Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bartimaeus

It was a hot day in Jericho. Bartimaeus took his place along the side of the road, hoping that people would be generous today. He was hungry. A few coins would buy a bit of bread. 

He settled in, feeling the warmth of the sun on his face, even though he couldn't see the light. He sighed. If only there was something productive a blind man could do. He didn't want to be a lowly beggar, relying on others for everything from his meager meals to his ragged garments.

Bartimaeus could hear people milling around, more people than normal. A crowd seemed to be gathering. That was strange. He listened more closely. There were whispers all around. “Him!” “He's coming!” “Who?” Bartimaeus asked. “Jesus of Nazareth, the miracle worker, the prophet!” 

Jesus of Nazareth. Bartimaeus had heard rumors about this Man, how He had healed others, people no one else had been able to help. A glimmer of hope flickered to life within him. Could this Jesus change his life? Could He heal him? Was it even possible? 

The crowd grew noisier. Bartimaeus could sense their anticipation. Then, suddenly, silence. He was here. 

Bartimaeus didn't stop to think. The hope in his heart welled up and flowed out. “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” 

Hisses erupted on every side. “Shh...” “Don't speak, beggar.” “Be quiet!” 

He couldn't be quiet. He cried out more loudly still. “Son of David, have pity on me!” 

Silence again. The moments passed. Then he heard a voice. “Call him here.” 

Who, me? Bartimaeus thought. Me? 

He could sense people approaching him. “Take courage,” someone said softly. “Get up. Jesus is calling you.” 

Bartimaeus hesitated no longer. He sprang up and threw off his cloak. He needed no guidance to get to Jesus. Somehow he knew just where to find Him. His presence was so strong. Standing before Him, Bartimaeus found himself speechless. 

Then a gentle voice spoke. “What do you want Me to do for you?” 

Bartimaeus' heart nearly burst from his chest. “Master, I want to see!” 

The answer came. So calm. So gentle. So loving. “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” 

And he could see. The world was bright once more. The light flooded his eyes. Color surged around him. But he stared straight ahead...directly at the Man Who had just removed his blindness. 

Bartimaeus couldn't express what he was feeling at that moment. He was too overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. But he knew one thing. He would follow Jesus wherever He went...forever. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Gaudium et Spes – Part 10

In the second part of Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II Fathers discuss some of the “more urgent problems” facing the world today and illuminate them with the light of Christ. Each of the five chapters in the second part focuses on a particular issue relevant to the modern world: marriage and family, culture, economic and social life, the political community, and peace and international communion. 

Here are some of the topics and ideas you'll find in Part II, Chapter V, of Gaudium et Spes.

Chapter V – Fostering of Peace and Establishment of a Community of Nations 

Introduction 

* Today's world is marked with hardship, anxiety, and war. 

* But a “truly human world” requires a worldwide commitment to true peace. 

Nature of Peace 

* Peace is not merely a balance of power but the fruit of a “right ordering of things.” Such a just order is designed by God. 

* Peace “derives from the eternal law” and is built up gradually through “constant effort” and mutual relationships. 

* Peace is ultimately the “fruit of love” and flows from the peace of Christ, Who is the Prince of Peace. 

* Christians have the responsibility to “speak the truth in love,” to plead for peace, and to work to bring it about. 

* War is the result of sin and can only be overcome by love. 

Section 1: Avoidance of War 

Curbing the Savagery of War 

* Modern warfare is more savage than ever, and war is more complex due to the “intricacy of international relations.” 

* Natural law and conscience must be the governing forces of any wars that break out. International conventions about treatment of civilians, the wounded, and prisoners must be strictly observed. 

* Lawful self-defense is a possibility but only as a last resort and within tightly controlled limits.

Total Warfare 

* Modern weapons have “immeasurably magnified the horrors and wickedness of war” and go “far beyond the bounds of legitimate defense.” 

* The Church condemns total warfare and all acts of war “directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas and their inhabitants.” These acts are crimes against God and humanity. 

The Arms Race 

* The arms race does not achieve peace. It only spreads aggression and anxiety. 

* The arms race is “one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured.” 

* New approaches to resolving conflicts, reformed attitudes, and a better sense of responsibility are necessary to free the world from fear and bring peace. 

