The vast majority of American families live under and are very conscious of financial constraints. When a family fails to do this, they find themselves in very difficult situations. The same is true for nations. We have all watched with a sense of fear and dread as Greece has hung by its financial fingertips, desparetely crying out for help to the rest of Europe. Right behind Greece was Portugal and Ireland, and there were question marks about Poland. The common problem in each of these countries, and in fact, in most modern countries is that there is a lack of discipline. A discipline that calls for the fact that NO individual or country, can spend more than they make for an extended period of time. Don’t be foolish! Realize that you don’t need “it”!
Last week, we marked the 400th anniversary of the death of an extraordinary Italian Jesuit- Matteo Recci. Fr. Ricci came along in the early days of the Jesuits. They knew of the vastness of China, but knew the Church had no presence there. Ricci sets out to do amazing things. He learns the Chinese language, their culture, and their way of thinking. This made him very successful in his missionary efforts. He wore Chinese clothing, ate Chinese food, and always lived in Chinese houses. Fr. Ricci understood the importance of missionaries fitting in to the local culture in order to improve their reception by those that they are trying to draw to faith in Jesus. What a shame that the Church leaders soon discouraged this approach to missionary work. We were set back 350 years. Thank goodness for Vatican II.
They look like kids, and by my standards, they are. A pair of very young men have just taken over the United Kingdom. Not only young are they young in age, but they are a surprising mismatch politically. David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, has managed to construct a working coalition with Nick Clegg, the leader of the liberal Democrats. The differences between those two parties are many and varied. Working together will be extremely difficult. For dear old England’s sake, let’s hope they can do it.
Today is an important day, not just in the lif of the Church, but in the unfolding story of the human family. Today we remember how Jesus closed out his three public years among us when, in view of the apostles, He returned to his heavenly Father. I’m sure their mouths were open. I’m sure they had an overpowering sense of awe and amazement. However, they were not allowed to sit around and wonder. The angels said, “Why are you looking up into the sky? Jesus has risen!” and then, in today’s language, they added basically- “You guys get to work!”
I’ll bet your church is not named after St. Matthais. Not many are! Matthias is one of the apostles, but he arrived late and came on board to replace Judas Iscariat. There are only two brief mentions of him in the new testatment, but his election by the other apostles is an important factor in discussing that the early church from the very beginning, saw itself as an organization with structure. You only have elections when there is a pre-existing office. Today is his feast day- let’s celebrate.
I get amused when people talk about “worshipping” the saints. If your daughter were seriously ill, would you ask your living mother to pray for her recovery? Of course you would. Would you ask your grandmother, who’s deceased, but knows what’s going on down here to pray for her? Why not?
As Catholics, we simply extend that to include more people, with greater time lapses between their death and the present problem that we have. Let’s take a positive view of the human tendency towards imitating heros. It’s a good thing if the hero or model is a good, generous, and faithful person. Other people trying to imitate this person generate goodness into the next generation.
Ultimately we need to become what we can become. Our models, our heros and heroines, cannot transform us. They can give us a little extra motivation to move ourselves along in the right direction. We could use few more saints these days!
Was it a mistake to put our policeman into patrol cars? Two generations ago, most people knew the neighborhood police officer. He was helpful and protective. You could see him, his smile, and you knew his first name was Mike. Moving to patrol cars was probably necessary, but it has changed that relationship. Now when people think of cops, they see a spinning red light and find themselves pulling over to the curb. It’s efficient, yes- but impersonal.
If we are going to have the type of cooperation required between the general public and officers we need to rediscover the sense of trust and friendship that once existed. It will not be easy. Police at all levels must receive improved training and community relations and the general public must be moved to understand that we sorely need these brave men and women who risk their lives to maintain peace and safety in our cities and towns. Working together, we can return safety and order to our lives.
Last week we talked about the need for a comprehensive immigration policy and the painful decisions that will have to be made for that to happen. One group that we want to keep OUT and regretfully, there are many who want to get in, are people who hate the United States and want to come here to inflict pain and destruction. This is going to be an extraordinarily difficult challenge. People have become used to crossing international borders without much hassle.
After 9/11, it certainly became more difficult. Now, with the incidents on Christmas Day over Detroit and in Time Square last week, Americans are much more conscious that our enemies have a dreadful capability of coming in with methods of destruction that go beyond the imagination. What are we to do? For our physical safety, we will have to be more patient at international borders, and much more cooperative with our security mechanisms and law enforcement officers. We are a peaceful country- or at least we would like to be- but now almost everybody will have to be a part-time cop. Let’s pray that this period does not last too long.
This is really a messy world, isnt’ it? There is so much conflict, so much misunderstanding, bitterness and discouragement. All of that has to be considered before we even think about the pain and suffering most humans experience via their bodies.
In the midst of that comes a thought and an event that cheers nearly everyone. I’m talking about a day that all of us dedicate to our own mothers and to mothers everywhere. MOTHERS DAY!
The average person can’t even say the words without beginiing to have a smile on his/her face. We mark this celebration every year, but let’s really overreach in terms of kindness and thoughtful appreciation of what we have received from that wonderful person she who gave us life!
Shall we call a council? When you go to mass tomorrow, listen attentively to the second reading. It’s from the Acts of the Apostles and describes a very important scene in the early church. The Church is in confusion. There is conflict among the leaders, and oddly enough this will not be the last time. Acts 15 describes the first Council in the story of the Catholic Church. Conflict and tension in the community is at odds with the nature of the church. Those early bishops (they were not called that in the first century- they were called elders) met and resolved the issue and established policy on a crucially important point:
Did new converts to the Church have to become Jews first?
The answer was a resounding NO, and that policy was sent from the leaders in Jerusalem to other churches. The apostles and elders “sent greetings to the brothers of Gentile origin in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia” establishing the policy. They only had to commit their faith in Jesus and not be burdened by older Jewish liturgical laws.
This text is important for us because it shows the infant Church structured with clearly designated leaders, a strong commitment to religious unity, and strong missionary zeal to spread the message of Jesus across the planet. Today the Church has been sorely wounded by inner weaknesses. The guidance of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem is needed as much today as it was back then. Let us pray and listen.