st.joseph and older jesus

We may ask ourselves: ‘What is God calling me to do with this life He has given me? How should I serve Him?’ At some point, the question may become more specific: ‘Am I called to consecrated life?’ Here is when we wonder if we can leave our current way of life and take a step of faith into the unknown, placing all our trust in God. St. Joseph shows us that God will provide whatever we need for the journey He places before us. In his sleep, the angel tells Joseph to ‘take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you to return’. So Joseph goes where the Lord directs him, leaving behind the familiar, friends, work, home – all but the child Jesus and Mary.

In Matthew’s gospel, we hear Jesus say: “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on it…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Mt 6:25, 32b-33) In His words, Jesus tells us what Joseph knew in his heart.

A ‘yes’ to consecrated life is that step of faith into a land unknown, but in the company of our Lord Jesus and Mary, the Mother of Divine Hope. St. Joseph shows us how to trust. And we have Jesus’ assurance that our Father will care for our needs.

O St. Joseph, head of the Holy Family, your faith encourages us to believe that all things are possible with God. Placing all your hope in Him, you set aside the normal family life and moved in haste to an unknown land. Pray for us, St. Joseph, that we may have the courage to respond to God’s call with boldness and confidence.

Pray for us, blessed St. Joseph,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Almighty God,
In your infinite wisdom and love
you chose Joseph to be the husband of Mary,
the mother of your Son.
As we enjoy his protection on earth,
may we have the help of his prayers in heaven,
particularly as we discern our chosen-ness.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This morning as I was reflecting on the scripture for today, you came to mind.  I was inspired to write to you as encouragement in the battle that is before us to defend the sacred dignity of the human person, the sacred right of living in accord with one’s formed conscience and the sacred gift of religious liberty.

In today’s Gospel (Mk 2:1-12), four men carried a paralytic to Jesus hoping he would be healed.  Their faith and resulting determination were so strong that they carried him to the roof, removed the tiles and let the paralytic down through the roof into the room where Jesus was.  What faith!  What hope!  What determination!

This Gospel challenges us to be equally faithful, hopeful and determined to bring others to Jesus, to help our neighbors, friends, family and political leaders know the love of Jesus Christ that brings healing and great joy-filled peace.  But this is not enough, for like the four men who brought the paralytic to the home where Jesus was; we are to bring people to the Church.  Jesus created his church upon Peter and entrusted it to him and the other Apostles so that all people will come to know Him there and be united to Him through the sacraments, be incorporated into His Body, receive saving grace and life everlasting.  In His church all live in communion and grow to know Him through the great deposit of faith: the sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition and the teaching of the magisterium of the Church, which is under the authority and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

How is it that we can do this; by boldly and confidently living in the Truth.  Today we hear in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No…but in him it is always Yes.  For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.  That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God.  But it is God who established us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2Cor 1:18, 19b-22) We have all received this commission in our baptism.  By our baptism, we are consecrated in Christ who is Truth.  We are sealed in Christ and receive the Spirit in our baptism and confirmation.  By living our baptismal consecration faithfully, boldly, and joyfully, it should be our natural desire to bring others to know the love that fills and sustains us.  We possess in this love the great gift of saving hope, which the world desperately needs.  Our desire to share this gift inspires and spurs us on to draw others into his steadfast and healing love and to encounter Truth.  So together we may proclaim with the psalmist today:  “But thou hast upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in thy presence for ever.  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.” (Ps 41: 12-13, RSV)

Through the prayers of Mary, Mother of Divine Hope, may our Lord bless you with his mercy and bathe you in his hope, that you may be filled with his joy and peace and proclaim his Truth. Amen. Alleluia.

In Christ our Hope,

Sr. Susan Catherine, DDH

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

19 February 2012

Christian Citizenship

January 26, 2012

Sadly, citizens across our nation just commemorated the tragic Supreme Court decision that sanctioned the killing of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society, the unborn. In the 39 years since this decision, over 50 million infant people have been killed and their families’ lives changed forever.

This decision, and the subsequent acts flowing from it, has divided a nation that only half a century ago stood united in the protection and defense of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not only here but around the globe. Now we have a festering, gaping wound in our country, oozing pus throughout society as seen in the growing national policies that question the value of the lives of the elderly and the handicapped. Our government poured salt into that wound on January 20, when the Department of health and Human Services announced that nearly all employers will be forced to cover drugs and procedures that violate their conscience in their health plans. These include contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients. (More info: see http://www.dioceseoftyler.org/respectlife.htm). This is a direct assault on respect for conscience and religious liberty. As our government sanctions the killing of innocents, it now attacks the very core of the person and the heart of our nation.

