The Light is ON for You

The Light Is ON for You

 

The light of welcome and the grace of reconciliation will be waiting in every parish of the Diocese of Dallas on Wednesday, March 25th and Wednesday, April 1st. Confession is difficult for many, particularly those who have been away from the Church or the sacrament for a long time. I know of nothing better on this topic than the recent words of encouragement and welcome from Pope Francis.

Speaking to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said, “When was the last time you went to confession? If a long time has passed, do not waste another day. Go,the priest will be good. It is Jesus who is there, and Jesus is better than a priest. Jesus will receive you. He will receive you with love. Be courageous and go to confession! … Every time we confess, God embraces us, God celebrates! Let us go ahead on this path. May God bless you!”

The Holy Father continued, “It is not enough to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness in our own minds and hearts, but rather it is also necessary to humbly and trustfully confess our sins to a minister of the Church. …The priest does not only represent God, but rather the community as a whole. Anyone who seeks to confess only to God should remember that our sins are also committed against our brothers and against the Church, which is why it is necessary to ask forgiveness from them too… the priest receives this confession with love and tenderness, and forgives in the name of God.”

“The forgiveness of our sins is not something we can offer to ourselves; it is not the result of our efforts, but rather a gift from the Holy Spirit, which fills us from the wellspring of mercy and grace that surges endlessly from the open heart of Christ, crucified and risen again. … It reminds us that it is only by allowing ourselves to be reconciled through the Lord Jesus with the Father and with our brothers that we may truly be at peace.”

Recognizing that fear can often keep us from confession, the pope added, “From a human point of view, to unburden oneself, it is good to speak with a brother and to tell the priest those things which lie so heavily upon our hearts. And one feels unburdened before God, with the Church, and with a brother. Do not be afraid of confession!”   The Holy Father went on to note,   “A priest’s heart is a heart that is able to be touched. … If it is true that tradition suggests the dual role of doctor and judge for confessors, we must never forget that the doctor cures and the judge absolves… Confession is not a sentencing court, but rather, an experience of forgiveness and mercy!”

Becoming missionaries of Hope

Becoming missionaries of Hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Pope Francis warns us to not let ourselves be robbed of hope. Despair is the thief of hope. It is a time of desolation when we have lost sight of God. He has not abandoned us, but the scales of self-pity have covered our eyes.” Without hope, we are sucked deeper and deeper into the quicksand of despair.

Desmond Tutu wrote, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Hope strips the scales from our eyes. The quicksand becomes a rock. As the Holy Father reminds us, “Our hope rests upon an immovable rock: God’s love, revealed and given in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Hope is much more than optimism, it is confidence in the Lord and his promises, as St. Paul writes, it is a virtue of ardent expectation (Rom 5:5) based on the Resurrection.

In April of 2013, Pope Francis charged young people to become missionaries of hope. His words speak to all of us: “I say to you: carry this certainty ahead: the Lord is alive and walks beside you through life. This is your mission! Carry this hope onward. May you be anchored to this hope: this anchor which is in heaven; hold the rope firmly, be anchored and carry hope forward. You, witnesses of Jesus, pass on the witness that Jesus is alive and this will give us hope, it will give hope to this world, which has aged somewhat, because of wars, because of evil and because of sin.

To sow hope where there is despair, answer the Holy Father’s challenge. Become  missionaries of hope, proclaiming that Christ is alive and will come again.

Pope Francis to the gatekeepers: Don’t close that door

Pope Francis to the gatekeepers: Don’t close that door

Reminding us that Jesus’ house is inclusive not exclusive, Pope Francis said in his homily March 17 at Santa Marta Church in the Vatican that the Church “is the home of Jesus and Jesus welcomes – but not only welcomes, goes to find people.”

Addressing the self-appointed gatekeepers of the Church who seem more interested in keeping people out of Jesus’ house than inviting them in, the Pope asked, “Who are you who shuts the door of your hearts to a man, a woman who wants to improve, to return back into the people of God, because the Holy Spirit has stirred his or her heart?”

Catholics do not shun sinners, nor do we shoot our wounded. We do what Jesus would do. The Holy Father asked, “If people are hurt, what does Jesus do? Scold them because they are hurt? No, he comes and carries them on his shoulders. This is called mercy,” he added, “and when God reprimands his people – ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’ (Matt 9:13, Hosea 6:6) he speaks of this.”

The Holy Father went on to say that Christians who have made mistakes and are moved by the Holy Spirit to return home to the Church only to find the door closed, must hear the words, “You have done wrong and you cannot. If you want to come, come to Mass on Sunday, but stay there, but do not do more.” To these gatekeepers, the Pope said, “You cannot, no, you cannot,” concluding with “That which the Holy Spirit does in the hearts of people, Christians with the psychology of doctors of the law destroy.”

Our challenge is to find ways to bring people to Christ in his Church, not seek ways to drive them away.

22nd Annual Bishop’s Pro-Life Dinner

22nd Annual Bishop's Pro-Life Dinner

One of the important Catholic occasions each year is the Catholic Pro-Life Committee’s (CPLC) Bishop’s Dinner to be held April 18th at the Irving Convention Center.   While the evening offers entertainment and fellowship, it provides an opportunity to respond to Pope Francis’ call to prepare for the Year of Mercy by responding to the Gospel mandate to reach out to the poor, the imprisoned, the immigrants, the homeless, the elderly and the unborn…

The CPLC is one among our Catholic organizations that are dedicated to the protection of the most vulnerable in our community, the marginalized, the elderly, the infirm and the unborn and supports our bishops’ call for the abolition of the Death Penalty.

