on Mary since that has ended it is time to get back to the Rosary posts on Tuesday

In the second Glorious Mystery we look at the Ascension. Jesus gathers the disciples and commissions them to preach to all nations and to stay in Jerusalem for a couple days
since he will be sending the Spirit and then he ascends to heaven. Then two men show up and ask the disciples why they are staring up at the sky. I don’t think Mary was at the Ascension, although she might have been there.

We are called at baptism to be one of those disciples staring up at the sky wondering what there is to do now that Jesus is gone, but he gave us instructions “Go out and preach all that I have told you to all nations.” This is our mission and we can preach it however we best see fit. Some take it literally as go out into the world with a Bible and get people to know what happened, other see it best to do this figuratively and get people to care for one another by loving other as Jesus would love them.  Are we doing our work or do we just do it lip service? I hope that we can all be reminded by this mystery that we all have work to do.

Ascension

These are reading that were for the feast of the Ascension, which was on Thursday but throughout most of America the feast is moved to Sunday. These are the readings for the Ascension.

We begin every mass in all the Mass Cycles (Year A, B, C) with the beginning of Acts of the Apostles. This is where we learn that Luke is the author of Acts since Theophilus is addressed again and it begins with “In the first book” which is about what Jesus did and taught. Then Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Spirit to come and you will be my witness throughout the world. With this Jesus was lifted up and the apostles stood there looking up at the sky. The second reading there is an option the one from last year (Year A) or this one it also comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Paul urges us here to live a life worthy of the call we have received. To some this is a radical idea to live like Christ but there are some people on earth to help us in striving to live like Christ namely the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. I’ve always taken this reading as we are all to be like Bodhisattva helping each other in trying to live like Christ.

Turning to the Gospel we hear Mark’s account of the Ascension. It comes from the addition to Mark’s Gospel it’s arguably the ending of the gospel some scholars say that the original ending is weird (they did nothing because they were afraid). So we have a typical Mark short and sweet Jesus says “Go out into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature, baptize those who believe” The apostle could now drive out demons, speak new languages, pick up serpents, and if they drink anything deadly it will not harm them. After Jesus was done saying all this was taken up to heaven and the apostles went forth and preached everywhere and the Lord worked through them. We should follow this call and continue to bring the Gospel out into the world today.

The Epiphany of the Lord

As that classic bumper sticker or whatever it was says “Wise [people] still seek Him.” If you haven’t guessed it is time for the Three Kings to make an appearance in the Nativity story. Like other feast days the readings for this particular day do not change year to year. We begin with the prophet Isaiah. This is a very joyous reading as the Israelites have returned from exile Isaiah shouts “Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shine upon you.” This is a call for all of us to bring the light to the world and conquer the darkness. Jesus would echo this statement later saying “You are the light of the World” and if that light is hidden it doesn’t do anyone good. We must live our faiths.

This message continues in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he emphasizes that Jesus didn’t come just for the Jewish people but for all men women and children even the Gentiles who Paul calls co-heirs and partners in the promise of Jesus Christ. This statement is something that many Christians it seems have trouble with in the world today, with the rise of the LGBT community many are ignoring that fact that Jesus came for all people and trying to get all people to be “normal” sexually (male/female) through whatever means are necessary. In light of the recent death of Leelah Alcorn we need to now more then ever to remember that Christ comes for all people and the angels first came to the outcasts in society the shepherds to announce the good news.

Turning to the Gospel we hear from Matthew how there came magi from the east, they met with King Herod asking where the King of the Jews was and Herod had the chief priest and scribes looked it up on Google or something. They say In Bethlehem, so the magi set off and they bring to the newborn king gold, frankincense and myrrh. These magi represent the whole world so it is the outcast and the rest of the world who learn of the birth of Jesus before anyone else. Let us be willing and able to be like the shepherds and magi and bring the news of Christ to the world.