Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Difficulty of Believing

The difficulty of believing is a challenge that is always present in the spiritual journey of the Christian.  At times it is a pronounced difficulty, brought about by tragedy or doubt. 

There are guiding principles that have been established to help the “traveler” maintain course.  These are essential and cannot be dispensed with any more than a map in foreign city can be thrown away.

Before we look carefully at the map, we need first to understand the need for the map.  There is something mysterious about this.  Men have a particular need for navigating without a compass.  Even with unknown guideposts they will press ahead as if they know exactly where they are going.  As we apply this analogy for our Christian religion it becomes a script, a guide to explain our behavior.

Many people have the idea that Faith is merely a matter of opinions.

“About religion, one man’s opinion is as good as another.  Admittedly there are some religious “systems” that do not claim to be anything more than a set of opinions.  Curiously the ancient druids and paganism in general do not offer much in terms of explanation.  They simply examined nature. One of the great scenes of English Church History took place during the period of missionary work in which Jesus was introduced in the teaching of the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxon king: “Coifi, the High Priest, replied without hesitation:  ‘Your Majesty, let us give careful consideration to this new teaching, for I frankly admit that, in my experience, the religion that we have hitherto professed seems valueless and powerless.

Another of the king’s chief men signified his agreement with this prudent argument, and went on to say: ‘Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a lone sparrow through the banquet hall where you sit in the winter months to dine with your thanes and counselors.  Inside there is a comforting fire to warm the room; outside, the wintry storms of snow and rain are rising.  The sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the wintry storms; but for a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the darkness whence he came.
Similarly, man appears on earth for a little while, but we know nothing of what went before this life, or what follows. Therefore if this new teaching can reveal any more certain knowledge it seems only right that we follow it.”

The History of the English Church and People, by the Venerable Bede
(612 AD)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Nature of the Church

One of the hidden truths of our faith concerns how we are imbedded in the discussion concerning the nature of the Church.  This is not an esoteric concern.  Who we are as a community and who we are as individual Catholics is essential to our growth in the Faith.  The principles of the teachings of the Catholic Church are fundamentally dependent on one another.  They fit!  The recognition in the creeds of the “Four Notes” or characteristics of the Church is “basic” to our proclamation.

The Church is “one”
Christ is the head of the Church.  He brings to the Church the gift of unity.  John’s Gospel, chapter 17, verses 22-26 outlines the gift in terms of the Church’s vocation (or call.)  At the center of our life as Catholics is the perfect example of living in community, the Holy Trinity.  Here we can observe the unity of the Holy Trinity in action. The foundation of this “Trinitarian life” is the new commandment to ‘love one another’ as Jesus has loved us.  Love is the foundation of our life.  Again, this “outline” of our beliefs calls us to action.  We are to make a supreme effort in our Christian life to promote the unity of the Church in the world.  All humanity is the target goal of our effort.  The unity of humanity includes all that is necessary to call someone our “brother” or our “sister.”  Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The question that the Pharisee asks is revealing: “And who is my neighbor?”

The Church is “holy” 
We can understand this characteristic from many angles.  The Church is intended by God to be universally holy.  Of course our experience is that this is not the case.  What percentage of the Church is holy makes no difference.  A basketball team includes all imaginable levels of perfection.  The better players act as guides to those who are young or just getting started.  Every sport demonstrates this example - they have to be organized in order to work together and win.  The way in which this is accomplished in the Church is a good deal more dramatic.  Instead of star players, we have saints.  They are truly “stars,” and they lived and continue to live, lives of exemplary service.

They receive the grace of God to accomplish this.  It is not by their hidden strength that they do miraculous things, but the Father who loves us and desires for us to participate in his good work.  We ask for the saints’ help from our vantage point on this earth.  They in turn carry our request to the Father.  Then, the Father allows them to carry his answer back to those who have sought his help.  Some say that God does not need help answering prayers.  I am quite sure that this is the case, and I am also certain that with joy, Jesus sent out disciples in pairs.  Their efforts defeated Satan, whom Jesus said he saw fall like lightning.  Thus we can also understand that the Church is charged with supernatural electricity.  This is why we treat her and everything about her with the greatest respect.  The Church is Holy.

