Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How Christians Can Rebuild Our Culture

August 26, 2014  

(Php 2:14-15) And do ye all things without murmurings and hesitations: That you may be blameless and sincere children of God, without reproof, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation: among whom you shine as lights in the world.

POPE FRANCIS: Every baptized person is called to offer to Jesus his or her own faith, poor but sincere, so that He can continue to build His Church today, in every part of the world.

DR. KENT BRANTLY: "I prayed that God would help me to be faithful even in my illness, and I prayed that in my life or in my death, He would be glorified."

EXCERPT ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT: Law and Morality in Public Discourse: How Christians Can Rebuild Our Culture

One of the ways we might begin to live more fruitfully in a world that seems so deeply conflicted is to create parishes, seminaries, clubs, colleges, and families that are real schools of sanctification. These would be vital in building up society, changing the culture, and trying to build a renewed sense of Christian community.

But, as Benedict XVI said in one of his many talks, the original St. Benedict and his monks never sought to build a civilization or preserve a culture. Rather, he said,
Their motivation was much more basic. Their goal was: quaerere Deum [to seek God]. Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they wanted to do the essential—to make an effort to find what was perennially valid and lasting, life itself. They were searching for God. They wanted to go from the inessential to the essential, to the only truly important and reliable thing there is. . . . What gave Europe’s culture its foundation—the search for God and the readiness to listen to him—remains today the basis of any genuine culture.”

It’s in seeking Jesus Christ with all our hearts that culture is built and society is renewed. It’s in prayer, the sacraments, changing diapers, balancing budgets, preaching homilies, loving a spouse, forgiving and seeking forgiveness—all in the spirit of charity—that, brick by brick, we bring about the kingdom of God.

As Pope Benedict pointed out in Jesus of Nazareth, “The kingdom of God comes by way of a listening heart.” That’s the most important thing we can pray for, a heart open to the word of God. When our hearts listen and we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, then God can begin to conform us to his likeness and will.
Português: Cerimônia de canonização do frade b...
Papa Bento XVI no Campo de Marte em São Paulo, Brasil. (fragment) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Mass too has unique importance in our personal renewal and in the renewal of our culture. Father Richard John Neuhaus once wrote that the Eucharist is not only the “source and summit” of the Church’s life: “It is [also] a supremely political action in which the heavenly polis is made present in time. The eucharistic meal here and now anticipates, makes present, the New Jerusalem’s eternal Feast of the Lamb.”

The Mass feeds us with the body and blood of Jesus Christ. But it also reminds us that we’re on pilgrimage to the heavenly city. We live in the earthly city with its earthly ends. But we’re ultimately fulfilled only by our final end: communion with God when we see him in the glory of eternal life. Because we seek Jesus, we will never be fully at home in a world that rejected and killed him. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb 13:14).

And yet, we can use the goods and the peace of the City of Man to help us pursue the goods and the peace of the City of God, as Augustine teaches. Jesus has called us by name. He empowers us by his Spirit. Now he invites us to work with him for the redemption of that same world.

EXCERPT HOMILY FR. JOSEPH ESPER: A young woman named Jill had been dating her boyfriend Tom for several months, and they had become very close; in fact, the two of them were seriously discussing marriage, and even considered themselves engaged to be engaged. There was one hitch, however: Jill hadn’t yet met Tom’s parents. They’d been putting this off, for Tom had warned Jill that his mom and dad tended to be set in their ways, judgmental, and suspicious of new people. Finally this meeting couldn’t be postponed any longer, so Tom arranged for his girlfriend to come over to his parents’ home for dinner and meet the family. When Tom arrived at her apartment to pick her up, Jill noticed her black shoes looked a bit dingy, and because it was so important that she make a good impression, she grabbed a paper towel and quickly wiped them off—not realizing it was the same paper towel she had used earlier that day at breakfast to blot or dry off her bacon. When she and Tom arrived at his parents’ home, they were greeted by Tom’s mom and dad and their spoiled, cranky poodle, named Cleo. After sniffing the bacon grease on Jill’s shoes, the dog happily followed her around all evening. As the young people were about to leave a few hours later, Tom’s mother said to Jill—with her husband silently nodding his agreement— “Dear, Cleo really likes you, and she is an excellent judge of character, so we would be delighted to welcome you into our family” (May, The Story File, p. 2). Sometimes we human beings can make important decisions regarding other people on very flimsy or mistaken reasons; if these lead us to like or accept someone we might otherwise reject, that’s good—but if our quirks and prejudices cause us to reject someone God has sent to us, that’s very bad. Rather than relying on our own hit-or-miss feelings and intuitions, Jesus calls us to a higher standard: namely, to look upon everyone as a potential child of God, and thus a person of importance.

St. Therese of Lisieux once wrote, “There’ll be a lot of surprises at the Last Judgment when we shall be able to see what really happened inside people’s souls. . . .” It’s entirely possible that some people we admire or look up to are actually hypocrites and terrible sinners in God’s eyes, while others we take for granted or even look upon with disdain have a deep but hidden spirituality that’s very pleasing to the Lord. St. Francis de Sales once noted that because God’s grace is great enough to transform the life of even a hardened sinner in a single instant, our judgments about another person’s apparent lack of holiness—even if accurate—can quickly become outdated; moreover, as Mother Teresa once noted, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” That’s what the Lord expects of us—that we love everyone we encounter: young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, Americans and foreigners, attractive and unattractive, friendly and rude, likeable and obnoxious, churchgoers and non-churchgoers, and those who are like us and those who are quite different from us. In practical terms, loving them means three things in particular. First of all, we must show respect to everyone, treating others as we wish to be treated, helping them when needed, and disagreeing with them or correcting them—when necessary—in a gentle and caring way. We’re not expected to like everyone we meet, but we are expected to place Christian charity ahead of our personal feelings. Secondly, we must forgive others who offend us, even if they mock our moral and religious values, even if they don’t seem to want or deserve our forgiveness, and even if we’ll never see them or even think about them again. If they truly need to be punished for their sins, God will take care of that; besides, we’ll only receive mercy ourselves in the same degree we’re willing to share it. Thirdly, we have to pray for others, especially those we dislike or consider suspicious or find annoying. Criticizing them, judging them, or gossipping about them won’t help them change or improve as persons, but our prayers might— and it’s certain that this type of humble and loving prayer will help us grow in grace.

Jesus tells us today that we’re not supposed to have an “us versus them” mentality, for through His gift of redemption, everyone is given the chance to be part of God’s family. If we go along with the mistaken ways of this world, we’ll be passing judgments on everyone—and more often than not, our judgments will turn out to be wrong, foolish, and perhaps even harmful. Our Lord calls us to rise above this shortsighted approach and instead base all our decisions in the light of His Gospel. If we do this, then—as He did for the Canaanite woman—He will joyfully praise our faith and lovingly give us His blessing.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Discretion

50. He also said, 'He who knows himself is a man.'

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