Total Outlawing of War: International Action to Prevent War 

* The ultimate goal of humanity should be a complete outlawing of war “by international agreement.” 

* To achieve this goal, nations must agree on a “universally acknowledged public authority” to enforce laws, uphold security, and foster justice. 

* All countries should strive to “put aside nationalistic selfishness and ambitions to dominate other nations” and adopt a respectful worldview. 

* All people must participate in peace-making, changing their attitudes and their hearts as necessary to promote the security and development of the whole human race. 

Section 2: Establishment of an International Community 

Causes of Discord: Remedies 

* Peace can be established only by rooting out the “causes of discord” that lead to war, including injustice, economic inequality, pride, distrust, envy, selfishness, hunger for power, and contempt for humanity. 

* Organizations working for peace should be promoted to lessen and eliminate these causes of discord. 

The Community of Nations and International Organizations 

* International organizations should be developed to promote the “universal common good” and provide for human needs. 

* Within these organizations, people can work together to solve problems, prevent wars, promote brotherhood, and build peace. 

International Cooperation in Economic Matters 

* Worldwide “cooperation in economic matters” is essential to decrease inequalities; promote education and resource development in poorer countries; and offer required material aid. 

* The help wealthier countries give to poorer ones must be offered with a “spirit of generosity,” with respect, and without ulterior motives and agendas. 

* Strong communication between nations and people is essential for proper cooperation.

Some Useful Norms 

* Total human development is the goal for developing nations. 

* Affluent nations must help developing nations meet their goal. 

* The international community should be in charge of fairly distributing resources. 

* The spiritual nature of humanity must be recognized and fostered along with economic and social structures. 

* Population concerns must be addressed according to the divine moral law. 

Role of Christians in International Aid 

* Christians have the responsibility to work toward a just international order and true peace and to witness to a spirit of poverty and love that will help correct the imbalances and hardships of the modern world. 

* Christians must always act with true generosity. 

Effective Present of the Church in the International Community 

* The Church is involved in building world-wide peace and fraternal communion among all people. She does this by teaching divine and natural law, preaching the Gospel, dispensing graces, and being present in all communities to serve. 

* The Christian faithful have a responsibility to work toward peace in their own environments, cooperate with others, and train themselves and their young people. 

Role of Christians in International Organizations 

* Various “Catholic international bodies” should assist international organizations and work to form solidarity between all people. 

* Catholics should cooperate as actively as possibility to foster love and justice for the poor,

Conclusion 

Role of Individual Christians and of Local Churches 

* In this document, the Council intends to help all people attain “a keener awareness of their own destiny, to make the world conform better to the surpassing dignity of man, to strive for a more deeply rooted sense of universal brotherhood, and to meet the pressing appeals of our times with a generous and common effort of love.” 

* All of the proposals found in this document are based upon the Word of God and “the Spirit of the Gospel.” 

Dialogue Between All Men 

* Sincere dialogue between all people is necessary to foster true unity and still maintain “legitimate diversity.” 

* The Church follows this principle: “let there be unity in what is necessary, freedom in what is doubtful, and charity in everything.” 

* All people must work together to “build up the world in a spirit of genuine peace.” 

A World to Be Built up and Brought to Fulfillment 

* Christians have the task of embracing the Gospel, allowing themselves to be enriched by it, and joining other people to build up a world of true love and peace. 

* When Christians recognize Christ in all people and bear witness to the truth, they share “the mystery of His heavenly love” with the whole world. 

The full text of Gaudium et Spes is available online at the Vatican website.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Two Kinds of Leadership 

In today's Gospel, Jesus contrasts two very different kinds of leadership, that which the Gentiles embrace and that which He expects His followers to practice. In doing so, He paints a picture of a true authority that follows in His footsteps. 

Jesus begins with the negative definition of leadership. The Gentiles, He says, “lord it over” their subjects and “their great ones make their authority over them felt.” Examining the Greek text will give us a clearer image of this version of power. Jesus calls the Gentile rulers oi dokountes archeiv, literally, the ones who seem to rule. The word dokountes has connotations of appearance and self-deception. Gentile rulers think they are in control, and they appear that way to others. By using this word, however, Jesus is suggesting that their leadership is merely show. Their influence in the temporal realm is limited, and they have no power at all in the eternal kingdom. 

Nevertheless, Gentile leaders do no hesitate to flaunt whatever authority they think they have. They “lord it over” their subjects. The Greek verb for this action is katakurieuousin, and it emphasizes the mastery of the rulers and the subjugation of those ruled, who are subdued under their leaders' control. Not a pleasant picture. 

Jesus goes even further when He says that the “great ones” of the Gentiles “make their authority” over their subjects felt. The Greek verb for making authority felt is katexousiazousin. It refers to excessive and arbitrary authority. These leaders (we can assume that “great ones” is probably used sarcastically) desire full power over those they believe are lesser beings than they are, and they will use any means in their possession to attain it. 

Followers of Christ are not to be followers of this model of leadership. Jesus makes that very clear. “But it shall not be so among you,” He tells His disciples. 

Then He presents an alternative variety of leadership: “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant...” 

The truly great are servants. The real leaders know the needs of their followers and strive to meet them. True rulers are humble enough to put other people ahead of themselves, to rule with love, to control with gentleness, and to desire the genuine well-being of those they lead. This is radical leadership. 

But Jesus carries it even further: “whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” A slave. In Greek, doulos. This word refers to the lowest level of servitude in which the servant's will and abilities are completely at the service of another person. 

True leaders, then, lay down their lives for those they rule. They place themselves in a position of humble servitude, dedicating themselves completely to others. They fulfill the requirements of their people with a faithful will and the full range of their talents and resources. Again, this is radical leadership. 

Jesus Himself is our model for this radical form of leadership. He came to serve. He came to give Himself for the whole world. He came to die that we might live. He is a ruler. He is a servant. He is God. He is Man. And He calls us to follow Him as true servant leaders who guide others straight to Him.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Gaudium et Spes – Part 9

In the second part of Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II Fathers discuss some of the “more urgent problems” facing the world today and illuminate them with the light of Christ. Each of the five chapters in the second part focuses on a particular issue relevant to the modern world: marriage and family, culture, economic and social life, the political community, and peace and international communion. 

Here are some of the topics and ideas you'll find in Part II, Chapter IV, of Gaudium et Spes.

Chapter IV – The Political Community 

Modern Public Life 

* Transformations in modern life have led to a greater concern for civil liberty and the common good. 

* Modern people have a “keener awareness of human dignity,” and many seek to protect the rights of all people. 

* Modern people also have a “growing desire” to participate in political life in order to better exercise their rights and to contribute to the common good. 

* All political life must be based on humanity and promote justice, the common good, and true human development. 

Nature and Purpose of the Political Community 

* Human beings naturally tend toward involvement in a political community, which “exists for the common good.” 

* “The common good embraces the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families, and organizations to achieve fulfillment more completely and more expeditiously.” 

* Authority is necessary to guide a political community toward the common good, but this authority must always be a moral force that promotes both freedom and responsibility in its citizens. 

* Citizens must obey political authority that is acting according to the moral order and the common good. Citizens do not, however, have to obey a corrupt, immoral authority and have the right to defend themselves against such according to the law of the Gospel. 

* The ultimate purpose of the political community is to form “a human person who is cultured, peace-loving and well disposed towards his fellow men with a view, to the benefit of the whole human race.” 

Participation by All in Public Life 

* All citizens must have the opportunity to participate in the establishment and administration of the political community. 

* Citizens have the right and duty to vote. 

* The political community must protect citizens' rights and promote family, culture, and social organizations. 

* Citizens must provide reasonable “material and personal services” to the political community and not abuse the system by “untimely and exaggerated demands for favors and subsidies.” 

* The political community should strike a balance between individual freedom and the common good while citizens should strike a balance between patriotism and care for the “whole human family.” 

* Christians must serve as an example of responsibility to the political community. Christians can model the complementary pairs of “personal initiative” and solidarity; freedom and authority; and unity and diversity. 

* All citizens should receive a “civil and political education.” 

* A true politician seeks the common good rather than his or her own interests. A true politician works “with integrity and wisdom” for the “welfare of all in a spirit of sincerity and fairness, of love and of courage...” 

The Political Community and the Church 

* The Church “is not identified with any political community nor bound by ties to any political system.” She illustrates “the transcendental dimension of the human person.” 

* The goals of the Church and the political community overlap in that both seek justice and strive toward the common good, yet the Church and the political community remain autonomous. 

* The Church respects “the political freedom and responsibility” of citizens. 

* The Church has the right to preach and teach the faith, to “carry out its task,” and to “pass moral judgments even in matters relating to politics.” 

The full text of Gaudium et Spes is available online at the Vatican website.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Prayer for Wisdom 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Make my soul responsive to You. 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Perfect my faith that it may not be merely an intellectual assent but a real, intimate relationship with You. 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Help me penetrate into the depths of divine truth that I may know You better and understand Your plan for my life. 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
May I detach my heart from the things of this world and focus on the things of eternity. 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Increase my longing for Heaven. 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Fill my heart with joy in You. 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Give me discernment that I may apply Your divine teachings to every situation of my life.

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Expand Your love inside of me that it may flow out to others. 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Teach me to make right choices that I may live a holy life. 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Strengthen me that I may prefer Your wisdom to all power and material goods. 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Never allow me to be separated from You. 

Blessed Lord, grant me wisdom. 
Wrap me in Your loving arms. 

Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II – Gaudium et Spes – Part 8

In the second part of Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II Fathers discuss some of the “more urgent problems” facing the world today and illuminate them with the light of Christ. Each of the five chapters in the second part focuses on a particular issue relevant to the modern world: marriage and family, culture, economic and social life, the political community, and peace and international communion. 

Here are some of the topics and ideas you'll find in Part II, Chapter III, of Gaudium et Spes.

Chapter III – Economic and Social Life 

Some Characteristics of Economic Life Today 

* The human person must always stand at the center of economic and social life as its focus and end. 

* Modern social and economic trends include a “growing dominion over nature”; closer relationships between groups and individuals; and “the frequency of state interaction”. While improvements in the modern economy could make it “an instrument capable of meeting the growing needs of the human family,” the economic realities of the modern world often lead to greed and “social inequalities” among people and nations. 

* Economic and social life requires reform guided by the “Gospel principles of justice and equality.” 

Economic Development in the Service of Man 

* The Church encourages economic and technical progress but always with the goal of serving the human person in all his or her material, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and religious needs. Such progress must be guided by the moral order. 

Economic Development under Man's Direction 

* Economic development should remain under the control of human beings with as broad a participation as possible in economic life. 

* All people have “the right and the duty to contribute according to their ability to the genuine progress of their own community.” Civil authorities must recognize this right. 

An End to Excessive Economic and Social Differences 

* All people should work to “put and end” to the “immense economic inequalities” in the world. 

* Individual rights need to be balanced with the common good. 

* Farmers have a right to professional and economic development and “a fair return for their products.” 

* Migrants must be treated with justice as persons with human dignity. All discrimination in working conditions and wages is to be strictly avoided. 

* Jobs should be safeguarded in this world of “new forms of industrialization” so that “sufficient and suitable employment” may be available. 

Work, Working Conditions, Leisure 

* Human work holds a dignity that “surpasses all other elements of economic life,” for it “proceeds from the human person.” 

* Human work includes spiritual elements because it provides the occasion to exercise charity, participates in “the work of bringing creation to perfection,” and may be “associated with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.” 

* All people have a right and duty to work and the right to fair pay that allows them to provide a “dignified livelihood” for themselves and their families. 

* Workers must never be exploited but should have the opportunity for personal development and “sufficient rest and leisure.” Work is for the person, not the person for work. 

Co-Responsibility in Enterprise and in the Economic System as a Whole; Labor Disputes 

* Businesses are made up of people made in the image of God, and all of those people from the top to the bottom should actively participate in the decision-making process “in person or through their representatives.” 

* Workers have a right to unionize. While disputes should be settled peacefully through “sincere discussion” if at all possible, workers do have a right to strike as a last resort to defend their rights. 

Earthly Goods Destined for All Men 

* “God destined the earth and all it contains for all men and all peoples so that all created things would be shared fairly by all mankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity.” 

* While people have a right to private property, they must also remember that material goods have a “universal destination” and should be used to benefit others. People with material goods have the duty to share them with the poor. 

Investment and Money 

* Investment should be human-centered in order to provide employment and ensure “sufficient income for the people of today and of the future.” 

