Don’t Be Afraid to Build

Don’t Be Afraid to Build

 a Better Tomorrow

4th Sunday of Lent (B); March 18, 2012

2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Ps 137; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21

Deacon Jim McFadden; Divine Savior Catholic Church

 

“God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life”  (Jn 3:16).  These words should fill us with joy and hope as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises realized in the Resurrection.  These words were first spoken to Nicodemus, who is a stand-in for us.  He came to Jesus in the Dark, unwilling to be seen as a follower of the one they are calling the Messiah.  Nicodemus is wrestling whether to stay in the Darkness or to embrace the Light of Christ in order to build a better tomorrow.

We all come to Christ from the Shadow: we have our doubts; we have our questions.  We live in a society that every year seems to becoming more and more secularized.  It ranges from the simple name changes–Easter vacation has become Spring Break; Christmas season is now the ubiquitous holiday season–to a society that focuses on the individual to the point of disregarding those in most need: the unborn, the young; the poor; the elderly.  Businesses often exploit the poor and reduce human beings to “factors of production,” who can be discarded when cheaper labor may be found elsewhere.  Some businesses in cooperation with governments tolerate the abuse of our environment, robbing future generations of the resources and quality of life they’ll need to live a decent and humane life.

But we can step out of the Shadow, because the word of God is a word of unbounded hope: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus is telling Nicodemus and us that there is a God who cares for us and who can make a radical difference in our lives and that of our communities if we accept His Son as our Savior.  By believing in Jesus, we enter into a life shared with God and we have a life that is eternal, which is the foundation that gives us hope to build a better future.

Just as the Persian king Cyrus was called by God to allow the exiled Jews to return to Israel and to build God’s temple, we are called to embrace radical transformation of ourselves and our world.  We know that such rebuilding can happen because, as St. Paul reminds us, that “we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16).  We know that God actively dwells within the hearts of people who put their faith in Christ.  We have been reborn in Baptism, we have been made into the temples of the Holy Spirit.  We are united with our brothers and sisters throughout the world as the Body of Christ.  And, we know that as believers of Jesus we are called to acknowledge the power of his presence within us and our Church and to share the gift of his love and forgiveness with the world.  As believers of Jesus, we readily accept His Mission: to become messengers of that merciful love within our families, parishes, schools, and workplaces—in fact,  in every sector of social and political life.

People of God, now is the tough part: like Nicodemus the Gospel is challenging us to take action. “And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light, and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God (vs 20-21). It is not the time to think about or talk about what we believe but to live passionately its truth. Truth is something we do; it’s a lifestyle. We believe that Truth is a Person; when we live the Truth, we are living in Christ  and that relational Power can transform  us and our world.  We are being called to embrace the gospel of doing—of walking in the Flesh of Christ.

When people see us, they should experience a community of unbounded hope because we know that God promises us the strength to realize the Gospel promises.  As  St.  Paul tells us in today’s second reading, God created us in Christ Jesus “to live the good life”,  a life of good deeds in accordance with his will (Eph 2:10).   Jesus

has given us his commandments to love God without reservations and to love ourselves and others not as a burden or barriers to overcome, but to liberate us—to be a source of freedom.  As we abide in Christ Jesus, as we come out of the Shadows into His Light, we will become men and women of wisdom, we will be teachers and doers of justice and peace.  We will believe in the goodness of others from conception to natural death.   We will be instruments to promote the Common Good.  God has created us to do this and we should not be afraid to be builders of a better tomorrow!

Reasoned defense of marriage

Dear Folks,

In light of the intellectual and ethical challenges posed to the evangelization
of American culture, below is a reflection of our Holy Father on a
“Reasoned defense of marriage,” which we gave in March to a group of
U.S. Bishops on their “ad limina” visit.

Blessings on your week.

Peace and good will,
Deacon Jim

Reasoned defense of marriage

(This reflection was given by Pope Benedict XVI on March 9, 2012 on the meeting of United States Bishops making a visit “ad limina Apostolorum”;

the text is slightly abridged at the beginning).

 

            …I would like to discuss another serious issue (editor’s note:

the other being ‘freedom of conscience’) which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit to American, namely, the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family,  and more  generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality.  It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic, grounded in the practice of chastity, has led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.

Yet,  as Blessed John Paul II observed, the future of humanity passes by way of the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85).  Indeed, “the good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded on marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitments to this particular area.  Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 29).

In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage.  The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific of persons, essentially rotted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation.  Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage.   Defending the institution of marriage as social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.

In our conversations, some of you have pointed with concern to the growing difficulties encountered in communicating the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family in its integrity, and to a decrease in the number of young people who approach the sacrament of matrimony.  Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity.  This teaching, stated with increasing clarity by the post-conciliar magisterium and comprehensively presented in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, needs to be restored to be restored to its proper place in preaching and catechetical instruction.

On the practical level, marriage preparation programs must be carefully reviewed to ensure that there is greater concentration on their catechetical component and their presentation of the social and ecclesial responsibilities entailed by Christian marriage.  In this context we cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravel sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society.  I encourage your efforts to develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of  Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples.

Here too I would express my appreciation of the pastoral programs which you are promoting in your Dioceses and, in particular, the clear and authoritative presentation of the Church’s teaching found in our 2009 Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.   I also appreciate all that your parishes, schools and charitable agencies do daily to support families and to reach out to those in difficult marital situations, especially the divorced and separated, single parents, teenage mothers and women considering abortion, as well as children suffering the tragic effects of family breakdown.

In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity.  The integrating and liberating function of this virtue (cf. CCC, 2338-2343) should be emphasized by a formation of the heart, which presents the Christian understanding of sexuality as a source of genuine freedom, happiness and the fulfillment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love.  It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality.  The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters; these in fact constitute a destructive form of counter-catechism for the young.

Young people need to encounter the Church’s teaching in its integrity, challenging, and counter-cultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth.  They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives.  Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing “apprenticeship  in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom” (#2339).  In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that “if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great (Homily, Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate, 24 April 2005).

Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships.  Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment.   It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educting the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole.

I now commend you and your brother Bishops, with the flock entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.

            Pope Benedict XVI

(L’Osservatore Romano; March 14, 2012)