Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Guided by the Holy Spirit

Please come to our end-of-the-year party next Thursday, May 5, starting at 5:30 pm, Parish Hall (1011 25th St.) Chipotle burritos and cold beverages to be served. You won't want to miss this!
In our 8:30 discussion Sunday night "On the dignity of women", we had a spirited conversation that was intense but civil. All in all, it was very good for many of us to engage in honest dialogue about important issues.

However, I have noticed (before and on Sunday) that there is a widespread lack of faith in the Church by some Catholics. They will say that they believe in Jesus but not in the Church.

Here's the question: do you believe that the Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit for 2000 years? If so, in what ways? If your answer is 'no', then of course you're not going to follow the Pope (or bishops) when he teaches about issues such as women priests, contraception, married priests, abortion, etc. Why would you? If that were the case, then it would be just an opinion from some old guy in Rome which you could reject.

Is Pope Benedict XVI filled with the Holy Spirit in his teachings? Was John Paul II? And all the popes going back to St. Peter? If so, then it is the Holy Spirit who is teaching infallibly an all-male priesthood, life begins at conception, etc. through the particular Pope (and college of bishops).

Yes, it is God who is truly teaching these things. That is the guarantee of our faith. All of Christ's teachings about God (faith) and how to live in Him (morals) have been preserved in the Catholic Church. In their fullness. Through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), "whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I said to you" (26).

The Church began in 33 A.D. when the Father sent the Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost. Acts 2:4 says that the Apostles were "all filled with the Holy Spirit". The Holy Spirit is active throughout the Acts of the Apostles (He speaks in 13:2, e.g.). Was it just for that generation that the Holy Spirit was active in the Church? No, of course not. He has been the primary acting agent in the Church for over 2000 years.

The visible Catholic Church is a divine institution led by human beings under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. "Christ is the Head, the Church is the Body" (Ephesians 1:23). Christ teaches today through the Pope and bishops (the successors of the Apostles): "whoever hears you hears me" (Luke 10:16). The Holy Spirit guarantees that when they teach about faith and morals, they teach without error what Christ taught.

Outside of these matters, they are fallible like you and me. Their sins are well documented by the world. But, Jesus entrusted the care of his Church to weak and sinful men. He gave supreme teaching authority to Peter (Matthew 19) who He knew would deny Him. How did Jesus treat Peter after he denied Him three times? Jesus told him 3 times to "feed my sheep" (John 21).

Even though he knew that Peter and the other Apostles were fallible and sinful men, He still gave them the "keys to the Kingdom" (Matt 19) which is the authority to teach as He taught about the Kingdom. He couldn't be wrong; they and their successors can't be wrong when they teach in this way under the guidance of the Spirit.

It's all about faith. Faith in God and faith in the Church. We profess our faith in the Trinity and in the Church ("we believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church") every Sunday. We believe that the Church and Christ are one (Ephesians 5). We believe that faith in the Church is faith in Christ because the Church is the Body of Christ. What we say about the Church, we say about Christ.

Do you believe?

"When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Habemus Papam!!

Sunday night (4/24): "On the dignity of women" discussion, 6:30 & 8:30 pm, Parish Hall.
We have a Pope!! I hope you all followed the election process of the new Pope. What hit me yesterday was that we have been witnesses to the work of the Holy Spirit. Ratzinger may not be the youngest or most popular candidate, but he is who the Spirit has chosen. Praise God and thank you, Holy Spirit!

An American interviewed by NBC in Rome yesterday apparently said, "I wish the Holy Spirit was more creative (in whom He selected as Pope)". First, it is good that he acknowledged that this election was run by the Spirit through the cardinals. Second, my goodness, what an arrogant thing to say, on national television nonetheless. If "fear of the Lord is the first stage of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7), then doubting God is the first stage of foolishness.

And yet, many people in the US and abroad are doubting the Holy Spirit's choice of Benedict XVI. Why? Because he is not THEIR choice. They see him as someone who is too "conservative" and who won't change certain Church doctrines or disciplines. What he is is traditional; he will preserve the 2000-year-old teachings and practices of the Catholic Church, which originated and are based in Jesus Christ, and will apply them directly to our lives.

If you choose to be Catholic, you follow the Church's teachings. If you're Jewish, you follow the Jewish teachings, and so forth for each faith. Why, then, should the leader of a Church stray from his Church's teachings?

