Life after Epiphany


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Don’t let academic hubris hijack theology…

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I discovered something very ugly in myself today, as I reflected upon an event in my past.

As a novice, I was writing a paper that involved some exegetical work with the Psalms. During my private prayer and study, I encountered a fairly involved connection between one of the Psalms and the Gospel of Matthew that excited me greatly! I added it to my paper as part of the case I was trying to build to support the central thesis of the paper and thought little more of it until the following day.

At the evening meal the following day, I was sitting at table with my sisters in the refectory, and listening to the spiritual reading selection of the evening as is monastic custom. Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was hot off the presses and we were hearing it for the first time the very week it was released.

That evening at table, I heard THE VERY SAME EXEGESIS that I had prepared on the day prior, read from the work of the then Holy Father. Exegetical method AND conclusion were almost identical. And here it was, published by the Holy Father! But when I had typed it the day prior, that very same argument had been my own original work. Supposedly original.

So here is where my ugliness crept in.

I started getting all upset about INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY of all things. Can you think of anything more ridiculous than wanting to compete with the Pope over the intellectual property?

An account of my folly: I went to see my superior first thing the following morning. I wanted to know what to do from an academic honesty perspective. I didn’t want to cite the Holy Father. I felt I was justified in claiming the work as my own, given that I HAD arrived at the conclusions before encountering them elsewhere, even though they had existed elsewhere prior to my discovery of them. I wanted to use the electronic timestamp on the document in which I had written my paper to demonstrate that my conclusion was written prior to the night that it had been read to us at table.

PRIDE. How it corrupts the beauty that God created in me.

I write of it now because I refuse to let shame take a hold. Shame is a lie. Of COURSE I’m weak – why be scandalised by that?  Here is an opportunity. Out of the depths I can call upon the Lord. Out of my weakness, I can still witness to the Truth.

What is Truth, here?

I call upon ALL who read, study and pray with Scripture to recall that ANY time we are able to draw something from the Sacred Text, it is RECEIVED. It is a GIFT. It is the Word, GIVEN to us.

The conclusion I reached when working with the Psalms and the Gospel of Matthew? It wasn’t mine. It was given to me, by the very same God who gave it to the Holy Father. Instead of resenting that he got there first, what on EARTH am I doing not giving thanks that such a thing was revealed to me, a mere child? (And a spoiled child at that!!) I give thanks now, and offer my very failure to do so earlier to the Lord that He may bring good out of it.

Curious to know what the exegetical conclusion was? Go read Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Benedict XVI. In the meantime, I pray for humility, and I return to my study of the Scriptures… on my knees.


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Benedict XVI: For the record

This post, on a blog I stumbled across this morning for the first time, is a wonderful tribute to the Pope Emeritus. None of this detracts from Pope Francis, whom I believe may just prove to be as saintly a Pope as his more recent predecessors. But the media ought to be ashamed of themselves for failing to report the real story. The real story here is the CONTINUITY of humility, the CONTINUITY of holiness in the Papacy. Slightly different styles, slightly different emphases… but CONTINUITY where it counts. Fidelity to Truth. Fidelity to Love. Fidelity to God.

I believe that all of the media circus about Pope Francis is an attempt by the media to gain some kind of leverage in shaping the direction of the messages that come out from Rome. I kind of almost get the feel that, due to Pope Francis’ country of origin being in Latin America, they are trying put an insidiously subtle liberation theology spin on everything he does…


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charity begins at home… Pope encouraging grassroots change

We saw major steps in ecumenism and cultural interchange with Pope Benedict XVI. This movement on the “big picture” was truly beautiful and enriching for the Church.

It certainly seems as though we are now receiving enrichment of a different kind; Pope Francis in his preaching and in his public messages to date seems to be honing in on the individual and his/her relationship with God.

Pope Francis’ recent Twitter feed is my case in point:

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And most recently: “Never speak poorly of others.”

These tweets are all short extracts taken from recent homilies and addresses. Each speaks to an aspect of one’s personal relationship with Christ and the nature of how that relationship expresses itself in relationship with others. It is the encounter with Christ that is important! Pope Francis is inviting each one of us to take a good look at ourselves, to stand as we are before the Lord and to receive His love and mercy and seek to live out the love we have received. His messages are simple but important…  and potentially very powerful in their effect, if we take them to heart.

Its almost like Pope Francis is acting as a personal spiritual director to every single individual in the Church throughout the world! How amazing that such a thing is even possible! Changing hearts. This can only be done by the Holy Spirit. It seems that He is working through our Holy Father in this way… we need to open ourselves up to these graces!

Both the “big picture” and the “grassroots growth” need attention. Each of us needs a shepherd to help lead us to Christ as individuals, and we also as the People of God, as a Church, need a shepherd. Both men are different, and the Holy Spirit has given each individual holding the Office of Pope a different task. Isn’t encouraging to see that all of us are being well tended?


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subverting shame – a symbol of love

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Crucifix laid out for Good Friday veneration.

 Shame is a lie.

Likewise, discouragement is a device of the evil one and must be seen for the deception it is.

Shame is our instinctive response to an internal acknowledgement of inadequacy or wrongdoing. Discouragement is a response to an awareness of shame. A spiral of lies.

Before Jesus shouldered our sin upon Himself and died to reconcile the world to Himself, the cross was the instrument of the most shameful death in society. Crucifixion was the execution of choice for criminals and agitators; there was nothing dignified nor heroic about it.

