Amoris Laetitia 111: Love Bears All Things

amoris laetitia memeA very brief section:

111. Paul’s list ends with four phrases containing the words “all things”. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Here we see clearly the countercultural power of a love that is able to face whatever might threaten it.

On the other hand, there is a very definite cultural current of love despite big obstacles. The real challenge to the culture is the battle against ordinary life, the happily ever after that often slips into the not-so-happy.

For your reference, Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Moving On From Lot’s Wife

I’ve always loved the cheek of bargaining with God in Genesis 18. Abraham is well aware of his creaturely status, but comes back again and again to make his case for a few innocents in Sodom. He’s thinking of Lot, no doubt.

Over the years, I’ve also heard Lot’s wife mentioned on the 17th Ordinary Sunday, cycle C. I just want to exclaim, wth. She’s not in this reading. The Gospel is about persistence in prayer. Jesus reminds those following him in Luke 11 to ask, seek, knock, and to do so at the most inopportune hours of the night. The sin of Sodom is part of the setting of today’s Lectionary. It’s not central to the story. It’s sort of like how some Catholics harp on the “miracle of sharing” as it is sometimes preached.

An old essay of mine is still online here. It recounts my first prayer. Not the Lord’s Prayer. Not get me an A, or a football, or fill my siblings’ beds with spiders. “Arrange things so that my mother will ask me if I want to be baptized.” Simple as that. When my 6th grade Catholic classmates went to Communion, I stayed in the pew and prayed my intention.

The Lord impressed on me power of prayer, as you read from the story of my baptism. I was learning the script with my classmates: catching up with the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary. Memorizing the various acts of virtues and the Morning Offering. But I also learned to go to God with real needs and desires.

Looking back, I think God’s grace was more constant than my listening ear. I missed a lot of signals in high school, college, and young adulthood. I probably miss quite a few still.

Persistent prayer isn’t a game God plays with us, like: for every thousand supplications we are granted one wish. Persistence forms an attitude. Persistence leads to constancy. Constancy defines a relationship with a real person. After time, it becomes less about the asking. I can appreciate knocking on a friend’s door, not for midnight supplies, but for time to talk something over. Do you suppose God appreciates our willingness to just talk, to just be his friend.

And with so much to say about Luke 11, here’s to leaving Lot’s wife as that salt mound in the ancient outskirts of Sodom.

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Amoris Laetitia 110: Looking Beyond Our Own Needs

amoris laetitia memeToday, more on the thought that love “does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Cor 13:6):

110. When a loving person can do good for others, or sees that others are happy, they themselves live happily and in this way give glory to God, for “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). Our Lord especially appreciates those who find joy in the happiness of others. If we fail to learn how to rejoice in the well-being of others, and focus primarily on our own needs, we condemn ourselves to a joyless existence, for, as Jesus said, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The family must always be a place where, when something good happens to one of its members, they know that others will be there to celebrate it with them.

Paul had a finger on the pulse of his charismatic but troubled community at Corinth. This canticle on Christian love (1 Cor 13) was originally written not for families or spouses. But the application to our homes is appropriate. Spouses seem the natural target of joy. It is also important for parents to express this for their children, especially young children, trivial as their accomplishments might seem to adults.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 109: Love Rejoices With Others

amoris laetitia memeWatching injustice, and celebrating it: like Catholics don’t know about that.

109. The expression chaírei epì te adikía has to do with a negativity lurking deep within a person’s heart. It is the toxic attitude of those who rejoice at seeing an injustice done to others. The following phrase expresses its opposite: sygchaírei te aletheía: “it rejoices in the right”.

This experience is a grace, I’m convinced. Authentic love opens and widens the heart. One wishes others genuinely similar experiences. A priest I once worked with included this theme in his wedding homilies: authentic love widens one’s perspective to include children, one’s community, the poor and needy. Jealous love closes down a life.

