March 10, 2017
(MARCH 10, 2017)
HISTORY IN THE MAKING: POPE FRANCIS ATTENDS THE 500TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION (CONTINUED AND CONCLUDED)
Unity Now Is Available
• In simple clear brief terms, unity now is available between Catholics and Lutherans.
• “Of course, we are not there yet. But these breakthroughs [the ones we have seen in these comments/reflections] have overcome the major stumbling blocks which once stood in the way of unity. Now unity appears achievable. Just as important then, so now, is that we continue the dialogue. Just as important then, so now, is that prayer must accompany this dialogue.” (Father Damien MacPherson, S.A., Director for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs for the Archdiocese of Toronto, “Hope for future in Reformation’s past,” The Catholic Register, October 16, 2016) Amen!
• Thanks be to God!
Some Concluding Thoughts
• The above hard work and dialogue are bearing fruit, e.g., last year (2016), the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States has approved a declaration agreement with the Catholic Church.
• Pope Francis “recently called the German theologian [Luther] a reformer of his time who rightly criticized the Church that was ‘no model to imitate. There was corruption in the Church, worldliness, attachment to money and power,’ Francis told reporters this summer . These are the same abuses Francis has criticized in the 21st Century Catholic Church he now leads.” (Andrew Medichini, Jan M. Olsen, and Nicole Winfield, “Pope on reformation: Forgive ‘errors’ of past, forge unity,” Waterloo Region Record, November 1, 2016)
• Thomas Lazar, a spokesman for Germany’s Catholic Church, “thinks most Catholics and Lutherans will concur in using the anniversary as an opportunity to come closer than ever before, and to reveal Christianity’s vitality to a secularized country where it has long been in retreat.” Bishop Heinz Josef Algermissen, the Ecumenical Commission’s vice-chairman, German Catholic Bishops, agrees with this. “While much remains to be done, he is sure the shared commemoration will ‘provide a bold impulse’ for ‘speaking with one voice as Christians,’ while also encouraging Catholics to reflect on the tragic divisions from the past … ‘We can’t just see this as a jubilee. We must also contemplate the errors of the past, admitting our guilt and repenting on both sides for the past 500 years. And we must aim not just at reconciled diversity but at visible unity.’” (Jonathan Luxmoore, “Reformation reconsidered,” National Catholic Reporter, October 21-November 3, 2016)
• On November 10, 2016, Pope Francis addressed the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome at the Vatican – a very important address.
• “I am happy to meet with you on the occasion of your Plenary Session which is addressing the theme ‘Christian Unity: What Model of Full Communion?’… In the course of this year , I had the opportunity to live many significant ecumenical meetings, be it in Rome, be it during trips. Each one of these meetings was for me a source of consolation, because I was able to see the desire for communion is alive and intense … Christian unity is one of my main concerns … According to Jesus’ priestly prayer, what we yearn for is unity in the love of the Father, who comes to us offered in Jesus Christ, a love that also informs thought and doctrines … From this point of view [a gift that comes from on high], unity, before being a goal, is a path, with its roadmaps and its rhythms, its slowing down and its acceleration, and also its pauses. As a path, unity requires patient expectations, tenacity, effort and commitment; it does not annul conflicts and does not cancel contrasts, rather, at times it can expose to the risk of new misunderstandings. Unity can be accepted only by one who decides to set out on the path to a goal that today might seem rather distant.” (“Pope’s Address to Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity – ‘We invoke unity because we invoke Christ’”, at LˊOsservatore Romano, November 10, 2016 at https://zenit.org )
• The above constitutes a very brief summary of the Pope’s address; below is a much more fleshed out summary of the address.
• “Christian unity dialogue is not about one Church being absorbed into another, nor the eradication of difference. Rather, Pope Francis said, it is about coming together in Christ.” (Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, CRUX, “Don’t confuse Christian unity with uniformity, Francis urges,” November 11, 2016) So, Christian unity and ecumenism are not about uniformity or one religion being absorbed by another; instead they consist of a common communion in Jesus Christ. This is a key principle we must all absorb!
