Written by Sherry
Thursday, 06 August 2009 14:14
August 6, was the day that St. Dominic died in 1221. The Feast of the Transfiguration.
The Office of Readings asks us to meditate on this sermon by St. Anastasius of Sinai (in this Rembrandt portrait).
"Upon Mount Tabor, Jesus revealed to his disciples a heavenly mystery. While living among them he had spoken of the kingdom and of his second coming in glory, but to banish from their hearts any possible doubt concerning the kingdom and to confirm their faith in what lay in the future by its prefiguration in the present, he gave them on Mount Tabor a wonderful vision of his glory, a foreshadowing of the kingdom of heaven.
These are the divine wonders we celebrate today; this is the saving revelation given us upon the mountain; this is the festival of Christ that has drawn us here. Let us listen, then, to the sacred voice of God so compellingly calling us from on high, from the summit of the mountain, so that with the Lord’s chosen disciples we may penetrate the deep meaning of these holy mysteries, so far beyond our capacity to express. Jesus goes before us to show us the way, both up the mountain and into heaven, and–I speak boldly–it is for us now to follow him with all speed, yearning for the heavenly vision that will give us a share in his radiance, renew our spiritual nature and transform us into his own likeness, making us for ever sharers in his Godhead and raising us to heights as yet undreamed of.
Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John. Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the Creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.
It is indeed good to be here, as you have said Peter. It is good to be with Jesus and to remain here for ever. What greater happiness or higher honor could we have than to be with God, to be made like him and to live in his light?"
h/t: Joe Waters and the wonderful blog of the Dominican Church of St. Vincent de Ferrer
Written by Sherry
Tuesday, 04 August 2009 09:17
O, Sweet Jesus, may every good feeling that is fitted for Your praise, love You, delight in You, adore You! God of my heart, and my Portion, Christ Jesus, may my heart faint away in spirit, and may You be my Life within me! May the live coal of Your Love grow hot within my spirit and break forth into a perfect fire; may it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart; may it glow in my innermost being; may it blaze in hidden recesses of my soul; and in the days of my consummation may I be found consummated with You! Amen.
St. Augustine of Hippo
Written by Sherry
Sunday, 02 August 2009 16:42
ID reader (and C & G alum) Eric Rogers of Anchorage made sure that I saw this Whispers piece on Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.
I've heard simply glowing things about Cardinal Turkson from Ralph Martin and Peter Herbeck of Renewal Ministries who have collaborated with him on numerous evangelistic initiatives in Africa so the quotes from a 2007 London Times interview delight but don't surprise me.
But how wonderful to have a prelate at the highest levels of the Church who really gets it - and is willing to actually say it on record for attribution! Per the Times:
"It is easy to see his appeal. He has an international outlook, having studied in Rome and New York; he is a biblical scholar and is fluent in eight languages. In Ghana he has good relations with the Pentecostal and Evangelical churches, and is regarded as a forward thinker. What is more, at 59, age is on his side.
There are about 3 million Catholics in Ghana. All of its 18 bishops are indigenous, as are 95 per cent of its 1,200 priests. However, there is alarm in the Vatican over the exodus of Catholics in developing countries to Pentecostal and evangelical churches. During a visit to London in October, the Cardinal Turkson suggested that the Catholic Church has much to learn from these churches, not least their emphasis on the Bible and personal conversion.
“I think that our traditional way of making people Catholic needs to be reconsidered. The declaration that Jesus is Lord is meant to be an expression of a person's commitment. It's like somebody being offered knowledge of a person and consciously accepting to enter into a relationship with that person and establish personal ties. This is what holds people in these evangelical churches,” he says.
He added that some priests and bishops were products of “notional Christianity” — they had been brought up in a Catholic home, had a Catholic education, and learnt their theology in seminary, but they had never experienced a personal conversion.
“The danger facing the Catholic Church in Africa is that we just feed people with a few notions. Who is God? What is the Trinity? What is a sacrament? These definitions can be learnt by heart and just repeated to anybody who asks questions.
