Saturday, March 27, 2010

New YouTube Videos for Holy Week

I invite you to go to my YouTube Page for reflections on Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday. Fr. John's YouTube Channel God Bless and have a wonderful Holy Week and Easter

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bless Me Father--The Light IsAlways On For You

On Thursday, March 11, the Diocese of St.Petersburg, where I reside, sponsored a program called "The Light is On For You." Every Church in the diocese was open from 5 til 8 PM for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. TV and newspaper ads appealed especially to people who had been away for a time to take advantage of this opportunity to return home to God and their Church. The program was a resounding success. This was the second year in a row where this was done.

In recent years The use of the confessional has fallen off. This is not entirely a bad thing because to a large extent it indicates that this Sacrament has been going through growing pains. People have questioned the need for scrupulously going through a laundry list of little sins on a weekly or monthly basis as they may have done when they were children. People wonder too why general absolution was introduced and then taken away. On the other hand there has also been a lessening of the sense of sin. Short of murder and mayhem, some would seem to say, is there any such thing as sin any more? I can assure you that there is.

While folks who know me realize that I stand on the progressive side of most Church issues, (Some think too much so, others not enough so, which tells me I'm doing my own thinking if nothing else.), when it comes to Confession I'm somewhat traditional. While I would like to see general absolution revisited and opened up because I believe that there should be as many ways as possible available to people to encounter God's mercy, I also want to affirm the place for individual one on one confession and encourage its use. As a Franciscan I am the inheritor of a great tradition of being known for merciful and compassionate celebration of this Sacrament. All over the world people still flock to Franciscan churches when they want to go to confession. In my own province, though the numbers are down, our urban Churches in Boston and New York are known for this. As I go around preaching parish missions I am amazed at the numbers of folk who take advantage of the opportunity that the mission presents to go to confession.

Many people protest that they can go directly to God with their sins. While I don't doubt that God is merciful when approached in this way, there is great wisdom in realizing that as humans we occasionally need to hear the assurance of another human voice telling us that indeed our sins are forgiven, especially if we have strayed in a serious way. Even for those whose sins are minimal I believe that it is good to periodically celebrate this Sacrament to hear that reassuring voice and to affirm in a one on one encounter, our need for mercy. I don't believe in going "just for the grace" because that turns grace into a kind of spiritual stardust to be sprinkled on our lives, but I do think it helpful in Advent, Lent and maybe a once or twice more, to celebrate this great Sacrament.

As a priest I find that I need to avail myself of this Sacrament and I am genuinely humbled by the faith of people who come to me for confession and awed by the power of merciful God to touch people's hearts and set them free, no matter what sin they may have committed.

Go in Peace. Your sins are forgiven!

Casting Stones

During the past week I have been preparing my homily for this Sunday (5th Sunday of Lent, Year C) which gives us the well-known story of the woman taken in adultery who is brought before Jesus(John 8, 1-11). Let's face it, even atheists know Jesus' response to the crowd who wanted to stone her in accordance with the Mosaic law, "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."

While we may comfort ourselves with the thought that we no longer stone people, at least not in this corner of planet earth, a closer look might offer a real challenge to our present society.

If we take a look at what is going on in Jesus' encounter with the adulterous woman and the crowds we realize that the issue is not only the "stoning", but rather the public spectacle and denunciation and condemnation of this woman. Jesus unmasks their intentions with His invitation to let the one without sin cast the first stone. He is reminding them that though their sins are not publicly known they are sins nonetheless. More importantly He is reminding them that if they repent they will receive the same mercy that He is showing to this woman.

While we don't stone people today we love the public spectacle and denunciation of the sinner, especially if the sin involves sex. (Money scandals are a distant second.) We gloat when the sins of a politician or an athlete are brought to the fore and we let it be known how shocked we are. I wonder if many are not privately thinking "I'm glad my stuff doesn't get known", or "I'm bad, but not that bad." We love to have a scapegoat, someone to blame or punish, rather than looking at our own faults and seeking the same mercy and forgiveness that Jesus showed to this adulterous woman.

