Pope draws lessons from Mother Teresa

Pope draws lessons from Mother Teresa

Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
May 9, 2019

Pope Francis went to the tiny Balkan nation of North Macedonia to pay tribute to a tiny saint who accomplished big things: St. Teresa of Kolkata.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Ganxhe Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in Skopje Aug. 26, 1910, so after paying the obligatory formal visit to North Macedonia’s president, Pope Francis went May 7 to the memorial and museum built on the site of the church where she was baptized. The church was later destroyed in an earthquake.

“Moved by the love of God,” the pope told the president, Mother Teresa “made love of neighbor the supreme law of her life.”

At the memorial, Pope Francis did not speak about the saintly founder of the Missionaries of Charity, but after praying silently before her relics, he praised God for the gift of her life and prayed for her intercession for North Macedonia.

Pope Francis also prayed that God would give Christians the grace “to become signs of love and hope in our own day when so many are poor, abandoned, marginalized and migrants.”

Among the guests present at the memorial were dozens of Missionaries of Charity, about 100 of the people they serve in Skopje, and two of Mother Teresa’s cousins, the Vatican said.

Celebrating Mass in the nearby Macedonia Square on a brisk spring morning, Pope Francis drew people’s attention to human hungers — the hunger for bread, but also the hunger for truth, for God and for love.

“How well Mother Teresa knew all this and desired to build her life on the twin pillars of Jesus incarnate in the Eucharist and Jesus incarnate in the poor,” he said. “Love received and love given” marked her journey from Skopje to India and kept her going.

 Too many people, he said, “have become accustomed to eating the stale bread of disinformation,” and so they end up being prisoners of a worldview that makes them either indifferent to others or downright hostile.

Christians must never be afraid to tell God that they are hungry “for an experience of fraternity in which indifference, disparagement and contempt will not fill our tables or take pride of place in our homes,” he said. “We are hungry, Lord, for encounters where your word can raise hope, awaken tenderness and sensitize the heart by opening paths of transformation and conversion.”

Hunger for connection, for peaceful relations and for a better world are the stuff of young people’s dreams, Pope Francis said at an afternoon meeting with Christian, Muslim and Jewish young people.

“What adventure requires more courage than the dream … of giving hope to a weary world?” the pope asked the young people gathered at the pastoral center of Sacred Heart Cathedral.

“Our world is weary and divided, and we can be tempted to keep it divided and to become divided ourselves,” he said. But young people must keep dreaming to “keep alive our certainty that another world is indeed possible and that we are called to get involved, to help build that world through our work, our efforts and our actions.”

Think of Mother Teresa, the pope told the young people. She could not have imagined what her life would become, but “she kept dreaming and tried to see the face of Jesus, her great love, in all those people on the sides of the road” in Kolkata. “She dreamed in a big way, and this is why she also loved in a big way.”

Mother Teresa liked to call herself “a pencil in the hands of God,” he said, and when she gave God control of her life, he “began to write new and amazing pages of history with that pencil.”

“Each of you is called, like Mother Teresa, to work with your hands, to take life seriously and make something beautiful of it,” the pope told them.

Father Goce Kostov, an Eastern-rite priest, and his wife, Gabriela Kostova, addressed the pope at his last event in North Macedonia, an early evening meeting with priests and their families and with members of religious orders.

Kostova told him that as the wife of priest, “I share with him all his joys and concerns.” With four boys, ages 1-15, and with a daughter who died in infancy, the family has experienced how family prayer brings strength, she said.

“As a priest,” Father Kostov said, “God has given me the grace to be able to experience physical paternity in my family and, at the same time, spiritual paternity in my parish. The two are complementary and complete each other. When the tenderness, love, patience and compassion for my family, especially the children, is reflected in the parish, it bears fruit.”

Pope Francis thanked the priests, their families and the religious of both the Latin- and Eastern-rite Catholic communities for helping him experience the fullness of Catholic identity.

According to Vatican statistics, there are only about 15,000 Catholics in the country, which is less than 1 percent of the population, but the pope told the priests and religious if they become obsessed with numbers, they will start thinking everything is up to them.

Instead, he pointed again to Mother Teresa, a “concrete sign of how one small person, anointed by the Lord,” could spread the perfume of the Gospel far and wide.

“History is written by people like this, people unafraid to offer their lives for love,” the pope said.

Christian life impossible without Holy Spirit, pope says

Christian life impossible without Holy Spirit, pope says

Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
Vatican City

Pontiff describes Spirit’s transcendental power in terms of providing guidance, helping to overcome limitations

Christians must allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit if they expect to live a Christian life, Pope Francis said.

Only through that can people “rise from our limitations, from our deaths,” the pope said in his April 30 homily during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae in Vatican City.

