Sunday, November 24, 2013

Random Musings about the Good Thief

"Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise"
                     - Jesus Christ, to the Good Thief (and hopefully, someday, to us)

By now you know today's reading is my favorite Gospel passage. Here are some of my thoughts about the Good Thief (St. Dismas) from this weekend:
  • I wonder if the he ever met Jesus.  It wouldn't be that unrealistic.  There is a chance he heard Jesus preaching as he walked past him.  We tend to forget what life was like back then, and surely a figure like Jesus would draw attention as He entered a village.  
  • Did he insult Jesus first?  Matthew and Mark both tell us that those crucified next to Jesus jeered Him.  Perhaps St. Dismas realized the error of his ways while witnessing Christ's behavior on the cross.
  • The fact that Jesus tells the St. Dismas that he will join Him in Paradise shows God's unbelievable mercy.  Did the Good Thief give a full confession on the cross?  It doesn't sound like it.  Was he baptized?  It doesn't sound like it.  So why was he saved?  One reason, and one reason only... God's great mercy.
  • His scene is actually a Station of The Cross.   Number 11 to be exact.  I sometimes forget that because most churches still have the original Stations up.  (As you know, Pope John Paul II instituted a series of 14 new Stations to more accurately align to the Gospels)
  • His teaches us to act.  Now.  What if the Good Thief waited to ask Jesus to remember him?  We may never know, but we do know that God is always ready to forgive us.  He waits for us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  And yet, few of us take frequent advantage of that.
I pray that one day we all get to hear the same words St. Dismas did - Jesus telling us we will be joining Him in Paradise. 

God Bless you.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It's No Longer Greek to Me

Occasionally, we have guest speakers from other faiths at our church.

This week, we had a priest from the local Greek Orthodox Church come in and talk to us about the similarities and differences in our faiths.  

I am embarrassed to say I knew very little about Greek Orthodoxy before that talk - other than that they celebrated Easter on a different date than Roman Catholics do.

But as the title of this blog states, it is no longer Greek to me.  I thought I'd share some of the more interesting points from our chat:

  • The Greek in Greek Orthodox does not stand for the location, but the language.  The priest told us that Greek cultural elements are often played up because so many Greek Orthodox members are of Greek heritage, but it is the language that drives the name.
  • We (Roman Catholics) share a thousand year history with Orthodoxy.  
  • We both believe in Apostolic succession, the intercession of Saints, share the same bible, believe the Eucharist is actually the Body and Blood of Christ, share the seven Sacraments, and worship in a Mass format.
  • There are three main differences that he pointed out:
    • Roman Catholics believe in the Infallibility of the Pope.  The Orthodox faith does not, and instead, believes that the Holy Spirit will guide a council (synod) of high ranking bishops.  (He likened it to the way the Apostles made decisions after Jesus had died.)  They do have a Ecumenical Patriarch, who is "the first among equals" and spiritual guide - but he still only has one vote vs supreme authority.
    • Roman Catholics believe Mary was free of Original SinThe Greek Orthodox faith, he said, believes Mary was sinless, but does not believe Original Sin is passed down from one generation to another.  
    • Roman Catholic priests cannot marry.  Orthodox priests can marry before ordination.  (Orthodox Bishops cannot marry at all)
  • He mentioned that the Ecumenical Patriarch must sit in Constantinople (present day Turkey), despite they fact that most followers have left the area due to persecution and violence.
In any case, I've always found it helpful to hear about other faiths so that I can understand the similarities and differences.  I think that is important as we profess our Faith.

What really moved me about his lecture, though, was that he tried very hard to focus on the similarities in our faiths.  He said there are too many people in the world that look for differences and try to drive wedges between things.  He thinks of himself as a bridge builder - someone who always looks for a way to bring people together. 

I think that is a pretty good message, no matter what your faith.

God Bless.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Christianity and Halloween

Did you know that Halloween has roots in Christianity?

Halloween is basically an abbreviated form of the phrase All Hallows Eve.  Hallow, as a verb, means "to make holy".  But as an old English noun, it means Saint.  Thus, Halloween is really the eve before our All Saints Day.

That part, you may have known.  

But did you also know that earlier Christians believed that there was less separation between purgatory and earth at this time - thus increasing the odds that we could see spirits - or ghosts.  Therefore, we owe some of the traditional costumes to these beliefs.  (We can thank commercialism for Power Rangers, Princesses, Minions, and the like.)

Over time, however, these roots have been lost.  For most people, there is almost no connection between All Saints Day and Halloween anymore.  In fact, Halloween is probably a day more associated with devils and evil than Holiness.

Which got me thinking  ...

What if more people dressed up as Saints?  Wouldn't that be great?  Can you imagine  answering the door, asking "And what are you dressed up as?", only to hear "St. John!" or "St. Therese!"

What if, instead of giving kids their 50th Snickers bar, we handed them a card with a Saint and a prayer on it?

Wouldn't that be refreshing? 

God Bless.