Tuesday, November 24, 2009
“When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand” (Luke 21:28)
Carlo Carretto, a renowned spiritual writer, spent years of living alone as a hermit in the Sahara desert. He spent his years of solitude in writing. In all these he wrote a letter to people like us who are very busy living in the world. What is God trying to say to us in our busy lives? He suggests this:
“Be patient! Learn to wait for each other, for love, for happiness, for God. Learn to wait! That is not something we can do easily and many of our problems flow from that. We often don’t wait properly for things. Anne Dillard shares this story about proper waiting. She watched a butterfly emerge from a cocoon and was fascinated by the process until she grew impatient with how long was taking and to speed things up, took a candle and heated the cocoon, albeit very gently. The experiment worked but it was a mistake in the long run. The butterfly emerged more quickly, however because of adding heat violated something within the natural process, the butterfly was burned with wings weak to fly”.
Haste and pre-maturity had stunted growth and deformed a natural process, some things can’t be rushed. The Xmas gift had been opened early, the bride had been slept with before the wedding; a process that needed allotted period of time, had been short circuited. There hadn’t been enough advent.
Advent means waiting. Among other things, it celebrates the idea that the messiah must be born from a virgin, why? Is sex something unworthy of God? If Jesus was born in the natural way, would that some how given him less dignity? This is the underside in some spirituality, but Jesus’ birth from virgin has nothing to do with that. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary to underscore the fact that he had no human father and also to teach an important truth, namely; that in order for something sublime, to be born there must first be proper time for waiting, a season of Advent. Why? The answer lies properly understanding chastity, chastity is not first of all something to do with sex. Chastity is something to do with how we experience reality in general.... all experiences. To be chaste is to have proper reverence towards ourselves, towards reality in general and towards sex.
Lack of chastity is irreverence, in any area of life, sex included. Reverence is all about awaiting, proper awaiting. We can see this by looking at its opposite. Lack of chastity is to be irreverent, it is to be impatient, selfish, callous, immature, indiscipline, boorish in a way so that our actions deprive someone else of his or her full uniqueness, dignity and preciousness. And we do this every time we short-circuit waiting. Sex because it is so deeply affects the soul, speaks most loudly about or lack of it. Sex is only chaste when it’s not short-circuited by impatience, selfishness, or lack of respect. Sadly because sex is so powerful, these things are short circuited. We violate chastity in sex whenever there is pre-maturity, unfair pressure, crass force, talking without giving posturing an intimacy. We don’t mean lack of respect for previous commitments, disregard for wider relationship of family and community or failure to respect long range happiness and health.
There is a fault in our chastity when we put a candle to the cocoon so as to unnaturally rush the process. Chastity is about proper waiting and waiting is about patience in carrying the tensions and frustrations. We suffer as we live unfinished symphony that constitutes our lives.
God is never in a hurry! Every tear brings the messiah closer! It is with much groaning of the flesh that life of the spirit is brought forth. A feast can only be a feast, only after there has been some fasting. Love can only be a gift if the gift is fully respected; and we must learn to wait for God, for love, for the bride and for Christmas.
Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood
- Marrie Currie-
Rev. Fr. Joseph Nyamunga Mubiru, SSA
P.O.BOX 15318 Code 00509,
Office : +254-020-230-806
Let us not deceive ourselves in thinking that it’s healthy or, worse yet, in the name of truth or justice or God, try to rationalize our lack of respect for those who think differently than we do. We aren’t holy warriors, just angry people with highly selective compassions. We are split into two, and instead of seeing ourselves as one community caught in a common struggle, we talk rather in terms of us and them, like warring tribes. There is no longer plural.
We no longer have respectful conversation with each other. Today its rare to have a discussion on any sensitive political, moral, or ecclesial issues that doesn’t degenerate into name-calling and disrespect, Empathy, understanding, and compassion have become highly selective, ideological, and one sided. We listen to and respect only our kind. This comes with the gravity of issues they are defending: Abortion, family life, traditional marriages, and constitution. The truth being defended is eternal and allows for no compromise, so what is the purpose of dialogue? Why discuss something that is rationally self-evident, simply a question of human right and has long since been enshrined in democratic principle?
Strong convictions are not a fault, but what is distressing is that this unwillingness to be open to respectful dialogue on sensitive issues is generally as prevalent within Church circles as in political one.
