Weekly Musings

For the past 55 years, the Roman Catholic Church has highlighted the fundamental, yet weighty, call to peace by celebrating World Day of Peace. Each year, on January 1st, our Pope issues a World Day of Peace message inviting Catholics throughout the world to stop, to pray, to learn about and to act for peace.

The Peace we are invited to embrace, on this World Day of Peace, goes way beyond an experience of inner tranquility. It includes a willingness to enter into the contradictions and tension of injustice, falsehood, and brokenness in our lives, our community and our world. We are called to see, to understand, and to act in a way that ensures abundance, prosperity, and well-being for all.

This is the biblical notion of shalom: abundance, prosperity, and well-being. Pope Francis states, “when in Hebrew we wish shalom, we wish for a beautiful, full, prosperous life, but also according to truth and justice.” Pope Francis encourages, “at that moment there seems to be no peace, but it is the Lord who puts us on this path to reach the peace that He himself will give us."

The message of World Day of Peace varies from year to year. However, the theme is always fixated on creating a culture of radical care in our relationships. The exact focus each year changes to meet the needs and rising issues of that particular year

On January 1, 2022 Pope Francis calls us to stop, pray, learn about and act for peace by reflecting on his World Day of Peace Message entitled Education, Work and Dialogue Between Generations: Tools For Building Lasting Peace. 

In 2022, Pope Francis invites us to consider three challenges:

1. We are invited "to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith, so that the direction of this change awakens new and old questions with which it is right and necessary to be confronted." In other words, we are called to hear the challenging facts, speak the hard truths, move toward the demanding actions. Denial is not an option for us.

2. Pope Francis seeks to answer questions about education and how it contributes to lasting peace. He addresses how work can "respond more or less to the vital needs of human beings on justice and freedom."

3. This Message also looks at the extent to which generations are in solidarity with each other and whether governments "succeed in setting a horizon of peace."

Rooting ourselves in the saving and reconciling love of God, we are invited to ask ourselves these questions:

· Does work in the world respond to the vital need of humans for justice and freedom?

· Are the generations truly seeking solidarity with each other?

· Do all generations believe in the goodness of the future?

· Do governments succeed in setting a horizon of peace through education and work?

In 2022, let us seek answers to these questions through prayer and take action: action big and small, personal and corporate. Let us trust God and work together to find the power of peace in our lives and world.



Noon Mass

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Last month the Bishops of the United States approved a document on the Eucharist entitled: “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church.” The document is divided into two sections: “Christ’s gift of Himself in the Eucharist and our response to that gift.” The debate over the document was not without controversy, particularly around the issue of who is eligible to receive communion. In the end, however, the bishops decided (wisely) not to wade into those waters.

I very much liked the title of the document. In my initial reading of it, I was struck in particular by two sentences: “Having been sanctified by the gift of the Eucharist and filled with faith, hope, and charity, the faithful are called to respond to this gift. Indeed, it is only natural that we give thanks to the Lord for all that He has given to us.” I think the recognition of the Eucharist as a gift is not just significant, but of ultimate importance.

As Catholics, we believe that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Eucharist. Not present just in memory, not present just symbolically, and not present just spiritually, but really and truly present. How this can be we don’t know. That it can be is our abiding belief. It is an act of faith. And faith as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews is: “Confident assurance of what we hope for; conviction about things we do not see.” (Hebrews 11.1) In the Eucharist we receive the Body of Christ so that we might be and bring the Body of Christ to the world.

The Eucharist is truly Christ’s gift of Himself to us. And as we all know - or should know - we don’t earn gifts; we don’t merit them. We can only accept them graciously and with gratitude. Perhaps most importantly, though, we should never judge another person’s worthiness to receive a gift. Specifically regarding the Eucharist we need to remember that Christ is the host of the table. We are all guests. At best, priests are just part of the wait staff, and as John Whitney, a Jesuit priest in Seattle, wrote back in June: “The wait staff doesn’t get to exclude those who want to come.”

Now, I want to be clear. I am not suggesting that priests should invite anyone and everyone to receive communion. I am suggesting that priests (and others) should not make judgements about the worthiness of those who present themselves for communion. As a wise priest told me many years ago: “You don’t know what has happened in someone’s life in the past five minutes. It is not up to you to judge someone’s worthiness to receive communion.”

 A few weeks ago a friend sent me a copy of an essay from The New York Times written by Michael O’Loughlin, a correspondent for a Catholic news organization and a gay man. Two sentences in the essay were very important for me: “With the U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore this week, following months of debate about the worthiness of some Catholics to receive Communion, I’ve realized that personally, I stay in the church mostly for the Eucharist, that ritual during Mass when I believe the divine transcends our ordinary lives and God is present. I haven’t found that elsewhere.”

While there are many things I disagree with about our Church, the Eucharist holds me bound. I can’t imagine my life without it. I can’t find it anywhere else. And so on the great Feast of Christmas, let us be mindful of the gift of the Eucharist. And let us pray that we might accept this gift with great humility and deep gratitude that Christ has chosen to share Himself with us in this wonderful sacrament.