God’s Surprises?

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A banner hanging on the side of a church in New England prompted me to ask some questions about “continuing revelation.” Is God still speaking in the sense that He is giving new revelation? Is God changing what His Word and the Tradition of His Church has maintained for 2000 years and even longer when you consider the ancient writings of the Old Testament? Are there “surprises” that we are just discovering that updates God and His revelation to our 21st century practices and new normal?

That’s an important question and one that seems to be the theme of the current Youth Synod and the Synod on the Family before it. Just last week one of the sub groups led by Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich asserted that we need to be prepared for new definitions of the family going forward. This seems to fit into the idea that God is rethinking what He has given us as timeless truth and the Church better get “woke” and optimized to version 21.0!

This summer our local book group read Pope Francis’s latest encyclical “Rejoice and Be Glad” that was a follow up to Amoris Laetitia and the Synod on the Family. In three separate paragraphs the Holy Father refers to “surprises.” If this had been written in 2013 I probably would not have thought much about it, but now, in the light of what led up to the encyclical it seems to infer that God is still speaking and our traditional ways (the last twenty centuries) will not serve today’s church.

41. When somebody has an answer for every question, it is a sign that they are not on the right road. They may well be false prophets, who use religion for their own purposes, to promote their own psychological or intellectual theories. God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises. We are not the ones to determine when and how we will encounter him; the exact times and places of that encounter are not up to us. Someone who wants everything to be clear and sure presumes to control God’s transcendence.

138. We are inspired to act by the example of all those priests, religious, and laity who devote themselves to proclamation and to serving others with great fidelity, often at the risk of their lives and certainly at the cost of their comfort. Their testimony reminds us that, more than bureaucrats and functionaries, the Church needs passionate missionaries, enthusiastic about sharing true life. The saints surprise us, they confound us, because by their lives they urge us to abandon a dull and dreary mediocrity.

139. Let us ask the Lord for the grace not to hesitate when the Spirit calls us to take a step forward. Let us ask for the apostolic courage to share the Gospel with others and to stop trying to make our Christian life a museum of memories. In every situation, may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in the light of the risen Jesus. In this way, the Church will not stand still, but constantly welcome the Lord’s surprises.

Robert Royal of The Catholic Thing wrote this morning:

In the Synod, many participants, even bishops, often speak of the Church as if it were almost superfluous. We’re hearing it said, again and again, that the role of the Church is to facilitate an “encounter with Jesus”; that our faith is not in the Church – let alone in sinful Church members, including priests and bishops – all, of course, true up to a point.

More radically, it’s sometimes hinted that the current crisis might be viewed (in the words of Newark’s Cardinal Tobin, chosen for the Synod by Pope Francis but absent, owing to the abuse crisis in his diocese) as God “smashing old structures” to prepare the way for reform.

It’s a hazardous thing to pronounce on what God is or is not doing in your day, especially in terms of smashing things that he has already used for 2000 years, unless you are a prophet whose lips have been purified in advance with a burning coal – preferably by an angel.

I end this morning by stating that God has called the Church to be the instrument of salvation to all, not by being forced into the image of fallen humanity, but by calling fallen and sinful humanity to the person of Jesus Christ our Savior and the transformation that He brings. Jesus is the ultimate revelation. He is God’s final word. The only surprise remaining is that full surrender to Him is what makes us fully human!

St. Teresa of Jesus pray for us!

God’s Surprises?

Christ Is King!

“These [the kings of the world] are united in yielding their power and authority to the beast; they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:13–14 NRSV).

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ctkyonkers.org

It seems our Lord even has a tattoo on his thigh and a monogram on his robe. In Revelation 19:16 we read: “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords'” (NRSV).

Since 1925 the Roman Catholic Church has celebrated the Feast of Christ the King, and in 1970 it was moved to the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent. This year it will be November 25. The feast has the highest rank of solemnity. This feast is also celebrated by the Anglican communion and many mainline Protestant denominations.

Back on October 7, a young blogger from the Diocese of Broken Bay (Australia) tweeted: “Most people want Jesus as a consultant rather than a king.” The archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, responded to him saying: “Not too sure I want (or have) him as either.” Many have made much of his tweet. Many have asked for clarification. Then he wrote a few days later:

I worship Jesus reigning from the Cross, whose “kingdom is not of this world” and who “casts the mighty from their thrones”…I don’t favour royalist ideologies “of this world” which make Christ remote, the Church triumphalist, the Pope and bishops princely etc. (Tweet on October 10).

