Friday, April 24, 2009

Prayer and reflection # 15

First Reading: Acts 5: 34-42
Psalm: Psalm 27: 1, 4, 3-14
Gospel: John 6: 1-15

How can we rekindle the world's desire for the Christian Gospel? Make it more attractive? Repackage it without changing in any way its essence? Or simply say it as it is, or share it as it is?

Lord, please help me to study and understand the Bible. As I read it daily, please allow the Holy Spirit to guide me and to enter my mind and heart so that I may truly understand the Bible.

Lord, in the Gospel reading for today, You asked us, Where can we buy enough food to eat? From nowhere else, Lord, or from no one else, but from You. You are the Bread of Life. Nothing in this world is ever enough, nothing satisfies. Oh, this world abounds with beauty and goodness, but they are all conditioned. They are merely the reflections of the eternal Good and Beauty that are Your qualities, Lord. "One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may gaze at the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Quote: St. Aloysius Gonzaga

"It is better to be the child of God than king of the whole world."

-- St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Prayer and reflection #14

First Reading: Ezekiel 37:21-28
Psalm: Jeremiah 31:10-13
Gospel: John 11:45-56

Lord, I am again wallowing in sin. There is lust in my heart once again, and I deliberately willed myself to sin. Lord, why do I believe this lie over and over again, that when I yield to temptation and commit sins, I shall be happy.

Lord, sin leads to destruction, to death, to spiritual suffering, to emptiness. My deepest longing, Lord, is to live, to truly live, to be happy and joyful, to expand, to grow, to bless others, to share myself to others, to bring them joy and laughter and love. Yet why do I choose sin, choose death?

Lord, please help me to choose life, to choose You, every second, every hour, every day of my life.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Prayer and reflection #13

First Reading: Jeremiah 20:10-13
Psalm: Psalm 18:2-7
Gospel: John 10:31-42

Lord, all Your servants in the Old and New Testaments suffered. All the saints suffered. Mother Theresa suffered, physically and spiritually. It seems that if I serve You Lord, I will also suffer. Maybe suffering, Lord, is just a part of life. Maybe life is even more unbearable and painful without You and if we don't serve You. Perhaps there is such a thing as "Holy suffering" and maybe it is a mark of a servant of God.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Prayer and reflection #12

First Reading: Genesis 17:3-9
Psalm: Psalm 105:4-9
Gospel: John 8:51-59

Lord, it is sometimes difficult to have faith. Some people may say: "Oh, faith is just a feeling." Others may say, "It's all in your head," or, "Faith is blind." How do I know if my faith is justified? How do I know, Lord, that my faith is not just an illusion? Oh Lord, please help me. Please grant me Your grace of faith. Please help me to be steadfast like father Abraham.

Holy Spirit, please burn inside me, because I want to have a faith that's on fire with love. I want to be "in touch" with You, so that I may go deeper into the mind and heart of God. Amen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quote: St. Thomas Aquinas

"Almsgiving proceeds from a merciful heart and is more useful for the one who practices it than for the one who recieves it, for the man who makes a practice of almsgiving draws out a spiritual profit from his acts, whilst those who recieve his alms recieve only a temporal benefit."

-- St. Thomas Aquinas

Quote: St. Basil

"The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit."

-- St. Basil

A New Apologetics

Please read this nice short article by Fr. Robert Barron on apologetics. He says that a "New Apologetics" is needed for the so-called "New Atheists".

A New Apologetics
By Rev. Robert Barron

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been posting videos, for the past couple of years, on YouTube, the most popular website in the world. These have been brief commentaries on movies, music, books, and culture. They’ve received quite a number of hits (which pleases me) and they’ve given rise to numerous negative comments (which doesn’t please me!). But I really shouldn’t say that, because I’ve learned a great deal from these angry, accusing, sometimes mean-spirited rejoinders to my videos, coming mostly from younger people, twenty and thirty-somethings. If these responses are any indication of the attitudes of the younger generation (and I fully admit that they don’t constitute a scientific sampling), we as a church have a lot of work to do.

