Sunday, April 19, 2015

Body and Soul, Flesh and Spirit: Third Sunday of Easter (Cycle B)

Acts 3:1315, 17–19; 1 John 2:1–5a; Luke 24:35–48
            We get an interesting juxtaposition this week in our first reading from Acts and the Gospel reading from Luke. Acts addresses the ignorance of the Jewish masses that Jesus was the Messiah and the Holy and Righteous One, the Author of Life. The Jews' lack of faith lie in their inability to see in Jesus anything more than temporal messiah, which is what they were expecting. They could not see that He is the very the Author of Life.
            The Gospel presents just the opposite—the Apostles' lack of faith in accepting that Jesus died yet lived again. They could believe that He was now spirit, but could they accept that He was physically raised? Could the Apostles or anyone else in the early Church even accept that He was truly man?
            Both of these books—Acts and the Gospel of Luke—were written by the same author, purported to be a physician by the name of Luke. While scholars don't necessarily agree that this is the same Luke mentioned by St. Paul, they are almost unanimous that one person wrote both books, so unanimous that they refer to the books together as Luke-Acts—a two part work for the same audience. So you can see Luke's work here as an attempt to address some of the mysteries of the day. And these mysteries were central to the struggles of the early Church. How can a man be God? Or better yet, how could God become man and die? Different groups came up with different answers to the question. The Pharisees simply called Jesus an imposter. Other Jewish groups said He was an inspired man, but not God. Still others thought He was semi-divine but created. We call those sects Arian, for the most part. Still others believed He was Divine with no true humanity. These were the Docetists (doketists), who believed that Jesus was never truly a physical being.
            In regard to the last group, it's important not to confuse them with the Donutists      who believed in the divinity          of Krispee Kremes.
            This heresy is still rampant among us.
            I might have made that last part up. There was a heresy called Donatism, but it didn't have anything to do with donuts.
            In any case, one of the constant conflicts in the early Church was with the very question of who Jesus was. Was He God or was He man? And the answer to that question is       yes.
            Yes, Jesus is God and man. Completely both at the same time. Now, do you see why this was a problem for the Jews? They struggled with this notion because God is supposed to be one, immortal, unlimited, and far beyond our understanding. Yet a man we could know. A man is mortal, finite, and limited. How could a man be God? And how could a man crucified be both righteous and God? To many of them, the story didn't add up. Some Jews who continued to follow Jesus' teachings still never accepted that Jesus was God. However, we also know that many Jewish followers of Jesus accepted that He was the Son of God and God incarnate. The 12 Apostles were all Jewish, and we understand Christ's Divinity because of their teaching.
            The Church's understanding of Christ's revelation took time to clarify. Clearly, St. John the Evangelist made clear what the Church understood about Christ by the end of the 1st century, and other Apostolic writings make clear that Jesus' Divinity is without question. But it was Jesus' existence as both God and man—as a spiritual and physical being in one hypostatic union, which means that He was a single person with both a Divine and human nature—that revelation took the Church a time to understand and define. But what is absolutely crystal clear in scripture and early Church teaching is that we are body and soul together. We are both physical and spiritual, as God created us, and God Himself looked upon this creation and found it "very good."
            The reality is that when we diminish one aspect over the other, we get ourselves in trouble, just as the followers of early heresy did. When we deny the spiritual and affirm only the physical, we eliminate so much of what makes the human experience meaningful. And that is a common problem especially with those who want to make claims for science and materialism. However, over-emphasis of the spiritual is just as damaging—perhaps even more so.
            You might have heard people claiming to be spiritual but not religious, essentially dismissing bodies of organized religion for their own personal spiritual experience. This subjective, individualistic attitude toward faith and truth is especially harmful. The temptation is to think, "I'm more spiritual than those who accept religious dogma, and more enlightened than those who follow a creed and put their trust in human institutions."
            It is, simply, the height of arrogance. Artur Rosman, a blogger on the Patheos Catholic portal, recently wrote the following in response to such notions: "What else is the Devil than a purely angelic... spirit who tempts us into thinking we are much more spiritual than others?" He wrote this in response to another philosopher and Catholic convert, Fabrice Hadjadj, who said in a recent interview, "Thus evil is not first located in the body, but is instead connected to the spirit."
            In claiming to be spiritual and not religious, one separates from and dismisses the body as unimportant.
            I don't need a Church. I don't have to do all of these physical rituals to show that I have a relationship with God. Yet what is it to deny religion than to separate oneself from the physical. When we claim we don't need a church, we reject the very Body of Christ.
            This was the attitude of the Docetists. This was the attitude of the Gnostics. This was the reason the Greeks at the Areopagus ridiculed St. Paul in Acts 17, and derided the notion that a man could or would even want to be raised from the dead.
            Yet our faith insists on the goodness of the body. Jesus, in Luke, proves to the Apostles that His body has been raised by eating in front of them. It is His insistence not only that we are raised from the dead spiritually but that we will be resurrected physically. And we profess that truth every Sunday in the creed.
            We are an Incarnational people. We are a sacramental people. Christ and Our Church are the greatest signs of our Sacramental and Incarnational faith.

