James Davison Hunter's To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2010) explores how the Christian faith influences the modern world. Do Christians living in this modern world positively influence the attitude of others in the world towards living a godly life? These questions may seem academic, but they are also pastorally inclined because the divisions within our relationships make them relevant for a general discussion.
Hunter's book is even more relevant when we consider the desire of conservative Christians in America that there is need for a revival due to low pew numbers. By returning to the old-fashioned practice of religion, families refrain from imbibing neo-liberal ideas that portray Christian values in a different light. The irony of this thinking is that it is too late to return to the old-fashioned religion. However, adherence to the values of the Christian faith is necessary toward witnessing to the name of Jesus in public and private life.READ MORE
Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka's On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century (Image Books, 2013) is a dialogic exchange between then-Cardinal Bergoglio and Argentinian Rabbi Skorka. In this book, both Bergoglio and Skorka express their opinions on different topics affecting Jews and Christians such as God, religion, fundamentalism, politics, the holocaust, and the relationship between Jews and Christians in the story of salvation.
In the 21st century, the dialogue about heaven and earth is still also relevant because the hope of every Christian is to share eternal life with God in heaven. The personal dialogues of now-Pope Francis and the Jewish Rabbi give us an understanding of what Jews and Catholics believe in. Although the fundamental basics could be expressed differently, the core belief systems point to an understanding of a life after this life. A common heritage between Jews and Christian is the bible, a sacred book that contains Jewish historical lifestyle and the story of the messiah. Both respect the Word of God as revealed through the ancient prophets and the work of inspired writers. The pointers in the bible offer us undeniable openings to the realization that earth is temporal while heaven is permanent and eternal.READ MORE
This week witnessed more disturbing events around the world. All of them are pitiful. The shootings in Gilroy in California that killed 6 including a child, the shootings also in Chippewa, Wisconsin that killed six, and other bizarre events.
A few years ago, there was a shooting in a church in France that ended in the murder of 84-year old Fr. Jacques Hamel in the suburb of Rouen in northern France. Fr. Hamel was celebrating morning Mass when his two attackers rushed on the altar in a most indescribable way and martyred him. The Church is the last unusual place anyone would expect an attack of this kind. But don't be deceived, the world in which we live in is capable of surprises. There are ready elements waiting to visit mayhem on their targets, and the Church is the least you would expect. This is truly unfortunate for the 21 st century.
Such bizarre actions to the most vulnerable and harmless within the confines of their comfort zones are the most despicable under the sun. Today's readings illustrate to us the vanity of life by reminding us that life has a finality. All the toils and labors of daily life have an end.READ MORE
Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship (Simon & Schuster, 1959, 1995) writes about our human relationship with God as divine Father. Bonhoeffer says vividly that God is our Father and we are his children with a special bond and an undying love. Bonhoeffer writes, " The child asks of the Father whom he knows. Thus, the essence of Christian prayer is not general adoration, but definite, concrete petition. The right way to approach God is to stretch out our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father." This passage describes what every Christian needs to do to establish that special bond with God. Prayer is that opening that makes us bond with God beyond any imagination.
Thus, the topic of prayer is wide, and no amount of discussion can cover it. However, we can pinpoint few aspects of prayer that are very important. By itself, prayer is the raising up of our hearts and minds to God through a special connection. Faith is that special connection which we need to talk to the Father, the creator of the universe. But sometimes this special connection has distractions and we find ourselves without proper focus when we set out to pray.READ MORE
When we are faced with many options, we tend to choose that which is beneficial to us at any given time. Choosing what is important makes us unique in our tastes and in our vision of life. This is evident in the story of Martha and Mary when Jesus entered their home. While Martha concerned herself with serving Jesus at table, Mary chose to listen to what Jesus had to say. Both chose to act differently when Jesus entered their home.
The reply of Jesus to Martha's choice is an admonition of what she needs to pay attention to at that given time. He said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." Between Mary and Martha, one of them did what was necessary when Jesus visited their house. Using our intuition to do things at the right time with the right intention makes us unique. You cannot be dancing when your house is on fire, neither can you be at peace when your loved one is sick. You need to act quickly when a challenging situation comes your way.READ MORE
The parables of Jesus teach us how to live the Christian life. By reading them carefully, we can draw many lessons from them. This week's gospel is about how to inherit eternal life. By giving us the examples of how to gain eternal life, Jesus draws our attention on the best way to gain eternal life.
The scholar replied to Jesus based on what was written in the law of Moses. Every Jewish man and woman knew the law by heart; "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." The scholar decided to ask Jesus about who is a neighbor. Jesus did not give a direct answer; he rather gave a parable that answers the question. The story is about a man who fell among robbers and he was left between life and death. Three people saw him by the roadside but only one person, a Samaritan did something to save him.READ MORE
Jesus told His apostles that when they should enter a town or house, that they should bless the town or house with “Peace to this house,” (Lk. 10:5). St. Francis of Assisi would change this greeting to: “May the Lord bless you with peace.”
We know too that when Jesus appeared to the apostles on the first night of the first day of the week, on the day of His resurrection from the dead, that according to St. John, He greeted them with “Peace be with you.” Again He said: “Peace be with you.” (Jn. 20:19a.21a)
Also, during His last supper, according to St. John, Jesus assured His apostles “Peace I leave you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let your hearts not be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (Jn. 14:27)
St. Irenaeus teaches his disciples that to be at peace with the world is to be at war with God. To be at peace with Christ Jesus, is to be at war with the world. Probably another of version of “you cannot serve both God and mammon," Mt. 6:24.READ MORE