"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
|"We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world." - St. Francis of Assisi|
Pope Francis focused on the works of mercy and the Jubilee in his Lenten Message for 2016. The message, dated October 4, 2015, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, follows:
I desire mercy, and not sacrifice" (Mt 9:13).
The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee
"In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I asked that 'the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God's mercy' (Misericordiae Vultus, 17). By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative '24 Hours for the Lord,' I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God's word, especially His prophetic word. The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand. For this reason, during the season of Lent I will send out Missionaries of Mercy as a concrete sign to everyone of God's closeness and forgiveness.
"After receiving the Good News told to her by the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, in her Magnificat, prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her. The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelizes, for she was, and continues to be, evangelized by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. In the prophetic tradition, mercy is strictly related - even on the etymological level - to the maternal womb (rahamim) and to a generous, faithful, and compassionate goodness (hesed) shown within marriage and family relationships.
"The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and His people Israel. God shows Himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat His people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth. Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images - as in the case of Hosea (cf. Hos 1-2) - show to what extent God wishes to bind Himself to His people.
"This love story culminates in the incarnation of God's Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth His boundless mercy even to making Him 'mercy incarnate' (Misericordiae Vultus, 8). As a man, Jesus of Nazareth is a true son of Israel; He embodies that perfect hearing required of every Jew by the Shema, which today too is the heart of God's covenant with Israel: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might' (Dt 6:4-5). As the Son of God, He is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of His bride, to whom He is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast.
"This is the very heart of the apostolic kerygma, in which divine mercy holds a central and fundamental place. It is 'the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead' (Evangelii Gaudium, 36), that first proclamation which 'we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment' (ibid., 164). Mercy 'expresses God's way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe' (Misericordiae Vultus, 21), thus restoring his relationship with Him. In Jesus crucified, God shows His desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from Him. In this way He hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride.
"God's mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbor and to devote ourselves to what the Church's tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting, and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that 'the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a whole celebration. What teaching can we draw from this mystery of the wedding feast of Cana for the World Day of the Sick?
"The wedding feast of Cana is an image of the Church: at the center there is Jesus who in His mercy performs a sign; around Him are the disciples, the first fruits of the new community; and beside Jesus and the disciples is Mary, the provident and prayerful Mother. Mary partakes of the joy of ordinary people and helps it to increase; she intercedes with her Son on behalf of the spouses and all the invited guests. Nor does Jesus refuse the request of His Mother. How much hope there is in that event for all of us! We have a Mother with benevolent and watchful eyes, like her Son; a heart that is maternal and full of mercy, like Him; hands that want to help, like the hands of Jesus Who broke bread for those who were hungry, touched the sick and healed them. All this fills us with trust and opens our hearts to the grace and mercy of Christ. Mary's intercession makes us experience the consolation for which the apostle Paul blesses God: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ's sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow' (2 Cor 1:3-5). Mary is the 'comforted' Mother who comforts her children.
"At Cana the distinctive features of Jesus and His mission are clearly seen: He comes to the help of those in difficulty and need. Indeed, in the course of His messianic ministry He would heal many people of illnesses, infirmities, and evil spirits, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, restore health and dignity to lepers, raise the dead, and proclaim the good news to the poor (cf. Lk 7:21-22). Mary's request at the wedding feast, suggested by the Holy Spirit to her maternal heart, clearly shows not only Jesus' messianic power but also His mercy.
"In Mary's concern we see reflected the tenderness of God. This same tenderness is present in the lives of all those persons who attend the sick and understand their needs, even the most imperceptible ones, because they look upon them with eyes full of love. How many times has a mother at the bedside of her sick child, or a child caring for an elderly parent, or a grandchild concerned for a grandparent, placed his or her prayer in the hands of Our Lady! For our loved ones who suffer because of illness we ask first for their health. Jesus Himself showed the presence of the Kingdom of God specifically through His healings: 'Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them' (Mt 11:4-5). But love animated by faith makes us ask for them something greater than physical health: we ask for peace, a serenity in life that comes from the heart and is God's gift, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, a gift which the Father never denies to those who ask Him for it with trust.
