The news these past days about bishops being deposed, investigated or admitting to affairs with women is rather distressing. Whether we are in Paraguay, Kansas City, Limburg, or Arundel and Brighton or anywhere else on the globe, or an average Catholic we need to adhere to Christ. To be human is to acknowledge our need for forgiveness; that we are all sinners, that is, redeemed sinners. What do we need to know? How are we to act as Christians?
Precisely because are sinners made in God’s image and likeness and that we receive the sacraments we sinners have a Savior and a Church whose nature is mercy. Too often in parish life or in the broader Church one can recognize the experience that there is too much gossip, faithlessness, nihilism and dysfunctional behavior. No gloating in the sin of another; no putting on aires. But let us pray for the grace of conversion and the grace to sin no more.
Being merciful and just does not mean we do nothing and sit complacent. The Church and all that we are and have are given to us by God Himself. The charitable work we are to do is to educate our hearts and minds and to keep steadfast in building the Body of Christ, the Church.
Lastly, I encourage all of us to go to confession. Examine your own consciences, and not other people’s consciences. we need to do penance. Perhaps even observe the First Friday devotion with sincerity. But we don’t need to be self-righteous and accusatory. The book of Deuteronomy exhorts us to choose life: for the Christian choosing life means to do what Jesus did with the woman at the well. The spiritual life requires our clear attention to the points of sin and grace and to move on the path to a grace-filled life.
Today is the 19th Sunday through the Church year and we are reading at Mass Saint Matthew 14:22-33
A reflection on the reading from St. Augustine:
“The boat carrying the disciples – that is, the Church – is rocking and shaking amid the storms of temptation, while the adverse wind rages on. That is to say, its enemy the devil strives to keep the wind from calming down. But greater is he who is persistent on our behalf, for amid the vicissitudes of our life he gives us confidence. He comes to us and strengthens us, so we are not jostled in the boat and tossed overboard. For although the boat is thrown into disorder, it is still a boat. It alone carries the disciples and receives Christ. It is in danger indeed on the water, but there would be certain death without it. Therefore, stay inside the boat and call upon God. When all good advice fails and the rudder is useless and the spread of the sails presents more of a danger than an advantage, when all human help and strength have been abandoned, the only recourse left for the sailors is to cry out to God. Therefore, will he who helps those who are sailing to reach port safely, abandon his Church and prevent it from arriving in peace and tranquility?”
The Orthodox Christian Network reports that Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, advocates the use of the Jesus prayer. The prayer, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The prayer is more than a self-help, it is really a game-changer in this sense: the prayer’s simplicity and profundity moves the heart to a new level of awareness of one’s relationship with the Lord; it opens the door to new a point of life in the Spirit. It is also a whole body experience in the way you position your body, how you breathe and your attitude. Difference it makes in one’s spiritual life is only understood to the degree that you are faithful to this gesture. That is, it takes years to see a personal difference.
He was asked “After God: How do we fill the faith-shaped hole in modern life?” The response is in the article, “Rowan Williams Promoting the Jesus Prayer as Answer to Modern Angst.”
In part Williams said,
The prayer isn’t any kind of magical invocation or auto-suggestion – simply a vehicle to detach you slowly from distracted, wandering images and thoughts. These will happen, but you simply go on repeating the words and gently bringing attention back to them. If it is proceeding as it should, there is something like an indistinct picture or sensation of the inside of the body as a sort of hollow, a cave, in which breath comes and goes, with an underlying pulse. If you want to speak theologically about it, it’s a time when you are aware of your body as simply a place where life happens and where, therefore, God “happens”: a life lived in you.
Williams is a long time advocate of Benedictine spirituality, and Orthodox theology. Westerners are familiar with the Jesus prayer.
The distinctive love by which Christians are recognized is not merely the result of an affectionate nature or the acquisition of skills or a suitably nurturing social situation. It is a gift of God which both fulfills and simultaneously surpasses our nature’s desire to be loved and to love.
Christian love (or agape) is the infusion of the divine lovableness and love into the human spirit, repairing the damage which love’s absence has wrought and lifting up the human to the level of the divine. Simultaneously, it is an upgrading of our perception so that we are able to see just how lovable our neighbor is.
This gift enable us to see through the objective failings of other persons to reach the inner core of their being, where everything is beautiful. This not a human quality or skill but a gift of God that is both sign and guarantee that we are already living on a supernatural plane.
Michael Casey, OCSO
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