First of all, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! Now that Christmas has come and gone, we begin to think of what lies ahead. We are filled with all kinds of hopes and dreams, of possibilities as well as realities that will come our way in the ensuing weeks and months. While we are still in this holiday spirit, it is important that we hear what Pope Francis has written to us as Catholics and to all people of good will as this new year begins. His message for this 53rd World Day of Peace is entitled, “Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion.” I encourage you to spend some time with the thoughts and insights he offers for our consideration and edification.
“Peace is a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. As a human attitude, our hope for peace is marked by an existential tension that makes it possible for the present, with all its difficulties, to be ‘lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.’ Hope is thus the virtue that inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem insurmountable.
“Our human community bears, in its memory and its flesh, the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts that affect especially the poor and the vulnerable. Entire nations find it difficult to break free of the chains of exploitation and corruption that fuel hatred and violence. Even today, dignity, physical integrity, freedom, including religious freedom, communal solidarity and hope in the future are denied to great numbers of men and women, young and old. Many are the innocent victims of painful humiliation and exclusion, sorrow and injustice, to say nothing of the trauma born of systematic attacks on their people and their loved ones.
“The terrible trials of internal and international conflicts, often aggravated by ruthless acts of violence, have an enduring effect on the body and soul of humanity. Every war is a form of fratricide that destroys the human family’s innate vocation to brotherhood.
“War, as we know, often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of aggrandizement and domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other. War is fueled by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others, and by seeing diversity as an obstacle. And these, in turn, are aggravated by the experience of war.
“As I observed during my recent Apostolic Journey to Japan, our world is paradoxically marked by ‘a perverse dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace though a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue. Peace and international stability are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation. They can be achieved only on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation in the service of a future shaped by interdependence and shared responsibility in the whole human family of today and tomorrow.’
“Every threatening situation feeds mistrust and leads people to withdraw into their own safety zone. Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace. Even nuclear deterrence can only produce the illusion of security.
“We cannot claim to maintain stability in the world through the fear of annihilation, in a volatile situation, suspended on the brink of a nuclear abyss and enclosed behind walls of indifference. As a result, social and economic decisions are being made that lead to tragic situations where human beings and creation itself are discarded rather than protected and preserved. How, then, do we undertake a journey of peace and mutual respect? How do we break the unhealthy mentality of threats and fear? How do we break the current dynamic of distrust?
“We need to pursue a genuine fraternity based on our common origin from God and exercised in dialogue and mutual trust. The desire for peace lies deep within the human heart, and we should not resign ourselves to seeking anything less than this….
“The Bible, especially in the words of the Prophets, reminds individuals and peoples of God’s covenant with humanity, which entails renouncing our desire to dominate others and learning to see one another as persons, sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters. We should never encapsulate others in what they may have said or done, but value them for the promise that they embody. Only by choosing the path of respect can we break the spiral of vengeance and set out on a journey of hope.
“We are guided by the Gospel passage that tells of the following conversation between Peter and Jesus: ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven’ (Mt 18:21-22). This path of reconciliation is a summons to discover in the depths of our heart the power of forgiveness and the capacity to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters. When we learn to live in forgiveness, we grow in our capacity to become men and women of peace.
“What is true of peace in a social context is also true in the areas of politics and the economy, since peace permeates every dimension of life in common. There can be no true peace unless we show ourselves capable of developing a more just economic system. As Pope Benedict XVI said ten years ago in his Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate, ‘In order to defeat underdevelopment, action is required not only on improving exchange-based transactions and implanting public welfare structures, but above all on gradually increasing openness, in a world context, to forms of economic activity marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion’ (#39).
“If a mistaken understanding of our own principles has at times led to justify mistreating nature, to exercise tyranny over creation, to engage in war, injustice and acts of violence, we believers should acknowledge that by so doing we were not faithful to the treasures of wisdom which we have been called to protect and preserve.
“Faced with the consequences of our hostility towards others, our lack of respect for our common home or our abusive exploitation of natural resources—seen only as a source of immediate profit, regardless of local communities, the common good and nature itself—we are in need of an ecological conversion. The recent Synod on the Pan-Amazon Region moves us to make a pressing renewed call for a peaceful relationship between communities and the land, between present and past, between experience and hope.
“This journey of reconciliation also calls for listening and contemplation of the world God has given us as a gift to make our common home. Indeed, natural resources, the many forms of life and the earth itself have been entrusted to us ‘to till and keep’ (Gen 1:15), also for future generations, through the responsible and active participation of everyone. We need to change the way we think and see things, and to become more open to encountering others and accepting the gift of creation, which reflects the beauty and wisdom of its Creator.
