Happy New Year to all and God Bless.
The World Meeting of Families is the biggest gathering of Catholic families in the world, and it occurs once every three years. The previous World Meeting of Families was held in Milan, Italy; this year, it will be held in Philadelphia at The Pennsylvania Convention Center. From September 22 to 27, 2015, families from around the world will gather in Philadelphia to pray, learn, and celebrate the gift of the family. Pope Francis will celebrate the concluding mass. As we await the World Meeting of Families and the papal visit, let us reflect on the theme of family life.
In the beginning God created humankind in his image and likeness. Male and female he created them. The human being, with its two sexes, is God’s creation. The human being is not created as a single entity. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” Therefore, Adam greets the woman with a jubilant word of welcome. Man and woman are given to each other as a gift from God.
As an image of God, both man and woman have the same dignity. There is no place for any discrimination of women. Man and woman are created for love and in the image of God who is love. The love between man and woman does not simply revolve around it‐ self; it transcends and expresses concretely in the form of children who proceeds from their love. Children need protective space and affective security in the love of the parents; on the other hand, children strengthen and enrich the bond of love between parents. Children are a joy and not a burden.
Marriage can be hard even when you love the person you are married to. When you spend a lot of time with another person, even someone you are very fond of, conflicts are inevitable. To sustain a marriage, a friendship or any relationship requires effort. You will likely feel that you giving more than you are getting and the other person will likely feel the same way. You have to be willing to forgive, to put others first, and to work on your own flaws and failings.
People change. Relationship changes. Circumstances change. If you truly love each other, you can make adjustments as your relationship matures and encounters hardships. What should not change is your level of commitment to each other and the desire to be the best partner you can possibly be. Best marriages are those in which both the husband and wife are pretty much dedicated to putting each other first. Marriage becomes rich when you don’t take other for granted, when you pay attention and invest your time and energy in your relationship.
Fr. Jilson George
The signature theme of the papacy of Pope Francis is the mercy of God. From the very beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis emphasized mercy and compassion. In his first apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel”, Pope Francis declared: “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel. As we await the visit of Pope Francis to the United States, I thought of reflecting on the theme of mercy.What is new in Jesus’ message is that he proclaims God’s mercy for all in an ultimate way. Jesus opens up access to God not just for a few righteous people, but for all. There is room for all in God’s kingdom; no one is excluded. God has finally taken back his wrath and has given full scope to his love and mercy. Sinners were Jesus’ addressees in a special way. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus does not keep distance from them. He eats and has dinner with them. He is counted as the friend of tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus expounds for us the message of the father’s mercy most beautifully in his parables. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus tells who my neighbor is. He is not someone at a distance, but rather the one for whom you become the neighbor; the one whom you tangibly encounter and who needs your help in this particular situation. This love is not confined to family bonds, friendship, religious or ethnic membership. This love is gouged according to the concrete suffering and needy person who meets us on the way.
Jesus goes one step further in the parable of the prodigal son. Here the drama plays out between the father’s love and the waywardness of the son, who squandered his father’s inheritance through dissolute and debauched living, thereby losing his rights as a son. The father returns to him his rights as a son and acknowledges anew his dignity as a son. The father’s mercy exceeds every anticipated measure. Divine leads human beings to a return to the truth about themselves. God’s mercy does not humiliate the person.
God is the God of mercy. On the cross we witness the ultimate revelation of God’s mercy and compassion. By his mercy we have been rescued from death and reborn to a living hope. For this reason, Paul says, “nothing can separate us from his love, not hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or sword”. In every situation, no matter how hopeless, in life and death, we are accepted, held, and loved by God. As Cardinal Walter Kasper says, love, which is proven in mercy, can and must become the foundation of a new culture of our lives, the church, and for society.
Fr. Jilson George
Pope Francis calls for a new ecological spirituality for the renewal of humanity in his new encyclical on the care of our common home (Laudato Si). He offers us a few suggestions for an ecological spirituality grounded in the convictions of our faith, since the teachings of the Gospel have direct consequences for our way of thinking, feeling and living. The ecological crisis summons us to a profound interior conversion. This conversion calls for a number of attitudes which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness.
First, it entails gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift, and that we are called quietly to imitate his generosity in self-sacrifice and good works: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:3-4). It also entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion. Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption.
We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that “less is more”. A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfillment. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures.
Such moderation, when lived freely and consciously, is liberating. It is not a lesser life or one lived with less intensity. On the contrary, it is a way of living life to the full. In reality, those who enjoy more and live better each moment are those who have given up dipping here and there, always on the look-out for what they do not have. They experience what it means to appreciate each person and each thing, learning familiarity with the simplest things and how to enjoy them. So they are able to shed unsatisfied needs, reducing their obsessiveness and weariness. Even living on little, they can live a lot, above all when they cultivate other pleasures and find satisfaction in fraternal encounters, in service, in developing their gifts, in music and art, in contact with nature, in prayer. Happiness means knowing how to limit some needs which only diminish us, and being open to the many different possibilities which life can offer.
We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practice the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world.
