In this letter of Paul to the Philippians (4:4-7), Paul is very brief, but he sums up all that we must do if we truly believe in Jesus Christ, in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Today the Churchís liturgy says: REJOICE!!! I wonder how many of us are rejoicing in our hearts for the spiritual gifts that have been given to us, and will continue to be given to us, and the abundance that will flow into our hearts and souls on Christmas Day? Or, are we all too wrapped up in anxiety of the coming holidays? Are we spending too much money, because we just have to get presents for all those people on our lists, lest they think poorly of us? Are we frantically scribbling out Christmas Cards, wishing we didnít have to do this chore once a year? Are we trying to figure out which relatives to visit, and which ones are to come into our home, hoping that all will be peaceful, knowing it probably wonít. Are we anxious, too, over the fact of Christmas vacation for our children from school? Do we worry about their boredom? Are we stressed to the max?
If any of the above, or even a degree of any of the above mentioned scenario fit into your life, then reflect upon this reading and drink it in. This, God tells me, is one that is so very important, for it is HOPE and it is PEACE, and it is MERCY.
Go now to God in prayer. Talk to Him. Heís listening. He always listens. Present everything to him. Donít be afraid to spell it out. Not that God needs us to spell it out for Him; we need to do it. We need to feel comfortable in talking one-on-one with God. When we donít, or when we stop, thatís when we get ourselves into deep trouble. Notice that St. Paul commends to us, through the Philippians, that we are to petition God with gratitude. That means acknowledging that Heís our Father, His Will is perfect; He will help, and our gratitude shows our TRUST in God.
If we learn to Trust God in all things, from the most minute to the largest situation we can imagine, then we are garnering for ourselves, and for others, Godís Infinite Peace and His Infinite Joy .
Rejoice and be glad! Do not let the troubles of every day life overwhelm. God lets happen to us what must happen, for our own salvation and the salvation of others. Heís got it all worked out. Our job is to believe, to trust, to love God. He comes to us as the Infant Jesus, tiny, helpless, but God nonetheless. He knows our weaknesses. Perhaps, to fulfill what Paul speaks to the Philippians about, we need to be infants in our hearts, so that God can be God for each one of us in all things.
The bishops of North and South America, as they close the discussions of their American Synod, will seek to promote the "culture of life" throughout the Western hemisphere.
At a press briefing in the Vatican press office today, Archbishop Vitorio Pavanello of Campo Grande, Brazil, and auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, El Salvador, sketched for the press the essential outlines of the final document which the Synod fathers will present to Pope John Paul II. The two bishops laid heavy emphasis on the Synod's proposals related to economic life.
Bishop Rosa Chavez said that the Synod members were of one accord in their desire to promote the "culture of life." He said that the pastoral implications of that resolution could be expressed in four ways:
First, the Synod would call for redoubled efforts to defend the right to life. He added that this resolution would extend to the defense of life at every stage from conception until natural death.
That first resolution leads naturally into a second: the promotion of strong family life, since the development of the human person is best assured by strong family ties. The Church, the bishop continued, should promote social policies which would ensure that every family has access to food, health care, education, productive work, and dignified living conditions.
Third, as another assurance of human dignity, each individual should be able to participate in the democratic process, so that the society is governed according to the wishes of the people.
Fourth, the Church must continue her efforts at evangelization, so that more people become better acquainted with Jesus Christ. The struggle to uphold human dignity cannot be won in a vacuum, the Salvadoran bishop said; the full dignity of the human person must be found in the life of Christ. Through evangelization, he continued, the Church can offer hope to young people, showing them the way to live life in its fullness.
Speaking in concrete terms, Bishop Rosa Chavez predicted that the Synod would lament the plight of "street children" in Latin America, who live as orphans in the urban areas. He said that a preliminary draft of the synodal document had been too "romantic" in its treatment of this problem, and the revised version would lay out a more realistic account. The document will also caution against the exploitation of child labor, he said.
Archbishop Pavanello said that the Synod's desire to promote the full dignity of the human person required attention to every aspect of life on the American continent. He, too, emphasized the social engagement of the Church, and the desire to form an "economy in service to man," rather than a situation in which man serves the economic system.
The single term which best describes the appropriate economic arrangements, the archbishop said, is "solidarity." Such solidarity should extend not only to transactions in the marketplace and the treatment of the less fortunate members of society, but also to the accords that bind relations among nations.
