With all their wisdom and kindness duly noted, both John Paul II and Benedict XVI were formal and authoritative. Nice smiles, though, from both of them.
“Defender of the Faith” would not be the first title that would come to mind when thinking about smiling Pope Francis. “Pontifex” would be better.
Pope Francis as Pontifex, is, indeed a bridge-builder. He continues to make efforts to link the Catholic Church with other religions. The Jewish Community, Moslems and various protestant churches from Anglican to Evangelical are among the religious groups that have been greeted warmly by Pope Francis in 2013. Pope Francis will continue this inclusive outreach in 2014.
Pope Francis is warm and informal but he clearly loves the Church and upholds its doctrines. Anyone who reads his writings or listens to his talks can see that this pope is an authentic teacher who defends the Faith with firmness. Pope Francis is Roman Catholic to his core.
When he celebrates the great sign of the Faith, the Eucharist, we see demonstrated his devotion to Christ and the Church. When he speaks, Pope Francis upholds the truths of the faith as he sees them –and, lives them. I expect that in 2014, Pope Francis will continue to challenge Catholics to live authentic Christian lives.
I am still thinking about the remarkable statement he made recently. Pope Francis asked how is it that an elderly man dying in the street is not newsworthy but a two point drop in the stock market is. Quite a question.
In 2014, Pope Francis will continue to make the Church aware of how urgent it is to care for what the old testament calls the “anawim,” the poor of the Lord. The poor are suffering throughout the world. Pope Francis sees in these poor, the suffering Jesus. He wants us to see Him, too.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that President Obama will include a significant reference from Pope Francis in his upcoming State of the Union speech. President Obama will tag on a powerful statement of Pope Francis urging us all to embrace the world’s poor.
This is the quote of Pope Francis’ that he will use: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
President Obama, in a shameless move to hitch a ride on Pope Francis’ pope mobile, will repeat Pope Francis’ statement while continuing to support abortion and to fight the American Catholic Church on the issue of birth control.
President Obama seems to say, “See, I love the poor, too, so support Obamacare, folks. Oh, and I love Pope Francis, as well”
President Obama will take Pope Francis’ message from a homily, a Gospel message, and attempt to turn it into political gold for his 2014 political agenda.
If President Obama in his State of the Union speech challenges Wall Street businesses to donate a ten percent tithe to the cause of the poor next year, then using Pope Francis’ words would have some practical meaning. I do not think President Obama will ask for that tithe. Pope Francis is urging the world to pony up for the poor.
I suppose President Obama realizes that mentioning Pope Francis could smooth over some of Obama’s disregard for the cultural importance of the Catholic Church in America. The Catholic Church contributes a spirituality which is an important part of the American fabric. If you are president of the U.S., you cannot act as if 66 million Americans do not exist.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that Pope Francis shines from the cover of Time Magazine as “Man of the Year.” How can President Obama not give in to the temptation to hook his political agenda to that bright star?
Every day in the morning prayer of the Church, we speak out loud the words of Zechariah. It is a song of the “tender mercy” of God. John’s father announces that soon “the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet in the way of peace.”
And so, each morning of the year the Church wakes up to the great gift of God which is the prophet’s call to repentance and grace. But now, on Christmas eve those words ring louder and the trumpet of salvation sounds more urgently.
John’s call to repentance holds out the hope that even now in the midst of corporate sin and popular greed, with all our deceits and hatreds festering within us, there is still time to walk out of darkness into God’s own wonderful light.
Scripture reminds us that John the Baptist was not the light himself but a messenger of He Who is the true light that is coming into the world.(Luke 1:8-9) The Lord Jesus who proclaimed Himself the Light of the World will bring His dawn to hearts that are open to receive Him this Christmas,
be removed from America’s Endangered Species List.
|American Bald Eagle, copyright Edward Howe, 2013
I thought I would never live to see a Bald Eagle in the wild. However, sitting at my sister’s breakfast table one morning recently on a chilly, clear day, I looked out across the Fox River and saw a pair of bald eagles perched on an oak tree branch above the fast-flowing river.
I know that there is controversy over whether banning DDT was necessary to the preservation of the American Eagle. The argument was that DDT caused the eagles to produce eggs with defective shells. Both we and the eagle have survived this ban and I am glad that substance is not used anymore.