• “Ecumenism is true when Christians are able to shift the focus from themselves, from their arguments and formulations to the Word of God Who demands to be heard, accepted and witnessed in the world. Because of this, the various Christian communities are called not to ‘compete,’ but to cooperate.” (Pope Francis)
• As has been already mentioned (above), “throughout his pontificate Francis has placed a strong emphasis on ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. The last few months [before the trip to Sweden] alone have included several ecumenical meetings such as … in Georgia and Azerbaijan.” (Brockhaus)
• The Pope went on to give three examples of “false models of communion.”
• “The first of these, he said, is believing that unity is a result of human effort, when in reality, it is always and only a gift of the Holy Spirit. ‘We humans are not able to create unity alone, nor can we decide on the forms and times. So what is our role? What must we do to promote unity among Christians,’ he asked, explaining that ‘our task is to accept this gift and make it visible to all.’ The best way to do this? Francis believes it is by ‘journeying’ along the path. Though we may be far from full communion, there are often glimpses of hope…
• “Likewise, the unity of love is already a reality when those whom God has chosen and called to form his people together announce the wonders God has done for them, especially by offering a testimony of life full of love for all people,’ he said. When we meet ‘as brothers and sisters, we pray together, we work together in proclaiming the Gospel and in service to the least we are already united,’ he continued. Only along this path, he said, can the theological and ecclesiological differences between Christians be surpassed, according to the Holy Spirit and ‘for the good of the Church.’
• “The second false model of unity Francis proposed is to believe that unity is equivalent to uniformity. When the different theological, liturgical, spiritual and canonical traditions are ‘genuinely rooted in the apostolic tradition,’ he noted, they are an ‘asset, not a threat’ to the unity of the Church. If we let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, he said, the ‘richness,’ the variety, diversity do not become a source of conflict, but are instead a point of enrichment. The ‘ecumenical task,’ then, is to respect ‘legitimate diversity’ and work to successfully address what seem like irreconcilable differences, even when they persist.
• “Similarly, Pope Francis said that unity is not ‘absorption,’ but a unification around the same center, the Lord. ‘It is not enough to be unanimous in understanding the Gospel, but it is necessary that all believers are united to Christ and in Christ,’ he said. ‘In doing so, we Christians can recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters who believe in the one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, engaged together to find ways to obey the Word of God.’…
• “Jesus himself prayed in John 17:21 that ‘they may all be one, as you, Father[-Mother], are in me and I in you,’ Francis noted. ‘The unity of Christians is an essential requirement of our faith. A requirement that flows from the depth of our being believers in Jesus Christ,’ he said. ‘We call for unity, because we invoke Christ.’” (Brockhaus)
• When the Pope came to Sweden, he explained this was an important ecumenical trip/visit and he urged Catholics and Protestants to follow a “common path” to Jesus Christ.