“At the last meeting I attended of the Council for Christian Unity we discussed the threat of Pentecostals in Latin America. I said that we need to celebrate the gifts of the Holy Spirit more: prophecy, healing, intercessionary prayer and all of that. This is one of the things the Pentecostals do.”
I have been told that Cardinal Turkson goes to great lengths to evangelize his seminarians and priests because he knows that some of them got on board the clerical train without being disciples. Notice that he named the Name. He even used the phrase "Jesus is Lord".
His comments on our western practice is particularly striking in light of the responses of participants in last week's Making Disciples to the question we have asked so many pastors and pastoral leaders over the years.
What percentage of your parishioners would you estimate to be Intentional disciples?
Two bits of background to help understand their responses:
1) Obviously, this kind of estimate must be based upon the people pastoral leaders actually know - the people who actually show up at the parish on a regular basis and are visible enough to engage. That eliminates the 70% of Americans who were raised Catholic and either have dropped the identity altogether or still call themselves Catholic even though they seldom or never attend Mass. So the following estimates are based upon pastoral experience of the active minority (approximately 30% nationally of those raised Catholic).
2) We asked this question after we had been together for 3 days and had spent two days wrestling at great length with recognizing pre-discipleship levels of spiritual development. So people had a pretty clear idea of what was meant by the term "intentional disciple".
The responses? One leader guessed 2%. Two additional participants, presenting two other parishes, said "1%". The parish that took the prize for the most encouraging estimate said "10%".
Which was interesting because the pastor came up to me later and told me privately that he would have answered "5%" and that the 10% was the guess of one of his staff.
Over the years, the average estimate has been consistently "5%". Lets take that figure as a loose, educated guesstimate - which is all we have, of course.
Do the math. 5% out of the 30% of those raised Catholic and who actually attend Mass at least once a month.
An average 1.5% of those Americans raised Catholic are probably intentional disciples. Of course, your local results may vary dramatically. But the basic trajectory is clear.
We could learn alot from the good Cardinal from Ghana.
Written by Michael Fones
Sunday, 02 August 2009 11:20
Last week I received a phone message from a Dominican in Eugene, who asked me to call, and told me it was an emergency.
As his phone rang I wondered; what is the nature of the emergency? Who’s involved? How will it affect me?
He told me my friend Sue, the campus minister at Oregon State, and my unofficial adopted sister, had died suddenly of unknown causes.
Sue had Cushing’s disease, and at 49 years old, had already lived nearly a decade longer than her doctors predicted, yet in one of our last conversations, she had fretted about how she was going to save up for retirement!
And I had worried about that for her, too.
We so easily deny that our life is short and its end unpredictable.
So I think those deceitful desires that the author to the letter of the Ephesians refers to are not those that stem from greed, gluttony and sex.
Rather, any desire that is not corralled by the knowledge that death takes every possession away from us is deceitful!
The adage, “You can’t take it with you,” was meant to teach us to hold on to our possessions loosely, but today it seems to imply, “therefore go for the gusto in the here and now!”
The death of a loved one, serious personal sickness, and economic struggles have always been a kind of “wake up call” for those who have the luxury of comfortable complacency.
The futility of our minds that Ephesians attributes to pagans, is the mindset of those who are spiritually asleep, who have not yet experienced conversion.
“Wake up” is the basic message of the OT prophets through John the Baptist.
Jesus himself, begins his ministry with the call to ‘repent, for the kingdom of God is upon you.’
St. Paul urges the Romans, “Now is the time to awake from sleep, for the night is far spent and the day draws near.”
Ephesians takes up this language of repentance and change, this time with baptismal overtones.
We are to “put away” the old person, and “put on” the new, just as the newly baptized put on white baptismal robes to signify the conversion that led them to the baptismal waters in the first place.
But neophytes did not just “put on” robes; they were to “put on” Christ.
The turning away from an old life means turning to a new one found only in Jesus.
If we look at today’s Gospel, we’ll see this pattern in what Jesus says to the crowds.
The first part of any conversion is being confronted with the truth about ourselves.
The desperately sick or those who undergo significant economic loss can no longer easily deny the fact that life ends and possessions are fleeting.
That stripping away can unmask our “deceitful desires,” and begin the conversion process.