"In the scene of Cana, in addition to Jesus and His Mother, there are the 'servants,' whom she tells: 'Do whatever He tells you' (Jn 2:5). Naturally, the miracle takes place as the work of Christ; however, He wants to employ human assistance in performing this miracle. He could have made the wine appear directly in the jars. But He wants to rely upon human cooperation, and so He asks the servants to fill them with water. How wonderful and pleasing to God it is to be servants of others! This more than anything else makes us like Jesus, Who 'did not come to be served but to serve' (Mk 10:45). These unnamed people in the Gospel teach us a great deal. Not only do they obey, but they obey generously: they fill the jars to the brim (cf. Jn 2:7). They trust the Mother and carry out immediately and well what they are asked to do, without complaining, without second thoughts.
"On this World Day of the Sick let us ask Jesus in His mercy, through the intercession of Mary, His Mother and ours, to grant to all of us this same readiness to be serve those in need, and, in particular, our infirm brothers and sisters. At times this service can be tiring and burdensome, yet we are certain that the Lord will surely turn our human efforts into something divine. We too can be hands, arms, and hearts which help God to perform His miracles, so often hidden. We too, whether healthy or sick, can offer up our toil and sufferings like the water which filled the jars at the wedding feast of Cana and was turned into the finest wine. By quietly helping those who suffer, as in illness itself, we take our daily cross upon our shoulders and follow the Master (cf. Lk 9:23). Even though the experience of suffering will always remain a mystery, Jesus helps us to reveal its meaning.
"If we can learn to obey the words of Mary, who says: 'Do whatever He tells you,' Jesus will always change the water of our lives into precious wine. Thus this World Day of the Sick, solemnly celebrated in the Holy Land, will help fulfill the hope which I expressed in the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy: "I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with [Judaism and Islam] and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination" (Misericordiae Vultus, 23). Every hospital and nursing home can be a visible sign and setting in which to promote the culture of encounter and peace, where the experience of illness and suffering, along with professional and fraternal assistance, helps to overcome every limitation and division.
"For this we are set an example by the two Religious Sisters who were canonized last May: Saint Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas and Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, both daughters of the Holy Land. The first was a witness to meekness and unity, who bore clear witness to the importance of being responsible for one another other, living in service to one another. The second, a humble and illiterate woman, was docile to the Holy Spirit and became an instrument of encounter with the Muslim world.
"To all those who assist the sick and the suffering I express my confident hope that they will draw inspiration from Mary, the Mother of Mercy. 'May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God's tenderness' (ibid., 24), allow it to dwell in our hearts and express it in our actions! Let us entrust to the Virgin Mary our trials and tribulations, together with our joys and consolations. Let us beg her to turn her eyes of mercy towards us, especially in times of pain, and make us worthy of beholding, today and always, the merciful face of her Son Jesus!
With this prayer for all of you, I send my Apostolic Blessing."
The Church celebrated the 24th World Day of the Sick on February 11, the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Pope's Message for the Day, dated September 15, 2015, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, follows:
Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5)
"... The twenty-fourth World Day of the Sick offers me an opportunity to draw particularly close to you, dear friends who are ill, and to those who care for you.
"This year, since the Day of the Sick will be solemnly celebrated in the Holy Land, I wish to propose a meditation on the Gospel account of the wedding feast of Cana (Jn 2: 1-11), where Jesus performed His first miracle through the intervention of His Mother. The theme chosen - Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary: 'Do whatever He tells you' (Jn 2:5) is quite fitting in light of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The main Eucharistic celebration of the Day will take place on February 11, 2016, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Nazareth itself, where 'the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us' (Jn 1:14). In Nazareth, Jesus began His salvific mission, applying to Himself the words of the Prophet Isaiah, as we are told by the Evangelist Luke: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord' (Lk 4:18-19).
"Illness, above all grave illness, always places human existence in crisis and brings with it questions that dig deep. Our first response may at times be one of rebellion: Why has this happened to me? We can feel desperate, thinking that all is lost, that things no longer have meaningâ€¦
"In these situations, faith in God is on the one hand tested, yet at the same time can reveal all of its positive resources. Not because faith makes illness, pain, or the questions which they raise, disappear, but because it offers a key by which we can discover the deepest meaning of what we are experiencing; a key that helps us to see how illness can be the way to draw nearer to Jesus Who walks at our side, weighed down by the Cross. And this key is given to us by Mary, our Mother, who has known this way at first hand.
