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Believe in Goodness

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If you believe it, you will see it.

I am sure that you have heard this saying before. A person’s mindset does much to direct their words and actions. I happen to have a rosy disposition. I prefer to think optimistically and positively. I prefer to see the good. I have a trust in the goodness of humanity. As a result, I often believe in good so I see good. Unfortunately, this burns me from time to time. Each time I have been burned, I have grown wiser. In pondering where this Pollyanna view of life comes from, I believe it comes from growing up in the Catholic Church. There is so much richness in our faith tradition that guides us and directs us in how to “be”, all of which is very positive and loving, dare I say charitable. There is Jesus, His teachings like “The Beatitudes”. There is Mary, her fiat and modelling of devotion. There are the lives of the Saints.

Of late, I am growing more and more connected to Catholic Social Teachings due to the many issues testing our Catholic presence in the world during this post-Christian era in history. I wish to share them with you as a means to appreciating our role as the hands of Jesus in the world. They are so beautifully written. They are the basis of my leadership practices and the practices of our school.

  • Life and Dignity of the Human Person – The Catholic Church proclaims that all human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.
  • Call to Family, Community, and Participation – Persons are sacred but also social. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened. 
  • Rights and Responsibilities – Every person has a fundamental right to life and to those things required for human dignity. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to one another, to our families, and to society at large. 
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable – Catholic tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgement (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
  • The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers – Work is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, the basic rights of workers must be respected.
  • Solidarity – We are one human family, brothers and sisters created in the image of God, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences may be. The Gospel calls us to be people of love and peace.
  • Care of God’s Creation – We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation in all forms.

Bringing About the Realm of God

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Yesterday, I mentioned to someone that I was going on a trip to the Dominican Republic. Before I was able to explain that it was a mission trip, she responded with the same warning she had been given, “Don’t leave the resort!” Next week, I will be traveling with five of my brother diaconal candidates to visit La Sagrada Familia, the sister parish of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. We will be staying in exactly the place where tourists are told not to go. Mission is bringing about the realm of
God, especially to those places our society tells us not to go. It is a commitment to transform our world into the world that God wants for each of us, even when it feels uncomfortable. We are called through our baptism to live as Jesus lived and
become the instruments through which God works to make mission possible. Each of us has been chosen to bring love, hope, reconciliation, and healing to all people, especially to those on the margins, just as Jesus did in his day.

In hear in the Gospel, that many of Jesus’ disciples returned to their former ways of life and no longer accompanied Him because what He was teaching made them uncomfortable. Right now, I too am feeling uncomfortable about my upcoming trip. However I have chosen, like Peter and the Apostles, to stay with Jesus on mission. Please pray for our Dominican brothers and sisters, and for me, and all those who go on mission. 

Doers of the Word

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How often as children were we told: “Wash your hands before coming to the table!” We hear in the gospel, that the Pharisees questioned Jesus' apostles:  “Why do your disciples not wash their hands before eating?” There were many observances in Jewish laws which seem to be primarily hygienic in origin; distinctions between foods that were “clean” and “unclean” as well as certain foods that could be dangerous to eat, and eating with dirty hands that could be a source of disease or sickness. Attaching a religious sanction to the recommended behavior helped to insure adherence to the law. 

By the standards of the day, the disciples were indeed breaking the Jewish law, but Jesus speaks of where real uncleanness comes from. The source of uncleanness is not with any food or drink that comes from outside. Real uncleanness comes from what’s found in our hearts, from within us. Washing hands does nothing to change that! 

Jesus is challenging the Pharisees, and all of us, to be people who demonstrate our faith not by external observances, but by the depth and breadth of the love found in our hearts. In many ways, Jesus is reminding us that our religious practices, our faith, have to be better than mere externals. It’s really about an inner conversion, a transformation that calls us to a change of heart and a deepening of our personal relationship with God, Jesus, and love for one another. 

St. James tells us that we are to “be doers of the word and not hearers only.” He teaches the importance of faith in action which comes from the heart. Each week, we will have many encounters and opportunities with other people. Will I be a more loving, caring and compassionate person.…will I “become Christ, each for the sake of all”?

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