In Benedict XVI, we have a Pope who will not stray and will not lead others astray. He is a man of great humility, intelligence, and courage. He will continue much of JP II's vision, and may even improve it in some areas.

Here is an excerpt from his bold homily on Monday before he was elected (please click on the link for the full text):

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth.

Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching”, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an “Adult” means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – which creates unity and takes form in love.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The gift of celibacy

1. FREE Dinner: Tomorrow (4/14), 5:30 pm, SSM Parish Hall. Also, raffle for gift certificates.

2. "Angels and demons": Sunday (4/17) night discussion, 6:30 & 8:30 pm, Parish Hall.

As positively as the secular media has been covering the life of Pope John Paul II, it has also negatively criticized some of his teachings. He is depicted as "out of touch" or "too conservative" on issues such as female priests, married priests, homosexual unions, abortion, contraception, and embryonic stem-cell research. So, it routinely asks, 'will the next Pope change the Church's teachings on these issues?'

Almost all of these teachings are based on doctrines of the Church. Doctrines can't be changed because they are "truths contained in divine Revelation or ...truths having a necessary connection with these" (CCC, #88). In other words, they are based on what God himself has taught. The teachings of an all-male priesthood, marriage, and the sanctity of life all fall into the category of doctrine.

'What about celibacy for priests? Can that change?', you ask. Yes, because it is a discipline, not doctrine. In fact, the Church didn't institute the discipline of celibacy for priests until about the 11th century AD. Will it change back? Maybe, but I wouldn't bet on it during our lifetimes. The Church has acknowledged that celibacy is a supernatural gift for some people.

Celibacy is a different kind of love. It allows one to love all people in the same way; in this sense, it is loving as God loves. Christ himself was a celibate man. He gave himself fully to all. He allows those to whom He is giving the gift of celibacy to share in this sacrificial kind of love.

Jesus refers to celibacy in Matthew 19:12 when he says that there are some who forsake marriage "for the sake of the kingdom". As someone who is looking to promise celibacy this December, I see this as a precious gift from Christ himself. It is a great sacrifice, but not overly burdensome or unfair. What a great honor to be able to give my life for the sake of His kingdom!

In a special way, however, priests do get married. They marry the Church when they promise celibacy, as Christ is married to the Church (see Ephesians 5). I have experienced a form of this type of marriage this year at St Stephen's (kinda like an engagement). I have fallen in love with the parishioners and GW students, and given myself to serve them and the Lord as best I can. It has been extremely satisfying, freeing, enjoyable, and rewarding. In a word: awesome!!
Your comments are welcome.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

John Paul the Great

"4CHRISTsake" - new young adult service group at St. Stephen's. Kick-off night is this Sunday, after the 5:30 pm Mass, Parish Hall.

The group will serve Christ in His Church and in His poor. Please come out Sunday night and learn how you can serve the least of Christ's brethren (Matthew 25).
I am watching the television coverage in real shock these days. I never thought I'd see the day when so many aspects of the Catholic Church are being reported in such great detail, and for such duration. Tonight, I thought to myself briefly as I flipped through several channels, 'so, this is what it would be like if the whole world was Catholic.' Hopefully, the positive coverage will continue!

Two things, however, have not been said in any great length (in the coverage that I've seen) about our late and great Holy Father. The first thing is that John Paul II was great friends with Jesus Christ. He prayed 4 hours every day before he got really sick, conversing with our Lord. 4 hours!! People are amazed at who he was and at all that he did; but, everything about JP II flowed out of his deep realtionship with Christ. Remember Jesus' words: "whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit".

The second thing, which stems from the first, is that John Paul presented Christ to the world throughout his life, and especially as Pope. He presented Christ in his actions (particularly his love for the poor), his many writings, and his firm and true teachings. Everything that John Paul II taught officially is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Many people loved him and what he taught; so, they love Christ and what He taught. But, some hated JP and what he taught. So, they hate Christ and what He taught.

Along with Mother Teresa, John Paul II is one of the greatest Christian witnesses in the modern era.

Holy Father, thank you for your undying committment to Christ and His Gospel. You will be missed immensely. We pray for you; please pray for us, the Church.

John Paul II, we love you!!!!!!
Please leave any comments or questions about the Pope, the coverage, the Church, etc.