What I’ve found is that there is a deep misunderstanding of Catholic theology with regard to a number of basic issues. I’ll give you just two examples. Time and again, on the YouTube forums, I run into the problem of biblical fundamentalism, espoused, not by religious people, but by ideological secularists. The Scriptures are constantly dismissed as “nonsense,” “fairy tales,” “bronze-age mythology” (they get that last one from Christopher Hitchens), and “pre-scientific nonsense.” In evidence, they invariably point to “talking snakes,” “Jonah in the belly of the fish,” and “the five-thousand year old universe.” The problem, of course, is that they do not have what Vatican II’s document Dei Verbum refers to as a sensitivity to the variety of literary genres in the Scriptures. Sometimes the Bible speaks in a relatively straightforward manner, but often it uses metaphorical, symbolic, poetic language to convey the truths of salvation. They are also ignorant of the ancient tradition within Catholicism of discerning within the Scriptural texts a variety of “senses,” including the moral, the allegorical, and the mystical. When I point out that non-literalistic readings of the beginning of Genesis have been on offer since the time of Origen and Augustine, my YouTube critics are incredulous. What strikes me in all of this is that the fundamentalist reading of the Bible is out there in the popular culture and that the complex, textured, subtle interpretive method characteristic of Catholic theology is not.

Another basic problem has to do with the understanding of God. Many of my YouTube interlocutors assume that God is a fussy mythological figure such as Zeus or Posiedon, a character from an old wives’ tale or an outmoded fantasy. They seem to have no inkling that Catholic theology speaks of God in a sophisticated metaphysical manner as the sheer act of to-be itself, the unique reality that exists through the power of its own essence and that gives rise to all finite being. When they assert that “science” explains the whole or reality, I counter that the physical sciences can describe the characteristics and dynamics of finite things but that they cannot begin to address the properly metaphysical question of why there is something rather than nothing, why there should be a universe at all. God, I argue, is the only finally satisfying answer to that inquiry. Again, if these critics are any indication, na├»ve views of God are out there, and ours is not.

These issues, and many others that I could discuss, lead me to the conclusion that we desperately require a new Catholic apologetics, a passionate and intellectually informed defense of the faith. In the years that I was coming of age in the church (late 1960’s and 1970’s), there was a sort of bias against apologetics. It was seen as negative, suspicious, an intellectual strategy of the “Catholic ghetto.” Our intellectual leaders were so intensely interested in reaching out to the secular world that they “apologized” for the faith in the ordinary sense of that term. In fact, within the Catholic academy, a hand-wringing stance of skepticism and self-criticism became the norm. But in the meantime, as my YouTube experience shows, a very aggressive form of ideological secularism has arisen, and a hand-wringing Catholicism is no match for it.

What would this new apologetics look like? It would, first, be smart. One of the great virtues of Catholicism is that it has a rich and deep theological tradition. Taking Mary as its model, Catholicism “ponders” revelation and seeks to understand it, using all of the intellectual tools available. A new apologetics would utilize Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Newman, Chesterton, John of the Cross and many, many others in order to meet the intellectual objections to the faith that continue to arise. Second, it would be deeply cognizant of strains of hostility to the faith within the contemporary culture. It would understand, for instance, the roots of today’s objections to religion in Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Marx, Sartre, Freud and their disciples. It would seek to know the enemies of the faith better than they know themselves. Third, it would be willing to go public. One reason that a fundamentalist understanding of the Bible is so widespread, even among the enemies of religion, is that fundamentalists have effectively used the media. Our experts in scripture, doctrine, church history, moral theology, and ecclesiology need to become far more adept at addressing a wider cultural audience. And finally, it would be joyful. We must be warriors for Catholicism, but only happy warriors are finally successful in this sort of struggle.

Prayer and reflection #11

First Reading: Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
Psalm: Daniel 3:52-56
Gospel: John 8:31-42

Lord, what did you mean when You said, "If you remain in my word..."? In the NRSV-CE version, the verse was translated as, "If you continue in my word..." Does it mean "if we remain faithful to Your word"? What is Your word, Lord? The things You said? The things You taught us?

One thing I do know, Lord, is that nothing in this world truly frees. No amount of pleasure, comfort, and security can make me free. In fact, it is only when I walk the narrow path of self-denial, self-sacrifice and discipline do I find myself free. It is only when I carry my cross each day that I find myself unburdened by the yoke of slavery.