• “Catholics and Lutherans should continue to take decisive steps toward unity, but unity must be achieved before there can be shared Communion, said Pope Francis … For Pope Francis and the Vatican, Catholics are called to commemorate the anniversary [of the Reformation] by focusing on concrete ways to express and strengthen the doctrinal agreements reached by Catholic and Lutheran theologians over the past 50 years. The most appropriate way to mark the anniversary, they said, was with common prayer and renewed commitments to working together to help the poor and promote justice. The Lutherans agree, but many also saw the commemoration in Malmo [Sweden] as a moment to recognize that the joint agreements on issues of faith mean it is appropriate now to expand occasions where Eucharistic sharing is possible.” (Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service, “Unity before Lutherans, Catholics share communion,” The Catholic Register, November 6, 2016)
• “The Catholic Church has long recognized the validity of Lutheran baptism, but strong differences remain over Communion, despite both Churches professing the reality of Jesus’s presence in the Eucharist … Full unity, including intercommunion, between Catholics and Lutherans may still be a long way off.” (Austen Ivereigh, contributing editor, CRUX, “Pope in Sweden heaps praise on Luther, but no breakthrough on Communion,” October 31, 2016 plus this issue of CRUX pointing out a related issue of CRUX on the historic papal trip) Do keep in mind that both the Catholic and Lutheran Churches have pledged to work for a shared Eucharist: hope comes to us from this pledge! And do keep in mind sentiments like the following:
“Longing for Eucharistic sharing
While theological differences around ministry, the Church and the Eucharist remain, the Cardinal [Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity] and the Lutheran leader [Reverend Martin Junge, the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation] said they hope the events in Sweden will give new impetus to new understanding and even new agreements on sharing at the Eucharistic table.” (“Cardinal Koch: Pope’s Visit to Sweden Emphasizes 3 Aspects – Commemoration of the Reformation about looking toward the future,” ZENIT Staff, ZENIT, October 17, 2016, at https://zenit.org (see also Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Lutheran Federation: http://www.vatican.va )
• A good piece of advice and exhortation is “I would invite all of you to please continue your prayers for the unity of Christ’s body, as we work to heal these centuries of tensions and hostility” (e-mail from Doctor Murray Watson, Scripture scholar and editor of Celebrating the Word, a Resurrectionist ministry that focuses on understanding the Scriptures for our Sunday Eucharists; if you are not familiar with this excellent program and would like to find out more, please access http://www:resurrectionists.ca or firstname.lastname@example.org .
• It is very important that you and I understand that what unites us (Catholics and Lutherans) is greater than what separates us. “Both Churches now agree on the core message of the Reformation: justification through faith” (Bishop Martin Lönnebo, Lutheran Bishop of Linköping from 1980 to 1994, “discovering our common home – Papal visit to Sweden,” The Tablet, October 29, 2016).
• Swedish Lutherans cherish the planet and so working together to save God’s creation could help reconcile Lutherans and Catholics. “When a great dream is shattered, the time of mourning is long. There was a dream that the Christian Church would be the world’s greatest environmental movement, together with other faiths and people of good will. There was recognition of the Church’s special mission to care for God’s creation. And also of the fact that working together will bring us closer …
• “But now there is hope. Pope Francis has given us a brilliant encyclical on the environment, Laudato Siˊ. Everything in the world is linked. All living beings have worth and dignity. St. Francis sings with the current Bishop of Rome. It is not hopeless. May God grant us the courage to take on, together, a task that is, in truth, common.
• “Two questions loom. How can we save the body? How can we save the soul? A humanity that fears the future and finds no meaning in life needs a united Church, unafraid to address the great questions. We also need to search for wisdom together, humbly and self-critically. Man’s/woman’s huge power comes with a huge responsibility that requires huge wisdom. Wisdom is, I think, the greatest lack of our time. We should all seek it …
• “Ecumenism is the future. This holy way contains nothing that is not common to the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Churches…
• “We rejoice in the visit by him who cares for the greatest spiritual tillage in the world with 1.2 billion souls and a blessedly rich tradition. Such a cultivator needs good collaborators and the intercession of all Christendom. We welcome Pope Francis with expectation and friendship. We wish to speak together on the crucial questions: what is indispensable? What is the deepest distress? We wish to pray together for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And in parituclar, we wish to pray for the gift of wisdom, Laudato Siˊ.” (Lönnebo)
• So, “Martin Luther’s protest at corruption of the sacraments and the reactions that followed have left a centuries-old wound both Catholics and Lutherans are determined to heal” (Austen Ivereigh, contributing editor of CRUX, “How a restless reforming pope can help heal Reformation rift,” CRUX, October 30, 2016).
• “Perhaps the main task of the ecumenical acts in Lund and Malmo is simply to help both Lutherans and Catholics ‘receive’ the results of 50 years of dialogue between the two Churches. The result of that dialogue is a series of agreements – as well as persisting disagreements – ably summed up in the joint document prepared for the occasion, From Conflict to Communion.