"At the wedding feast of Cana, Mary is the thoughtful woman who sees a serious problem for the spouses: the wine, the symbol of the joy of the feast, has run out. Mary recognizes the difficulty, in some way makes it her own, and acts swiftly and discreetly. She does not simply look on, much less spend time in finding fault, but rather, she turns to Jesus and presents Him with the concrete problem: 'They have no wine' (Jn 2:3). And when Jesus tells her that it is not yet the time for Him to reveal Himself (cf. v. 4), she says to the servants: 'Do whatever He tells you' (v. 5). Jesus then performs the miracle, turning water into wine, a wine that immediately appears to be the best of the way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God's mercy' (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ 'becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiledâ€¦ to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us' (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.
"In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical 'you will be like God' (Gen 3:5) which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.
"For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favorable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God's word and by practicing the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy - counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment, and prayer - we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. "By taking this path, the 'proud,' the 'powerful' and the 'wealthy' spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord Who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power, and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ Who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them' (Lk 16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming.
"Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favorable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God's mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (cf. Lk 1:48) and to call herself the Lord's humble servant (cf. Lk 1:38)."
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
Vatican City (VIS) - This morning (January 28) in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the 24th World Day of the Sick, to be celebrated in Nazareth in the Holy Land on February 11, feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, on the theme "Entrusting oneself to the merciful Jesus like Mary: 'Do whatever he tells you,' " based on the account of the wedding at Cana according to the Gospel of St. John.
The panel was composed of Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (Health Pastoral Care), Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu, secretary of the same dicastery, Rev. Augusto Chendi, under-secretary, Rev. Fr. Pietro Felet, S.C.I., secretary general of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land and local referent for the organization of the World Day of the Sick 2016.
The place where the Day will be held - Nazareth, in the Holy Land - is the first point to highlight, said Archbishop Zimowski. Nazareth is the place of the incarnation, where Jesus began His salvific mission and in Galilee cured many people, as is narrated in the Gospel of St. Mark, read in these days, in which Christ calls to the sick to heal them and, in turn, is called to by them. "In a certain sense we are all constantly called upon, although each person in a different way," explained the prelate. "The human being suffers in different places and, at times, suffers terribly. He calls to another person as he is in need of his help and his presence. At times we are intimidated by the fact of not being able to heal, of not being able to help like Jesus. Let us try to overcome this embarrassment. The important thing is to keep going, to stay beside the man who suffers. He needs, perhaps more than healing, the presence of another person, of a human heart full of mercy, of human solidarity."
"These are doctors, nurses, all the representatives of the healthcare professions. They are the institutions that serve human health... We must support this great tradition at all costs: the work of doctors and nurses is treated not only as a profession but also and perhaps firstly as a service, as a vocation. Care for the physically impaired and the elderly, care for the mentally ill - these sectors constitute, more than any other aspect of social life, the measure of the culture of a society and the state."
Secondly, the archbishop remarked that the Day occurs in the context of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and that there will be a visit to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and the Basilica of the Agony in Gethsemane, the places where Christ gave Himself to the Father for our salvation. "Jesus unites humanity through His Cross, and the celebration of the World Day of the Sick in the Holy Land will help us to realize the wish Pope Francis expressed in the Bull of Indiction, that is, that 'this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with [Judaism and Islam] and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination.' Every hospital and clinic, as the Holy Father reminds us, can be a visible sign and place for promoting the culture of encounter and peace, where the experience of sickness and suffering, as well as professional and fraternal help, may contribute to overcoming every limit and division."
Finally, the archbishop spoke about the role of servants at the wedding of Cana, who Mary told to do as Christ told them. "Naturally, the miracle takes place through Christ's work; however, He sought human help in completing the prodigy. He could have made the wine appear directly in the amphorae. But He wants to count on human collaboration, and asks the servants to fill them with water. How precious and pleasing to God it is to be servants of others! This, more than anything else, makes us similar to Jesus, Who 'came not to be served, but to serve.' "
"The fruit of this Day must be concrete: the closeness of our hearts that is expressed in mercy towards the sick and needy, who must feel the closeness or proximity, material and spiritual, of the entire Christian community," he concluded. "It is important that they are not left abandoned or alone as they face such a delicate moment in their life."
