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Month: February 2019

Sex Abuse Summit

Sex Abuse Summit

Some people have asked me if I am attending the summit on the sexual abuse of minors in Rome on February 21-24. I will not be there because it is not intended for all bishops. There will be 190 participants at the event, including the presidents of 114 bishops’ conferences, the heads of the Eastern rite Catholic Churches and of the main Roman Curia offices, 12 superiors of men’s religious orders and 10 superiors of women’s religious orders, and two lay women, as well as men and women survivors .

To ensure as much transparency as possible, the Vatican will live-stream all the keynote speeches and the interventions of Pope Francis, as well as the penitential service and the closing Mass. All this can be followed in the United States, Canada and other countries worldwide.

The Vatican has opened a special website, accessible to the public with information about the conference, the list of participants at the summit and much more. As I write this, I am not certain how to access the live-stream; but it may be accessible on this website. Please pray for Pope Francis and the participants that they will be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Seminarians for the Diocese of Cheyenne

Seminarians for the Diocese of Cheyenne

This week I am visiting seminarian Linh Vu who is in the second year of theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. Linh is a native of Vietnam, but he is well acquainted with Wyoming since he has been a seminarian for the Diocese of Cheyenne for several years. He studied English for three years and has been in seminarian formation for another six years.

The Diocese of Cheyenne has one other seminarian, Seth Hostetler who is in the first year of theology at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago, IL. He is from Buffalo, WY. Both of these men are excellent candidates for the priesthood. We are blessed to have them in the seminary. Please pray for Linh and Seth, and pray that the Lord will bless us with other young men to enter seminary formation.

Disciples of Grace and the Word

Disciples of Grace and the Word

When we think about the witness of St. Peter or St. Paul, it’s easy to say “I could never do that.  They were rock star disciples.  I’m too weak.”  Because of our weakness and sins, we question our ability to be good disciples. 

So many people are in marriages that are strained or broken.  Others become weary as they battle sexual sins like porn or sex outside of marriage.  Others find themselves caught up in gossip at school or work.  Still others feel hopeless because of the sexual abuse scandal in the Church.  We can become discouraged before our sin and be tempted to give up on being disciples. The temptation is to give up on daily prayer, to give up on having a pure heart, to give up on forgiveness, or to doubt that God is guiding the Church. 

However, it is precisely weak sinners who become strong disciples.  After the huge catch of fish, Peter knelt before Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk. 5:8).  Paul said, “I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:9).  Being a sinner did not prevent them from being disciples.  Rather, God often uses sinners to be the best disciples. 

The first lesson about discipleship:  What matters is not how sinful we are, but that grace is greater than our worst sin.  Paul says, “By the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace has not been ineffective in me.” (1 Cor. 15:10).  In his letter to the Romans, Paul describes how the sin of Adam has spread through the whole human race.  Then he says, “But however much sin increased, grace was always greater” (Rom. 5:20).  Do you believe that?  “However much sin increased, grace was always greater.”  One of the most frequent temptations is to doubt the power of grace. That happens when a person feels that he or she can never overcome a particular sin, or when we give up on the pervasiveness of sin in society.

Paul learned that God’s grace was so much greater than his sins.  It is greater than all sin.  No matter how weak or sinful you feel today, be open to God’s grace.  What matters is not how sinful we are, but that grace is greater than our worst sin — and that we open ourselves to God’s grace.

The second lesson about being a disciple:  Listen to the Word.  Christ will challenge you to go deeper.  When Peter was worn out from working all night long, Jesus said, “Put out into the deep” (Lk. 5:4).  Peter’s life was turned upside down because he listened to Jesus’ Word

At first he is casually listening in as a bystander.  Jesus is preaching by the shore while Peter is washing his nets.  Then Jesus takes it one step further.  He steps into Peter’s boat and asks him to put out a short distance, then continues to teach.     Peter must have been listening to what he was saying while he was working,  sort of like listening to a good CD while driving a car. 

Finally, Jesus speaks directly to Peter.  He says, “Put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch.”  He and his partners have been fishing all night long. They’re tiredThey want to clean their nets and go home.  So Peter must have been at least a little annoyed.  You can hear both exhaustion and trust as Peter says, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command (literally, “at your word”) I will lower the nets” (Lk. 5:5).  Night was the best time for fishing; any fishermen knew that.  Yet, Peter listens to Jesus, and acts on his words.

How many times are we worn out from a long day and don’t feel like praying?  How often does a repeated sin dishearten us and we give up on God’s mercy?  Especially then, take the time to read a little bit of the Gospel.  Or pray over a psalm.  Listen to these words from today’s psalm that speak to a weary heart:  “Your right hand saves me. . . . your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands” (Ps. 138:7-8).   

Peter was not a great disciple because he was sinless, but because he listened to Jesus’ Word, especially the words of mercy.  After his triple denial, he remembered Jesus’ words, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times” (Lk. 22:61).   Yet he also remember how Jesus had assured Peter that he would pray for him that his faith would not fail.  Then after the resurrection Jesus nudged Peter’s heart with his mercy by asking him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (Jn. 21:15).  Jesus’ challenging and merciful words made him a great disciple.