We believe that we will be raised bodily as Christ was. We believe in the sacramental efficacy of matter and form in baptism, in confirmation, and in the Eucharist which we will celebrate in just a few minutes. We are not merely spiritual. We are religious because we are body, soul, and spirit. And God looks down on us, His creation and the pinnacle of visible creation, and says that it is very good.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

La Divina Misericordia—Segundo Domingo de Pascua (Ciclo B)


Hechos 4: 32-35; 1 Juan 5: 1-6; Juan 20: 19-31
            Llamamos este segundo domingo de la Divina Misericordia Pascua el domingo para conmemorar el encuentro Santa Faustina Kowalska con Jesús. Ganamos una indulgencia plenaria hoy si hemos recibido los sacramentos de la Reconciliación y de la Eucaristía y han recitado algunas oraciones adicionales para las intenciones del Santo Padre. Si usted no tiene idea de lo que significa todo esto, no dude en ponerse después de la misa, y lo explicaré. En cualquier caso, es una gran celebración instituido y promovido por el Papa San Juan Pablo II. Si usted no está familiarizado con la Coronilla de la Divina Misericordia, es una hermosa devoción, y se puede sintonizar en Sal y Luz Radio 1140 AM a las 3:00 PM todos los días para aprender y recitar. Era uno de los favoritos de mi padre, a quien está dedicada esta misa hoy.
            Misericordia Divina es el tema, y  las lecturas de explicar cómo se manifiesta esta misericordia en la Iglesia primitiva. Como Hechos notas, los miembros de la Iglesia compartían lo que tenían entre sí, incluso hasta el punto de vender sus propiedades y llevarlo a la Iglesia a dispersarse. Ahora, tal vez algo en nuestra cultura podría mirar lo que está pasando aquí en Hechos y pensar: "Bueno, los primeros cristianos eran un puñado de comunistas sin Dios," pero creo que la reacción es más un síntoma de nuestros tiempos. Nuestra cultura americana del individualismo en ocasiones nos impide ver lo obvio. Cuando la gente en libre asociación con los demás decide compartir lo que tienen para el bien común, que es simplemente bueno caridad cristiana en exhibición. Eso es lo que la caridad motivados a través de la Iglesia primitiva y la Edad Media. No llegó una mala relación hasta que el gobierno comenzó a exigir nuestra caridad con base en lo que ellos pensaban que debemos dar. Pero tenga en cuenta en los Hechos que la caridad cristiana era siempre voluntaria. De lo contrario, en realidad no es la caridad y no un acto de amor. Más tarde, en Hechos, un par de propietarios de la tierra decidió fingir que estaban dando todo lo que tenían, mientras que oculta algo. Así que aprendemos de los Hechos que toda caridad debe ser voluntaria y que no debemos tratar de recoger favor al darle. Dé a sus limosnas en silencio, y usted tendrá su recompensa en el Cielo.
            La primera carta de Juan aborda la cuestión de la misericordia desde un ángulo muy diferente. La primera carta de Juan es como sus otros escritos del Nuevo Testamento. Después de leer cualquier cosa de Juan, ya sea la conclusión de que o bien es una tontería absoluta, o si es la teología más divino. Estoy dispuesto a admitir mi propia ignorancia y aceptar que esto último es cierto. Mi falta de entendimiento refleja mi propia necesidad de crecimiento espiritual. Pero las palabras de Juan encajan tan bien con Cristo mismo. Ambos hablan con adivinanzas y parabolas: tenemos que ser pobre para ser bendecidos; tenemos que morir para vivir realmente. Suena absurdo, pero que en realidad no llegan a conocer la vida y la verdad hasta que nos pusimos nuestras vidas a un lado y vivir para los demás, en otras palabras, hasta que morimos a nosotros mismos y vivir para los demás.