• “Yet who knows about it? William C. Rusch, Professor of Lutheran Studies at Yale’s Divinity School and a leading ecumenist, believes ‘the task before us is to receive the fruit of 50 years of dialogue,’ the results of which have not been ‘rejected’ so much as ‘neglected.’
• “According to Rusch the achievement [of the 1999 Declaration of Justification] was not just in what it said – essentially, that the roots of Luther’s disagreements with the papacy no longer pertain – but how it came about … It frustrates Rusch that since then, that gain has not been built upon. While he admires From Conflict to Communion and the recent United States Catholic –Lutheran document, Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist, he says neither provides a practical basis for moving forward. But this kind of institutional process is not where Francis’s interest lies. He believes in praying and working together for justice and peace: such common witness, he believes, is what opens hearts and minds – and prevents the kind of institutional rigidity which is toxic for Christian unity.” (ibid.)
• So, at this moment/point, Catholics and Lutherans cannot just kiss and make up – it is not that simple!
• We now, then, ask the question: what did Pope Francis achieve?
• “A useful step before moving forward is to turn and confront the past. Earlier this year , when discussing his Sweden trip, Francis conceded that the 16th-century Church was infected with corruption under a Vatican hierarchy that valued money and power. Luther’s distress was understandable. The Church was not exactly ‘a model to imitate,’ Francis said in rare understatement. ‘I think that the intentions of Martin Luther were not mistaken.’” (Editorial, “The path to unity,” The Catholic Register, October 30, 2016) During his trip to Sweden, Francis basically said the same thing, i.e., Martin Luther was right to be critical 500 years ago.
• “Luther, an intellectual Augustinian monk, craved Catholic reform, not rebellion. He yearned for a purified Church that more closely mirrored Bible teachings. But he posted his 95 theses as Johannes Gutenberg’s new printing press was gaining popularity. Within weeks, Luther’s words gained a life of their own after printed copies went viral across Europe.
• “In some respects, Francis resembles Luther. His papacy has raised a call for a simpler, humbler Christ-centred Church. He is working to make the Church less clerical, less bureaucratic, less showy. The Church should be poor and for the poor, Francis has said, and it should be a Church led by those who seek to serve, not be served. Luther would agree.
• “Francis the reformer did not undo 500 years of painful history by going to Sweden. But he took the Church a small step further down a long and difficult path to reconciliation.” (ibid.)
• In a word, Francis has helped us forgive the errors of the past and to keep moving and forging unity. Please keep praying for closer ties to develop in the future between Catholics and Lutherans. Thank you!
• Our final thoughts which come from Matt Steinglass, euro-editor of The Economist, “Martin Luther, church-splitter” (in the Europe section), The World in 2017: The Economist are found immediately below.
• Think of Martin Luther as the non-intentional church splitter who sent a copy of his 95 theses also to Archbishop Albert of Mainz who was taking part of the indulgences sold.
• “Soon Luther and Albert’s allies were engaged in a flame-war using the pre-eminent social-media platform of the time: pamphlets. As usual things escalated. The pope [Leo X] had Luther convicted of heresy. Luther called the pope the anti-Christ. German peasants and princes defected to Luther’s side, and Europe was plunged into more than a century of savage war between Catholics and Protestants…
• “On March 11th, 2017, Germany’s head Lutheran and Catholic Bishops will lead a service dedicated to the process of healing of memory. Pope Francis got that process moving in 2016, with a visit to Lutheran Sweden. Some Catholic clergy still object to such ecumenical gestures. After all, Luther tore apart their Church, insisting that the pope had no more to say than any other Christian. Yet most practicing Protestants and Catholics today feel they are on the same side, largely because they are among the few Europeans interested in Christianity at all. In most of Europe, less than a third of the population considers religion an important part of life. Eastern Germany, Luther’s homeland, may be the world’s least religious region, according to one study.” (ibid.)