In the church circles we are meant to hold ourselves to a higher standard: meet viciousness with graciousness, anger with compassion, opposition with understanding, slander with no retaliation, intolerance with patience and everything and every body with charity.
At a time when misunderstanding, anger, intolerance, impatience, lack of respect and lack of charity are paralyzing our communities and dividing the sincere from the insincere. Its time for us as followers of Jesus called to imitate his wide compassion to regrind ourselves in the same fundamental: respect, charity, understanding, patience, and gentleness towards those who oppose us. It is time to accept too that we are all in this together, one family within which everyone needs everyone else.
Biblical scholar Ernst Kaseman, once suggested that what’s wrong in both the world and the church is that the liberals aren’t pious and the pious aren’t liberals.
Rev. Fr. Joseph Nyamunga Mubiru, SSA
P.O.BOX 15318 Code 00509,
Office : +254-020-230-806
Thursday, November 19, 2009
“Wherever God rules over human heart as king there is the kingdom of God”- Paul W. Harrison
1st Reading (Dan 7; 13-14). The prophet Daniel foresees the coming of one who will have dominion over all peoples. Christians see this as a reference to Christ, the universal king.
2nd Reading (Rev 1;5-8). Christ will take full possession of his kingdom only at the end of time.
Gospel (John 18:33-37). Jesus declares before Pilate that he is indeed a king, but that his kingdom is not like the kingdom of the world.
Idolatry doesn't belong to our grandfathers and neither grandmothers nor our people who have never have stepped into the ‘the house of a mzungu’ the church. We too have our idols. How we worship them! Today its not only money idol we worship but these and others – possessions, pleasures, success fame, power we are simply living a superficial life, worse to a law inner life. The harm idolatry does is to forget the giver of all we have and love (God). Have you ever thought that you can make an idol of yourself? Community leader make idol of themselves. Our politicians want to make idols of themselves by defending even what can’t be defended. Whenever you see a monument constructed of a human being that is an evidence of oppression and terror. Idols command; Christ invites. Idols rule through fear; Christ through love. Idols bring oppression and death; Christ brings freedom and life. Hence we give him an allegiance, loyalty, which we would not give to any other person or institution on earth.
Jesus stands as one and unarmed before Pilate. As governor of the Roman province, Pilate was a powerful man. Thousands of soldiers to call on. And there was Jesus – not one soldier to call upon, yet Jesus incomparably the greater of the two. Inspite of his vulnerability, he is the one who is in control. In our country political power is that capacity to coerce other to do ones’ will. It resides in position, king or president. Political power has got nothing at all to do with goodness and wisdom. Many stupid and evil people have exercised this power. Spiritual power resides in the individuals, has nothing to do with capacity to coerce others. People of great spiritual power may be wealthy and may sometimes occupy position of leadership, but they are more likely to be poor and lacking a political authority.
Christ is the hope of human race. He shows us who God is, and how we can keep at the centre of our lives. God is not some remote and uncaring figure. God is our heavenly Father, who is closer to us, and to whom we are important and precious.
Christ did not come to establish a political sovereignty, but to bear witness to the truth of God’s eternal universe sovereignty. Truth told with love.
Some years ago, an American soldier on a bus in Sweden told the man sitting next to him, “America is the most democratic country in the world. Ordinary citizens may go to the White House to see the president and discuss things with him. The man said, ‘that is nothing.In Sweden, the king and the people travel on the same bus ’ when the man got off the bus, the American was told by other passengers that he
had been sitting next to king Gustav Adolf VI.
MAY CHRIST BE THE KING OF YOUR LIFE
Padre Joseph Nyamunga Mubiru
Monday, November 16, 2009
Conversion of heart or metanoia is an interior repentance, a radical reorientation of our whole life, and a return to God with all our heart, an end to sin or a turning away from evil (cf CCC 1431). Metanoia is not simply repentance, but a radical change of direction from a negative fundamental option towards God. This entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace.
In the New Testament the term metanoia does not have root from any profane context, but from a religious one, as it comes from the Old Testament. It involves the participation of the whole being. The prophets stressed very much the importance of the conversion as the necessary way to salvation (Jeremiah, Deutero-Isaiah, Ezekiel). In the New Testament John the Baptist calls to repentance as preparation for the coming of the Messiah. But Jesus further deepens its concept. The mercy of God for the salvation of humanity is freely offered through him. Human beings’ conversion, which is a total acceptance of Jesus in faith source of transformation of one’s life, is the condition for the reception of this salvation. In John, conversion is expressed under the category of crisis and ‘walking in the light’. In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author calls for a second conversion to which all Christians are called in order to deepen the discipleship of Christ.