            Primera de Juan destaca y defiende lo que uno comentario de la Escritura llama a las tres disposiciones inseparables: amar a los hijos de Dios, a amar a Dios, y guarda sus mandamientos. En estas disposiciones, captamos lo que la comunidad cristiana primitiva estaba a punto. Hemos de amar a Dios amando a sus hijos y obedecer su mandamiento de cuidar unos de otros. Tenemos que ponernos a un lado y ofrecer lo que tenemos para todos los gustos. Esa es realmente la enseñanza que debemos tomar de la Iglesia primitiva, y tener cuidado de aquellos que optaron por no aceptar esa enseñanza. Arzobispo Charles Chaput lo puso muy simple: si ignoramos a los pobres, vamos a ir al infierno. Arzobispo Chaput nos está diciendo lo que la Iglesia siempre ha enseñado: estamos obligados a ayudar a los pobres.
            Nuestro relato del evangelio relata dos eventos: el primero es la aparición de Jesús a los 10 de los apóstoles, y la segunda es su reaparición a los apóstoles, incluyendo Thomas. A menudo nos referimos a este apóstol Tomás el incrédulo debido a su negativa a aceptar el testimonio de los otros que Dios les había aparecido. "Si no veo en sus manos la señal de los clavos y no meto mi dedo en el agujero de los clavos y no meto mi mano en su costado, no creeré." La duda de Tomás es un reflejo de nuestra propia tendencia a quiero verificación visible antes creeremos. Sin embargo, he leído una opinión diferente sobre esta cuenta por Russell Saltzman en First Things, un diario en línea, y tengo que decir que me hizo repensar el escepticismo de St. Thomas.
            El artículo señala que Thomas descubre los otros apóstoles todavía colgando en el aposento alto, a pesar del hecho de que Jesús los envió para perdonar los pecados de la gente y para difundir el evangelio. Tal vez lo que Santo Tomás se encuentra increíble es que los demás serían testigos tal evento y aún agujero en el aposento alto, acobardados por el miedo. Sin embargo, cuando Jesús aparece a St. Thomas, él responde con la afirmación más potente y directa de la fe! "¡Señor mío y Dios mío!" Esa es la única declaración absoluta de la divinidad y de la igualdad de Cristo con Dios Padre en cualquiera de los evangelios. Y lo que es más, sabemos por la Sagrada Tradición que Santo Tomás fue el primero en salir de Jerusalén para difundir el Evangelio. Y no basta con ir a Alejandría, en Egipto o en Antioquía de Pisidia. Él fue todo el camino de Jerusalén a la India. Hay cristianos allí, la Nasranis, que a este reclamo día en que fueron fundadas por él en su visita, y fue martirizado cerca de Chennai y enterrados allí.
            Eso no ejemplifica duda de compromiso. Si alguno de los apóstoles ejemplificar absoluta fe en el Señor Resucitado, usted tiene que admitir que Thomas puso su dinero donde estaba su boca.  
            Usted ve, eso es lo que demuestra la fe. No son las palabras que decimos, pero si nuestras palabras coincidan con nuestras acciones, si actuamos como si las palabras de Cristo en realidad nos mueven a la acción. Un sacerdote franciscano con el nombre de Brennan Manning dijo una vez lo siguiente:
La mayor causa de ateísmo en el mundo de hoy son los cristianos que reconocen a Jesús con sus labios y con sus acciones le niegan por su estilo de vida. Eso es lo que un mundo incrédulo encuentra simplemente increíble.
Eso es lo que un mundo incrédulo encuentra simplemente increíble. Ese es un desafío para todos nosotros. Si salimos de esas puertas y decir: "Señor, Señor", a medida que pasamos por la madre soltera mendigando para que pueda comprar pañales o fórmula para su hijo, sin responder, nuestro "Señor, Señor" es increíble. Si descuidamos a los pobres en medio de nosotros y disfrutar de estilos de vida lujosos, nuestra fe es increíble.
            Si llegamos a este sacrificio aquí en la Divina Misericordia el domingo o cualquier otro día del año y nos acercamos a esta Eucaristía con cualquier otra disposición que gratitud y admiración absoluta, si barajamos aquí y decir: "Sí, sí. El Cuerpo de Cristo o algo así, "nuestras acciones hablan por sí mismos. Si así es como nos enfrentamos a la fuente y la cumbre de nuestra fe, entonces no realmente tienes fe, y nuestros hermanos protestantes y hermanas que ven esto y nos ponen en duda una buena razón.