The Church is Catholic

 This is not a common concept, so special care needs to be taken.  The philosophy of life that most people hold has to do with obedience. That is hard for an irreligious person to accept, but it is true.  We are all obedient to something!  It might be things that are not good for us, or even things that hurt us. “Catholic” here means two things: the Catholic Church contains those things that are indeed good for us and those that are not.  Within the family of the Catholic Church there are many characteristics that fit the definition of catholic.  If it is true, then it belongs in the Catholic Church.  If it is false, it does not belong. 

The Church is Apostolic

The final of the four notes has to do with the mission of the Church.  The great plaza in front of the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica is formed by two symmetrical arms of colonnades. It looks as if the arms are inviting the whole world to come in.  This is a proper description of the Apostolic nature of the Church.  We need to pause this reflection and begin to find the way that we can as a parish or as individuals make our world catholic.  Not catholic here - meaning that it is the “right Church”.  How can we make it catholic in terms of actions, caring for those in need? Jesus told the disciples that soon they would have to take their place in the long line of those holy ones whose voices can still be heard.

I like the story about St. Francis, whose missionary method seems right for our time.  I believe many want what the Catholic Church has to offer, and yet they do not know how to ask for it.  So, we must ask for them.  When St. Francis would enter a new village he would always greet the people with “Good morning good people.”  He would sing and soon slip into a proclamation of the Gospel without the people even knowing that the subject had changed.  His was a joyful heart.  May ours be, as well.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Reasons for Faithful Stewardship

The following is an older article from the Good Steward. Hopefully it still has some value.

We are called to support our parish, to provide the resources that are needed to carry out its mission. To be faithful means to be obedient. This is a challenge but as we move more and more toward following the Savior we find a sense of real purpose in our lives. Faithful stewardship means growing spiritually. It means becoming compassionate and merciful and God is compassionate and merciful to us. It means adopting generosity as a rule of our life.

The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for apostolic works and works of charity and for the decent sustenance of ministers.  (Canon Law of the Catholic Church 222 section 1)

Giving to the parish keeps things going. Perhaps this reason is attractive because it brings about visible results: everything from the comforts of a modern building, the education of our children and youth to our efforts to assist those in need. The list of amenities and good works is very long and while paying the electric bill is not a glamorous reason to give, without our financial support all of what we see around us would suddenly disappear. As we increase our giving our gifts translate into action. We have dedicated our parish to a policy of spending our parish’s contributions in a way that is directly tied to the Catholic Mission, to spread the Good News and assist our brothers and sisters in need.

11 Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. (Romans 12:11-13)

Good stewardship helps us become good managers of our money. That may sound like a surprising motive or even so disjointed that it can’t make sense. But think about it this way: when we set a compelling financial goal we begin to organize our expenses to support that goal. We can take pencil to paper and try to discover how we can give responsibly, how we need to reorient our budget or create a budget for the first time. The parish budget can be a good example to us. Our finance council works to create overarching goals for our finances and our parish business office scrutinizes every expenditure. We do this because we are responsible to you and our God. Such desire helps us get organized to be a real part of our efforts in the parish.

11 You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God, 12 for the administration of this public service is not only supplying the needs of the holy ones but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11 – 12)


A strong church is the building block of a strong nation, a strong world. Our support of our parish is a part of constructing a just, moral and peaceful society. When our church is weak, floundering, confused or unable to gather the needed resources, our nation is weakened and so is the whole world. One of the greatest tools for spreading the truth is the strength of our parish, its program and its community life. Our contributions are a principal resource for living this witness. Every parish community should see itself as a primary agent to create and maintain justice, moral fidelity and peace. We do that primarily by the example of our life, our care for one another, our growth in the truth of Christ and the peaceful community of the many and diverse people that make up our parish.

