I don't often take notes while at mass but my wife does. The need for there to be a clear and concise summary of today's events did inspire me to take notes during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This time, only the Bishops present walked in the procession, so mass started with only about seven minutes of successors to the Apostles walking by. I'm going to be perfectly honest here: I am very worried that my reflections may be rambling, but being immersed in this conference has my head in a completely different place. Yes friends, I'm having a Catholicism hangover.
Once again, our mass readings were chosen by God, but perfectly reflect our celebration and also the commemoration of the Feast of St. Padre Pio. God uses the powers of this world for his own purpose, either for punishment or for the salvation of his people. The Babylonian emperor (In Ezra 5) who carried Israel into exile received his lot from God. The Persian Emperor who sent the Israelites back to their home to rebuild the temple, also got his just reward. The years of slavery were punishment for the infidelity of Israel. Ezra was sure of the punishment but he was also sure of God's mercy. Ezra went into personal penance on behalf of his people. How am I penitent not just for my sins but for all of our sins? The guilty people repented after Ezra's example showed them that their irregular marriages were sinful and they dismissed their wives. How can we repent and remain in an irregular marriage. We must repent and change if we are to receive the grace of God. In the Gospel, (Luke 9) Jesus sent his twelve to preach and to heal. They were to take nothing. The life of an apostle is not one of ease and affluence. The challenge for the successors of the Apostles means that there are tough conditions. May the prayers and intercession of Padre Pio be with us.
After mass, I had the pleasure of taking in two keynote sessions and two breakout sessions.
Cardinal Robert Sarah spoke with power in his voice. He played on the theme of light and dark that makes up so much of our Bible in order to make us aware of the struggles, trials and tribulations that we see today. "Light is our Catholic domestic churches, dark is the broken family that does not seek forgiveness and mercy from its members".
Adam and Eve experienced death, which they did not know before. They turn on each other because separation from God is also a separation from one another. The first human relationship begins to disintegrate because sin leaves us weakened. We believe in our sin that God does not love us, so we seek fulfillment elsewhere: money, power, etc- this is the great deception.
If we do not go to the source of our troubles, we will not solve any of our problems. Sin creates a deadly boundary which encircles everyone who sins. We are unable to open up towards God, we are unable to reach out and transcend, if sin is not conquered we cannot fulfill the law of God: Love of God and Neighbour. Putting the magisterium in a pretty box and trying to acquiesce to modern fashions is a heresy. (Here is where everyone clapped)
The book of Genesis is not just a story, it is our story. Cardinal Sarah extends an invitation: Enter into your heart Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the Tower of Babel. Are these things of the distant past? Our does this speaks to me and my present circumstances. I am a sinner but God, rich in mercy brought us to life with Christ. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -God does not remain indifferent to our sin but calls us to his son.
Jesus passion accomplishes the mission of offering us divine life. Death entered the world through sin. We do not die since Jesus takes our place. Jesus effects the Union of God and humanity by breathing his last "It is consummated." The words he uses speak of a divine marriage.
All those wounded by sin and the sin of others can and must find in the church a place for regeneration without a finger being pointed of them. This is the testimony that the Christian family is called to give. The family is the first evangelizer. The family is meant to spread love and faith. Faith needs a place where it is gestated, transmitted and can grow and become a lived experience. He family is the wellspring of hope and directs itself towards the future. The family carries in itself the future. Perhaps the Cardinal was aware that he could be perceived as being too doom and gloom, so he told us something else that made the entire room clap loudly: Evil does not have the last word. Not when we turn ourselves back to Christ who died for us.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas- One Ring to Rule Them All: The Covenant of Marriage
Archbishop Villegas came to us from the Philippines and spoke of the great sadness that many parents feel when their children do not go to church anymore. He was adamant that the most important part of catechizing our children is to ensure that we are examples of people that have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Their will be renewal in the church if we look past simply the proper forms of liturgy (which are fundamentally important) and first to making our domestic church reflect the beauty of God's church.
If we want renewal, we must kneel again in humility and pray for peace and mercy. Mercy reveals the most Holy Trinity. Mercy is the fundamental action of the everyone who has Jesus in their heart. Our families are invited to kneel down in repentance.
If you don't do anything with love, how can you say that you are doing it right? The church says you should kneel to take communion, but if you don't do it with an oozing love then even the proper form of receiving the blessed sacrament can be an insult to God.
By the fact that we are baptised we already carry the mission to teach, to serve and to bless.
We as families need to lead our children into an intimate relationship with Christ or the gestures we teach them will dry up because they do not come from an encounter with Christ.
Prof. Helen Alvare- Creating the Future: The Fertility of Love
Prof. Helen says she was a convert to the "Gospel of Me" after growing up in the church. She was absolutely opposed to marriage and children. It was only as an adult that she had a reconversion to Christian faith. She was then converted to realizing the despair of living only for herself. She was converted to the ideas of family and taking care of the sick and elderly.
Fewer people are marrying at all in many countries, many are living together instead and making no promises. Demographers say there is a lower and lower number of children around the world. What takes the place of spouses and children? The world says work all the time, there is no time for anything else. People see the beauty of newly created things (here meaning things created by man and woman) but not the beauty of procreated children. Public and private leaders overlook what women need in life but instead they simply equate women's freedom with freedom from children. Children have become completely divorced from the idea of sex and marriage says Prof. Helen, which is completely cut off from God's commandment to "Be fruitful and multiply."
A welcome and stable family life is related to a society of more freedom, peace. The opposite view is that there is no link between love and life. We know that this does not work. We can count the costs to men, women, children, elderly and the poor of how a retreat from marriage and family leaves our society damaged. We are called to be fruitful in our families and to each person that God has put into our paths in life.
Cardinal Peter Turkson and President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama
If one cares, one is connected. The same ideas that framed our behaviour in kindergarten apply to Laudato Si. It is simple: Share, be kind, clean up after yourself. All things in moderation, make time for wonder (of God's creation). It seems simple, but apparently it is not, because our world is full of pollution and waste. We must do better, for our children and our children's children- especially those who will grow up in the poorest parts of the world.
Like I said, Catholic hangover. I am so very blessed to be able to share even these muddled insights with you.