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Posts Tagged ‘Mercy

The Revolution of Normalcy: A reflection on the third anniversary of the election of Pope Francis

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"Pray for me."

“Pray for me.”

March 13, 2016, marks the third anniversary of election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Bishop of Rome. Upon his election in the Sistine Chapel three years ago, he took the name Francis and told us he did so because of his love for St. Francis of Assisi. Over the past three years, many have associated the new pope’s gestures and actions with the “Poverello” or “Little Poor One” of Assisi, perhaps the most beloved saint of the Catholic tradition. One day in the late 12th century, the young Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (later named Francesco) heard the plea of Jesus from the crucifix in the dilapidated San Damiano chapel on Assisi’s outskirts: “Go and repair my church.” And he certainly did that in his lifetime and through the huge Franciscan family that he left behind to carry forward his dream and continue his work.

We can become easily fixated on lots of eye-catching, buzz-causing externals, great photo opportunities and now famous sound bite expressions that Pope Francis provides for us on a daily basis: A pope who abandoned the red shoes—that were never an official part of the papal wardrobe! A pope who dresses modestly, pays his own lodging bills, rides around Vatican City in a Ford Focus or in foreign cities in small cars. A pope who invites street people to his birthday breakfast. A pope who tells the driver of his vehicle to stop at the dividing wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem so that he may pray before this glaring sign of division and pain. A pope who invites Muslims clerics to ride with him in the popemobile in the war-torn Central African Republic.

This Roman pontiff specializes in kissing babies and embracing the sick, disfigured broken bodies and the abandoned of society. He knows how to use a telephone—and uses it often. He waits in line for the coat check at the Vatican Synod Hall and delights in holding in-flight press conferences with journalists while many church leaders hold their breath at what will come forth from those now legendary encounters. He has restored Synods of Bishops to their proper place in the church: meetings and encounters of church leaders who speak with boldness, courage, freedom and openness rather than staged gatherings of pseudo-concord.

Many sit back, smile and utter: “What a sea/See change!” “What a revolution!” “What simplicity!” “Wow!” “Awesome!” “Finalmente!”

And for many who are watching all of this with differing forms of angst and shock, they ask: “What is he doing?” “How can he continue at this pace?” “Does he remember that he is the Vicar of Christ?” “Will the Francis reform succeed?” The answer is: “Yes.” Francis’ reform is inevitable because it is not emanating from Assisi, Loyola, Manresa or even from Rome, as significant as those holy places may be! It is based on a great story coming from other lands where we find Bethlehem, Nazareth, Nain, Emmaus, Mount Tabor, Galilee, Jerusalem and the Decapolis: the lands of the Bible. Pope Francis has based his Petrine Ministry on the Gospel of the fisherman of Galilee who was Son of God and Lord, Savior and Redeemer of the human family.

Pope Francis wants us to be warm, welcoming and forgiving as Jesus has modeled to us on every page of the New Testament. He reminds us day after day that we have a Lord and Master who shared in the joy of the spouses in Cana of Galilee and the anguish of the widow of Nain; a Lord and Master who enters into the house of Jairus, touched by death, and the house of Bethany, perfumed with nard. A Master who took upon Himself illness and suffering, to the point of giving His life in ransom.

Following Christ means going where He went; taking upon oneself, like the good Samaritan, the wounded we encounter along the road; going in search of the lost sheep. To be, like Jesus, close to the people; sharing their joys and pains, showing with our love the paternal face of God and the maternal caress of the church. Francis wants us to eat with tax collectors and sinners; he wants us to forgive the woman caught in adultery (while admonishing her to sin no more); he wants us to welcome and respect foreigners (even our enemies); and, above all, not to judge others. He has spoken simply, powerfully and beautifully about returning to lost unity. He wants to build bridges that everyone can cross. He is especially conscious of the poor and those who have been marginalized—social outcasts kept on the fringes of society. He has spoken out strongly for the plight of refugees and decried the evil of abortion and euthanasia. He stands for the consistent ethic of life, from the earliest moments of conception to the final moments of natural death.