Make us worthy, Lord, to serve those people throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread, and by our understanding love, give them peace and joy. Mother Teresa


God calls us to be faithful stewards. We have received a great gift. We have a faith so powerful that nothing, no experiences, trouble or temptations is of its own power able to defeat our hope. This gift is intended to be shared. We do this by our actions and by our gift of support to our parish. We all strive to do what is proclaimed by God’s Word and the teachings of the Catholic Church to be true and morally correct. Our stewardship is part of that obedience.

Every person should walk unhesitatingly according to their own personal gifts and duties in the path of a living faith which arouses hopes and works through charity. 
(Vatican Council II Lumen Gentium 41)

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Bishop’s Capital Campaign

Dear Parish Family,

Congratulations to our parish for achieving our Capital Campaign and Endowment goal for the Diocese of Dallas.  Your generosity is extraordinary. 

Before I give you the details of the current report I want to especially thank those on our Campaign Committee who worked tirelessly to make this a reality.  There are those who, seemingly with great ease, give of their time and sacrifice their plans to make all this so.  You are like stars in the crown of the Blessed Mother.

Perhaps we have learned a few things of importance concerning how we do fund raising in the Church.  One of the characteristics of this campaign was that the Pastor and others spent time contacting parishioners and discussing their giving.  This was so foreign to me that it was uncomfortable at first. Discussing how much people should or could give was not easy.  This is one of those areas of Church life that is usually off limits.

The very first meeting I had with parishioners was one of the most fruitful.  Thereafter, I felt completely at home.  I was not able to make as many of the visits as I came to hope, but those that I did have turned out to be a real source of joy. 
I am trying now to find a way to make this a continued part of our parish life: to visit with parishioners having the simple goal of spending 30 minutes or so to get to know each other better.  If this is interesting to you, call the parish office and speak to Mary Boyle (Adult Formation) 972.727.1177, ext. 2213 or Sara Walsh (Pastoral Center Receptionist) 972.727.1177, ext. 0.

The “numbers” of those who contributed were 460 pledges which is only about 10% of the parish.  The total given so far is $2,496,696.  Actually, even though we have made our goal, we hope that everyone in the parish will still contribute, as from this point on, St. Jude will receive 70% of all monies pledged.  Remember that we were part of the five parishes that were used to test the campaign plans.  This fall, the other parishes will take up the efforts.  We can use their timeline to continue to pledge to the effort. 

Remember the greatest significance of our support is to the children of the diocese and for those in need.

Again, thank you for your support.
In Christ,

Fr. Tim

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Boy Scouts

Almost every page on the internet was seemingly devoted to the flap over admitting openly declared homosexual children to the Boy Scout program.  There are things about this decision that I believe are not within the goal and purpose of the Boy Scouts. 

Our Bishop joins all of us who are sponsoring agencies to see if there is a way that we can continue to sponsor the Boy Scout Troop.  To withdraw is a serious matter.  We are, at this point maintaining vigilance and listening for our Bishop’s guidance. 

I would ask everyone involved in the Scouting program to join in this effort by “staying the course”.  I can assure you that whatever program we will use to guide our young people, it will be recognizably Catholic.  I also urge you not to withdraw your support and participation.  If the Church bowed to every whim of society we would be unable to guide our people.  We will always stand firm in our resolve to teach and live the Catholic faith.

Capital Campaign
We have reached our goal of $2,375,000.  Thanks to all of you who participated and gave so faithfully and generously.  The actual amount pledged to date is $2,430,085 , or $55,085, (102%) over the goal.

One of the features of our capital campaign is the incentive to give that involves the whole parish.  Getting to this point and achieving the goal has been like an 880 sprint.  At end we race are able to realize the value of our gifts.  For every $100 given $70 come back to the parish.  This allows us to have a greater share in supporting the diocese but also allows us to find a way to satisfy our needs. 

After a period of time we will begin investigating some secondary goals to see if they fit well.  I would encourage you to consider being a part of our campaign.  That alone should inspire us, to know that we have a real share in the parish’s work.

Kitchen Work
The demolishing of the old kitchen has begun.  Although concerns for safety necessitate that we will have to avoid the old parish hall and kitchen, you can be assured that we are making progress.  We likely will be finished sometime in August.   The space that we are creating with this project is very useful and should be very efficient. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

What Difference Does it Make?

Our Bishop has described this time in the history of our diocese as an “historic” moment. The homily for today will have more to say about this. As you read this in the pew or at home, I encourage you to reflect more deeply on this description. It is historic, not just because of the amounts of money that we are trying to raise, but also because it is a moment of faith. In this “year of faith” we are being given another point of reflection to aid us in our consideration. A decision is wrapped into this act of faith. That is what we need to consider.

In the duration of my priesthood there have been too many times when I find myself fretting about the parish. Will we meet our goal? Is it even possible? It is not merely about an artificial or man-made finish line. It is about making a choice in favor of the Church and the work we do. Will we choose the Church? Will we choose help to take the church in a new direction?

Many times we have re-called this “new direction” and now our recollection brings us to this catharsis. Now we have to choose. Life is filled with these moments. The painful ones either have to do with our personal comfort or with money. But all choices should be motivated by the knowledge of God’s love for us. We make this choice, and basing it on love we most certainly have a better opportunity to be successful.

I suppose everyone has a favored Bible reading. I have a few. This is one that helped to guide me as I became Catholic.
Isaiah 2:1
This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 In days to come, The mountain of the LORD's house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it. 3 Many peoples shall come and say: "Come, let us go up to the LORD's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths." For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and set terms for many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. 5 House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!
 Together let us build a new day, a new direction.

Bishop Lynch High School’s Dual Enrollment Program

With our campaign we have had the opportunity to hear something of the parish schools. Here is a blog from Bishop Farrell.

Bishop Lynch High School’s Dual Enrollment Program
By Bishop Kevin Farrell, May 30, 2013

Bishop Lynch High School graduates are entering colleges and universities as sophomores and juniors in their first year thanks to the school’s Dual Enrollment Program which offers college
credit for certain high school courses.

In 2010 Victoria Erlinger registered as a junior at Texas A&M in her freshman year with 87 semester hours. Chelsea Firra, BL’s 2013 salutatorian will enter Truman State University in the fall with 85 semester hours.

Lynch, the largest private high school in the State of Texas, hosts the largest Dual Enrollment Program in the state, offering more than 50 courses a year in English, math, history, science and the arts. In the 2012-2013 academic year 360 students (grades 9-12) participated.

To be eligible to participate, students must pass the Dallas County Community College entrance exam or be exempt by their SAT or ACT scores. Once enrolled, students must maintain a 3.0 average. The last three graduating classes have taken over 3000 credit hours with them to college…all at no extra charge for the student and their families. All Lynch faculty members have met the academic requirements for adjunct professors at Eastfield College. This is the kind of initiative by our Catholic schools that makes them stand out among educational institutions and assures parents that their children are receiving not only a Christian value centered education but outstanding academic formation.

Bishop Lynch will observe its 50th anniversary in September. I congratulate the administration and faculty of Bishop Lynch High School for achieving and maintaining the highest level of
academic excellence for five decades.

Campaign Progress
Our campaign continues to grow, contributions continue at a good pace. We all need to be ready to make our pledge. It is so easy in this kind of campaign to simply hide from our responsibility but it will not bring the same measure of joy. We need to share our bounty with those in need. We need to do this with joy.

The current numbers are, contributed to date: $1,545,000, which is 65% of our $2,375,000 goal. $830,000 remains to be pledged. One important reminder is that 30% of the total pledged is to be returned to the parish to help us with our local projects. Sometimes we see giving from our substance as a painful necessity at best. In reality it is truly an opportunity to give thanks, to rejoice.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Moore, OK

My nephew lives in Moore, Oklahoma. He is a music director. It’s hard to imagine what he experienced last Monday afternoon. There were a host of concerns, even terrifying moments. A roofing truss tore through the house leaving a clear reminder of what had happened. But he was alright. We had a terrifying few moments that ended with the fear being washed away almost instantly upon hearing the voice of my brother tell us that he was alright.

