Tag Archives: joy

A Joyful Calling

26 Jan

marriage1In two weeks, you’ll be invited to participate in the Joyful Marriage Project, an initiative that invites and equips couples to make their marriage more joyful. In this Sunday’s second reading, St Paul exhorts us to “consider [our] own calling” (1 Cor. 1:26). What does one have to do with the other?

For us married couples, considering our own “calling” is a reminder to constantly be aware of the mission of our life. Not that we forget we are married, but we sometimes forget how much we love our spouse. When we take for granted the passionate love we have for our spouse, joy leaks out of our relationship.

Just as Christ was always mindful of His mission to bring God’s love to humanity, we married couples must be focused on bringing God’s love to our spouse.

For practical tips on how to “consider your own calling,” go to www.joyfulmarriageproject.com.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.


A Joyful Penitent

19 Jan

calling of disciplesThis week’s first reading and psalm speak of great rejoicing, of long-suffered sorrow being lifted. They are connected to the Gospel in which Jesus begins His public ministry.

We often view joy as an emotion that comes upon us during favorable circumstances, such as a promotion at work or better yet winning the lottery. But this is not the way Jesus understood it. Joy is something we cultivate.

Jesus’ first message for His first disciples is the first step to cultivating joy in our lives: repentance. If the idea of repentance doesn’t come to mind when you think of joy, you’re not alone. The connection is foreign to many of us, yet this is where the “peace on earth” that was promised us a few weeks ago at Christmas starts.

Pray this week for the grace to see where you may have hurt your spouse (especially look at what you’re not doing, but should be) and then humbly ask forgiveness.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Still Need a Christmas Gift?

21 Dec

birth of JesusIt’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

How many times have you heard that song over the past several weeks as the barrage of “Christmas songs” has reached a crescendo as Our Lord’s birthday draws near?  It’s the most wonderful time because it’s the most wonderful day of the year!  It is the day where we began to realize the fullness of God’s love, as He takes on our humanity and pledges to never abandon us!

For married couples, Christmas is analogous to our wedding day. We committed the entirety of our being to our spouse and pledged to “take on the other’s humanity” in every aspect.  In other words, we committed to bringing joy and happiness to our beloved, just as the Christ Child pledged to bring us joy and happiness.

This Christmas, let’s recommit to bringing our spouse joy and being more concerned with his or her happiness than our own. This recommitment is the greatest gift we can give.  For practical ways to live this commitment, go to www.joyfulmarriageproject.com.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Holy Authority

16 Nov

Image result for serving others“If you are a King, . . . save yourself.” As we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King this Sunday, we gain an important lesson in authority that we can apply to our families.

The scoffing onlookers (i.e., those who did not know Christ) represent the mistaken idea that authority is meant for the benefit of the one who possesses it. Christ teaches the opposite: True authority is given for the benefit of those served, while giving those in authority the opportunity to grow in virtues such as justice, mercy, and generosity.

In marriage and parenting, it can be easy to sit back and wait for others to earn our service or respect, but that is a self-serving attitude and a misuse of authority. Christ calls us to something greater and more fulfilling. Respect is gained when it is given. Joy is gained when service is offered.

For practical applications of other-centered authority and love, click here.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.


Joyful Communion

3 Nov

Image result for faults shape up spouseThis Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that our ultimate destiny is heaven. We married couples may hear this message and wrongly assume our mission is to point out our spouse’s faults and “shape them up.” We may also think our spouse’s irritating qualities are chiseling away our imperfections. As common as these two viewpoints are, they paint a miserable picture of marriage.

We forget that heaven is joyful communion with God. What if, instead of dragging each other along, we supported each other by encouraging virtue? What if, instead of focusing on our spouse’s faults, we focused on convincing them that we love them unconditionally? What if we lived the marriage we always dreamed we would? What if we could prepare our spouse for heaven by practicing joyful communion here on earth?

If you desire such “joyful communion,” but you want a practical plan, check out Archbishop Naumann’s Joyful Marriage Project at www.joyfulmarriageproject.com.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.


Pink Floyd and Jesus

30 Aug

Is There Anybody Out There? by AperatureScienceDo you remember the Pink Floyd lyric, “Hello, is there anybody out there?”

What happened to the “great crowds” that accompanied Jesus? In our own day, many are left wondering what happened to the great crowds of people who used to attend Mass and now only attend at Christmas or Easter. This may include our sons, daughters, brothers, or sisters.

While different people fall away from the practice of the faith for different reasons, Jesus’s words in the Gospel this week give us insight. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Let’s face it, following Christ is hard. Many give up, while others do not understand the value of following Christ and His teachings. This is especially true in matters of marriage and family.

What do we do? We can draw strength from the Holy Spirit and the witness of the Saints. We can strive to live joyful lives that convince our loved ones that we are stronger and happier people with the Eucharist present in our lives. A joyful family life is the greatest message we can send.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Evangelization Now

27 Nov

Pope Francis2Chapter One of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on evangelization (Evangelii Gaudium, or “GE”) is entitled “The Church’s Missionary Transformation.” What the Holy Father seems to be talking about here is not only a new way of thinking about the Church, but also a new way of being the Church. Yet such newness is not about “novelty,” but rather about an interior conversion that leads to a renewed commitment to the Lord’s invitation to bring the “joy” of the Gospel to all people (EG 23).