Take two minutes to read the Gospel again.  Listen especially to Jesus words to Peter.  How is he encouraging you or challenging you as his disciple?

Rejoicing in Rejection

Rejoicing in Rejection

If Jesus were on earth today, people would treat him the same way as they did in this Sunday’s Gospel passage (Lk. 4:21-30).  Some would praise him and others would reject him.  We often think that if Jesus came today, everyone in the Church would recognize his authority.  We assume that he would bring peace to the Church.  But he would be rejected, just like he was 2,000 years ago.  Even in the Church, some would marvel at his gracious words, while others would be filled with fury and want to drive him out of town (Lk. 4:22, 28-29).  This is how people treat prophets.  It will always be that way. 

This gospel scene is a snapshot of Jesus’ entire ministry.  He will be a raving success when he heals the blind, the lame and the lepers.    Yet, he will experience bitter rejection.  Some will grumble when he shows mercy toward sinners.  Even though they see him cast out evil spirits, they will say that he is possessed by the devil (Mk. 3:22). 

As we read this passage, we are amazed that people are praising him, but shortly after they are so infuriated that they want to hurl him over a cliff.  As Luke begins to tell the story of Jesus ministry, he puts before us the praise of the crowds as well as their rejection, and even diabolical anger which will lead him to the cross.  If we are stunned by such contrasting reactions, then we still do not know the battle of good and evil at work in our hearts, the Church and the world.  This is a snapshot of the battle between good and evil which prophets confront. 

As a prophet, Jesus was destined for rejection.  As disciples of Jesus who share his prophetic mission through baptism, we should expect rejection.  We should not be surprised when some in the Church are reviled by others.  For example, St. Oscar Romero was hated by the wealthy Catholics of El Salvador when he stood up for the rights of the poor.  His fellow bishops and the Papal Nuncio did not support with him because he stood up against the government and military who were persecuting people.

Prophets stand alone and are persecuted.

As disciples, the first reaction to rejection is that we should expect it.  Something is wrong if we are never ostracized or reviled for Jesus’ name.  Then we are not living as authentic witnesses of Christ.  Sometimes people react with anger when I preach.  At times, they have walked out in the middle of a homily.  That bothers me because I want people to like me.  None of us wants to be rejected.  Yet, it’s part of our prophetic mission. 

Parents should experience some rejection from their children, when they stand strong in setting clear boundaries.  Teens should expect to be ridiculed by their peers simply because they live with moral values.  Legislators should expect scorn from their constituents and fellow legislators because they are not afraid to be guided by a strong moral compass in debating social issues.

Expect rejection and rejoice in it, instead of complain when it happens.  How often we grumble when we experience hatred.  But Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! . . . For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. (Lk. 6:22-23)

To rejoice in rejection requires a mature faith.  It means that you have learned to trust God in the darkest moments.  You have become a disciple who has embraced the cross and who remembers the victory of the cross.  You believe that God is greater than the worst evil.  Above all, you know that the Lord is with you and will prevail.

That is what Jeremiah experienced in his call.  God warned him that he would be rejected, yet he was assured of God’s help.  He heard the Lord say, “Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them. . . . They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord” (Jer. 1:17, 19).  The Church paired that reading with this gospel passage because it captures the trust of Jesus as he gets a taste of his future crucifixion and death.

The prophet expects rejection, rejoices in it, and walks away in freedom.  When they drove him out of town and wanted to kill him, “Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away” (Lk. 4:30).  He didn’t complain about their attitude, or lament how poorly he was treated.  He walked away in freedom.  After this, he went to Capernaum where he taught with authority, expelled demons and healed people.  He kept focused on his mission.

One of the clearest signs of a prophet is that they have an inner freedom.  They do not get elated when people praise them, nor do they get discouraged when people despise them.  Prophets do not react to how people treat them; rather they act out of their relationship with God.  They are centered in God.  That gives them freedom from people’s opinions.

This is seen clearly in Pope Francis.  He is peaceful and free.  He is not perfect, and he makes mistakes.  But he has inner freedom.  Despite all the problems in the Church, he says that he has an abiding peace.  I am convinced that he is a prophet.  He is disliked by some in the Church because he has the freedom to listen to the Word of God and let it refresh the Church as we deal with troubled marriages or issues like immigration.  Especially, he urges us to be merciful like the Father is merciful. His appeal to mercy is one of the reasons that people reject him.

He is a prophet, so we should expect to see him rejected, even by Catholics.  Since he is the Vicar of Christ it is fitting that he is being rejected.  Like Romero who was derided by other Catholics, the prophets are not accepted in their day.  But they walk through the crowd in freedom. 

Do you want to walk with the freedom of a prophet?  Then seek to be centered in God alone.  Let God’s Word guide you, not the words of the crowd.  Take 3-4 minutes to read the gospel every day.  As you come to Eucharist, ask for the grace to expect rejection, to rejoice in it, and to walk in freedom.