At the very beginning of his Petrine Ministry, he said loud and clear in St. Peter’s Square: “A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient” (Angelus, March 17, 2013). His rallying cry has been “mercy” for the past three years. Just before Lent this year, Pope Francis’ personal book, The Name of God is Mercy, was simultaneously released throughout the world. The main theme of the book is mercy, and the pope’s reasons for proclaiming a Holy Year of Mercy this year. The centrality of mercy is “Jesus’ most important message.” Mercy is essential because all people are sinners, in need of God’s forgiveness and grace, and it’s especially necessary today, at a time when “humanity is wounded,” suffering from “the many slaveries of the third millennium”—not just war and poverty and social exclusion, but also fatalism, hardheartedness and self-righteousness.

In a very provocative challenge to his newly-created brother cardinals last Feb. 15, 2015, Pope Francis recalled with them that “the church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement.” This means “welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world.”

Pope Francis is very critical of those eager to cast stones. Pride, hypocrisy and the urge to judge others in terms of “preconceived notions and ritual purity” are the targets of his ire. He has chastised church bureaucrats for their “theological narcissism,” and he says in his recent book that “we must avoid the attitude of someone who judges and condemns from the lofty heights of his own certainty, looking for the splinter in his brother’s eye while remaining unaware of the beam in his own.”

On the late afternoon of March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio received the call to go, rebuild, repair, renew and heal the church. What we have witnessed over the past three years is simply a disciple of Jesus—and a faithful disciple of Ignatius of Loyola and of Francis of Assisi—repairing, renewing, restoring, reconciling and healing the church. There are those who delight in describing the new pope as a bold, brazen revolutionary sent to rock the boat. Others think he has caused a massive shipwreck. But the only revolution that Pope Francis has inaugurated is a revolution of tenderness, the very words he used in his recent major letter on “The Joy of the Gospel” (No. 88).

And the second revolution he has inaugurated is the revolution of normalcy. What he is doing is normal human, Christian behavior. These are the revolutions at the heart and soul of Pope Francis’ ministry. It is his unflinching freedom that allows him to do what he does because he is unafraid and totally free to be himself at the same time of being a most faithful son of the church. It is Francis’ humanity, goodness, joy, kindness and mercy that introduce us to the tenderness of our God. No wonder why he has taken the world by storm, why so many people are paying attention to him, and others are frustrated with his exercise of freedom and his universal outreach. Everything the pope is doing now is not just an imitation of his patron saint who loved the poor, embraced lepers, charmed sultans, made peace and protected nature. It’s a reflection of the child of Bethlehem who would grow up to become the man of the cross in Jerusalem, the Risen One that no tomb could contain, the man we Christians call Savior and Lord. Pope Francis has given us a powerful glimpse into the mind and heart of God.

This Bishop of Rome demands a lot while preaching about a God of mercy, by engaging joyfully with nonbelievers, atheists, agnostics, skeptics and those sitting on the fences of life—many who thought that Christianity has nothing left to add to the equations of life. For journalists and those in media, he has made covering religion and the church interesting, exciting and enticing and rewarding once again. We need the bold, Francis revolution of tenderness, mercy and normalcy now more than ever before.

Lord our God,
We thank you for always providing shepherds to guide the church.
We thank you most especially for Francis,
the one you have chosen to be our chief shepherd
and guide at this moment in history.
Bless him with health and vision, boldness and courage,
wisdom and compassion, and boundless joy and hope.
Make him an instrument of your peace, compassion and mercy,
In your mercy you called Francis and you call each of us
to cling to Jesus, the rock of fidelity and truth.
May Pope Francis inspire us to be better Christians,
faithful Catholics and architects and citizens
of the civilization of love that your son entrusted to us.

We ask this in Jesus’ name, who lives with you forever and ever.

Amen.

–Father Thomas Rosica

Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., is the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and English language attaché, Holy See Press Office.

Written by MattAndJojang

March 13, 2016 at 1:03 pm

We’re Excited With The Pope’s Visit

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Photo: Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Photo: Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Tomorrow afternoon, Pope Francis will arrive in our country, the Philippines, for a five-day visit (Jan. 15-19). And we’re all excited!