“A Christian life — or a person who calls himself or herself a Christian — that does not leave space for the Spirit and does not allow the Spirit to go forward, is a pagan life, dressed as a Christian one,” he said.

The pope centered his homily on the day’s Gospel reading in which Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about the need to be “born of the Spirit.”

Listening to and understanding God’s will through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, is similar to hearing the sound of wind blowing, yet “you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.”

Jesus’ message to Nicodemus, the pope explained, is that “we need to be reborn” and “give way to the Spirit.”

“The Spirit is the protagonist of Christian life; (it is) the Spirit — the Holy Spirit — that is in us, that accompanies us, that transforms us and is triumphant within us,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged Christians to heed Christ’s words to his disciples after his resurrection and “receive the Holy Spirit” who will “be your companion in Christian life.”

“Let us ask the Lord,” the pope said, “to give us this knowledge that we cannot be Christians without walking with the Holy Spirit, without acting with the Holy Spirit, without letting the Holy Spirit be the protagonist in our lives.”

Easter Sunday – C

Christians celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection with great joy. We rejoice in Jesus’ personal victory, despite the forces of evil that tried to crush Him.

Do we celebrate the Resurrection the way that we celebrate the triumphs of our national heroes or athletic champions or persons of amazing skill and talent? We might ask whether the Resurrection itself affects us?

Jesus’ victory affects us because the Resurrection confirms His identity as Son of God and confirms that His message is true and the best way for us to live our lives. Still, we may ask whether the event itself touches upon our lives?

Because a number of New Testament passages  speak of Jesus dying for our sins, we may assume that the work of our salvation was accomplished on the Cross. The Resurrection might seem to be the Father’s loving acknowledgement of His Son’s gift of Himself for us.

However, a careful reading of St. Paul’s Letters shows that the Resurrection also contributes to our salvation. Paul writes: “It was also for us, to whom it will be credited, who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification” (Rom 4:24-25).

The eminent Biblical scholar, Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J., in his commentary on Romans points out regarding the removal of sin and our justification referred to by Paul, “both effects are to be ascribed to the death and the resurrection … the cross and the resurrection are two intimately connected phases of the same salvific event…” (Romans, 389).

Fitzmyer reviews the efforts of the Fathers of the Church and the early medieval theologians to describe the role of the Resurrection in our salvation. He concludes: “… it remained for Thomas Aquinas to formulate the causality properly …“ Fitzmyer calls attention to a passage in Thomas’ Commentary on Romans. It is helpful to look at the full text of this passage noted by Fitzmyer:

“Christ’s death was salutary for us not only by way of merit but also by way of effecting it. For Christ’s human nature was somehow the instrument of His divinity, as Damascene says, all the acts and sufferings of His human nature were salutary for us, considering that they flowed from the power of His divinity. But because an effect has to some extent a similarity to its cause, the Apostle says that Christ’s death, by which mortal life was extinguished in Him, is the cause of extinguishing our sins. But His resurrection, by which He returns to a new life of glory, he calls the cause of our justification by which we return to the new life of justice” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, 380).

Thomas joins the Passion with the Resurrection: “Considered on the part of their efficacy, which is dependent on the Divine power, Christ’s death and His Resurrection are the cause both of the destruction of death and the renewal of life; but considered as exemplar causes (causes by example), Christ’s death – by which He withdrew from mortal life – is the cause of the destruction of our death; while His Resurrection, whereby He inaugurated immortal life, is the cause of the repairing of our life” (3a. 56, 1, ad 4).

Paul states: “If you confess with your lips that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).

Fitzmyer asserts: “Because of faith, Christians are included among the children of the resurrection. Thus faith means not only that we believe in Christ’s resurrection, but that we are also removed by His death and resurrection from the realm of sin and death and taken into the state of uprightness and life” (Fitzmyer, Romans, 388).

Fitzmyer gives an apt explanation: “Paul introduces his fundamental assertion about Christian faith. Faith begins with a confession on the lips that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ but demands the concomitant recognition of the heart that God has raised Him from the dead. This is not a mere external or public affirmation, but the inmost and profound dedication of a person to God in the Lord Jesus. What Paul acknowledges here has become the affirmation par excellence of Christian faith. By His Resurrection Christ has become the first fruits of a new mode of life, He had become the ‘life-giving Spirit’ (1 Cor 15:45). Thus to confess Christ as Lord and to believe in Him as the risen Lord is one and the same thing” (Fitzmyer, Romans, 588).

Fitzmyer reaffirms these points: “In addition to the verbal confession, an inward faith is demanded, which will guide the whole person in dedication to God in Christ. Thus Kyrios [Lord] becomes the title par excellence for the risen Christ. Paul once again ascribes the resurrection of Christ to the Father. His resurrection is again presented as the kernel of Christian faith, the basis of salvation” (Fitzmyer, Romans, 592).