• Please pray that Christianity may blossom again in this area where it is sorely needed. Thank you.
• All of the above should give you a good background for Francis’ historic visit to Sweden; much more could have been shared with you but this suffices for our purposes in the consortium. And at this point I would publically like to thank Deacon Phil Tremblay, C.R., for all the research materials he found for me, really great materials that were added to my own research. Thank you, Phil, and God bless you for the many ways you help me in my research and work.
• Ecumenism is very much alive in today’s world. Please see the attached Appendix involving the Anglican Church/Church of England in a very important declaration.
MOVING INTO LENT
• Here is a synopsis of a sermon for the First Sunday of Lent (March 5, 2016) delivered at Saint Agatha Church in Saint Agatha, Ontario. The sermon was well-received.
• We are living beings and life is trying to emerge in us. Our task is to help it along. The Season of Lent, as God’s great gift to us, is a time for promoting this life. Lent is not a mournful joyless time but a time of life, the new life emerging in us. Lent also is a good time/season to reset the button for our relationship with God and for our spiritual and religious values.
• On this basis, I suggest a simple plan for our Lenten Season.
• Traditionally Lent has to do with fasting, alms-giving, and prayer.
• Let us first consider fasting. In the olden days, we used to fast (eat less) every day and for Lent we used to give up sweets like candy or smoking or anything else we wanted to add here. Today we are not obliged to fast daily but this old-fashioned traditional way still has a lot to recommend itself for our time. So think about doing some of this kind of penance. And I certainly would also recommend for our time to use our cellphones less as a form of fasting. This helps us to slow down a little bit and have a less hectic more quiet pace of life worthy of the great Season of Lent.
• We can also fast from sin, i.e., sin less. Think of the person(s) you do not like, those with whom you have a poor relationship, and especially those we may hate. Fasting from sin means that we work on improving these relationships and to begin to forgive those who have hurt us. This is preparation for Easter Resurrection.
• Fasting also includes taking better care of ourselves for God’s sake. We are precious because we belong to God – we are not our own person! So fasting here means taking better care of ourselves by eliminating practices and habits that are not good for our well-being, e.g., drinking too much, staying up too late and not getting enough sleep, doing no exercise at all, etc.
• The second traditional Lenten element is alms-giving.
• We all know that the Gospel calls us to help people who are worse off than we are: Christ certainly made this very very clear.
• So find some good cause that you can support and make some good monetary contributions to it; you do not have to restrict yourself to religious organizations or agencies but you can give to any agency that is working to help those who are less well-off than we are, e.g., the Red Cross.
• What some people do is to take the money saved by fasting from food and movies, etc., and use this as part of your alms-giving. This is a good and nice idea.
• I am not a pastor and so I am not looking for more money for my parish but another good form of alms-giving is to give a little bit more to your parish in the Sunday envelopes.
• The third element is prayer, i.e., to pray more during Lent. During Lent, spend more time in daily prayer, e.g., an extra 10 minutes. Also try to get to one or two weekday Lenten Masses (as well as the Sunday Eucharist.)
• So these are the three traditional Lenten practices, i.e., fasting, alms-giving, and prayer. I would like to add one more element to them for our hectic culture today.
• We need to break out of all our vicious circles in our modern culture from time to time and the culture’s demands on us. We know today from personal experience and professional studies done on our culture that our culture comes at us with unhealthy speed; this culture throws too much at us all at once and continuously so that professional care-givers worry a great deal about what that does to us. Said simply, this makes us sick psychologically, socially, religiously, and physically. Lent is a heaven-sent gift that allows us to counter this.