Here are four points that I took away from this chapter:

(1) The Role of the Church. We’ve heard for decades now that the Church exists to evangelize. Pope Francis amplifies this point and emphatically adds what the Church does not exist to do. Namely, the Church cannot be about “self-preservation” (EG 27), “defensiveness” (EG 45), “security” (EG 49), or “mere administration” (EG 25).

The Gospel not only calls individuals out of their personal comfort zones, but it does the same for the Church on every level. The Church has to reexamine all she does through the lens of whether she is being faithful to her missionary mandate. Pope Francis flat out says that “we have always done it this way” (EG 33) can no longer be our approach. Instead, he envisions a “bold and creative” (EG 33) Church that is committed to pastoral discernment, purification, and reform (EG 30).

He notes that the parish has an ongoing role in the life of the Church, but that presupposes that the parish is in contact with the lives of its people, and that it “encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers” (EG 28). At the same time, the Holy Father insists that the parish must not become “a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few” (EG 28).

(2) Get to the Point. Some may have difficulty with (or conversely, draw the wrong conclusions from) the Pope’s discussion of the “hierarchy of truths” (EG 31), his concern about an over-emphasis on unspecified “secondary aspects” of the Church’s moral teaching (EG 34 and following), and his openness to “nuance” in our understanding of doctrine (EG 40). Yet the Pope is not denying the importance of accepting the totality of Catholic teaching. He affirms that “all revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be believed with the same faith” (EG 36). So what is he getting at?

Basically, the Holy Father insists that we lead with the core of the Gospel message, in all its beauty, attractiveness, and simplicity. We must bear witness above all to “the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead” (EG 36). Everyone should know that “the Gospel invites us to respond to the love of God who saves us, to see God in others, and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others” (EG 39). Evangelization doesn’t end there (that’s why we have “catechesis”), but sometimes we forget that it must always begin there.

(3) Don’t Obsess About the Weeds. Pope Francis says that in the presence of weeds (human failings, sins, setbacks, etc.) we must “not grumble or overreact” (EG 24) or otherwise distort the Church’s message of mercy. I think he is telling the Church to keep the big picture of saving souls in mind (EG 43). Customs and practices that no longer help the process may need to go. Similarly, the Church should not burden the faithful with excessive precepts and rules (EG 43).

He talks about keeping the doors of the church open—not just literally, but also in the sense that all feel welcome and that the sacraments be available to all as “a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (EG 47). “Conservatives” may wonder if this applies to the openly defiant politicians who nonetheless present themselves for Communion, while “liberals” may have to rethink withholding sacraments from homeschoolers who bypass their sacramental programs. We’ll see what ramifications all this will have. But clearly the Holy Father says we must be “facilitators” rather than “arbiters” of grace (EG 47), recognizing that the Church must always be merciful and patient toward those who are struggling in their journey of faith (EG 44-45).

(4) Go Forth! The chapter begins and ends with a clear exhortation to embrace in our daily lives the Church’s perennial mission to go forth and make disciples. The Pope is not into “armchair evangelization.” He wants us all to be ministers of the “joy of the Gospel,” recognizing that God’s Word is “unpredictable” and awesome in its power to save (EG 22). He stresses that the Church has, in a sense, a “preferential option for the poor” even in her evangelization efforts. Surely this will be a theme to which the Pope will return later in the apostolic exhortation.

For my money, the most compelling words of the chapter are found at the end of the chapter: “If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light, and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life” (EG 49).

How can we remain complacent in the face of this godly challenge?

Joy to the World

26 Nov

Pope Francis2This past Sunday, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, more commonly known as the feast of “Christ the King.”

This year’s celebration of Christ the King not only brought with it the end of our liturgical year, but also the end of the “Year of Faith,” which invited all of us to a renewed relationship with Christ and His Church. The Year of Faith coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and during the Year of Faith, Church leaders from around the world gathered to discuss in practical terms the “new evangelization.”

But that’s not nearly all. On the feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis issued a 223-page apostolic exhortation entitled Evangelii Gaudium (“Joy of the Gospel” or “EG”), on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world. Therein the Holy Father not only synthesizes the discussions regarding the new evangelization, but even more gives his own personal stamp to the Church’s mandate to evangelize in the here and now.

This document is fairly long, so I will try to break it down into smaller parts. Today, I’ll just look at the Introduction, in which the Pope sets the tone for the entire document. Four things struck me about the Introduction at first glance:

(1) He gets your attention. The Pope has a unique way of challenging all of us, and in particular by way of “afflicting the comfortable” (as opposed to “comforting the afflicted”). For example, take this passage from paragraph 2:

“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and an­guish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry, and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spir­it which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.”

He addresses evangelization not as a task or technique for those of us who already think they have their act together, but rather as the fruit of a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ.