            Si vamos a ser testigos de nuestra fe, nuestras acciones deben coincidir con nuestras palabras. Tenemos que predicar con el ejemplo. Tenemos que ser lo que profesamos, o nuestra fe no tiene vida. Nuestra caminata diaria debe ser un icono y ejemplo de nuestra fe.

Divine Mercy—Second Sunday of Easter (Cycle B)

Acts 4:32–35; 1 John 5:1–6; John 20:19–31
            We call this second Sunday of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday to commemorate Saint Faustina Kowalska's encounter with Jesus. We gain a plenary indulgence today if we have received the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist and have recited some additional prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father. If you have no idea what any of this means, feel free to catch me after Mass, and I will get you caught up. In any case, it's a great celebration instituted and promoted by Pope St. John Paul II. If you are not familiar with the Divine Mercy chaplet, it is a beautiful devotion, and you can tune into Salt & Light Radio 1140 AM at 3:00 PM every day to learn and recite it. It was a favorite of my father's, to whom this mass this morning is dedicated.
            Divine Mercy is the theme, and the readings explain how this mercy is manifested in the early Church. As Acts notes, the members of the Church shared what they had with each other, even to the point of selling their property and bringing it to the Church to disperse. Now, maybe some in our culture might look at what's happening here in Acts and think, "Well, those early Christians were a bunch of godless Commies," but I think that reaction is more symptomatic of our times. Our American culture of individualism occasionally blinds us to the obvious. When people in free association with each other decide to share what they have for the common good, that's simply good Christian charity on display. That is what motivated charity through the early Church and the middle ages. It didn't get a bad rapport until the government started demanding our charity based on what they thought we should give. But note in Acts that Christian charity was always voluntary. Otherwise, it's not really charity and not an act of love. Later on in Acts, a couple of land owners decided to pretend they were giving everything they owned while holding something back. So we learn from Acts that all charity should be voluntary and that we should not attempt to glean favor by giving it. Give your alms in silence, and you will have your reward in Heaven.
            The first letter of John approaches the question of mercy from a very different angle. John's first letter is like his other writings in the New Testament. After reading anything from John, you either conclude that it is either utter nonsense, or it is the most divine theology. I am willing to concede my own ignorance and accept that the latter is true. My lack of understanding reflects my own need for spiritual growth. But John's words fit so well with Christ's own. They both speak with riddles and paradoxes: we have to become poor to be blessed; we have to die to really live. It sounds absurd, but we don't really come to know life and the truth until we set our lives aside and live for others—in other words, until we die to ourselves and live for others.
            First John highlights and espouses what one commentary on scripture calls the three inseparable dispositions: to love the children of God, to love God, and to keep his commandments. In these dispositions, we capture what the early Christian community was about. We have to love God by loving His children and obey His commandment to care for one another. We have to set ourselves aside and offer what we have for everyone. That is really the teaching we should take from the early Church, and beware to those who chose not to accept that teaching. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia put it very simply: if we ignore the poor, we will go to Hell. Archbishop Chaput is telling us what the Church has always taught: we are obligated to help the poor.
            Our gospel account relates two events: the first is the appearance of Jesus to 10 of the apostles, and the second is His reappearance to the apostles including Thomas. We often refer to this apostle as Doubting Thomas because of his refusal to accept the testimony of the others that God had appeared to them. “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” The doubt of Thomas is a reflection of our own tendency to want visible verification before we will believe. However, I read a different take on this account by Russell Saltzman at First Things, an online journal, and I have to say it made me rethink St. Thomas's skepticism.
            The article points out that Thomas finds the other apostles still hanging out in the upper room, despite the fact that Jesus has sent them to forgive the sins of the people and to spread the gospel. Perhaps what St. Thomas finds unbelievable is that the others would witness such an event and still hole up in the upper room, cowering in fear. Yet when Jesus does appear to St. Thomas, he responds with the most powerful and direct claim of faith! "My Lord and my God!" That is the only absolute statement of Christ's divinity and equality with God the Father in any of the gospels. And what's more, we know from Sacred Tradition that St. Thomas was the first to leave Jerusalem to spread the Gospel. And he didn't just go to Alexandria in Egypt or Antioch in Pisidia. He went all the way from Jerusalem to India. There are Christians there, the Nasranis, who to this day claim they were founded by him in his visit, and he was martyred near Chennai and buried there.
            That does not exemplify doubt but commitment. If any of the apostles exemplified absolute faith in the Risen Lord, you have to admit that Thomas put his money where his mouth was.
            You see, that is what demonstrates faith. It's not the words we say but whether our words match our actions—whether we act as if Christ's words actually move us to action. A Franciscan priest by the name of Brennan Manning once said this:
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. That is a challenge for all of us. If we walk out those doors and say "Lord, Lord" as we pass by the single mother begging so she can buy diapers or formula for her child without responding, our "Lord, Lord" is unbelievable. If we neglect the poor in our midst and indulge in lavish life styles, our faith is unbelievable.
            If we come to this sacrifice here on Divine Mercy Sunday or on any other day of the year and approach this Eucharist with any other disposition but absolute gratitude and awe, if we shuffle up here and say, "Yeah, yeah. The Body of Christ or something," our actions speak for themselves. If that's how we face the source and summit of our faith, then we don't really have faith, and our Protestant brothers and sisters who see this and doubt us have good reason.

            If we are going to be witnesses for our faith, our actions must match our words. We have to walk the talk. We have to be what we profess, or our faith is lifeless. Our daily walk must be an icon, an image of our faith.