Conversion is always a response to God’s call to open oneself to God’s self-communication through Christ in the Holy Spirit. This ‘new’ relationship with God is the source of true human freedom and fulfillment. To this call, human beings remain free to answer. But to those who answer positively, the result is a progressive journey of freedom from sinfulness. The Kingdom of God, freely offered out of pure mercy, can finally come into our hearts and make us able to love and to give ourselves freely to others, till our complete self-denial. It is the Pauline ‘life in the Spirit’.
It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by horror because of our sins or choices of being separated from him. The discovery of the unconditional love of God for us human beings is not so automatic or simple as one may think, at least, concretely. The main obstacle to conversion is indeed the attitude of self-righteousness and the hardening of human hearts towards God, as said already in the Old Testament and stressed also in the Gospels. We all know that God his love and loves us, but our choices often deny what we think of. Every time we choose knowing that something is against what God has revealed to us through Christ under the guide of the Church means that:
1. we do not believe in the fact that God’s commandments are for our real good (cf. also the account of the original sin in Gen, where Adam and Eve think possible of a God who can hide something for their happiness to them),
2. We are so proud to put what we may understand as being good for us prior to what Christ through others or the Church may tell us (Adam and Eve put the serpent’s version of the truth prior to God’s love).
Therefore, our journey towards God is basically itself a journey of metanoia, of change of mind, from one in which we are proudly the only ones to decide of ourselves to another in which we humbly acknowledge our weakness and our need of Christ and the Church, not only as revealers (respectively as source and mediation) of the truth about ourselves, but also as respectively source and mediation of reconciliation with God, with others, the creation and within ourselves.
This journey is continuously put at risk by our concupiscence and attraction to the created goods which, when misused, can lead us far away from God. The discussion about the fundamental option and the warnings about it by the pope tell us that it is not only by a conscious refusal of God that we may find us in a state of sin and therefore of condemnation. Because of the unity of human being, repeated sins, though not mortal ones, and lack of sincere will of amending oneself (impenitence) can lead to a state of sin too. Rationalization is the most common way how we stop practically listening to God, because by it we find all justifications in order to decide on our own independently from God’s revelation.
This journey is not only a journey to final salvation, but also a journey towards the fulfillment of one’s life in this earthly life, in which we are called to purify our feelings, will and knowledge from our sins and from our sinful inheritance. Jesus assured us that nothing will prevent us from being saved, provided that we constantly choose him (cf. Rom 8:38-39). For this, we need to acquire a continuous attitude of metanoia as an attitude of humility and faith in Christ and in the mediations he has chosen to offer us.
Conversion is experienced or accomplished in daily life by the gesture of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, the admission of faults to one’s brother, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering and endurance of persecution and the daily carrying of one’s cross.
Therefore, the sacrament of Reconciliation is expression of a journey of conversion as a response to the initiative of divine grace and love, by which we move closer and closer to God by improving our ethical standard of life, and vice versa. The sacrament of reconciliation is the ordinary way of obtaining forgiveness and remission of grave sins committed after baptism. In the revised ‘Order of Penance’ (1973) we see how the stress is not only in the repentance from one’s sins, but also in the true contrition and resolution to change one’s life according to the motion of the Holy Spirit. Conversion and sacrament of reconciliation however, do not involve only the relationship between a person and God, but have a communitarian and even ‘environmental’ aspect, that is reconciliation with his people and his creation. Sin affects the community as much as conversion enriches it in grace. Therefore, the ‘Order of Penance’ no 8 states: “the whole Church as priestly people participate in the work of reconciliation entrusted to it”. Hence, conversion and reconciliation bring back unity and communion with God and the Church. As John Paul II says in Reconciliatio et Penitentia, the minister is judge in a tribunal of mercy and healer of human weaknesses and sinfulness (RP 31).
The distinction between the three levels of conversion that I suggest is based on Lonergan’s understanding of conversion. According to him, human beings have a basic call to self-transcendence, and conversion is the way they move into different modalities of self-transcendence that allow them to reach the final goal.