Father Jilson George
The Holy See recently published Pope Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical, Laudato Si’: On the Care of the Common Home. The 184-page document addresses the contentious subject of climate change in the light of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The title Laudato Si’, which means “Praise be to you”, is taken from the Canticle of the Sun composed by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1224.
Now, this earth, mistreated and abused, is lamenting, and its groans join those of all the forsaken of the world. Pope Francis invites us to listen to them, urging each and every one – individuals, families, local communities, nations and the international community – to an “ecological conversion”. We are invited to “change direction” by taking on the beauty and responsibility of the task of “caring for our common home”. At the same time, Pope Francis recognizes that “there is a growing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet”. A ray of hope flows through the entire Encyclical, which gives a clear message of hope. “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home”. “Men and women are still capable of intervening positively”. “All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start”.
The Pope invites everyone to the heart of ecological conversion. The roots of the cultural crisis are deep, and it is not easy to reshape habits and behavior. Education and training are the key challenges: “change is impossible without motivation and a process of education”. All educational sectors are involved, primarily “at school, in families, in the media, in catechesis and elsewhere”.
The importance of environmental education cannot be underestimated. It is able to affect actions and daily habits, the reduction of water consumption, the sorting of waste up and even “turning off unnecessary lights”: “An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”. By developing our individual, God-given capacities, an ecological conversion can inspire us to greater creativity and enthusiasm”.
Fr. Jilson George, CMI
The month of June is traditionally dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the highest human expression of divine love. Just this past Friday, in fact, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: the feast that sets the tone for the whole month. Popular piety highly prizes symbols, and the Heart of Jesus is the ultimate symbol of God’s mercy – but it is not an imaginary symbol, it is a real symbol, which represents the center, the source from which salvation for all humanity gushed forth.
It is one thing to love when you feel love around you, when others understand you and are grateful for your person and gifts; it is quite another when everything around you speaks of misunderstanding, jealousy, coldness, and hatred. It is one thing to give your life over to family, church, community, and God when you feel loved and supported by them, when they seem worth the sacrifice, when you get a good feeling by doing it; it is quite another thing when you do not feel support, when it doesn’t seem worthwhile, and when you feel no other reason for doing it except truth and principle.
These contrasts capture, in essence, what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. His passion was a drama of the heart, not an endurance test for his body. What made his sacrifice so special was not that he died a victim of violence nor that he refused to use divine power to stop his death. What made his death so special is that, inside of all the aloneness, darkness, jealousy, misunderstanding, sick crowd hysteria, coldness, and murder, he held out, he gave himself over, without bitterness, without self-pity, holding his ideals intact, gracious, respectful, forgiving, without losing his balance, his meaning, or his message.
Jesus’ heart was moved to pity when he saw broken, hopeless people before him, and when he brought them healing and hope, his heart was hurt by criticism and broken by a lack of gratitude. Jesus’ heart was moved to tears over the lack of love in the streets of Jerusalem, and when he tried to call the city to repent and to be gathered into the loving arms of God, he was marched out of the city as a criminal and hung upon a cross.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Jesus’ total gift of himself – in love – from the cross is the gift that gives us hope. It is the gift that enables us to see through the pain and loss of this world to the promise of life and peace. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: It is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Fr. Jilson George, CMI
Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity. God is a Trinity of three Persons. We are made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore all of us are meant to live in communion with others and to be a gift to others in whatever state of life we find ourselves. It is love that makes the human person the authentic image of the Blessed Trinity, the image of God. Created in the image of God, a human being is created for communion, which means that loving God and neighbor is the reason for our existence.
Jesus suffered and yet persevered in love; he was crucified and yet rose again. In Jesus, we believe that the Creator of the universe became one of us, revealing not only who God is, but also who we are created to be and become. In a world of anxiety and doubt, Jesus is trustworthy. When we follow Jesus, even when it hurts and requires sacrifice, we are living lives of integrity, for only in living this way will our lives coincide with the reason for our existence. This brings us great joy. We sin and stumble, but the God we meet in Christ is faithful even when we are not.
“God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him or her.” We can say the same thing about family: “God is family and whoever abides in family abides in God and God abides in that person.” The theology of family roots itself here. God is a community, a trinity, a flow of giving and receiving between three persons. God is a family and when we participate in a family we experience the very flow of God’s life. Family life then is church life.
Family life and church life are part of the same thing; in both we participate in God’s life. To participate healthily in a family is to be part of a church. By abiding in family – by sitting down with each other around a kitchen table, by sharing the frustration of balancing a common check book, by celebrating each other’s joys and sorrows and everyday life, by offering each other consolation and correction, and by putting up with each other’s coughs, phobias, and sins – we experience church. In both, family life and church, our lives break open beyond ourselves and God can enter. God is a flow of living relationships, a trinity, a family of life that we can enter, taste, breathe within, and let flow through us.
God is a flow of relationships to be experienced in community, family, parish, friendship, and hospitality. When we live inside of these relationships, God lives inside of us and we live inside of God. Scripture assures us that we abide in God whenever we stay inside of family, community, parish, friendship, and hospitality. God is community – and only in opening our lives in gracious hospitality will we ever understand that.
Fr. Jilson George, CMI