For more than two decades, the efforts of the CPLC have rescued 7,800 unborn children whose mothers were on their way to getting an abortion while also offering support for expectant mothers, training young people in pro-life education, and bringing the mercy of Christ to parents who suffer in the aftermath of an abortion.

Your support of the work of the CPLC and Gospel works of mercy through your attendance at the Bishop’s Dinner will help to prepare yourself and the Catholic community for a fruitful and compassionate observance of the Year of Mercy.

I look forward to sharing the evening with you.

Pope Francis proclaims a Holy Year of Mercy

Pope Francis proclaims a Holy Year of Mercy

In a surprise statement at the conclusion of his homily Friday, Pope Francis proclaimed an extraordinary Jubilee; a Year to be called a Holy Year of Mercy beginning next December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It will end on the Feast of Christ the King, November 20, 2016.

Expressing his intention that the Holy Year of Mercy might begin “a new stage in the journey of the Church on its mission to bring to every person the Gospel of mercy,” adding ” We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.'” (cf. Lk 6:36)

Mercy has been the emphasis of the Holy Father’s papacy and although the announcement of a Holy Year was unexpected, the choice of Mercy as its central theme is not. The Pope concluded, “I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this Jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time. From this moment, we entrust this Holy Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she might turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey.

A Holy Year is a year of special blessings and includes special events in Rome beginning with the opening of the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 8, which are only opened during Jubilee Years. There will be special observances in the Diocese of Dallas at the Cathedral and in our parishes, to be announced.

I ask each of you to join your prayers with the Holy Fathers that this will indeed be a year of special blessings and an increase in the proclamation and application of God’s merciful love.

Yearning for the light of faith

Yearning for the light of faith

Doubt is darkness, an emptiness yearning for the light of faith. Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (Jn 12:46).

Faith is born of an encounter with Jesus; an encounter which he initiates.

Faith is God’s gift, freely given, mediated through the faith community. Pope Francis reminds us that, “It is impossible to believe on our own. Faith is not simply an individual decision which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart.” (Lumen Fidei 39) It is communal by its very nature.

We cannot sow faith where there is doubt, but we can allow ourselves to become a channel through which the Holy Spirit can implant the mustard seed of faith in the heart of another.

Ours is a world that worships certainty, permeated by the belief that science is capable of explaining everything. Yet, there is the inevitable point, the threshold of faith, beyond which science cannot penetrate.

At that point we share the thought of St. Bernard of Clairvaux who wrote: “I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind.”

So we return to the crux of the prayer of St. Francis, not that we ask for wisdom, but that we ask to be God’s instrument.

Bringing pardon where there is injury

Bringing pardon where there is injury

The teaching of Christ requires that we forgive injuries, and extends the law of love to include every enemy, (Matt. 5:43-44) yet to forgive for many of us is both difficult and onerous. I suspect our emotional struggle with a bruised ego is the principal reason

On the other hand forgiveness is liberating for both the forgiver and the forgiven. It is a double blessing. Shakespeare put it well: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” (Merchant of Venice)

Forgiveness is an action that flows from the virtue of mercy which St. Thomas Aquinas deemed the greatest of virtues because the others revolve around it. Jesus commands us to be merciful as the Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

Of course, it is often as difficult to ask forgiveness as to give it. Once again our egos are involved, as well as guilt and shame. Beyond that is the often seeming inability to forgive ourselves.

We are reminded at the consecration at every Mass that Jesus shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins. (Matt. 26:28) To deny forgiveness is an affront to God the great reconciler.

In one of his first homilies after being elected, Pope Francis said, “The joy of God is the joy of forgiveness.”

To bring pardon where there is injury is to spread the joy of God.

Honoring the elderly

AgingDo not cast me aside in my old age;
as my strength fails, do not forsake me.

Psalm 71:9

As the percentage of the population over 65 increases, attitudes toward and care of the elderly becomes a major concern for families and our society as a whole. Addressing this issue on March 5, in an audience with members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Holy Father emphasized that, “The biblical commandment to honor our parents reminds us in a broader sense of our duty to honor all elderly people.”

We cannot allow ourselves to become indifferent to suffering, “the human person always remains precious, even when elderly or afflicted by illness,” the Pope continued, “The elderly need, first and foremost, the care of their families – whose affection cannot be substituted even by the most efficient structures or by the most competent and charitable healthcare workers.”

Census data indicates a decline in the nursing home population, attributable to better health among the elderly but also to more being cared for by their families in their homes. That is good news. Regardless of the quality of care available, there is a sense of abandonment attached to moving to a nursing home.

“Abandonment,” Pope Francis stated, “is the most serious ‘malady’ to afflict the elderly, and also the greatest injustice they can suffer; those who have helped us to grow should not be abandoned when they need our help, our love.”

There are circumstances which make it impossible to care for a parent or elderly person at home and an assisted living facility must be used. In that event every effort must be made to insure proper and loving care is provided and frequent visits and phone calls made to maintain connections and prevent the feeling of abandonment.

“When life becomes very fragile and the end of earthly life comes close, we feel the responsibility to look after and accompany the person in the best way possible,” the Pope continued.   This would involve both spiritual and medical care. Spiritually, pastoral care and the Sacrament of the Sick should be made available, and medically, effective palliative care to relieve suffering should be used.

St. Paul reminds us “Whoever does not provide for relatives and especially family members has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1Timothy 5:8)


Image credit: “Hands” by Marjan Lazarevski on Flickr