Setting humanity straight in more ways than one, Jesus subverts everything we think we know about the world. The Cross had no power over the Creator of its makers, nor the nails over the Lord of the man who hammered them into place.

A friend of mine wrote a wonderful song, a reflection on this very point. Her song was called “Not by Nails” and it speaks of the Love which held Our Saviour to the Cross. God is love, and Jesus is God. Jesus was physically nailed to the Cross but it was Jesus’ own choice to be bound by that physical reality. Love and obedience carried the day. Jesus did the Will of His Father out of such a pure, personal, particular and preferential love for you, for me, for each individual that ever has or ever will live that we can’t even begin to fathom it.

Horror is juxtaposed with beauty. That Holy Face which was Transfigured has, for a time, become disfigured. (Pope John Paul II writes eloquently on this reality in Vita Consecrata.)

As a child, I understood on some level my complicity in Christ’s death, but rather than solemnly contemplate in silent gratitude the gift of our salvation and the means by which it was wrought, I used to get very upset about the brutal way in which Jesus was executed. It took some time before I started to learn that love was more than a feeling. Love is a choice. Love is the choice symbolized by the Cross.

Before Jesus died for us, shame was the only appropriate response to sinfulness and inadequacy. In dying, Christ won for us the freedom to choose between  continuing to dwell in that shame, or a radically different response: love… and the trust and the gratitude that go along with it. I no longer look to myself and my weakness. Yes – my weakness is there… but I’m not scandalized, I’m not ashamed. No… I no longer look to myself. I have Christ ahead of me and I choose to look to Him, to He who is Love.


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Aussie representation at Pope Francis’ Inaugural Mass

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Credit: Marta Jiménez Ibáñez/Catholic News Agency

Among the 200,000 pilgrims that attended the Inaugural Mass of Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on the Feast of St. Joseph were a small group of Australians who attended as representatives of the young adult community. One of them was my brother, a recent law graduate from the University of Notre Dame, Sydney. lawGrad had the distinguished privilege of carrying the Australian flag at the Mass, and it turns out that this flag was the biggest flag from any nation to appear in St. Peter’s Square that day! This was not a deliberate thing, but it turned out to be a fortunate thing for me, for it obviously attracted a great deal of media attention and as such I was able to watch my brother on news broadcasts even though he was half a world away!

Australian Catholics had more representation at the Mass than was perhaps widely known. The Deacon who retrieved the Fisherman’s ring from the tomb of St. Peter and presented it to the Holy Father is a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Sydney. In fine voice, the Deacon also sang the liturgical instructions and the general intercessions. Striking in his humility, the Deacon later insisted on social media that the highlight of the Mass was receiving the Eucharist from the hands of the Vicar of Christ.

Proud to be Aussie, proud to be Catholic… yet humble in Christ. This is the picture that our Australian representatives in Rome have painted.

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Demonstrates comparative size of the Australian flag with those others surrounding it. Credit: ABC News 24

 

A similarly strong sense of identity, side by side with humility, shines forth from the Holy Father’s papal motto, “Lowly, yet chosen.” Building upon this theme in the homily of his Inaugural Mass, Pope Francis called upon those who hold positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life to exercise an authentic leadership that is tempered with the humility, the goodness and the tenderness so crucial to the vocation of ‘Protector’ as exemplified by St. Joseph.

The words of Pope Francis should give great hope to Catholics in Australia. We are not wrong in looking to our bishops and priests to be protectors. Further, we are called to join them in protecting the elderly, children and the weak in our community, along with the environment in which we live.


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vatican web has a new look…

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The site has changed several times now, to reflect the transition from Pope Benedict to Sede Vacante and now to Pope Francis. For anyone interested in a tiny tidbit of history, you can see what it used to look like here.


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Pope Francis I already has a Wikipedia page…

Can you believe it!?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_francis

Here is the coverage from white smoke through to the end of the Pope’s address. The white smoke is in the first minute. Once you have seen some of the coverage of the crowds, you may wish to skip through to the Habemus Papam announcement at 1 hour and 7 minutes. Pope Francis’ first appearance and address starts at 1 hour and 16 minutes.

Blessed be God for the gift of this humble, prayerful shepherd. The world is grateful for his generous “yes”, that he would wear the shoes of the Fisherman, that he would serve the Lord by becoming father of the faithful. Pope Francis, we pray for you as you have asked us to do. May you always cling to the Cross of our Saviour. May He be with you always.


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Habemus Papam!! Standing by to see who it is!

Blessed be God in all His gifts!!

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All eyes around the world glued to the loggia…

UPDATE: Go here to see the coverage of this historic event from the white smoke all the way through to the end of Pope Francis’ first appearance on the balcony!


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black smoke, white smoke… holy smoke!

Vatican news is reporting that there will be two smoke signals on each day of the conclave until a new Pontiff is elected. These are scheduled for around noon and 7pm Rome time. That means That in my little corner of the Earth, TV sets or laptops should be checked at 10pm AEDT and 5am AEDT each day, if there is to be any chance of seeing the announcement live.

10pm? Easy.

5am? I haven’t risen at that hour since I left the Motherhouse! A little help may be required here… Enter: Aussie Pope Alarm! Some genius employed by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has built a system that sends a text message straight to your mobile phone if the white smoke appears. Thank you, ACBC!

Of course, the times above assume that both ballots in each morning and each afternoon session are allowed to proceed owing to the first of the two in each session being unsuccessful. If a successful election occurs on a FIRST ballot, the signals will appear at either 8.30pm AEDT or 3.30am AEDT.

So for now? It’s time to watch and pray…