Benjamin Franklin did not like the Bald Eagle because he observed that it wasn’t uncommon to see eagles steal prey from other birds rather than go hunting for their own dinner. Also, he had seen many times that a handful of air-born sparrows could harass and chase the big raptors away. Lazy and non-aggressive, American Bald Eagles, Franklin thought, could not represent the industrious and courageous spirit of America.
At first, Franklin considered that the rattlesnake would be a good choice as America’s symbol. He ended as a champion of the wild turkey which he insisted was an impressive and aggressive native American bird more representative of the American spirit. But, Franklin lost out and I’m glad.
Bald Eagles do take advantage of other raptors and flee from pestering passerines but, no American bird pierces my heart with a glance like the Bald Eagle. I think I could stare down a turkey or a house sparrow, but not an eagle intimidating me with bright eye and yellow beak. The white feathered Bald Eagle stands for strength, the kind of strength emblematic of America.
I’m glad that these days just about any American can look up and catch a glimpse of this majestic bird soaring against a blue sky and feel one with it, if just for a moment.
Just across the street and in front of the Puerto Rican congressional building in San Juan (named after the Baptist) is a bronze sculpture of John extending a long bony arm toward the building where laws are made and policies are decided for the citizens of Puerto Rico. John appears to be coming out of a crouch as he raises his arm while with his right hand he extends an accusing finger at the legislators’ sanctuary across the street.
Billy Sunday, a tent evangelist in the early twentieth century, used to preach hell-fire and brimstone from a similar crouch as he railed against “demon-rum” and chopped the air with his open hand for emphasis. He and another Billy (Graham) were the greatest preachers of their time. They preached repentance with the power of the Holy Spirit and the urgency of John the Baptist.
John the Evangelist called John Baptist a “witness” to the Light. “He was not the light but he came to give testimony to the Light which was coming into the world.” (John, Chapter 1)
Remembering John the Baptist’s words, we realize that we
still have time to repent as we light the third candle this Advent Sunday. What a great opportunity to experience God’s grace on the way to celebrating Christmas!
Complaining about the lack of Christ in public Christmas, now accepted as the “Holiday Season” or as I saw today in our local public park, “Happy Holly Days,” doesn’t help restore the essential meaning of Christmas. Ranting about the consumer economy doesn’t help change it, either. While we scurry around trying to get the best deals on gifts before our credit cards reach their limits, most of us don’t have time to map out ways to keep Christ in Christmas.
Wait! We don’t have time to keep Christ in Christmas? Put on the brakes! Stop the sleigh! There is time to reach deep into our hearts for the message of the Babe of Bethlehem. Pause a moment to remember what Christmas should means to you.
Recently, our Holy Father, Pope Francis asked us to spread the joy of the Gospel to a needy world.
He didn’t tell us to stand in the cold on street corners and announce in a loud voice the Gospel of Matthew. He didn’t tell us to confront people by asking them if they are saved or not. He told us to teach what we believe by living the Gospel at the level of daily life and to do it with joy.
Here we are already beginning week two of Advent by lighting two candles at each Sunday Mass. Why not jump into the beginning of the second week of Advent by making a decision to do two things a day that will bring more of Christmas grace and light into our world?
Here are some suggestions:
Give a dollar or two to whomever asks you for it. The Salvation Army person who rings a bell outside of the supermarket; the guy with the can who sits on a traffic island with a sign asking for help. Each gets a dollar or two. You have to do it twice the same day: two lit candles.
(Instead of. No, I don’t trust the Salvation Army. That guy with the can should get a job!) You add two dashes of grief and discontent to these people’s days. Instead, you could light two candles.
You say hello to the weary salesperson behind the counter at Walgreens; You smile at the receptionist at a busy office; Two more lit candles.
(Instead, you tell the sales person to hurry up and the receptionist to get a move on you’ve got other things to do. You add gloom and doom, two full.bushel baskets
At church, you move down toward the center of the bench rather than make people crawl over you.
You thank the usher who showed you to your place: two lit candles.
(You sit immovable. you wanna seat, come early like I did. Ushers should just do their jobs and not bother people. Two buckets full of disappointment and embarrassment thanks to you.
Say “hello” to a kid at school who never gets a greeting from you or anyone else. Thanks a teacher for a particularly good class. Two candles.
The kids wants some attention? Ridicule her hairstyle or uncool shoes. Make fun of the teacher, it will make you feel better. Two loads of gloom and darkness.
Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then remember to say a prayer for the priest who absolved you. Two lit candles.
You get the idea.
I think we can light two candles each day of this week. “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Let’s light two candles each day this week.
Meanwhile, Merry Christmas!
Rush Limbaugh, the grand-dad of blow-hard radio, thinks that Pope Francis is either a gosh-darn communist or just deluded by leftists. Poor Pope Francis is a pitiful man –allowing himself to be led by the slick operators of the Vatican. Or, maybe Pope Francis is a communist and in love with socialism. Can he be far from Marxism? Rush came up for air after that rant.
I lose Rush somewhere because I can’t equate loving the poor with being a communist. Nor can I believe that capitalism in any form is an unassailable system of goodness. I think there is an immense amount of greed in our society and it ain’t all nice.
So the Pope doesn’t like trickle-down economics. Lots of good Americans don’t believe that kind of economy reaches the poor. Many good people believe with Pope Francis that money gets clogged somewhere between the very rich and the well-off.
Pope Francis would like a more generous distribution of our resources. He’s repeating what Jesus taught so powerfully when He told us that a cup of water given in His name will not go unrewarded.
If this sounds like communism to Rush, I marvel at the smallness of his mind. Or, is he like Captain Ahab, obsessed with himself all the while making his way in the dark sea of ignorance. Save us, Rush! Save us from dumb shepherds who do not understand how the world works.
Does Limbaugh know any other song than that communist-leftist refrain which we have heard so often from him? Let me shorten that sentence: Does Rush Limbaugh know anything, anything at all?
He might have learned something about Pope Francis and the Catholic Church if he would have read at least the introduction to Evangelii Gaudium. I doubt if he read the entire document and I would be surprised if he understood any of it
Rush, you have to be a Christian at heart to get it, to understand it. By the way, Rush, the document is not addressed to you. It’s a long memo to the contemporary Catholic Church.
The papal document is from beginning to end about what the Catholic Church calls “the New Evangelization.” It’s not about economics, though Pope Francis insists that we take care of the poor better than we have in the past. The Church of Christ is the church which lifts up the poor. Evangelii Gaudium is not a church teaching on economics. It’s a motivational sermon on evangelization.
Pope Francis loves the poor. He loves the poor because he sees in them the face of Christ. I guess, he’s a bleeding-heart liberal, Rush. That makes me and those who follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ fellow travelers, right?
Here we go again.
The Church is adventing all the way to Christmas as it leads us through preparing for, awakening to, caring about and daring to let Christ be born in us.
In the recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis treats the new evangelization just like a new birth.
Pope Francis points to three classes of people who need evangelization so that Christ might be born again and again in our world:
First, Jesus must be born in the hearts of those who are Christians in name but not in their lives. They call themselves Catholic but their lives bear no fruit because they haven’t accepted the demands of being a Christian.
Then, Jesus must be born in the absent Catholics, those who don’t show up to worship or share life with us although they call themselves Catholics.
Finally, the freshest and most exciting aspect of giving birth to Christ is to receive the new born in Christ from the far away regions of humanity. The missionary activity of the Catholic Church leads those who are hearing the Gospel for the first time to the Christ child in the manger.
The Church is advancing through a new Advent this year. The exhortation of Pope Francis points the way for the Catholic Church as it advances the message of the Gospel.
|copyright: dedayrace at www. flickr.com
I have to dig out an old bird book to look up more about cardinals. I remember that at the turn of the twentieth century, “redbirds,” then a common name for cardinals, did not winter north of St. Louis. In the last century the winter range of Cardinals has grown to include southern Wisconsin and Northern Michigan.
I once heard territorial song from a cardinal as he perched at the tip of a large bush one frigid January morning just outside of Chicago. This morning, in early December, the cardinals aren’t singing yet, but they are clearing their throats.
My theory is that, these days, there is much more stuff for cardinals to scavenge. Seeds are abundant from local gardens and what ecologists call “edge.” “Edge” is the ecological niche that borders forests. It’s where bushes, grasses and wild flowers find a healthy place to grow, produce seeds and provide “cover” for birds. It’s taken a few hundred years for us to beat back the forests and carve out space for our farms but now their is plenty of edge, enough to support winter flocks of cardinals, sparrows and other passerines.
Forget harsh Northern winters. After all, common sparrows and blackbirds seem to have had no trouble managing cold and snow. The cardinals have learned that they are welcome to the winter table, too.