In other words, we rejoice at the good of others when we see their dignity and value their abilities and good works. This is impossible for those who must always be comparing and competing, even with their spouse, so that they secretly rejoice in their failures.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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The Heart of Our Lives

Road to EmmausPope Francis has dropped another document on the Church. Vultum Dei Quaerere, an apostolic constitution on women’s contemplative life. You might wonder about a long-ish post about it here, but I noticed a single section on the Eucharist, number 22. I’d like to tease out a few ideas that might have a more broad relevance to the larger Church.

Before we get to these, it should be noted this document is addressed to cloistered women’s communities. Not all women religious. If you’re not sure of the distinctions, check VDQ 31 for the four types of cloisters.

After citing the importance of the cel;ebration of the Eucharist, I found this statement to love:

The Eucharist is the heart of the life of every baptized person and of consecrated life itself; hence it is at the very core of the contemplative life.  Indeed, the offering of your lives gives you a particular share in the paschal mystery of death and resurrection present in the Eucharist.  Our common breaking of bread repeats and makes present Jesus’ own offering of himself: the Lord “broke himself, breaks himself, for our sake” and asks us “to give ourselves, to break ourselves for the sake of others”.*

This offering of our lives is obviously not just for women who live in the cloister. What Pope Francis is preaching here is no less than the aspiration to imitate Christ. We shouldn’t be fooled that people enclosed in a strict monastic life find this easy, any more than it is easy with us lay people in our families and worksplaces and schools in the world.

So that this profound mystery can take place and shine forth in all its richness, each celebration of the Eucharist should be prepared with care, dignity and sobriety, and all should take part in it fully, faithfully and consciously.

Full, faithful, and conscious participation: I like this.

The Holy Father offers an extended quote from St John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia for reflection:

(T)o contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his body and his blood.  The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; she is fed by him and by him she is enlightened.  The Eucharist is both a   mystery of faith and a ‘mystery of light’. Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: ‘Their eyes were opened and they recognized him’ (Lk 24:31).

Liam, didn’t you recently mention the importance of Emmaus as a model? Any thoughts or observations here?

*Homily, Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (26 May 2016): L’Osservatore Romano, May 27-28, 2016, p. 8; cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 663/2.

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Amoris Laetitia 108: God’s Forgiveness

amoris laetitia memePope Francis’ theme of God’s grace and love:

108. All this assumes that we ourselves have had the experience of being forgiven by God, justified by his grace and not by our own merits. We have known a love that is prior to any of our own efforts, a love that constantly opens doors, promotes and encourages. If we accept that God’s love is unconditional, that the Father’s love cannot be bought or sold, then we will become capable of showing boundless love and forgiving others even if they have wronged us. Otherwise, our family life will no longer be a place of understanding, support and encouragement, but rather one of constant tension and mutual criticism.

There is a possibly deeper sense of this experience. It is easy enough to cite God’s boundless love. We can look for intellectual back-up in the Scriptures or in theology. An integration of the human heart with the mind: that is a step deeper. Do we actually feel the love of God? Authentically?

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 107: Forgiving Ourselves

amoris laetitia memeA third section on forgiveness:

107. Today we recognize that being able to forgive others implies the liberating experience of understanding and forgiving ourselves. Often our mistakes, or criticism we have received from loved ones, can lead to a loss of self-esteem. We become distant from others, avoiding affection and fearful in our interpersonal relationships. Blaming others becomes falsely reassuring. We need to learn to pray over our past history, to accept ourselves, to learn how to live with our limitations, and even to forgive ourselves, in order to have this same attitude towards others.

In some circles, self-esteem is criticized and misunderstood as self-indulgent. In my experience, self-indulgent people have the lowest self-esteem. Bullies and narcissists act as they do, placing themselves at the center of the known universe mainly because they suffer a great interior anguish. People who have forgiven themselves are more likely to exhibit great courage and personal sacrifice in the love of others. They are also practiced in the art of forgiveness, as Pope Francis suggests here.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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