Fr. Chendi explained that the program of the Day is divided into three parts: liturgical moments; theological-pastoral insights, with the presence on February 9 in the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame Center of Jerusalem of the Catholic Ordinaries and Patriarchs and bishops of the sister Churches of the Holy Land; and concrete gestures of charity, such as visits to various hospitals and healthcare structures present in the area.
The under-secretary also mentioned that plenary indulgence granted by Pope Francis to those who participate in this Day, with the explicit intention that, through corporal and spiritual works of mercy "they will encounter a renewed and authentic witness and discover the Christian meaning of suffering and its sharing among brothers."
With regard to the theological and pastoral dimension, the congress of February 9 "will offer the opportunity to identify problems, also of an ethical and pastoral nature, that are urgent from both a legislative and a clinical and care-related point of view. In particular, in the name of the inviolable value of every human life and the unique dignity characteristic of every person, attention will be paid to issues regarding the end of life and the care of people with different pathologies, both physically and psychologically invalidating."
In relation to the charitable dimension, Fr. Chendi explained that the visits to various entities working in the Holy Land, both Catholic and non-Catholic, will constitute "a tangible sign of what Pope Francis describes in his message as Mary's tenderness in Cana of Galilee, which translates into a predisposition towards serving those in need and in particular our brothers and sisters in sickness."
"Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received - only what you have given ..."
~ St. Francis of Assisi
Recently I have done a review of the website WorldOnFire.org. This is a glimpse of five of the best resources I found on the website.
In "Pope Francis And True Mercy," dated October 13, 2015, Bishop Robert Barron states that mercy is what love looks like when it turns toward the sinner. When Pope Francis speaks of those on the margin, he does indeed mean people who are economically and politically disadvantaged, but he also means people who are cut off from the divine life, spiritually poor.
In "Pope Francis And The Evangelicals," Bishop Robert Barron (dated January 19, 2016) states that after giving Pastor James Robison a high-five, the Pope insisted that a living relationship with Jesus stands at the heart of the Christian reality. But does outreach to evangelicals go beyond the merely symbolic? Barron asks.
The third paragraph of Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel commences with this ecumenically remarkable sentence: "I invite all Christians everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ." In paragraph seven, "I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: 'Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.' " Christianity is not a philosophy or a set of ideas, but rather a friendship with Jesus of Nazareth. Pope Frances insists that we cannot passively and calmly wait in our church buildings; we need to move from a pastoral ministry of mere conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry.
Catholicism should lead today as it led 2,000 years ago, with the stunning news that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and the joy of that proclamation should be as evident now as it was then. There are references to joy in the New Testament. The angel's greeting to Mary was rejoice. In her Magnificent, the Mother of God exults that her spirit rejoices in God her savior. Jesus declared to His disciples that He said those things to them so that His joy may be in them and their joy complete. In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that wherever the disciples went there was great joy. The Pope asks, "Why should we not also enter into those great stream of joy?" A church filled with joy of the resurrection becomes a band of "missionary disciples" going out to the world with the good news.
The Pope calls for an active exploration of the via pulchritudinin (the way of beauty). Any beautiful thing can be a route of access to Christ. May we all follow the evangelical drumbeat of Pope Francis. How may we do this?
In "Practical Strategies of Evangelization," by Bishop Robert Barron, dated February 19, 2006, there are simple practical strategies for evangelization that you may do to make this message public.
Deepen your knowledge of the Catholic tradition. To know this tradition is to enter into a densely textured and illuminating world of meaning; not to know it deprives one of spiritual joy and perhaps even more regrettably renders one incapable of explaining the Catholic faith to those who seek to understand it better. No wonder we are relatively poor evangelists.
Resolve to read a good book of theology such as St. Augustine's Confessions. Study then paintings of Michelangelo. Enter into the powerful prayer of the Bible. Learn the tradition of Catholic Christianity, so as to be a better bearer of it to others. Invite someone you know to come back to church. Focus more on the re-activizing of inactive Catholics. Everyone, according to Barron, reading these words knows someone - friend, co-worker, family member, who has stopped attending Mass. Resolve to send that person a note, phone call, or sit down for a good conversation - and urge to come to church. It might prove a bit uncomfortable but evangelization is always a risk. For the sake of that person's spiritual health, take it. At your place of work, at social gatherings, among friends, allow your Catholicism to come to verbal expression. Non-verbal can be just as important. Put a crucifix or a picture of a favorite saint up. If this prompts a reaction or question so much the better for evangelical purposes. Don't be afraid to pray in public. Don't underestimate the evangelical power of demonstrating your faith in public. Jesus told His disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations. this call went out to everyone of the people of God. Don't miss the opportunity to be an angel of God.
There are often challenges, Matt Helson states in "The Challenge of Being A Christian," dated September 16, 2015. He writes that one of the greatest obstacles to becoming a committed Christian is that Christianity is challenging. Often the skeptic will see the struggle and be deterred, not because he does not want joy but rather because he does not want joy enough to give up his old ways. Indeed some skeptics are eventually compelled to change their mind. This is the hopeful realization that drives evangelization.
Bishop Barron writes, "A Prophetic Pope And The Tradition of Catholic Social Teaching" (dated July 14, 2015) that maybe we can use an example of an old way ... money. Barron asks, "Won't wealth destroy the rich man who doesn't appreciate the value of generosity or fails to develop sensitivity to the suffering of the poor?" he then goes on to say that we should, therefore, attend to Pope Francis's prophetic speech and allow it to bother us.
(Editor's note: Mr. Williams writes from California. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
A question was asked, "Why did Jesus on the cross say 'My God, why have you forsaken Me?' " The thought of why came into my mind but I didn't speak up. I was afraid of misquoting scripture when I should not have been and I was in fear of being "wrong."
Jesus in His early ministry often quoted Old Testament scripture. Obviously He was a learned man, after all "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Jesus is the Word, the embodiment of scripture.
At that moment on the cross God placed upon the bruised and battered shoulders of Jesus the entire weight of the world, all the sins of creation from the Garden of Eden up to today and beyond. That is a load, a burden that is unimaginable to the human mind. At the same time God had to seemingly strip Jesus of His divinity. St. John of the Cross might call this the 'Dark night of the soul.' A time in which, magnified here millions of times, one feels the true and utter desolation of total and complete loneliness, the abject terror of abandonment by God. A feeling of separation from God, otherwise known as hell.
The Lord's prayer teaches that for one to receive forgiveness, one must also forgive others, including oneself. You cannot receive what you will not give, you never command a soldier to do what you yourself are not willing to do.
Jesus, to keep us from the hell that is total and complete separation from God from whence there is no return, had to experience that same utter desolation and terror the soul condemned to hell would feel.
On the cross Jesus as God had to die the death of a man completely covered in an infinity of sins seemingly separate from God. In His agony and anguish He could only voice and identify with what He knows. The Word. With the Psalmist who write the 22nd Psalm that begins with "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" While showing, or while pointing out, the prophetic nature of that same Psalm as a man covered in the iniquities of trillions, still benevolently teaching mankind while in the throes of death and separation from all that He loved, all that He is.
It is my perception that we so often look at the beating and dying of Christ on the Cross, then sort of skip over the next few days jumping to the resurrection. But those couple of days are important, deeply moving, and profound. Jesus was dead for those couple of days and descended into hell. The Church, according to my limited study of the Catechism, states that Jesus physically died and went to the realm of the physically dead, to Sheol, as a savior but that He did not experience the realm of the spiritually dead, Gehenna, the eternally damned, those souls forever in a state of separation from God. I think that Jesus, in death, had to experience that state, to understand its very nature and to keep us from that state. Would a loving and just God condemn souls to that hell without experiencing it and understanding it Himself? The price Christ paid for us could only be a seemingly complete separation from God in order to save us from the very same fate. Being "wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and by his stripes we are healed," goes much deeper than breaking physical flesh, it extends into our very souls themselves.