In a country where 80% of the population (80 million) are Catholics, the Pope is expected to be welcomed with a rock-star intensity.

Josephine Graza, a retired government employee, sums it all up:

Filipinos are excited about the visit because people have a lot of problems and have been through a lot of calamities.

Although our country is rich in natural resources, it has always been plagued by a vast inequality in the distribution of wealth and widespread poverty. It is for this reason that one-tenth of the population is working abroad to support their families.

To compound this, our country is hit by 20+ typhoons every year, causing loss of lives and destruction of property among a populace that, for the most part, are saddled with poverty.

Two years ago our country was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, considered as the strongest typhoon in recorded history. Entire villages were destroyed and thousands were killed.

We’re not surprised that Pope Francis opted to spend a significant amount of time in Leyte, the province that was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

But even before Pope Francis’s arrival pope mania has swept our country. You can see his face in tarpaulins, posters, shirts, dolls, coffee mugs and all sorts of mementos. Someone even wrote a musical entitled Pope Francis, the Musical in his honor.

Rev. Enrique Luzung, a theologian who plays the young Argentinian pope when he was still then known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, admits that reading about Pope Francis’s life and playing him in the musical has been a life-changing experience for him. He adds:

Through him we see the presence of God.

The Pope’s humility, compassion for the poor, and message of God’s mercy has touched not only Rev. Luzung, but also countless numbers of individuals — I and my wife included.

In the words of Marina Bringas, a retired doctor:

You always feel that he cares.

–Matt

Written by MattAndJojang

January 14, 2015 at 1:24 pm

God Weeps Over Boston Through Us

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

~The Book of Revelation

Dear Children of God:

It is with great weeping and heavy hearts we each hear of the incident today in Boston. As people joined together to celebrate life and the movement of the human body — lives were taken, killed, injured and destroyed. We experience fear in the face of such unholy confusion and bewilderment as to why such an event would ever become manifest. The dance of life has been shattered in this moment and now we must turn to one another and truly become the hands and feet of Christ.

I encourage you each to not spend these moments judging or attempting to discern who is guilty but rather to pray and to give. Pray asking for the abounding mercy and peace of God to be with the responders, medics, grief counselors and clergy. Pray for the souls of those lost to find peace in the unfathomable love of God which knows no end or death. Pray for the families of those fatally wounded, that they may in time heal but now be able to mourn and wail. Pray for the families of all those injured to be able to care for their loved ones, as needed, without fear of finances. Pray for whoever caused this incident, purposefully or not, that they too will allow the love of God to be manifested within themselves. Pray for the children who have bore witness to this tragedy that their parents and guardians will be able to bring your peace to their minds, a peace which surpasses our human understanding. Pray for those who will be and are already being persecuted simply for their ethnicity and faith, support them with your love.

Give today and in the following days by becoming vibrant icons of God. We are God’s tears, his hands, her feet, his arms of love, her words of solace. Allow God’s love to move through you to others in need. Be there for those who are connected to this tragedy and simply need fellowship to endure the pain and fear. Give by means of opening your wallets to trusted organization and families in need after this day. Give by being Incarnate Christ to all who are in need during these woeful hours. Moments such as these affect far many more than we often acknowledge or realize, seek out those in your community who are need of being embraced in God’s arms, your arms.

May we all remember that today is not the end for anyone for during this Paschal season we are continually reminded: Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! But in this hour we do weep for God weeps when any of his children are hurt. The Divine One weeps for all involved. Do we weep? Do we pray? Do we give? This is our calling as people of faith. God weeps over Boston by our tears.

Lord, have mercy!
Christ, have mercy!
Lord, have mercy!

May we have mercy on others through our words, actions and prayers!

Peace be with your spirit,

Daniel +
Open Episcopal Church

~ Rev. Daniel C. Kostakis

Written by MattAndJojang

April 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

A Bit of Mercy

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The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

“A bit of mercy can make the world less cold and fairer.”

~ Pope Francis

Written by MattAndJojang

March 18, 2013 at 11:04 am

The Jesus Prayer

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[Kyria; May, 2010]

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thess 5:17)

Have you ever wondered what St. Paul was talking about? How can a person pray constantly? Yet this wasn’t the only time St. Paul urged his hearers to constant prayer.

“Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” ( Romans 12:12).

“Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance” (Eph 6:18).

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving”  (Col 4:2).

If he took the trouble to say this to four different communities, he must have thought it was important. And he must have thought it was possible. He wouldn’t have kept urging his hearers to do something that was completely beyond their capability.

In the 2nd through 5th century, men and women began going out into the deserts of Palestine and Egypt to devote themselves wholly to prayer. They are known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers. They wanted to find a way to be in constant communion with God, as St. Paul had urged.

They soon discerned that the reason it’s hard to be in such communion is the ceaseless inner flow of wandering thoughts: old memories, desires, fears, criticism of others, any number of aimless thoughts that disrupt the mind and keep it unsettled. These are not the constructive thoughts used in problem-solving, but the wandering thoughts of a mind seeking something to “chew on.” Since the impediment came in the form of thoughts, the cure was a substitute thought—a single, simple thought of prayer. After experimenting with various short scriptures and petitions, this is the form that emerged: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” It called the Jesus Prayer.

The prayer is drawn from Gospels, from passages where people called on Jesus for mercy: the ten lepers  who cried, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13), the Canaanite woman who said , “have mercy on me, O Lord, son of David.” (Mt15:22), and blind Bartimaeus, who said,  “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk 10:47). In Jesus’ parable, the publican “would not even lift his eyes to heaven but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13). These requests for mercy aren’t like a criminal begging a judge for lenience, but are stories of people in need asking for the Lord’s tender mercy.

I’ve been saying the Jesus Prayer for fifteen years now, and have found that it has greatly increased my ability to sense the presence and voice of the Lord. Mostly, it gets rid of the clutter. Instead of being blindsided by thoughts that carry me away into the past or future, I am able to size up the thought and decide whether or not I want to give it my time. The Jesus Prayer strengthens the part of your mind that observes your mind, building an entryway, as it were, where thoughts must prove their validity before being invited in. At all times, the inner you rests in the presence of our Lord, the light that drives away all darkness.

As we said, the goal is to pray constantly, but you can’t begin by doing anything all of the time; you have to begin by doing it some of the time, and gradually build up. The advice about acquiring the habit of this Prayer hasn’t changed for 1500 years. Set aside a bit of time each day when you will do nothing but say the Prayer—even just ten minutes a day. Sit quietly, close your eyes, and begin repeating the prayer inside. The ancient sources speak of “bringing the mind into the heart,” but you must keep in mind that “mind” and “heart” don’t mean “reason” and “emotion” in the ancient texts. (As best I can tell, the notion that we are divided into “head” and “heart” arose in the West in the Middle Ages. It’s not biblical and, I’ve become convinced, not true.) In the ancient writings about the Jesus Prayer, the “mind” is the receptive intelligence, the understanding or comprehension. It is always hungry for something to take in, and restless. During prayer practice, discipline that hungry mind to keep returning to gaze at the Lord. Deny it anything other than the words of the Prayer to think about. As St. Paul said, “Take every thought captive to obey Christ”  (2 Cor 10:5). You will find this impossible at first, but very gradually you will make headway. Those who stick with it report that, over time, there is a nearly physical sensation of the prayer activity move from buzzing around the top of your head, to being lodged securely at your physical center, the chest or heart. (This has nothing to do with emotions; the Prayer is a mental exercise, but it does, of course, produce better control over negative emotions.)

I wondered at first how it was possible to be praying all the time when I had so many other things to think about and accomplish. I found that it works by utilizing a layer of your awareness, not your entire awareness. It is like having a friend along as you go through your day. The presence of your silent friend wouldn’t limit your ability to concentrate and handle the demands of daily life, but it would give them a different color or flavor. In this case, the best of Friends provides tranquility, perspective, love for the unlovely, patience, and good humor.

