I am currently in Germany. Why? I am here to give a talk for a conference on the Catholic identity of Catholic Charities in Berlin.
But there’s more. This year is also the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation being marked in Wittenberg, a small town about an hour south of Berlin. This still medieval-like town, now called Lutherstadt Wittenberg is where Martin Luther posted his famous 95 theses on the door of Castle Church n 1517 that started the movement.
So I decided to “eavesdrop” on the pilgrimages being made to Wittenberg for an overnight a couple of days prior to the Conference. I love when a “non-plan” comes together. This and other postings are not “theological treatises” of ecumenical dialogue. These are a few thoughts of one sojourner to a conference on Catholic identity distracted for a day or two meandering to the founding city of Protestantism.
Last evening as I entered the town, I saw a notice for an organ recital in an hour in the City Church of St. Mary’s where Luther did much of his preaching. I quickly dropped off my bag in the hotel and walked over. It was a great way to begin my dropping in on the 500th anniversary.
So here I stand, how could I do other? Yes, the allusion is intentional. What is coincidence, but the grace of God. He’s a much better planner than I am. Thank God – pun intended. I am off to walk this still medieval-feeling town today.
Lent is over and now we begin to celebrate these three most sacred days that commemorate the center of our Christian faith. Paying homage to our Jewish roots, we begin after sunset “on the night before he died,” and keep a modified vigil. Tomorrow, we will lift high the cross. On Saturday & Sunday, we will light the Easter flame, discover anew the empty tomb, and proclaim for ourselves and for the world that he is not among the dead, but here, with the living.
For this reason, it is important that we not get distracted today by some of Holy Thursday’s evocative traditions. Some still dwell on the ordained priesthood. Others focus on the solemn procession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Still others spotlight the moving ritual of the washing of the feet.
However, as inspiring as these may be, none are the heart of the first of the Sacred Triduum celebrations during the three days that lead up to Easter. For this, we turn to today’s appointed scripture readings that, each in its own way, draws us to the irremovable, yet not gentle, core of these days:
I can figure out two reasons why Jesus annoyed the people of his time. The first is the traditional understanding. The political and religious leadership thought he was getting too popular and might usurp their respective spheres of power and authority. That’s understandable, even if not noble. But the other reason you and I can relate to. Sometimes individual who are kind, humble, giving and content can make us jealous, frustrated, and even angry? So maybe that’s why some others didn’t follow Jesus. Well, maybe in our time we should think about those kind and loving people as God’s gift to the world and to ourselves. We might learn from and imitate their example.
Healing, feeding the hungry, teaching God’s ways, stories of Jesus that taught the important of helping others. There’s much more. Jesus’ whole ministry taught that “doing right by each other” is “doing right by God.” Fortunately, my experience is that people do want to help each other out and very often do so. Good Friday teaches us that the time and type of help we want to provide can’t always be on our terms. Sometimes it will hurt and be inconvenient. Even Jesus asked his Father to make the crucifixion go away. No could do. Neither can all the crosses of our lives go away when we help others.
Abraham is Father and Patriarch to Jews, Christians & Muslims. God told our Father Abraham that he and his descendants must keep his covenant throughout the ages. I can’t speak for other ages, but our age is not doing so well. How can we, the “People of the Book”, betray our roots and our God so often in the way we discriminate and express hate and carry out violence toward those who are not of our religion? For those Christians, we best make our attitude toward Jews and Muslims a serious examination of our consciences as we enter into Holy Week. The prayers and readings of Good Friday and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday provide us with much material for our reflection.
The most difficult part of a difficult situation can be the fear that an embarrassing, or even shameful, situation becomes known. We are frequently surprised that the world des not end when the truth becomes known. Even though it’s rocky and painful for awhile, it most times is liberating and freeing – especially when we remain with Jesus during these times.
On this episode of JustLove, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan will be speaking with Fred Parrella, Professor of Theology in the Department of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University in California, and Mehnaz Afridi, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College in the Bronx.
Msgr. Sullivan and Prof. Parrella – who has been teaching at the Jesuit university based in Silicon Valley for 40 years – will be discussing the religious faith and practice of today’s college students, and what their often self-description as “spiritual, but not religious” bodes for the future, and what – if anything – can be done to counter this trend.
Prof. Afridi – who is also the Director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College will be discussing the practices of fasting, charity/service, and prayer in the Islamic Tradition as a continuation of our Lenten conversations on “Making Lent Great Again 2017!”
It was perfect in the Garden of Eden – not so much since then. If you want to blame it on Adam & Eve and the apple, fine with me. In any case we live in a world that is not perfect and very unfair at times. It’s more unfair to some than others, but we all experience times when we are confronted with injustices, small or big, not of our own faults. We need to react to them in a way that remains faithful to the values that guide us – disciples of Jesus. Another’s unfairness to us does not give us liberty to be unfair to others. Let’s be clear we do not seek to be treated unjustly and we need to try to fix them. There is no value in “playing the victim.” But try as we might, we will not remedy every injustice for ourselves and others. We need to maintain the discipline to live faithfully in these circumstances.
Sometimes God lets his anger out and let’s us know he’s fed up with us not listening to His commands. If we examine ourselves we know it’s true. And sometimes we concentrate so hard on avoiding what God tells us not to do that we forget that he bulk of his commands have to do with treating each other well, especially when someone is in need (e.g. the Good Samaritan). God is merciful, but He’s still annoyed when we do not love each other and help each other out – even when it’s inconvenient and requires some sacrifice.
Sometimes human analogies are helpful in thinking about our relationship with God. I recently heard someone say the most important thing she valued in a relationship was time spent with the other person. Put negatively, she was not interested in having a relationship with someone unwilling to spend time with her. Gifts, money, pedigree, etc. all came in a distant second to “spending time.” God has so much to offer, but it’s hard to take it in if we don’t hang out with God and allowing his presence to be with us. As with human friends we don’t always have to have a plan, a topic or an agenda. Sometimes we should just “hang out with God” and let it be.