Twitter is probably not the best place to lay out your theology, even though now you have 240 characters instead of 120 to make your point. I don’t in any way pretend to know what Archbishop Coleridge means by his first or second tweet. Yet it does raise some concerns, not the tweet alone, but the other comments that this prelate has made in these times of fuzzy theology.

Back in 2015, after the Synod on the Family, Coleridge took exception to several phrases that are common and current in the Catholic Church and suggested that should be rethought:

  • The “indissolubility” of marriage
    “Keeping Church teaching intact can still open up a vast field of pastoral creativity…. Our danger, and not just the bishops but others in the Church, is to think that we’re condemned to dance in chains unless we can change the Church’s teaching.” (Crux)
  • The “intrinsically disordered” nature of homosexual acts
    In the case of the Church calling homosexual acts “intrinsically disordered” and homosexuality itself “objectively disordered,” for instance, he said that way of putting things leads to a “sense of alienation.” “Can the synod find a language that is in fact positive, less alienating, less excluding?” (Crux)
  • Calling divorce and civil remarriage “adultery”
    As for adultery, Coleridge argued that “to say that every divorce and remarriage situation is adulterous is perhaps too sweeping.” (Crux) He has also argued that using the word “adultery” for remarried divorcees needs to end. (LifeSite)
  • The old maxim of “love the sinner but hate the sin.”
    He stated that the Catholic saying “love the sinner, hate the sin” with reference to homosexuality no longer holds since the distinction “no longer communicates” “in the real world” where sexuality is “part of [your] entire being.” (LifeSite)

Heading back to the kingship of Christ,Cardinal Raymond Burke said the following to the Rome Life Forum: “Catholics must consciously place themselves under the ‘Kingship of Christ’ in the face of enemies of the Church today attempting to ‘infiltrate the life of the Church herself and to corrupt the Bride of Christ by an apostasy from the Apostolic Faith’.” (May 2018) He added, “Christ as King reigns over his Bride the Church, over the world, and must also reign over human hearts.”

I find myself brought up short when I pose the question to myself: “Do I recognize Christ as King over the Church, the world and my heart?” if I answer in the negative. I have to do a systems check against Colossians 1:15–23, as does every bishop, priest and layperson in the Church.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everythingFor in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

Christ is King! Christ is Lord! And if you, I, or anyone cannot express that with confidence, we have to ask, “Who is lord in His place?”

Christ Is King!

The BIG 4-0!

Forty years ago today Charlotte Lawn and Gary Wiley were united in holy matrimony in the Jamestown, NY, Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Both in our early twenties, we could not imagine at that time all that life would bring our way, as is true for every couple who begins their lives together. For all the things we didn’t know, there were two things we were committed to:

  1. Our relationship with Jesus Christ. We were willing to follow Him wherever He would lead us.
  2. Our relationship to each other. We expressed it that day by vowing that we would never let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26), and by promising each other that divorce would never be an option in our relationship.

And we lived happily ever after? That would not be an accurate description of the past forty years. There have been times of defeat, discouragement, disappointment, depression (me), and distance, if we’re honest. But the two things that we committed to before God served as a foundation for the potentially deadly “D’s” that came our way.

Over the years we had the privilege of offering premarital preparation for 50 plus couples, mostly in New York City, not typically thought of a great place to begin a marriage and see it thrive. The experience with each couple allowed us as mentors to work on our own relationship and share our experiences of how God was faithful in the early years, the child-rearing years, in the empty nest years, and in those years when the things we had hoped for didn’t always come to fruition.

Two and one-half years ago, we experienced an incredible blessing in our relationship when we had our marriage convalidated just a few days after coming into the Roman Catholic Church. What that means is that we “brought our marriage into the Catholic Church” and partook in the Sacrament of Matrimony, recognizing that our true vocation is that of being married and living out our sacrament before a watching world.

Looking back at the commitments we made 40 years ago, I’m so thankful. God’s mercy and grace were present to us then, even when the challenges of life were overwhelming. And now, we’re even more aware of God’s faithfulness.

Happy anniversary Charlotte! I am a blessed man! Here’s to 40 more! Saints Anne and Joachim, pray for us! Amen.

The BIG 4-0!