Thomas comments that we “recognize Him as Lord by submitting your will to Him”  (Commentary on Romans, 829).

Jesus will cause our own resurrections from the dead. Commenting on Jesus’ words, “I am the Resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25), Thomas reflects: “I am the resurrection, is a causal one. It is the same as saying: I am the cause of the resurrection, for this manner of speaking is usually applied only to those who are the cause of something. Now Christ is the total cause of our resurrection, both of bodies and souls; and so the statement, I am the resurrection, indicates the cause. He is saying: The entire fact that everyone will rise in their souls and in their bodies will be due to me” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1516).

Aquinas affirms that Christ’s resurrection causes our eventual resurrections from the dead: “Christ’s Resurrection must be the cause of ours” (3a. 56, 1). He recalls Paul’s words: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. By a man came death, by a man has come the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15:20-21).

Thomas explains that the man Adam brought death, so God chose to bring life through Christ’s humanity: “God willed to reintegrate human nature, which had been corrupted by man, because death entered through a man. Therefore, it pertained to the dignity of human nature that it be reintegrated by a man, but this is so that it be brought back to life. Therefore, it was fitting that just as death entered through a man, namely, Adam, so the resurrection of the dead be accomplished by a man, namely, Christ” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, 931).

According to Thomas, we experience Christ’s sufferings and then share in His Resurrection: “First of all we are conformed to the suffering and dying Christ in this suffering and mortal life; and afterwards may come to share in the likeness of His Resurrection” (3a. 56, 1, ad 1).

Thomas affirms that Christ doesn’t merit our Resurrection by His Resurrection because Christ merited during His human lifetime. Rather Christ’s resurrection is the “efficient and exemplar cause of ours.” Thomas explains: “It is the efficient cause, inasmuch as Christ’s humanity, according to which He rose again, is as it were the instrument of His Godhead, and works by its power” (3a. 56, 1, ad 3).

Christ’s Resurrection is also the “exemplar cause” (causes by example). Thomas tells us: “Just as the Resurrection of Christ’s body, through the personal union with the Word, is first in point of time, so also is it first in dignity and perfection. But whatever is most perfect is always the exemplar, which the less perfect copies according to its mode; consequently Christ’s Resurrection is the exemplar of ours… ‘He will reform the body of our lowliness to be like His glorious body” (3a. 56, 1, ad 3).

“In both cases the effect brought about by the power of God is said to be caused by Christ’s death and resurrection… the passion and death of Christ are properly the causes of the remission of our faults, for we die to sin. The resurrection, on the other hand, more properly causes the newness of life through grace or justice” (3a. 56, 2).

Paul asks: “Who will condemn them? Christ Jesus, who died, or rather who was raised, who is at God’s right hand and even intercedes for us” (Rom 8:34). Fitzmyer reflects: “The risen, exalted Christ still presents his supplication to the Father on behalf of the Christian elect. So not only the Spirit intercedes for Christians (8:26-27), but also the heavenly Christ…”

This idea of the saving power of the Resurrection is expressed in two of the Prefaces for Easter. Preface I of Easter declares: “By dying He has destroyed our death, and by rising, restored our life.” Preface II of Easter proclaims, “His death is our ransom from death, and in His rising the life of all has risen.”

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas give the part of the Summa, the question and the article. If the passage is found in a response to an objection that Thomas has introduced in the first part of the article, the Latin word “ad,” meaning “to,” is added with the number of the objection.

The quotations from St. Thomas’ Commentary on John and his Commentary of the First Letter to the Corinthians may be found on the website:

Some thoughts on approaching Holy Week

Some thoughts on approaching Holy Week

Sometimes it is easy to forget that God loves and forgives us because God is love, and that is what love does

Father William Grimm MM, Tokyo
April 15, 2019

On Passion Sunday and Good Friday many, perhaps most, churches have a dramatic presentation of the Gospel depictions of the Passion of Jesus. The congregation is forced to identify with the enemies of Jesus 2,000 years ago by crying out, “Crucify him!”

When I have been the celebrant at those Masses, I have felt relieved that my role exempts me from that call, since the priest gets to play Jesus.

In fact, the community with which I now celebrate does not do that semi-dramatized reading of the Gospels because the page-turning and reading ahead by the congregation to make sure they get their cues right can distract them from actually attending to the proclamation of the Word.

I think this is a good idea. And yet I recognize that something is lost in the congregation not having to shout, “Crucify him!” Even when our particular role in the drama exempts us individually from the shout, we know it is spoken on behalf of all of us, of each of us. And we don’t like it.

Some of that distaste comes from embarrassment at the indignity of shouting in church. Some comes from a reluctance to call for the death of him whom we love. Some comes from a desire to not be one with the cruel crowd. Some of us may even be embarrassed by the fact that they sort of enjoy the exercise.