Tag Archives: Second Vatican Council

Gospel Reflection for April 29, 2018, 5th Sunday of Easter

26 Apr

Scripture Readings: Acts 9.26-31, 1 John 3.18-24, John 15.1-8

“Abide in me as I abide in you.” – John 15.4

Jesus’ words live in us and keep working in us to transform us. They have a continuing cleansing and converting effect. Today these gospel words call us to bear fruit in a world that is global and cosmic. The Second Vatican Council challenges us to make our own the joys and anxieties, the grief and anguish, of the poor and afflicted. This is a call to solidarity, to respond to the people of Earth as a common family. It is also an abiding ethical challenge in our market-driven society that measures success in wealth, not relationships.

We are all artisans of the common good. How we drive helps set the tone of a neighborhood. Our welcoming attitudes help immigrants resettle. Our roots in Jesus’ life and love empower us to branch out and bear fruit where we live: to call others to faith in Jesus, to serve our families and communities, to make the small differences that build the common good.

What words of Jesus unsettle you and push at you to put them into action?

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Keeping Faith

4 Nov
Photo via Flickr user Michael W. May

Photo via Flickr user Michael W. May

My memories of the notorious sixties are not the free love and abandon of the sexual revolution but the incredible revival of the Catholic Church at Vatican II and the civil rights marches upending Jim Crow.  In that decade we experienced finding a way where there is no way.  The impossible can come to be.

The Second Vatican Council proved to be a crack that let the light of the modern world into the Church and let the Church loose in the world to do the work of justice and mercy.  The most revolutionary document of Vatican II called the people of God to solidarity with the least among us—“the joys and hopes, the griefs and anguish of the people of this world especially the poor and afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anguish of the people of God” (Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, #1).

Many Catholics have learned to put their faith into action and do the works of mercy and justice that Gaudium et Spes calls forth.  Liberation theologies arose in Latin America and spread as ways to give voice to people at the base of society and work with them for justice.  Pope Francis deliberately set the Jubilee Year of Mercy to begin December 8, the golden anniversary of Gaudium et Spes, which passed at the very end of the Council.  Pope Francis wants Vatican II to live and evolve.

I hoped the Synod on the Family might turn out to be a mini-Vatican II.  It met in October for three weeks after meeting for its first session in fall 2014.  After the first session Pope Francis called for consultation and listening sessions with the people of God in dioceses throughout the world.  Although the official consultation questions proved unusable, people found ways to communicate their insights and family issues to their bishops and Rome.

At the synod Pope Francis called for bold and frank talk.  He had bishops work in small groups to interact more.  The heads of religious orders auditing the synod ceded three of their six seats to women, so their three minutes each are in the record.

The 270 bishops who gathered aren’t exactly family men.  Some note they hear about family problems in hearing confessions.  Perhaps some have carried the smell of the dirty diapers or a baby’s spit-up from helping out with nieces and nephews or friends’ children.  Perhaps they have stood in for grandparents or aunts and uncles, corralled two year olds, lived their drama with adolescents, and scrounged rent when a boss cut back work hours.  Perhaps they have paid the rent for a person at the backdoor of the parish house.

I hoped that 270 bishops would bless remarried couples.  Pope Francis sped up annulments. The synod kept the door open by urging pastors to work with couples case by case and respect their consciences.  I hoped the 270 bishops could hear the sensus fidelium on the issue of contraception and pronounce the time of death.  The people of God have widely exercised their consciences on this issue.  I hoped the 270 bishops could accept that moms and moms and dads and dads can love and commit to each other and raise children.  But that would have been a surprise and – shock in some African countries where homosexuality is illegal.

Perhaps for a bishop it is hard to go forward without making past judgments seem fallible.  But in an evolutionary cosmos God comes to us from the future, urging us to all we can become, not just from the past.  The Holy Spirit has been at work in our world, making it new from the beginning.  The gospel has been at work for 2000 years, teaching us to keep the two great commandments.  We keep on.

These are the hopes of an educated white woman in North America.  I’m not a widow in Kenya who wonders what will become of the ten AIDs orphans she has taken in, nor am I a dad carrying a child on his back on the walk from Syria to safety in Germany.

Many cannot imagine marriage or civil union between same sex couples.  Since the seventies I have wondered why the Church and society doesn’t expect fidelity of same sex couples just as we do of men and women.  This is happening now that GBLTQ relationships are more out and public.  Partners I know reveal everyday they can love each other, their children, their parents, their friends.  The word is out they can keep the two great commandments of Jesus in the gospels.  We of the Church need to work at realigning moral law with biological science, Jesus’ gospel message, and people’s lives today.

“We discover the possible from the real.”  Karl Rahner

Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ

Gospel Reflection for January 25, 2015, 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

19 Jan

Sunday Readings: Jonah 3.1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7.29-31; Mark 1.14-20

Jesus saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

(Mark 1.16-17)

Mark writes the first gospel to call a new generation to faith in Jesus.  Until the Romans destroyed the temple in AD 70, Jewish Christians prayed with other Jews at the temple, offered sacrifices, and joined pilgrimages for the great feasts. Temple worship ceased as eyewitness disciples were reaching old age or had already died. The Christian community in Jerusalem fled the city during the rebellion that led to the destruction of the temple and city. How will the community hold together?

Like the generation for whom Mark wrote, Catholics today live in a Church in discontinuity with the past. The Church renewed itself and caught up with the modern world at the Second Vatican Council. We recognize the Spirit moves in all the baptized. We recognize we have obligations to the poor in the world. We dialogue with people of other Christian denominations and other religions. We text messages around the globe.

How does living Jesus’ good news make a difference for our time?

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Sermon 4th Sunday of Advent CSJ Vespers

19 Dec

A girl named Mary pledges her heart and hearth to a pregnancy and a child in Sunday’s gospel.  So attentive to the stirring of the Spirit is this young woman that she hears an angel speak and so unassuming is she that the angel’s greeting totally confuses her.  Who me?  Full of grace and favor?  God is with me, yes, of course, always.  What does this greeting mean?  Mary doesn’t run.  She ponders and stays in the conversation.  Doesn’t Jane McDonald startle you when she uses the angel’s greeting and instead of saying hello, says, “Hail, holy woman, full of grace.”  It always gives me pause and leads me to reclaim my deepest identity as like Mary a much blessed listener to God’s word.

As if the greeting isn’t perplexing enough, the angel announces to Mary she will conceive and bear a son who will be the Son of God and Israel’s long-promised messiah.  Having a child is a big, life-changing deal.  It means orienting one’s whole life around the child—feeding, clothing, sheltering the child, getting up in the night.  Mary asks a forthright and practical question.  How?  How can I conceive and bear a son?  I’m still a girl, a virgin.

The angel’s answer is in no way an answer satisfactory for scientific questions.  We don’t know how Mary conceived.  The angel explains that the Spirit will come upon Mary, the same Spirit that stirred the chaos into cosmos.  This vast web of life and light of which we are part and which we see surrounding us on starry nights testifies to the power of God to give life.  Not only does all that is testify, God’s blessings and saving actions in Israel’s history testify to the power of the Most High that will overshadow Mary.  The shekinah or cloud led Israel through the desert and overshadowed the meeting tent where the ark of the covenant stood.  The cloud shines with divine presence, its shadow protects and comforts in a hot arid land.  The whole cosmos and the history of Israel testify nothing is impossible with God.

Mary responds to God’s invitation, “Here I am.” I am present to you, attentive.  I give my heart to birthing and mothering the one who will make us whole.  I give my hearth to welcoming and nurturing the one I will name Jesus.  Mary, like each of us, has within a deep interior where she can say yes to our unfolding and partnering in generating life, each of us a consciousness in which the cosmos knows itself; each of us a self who can freely say no or yes.  With Mary’s yes, a child begins to grow in a warm, dark womb nestled below the heart of this vigorous young mother who thinks nothing of hiking off on foot 75 miles to see her kinswoman with whom she ponders the mystery they are living.

Hail Mary, 1950, Frank Kacmarcik -- Good Ground Press Cards

God musters no divine army for peacemaking and nation building, manufactures no tasers or teargas to stop protests, drops no bombs to end tyranny.  God invests in becoming one of us to show us all each of us can become through love.  With his mother’s DNA, the history of the world joins in becoming part of Jesus’ being.  The bacteria that first learned to use oxygen to fuel life are there at work.  The iron born in the supernovas of ancient stars runs red in Jesus’ veins.  The upright bearing and nimble hands of the early toolmakers serve Jesus well in making walls and tables.  From Mary’s body and blood comes Jesus’ own.

It is Mary who first welcomes this child.  Hers is the heart that says yes to him and never stops saying yes to him—not when people say he is out of his mind, not when he dies forsaken on the cross.   Hers is the hearth and hospitality Jesus knows as home.  I imagine Jesus as a child helping around the cooking fire and other women noticing, “He sure looks like you, Mary.”

The Second Vatican Council holds up Mary as a model for believers.  The progress of the gospel in the world depends on the prayer and spiritual experience of believers, of us, who like Mary ponder all that happens in our hearts.

Today we celebrate the word becoming flesh in Mary and becoming one of us in the vast and holy pregnancy in which we live.  We have within us the built-in capacity of the cosmos to become more.  The impossible can come to be in us, at our hearths where we welcome neighbors, fill them with good things, and ponder together our world perplexing problems.  The impossible can come to be in our hearts where we say yes to justice and peace unfolding in our daily actions.  Like Mary we are full of grace and pregnant with holy possibilities.



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