• Here is my suggestion. Let us break this cycle by every 2 or 3 hours taking a short break, even at work. During this short break, do the following. First, check your breathing: am I breathing properly and healthily or is my breathing shallow (and thus unhealthy)? Do you know that studies done indicate that 80% of us do not breathe properly!! Do it right! You inhale and make sure that the air goes to the bottom of your belly (as far as that is possible). Hold it for a moment and then exhale; when you exhale, be sure that you do more exhaling than the inhaling. That is it! Simple and do-able! Motivate yourself to do this by reminding yourself how STRESSFUL and unhealthy improper breathing is.
• Secondly, during this short break, do nothing and try to make your mind blank. Focus on the “now.” This is mindfulness or in Christian terms, “the sacrament of the present moment.” The more you can do this, the better it is for your overall health.
• Lastly, use the short break to make a fast short prayer to God; and do remember to quickly thank God for something.
• Cultivating the above, (the short break) is also an excellent element for Lent.
• Take a moment now and pause in silence: go inside where the Holy Spirit resides and answer the important Lenten question: what are you going to choose to do this Lent?
• God grant you a really really good and grace-full Lent. Amen!
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY?? (CONTINUED)
What IS Happening in the United States Today (Continued)
• We continue with what we were doing in the past newsletters, i.e., looking at the Donald Trump phenomenon and trying to bring some Catholic/Christian perspectives to it because of the importance of this phenomenon to today’s whole world (and not just for the United States).
• It certainly appears that seeing the role of outrage in this situation is key. “To understand Mr. Trump’s insurgency, start with the uses of outrage. In a divided America, when the other side is not just mistaken but malign, conflict is a political asset. The more Mr. Trump used his stump speeches to offend polite opinion, the more his supporters were convinced that he really would evict the treacherous, greedy elite from their Washington salons.” (“Leaders – An insurgent in the White House,” The Economist, February 4, 2017)
• “Mr. Trump’s post-election behavior has been every bit as belligerent as it was during the campaign. In his victory speech he said it was time to ‘bind the wounds of division’: he has ever since been insulting and threatening people on Twitter, at a rate of roughly one attack every two days. His targets have included Meryl Streep [Hollywood actress], Boeing, a union boss in Indiana, ‘so-called A-list celebrities’ who refused to perform at his inauguration, Toyota and the ‘distorted and inaccurate’ media, whose job it will be to hold his administration to account.” (“Briefing The Trump administration – A helluva handover,” The Economist, January 21, 2017)
• “For Mr. Trump, belittling critics and intimidating business partners has been second nature for decades. It is a tactical proclivity that aligns well with the strategic agenda of the most zealously anti-establishment figures in his team, led by Stephen Bannon, a rumpled nationalist firebrand. After serving as CEO of Mr. Trump’s campaign, Mr. Bannon is now the president’s chief strategist.” (“Briefing Donald Trump’s foreign policy – America first and last,” The Economist, February 4, 2017)
• Related to this expression of outrage is speaking to people over the head of their bosses. “Mr. Trump remains convinced, with reason, that he can speak to voters over the head of party bosses. There are signs that they are feeling cowed. Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House [House of Representatives], a budget hawk and until recently a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, said that Congress will work with the president to pay for the wall upfront, the bill for which is cautiously estimated at $10 billion.” (“United States – Donald Trump in office: Trust me, I’m the president,” The Economist, January 28, 2017)
• A number of critics and commentators speak of the White House’s disdain for expert opinion. For example, “the disavowal of climate science reflects wider disdain for expert opinion. A small illustration of this, with potentially large consequences for American children, is that Mr. Trump has discussed appointing Robert F. Kennedy junior, a lawyer and proponent of a bogus theory linking vaccines and autism, to chair a vaccine-safety commission. A bigger illustration is that the one academic economist on Mr. Trump’s senior economic team, Peter Navarro, is a protectionist with a maverick aversion to trade deficits.” (“Briefing – The Trump administration – A helluva handover,” The Economist, January 21, 2017)
• “The discipline of science is one where the facts, once they are peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals, are fixed. They are not open to interpretation, or at least not much. In that sense, it is the opposite of politics, in which nearly everything can be negotiated. But as the first days of the Trump Administration have shown, many of those seemingly settled scientific facts – the ones that have informed countless policies from previous U.S. Administrations – are once more up for debate. Within hours of President Trump’s Inauguration, the White House website was stripped of any mention of climate change or the effort to fight it …
• “Agencies [like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institutes of Health] and others are responsible for policies that a growing chorus of scientists say now are under threat. ‘What binds together a lot of things we saw last week is a President basing statements and politics on beliefs rather than evidence,’ says Ken Kimmell, president of the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists. ‘Policies based on innuendo and hunches are doomed to fail.’