Intellectual conversion (or cognitive as called by others) – The person starts looking at the reality in a different way. He or she understands that grasping it is not just seeing it, but also “experiencing, understanding, judging, and believing” (Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 238), which are the four levels of intentional consciousness. The person therefore does not rely only on what he or she perceives, but also on the community’s judgment or evaluation or experience. He or she becomes aware of different levels of meanings, of the difference between perception and objective truth. Basically it means that the person becomes aware of the fact that his or her perception of reality is not the objective truth, though called to search for the truth. Therefore, he or she becomes more critical about his or her own experiences. Together with this negative dimension, there is the positive one whereby the person now looks for meanings, for the truth, not only for perceptions and feelings.
Moral conversion – “Moral conversion changes the criterion of one’s decisions and choices from satisfaction to values” (Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 240). When there is to choose between what gives satisfaction and what is valuable, the person chooses the latter in case of conflict. It is a dynamic conversion as the possession of the right criteria of evaluation of the values is acquired with time, with a more and more openness to what is truly and objectively good and a greater and greater ability to discern what is not good in the self, in the culture, and in history. This happens by an increased openness to the Holy Spirit’s action in us. The person therefore becomes an authentic decision-making. Nevertheless, this conversion can be uncritical or critical. In the first case, the person really makes a change in his or her life, but not as fruit of a conscious decision. It may simply be an acceptance of a set of values given by a certain community or source. It generally happens in the adolescence, when one becomes able to distinguish between a value and ‘what is good for me’. But in an environment of pluralistic values and pseudo-values, either one undergoes a critical moral conversion or he or she risks to get lost and not to reach an authentic living. Here, the intellectual conversion comes in. For an uncritical moral conversion the intellectual conversion is not necessary, because as said the acquisition of values as prior to satisfaction can be an automatic process of human maturity. But for a critical moral conversion, the person is consciously aware of the call to transcendence. Therefore, the values he or she will look for will be in agreement with the objectively right meanings of the reality. Values need truth to be objective values and therefore to lead people to their self-transcendence.
Theological conversion (or religious conversion) – It is when a person is totally grasped by ultimate concern or love of and for God. It is a falling in love unconditionally, leading to surrender to the transcendent, and a gracious being-in-wholeness. In here, the person is dynamically taken up by grace, as he or she becomes more and more able to consciously embrace the values accepted in faith from Christ and the Church. At this level, the fruits of intellectual and moral conversion are taken up and finally fulfilled into true joy and love.
To be clarified is that though the religious conversion is the sublimation of all the previous stages, the movements of the grace is present from the beginning. Therefore, from the causal point of view, God comes always first.
It is the conversion to the faith, to God as requested by Jesus (Mk 1:15, Acts 2:38).
Rev. Fr. Joseph Nyamunga Mubiru, SSA
P.O.BOX 15318 Code 00509,
Office : +254-020-230-806
The late Malcolm X was raised a Christian but, at one point in his life, became a Muslim, both in his own mind and his ministry; he never ceased being a Christian. He used to carry both the Koran and the New Testament with him. He felt the need for both. Here is how he explains it: Most of the people I work with need the hard discipline of Allah in order to get some order into their lives, particularly their religious and moral lives. Later after they have the essentials more in hand, will be the time for the more liberal love of Jesus. What Malcolm X brilliantly juxtaposes here is the tension that perennially exists between discipline and personal maturity, between the letter of the law and its spirit, between conservatives and liberals. And he affirms that we need both: prescribed discipline and personal maturity, law and spirit, conservatives and liberals.
Sadly today this kind of voice is rare on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Liberals and conservatives both in the Church and in society, tend to demonize and hate each other and to lack basic respect, empathy, understanding, and even civility towards each other. Each side has its own truth and, unlike Malcolm X, cannot see the need for any other truth. Let me give you and example: In church circles today, conservatives and liberals would agree that things are not ideal, that there is a need to do things differently. However they have very different visions of what the problem is and how it should be addressed.
The conservatives tend to focus on the lack the lack of fundamentals. They see a whole of generation of Christians emerging who have never been essentially catechized, who lack basic understanding of what constitutes Christian identity and what they insist strongly, sometimes to the point of a near distinctiveness from others, and on rules and regulations with a corresponding impatience and (often) anger against anyone who challenges this view.