I do want to give one caution with this reflection. I'm not saying that public figures and especially Church leaders involved in scandal should not be held accountable to the people they serve. In the Church especially there has been too much secrecy and cover-up in this regard. The point is to take a look at the self-righteous, morally superior smugness with which too many of us meet these situations. The call to all of us is to stop throwing stones and to seek the mercy of Jesus who is always so ready to forgive rather than condemn.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Social Justice and the Gospel

Sometimes I can't believe what I hear from the news media. On this blog i try to stay away from direct criticism of particular people on either the left or the right, but this week I make an exception. Glenn Beck of Fox News has told people who watch his program to run away from any Church that speaks of social justice. I say, Run away from Glenn Beck." Preaching social justice and taking action to correct injustice is anb obligation for those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. Back in the 1970's a Vatican synod described working for justice as a "constitutive dimension of preaching the Gospel."

While the Church should generally stay away from partisan politics, saying that the Democrats, the Republicans or anyone else has the whole answer she can and must and usually has spoken out against slavery,racism violation of human rights, the environment, lack of access to health care, abortion and other life issues Why? Because Jesus did, not necessarily on the above mentioned issues, but on the abuses of His own day. Since Leo XIII in the late 1800's every Catholic Pope has made statements and issued encyclicals on issues of social justice.

There are always those who want preachers to stay in their pulpit and tell people just to say their prayers. Pray we must, but we must also work to overcome the injustices that separate people form each other and from God, injustices that lead to war and violence.

No one would deny that preachers must denounce sin. The self-righteous smile smugly when a preacher rails against the excesses of lust, greed and other personal sins. Just one question, "Is injustice a sin, especially systemic social injustice?" Well, "Dah, ought the preacher address this issue?"

By the way I understand that Mr. Beck's remarks were in response to a Catholic nun who labored courageously for women's rights in Syria and who was given an award. Should she have told the women there to be quiet, get beaten and say their prayers? Apparently Mr. Beck thinks so.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Some Recent Wanderings and a Suggested Website

I just returned from my latest mission journey to Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a wonderful two weeks for several reasons. First of all St. Edward's parish there is a model for many of the things I've written about earlier (See Oct and Nov, 2009) for multicultural parishes. This year they are celebrating 125 years as a parish, one which was founded by Germans in 1885. It remained a predominantly German parish for a long while, went into decline for a time and is coming alive again with the influx of Hispanic parishioners. What is great is the collaboration there between the old timers and the newcomers who speak a different language and have a different culture. Of course no situation is perfect and there are some tensions but by and large both groups seemed genuinely interested in each others activities and lend support to each other. The parish has young and capable leadership in their 30 year old pastor, Fr. Jason Tyler, as well as with a 28 year old school principle, and I am sure they are looking forward to at least another 125 years.

Little Rock also provided me with a reunion with some family members. The deacon there, Dan Hennessey, came to my ordination in 1971 with his parents as a 12 year old boy. I got time to spend with him and his family and also with his sister Caroline who came down from St. Louis. Parishioners at St. Edward's told me that Dan is at least as good a preacher as I am. It was good to hear that.

In my profile on this blog I mention that sports, movies and bike riding are hobbies of mine. I didn't mention that old trolley cars are also an interest and that I like to visit trolley car museums around the country. Like several cities Little Rock as invested in some retro look trolleys produced by a company in Iowa. I got to ride on it and put some pictures at the top of this entry.

And yes, as the title suggests, there is a suggestion. I have included the website to Richard Rohr, OFM's Center for action and contemplation in "Links to my World" on the right side of this page. I highly recommend that you check it out and perhaps subscrive to their mailing list for daily meditations. You can click on here Center for Action and Contemplation.Right now I have returned to Florida after my great time in Little Rock, and am looking forward to a "home game" mission at our parish in Tampa

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly