In his weekly reflection for famvin.org, Fr. Pat Griffin of the Eastern Province raises an excellent question. How prepared are we to follow Jesus’ focus on the truth in our lives?
Last Sunday, we celebrated the solemnity of Christ the King, a day in which we acknowledge that Jesus rules over everyone and everything.
The Gospel for the day, however, places the Lord far from his royal throne. As a prisoner, he comes before the unbelieving Pilate who questions him about his kingship. Jesus answers in a way that Pilate could never comprehend. He says:
“For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Jesus describes his kingship in terms of the truth. It is a wonderful connection, and one which becomes evident. The whole reason for the Incarnation, the entire public ministry of Jesus, centers upon revealing the heart of God to the human family.
Jesus focuses upon the truth. He has neither time nor patience for compromise or hidden elements. When Jesus speaks to people, he invites them to confront the reality about themselves. He does so with great compassion and understanding, but he wants always to reveal and deal with the genuine in a person’s life. If they need to repent, he speaks the words of forgiveness. If they want to reexamine the priorities in their lives, he readily offers recommendations and direction. If they seek answers, he often suggests better questions and issues. Jesus consistently directs himself towards uncovering and proclaiming the truth. The religious leaders of his time would have been a lot happier with him if he would have been less absolute, but that was not his way. Prepared to speak the truth, he would embrace whatever consequences arose from this decision. He speaks about himself as “the way, the truth, and the life,” as the “true bread which came down from heaven,” as the “true vine.” Accepting Jesus always moves one towards seeking and living with the truth.
How challenging is that for us? Are you prepared to look at the truth in your life? Can you recognize your own weakness of body and spirit, yet choose to act in the best way that you can? Are you ready to confront your own sinfulness and acknowledge your need for forgiveness and a change of life? Can you hear the words of the Gospel and allow their challenge to address you personally? Jesus invites us each day to listen to his testimony to the truth. In doing so, we recognize him as our King and choose to follow his word and his example. We belong to the truth.
Vincent speaks of simplicity in relation to the truth, but also humility:
Humility has this peculiar property, that it hinders us from aiming at any esteem but yours, O my God, who give to things their proper value. Human beings do not know their true value. Is not the role of a fool to prefer the esteem of the world to yours, the shadow to the substance, a lie to the truth?
The Incredibly Shrinking Season of Advent
We have incredibly shrinking airline seats, middle class, paychecks, computers, glaciers, and even, it seems, our planet Articles have been written about each of the above. But so far I have not come across an article on our incredibly shrinking Advent.
News flash! Advent is not only shrinking incredibly. Advent has almost disappeared from our day to day consciousness.
It is much easier to find articles about the rush of the shopping seasons. We hear complaints about the Christmas shopping season beginning earlier each year. We don’t hear about the loss of advent.
Has anyone noticed the demise of Advent?
Has anyone noticed? Santa’s coming to town is more anticipated than the birth of Jesus. To paraphrase a question… Has anyone noticed the demise of Advent? Sure, we who still gather in Eucharist, are reminded on each of the four Sundays of Advent, especially on the third Sunday with it special vestments. But few seem to have noticed Advent’s passing.
In a way, it is probably symbolic that the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Squares was hoisted into place before most people in the United States, home of secularized religious holidays and habits, had even put their Thanksgiving Day turkey in the oven. For a Church that has long relied on spreading the faith through its effective use of powerful signs and symbols, this is not a very encouraging image.
What have we lost to the Christmas rush?
I suggest it means that we have lost a sense of wonder at what took place in God becoming one of us, showing us by words and ultimately action that we are one with God and one another.
Just think of that. We are called to be and become the body of Christ! Talk about a revolutionary and systemic change.
It means that rather than realizing the radical message of hope and light in a world filled with darkness and oppression we have given up looking for the ultimate light. We look for the bright shiny objects nearby. We stop short of looking squarely at the darkness in the world today to see the light shining in the darkness.
This is nothing new. Few other than the shepherds, angels and wise men saw the first signs of the kingdom in the little infant in a manger. Two thousand years later we are still struggling to read the signs of God’s nascent presence in our lives.
What Can We Do?
During this Advent season may I suggest a modest approach to recovering the sense of our radical Advent hope. May we look for the signs of God’s presence gestating in our midst today. In these coming weeks lets look for signs of Christ’s coming in the care we show to one another as the body of Christ. Let look for those who show us in the midst of the nitty-gritty of their lives that they understand how great a change in human consciousness Christ’s birth was.
Let us listen to the sights and sounds of Jesus stirring in the wombs of our own lives.
A mother’s parting words
What mother has not had parting words of advice to her child before leaving the house, even just for a trip to the store or to college? “Cross at the corner”, “Call when you get there”! Elizabeth Hanlon Skelly was no different in that sense. Her words to her 16-year-old as he left for the seminary were “Wear this Medal always!” He did … and he led million’s of people all around the globe to wear this medal always.
When Father Joseph Skelly died on July 8, 1963, I am certain his mother welcomed him to heaven with the joy of a mother’s heart. She knew how he spent his life in evangelizing and spreading the good news of another mother’s concern for all her children. She knew how many seminarians her son educated through the efforts of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal he founded in 1915. She knew how much this association contributed to the life of missionaries .of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission – St. Joseph’s College and Seminary, Mary Immaculate Seminary, a novitiate in Ridgefield, Connecticut, major seminaries in Florida and Albany, New York. Of course, there were the missioners who went to China and labored faithfully until their expulsion in the mid 20th century.
Two people who walk in his footsteps today
As we approach the feast of the Miraculous Medal I asked two people who walk in his footsteps today for their thoughts.
Fr. Michael Carroll, current Director of the Shrine of the Immaculate Medal, celebrates Mrs. Skelly’s faith and its impact.
The wisdom of Mrs. Skelly was profound and reflective of her strong faith. She clearly heard and embraced Mary’s message that those who wore the Medal would be protected and share in the many graces that Christ had to offer. Mrs. Skelly wanted the best for her son and she gave him the best in giving him the Miraculous Medal.
Decades later the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal offers the same wisdom and echoes the promises of the Blessed Mother to those who wear the Medal.
I’m so happy to share in this ministry with many promoters, members and devotees who echo these same words.
Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag, Senior Executive Director of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, herself a mother, adds
As I read Elizabeth Hanlon Skelly words I was struck once again by the power or a mother’s love.
A mother’s love and faith in her children is strong. She is with you and will strive to protect you always. I believe that is the message Mrs. Skelly gave her son Joseph, as he was leaving to join the seminary. Not only was she telling him I love you but she was also telling him, our Blessed Mother loves you and will be faithful to the promise of her words … “Those who wear it will wear it will receive great graces”
The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal was built on that foundation- Love and a faithful belief in the words of Our Lady. One hundred and three years later, the foundation that Father Skelly established continues to tell the world of a Mothers love and her promise to all who wear the Miraculous Medal.
Thank You Mrs. Skelly for being a loving and faith-filled mother and sharing the Miraculous Medal with your son.
Thank You Blessed Mother for continuing to shower our promoters, members and devotees with your love and graces.
These are the aims that define the Central Association.
To render honor to Mary Immaculate and to encourage the use of her Miraculous Medal with prayers and devotions to her, under the title of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
To support the education and formation of men for the priesthood and brotherhood in the Eastern Province of Congregation of the Mission, the parent body of The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal.
To support the aged and infirm Brothers and Priests of the Eastern Province of the Congregation
To support the apostolic works of the Eastern Province on behalf of the charity and service for the poor in our communities.
The Favors that we receive from our Mother, Mary, are symbolized as rays of grace and enshrined on the Miraculous Medal. When she entrusted her mission of devotion to St. Catherine, she also gave us direction and hope. The Rays represent our favors, which she hears and answers when we seek her in loving devotion.
Vincentian Bishop and the Miraculous Medal … Personal and Practical
I am going to get a bit personal here.
Each morning before I get out of bed I do two things: I put on my plastic leg where a real leg used to be so that I can stand and walk another day; and I place a Miraculous Medal around my neck so that I can stand and face another day, conscious of our Mother’s words, “do whatever he tells you.” And I pray these familiar words from the Novena prayers:
“May this Medal be for us a sure sign of your affection for us and a constant reminder of our duties toward you. Ever while wearing it may we be blessed by your loving protection and preserved in the grace of your Son.”He said this in the context of closing the 2018 Solemn Novena at the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Germantown, PS.
