Thursday, June 24, 2010

At the Crossroads: The Eucharist in Ordinary Time

By Father Benjamin Alforque, M.S.C., V.F.
Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

As schools close for the summer, and we take our vacation break, let us remind ourselves of God’s constant invitation to continue receiving the Eucharist. There is no vacation in our celebration of the Lord’s faithful love and enduring self-giving in the Eucharist.

What is Ordinary Time, in the Church’s Liturgical Calendar? “Apart from the seasons having their own distinctive character, thirty-three or thirty-four weeks remain in the yearly cycle that do not celebrate a particular element of the mystery of Christ. Rather, especially on Sundays, these weeks are devoted to the mystery of Christ in its entirety. This period is known as Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time begins on Monday after the Sunday following January 6 and continues until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday inclusive. It begins again on the Monday after Pentecost and ends before evening Prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent.

The celebration of the Liturgical Year possesses a distinct sacramental force and efficacy because Christ himself in his mysteries and in the memorials of his saints, especially of his Mother, continues his mission of infinite mercy. Therefore his faithful people not only recall and contemplate the mysteries of redemption but also lay hold of them, enter into communion with them, and live by them.” (Ceremonial of Bishops).

In the weeks after Pentecost, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, three Solemnities follow one after another: the feasts of the Holy Trinity, of the Body and Blood of Christ and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Feast of the Holy Trinity (Trinity Sunday) celebrates the full self-revelation of God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the communion of One Life and One Love. This self-revelation of God is also a revelation of the identity of our being human: with the Spirit in our hearts, by the Redemption of the Son, we are all called to partake in the Divinity of God, in the Communion of One Life and One Love. Thus we are truly, first and foremost, Citizens of Heaven, and, only secondarily and temporarily besides, citizens of any nation here on earth!

The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ celebrates our daily sustenance in our pilgrimage towards the fulfillment of our real identity as children of the Living God. “When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present: the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present…As often as (it) is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1364).

Indeed, on vacation time, ordinary time, we need the Eucharist even more.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Our oil dependence can fuel disaster

By Jeanette Arnquist
Director, Diocesan Dept. of Community Services

Once, many years ago, I found myself attempting to sleep with 23 other women of the floor of a 24’ X 18’ room in a county jail. How that happened is another story – and a good one which I will tell someday. But what I want to write about today is how interconnected we were. If one woman rolled over, a slow wave or rolling over took place. Of course we were close together, each occupying a space of approximately 6’X 3.’ But somehow this doesn’t explain entirely how what one did caused a reaction or accommodation on the part of everyone else. I think, rather, it was our solidarity.

Today, some 25 years later, I find the same thing. Not sleeping on the floor, but rather the awareness of how interdependent we are as citizens of the planet earth. We all are suffering because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, even if we live in California. When we see the images of wildlife strangled in oil, we feel pain. We feel frustration at failed attempts to fix the leak. Perhaps we even pray for a solution.

At the same time, we might not be aware of it, but we are part of the problem. Our thirst for cheap oil continues to grow. I will use myself as an example. I could ride my bike to work, in fact, I could even walk, but I continue to drive my car, a car which is not very energy efficient. I don’t plan my shopping well, so probably at least twice per week I make a trip to the grocery store to get one or two items. As I write this, in early June, I could get by without running the air conditioning at home, but I don’t.

Even worse, in terms of consumption, I fly. There is no other way I can see my children who live in Dhaka, Boston and Tucson. And, of course, that plane is going to use the same amount of fuel if my seat is full or empty. The point is that it takes an enormous amount of energy to fly across the country or half way across the globe.

Residents of the United States, making up less than 5% of the population of the world, account for 25% of the planet’s energy use each year. Our use of energy is one driving force for off-shore drilling. It is also driving global climate change. What we consume has an impact around the world.

Let us reflect on how we can be more in solidarity with the people of the world. Let us make wise individual choices about energy use and let us work for public policy changes that will be more friendly to the planet. As a first step, visit the web site of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change at catholicsandclimatechange.org or catholicclimatecovenant.org

Monday, June 7, 2010

At the Crossroads: In Honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

By Father Benjamin Alforque, M.S.C., V.F. Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

As we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart and the conclusion of the Year for Priests, let me reflect on this devotion, in light of my being a religious Missionary of the Sacred Heart and priest at the same time.

As MSC (Latin: Missionarii Sacratissimi Cordis, English: Missionaries of the Sacred Heart), we see the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in a particular way. Our inspired Founder, Jules Chevalier (French), said: “The love of the heart of Jesus is the center where everything meets, the pivot on which Catholicism revolves, the quintessence of Christianity.” Why? Because “In his infinite love for us the Father sent us His Word Whom He drew forth from His own Heart.” For “God has stored all grace, absolutely all, in Jesus and this great source is centered above all in the love of his heart”. And so, for us MSC, "Devotion to the Sacred Heart is the essence of Christianity and contains all other devotions. The Heart of Jesus is the love of God, God himself, incarnate. God is love.

What kind of heart does Jesus have? “The love of the heart of Jesus is essentially merciful. His role on earth was not to condemn but to forgive, not to shun those who suffer but to comfort them.” Yes, “The love of his heart is so kind, so compassionate and he will always respond to our call.” The love of the heart of Jesus is the exact opposite to the spirit of the evils of our times. To the spirit of division he opposes his immense love, his ardent desire for unity.” Indeed, the love of the heart of Jesus is an effective remedy to the modern evils of our time. Our human heart “also experiences the need to be loved. Jesus greatly desires to be our friend, to make us live with his life” and to relate to him love for love!

How do we relate to the heart of Jesus love for love? “Anyone who is involved with the love of the heart of Jesus has to carry the sign of contradiction.” “The poor are the privileged friends of the heart of Jesus. We should see in them the living image of Jesus Christ.” “The infinite mercy that Jesus shows towards sinners and the tender compassion for those who suffer find their source in his heart…and ..”do everything in our power to comfort them.” “The Eucharist is the masterpiece and the ultimate gift of the love of the heart of Jesus. It comes from this heart like a river from its source.”

As MSC and priests, our mission is expressed in our motto “May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved everywhere, now and forever.” We do so following the spirituality of the heart. “The spirituality of the heart opposes the egoism of our time, its sensuality, its religious indifference by means of the love of a heart that is most self-sacrificing, pure, gentle and compassionate” (Jules Chevalier, La Société des MSC, p. 12-ff.).