I am absolutely fed up with hearing about the “economic” ramifications of Pope Francis’ newest Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. I really do not think people are listening to what the Holy Father is really calling Catholics to do, and more importantly, who he is reminding them to be. I have not even finished reading it, but I can tell you that it is so good that in the index alone, I have found everything that I am going to be using for our annual Team Orthodoxy retreat at the end of the month. The 220+ page exhortation is, more than anything, a battlecry for the Church Militant to proclaim the Gospel. The question is: are we listening?
The “Year of Faith” which began during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and was completed under Pope Francis, has come and gone. I look across my diocese and the parishes within my own city , however, and I have to question whether the call to a renewal of faith was really actualized or not. This is not to say that there are not parishes and dioceses that did really good things. My diocese, however, seemed to largely forget the Year of Faith was even there, when it came to the day-to-day. I appreciated seeing Matt Maher come and do a concert and having a “Year of Faith” day, but this was not the intent of the Holy Father when he inaugurated this special year. Now, with Evangelii Gaudium hot off of the press, I am watching and seeing people are doing the exact same thing with it as they did with the Year of Faith. Heck, let’s take it further. They (much of the Catholic establishment media and the world at large) are doing the exact same with this as they did with the documents of the Second Vatican. They are missing the whole point. I am just sitting and waiting to see when people will actually acknowledge this evangelical molotov cocktail which was thrown into their midst. I truly believe that those within the Church who seek to live out her missionary spirit will really hear these words of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium and find them encouraging. Regrettably, the majority of the Church Militant are too busy looking for something else.
I personally have some struggles with Pope Francis and I have yet to find anyone who grew up and paid attention as part of the “JPII Generation” that doesn’t. The man is not impeccable, and believing otherwise is certainly not the teaching of Holy Mother Church. His teaching, when teaching from the Seat of Peter or Ex Cathedra is infallible. This does not make the man impeccable or give him some supernatural knowledge to know or do the right thing without thinking. I will say this: Our Pope is in love with the person of Jesus Christ and desires that all men be saved. This is what sums up his Pontificate at present.
Our Pope longs for the Church he shepherds to know and love our Blessed Lord with an apostolic intensity. He knows that once we fall in love with Christ, we cannot help but proclaim it. So he calls the faithful to pray in a most real way, a prayer of personal commitment to Jesus. He says, “Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”’. He desires for us not to simply have a Sunday get-together with Jesus, but to know Him intimately through daily personal (also known as mental) prayer. From this place of daily personal encounter with the Living and True God through prayer, we become more closely united with Him, and so His desires soon begin to become our own. This is the litmus test of real prayer: If it is causing you to convert, turn away from sin, and turn you towards to world to love people and lead them to the Truth. “Goodness always tends to spread”, Pope Francis tells us. He reminds us that, “We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being.” What is that truth? That God loves us personally so much as to lay down His very life for us to save us and that He desires that we be in union with Him for all eternity, but more importantly, He desires that union right now. This is Good News! By repenting and turning away from our sin, we lose nothing of ourselves and gain everything. We repent because of the Good News. We should not repent out of fear. We should repent because our God loves us and desires union with us, but sin destroys that union, and prevents us from being with Him. ”God asks everything of us, yet at the same time he offers everything to us,” our Holy Father tell us. This is what the world needs to hear, but are we going to respond to this battlecry?
This message is not new. The desire to proclaim it, however, needs to be. This is why Pope Francis says, “Whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world. Every form of authentic evangelization is always ‘new.’” The New Evangelization is new in its fervour, and perhaps new in the way it is communicated. It is, however, simply doing what has been done for 2,000 years with the means put before us. At every juncture of human history in the last 2,000 years, Christians have sought to use every means at their disposal for the proclamation of the Gospel. It is a natural thing for Christians who love Jesus to seek out different means to evangelize. Though the means of communication change, it is unchanging in its message however. The message is Jesus Christ, who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The truth is, so much of the Church across the globe has been, figuratively speaking, putting the cart before the horse. Instead of creating these different committees and conferences, what we all need is to concretely encounter Jesus Christ through the Sacraments, the Word of God, and prayer, and from that place go to the world. The Church needs to facilitate that in a non-abstract way. This is what the Year of Faith called for and Evangelii Gaudium is reiterating. The “New Evangelization” can never take root without a firm loving relationship with Jesus and a love for His Church.