(2) It’s all about joy. The words “joy” or “rejoice” appear at least 50 times just in the Introduction. I think the Holy Father is trying to make a point here! And the point is this, quoting Pope Paul VI:

“May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anx­ious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ” (EG 10).

(3) The Pope is quotable! Here are just a few nuggets:

  • “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter” (EG 6).
  • “Sometimes we are tempted to find excus­es and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met” (EG 7).
  • “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” (EG 10).
  • “Every form of authentic evangelization is always ‘new’” (EG 11).
  • “The believer is essentially “one who remembers’” (EG 13).
  • “It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction’” (EG 15).

(4) It’s modest, yet far-reaching. I say that the Pope’s approach is “modest” in the sense that he acutely recognizes that evangelization happens “on the ground,” and that each geographic region presents its own pastoral challenges for individual bishops. Even more than that, Pope Francis does “not believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world” and is conscious of the need to promote what he calls a “sound decentralization” of Church authority (EG 16).

Notwithstanding this noble recognition of the prerogatives of individual bishops, he does take it upon himself to give an extensive teaching on evangelization (did I mention that the document is 223 pages?). As we proceed in the document, we are going to unpack the Holy Father’s views on these subjects, identified in EG 17:

(a) the reform of the Church in her missionary outreach;

(b) the temptations faced by pastoral workers;

(c) the Church, understood as the entire People of God which evangelizes;

(d) the homily and its preparation;

(e) the inclusion of the poor in society;

(f) peace and dialogue within society;

(g) the spiritual motivations for mission.

I think as we read the document the Holy Father desires that these words of St. Paul remain ever present to us:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Complete Joy

2 May

complete joyIn today’s Gospel (John 15:9-11), Our Lord tells us something for the explicit purpose of imparting His joy to us, so that our “joy might be complete.” What was this joy-producing message? It was this:

“If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”

The connection between keeping the commandments and loving God is a recurring theme in the biblical writings of St. John, and in this particular instance we hear it from the Lord Himself, with the motive that we might be filled with joy.

A few years ago I told my then six-year-old son Samuel that he was developing into a fine young Christian man, and that I thought that he was about ready to make his First Confession. I told him, however, that in order to make a good Confession, he would have to know the commandments. He replied, “I know them already.” I was justifiably skeptical, so I asked him what they were. He answered: “Obey your parents, don’t pick your nose, listen to your teacher . . .”

Obviously Sam still needed a little work (and a handkerchief).

But in our own lives as adults, do we experience the observance of the commandments as simply following a bunch of arbitrary rules, or as the means of discovering the complete joy that the Lord wants to give us?

In creating us in His image and likeness, God gave us free will and expects us to use it well. He doesn’t coerce us to love Him and follow His commandments.

Human freedom is widely misunderstood today, as many understand freedom as existing apart from the truth about God and about human nature. The discussion surrounding Jason Collins’ “coming out” this week is but one example. Freedom has become a very personal, exclusively subjective reality that boils down to the ability to do whatever I might feel like doing at a particular time, apart from the “rightness” or the “goodness” of such choices. This, of course, is not authentic human freedom, but mere license or whim.

And so Our Lord today reminds us that obeying the commandments does not involve a renunciation of freedom. Rather, it involves the exercise of freedom to do good, rather than evil. This wise use of our freedom results in our loving God and neighbor, and brings us “complete joy.” Sounds like a ”win win” situation to me!

Back in the Pink

15 Mar

This coming Sunday is Laetare Sunday, which is the popular name for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Its name comes from the first word of the introit (“entrance antiphon”) for the Mass, taken from Isaiah 66:10-11: “Laetare Jerusalem,” which means “Rejoice, Jerusalem.”

Because the midpoint of Lent is the Thursday of the third week of Lent (today!), Laetare Sunday has traditionally been viewed as a day of celebration, on which the austerity of Lent is slightly relaxed, because today we’re given a glimpse of the joy of Easter. The passage from Isaiah continues, “Exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her.” It is a day of joy and exultation!

On Laetare Sunday, therefore, the purple vestments and altar cloths of Lent are set aside, and rose ones are used instead. Flowers, which are normally forbidden during Lent, may be placed on the altar. Traditionally, the organ is not played during Lent, except on Laetare Sunday.

The custom of rose vestments is tied to the so-called “station churches” in Rome. The station for Laetare Sunday is the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, where the relics of Cross and Passion brought from the Holy Land by St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, were deposited. On this day, the popes customarily blessed roses made of gold, which were sent to Catholic royalty. The biblical reference is Christ as the “flower” sprung forth from the root of Jesse (Is. 11:1). Thus, the day was also called Dominica de Rosa, or “Rose Sunday.” From there the idea of rose-colored vestments developed. This Roman custom eventually spread to the whole world.

Laetare Sunday has a counterpart in Advent: Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, when purple vestments are also exchanged for rose ones. The point of both days is to encourage us as we progress toward the end of each respective penitential season. For those who get the two days confused, remember that “Lent” and “Laetare” both begin with “L.”