Liberals on the other hand, focus on something else. When they look at the church today they see the most educated, literate and theologically discriminating group of believers that have ever existed in the 2000 years of the Christian history. Thus their insistence, often just as strong and as bitter as that of the conservatives, is for an apologetic and inclusivity that goes directly against the call for the harder boundaries and the clearer lines of identity so desired by conservatives. Liberals see the millions of persons who feel alienated from their Churches (e.g. the second most numerous religious group in the United States today is made up of the ex-Roman Catholics) and argue that what is needed to melt these hearts and attitudes is not clearer catechesis or more tightly-drawn boundaries but renewed emphasis on precisely the gospel of love, wider inclusivity, and personal maturity over rules.
And both are right. In essence what we see in the tension between conservatives and liberals in the church and society today is the tension that Malcolm X tried to resolve for himself by carrying both the Koran and the Gospels around with him. We need to also carry with us both some conservative principles and some liberal ones.There is need today to strongly define identity and lay out clear boundaries. Experience is showing us that we often lack the personal maturity and inner strength live out the gospel of love, without rules. To come to grips with many of our weaknesses and confusion we need the discipline of law, the clarity of a catechism, and the exclusivity and protection that is captured in the original meaning of the word seminary (nursery bed). But that isn’t all we need. To live out our faith in a way that, in the end, respects God’s universal love for everyone and respects and our own persons, we also need hearts that are not ghettos and religion of freedom and personal maturity. We need both conservatives and liberals.
But given the present polarization both in the Church and in society, we are not going to more easily towards empathy, understanding, respect and civility towards each other. Each side is so convinced that God is on its side, of the importance of its own vision and its own critical place in history, that it can only see others as insincere, ignorant, self-serving, as threat, as someone to be fought in God’s name. But the real truth is that we need each other. Liberals and conservatives, conservatives need liberals; society and the church need both. Conservatives rightly look to roots and they rightly, see that today our roots are anything but strong and nourishing. Liberals rightly look at maturity and they see, rightly anything but mature and big-hearted. Perhaps, in imitation of Malcolm X we might all walk around carrying both a catechism and the Gospel of John, both in our pockets and in our hearts.
“Belief is the truth held in the mind. Faith is a fire in the heart” Joseph Newton
Saturday, November 14, 2009
THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY YEAR B
MY WORDS WILL REMAIN
Thanks to the writer of the gospel, the words of the Lord remain with us to the very day. They are with us to teach us, to guide us, to inspire us, to comfort us, and to challenge us. How do we listen to his words, and how hard do we try to practice them in our lives?
First Reading (Dan 12:1-3). This is of a vision of the prophet Daniel about the end of time. It introduces the belief in resurrection of the dead and the retribution after death.
THE END OF THE WORLD
A woman was hurrying home from work. This was her bingo night. Suddenly she spots the fellow standing in the edge of the pavement holding a loft a placard which read: THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR. She went up to him and said, ‘you say the end of the world is near’
‘That is right Musoke,’ he replied
‘But are you sure?’
‘Quite sure, Musoke’
‘And you say it is near.’
‘could you be more please?’
‘This is very right, Musoke.’
She paused for a moment to reflect on this. Then in a voice full of anxiety, she asked, tell me, son, will it be very uncertain one. It seems to come from one crisis to another. This uncertainty can cause great fear and anxiety in the midst of this uncertain and changing world, we need something solid to rely on. For Christians that can mean only one thing; faith in God. The Psalm of the coming Sunday Mass put it like this: ‘I keep the lord ever in my sight; since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.’ And of course we have the words of Jesus: “heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.” This is all we have. But then this is all we need. The assurance that things are in God’s hand, that his plan for us and the word will be fulfilled. Christ will reign with him in everlasting life. Many people have claimed to know when the end of the world will come and some claim a special revelation from God or Mary, and others claim to have calculated it from the Bible. All such claims should be ignored.
Today’s gospel gives us a timely message about the end of the world. Jesus tells us that no one knows when the end will come except the heavenly Father. And with regard to the end, we should be hopeful. God made us for salvation not damnation. Faith gives us the conviction that the world is not heading towards final, irreversible catastrophe. Nor is it heading towards mere ending. It’s headed towards fulfillment. By his faster victory Jesus has triumphed over evil and death. We should worry more about of our own individual world at death, which is certain, than about the end of the whole world which is out of our hands.
PRAYER OF TRUST
Preserve me God, I take refuge in you.
My happiness lies in you alone
You are my portion and cup.
You yourself are my prize.
I keep you ever in my sight,
Even at night you direct my heart.
With you at my right hand, I shall stand firm.
And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
Nor let your beloved know decay.
You will show me the path of life,
The fullness of joy in your presence,
At your right hand happiness forever.
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