How we see these events is a matter of perception. Even the passage of time seems to have an effect on how we look at the unfolding of an event. There are always the nagging questions concerning why something happens, especially if it has tragic results. Our faith has a great amount to say about this and we turn to it to help us. The truth is, however, that there is very little that expresses an argument that holds water. Is God punishing us for our sins? In opposition there are those who say that God cannot be the cause, for God is loving. And then there are those who hold to the idea that God is a just judge and all his actions are an expression of his judgment.

One my favorite passages from the Gospel of John concerns the “Man Born Blind.”
As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. (John 9:1-3)
Of course, the key is verse three that is rather unmistakably a testimony to (1) the goodness of God and (2) that fact God is involved. All God’s ways express his majestic goodness. How does a tornado rumbling through a quiet town in the middle of a prairie express anything but destructive power? The answer has to do with heroes, those who in a simple, everyday manner make the glory of God known through their heroic acts. The loving care, the unbridled courage, the sense of desperation that moves a man or a woman to focus on one thing: helping.

We are deeply appreciative for the sacrifices made by emergency workers and all the many others who never say “no” to the call they are given.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How Much Should I Give?

Providing guidance for people’s participation in the Capital and Endowment Campaign for the Diocese of Dallas is a most difficult proposition. This is not limited to people who are looking for guidance that will allow them to make a minimal contribution. The committed Catholic might be ready to make an offering but is simply unsure. Is it merely a matter of math or are there deeper spiritual principals involved?

The first and most obvious of principals is that stewardship choices have an impact on our relationship with God. This may be of no great surprise. It usually is the obvious that is most often overlooked.
Matthew records Jesus’s teaching:
“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
(Mat 6:24-6:34 NAB)
Do we have the courage to depend on God? Are we ready to follow in the way that he teaches? Much of the fear concerning this is practical. There are people in need and God has placed them in our path. Our response is difficult to escape.
If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1John 4:20-21 NAB)
One of the great challenges for a Catholic today is simple: raw materialism. It involves filling our life with things. This can be done at every income level. An organized and committed stewardship resolution (or plan) keeps that materialism in check. For example, giving at a level that challenges us helps us to detach from our love of money and financial success. To fall into this trap is sometimes irreversible.

Ultimately it is the cross that defines our response to any challenge to give. It was there that our Lord taught the world how to deal with materialism. He showed us how to answer the question of “how much?” One day it will be obvious that our negotiations concerning this will be at an end. By then, we shall have learned how to give or not. The amount will be inspired by the Lord whose decision to give was motivated by his love for us. Undoubtedly it involves a leap of faith, falling into the Father’s merciful arms.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Ascension and Pentecost

The close of the Easter season is composed of a number of “markers” in time.  First there is the Feast of the Ascension, which according to ancient calendars is forty days after Easter.  For reasons of pastoral necessity the feast day has been transferred to the Sunday following Ascension Day.  In order to thoroughly confuse, Ascension follows Ascension.  This year Ascension is May 12.  It is a Sunday and the thinking is that more people will be sure to observe the feast if it is on a Sunday.  The information concerning the meaning of the feast comes mainly from the Acts of the Apostles and a brief mention in the Gospel of Mark. 

While the work of redemption continues it is primarily accomplished through the Church.
“He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16 NAB)

Pentecost is more colorful scene.  The “coming down” of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by signs, tongues of fire, wind and a loud noise.  The disciples are able to speak different languages and the experienced of spiritual ecstasy (joy) is a feature of the life of the Church.  The word “Pentecost” refers to the “fiftieth day,” fifty days after Easter.  This was first harvest festival of the new year with the tithe of the land was first brought to the lord in the New Year.  At about the time of Christ, the Jewish feast of Pentecost also included a reference to Moses and the celebration of the giving of the law to Moses and God’s People. With the coming of the Holy Spirit given to the Church, we begin the celebration of the new law, the Law of the Spirit.

