Category Archives: Theology

Jesus is not an isolated missionary, nor are we

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“Go and make Christ known to all nations.” The missionary spirit is once again coming to the table. As Christians, we are baptized to come into communion with God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to live as adopted children of God faithful to the life of the Church. The sacrament of Baptism makes us disciples of the Lord. We can’t forget, nor can we neglect, to make the Lord known to all people by the witness of our lives. Our call is the same as the Prophet Isaiah’s, “Here am I; send me” (Is 6:8). The preaching of the Lord’s Kingdom is not reserved to few; no, the mission to proclaim the presence of the Kingdom is given to all the baptized in all places. Hence, we work doing the new evangelization. Catholics as missionaries in this country needs renewal. We Catholics can’t leave the missionary work to the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Evangelicals or the Muslims. If we truly believe that the Lord has given us Himself as the way, the truth and the life, then we ought to share this experience. Moreover, in living the Gospel, following the teaching of the Church, the reception of the sacraments, we care for those live on the margins (think of the corporal works of mercy).

I see in Pope Francis calling us to be attentive to the missionary impulse again as fundamental to our faith and life in the Church. The Pope comes as this missionary notion from his own spiritual formation received as a member of the Society of Jesus. No doubt he thinks of the early founders of the Jesuits, and he likely recalls the Jesuit saint Francis Borgia, the third Jesuit Superior General who spent much energy on missionary vocation of the Jesuits, of translating the faith and the Exercises of Loyola into a more concrete expression. We can say that Pope, like Borgia, knows that the missionary work we are called to perform is a ministry that takes on a variety of aspects: preaching, teaching, sanctifying, interceding, healing, guiding others in the spiritual life, administering and governance.

Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus address needs to be studied and prayed about. Think about the points highlighted.

This Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 10:1-12.17-20) speaks to us precisely of this: of the fact that Jesus is not an isolated missionary, does not want to fulfill his mission alone, but involves his disciples. Today we see that, in addition to the Twelve Apostles, He calls seventy-two others, and sends them into the villages, two by two, to announce that the Kingdom of God is near. This is very beautiful! Jesus does not want to act alone, He has come to bring to the world the love of God and wants to spread that love with a style of communion and fraternity. For this reason, he forms immediately a community of disciples, which is a missionary community. Iright from the start, He trains them for the mission, to go [on the mission].

Beware, however: the purpose is not to socialize, to spend time together – no, the purpose is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and this is urgent! There is no time to waste in small talk, no need to wait for the consent of all – there is need only of going out and proclaiming. The peace of Christ is to be brought to everyone, and if some do not receive it, then you go on. To the sick is to be brought healing, because God wants to heal man from all evil. How many missionaries do this! They sow life, health, comfort to the peripheries of the world.

These seventy-two disciples, whom Jesus sent ahead of him, who are they? Whom do they represent? If the Twelve are the Apostles, and therefore also represent the Bishops, their successors, these may represent seventy-two other ordained ministers – priests and deacons – but in a wider sense we can think of other ministries in the Church, catechists and lay faithful who engage in parish missions, those who work with the sick, with the various forms of discomfort and alienation, but always as missionaries of the Gospel, with the urgency of the Kingdom that is at hand.

The Gospel says that those seventy-two returned from their mission full of joy, because they had experienced the power of the Name of Christ against evil. Jesus confirms this: to these disciples He gives the strength to defeat the evil one. He adds, though: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)” We should not boast as if we were the protagonists: the protagonist is the Lord [and] His grace. Our joy is only this: [in] being His disciples, His friends. 

May Our Lady help us to be good servants of the Gospel.

Pope Francis

Sunday Angelus Address

8 July 20013

“Be zealous for true religion” in a time of theological narcissism requires a different orientation

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I came across a portion of Saint Basil the Great’s Letter 90 addressed to the bishops of the West. I like reading these types of letters because they give a great sense of the history of Christian salvation history. In 2000 years we’ve been exposed to some things more than once. Apparently, Basil is responding to reports of some members of the Church allowing certain influences of society, politics, and unorthodox teaching of the Faith to enter into, to penetrate, the life of the Holy Church. What came to mind was the phrase of Pope Francis a couple of months ago when he warned the Church about theological narcissism. It’s not all about me! There are times when a Christian can be too cozy with the culture in which he or she lives.

Saint Basil isn’t writing today, he inhabits the 4th century. His words, though, are timeless; his description of the currents are applicable today. It makes no sense to me to merely identify the problems of today without saying that the change can’t applied to all others and not be a provocation to my own conversion. Reform is not the responsibility of all others, but conversion of mind and heart is also my own spiritual work before the Divine Majesty.