Can a man entering this state not help to cry out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Yet, through it all, Jesus the ultimate teacher and sacrifice maintained His deep seeded faith, His belief in God. Why else cry out at all, why quote holy scripture in the very midst of such death?
Pope Francis urged participants not to forget the poor and to develop new economic models in a message to the 46th World Economic Forum which met in Switzerland beginning January 20.
The Pope's message, dated December 30, to Professor Klaus Schwab, executive president of the World Economic Forum, follows:
"Before all else, I would like to thank you for your gracious invitation to address the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters at the end of January on the theme: 'Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.' I offer you my cordial good wishes for the fruitfulness of this meeting, which seeks to encourage continuing social and environmental responsibility through a constructive dialogue on the part of government, business, and civic leaders, as well as distinguished representatives of the political, financial, and cultural sectors.
"The dawn of the so-called 'fourth industrial revolution' has been accompanied by a growing sense of the inevitability of a drastic reduction in the number of jobs. The latest studies conducted by the International Labor Organization indicate that unemployment presently affects hundreds of millions of people. The financialization and technologization of national and global economies have produced far-reaching changes in the field of labor. Diminished opportunities for useful and dignified employment, combined with a reduction in social security, are causing a disturbing rise in inequality and poverty in different countries. Clearly there is a need to create new models of doing business which, while promoting the development of advanced technologies, are also capable of using them to create dignified work for all, to uphold and consolidate social rights, and to protect the environment. Man must guide technological development, without letting himself be dominated by it!
"To all of you I appeal once more: 'Do not forget the poor!' This is the primary challenge before you as leaders in the business world. 'Those who have the means to enjoy a decent life, rather than being concerned with privileges, must seek to help those poorer than themselves to attain dignified living conditions, particularly through the development of their human, cultural, economic, and social potential' (Address to Civic and Business Leaders and the Diplomatic Corps, Bangui, November 29, 2015).
"We must never allow the culture of prosperity to deaden us, to make us incapable of 'feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and sensing the need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility and not our own' (Evangelii Gaudium, 54).
"Weeping for other people's pain does not only mean sharing in their sufferings, but also and above all realizing that our own actions are a cause of injustice and inequality. 'Let us open our eyes, then, and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!' (Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, 15).
"Once we realize this, we become more fully human, since responsibility for our brothers and sisters is an essential part of our common humanity. Do not be afraid to open your minds and hearts to the poor. In this way, you will give free rein to your economic and technical talents, and discover the happiness of a full life, which consumerism of itself cannot provide.
"In the face of profound and epochal changes, world leaders are challenged to ensure that the coming 'fourth industrial revolution,' the result of robotics and scientific and technological innovations, does not lead to the destruction of the human person - to be replaced by a soulless machine - or to the transformation of our planet into an empty garden for the enjoyment of a chosen few.
"On the contrary, the present moment offers a precious opportunity to guide and govern the processes now under way, and to build inclusive societies based on respect for human dignity, tolerance, compassion, and mercy. I urge you, then, to take up anew your conversation on how to build the future of the planet, 'our common home,' and I ask you to make a united effort to pursue a sustainable and integral development.
"As I have often said, and now willingly reiterate, business is 'a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world,' especially 'if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good' (Laudato Si', 129). As such, it has a responsibility to help overcome the complex crisis of society and the environment, and to fight poverty. This will make it possible to improve the precarious living conditions of millions of people and bridge the social gap which gives rise to numerous injustices and erodes fundamental values of society, including equality, justice, and solidarity.
"In this way, through the preferred means of dialogue, the World Economic Forum can become a platform for the defense and protection of creation and for the achievement of a progress which is 'healthier, more human, more social, more integral' (Laudato Si', 112), with due regard also for environmental goals and the need to maximize efforts to eradicate poverty as set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"... with renewed good wishes for the success of the forthcoming meeting in Davos, I invoke upon you and upon all taking part in the Forum, together with your families, God's abundant blessings."