Advent is coming to an end and Christmas is fast approaching. When meditating upon Evangelii Gaudium and the response it has received, I can’t help but think about Christmas. The Jews were waiting for a political messiah to show up and save them from the tyranny of Rome. Jesus was not a political Messiah at all. When Jesus showed up, He was born into poverty and laid in a food trough in a stable and would technically be homeless for years. Our pictures and nativity scenes make it look almost magical but objectively speaking, it was far from that. Only the Three Wise Men and a bunch of shepherds showed up to give him homage. The kings of the earth largely ignored him. King Herod wanted this poor homeless baby to be killed. The world did not want the Truth at all. This story seems a lot like what Pope Francis is dealing with. Instead of listening to the call of a renewed relationship with Christ, we are looking for things to offend us or to challenge our earthly political sensibilities. Yet instead of looking for Jesus amidst the politics, this Christmas we need to find Jesus where He actually is. As baptized Christians, that place is our hearts. Jesus waits for us to come to Him in the stable of our hearts and to make a throne for Him there. As we embark upon a whole new year, may the Nativity be for us the starting point of a renewed relationship with Jesus, so that we can truly help to bring about a real “New Evangelization” in the world.
Happy Feast day of St.Nicholas! He literally punched Arius in the face. POW! Right in the kisser! Saint Nicholas, Pray for us!
Strive always to confess your sins with a deep knowledge of your own wretchedness and with clarity and purity. -St. John of the Cross
If a king were to come and visit you, would you shrug off the opportunity to make your home the very best it could be for Him? If your home was infested with insects or rodents, would you still invite Him in? If it was flooded, would you still invite Him to take his shoes off and take a seat? If your home was cold and dark, would you just hand him a flashlight and tell him to watch his step? You know you could be lazy, or simply assure yourself that if he cared for you, he will accept your home as a disaster. What if you had the ability to repair everything; every infestation and mess in your home could be eradicated and all the power brought back? Would you not jump at the opportunity to welcome the King into a home worth presenting?
As Catholics, we believe that the Blessed Sacrament is truly Christ physically present. When we receive Him into our body and subsequently into our hearts, are we aware of what kind of condition our soul is in? I have been pondering lately on how to show proper reverence to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. One thing I have been reminded of is that to receive our Blessed Lord in a state of mortal sin, we not only dishonour Him, but we desecrate the Sacrament itself. We commit again another mortal sin.
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Receiving Christ in a state of mortal sin is a grave matter. Paul states in his letter to the Corinthians:
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.” (1 Cor 11: 26-29)
To receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin means that, apart from the judgment of Christ and the Church, we deem ourselves worthy to consume God Himself, even though as St. John Vianney says, “we receive Him only to sacrifice Him on an altar to Satan”. How can we dare to approach Him in such an unworthy manner? We must wait to receive Him with a clean heart rather than to receive Him knowing that, due to our sin, we are now in enmity with God. It is like betraying our spouse, and not repenting for the harm we have done to them. But God does not leave us abandoned and provided us with the Sacrament of Confession. True contrition and confession is needed to cleanse us of mortal sin.
In pursuing a holy life, we must strive to do all we can to love Christ above all. This includes ensuring that we do not receive Him in a state of mortal sin. If you are in a state of mortal sin, have not received a confession in a while, or want to make your Advent awesome, find out when your parish offers the Sacrament of Confession this week. If you can’t make it to that time, then call your priest and schedule a time. There is no need to fear asking for confession. To help properly prepare for confession, do a daily examination of your conscience to help keep your soul in check. Do not lie to yourself. If you are guilty of sin, own up to it. As Saint Josemaria Escriva would say, ”At the time of your examination(of sins) beware of the devil that ties your tongue.”
A humble confession displeases Satan and, if he could, he would make you omit Holy Communion. - Thomas A. Kempis
For some of us, confession is not easy. Apologizing to someone is hard, and it is even harder to apologize to someone we love after we have hurt them. We must not forget that God’s mercy is infinite, and when we come to Him with a truly repentant heart in the Sacrament of Confession and promise to sin no more, we will come to love God more. Saint Thomas Aquinas said, “In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.” Confession makes it possible for us to properly participate at Mass with clean and joyful hearts.
When Christ came into the world, He wasn’t given the best living conditions; A manger in a stable, filled with animals. It was probably chilly in the night time, and I’m sure Mary and Joseph didn’t find it too comfortable either. That was the birth of our Lord! The Three Wise Men fell to their knees, presenting him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The question is, what gift will we offer our Savior King this Christmas? Let us take time this Advent to work on growing in virtue, in order to offer Christ the King a clean heart for Him to be welcomed into. Let our hearts be not a dirty stable, but a place we have properly prepared for a King.
Check out these other posts for more information on confession