His words in context
He had just reminded us to bring our daily needs to Mary and turn to her.
The Wedding Feast of Cana is a symbol of our lives. There are times when the wine runs out — we confront ourselves, our needs, our pain; we face loneliness, loss of loved ones, unemployment; we encounter abuse, doubt in our Church and its leadership, our children’s loss of faith or our own; addiction in our families, broken marriages, broken homes; sickness, disabilities, aging and its consequences; racism, crime, attachment to sin. We find our crosses. We come to the wedding only to discover they have no wine to bring us joy and peace. What do we do?
We turn to Mary and she offers us her Son through her Miraculous Medal and she whispers to us: “Come to the foot of the altar” …. “Do whatever he tells you.” He and he alone can turn the water of our tears into the wine of Christ’s comfort and consolation and patience and peace.
He concludes with this practical advice…
As you continue to wear the Miraculous Medal, as you continue to seek Mary’s intercession and loving protection to be preserved in the grace of her Son, always remember and live by her words: “Do whatever he tells you” and let the Lord Jesus turn your water into his wine!
See other stories about Bishop O’Connell including his turn at “Carpool Karaoke”!
Christ the King and the “Duck Test”
The “Duck Test”
We’ve all heard the expression… “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” Sometimes it is referred to as “the duck test”. Another way of saying it is to fly a “false flag” or giving the appearance of something one is not. In either case, political figures have used it to identify who someone who wears one label but acts like a member of another party.
Jesus had his own way of saying it. “By their fruits, you will know them”. As I was thinking about the feast of Christ the King I wondered how the “duck test” might apply to followers of Christ the King.
First, let’s look at the characteristics of Christ the King
Characteristics of Christ the king
Christ the king breaks the mold of earthly rulers in at least three ways.
He Identifies with everyone
Christ the King identifies with each one of us no matter how badly disfigured. He identifies with everyone who is hungry, thirsty, sick, lonely, a foreigner, in prison, and a stranger. He is in the needy, whether rich or poor. He is in the discouraged loved one who cannot find a job; He is in our children, who need to be taught and encouraged. He is in the co-worker who just lost his wife; he is in the patient who was diagnosed with cancer. He is in the lost family member who needs instruction and to be drawn back to the Sacraments. He is in our struggles and needs.
He Serves all
To understand Christ as King we must remember what he did at his last meal. He washed the feet of disciples, something a lowly servant did for his master. He became their servant. Then he pointedly asked them. Do you understand what I have done? I, your Lord and Master (King) have washed your feet. I want you to wash one another’s feet in love. He even added, “Do this in memory of me!” Lest we miss the point.
Some of His ways are paradoxical. We can not reduce “care” merely to meaning “that which comforts and consoles.” It can be that, but not always! Sometimes the “caring” thing to do is to rebuke, warn. God never ceases to care for us. Think of the times his care took the form or correction of disciples. Sometimes his care manifests itself in the unwelcome package of challenges that lead to growth.
He deeply respects the freedom of all
Jesus is a King who respects our freedom to decide whether to have Him as our King and to accept the virtues of His kingdom—or not. Anyone who chooses not to live these characteristics creates a separate space outside this kingdom, space filled with isolation and fierce competition. He is a King who does not force His kingship and laws. Rather he offers his example to all and allows each of us to decide which space we choose.
Identifying followers of Christ the King
Invoking the “duck test” principle we seem to have a way to determine who understands the kingship of Christ the King.
Followers of Christ the King are those who understand that in this kingdom we freely serve each other because we see in each person no matter what scars a participation in being Christ.
Some members of this kingdom stand out. We call them saints and blessed. In our Vincentian heritage Saints Vincent and Louise are among those whose lives clearly embody these characteristics. By their fruits we know them.
But Pope Francis constantly reminds us that we are called to be the “saints next door.” In our lives people see images of Christ the King, Together we manifest what the Eucharistic Preface of the feast of Christ the King describes as *an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.”
Do we, individually and collectively, look and act like people who serve one another because we recognize we are the body of Christ?
This post drew on a homily by Msgr Charles Pope