(A Christian Perspective on World News)
Vatican City (VIS) - "Mercy is the foundation of the life of the Church: the first truth of the Church, indeed, is Christ's love," were the opening words of the Holy Father's discourse to the participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whom he received in audience January 29 in the Clementine Hall. The Pope went on to urge all the Christian people, both pastors and the faithful, to rediscover during this Jubilee the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as when, in the twilight of life, we are asked if we have given food to the hungry and given the thirsty water to drink, we will also be asked "if we have helped people to set their doubts aside, if we have committed ourselves to welcoming sinners, admonishing them and correcting them, if we have been able to combat ignorance, especially in relation to the Christian faith and the righteous life."
"In faith and in charity a cognitive and unifying relationship is established with the mystery of Love, which is God Himself. The effective mercy of God became, in Jesus, affective mercy, as He made Himself man for the salvation of mankind. The task entrusted to your Dicastery here finds its ultimate foundation and adequate justification. Christian faith, indeed, is not only knowledge to be committed to memory, but also truth to live in love. Therefore, along with the doctrine of the faith, it is also necessary to safeguard the integrity of customs, particularly in the most delicate areas of life. Adhering to faith in the person of Christ implies both an act of reason and a moral response to His gift. In this respect, I thank you for all your commitment and the responsibility you exercise in treating cases of abuse of minors by members of the clergy."
"Safeguarding the integrity of faith and customs is a delicate task. Performing this mission well requires collegial commitment... The correct synodality must be promoted at all levels of ecclesial life," added the Pope, citing in this respect the meeting organized by the Congregation with the Doctrinal Commissions of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe, enabling various doctrinal and pastoral challenges to be faced in a collegial way and thus inspiring in the faithful "a new missionary impulse and greater openness to the transcendent dimension of life, without which Europe runs the risk of losing its humanist spirit that it nevertheless loves and defends."
Another significant contribution of the Congregation to the renewal of ecclesial life was its study on complementarity between hierarchical and charismatic gifts, called upon to collaborate in synergy for the good of the Church and the world, and whose relationship evokes the Trinitarian root, the bond between the divine Word made flesh and the Holy Spirit, which is always a gift of the Father and the Son.
"It is precisely this root, if acknowledged and listened to humbly, that permits the Church to let herself be renewed at any time... Unity and plurality are the seal of a Church that, moved by the Spirit, knows how to walk with a sure and faithful step towards the purpose that the Risen Lord has indicated to them throughout history. Here we see clearly how the synodal dynamic, if correctly understood, is born from communion and leads towards an increasingly implemented, deepened, and extended, in the service of the life and the mission of the People of God."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
Vatican City (VIS) - Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin spoke January 18 at round table organized by the Global Foundation on the theme "Rejecting the globalization of indifference - towards a more inclusive and sustainable global economy," This initiative, he said, emphasizes the Foundation's "commitment to being a privileged place of dialogue between major economic and political players, as well as a catalyst for ideas for the construction of an economic system at the service of integral economic development."
Cardinal Parolin affirmed that since the beginning of his Pontificate, faced with the many difficulties which afflict the world, the Pope has emphasized "the grave consequences of indifference and of the lack of responsibility," calling for the correction of an economy that causes exclusion and inequality. "He invites the rich and the poor, the powerful and simple, politicians and entrepreneurs to put the creative power of human intelligence at the service of the common good, with a spirit of solidarity and - I would add - mercy."
"Without forgetting how much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to help people escape from extreme poverty, Pope Francis continues to underscore his conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. It goes without saying - that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology, and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive, and sustainable. That will be possible, keeping in mind the definition of justice of the Roman jurist Ulpian and of St Augustine of Hippo - "Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius suum cuique tribuendi" (Justice is the constant and perpetual will to render to every man his due), which the Pope quoted in his address to the United Nations on September 25, 2015, with reference to the "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," in order to say to those responsible for global affairs that our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical, and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion."
The Secretary of State concluded by highlighting the importance of the meeting organized by the Global Foundation, which is "an important space for encouraging an increase in global awareness of the serious problems of environmental degradation and exclusion. It will thus provide a stimulus to strengthen the action which has already begun, and is starting to show positive and enduring results... I reiterate the wish that these days might bring forth worthwhile contributions to encourage an economy which is increasingly at the service of our common home, which is the world as a whole."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
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