The zeal for true religion that Basil wants to propose is two fold: the work of God acting in the world today, and our sharing what we have received from Jesus Christ. Zeal for the Kingdom is about God’s work, not my own; it is God’s creation, God’s Church, God’s people –not mine. Basil is rejecting a theological narcissism. Isn’t that what we face today? The faith we’ve been given by the Lord is transferred to the life of the Church, as another “Great” once said, Saint Leo. As the Lord Himself turns toward the Father in prayer, so must our orientation be set on the Trinity.

The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves hurrying the flock of Christ. Houses of prayer have none to assemble in them; desert places are full of lamenting crowds. The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be shown compassion, for they do not know of what they have been deprived. All this is enough to stir the pity of men who have learned the love of Christ; but, compared with the actual state of things, words fall very far short. If then there be any consolation of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, any bowels of mercy, be stirred to help us. Be zealous for true religion, and rescue us from this storm. Ever be spoken among us with boldness that famous dogma of the Fathers, which destroys the ill-famed heresy of Arius, and builds up the Churches in the sound doctrine wherein the Son is confessed to be of one substance with the Father, and the Holy Ghost is ranked and worshipped as of equal honor, to the end that through your prayer and co-operation the Lord may grant to us that same boldness for the truth and glorying in the confession of the divine and saving Trinity which He has given you.

Desiring to do everything the Father desired

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Saint Hilary of Poitiers: “He who said ‘I have come not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me’ hastened to fulfill the task he had undertaken out of obedience, though in such a way as to remind us that he possessed a will of his own. In fact, he willed whatever the Father willed. His saying ‘I have come not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me’ revealed who had sent him and whom he obeyed, but without detriment to his own power of willing. Desiring to do everything the Father desired, Christ hastened to carry out his wishes with regard to his passion before the wicked could hinder him or prevent his doing so. He had a great longing to eat the Passover with his disciples, and he celebrated the paschal meal in haste. He had an intense desire to drink the cup of his passion, for he said: ‘Shall I not drink the cup which my Father has given me?’ When the search party came to arrest him and asked which man was Jesus, he stepped forward of his own accord. He asked for the sour wine which he knew he was destined to drink, and having drunk it and achieved his great purpose he said: ‘It is accomplished’, thus expressing his joy at obtaining his heart’s desire.”

Cultivating Peace –the Benedictine way

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You be interested in this video presentation, “Cultivating Peace in One’s Own Life and in Society” by Abbot James Wiseman of St Anselm’s Abbey (Washington, DC).


Hanging Concentrates the Mind

Be sure to have enough sleep and at least have eaten one meal today before you read and give some serious consideration to what Father George Rutler, pastor of the Church of Our Saviour (NYC) has to say about the death penalty. A recent essay was published today in Crisis Magazine online.

MOST Catholics, the informed and untrained, have no idea what the Church teaches about the subject. Many will recall that Pope John Paul II taught in Evangelium vitae (1995) and that he frequently spoke against the death penalty and it was the subject of intervention when he would visit a country where the death penalty was utilized (think of his visit to Missouri). A papal encyclical doesn’t change the teaching of the Church; it is however authoritative and it needs to be received. The matter of what level teaching an encyclical is, and to what degree it would bind conscience. For our purposes here, let’s say that a papal encyclical is authoritative and it involves the virtue of prudence but that it doesn’t contravene but it does nuance the teaching of the Church. Prudential judgment is just that, prudential. The Pope never changed the teaching of the Church. The blessed pope did try to reorient our thinking and the practice of killing legitimately convicted criminals. Remember, too, several years the heated debated between Cardinal Avery Dulles and Justice Scalia on the subject in First Things?

Father Rutler’s article is helpful in giving us yet another understanding of how we might understand the death penalty. Do we actually accept Christian belief in the salvation of one’s soul, that is, do we want to go to heaven? Read the article with openness, with a critical mind. As Saint Ignatius would teach, approach with the best of intentions to truly understand the other person. Knee jerk reactions are unacceptable for a Catholic who holds the integration of faith and reason. Father Rutler’s argument is Catholic on all levels.

The article…

Capital punishment does not inspire roaring humor in healthy minds, so wit on the subject tends to be sardonic.  Two of the most famous examples, of course, are: “In this country it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others,”  and “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

The first, “pour encourager les autres,”  is in “Candide” where Voltaire alludes to the death by firing squad of Admiral John Byng in 1757 for having let Mincorca fall to the French.  The second was Samuel Johnson’s response to the hanging of an Anglican clergyman and royal chaplain William Dodd for a loan scam.  Byng’s death was the last instance of shooting an officer for incompetence, while Dodd’s was the last hanging at Tyburn for forgery. Dodd’s unsuccessful appeal for clemency was ghostwritten by Dr. Johnson.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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