Honduras Mission Update

One of the principals that drive the missionary efforts of the church is education.  In consideration of how to proceed we believe that education is indispensable.  In cases of extreme poverty, such as we experience in Honduras and even in parts of the United States, education is a necessary door out of poverty. Following that principal we are making a huge commitment to build a school in Honduras.  It has been slow to get started but we hope that we will be able to proceed within a few months.  The first stop is to obtain land.  Please pray for this project, for its success and the success of all our missionary efforts.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


There are many reasons to pursue forgiveness in our relationships. I say “our relationships” because the need for forgiveness seems greatest among friends and relatives. Sometimes there is a sense of indignation that deepens the grip we have on our anger to the degree that there seems to be no hope for reconciliation. We make things worse and feel completely justified.

Jesus had much to say about forgiveness. A call for forgiveness is embedded in the most popular prayer ever placed on the lips of those who pursue God’s help:

Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

There is little question that the forgiveness being spoken of in the prayer is conditional. In other words, God will forgive us if we in turn will forgive others. We tend to separate the two acts of forgiveness in the prayer. On one hand we seek God’s
forgiveness and on the other we are urged to forgive others of their offenses committed against us. What limit is there to this?

Accidental infractions are heroically easy to forgive, but the bigger things, well, as we feel in the right so we may believe that gives us permission to hold onto our anger. We remember Jesus words to Peter in response to his question:
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” (Luke 17:2-4 NAB)
Of course the greatest moment of teaching comes to us from the cross in a moment of unimaginable grace. Jesus has done everything to prepare his disciples for this moment. All the miracles witness to their carrying this eternally in their hearts. They could hear the good thief ask for pardon and receive it, the impossible task in the hands of the author of peace and forgiveness. How many times, almost every day, do we turn away from someone who is a brother, a sister and we do not forgive them? We wonder why we feel cheated of the grace and love that mercy bring. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Bishop As Teacher

A few weeks ago we had a pleasant surprise.  I knew about it in advance but only a handful of our people knew.  The “secrecy” was at the request of the Bishop.  He was our surprise visitor and he did not want to be a distraction from the normal Sunday routine.  It was Divine Mercy Sunday and that commanded our attention.  It is, however, impossible to look the other way when the Bishop comes to visit.

So, what is it about, this “apostolic man” that commands so much attention?  Some would claim that it is an ordinary charism, a sort of administrative excellence that has called him to a position of higher authority.  But it has to be more than that.  Charisms are not ordinary.  By nature they are among the spiritual gifts and unusual. 

While the Bishop is called to a life of administering the temporal affairs of a diocese there are spiritual duties that benefit the whole Church.  First, the Bishop is a teacher.  We might imagine that this involves a chalk board and a lecture hall.  In fact it is not merely the employment of modern teaching tools that makes a Bishop a teacher (even though the Bishop has an excellent blog.)  The goal includes more than this.  It is also directed at protecting the faith.  He is to guard the purity of Catholic doctrine.  Since every Bishop has this task it is the voice of the Holy Father, the Pope that keeps the common voice clear.  As well, the Bishop has the awesome task of teaching this faith to every member of the Diocese.  Obviously, this is something that is delegated, but not completely.
In exercising their duty of teaching-which is conspicuous among the principal duties of bishops-they should announce the Gospel of Christ to men, calling them to a faith in the power of the Spirit or confirming them in a living faith. They should expound the whole mystery of Christ to them, namely, those truths the ignorance of which is ignorance of Christ. At the same time they should point out the divinely revealed way to give glory to God and thereby to attain to eternal happiness. (Christus Dominus, Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops, 2,12)
The Bishop is to guard the morals of those placed in his charge.  This means that he is to see that the people live a disciplined, orderly life and that they celebrate the sacraments properly.  We look to the Bishop, his cathedral church, to see how we are to live.  As well, the Bishop is to live in his diocese and to visit the parishes regularly.

