It's been some time since I posted a blog entry so I decided to present some thoughts on what is happening in the world, our country and in the Church.
War and Violence
There seems to be no end in sight to the dangerous places in the world where war continues to be waged. We are concerned for the people of Syria who find themselves in the midst of a civil war and as in all wars the innocent suffer greatly. War continues in Afghanistan and our American troops are now being subjected to assaults not only from the Taliban but from supposedly "friendly" Afghan troops.
Here in the United States, there have been a variety of shootings involving the loss of life of innocent people caught in the gunfire propelled by those of an unstable character or those acting out of hatred or revenge. The most glaring of these was the shooting some time ago in Aurora, Colorado when a lone gunman opened fire in a crowded theater full of theater-goers who had come to see the new Batman movie.
When will all of this violence end? We have lost sight of the dignity of the human person and life has become expendable. When preserving our power over the rights of others occur, we have chaos. Prayers for peace and an end to war and violence must become a must for people of good will so that this vicious tide can be turned.
Over this summer, we have seen how drought has affected much of our country leaving farmers to wonder if they can make a profitable living when their crops are shriveling. Now we enter the hurricane season and the power of Isaac, the most recent one, has been felt especially in those areas most devastated by hurricane Katrina some years ago. Help is needed to assist communities and families to recover. A variety of charities will surely be seeking funds to assist the victims and it is hoped that people will respond generously as they have in the past.
Presidential Election in the United States
Voters in the United States are hearing the messages of those contending for the office of President of the United States. Like many voters, I can find issues to support in both of the camps as well as issues with which I disagree. My hope is that the final days and weeks of this campaign will be concerned with the important issues facing this country and not be mired in personal attacks. We are fortunate in this country to be able to vote every four years for the person who will lead the country; there are other countries where this privilege is not available. I urge everyone who is of age to vote to register and make your voice known - regardless of which candidate you support. It is a civic and moral duty.
A Trip to Rome
In a little over a month from now I will have the privilege of going to Rome to attend the canonization ceremony for seven saints - two of whom are from my part of the United States. Blessed Marianne Cope, a religious who worked with Father (Saint) Damien in the leper colony of Molokai and who hails from the Syracuse, New York area will be canonized along with the first Native American saint - Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha - the "Lily of the Mohawks." Together with almost 200 pilgrims from our Diocese of Albany, I will be privileged to be in attendance as the Holy Father raises these people to the rank of saint in our Church. It should be a most joyous occasion.
The Church in the World Today
A few days ago, one of the most well known Church leaders passed from this life. Carlo Cardinal Martini, the former archbishop of Milan, Italy, went home to God. A few weeks before his death, the Cardinal had an interview in which he pointed out the need for the Church to move with the times and to be more pastoral in its dealings with those it is called to serve. His interview, published after his death, calls for "transformation" in the Church. He said "our rituals and our cassocks are pompous." Known for his liberal approach to matters involving the Church, it remains to be seen how his final message will be received and/or accepted. Nevertheless, it should give pause to all who hold positions of leadership in the Church. It is important that those who do not lose sight of the message Jesus gave to his disciples (who would become the leaders in his Church) that he had "not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)."
Those of us who serve in the Church should serve the way Jesus served - not by citing a list of rules to be followed but reaching out to those who need Jesus' healing words and touch. The Gospel for this past Sunday in the Roman liturgy spoke to this when Jesus challenged his adversaries by telling them: You disregard God's commandement but cling to human tradition (Mark 7:8).
There is no question that we need rules and regulations to guide us in both our rituals and in our daily lives. Without law there would be chaos. But when the law or the rules become more paramount than our pastoral approach to people we are in trouble. I am reminded here of one of my favorite Gospel stories found in the Gospel of John (John 8:2-11). It is the story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus' critics were going to put him to the test. They reminded him of the presciptions of the law that called for a stoning of a person caught in adultery. Jesus merely tells them: "Go ahead but be sure you are without sin when you cast the stone." All of them quietly went away because they knew they were not guiltless. It is Jesus' dealing with the woman that I would like to cite. He asks her if anyone has condemned her and she says none. Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore. Jesus challenges her to stay away from sin but does so in a merciful and forgiving way. We must do the same.