Archbishop Pavanello said in particular that the wealthy nations of North America have an obligation not only to assist the less wealthy, but also to address the root causes of immigration. He criticized the United States, especially, for creating a climate in which millions of people leave their own countries to seek economic opportunities there.
The Church, the archbishop said, can play an important role in the development of social policies, since Church leaders enjoy greater respect, and more public confidence, than politicians. Therefore, he said, the bishops could apply pressure on the government to create more equitable laws and policies. He mentioned in particular the debts owed by developing nations to lending institutions in the wealthy countries-- suggesting that Catholics could seek to obtain more favorable terms for the repayment of the loans, or even partial forgiveness of those loans.
However, while stressing the moral obligations of the wealthy nations, the Synod would not overlook the problems caused by those who hold responsibility-- or, as Bishop Rosa Chavez put it, those who hold "irresponsibility"-- for living conditions in impoverished countries. Corruption and negligence should not be ignored, the bishops argued; public opinion should be rallied to demand more equitable and effective government.
Archbishop Pavanello and Bishop Rosa Chavez also pointed to the Synod's denunciation of drug traffic, support for agrarian reform, and promotion of communal self-help projects.
However, the press briefing by the two bishops did not lay any emphasis on the spiritual themes of the Synod, nor did they mention the possibility-- raised repeatedly during the bishops' discussions-- that the formal closing of the Synod could present the opportunity for the Pope to visit Mexico City, preside at the canonization of Juan Diego, and affirm the status of Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of the Americas.
The final document of the Synod will be made public on Friday, ending speculation about the bishops' proposals and the emphasis that may be put on social action as opposed to evangelization. The proposals contained in the document will be edited and promulgated in an apostolic exhortation by Pope John Paul II at some unspecified date in the future. The formal adjournment of the Synod meetings will occur on Friday, December 12: the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
As we look over the past two weeks, we may note that our good intentions have remained such - good intentions and that our actions exude flawed successes. Perhaps we had planned to pray more and make more sacrifices, but despite our good intentions and minor successes, we have not accomplished what we had hoped.
I am reminded of something Our Lord said: "Even the just man falls seven times a day." I think of St. Joseph when I think of a "just" man, and if he "fell" seven times a day, surely one cannot be surprised at himself if the best of intentions have not revealed equally good accomplishments.
The important thing is not to get discouraged and not give up. God DOES look at our good intentions and knows how weak we really are. We must keep in mind that there is always less shame in falling than in failing to rise. We must keep getting up. We must every day keep trying even though we sense our own weaknesses deeply.
Discouragement is a very frequently-used tool of the evil one. If the devil can get people to be discouraged, then he can get them to "give up" on doing good.
There is a saying: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." We have to be focused. We have to keep our eyes on Jesus and keep going toward Him and not let our failures discourage us.
When God willed to come to earth as an tiny, weak baby, part of the reason was and is to sanctify every aspect (except sin) that encompasses human experience. Our physical and spiritual weaknesses have been made up for by Our Savior. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.
We must be reminded that we cannot save ourselves. We are totally and completely dependent on the Mercy of God. This is where TRUST comes in and the ACT OF HOPE many of us memorized as children: O, my God, relying on Your Infinite Goodness and Promises, I hope to obtain the pardon of my sins, the help of Your Grace, and life everlasting through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Redeemer. Amen.
Trust, however, doesnít mean we give up trying. Good-will is necessary as part of our struggle.
So start again. The only moment that matters is the one we are in right now. The present moment is a gift - thatís why it is called the PRESENT.
We have two more weeks to prepare for Christmas, but the only moment that matters is the one you are in right now. Tell God you believe in Him, hope in Him, love Him and are sorry for all of your sins. Then proceed to live totally in the NEW moment you are in. Love God in this moment, the future will take care of itself. God bless you!