The peace of the Diocese is greatly dependent on the teaching skill of the Bishop.  How wonderful it is to see the fruit of his work.
"Wheresoever, the bishop appears, there let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."  Ignatius of Antioch, From the Letter to the Church at Smyrna.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Money and the Passion

It would not be an accurate assessment of the role of money to deem it simply evil.  The proper ownership of property is something attested to by Scripture.  There are times when this is dramatic and emotional.  Once, Jesus instructed Peter to catch a fish and take from its mouth two coins.  With this, Peter would be able to pay the temple tax, something that every male in Judea was responsible to do:

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were overwhelmed with grief. When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?” When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt. But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.” (Mat 17:22-27)

This may seem like merely an odd story, but look at it from a different vantage point.  Peter had, according to his own admission, given up all that he had.  His little fishing business was a respectable enterprise and one that proved the joyful struggle of his ownership of a small business.  To take away from this was not a relief.  He has provided for his family, though there is little said in the New Testament concerning this.

The little passage above reminds us that the honorable payment of a debt was something of concern to Peter. The fact that Jesus pays the debt through this miraculous event should be seen as containing the affection of Jesus for Peter.  Some have seen this as exempting some from the obligation of work, but that is something of a stretch.  Jesus could have easily said that work is a necessary evil, but even that makes little sense.  The fact that Jesus’ contemporaries knew him as a carpenter’s son gave a higher honor to work.

There is, of course, a problem.  Stretching back to the origin in the Garden of Eden, man has struggled with the sin of avarice -- the greed that springs from an extremely disordered desire for money.  We can easily see Adam’s sin as being a desire for power over his circumstances.  And then, in another Garden, we see another contest for the heart of Man.  As Jesus prayed, his disciples slept, not knowing that while they took their ease, a battle raged for the soul of Judas.
Thirty pieces of silver was all it took to send the innocent Savior to the gallows.  Was it worth thirty coins -- about four months of a skilled laborers’ wages?  My father used to tell me that the worse thing about money is that it burns a hole in your pocket and then it’s gone, with nothing to show for ever having had it.

Of course there is a sadness about Judas.  The story in the Bible presents him rather matter-of-factly.  He returns the money that he has already lost, before he brings it back.  For in the perpetual darkness of his soul, these coins found a familiar home.  No matter how we try to follow the twists and turns of a sin-sick soul, we end up in the same evil place.

So is everything lost?  Of course not!  The choices are so numerous that we cannot count them.  It is like wading across a swift river.  If you know the familiar placement of the rocks, you can accomplish getting to the other side.  Among everything that can be done to bring a sinner home, the most important is “right desire.”  It is the wanting to.  Remember the prodigal son?  It was at the point of remembering home that he turned around and began the slow and gradual ascent to the Father who awaited him with open arms.

We stand on the edge of the scene watching the son.  He stops from time to time and squints his eyes to see if he can see the Father.  He sits seemingly exhausted, and then he stands up, looks in our direction and hears the urging to return home to the Father’s house: “Throw the coins away.  Give them to the poor, and follow … me.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


One of the three pillars of Lent is giving alms. This along with prayer and fasting constitutes the summary of our activity during this season. Of course, there are other things that constitute our focus. Confessing our sins, for example is premiere. Reaching out to those who long for our company, and many other such activities are all certainly part of the activity of the season. The giving of alms is highly praised in both the Old and the New Testament.

If one of your kindred is in need in any community in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor close your hand against your kin who is in need. Instead, you shall freely open your hand and generously lend what suffices to meet that need.  (Deuteronomy 15:7-8 NAB)

Here we can see one example of an ageless principal to be found everywhere in the Bible. The Israelites were to care for those who were poor. It was only fair that they would do so, since God was merciful to them. We should consider this carefully since it is a principal of justice and fairness. God will make firm what is just. We can see this in the word, “eleemosynary”. Its origin is in the description of a king, or some powerful person, who bends down to help someone in need. God has done this for us and we should follow his example to do the same. Jesus makes it a law, a rather dramatic law concerning the powerful helping the less than powerful:

Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”  (Matthew 5:41-44 NAB)

The account of the rich young man is quite to the point:

Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  (Matthew 19:16-22 NAB)

I will pass on a little story that parallels this scene in Matthew’s Gospel. I am completely unsure of the truthfulness of this story and I probably should not pass it on, but I will … with the idea that someone may recognize it and prove it true … or false. We all know of the scene at the crucifixion of the rich young man who went away sad because his riches blinded him to the truth. Well as the story goes, the rich young man suffered a turn of fate in which he lost everything, including his wife and his family. The same thing happened to Job, who lost everything.

This got worse for the rich young man who turned to crime to survive. Once, there was an altercation in a bar that he frequented. There was a flash of steel and soon a capital offense could be added to his list of woes. As he lay in his jail cell awaiting execution for his crimes, he began to reminisce about the sad progression of events. Jesus had given him the promise of eternal life; all he needed to do was to follow Jesus. What greatness he could have enjoyed. The outcome of a person’s life cannot be predicted, save that to follow Jesus is in every way the satisfaction of the goal of our life.

Since every Christian story has a good ending this should as well. As the rich young man was motionless on his cross he heard a familiar voice. The mellow reassuring voice of Jesus could be made out amidst the taunts of the crowd and the moan of the two criminals. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus never forgets us or abandons us. “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lent / Pope Benedict Resigns


The season of Lent has a past full of twists and turns.  Even in our time Lent is growing and changing.  This is partly because of the focus on those preparing for Baptism.  The Church has selected for them a noble manner for the process of conversion and of preparing for their Baptism, a preparation that occurs over many weeks.

Equally, there is a dramatic focus on our own continuing conversion.  Since Vatican II there has been a concern for the stability of the Church.  Some point to a deep need incumbent on the whole church to find our way back to the arms of the Church.  This expresses itself in a vision of the soul journeying to God.  The Prodigal Son is, of course, the perfect symbol of this movement during the season of Lent.  It is truly a season of the grace of conversion.  It might be helpful to look at this “moment of grace” again.  There is an incredible occurrence associated directly to the meaning of Lent: reconciliation.  The various names of the sacrament help us to see the richness of this celebration.  It is called “penance” to remind us that change is part of the response we have.  It is the human condition to need this change, to grow to improve.  Usually we are assigned a penance that includes saying a particular prayer.  It reminds us that God is the source of the healing that we seek in this sacrament. It is called “confession” because this is our part in the celebration of the sacrament.  However, even this is a good that we must attribute to God.  We should be cautious about this, cautious enough to know that all good has its origin in God.  Our proper response is to praise him and to thank him for rescuing us from our sins.

Pope Benedict Resigns

The news is full of the Catholic Church today.  Pope Benedict has announced that he will resign at the end of February.  We should rightly be sad that his ministry will conclude this way, with a broken and tired Bishop.  On the other hand, no matter what the news has to say, we have a secret joy that the Bishop has known suffering and been called to spend the last days in a different way.  Perhaps we will all be surprised to what God may be calling Benedict and the whole Catholic Church.  Even in the midst of the life of a tired Pope we can all applaud his whole life’s work.  What a magnificent writer, shepherd, Father.

It is true that a Pope belongs to the whole world, so the whole world has a right to make a comment on his resignation.  Some of those who wrongly imagine that they have something to say should at least be a little hesitant.  If the house was on fire and my father pulled me from the flames, who would not,say that my father was very brave?

Holy Father, Your Excellency, so many times you have pulled me from the fire, given me a new understanding and made me proud to be a Catholic.  Thank you.  My offer still stands.  I would love to teach you how to fly fish.