But the purpose of the Jesus Prayer is not tranquility or inner healing; the purpose is to bring you into the presence of Christ. He is all our joy. I think it is wise that the Prayer asks for mercy, to remind us of the necessity of humility, rather than the narcissism that can accompany the self-designation “spiritual.” So the Jesus Prayer is not an end in itself, but a way of training the mind to remain always in his presence, no matter what else life brings. As the anonymous pilgrim says, in the 19th century Russian text The Way of a Pilgrim, “Sometimes my heart would feel as if it were bursting with joy, so light was it and full of freedom and consolation. Sometimes I would feel a burning love towards Jesus Christ and all of God’s creatures…Sometimes, by invoking the name of Jesus, I was overcome with happiness, and from then on I knew the meaning of these words, ‘The Kingdom of God is within you.’”

~ Frederica Mathewes-Green

Written by MattAndJojang

June 16, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Lessons From Pacquiao Vs. Margarito

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Manny Pacquiao does more than make Filipino hearts swell with pride and lower the crime rate to almost zero during a fight.

On a micro-scale—the family unit, the level that matters the most—he opens the opportunity for kids to learn what winning is all about, especially in this time and age when victory means crushing the enemy and gloating.

Sensing the frenzy online and my furious following of tweets on the fight, my twin sons asked me: “Why does Pacquiao always win?” “Because he practices like crazy!”  I answer instantly.

According to Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, successful individuals—The Beatles, Bill Gates, for example—have spent at least 10,000 hours of their lives doing what they have become famous for.

Make this fact relatable to your children by pointing out what they like to do, or what skill or talent they have. One of my sons, Mateo, is heavily into origami—not just the paper boat and and plane stuff, but the hardcore, intricate creations: trilobytes, crane with feet, five-petalled lily, frog. He even gave “lessons” recently at Expo Kid in Rockwell. He began last year on his own, sans teacher, and was hooked.

Lesson no. 1: Practice, train, and rehearse your skills every chance you get.

 

But Pacquiao didn’t ALWAYS win. In 2005, he lost to Erik Morales. After, Freddie Roach came into his life and has since been unbeatable. I point this out to Marco and Mateo. “To also win, you have to have a good coach or mentor.”

Sports journalist Allen Barra writes in The Daily Beast: “(Roach) has worked with dozens of champions over the years and learned his training skills from the great Eddie Futch. He told me Pacquiao is, ‘Maybe the greatest two-handed fighter I’ve ever seen. You see a lot of great fighters who have one great punch and a good second punch. Joe Louis had the greatest jab I’ve ever seen. Joe Frazier had a great left hook, Mike Tyson had a killer right. But Manny has the best punch of anyone in boxing with either his right or his left.’”

Lesson no. 2: Choose a teacher that will help you excel.

 

While many get caught up in what people think of them, putting image before purpose, Pacquiao remains focused on his goal: winning the fight. Training with a single-mindedness chronicled in other reports, he also remains unfazed by criticism and trash-talk.

Marco sums it up: “You mean he believes in himself?”

Exactly. Stand your ground.

Lesson no. 3: Be strong within so you can be strong on the outside.

 

Pacquiao is also known for “lifting up” his fights to God and country. I point this out to the boys.

We are not a religious family, but—I like to believe—a faithful one. Mateo considers his good night prayers a powerful call to a Divine Force to protect him. This is the same God that allows (because He could very well NOT) Pacman to win.

Lesson no. 4: When you call to God to help you in a fight, you’ll know you’ll win; and if you don’t, there’s a really good reason why.

 

In the last rounds, I show the twins how Pacquiao is just prancing around, when he could have easily battered Margarito into a human burrito.

Post-fight, the 8-time Welterweight Champion tells the commentator: “Boxing is not for killing each other.”

Marco, struggling for the words in his 6-year old vocabulary, remarks when I ask him what he thinks about Pacman letting Margarito go. “It’s only a game…it’s about compassion.”

Lesson no. 5: The gracious and merciful victor is the best kind of all.

–  Gina Abuyuan