* Investors and economic planners must make sure that individuals and the community have “the necessities for living a decent life” right now even as they plan for the future. 

Ownership, Private Property, Large Estates 

* Private property allows human beings to express their personalities, provide for themselves and their families, attain economic autonomy and security, and exercise responsibility. 

* Private ownership must be balanced with the common good, for “private property has a social dimension which is based on the law of common destination of earthly goods.” 

* Large, unproductive estates may sometimes be broken up that they may be worked by laborers without exploitation. 

Economic and Social Activity and the Kingdom of Christ 

* Through their economic and social activity, Christians must always “contribute to the prosperity of mankind and to world peace.” They must stand as a “shining example” to the whole world of the values of Christ, “the spirit of the Beatitudes,” and “the spirit of poverty.” 

* Christians seek the Kingdom of God before all else that they may act with charity and justice.

The full text of Gaudium et Spes is available online at the Vatican website.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Fear of the Lord 

Twice in today's Psalm (#128) we hear that those who fear the Lord are blessed. 

Blessed are you who fear the LORD 
who walk in His ways! (verse 1) 

Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD. (verse 4) 

To most modern people, blessing and fear do not seem to fit together very well, but the Psalmist promises rich blessings to those who fear God: prosperity, comfort, satisfaction, happiness, divine favor, peace, a flourishing family, and a good life in one's homeland. 

The two Hebrew words used for “blessed” add additional layers of meaning. In verse 1, the Hebrew word 'esher stresses happiness while in verse 4, b├órak emphasizes benefits as well as praise, congratulations, and even thanks. 

All of this, the Psalmist says, comes about because of fear of the Lord. 

But what is fear of the Lord? The English word “fear” has a variety of connotations: “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined”; “a specific instance of or propensity for such a feeling” (i.e., a phobia or aversion); “concern or anxiety; solicitude”; “something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension”; and “reverential awe” (www.dictionary.com). 

Most people would latch on to the last definition, “reverential awe,” to explain the use of the word “fear” in these verses, for God certainly is not a danger or evil that raises distressing emotions in His children, nor is He a source of anxiety or dread. 

But is fear of the Lord really just “reverential awe”? Philosopher Josef Pieper argues to the negative. In his book On Hope, Pieper remarks, “From the beginning, one must keep firmly in mind that fear of the Lord is, in the undiminished and precise sense of the word, truly 'fear'” (80). According to Pieper, fear of the Lord has more in common with concern or anxiety or even with distressing emotions arising from danger or evil than with reverence. 

“It remains,” Pieper continues, “to inquire what it is that fear of the Lord fears” (80). To explore this question, Pieper asks another: What is the “the utmost and ultimate danger” threatening humanity? He answers, “...the ability to commit sin” (81). Sin harms the relationship between God and the human being, and if the sin is serious, it can even sever that relationship and steal the divine life from a person's soul. 

Fear of the Lord, then, Pieper explains, is a fear of “being separated by sin from the Ultimate Ground of all being” (81). It is not fear of God as some dangerous Being. It is not anxiety brought about by the image of God as a harsh judge or cold king. It is not even reverential awe or respect for the Creator. Fear of the Lord is fear of losing God through sin. It is a terror of committing a sin that would harm one's relationship with God or, worse yet, separate one from God for all eternity. 

Pieper goes on to describe two levels of fear of the Lord. The lowest level is called “servile fear.” Good but imperfect, servile fear focuses on the punishment that results from sin. People at this level fear sin because of the punishment it brings. On a higher, more perfect level, fear of the Lord is called “filial” or “chaste” fear. Those at this level fear sin for what it is in itself, a selfish rebellion against the good and loving God Who has given His people His own divine life (82-83). 

Both servile and filial fear discourage sin and increase love for God. In fact, Pieper calls fear of the Lord “love in flight,” for it allows those who fear to flee from sin toward the loving arms of God (85). 

Returning to the Psalm, then, we can see how fear of the Lord, really fear of what separates us from the Lord, leads to great blessings. When we avoid sin and, as the Psalmist says, walk in the ways of the Lord, God pours His blessings upon us. Our hearts are open to Him and to His gifts, for we have fled from sin into His perfect love.