St. Peter, in writing to the Gentiles in Asia Minor, called them to be good citizens and thus show themselves to be Christians by the witness of their lives.

Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the approval of those who do good. For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people. Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God. Give honor to all, love the community, fear God, honor the king. (1Pet 2:13-17)

At the time of St. Peter’s writing, the leaders and authorities were appointed or usurped authority by military power. But in our country, the authorities and their policies are by our choosing – we elect them, from the White House to city hall. Therefore, our responsibility and duty as Christians is greater than what Peter asked of the Gentiles in the early church. We are all called and will answer for our participation in the political process that defines this nation. This is part of our response in love to Christ’s sending us forth into the world to proclaim His good news.

This duty is not simple or easy; it requires study, discipline, diligence and prayer. It is hard work, but work worthy of the dignity of the human person. We are called to act in conformity with our conscience, to put leaders in place that will uphold the laws of God, the giver of all authority, which our fore fathers acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence:

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them..” (Opening paragraph of the Declaration)

To undertake this sacred duty, we have first the responsibility of forming our own moral conscience.

Conscience is the voice inside the heart of every person that calls us to do good and to avoid evil. It is the law of truth present in each heart that aids each person to make prudent decisions congruent with the moral good. A person has integrity when he or she acts in accordance with his or her conscience. Within the conscience, a person judges an action to be good or evil; then, entrusting in hope and the promise of forgiveness, sets about to right their course toward the good. Conscience is the inner core, the seat of truth in each person. Therefore, man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”(Dignitatis Humane, The Declaration on Religious Liberty, 3)

Forming our conscience is a life-long endeavor of studying sacred scripture and the teaching of the Church, of participating in sacred liturgy, of seeking guidance from the wise and learned and of being aware of the church’s collective wisdom on current issues. As Christ sent his disciples out into the world to proclaim the kingdom, so we are sent forth. In our country, this calls us to engage in the political process, to bring the message of the Gospel to the public square and into the political, economic and social policies that define our nation. In doing this, we have an obligation to take into account the moral stance of politicians and other authorities. What is the foundation of the character of the person? What do they allow, what do they promote and encourage, and what do they stand for? Within the judgment of our well-formed conscience, can we support this particular person?

To fulfill this Christian duty, we need to be informed. What are the major issues that call us to take action and to take a stand? Our bishops, in their role of shepherds, have identified some: health care, education, immigration, just economy, debt, jobs (See http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/ and http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/) Most of us would identify the same issues as ones demanding our involvement.

Our voice is critical for the future of our nation and is our mandate from Christ to bring his message into the world. We are a people of Hope, and that Hope is much needed to overcome the discouragement, despair and apathy that takes root when a government sanctions the killing of the most vulnerable and infringes on the right of conscience and religious liberty of each person. Deep in the soul of each person, is the desire to know the face of Truth. With this desire is the freedom and right given by God, not by man, to the life and liberty necessary to seek, to know and to live in Truth. We are called to be people of Truth; loving God and living in his joy; proclaiming life and bringing his hope. By his grace and armed with knowledge, may we boldly undertake our responsibility as Christian citizens.

Our fore fathers had a profound sense of the rights given by God and the citizen’s responsibility in relationship to these rights. They captured that sense in the beginning of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

May the teaching of St. Basil the Great (+379) help us call to mind our sacred dignity and our response to this great goodness: ”

There is one gift that no thoughtful man can pass over in silence. God fashioned man in his own image and likeness: he gave him knowledge of himself; he endowed him with the ability to think which raised him above all living creatures; he permitted him to delight in the unimaginable beauties of paradise, and gave him dominion over everything upon earth…Nor was he content merely to summon us back from death to life; he also bestowed on us the dignity of his own divine nature and prepared for us a place of eternal rest where there will be joy so intense as to surpass all human imagination. How, then, shall we repay the Lord for his goodness to us? He is so good that he asks no recompense except our love: that is the only payment he desires.” (Office of Readings, Tuesday, 3rd week Ordinary Time)

In Christ our Hope,

Sr. Susan Catherine, DDH

25 January 2012

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul