For weeks now and even months all we have been hearing in the media is how many Democratic candidates for President we have and how they are campaigning in order to help the electorate decide who will eventually become the Democratic nominee of the party to challenge President Trump in 2020. Part of the problem has been with the unusually large number of those who now have decided to throw their hat into the ring. Soon (June 26 and 27) they will have their first primary debate which is designed to determine which candidates will move forward and which will eventually drop out because of lack of funds and lack of support.
Since we live in a democracy (or as historians will point out more correctly “in a republic”), we value the differing opinions and policies that each candidate espouses. We—the general populace—will be the ones who ultimately decide the best candidates and why. The group will be whittled down to a more disciplined fewer number so that in future debates each one of these will be able to speak in a debate format on specific issues and priorities. Even though it might seem that this process is a bit unruly and overly lengthy, more than likely it will accomplish the goal of determining the front runners and where they want to lead us as a nation, should they be elected. In the meantime, however, they no doubt will challenge and criticize each other, and perhaps even accuse their opponents at times of lying, exaggerating, or even cheating in order to differentiate themselves from the group. We value differing points of view and actually believe that articulating them and listening to the other will lead to goodness and truth.
We in the United States also value our individuality, and this can help to shape the dialogue on any particular topic. We bring all of these characteristics as well to our reality of being followers and disciples of Jesus and members of the Catholic Church. I have thought a great deal about all this during the Easter Season when we have been hearing continually from the Acts of the Apostles and seeing just how these early days of the Church were marked by change and development. In those forty years after Jesus went back to the Father and they sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles and disciples, these men spread out to new places from Jerusalem and Israel.
They preached to both Jews and Gentiles, and when the Holy Spirit came down upon both of these groups, decisions had to be made based on this reality. Likewise other new needs arose, so the role of deacons was created, they established churches wherever they went and put them in charge of newly established presbyters, they debated whether the newly baptized Gentiles had to be circumcised and subject to the entirety of the Mosaic Law or not. They made this decision by coming together at the Council of Jerusalem where they prayed and invoked the power of the Spirit.
This spirit of change and development has passed down throughout the entire history of the Church. I would suggest that when you have some quality time, google on the internet “The Twenty-One Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church,” and you will get a real overall view of some of the most important times when the Church decided to gather together in order to decide some extremely significant points of discussion and controversy. This quick survey of Church history will show that what was going on during those years encompassed in the Acts of the Apostles has continued right up to the present day. And these Councils did not just determine doctrinal orthodoxy; they very much gave direction and focus to how the Church would proceed to address the new needs of a given century, e.g., the establishment of seminaries for the education and formation of seminarians at the Council of Trent.
Certainly the Second Vatican Council was a gathering that brought the bishops and scholars together to assess the needs of the Church at the middle of the 20th century and to discern what needed to be done to help the people living then and beyond to know God better, to become a holy people, to worship in a more participatory way, to have everyone recognize their baptismal calling, especially the laity in their role, new methods of evangelization, etc. For those of us living during that monumental time, the Spirit was directing the Church to change anew and to experience the Word of God being preached more dynamically and being lived more comprehensively. It was because of this Council that we now have various and new lay ministers and ministries.
It is with this background in mind that I find it difficult to understand how a number of individuals and groups criticize Pope Francis for his writings and for some of the themes he has underscored in his homilies. Some people even go so far as to accuse him of heresy. What he is primarily doing is calling our attention to perhaps some new ways of looking at the Scriptures in light of today’s circumstances. He calls us to the plight of the migrants and refugees, he reminds us of the need for God’s mercy and not just thinking of God’s judgment, he challenges us on our responsibility to preserve Mother Earth and to address the ways we have harmed her, he tells us that love conquers fear and how the latter can inhibit our response to God’s invitations, and he invites us to work on family harmony and cohesiveness in an atmosphere that can tear us apart if left unaddressed.
These are not “over the top” new doctrines; they are cogent applications to contemporary issues in our world today—not all that different from what has been happening in the Church as early as what we read in the Acts of the Apostles. Perhaps if we see the pastoral approach of Pope Francis in the light of a larger historical perspective, we might arrive at a different understanding of the direction and rationale of his approach.
SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
“The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” With these words in the Second Reading, St. Paul captures the essence of this solemnity and shows that the path to understanding the Trinity is through the experience of love. At the heart of God is a bond of love among the Father, Son, and Spirit. God’s love is communicated through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Each of the readings today offers an insight into the life of the Trinity. While the precision of the Trinitarian language will only come to completion in later centuries, the foundation for this belief is evident in today’s readings. In the Book of Proverbs, God the Creator brings all things into being through his wisdom like a master “craftsman.” The imagery of wisdom “playing before God” conveys God’s joy, excitement, and love over his creation.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans captures the essence of our Catholic faith by stressing that it is through Our Lord Jesus Christ that we have been justified and have been brought into a relationship of peace with God. God’s love for us is poured into us through the Holy Spirit. “Everything that the Father has is mine,” Jesus says in the Gospel. “The Spirit of truth” will take from what is Jesus’ and communicate it to his followers.
The Trinity is a communion of love: God’s love comes to us from the Father through his Son Jesus and is communicated to us in the Holy Spirit. The Church professed these New Testament thoughts at the Council of Constantinople II: “one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are” (Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, #421).
St. Paul tells the Romans that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This peace has come through what Christ has done for us. His dying and rising has given us life and brought us into a new relationship with God. In Gaudium et spes, the Council Fathers explain that Christ sheds light on the mystery of suffering and death. The Second Vatican Council document states, “Christ has risen again, destroying death by his death, and has given life abundantly to us so that, becoming sons and daughters in the Son, we may cry out in the Spirit: Abba, Father!” (#22).
In both the Second Reading and the Gospel, we hear of the personal nature of our relationship with Christ. It is through Christ, St. Paul says, that we “have gained access by faith to this grace.” In the Gospel, Jesus says that he has more to tell the disciples. Christ continues to seek a personal encounter, and because of that encounter, we can bring him to others. Pope Francis explains in The Joy of the Gospel: “The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus” (#120).
For Your Reflection: Are you willing to make it a practice to see God in your surroundings? What does St. Paul mean when he says, “hope does not disappoint”? How can you be open to the Spirit’s guidance?
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY
In the United States and in many other countries of the world we celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June, i.e., today. All too often fathers can get short shrift in terms of their importance in the family constellation. While not specifically talking exclusively of fathers, allow me to quote from The Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding families from a Christian perspective:
“The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial
communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church. It
is a community of faith, hope and charity; it assumes singular importance in the
Church, as is evident in the New Testament.
“The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion
of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of
children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer
and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen
it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.
“The relationships within the family bring an affinity of feelings, affections and interests
arising above all from the members’ respect for one another. The family is a privileged
community called to achieve a sharing of thought and common deliberation by the
spouses as well as their eager cooperation as parents in the children’s upbringing”
It is obvious that families ideally have both mother and father; each has a particular personality, role and importance to provide the best possible environment not only for themselves but also for the rearing of their children who have been given to them by God to make their mark and to build up the kingdom of God. Fathers are to set an example for the family by their lives—words and actions. Their presence is essential to be a balancing influence on a daily basis, and this means much more than merely offering financial stability. The father’s spirituality and example sets a tone of leadership, one that is both affirming and encouraging. Dads, never downplay the influence you can have on your family; you deserve respect, but you also need to earn it.
Today we honor all fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, foster fathers and fathers-to-be. May you enjoy your day and recommit yourselves to your time-honored role!
AN IMPORTANT LETTER FROM CARDINAL CUPICH
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
At the center of our faith is the conviction that God loves us and calls us to love one another. God gives us a sign of his love and affection for us in giving us priests who serve as our spiritual fathers. They lead our parishes. They offer us support and encouragement in times of need. So often, without thinking of themselves, they serve with great generosity the people entrusted to their care. Now, this weekend we have an opportunity to express our gratitude for this gift that we have received. We will take up a second collection to support the priests who have supported us across our lifetime. This collection benefits both our active and retired priests and is directed to the Priests’ Retirement and Mutual Aid Association (PRMAA).
The PRMAA supports our 500 active and 225 retired diocesan priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago. PRMAA provides for the healthcare needs of our active priests as well as the medical and housing needs of our retired priests. This is the only collection that supports the priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago. It is separate and distinct from other initiatives for retired religious order priests, sisters, and brothers.
The active priests of the Archdiocese serve throughout Cook and Lake counties by proclaiming the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and offering a shepherd’s care to our faith communities. Many retired priests continue to serve in their own way and have become indispensible resources for our communities. The health and well-being of all our priests are integral to their ability to work for us and serve our growth in faith.
Join me, then, in making a generous contribution to this weekend’s second collection to support our priests. Let it be a sign of gratitude to them and to the Lord for the priestly ministry which has benefitted all of us.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blasé Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE
One day a man drove his secretary home after she fell quite ill at work. Although this was an innocent gesture, he decided not to mention it to his wife, who tended to get jealous easily.
Later that night, the man and his wife were driving to a restaurant. Suddenly he looked down and spotted a high-heel shoe half hidden under the passenger seat. Not wanting to be conspicuous, he waited until his wife was looking out her window before he scooped up the shoe and tossed it out of the car. With a sigh of relief, he pulled into the restaurant parking lot.
That’s when he noticed his wife squirming around in her seat. “Honey,” she asked, “have you seen my other shoe?”