“All this gives us deeper motivation and a new way to dwell in our common home, to accept our differences, to respect and celebrate the life that we have received and share, and to seek living conditions and models of society that favor the continued flourishing of life and the development of the common good of the entire human family.
“The ecological conversion for which we are appealing will lead us to a new way of looking at life, as we consider the generosity of the Creator who has given us the earth and called us to share it in joy and moderation. This conversion must be understood in an integral way, as a transformation of how we relate to our sisters and brothers, to other living beings, to creation in all its rich variety and to the Creator who is the origin and source of all life. For Christians, it requires that ‘the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.’”
For the complete text of Pope Francis’ Message, please go to www.vatican va/message of peace.
FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
Our reading from the Book of Sirach sets the tone for the Feast of the Holy Family by drawing attention to the loving relationships that should permeate every family. The commandment “Honor your father and your mother” is the foundation for this reflection. Love for parents continues throughout life and brings with it the renewal of many blessings.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians focuses on family life. Paul reminds us of our identity as “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” We are called to live out our identity in all relationships especially within the family. Paul uses a beautiful analogy: just as we consciously select our clothes every day, so we should consciously clothe ourselves daily with the virtues inspired by Jesus: “compassion, kindness, humility.”
On this first Sunday of Christmas Time, our minds turn to the heart of the message of the Incarnation. The Gospel offers a beautiful narrative that reflects the life of the Holy Family. The Son of God entered the human family as a helpless child, cared for by a loving family. Joseph and Mary immediately exercise their role as protectors of their child amid dire circumstances. They become refugees, escaping the tyranny of King Herod, who had ordered the death of their child.
Just as the Joseph in the Old Testament went to Egypt to save his family from starvation, so Joseph in the New Testament takes his family to Egypt under God’s inspiration to save them. Once King Herod had died, God brings the Holy Family back from Egypt to safety in Nazareth. Joseph and Mary illustrate the primary role of every parent: to trust in God’s guidance as they care for and protect their child.
Just as Christ was nurtured in a family, so has the Church been given to us as a place to grow and be nurtured. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph and Mary. The Church is nothing other than ‘the family of God’” (#1655).
The Responsorial Psalm describes a wife as “a fruitful vine.” Our reliance is on the vine of Christ. Lumen gentium explains that the Church is made known as a piece of land to be cultivated. The document states, “The true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us” (#6).
In the Gospel reading, we hear how Joseph listened to the angel and fled with his family to Egypt. The Church fathers state in Gaudium et spes, that God, who lovingly looks after each of us, desires that we live in community. The Second Vatican Council document states, “God, who has a parent’s care for all of us, desired that all men and women should form one family and deal with each other as brothers and sisters. Love for God and of one’s neighbor, then, is the first and greatest commandment” (#24).
For Your Reflection: What role does kindness, humility, and gentleness play in your relationship with family members? How is Christ a part of your family life? Does your family seek God’s help when making decisions?
MEMORIAL OF THE MOST HOLY NAME OF JESUS
Friday, January 3, 2020
Although Saint Paul might claim credit for promoting devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus because Paul wrote in Philippians that God the Father gave Christ Jesus “that name that is above every other name” (see 2:9), this devotion became popular because of 12th century Cistercian monks and nuns, but especially through the preaching of Saint Bernardine of Siena, a 15th century Franciscan.
Bernardine used devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus as a way of overcoming bitter and often bloody class struggles and family rivalries or vendettas in Italian city-states. The devotion grew, partly because of Franciscan and Dominican preachers. It spread even more widely after the Jesuits began promoting it in the 16th century.
In 1530, Pope Clement V approved an Office of the Holy Name for the Franciscans. In 1721, Pope Innocent XIII extended this feast to the entire Church.
Jesus died and rose for the sake of all people. No one can trademark or copyright Jesus’ name. Jesus is the Son of God and son of Mary. Everything that exists was created in and through the Son of God (see Col 1:15-20). The name of Jesus is debased if any Christian uses it as a justification for berating non-Christians. Jesus reminds us that because we are all related to him, we are, therefore, all related to one another.
This feast also reminds us that we should always say the name of Jesus with respect, no matter the circumstances. You might remember that, when we were children, it was suggested that each time we mouthed the name of Jesus or heard it proclaimed in our hearing, we were encouraged to bow our heads slightly in reverence. That is still a good practice to our present day. Likewise on this special day we remember the Mother Church of our Archdiocese, the Cathedral of the Holy Name.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE NEW YEAR
My wife and I went to a “Dude Ranch” while in Texas. The cowboy preparing the horses asked if she wanted a Western or an English saddle, and she asked what the difference was.
He told her one had a horn, and the other didn’t. She replied, “The one without the horn is fine. I don’t expect we’ll run into too much traffic.”