Jesus confronts the crowds with the truth about their deceitful desires: “you are looking for me not because you saw signs?but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”
They are not seeking Jesus, but security, at least in the area of food.
How true is that for us?
How many of us participate in a “transactional faith,” where “being good,” or “practicing the faith,” is offered to God in exchange for material well-being?
The prosperity Gospel is mercenary, seduces us with the promise of security and control, and successfully preached by more than just television evangelists.
Jesus unmasks this pseudo-Gospel in his next sentence, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
There it is; Jesus invites us to change the object of our desires from that which dies, to that which never dies – and this new object of desire is not something that is earned, but received!
We are to desire Jesus himself.
And Jesus says the one work we are to do is to believe in him.
You and I hear, “believe,” and think he means a mental assent to what’s revealed by an authority .
But in Jesus’ culture it meant something more personal.
“Belief” was a relational word describing values like loyalty, commitment, and solidarity that led to social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behaviors.
That’s why Jesus can link believing in him with doing the things he does in John 14:12.
That’s the invitation he gives you and me today: to seek the life that is found only in him.
Jesus doesn’t offer us any economic incentives to linking our life to his – he had ‘no place to lay his head!’
Jesus doesn’t rely on peer pressure as a positive incentive either. Quite the opposite: he tells us the world will hate his disciple as much as it hated him.
And even moral incentives are not going to be very strong in our post-modern culture, which denies absolute right and wrong.
Instead, Jesus simply offers us himself as a gift, as if that should be enough incentive.
He gives no promises about how this relationship will change me; just that I will be changed - more fully alive with his life.
How do we answer this emergency call?
First of all, by realizing our need to change, and our helplessness to change on our own.
So rather than try to change particular behaviors that might lead us to individual sins, we need to pursue our relationship with Jesus; to seek Him first.
I’d suggest we pray to love and desire him more than anything else.
Let’s pray to that God points out what we seek in a relationship with him besides Him – so we can recognize when we desire security, or happiness, or peace instead of God for God’s sake.
In addition to prayer, we can pursue a relationship with God by immersing ourselves in Scripture, the word of life.
Human relationships grow through time together and conversation.
God’s side of the conversation is the Bible, and I have to listen knowing it has the power to challenge, heal, and transform.
But of course, prayer and reading the Bible takes time – and we’re all short on that commodity.
So I’d suggest we look at our lives and identify some things that we desire more than Jesus, and repent – turn away – from them: perhaps TV, or video games, a fanaticism for a sports team, or relationships that lead us to sin, or the pursuit of social acceptance.
Turning away from what occupies our time and energy is already a demonstration of belief as Jesus and his listener’s understood it.
It is an initial way we demonstrate loyalty, love, and personal adherence to Jesus; and it is only possible if we cooperate with God’s grace.
Finally, Jesus himself tells us, “Whoever loves me will keep my word.”
It is not enough to simply pray and read the Scriptures.
As we get to know Jesus, we must grow in our trust in Him, and put his words into practice.
Only by living in his word will our trust in Him grow; and putting his word into practice gives life for the world.
I promise you, if we begin to live in his word, we will come to see the world differently and undergo transformation.
And the world will see us differently, and not always with pleasure.
But don’t be misled into thinking putting Jesus’ words into practice is simply an act of willpower.
It is not. It is a supernatural act.
Any good you or I do is a cooperation with the Holy Spirit and God’s grace.
Even the desire to love Jesus more, to do good, to change, is a response to grace.
So, in reality, there are opportunities to recognize God’s saving activity in our lives each day.
And that ability to see God at work daily is the mindset of someone who is becoming a saint.
The saints are great non-conformists and often quite original and creative.
They don’t gloss over problems they see in the world, or wring their hands in helplessness.
They know God is already at work in their lives, and trust him to act in them and through them – even when it’s hard or impossible to see how.
They are really alive and living in the One who calls himself the resurrection and the life.
These readings have the potential to be a wake-up call from God for each one of us.
He says it is an emergency – a matter of life and death.
A matter of new life that is a sampling of the life to come, or our comfortable old life, which ends in death.
May we have the courage to answer the call.