Our fifth "bone to pick" with dissenters is on the the nature and procedure for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, tying in with our topic over this week and next in "Catechism Capsules." There has been a misconception that Vatican II changed regulations regarding Confession, downplaying the need to confess directly to a priest and that it could be done in a group while we just confess directly to God within ourselves. Wrong! In fact the Vatican II documents make it very clear that we need to go to a priest in a confessional (the nature and specifics of the confessional can of course be accepted as wherever a priest is available), but there is still the need for individual absolution and a priest's general absolution to a group does not suffice for the Sacrament of Reconciliation except for very specific circumstances that would require a necessity such as disasters, etc. It does specify, however, that group reconciliation (where groups gather such as in Lent and Advent for a mission-like program and numerous priests come to hear confessions while the rest of the faithful listen to the Word of God and words from the pulpit along with prayer) carried out in specific ritual can do much to help us examine our conscience and bring us fully to the meaning of the Sacrament whereby we celebrate ridding ourselves of sin and resolve firmly to sin no more. Below are the few paragraphs on this
taken from VATICAN COUNCIL II, VOLUME II, More Postconciliar Documents; General Editor Austin Flannery, O.P. Costello Publishing Company, page 41-42 on the Celebration of the Sacrament of Penance.
The Place of the Celebration
(12) The sacrament of penance is to be administered in a confessional
located as prescribed by law." (44)
The season of Lent is especially suitable for the celebration of the sacrament of penance, for on Ash Wednesday the faithful are admonished: ĎRepent and believe the Gospel.í It is appropriate, therefore, to arrange for frequent penitential services during Lent, so that all the faithful might be offered the opportunity of being reconciled to God and their brothers and celebrating the paschal mystery with renewed heart during holy triduum.
Others, however, who intend approaching the sacrament at another time, may share in the celebration.
A common celebration manifests more clearly the ecclesial nature of penance. For the faithful together listen to the word of God which proclaims Godís mercy and invites them to conversion. Together, they compare their own lives with Godís word and they help one another by mutual prayer. After each one has confessed his sins and has been absolved, all together praise God because of the wonderful things he has done for the good of the people whom he acquired by the blood of his Son.
There should be enough priests present who, if necessary, can hear and reconcile individual penitents in appropriate locations.
(27) Then, at the invitation of the deacon or another Minster, all kneel down, or bow, and recite a formula of general confession - the Confiteor, for example. They then stand and recite a litany-type prayer or sing a suitable hymn, both however expressing the confession of sins, sorrow, prayer for forgiveness and trust in Godís mercy. The Lordís prayer is said at the end and is never omitted.
(28) At the end of the Lordís prayer the priests go to the confessionals. Penitents who wish to confess go to the confessors of their choice and when they have been given their penances they are absolved with the formula for reconciling individual penitents.
(29) When the confessions have ceased, the priests return to the sanctuary. The person in charge of the celebration invites all to give thanks and to profess Godís mercy. This can be done by a psalm, a hymn or a litany-type prayer. Then the priest concludes the celebration with a prayer, praising God for is great love for us.
(31) Individual and integral confession and absolution remains the only ordinary way by which the faithful may be reconciled with God and with the Church, except when this is physically or morally impossible.
It can happen that, because of a particular combination of circumstances, absolution may be, or even ought to be, given to a number of people together, without individual confession of sins.
Aside from danger of death, it is permissible, in a case of grave necessity, to absolve a number of people together, even though they have confessed only in general terms, if they are truly repentant. This can happen when the number of penitents is too great for the number of confessors present to hear their confessions properly, individually, in the time available, with the result that the penitents through no fault of their own would be compelled to remain without sacramental grace of holy communion for a long time.
This can happen on the missions especially, but also in other places, in any gathering where the need arises. If enough confessors are available, the mere presence of a large crowd of penitents - as on a great festival or at a pilgrimage - does not justify communal confession and absolution. (47)
(32) It is for the bishop of the diocese to judge whether the conditions are such as to justify communal sacramental absolution, after he has taken counsel with the other members of the episcopal conference.
Apart from the instances laid down by the bishop of the diocese, if on other occasions there should arise grave need for communal sacramental absolution, the priest should, for legality, apply to the local ordinary beforehand, if this is possible. But if it is not possible to approach the bishop beforehand, he should, at the earliest opportunity inform him of the necessity which arose and that he had administered communal absolution. (48)
(34) Those whose grave sins are forgiven by communal absolution ought to make an auricular confession before they receive another such absolution, unless a just cause prevent them. They should certainly, unless it be morally impossible, go to confession within the year. They too are subject to the precept which obliges all the faithful to confess, individually, to a priest, at least once a year all the sins, certainly their grave sins, which they have not hitherto confessed singly. (50)