• “It is not the first time an Administration has run afoul of science. President George W. Bush was criticized for not following science on a number of issues at the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. That ultimately led his EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman to resign but she senses the current tension between the scientific community and the incoming Administration is unprecedented. ‘There were some cases when people questioned scientists,’ says Whitman. ‘But [what is happening now] is very different.’” (Jeffrey Kluger and Justin Worland, “The View – Science: How a war on science could hurt the U.S. – and its citizens,” Time, February 13, 2017)
TO BE CONTINUED
A LITTLE STORY (OR DREAM?) (OR “FAIRY TALE”?)
One day God caught the fancy of a rich man who was contemplating his future. The man’s name was Donald Trump. He was wondering about doing something exciting, something very new in his immediate future. So he decided to try to become president and began the long hard trek to the achievement of this goal. He thought to himself, “Maybe this is what God wants me to do at this point of my life and the odds are low that I will achieve this, but you never know if this is where God would like to see me. So I will give it my best shot and I think my best bet is to approach the whole matter in an unconventional way because I need to really catch people’s attention if I am going to succeed.”
The rest is history – a history we all know. Mr. Trump ran for the presidency and, unexpectedly to most people, became president. Now God is a loving compassionate merciful God to all and He/She decided to help him gently in this difficult task.
One day God appeared to Mr. Trump in a vision and God had a chest full of precious stones with Him/Her. God had decided to let him choose any stone he liked from the chest as a kind of covenant with him – a covenant that would show Mr. Trump God would help him as president. God’s will was also that Mr. Trump would keep the precious stone as a point of focus for the good he wanted to do as president of the United States.
God told him these things gently and clearly and asked him to choose a precious stone from the chest. Mr. Trump chose a brilliant gorgeously purple amethyst and used it as God had suggested. After a while, he came back to God and said he was tired of the amethyst and so he wanted something else. God graciously allowed him to choose again and this time he chose a very beautiful ruby with a very deep red colour. Mr. Trump left.
Again after a short period, Mr. Trump returned stating that the ruby was a beautiful most-precious stone but again he got tired of it. So God again let hime choose and he chose a magnificent emerald of the greatest worth.
But shortly history repeated itself and he came back to God for another stone. This time God said to him, “I know that if you choose another stone, no matter how beautiful and precious, you will return it shortly.” God then picks two beautiful pearls out of the chest and gives them to Mr. Trump. God says to him, “Allow me to give you these two perfect precious pearls because they symbolize wisdom and intelligence; I give them to you as my gift and symbol of all I will do to help you with the task of being president and you can keep them as such.” ….
FINISH THE REST OF THE STORY FOR YOURSELF! This will do two important things for you. Firstly, the way you finish this story will tell you very clearly how you view Mr. Trump as President (and as a person). What do you need to do with this ending? Or to what does your ending call you as a Christian disciple? Secondly, you are asked to finish the story – to do something. Can you do anything for this story to work itself out as a good news story? Yes, we (you and I) can. Recall from the Scriptures all the stories of people who could do nothing to change history except to pray, to pray hard, to pray powerfully; they did this so well that they changed history! Can we imitate them? Please consider: the position of the U.S. presidency is so important not just for the United States but for the whole world. As a Lenten act, can you and I take ten minutes every day during this Lenten Season and pray hard to the Holy Spirit that the Spirit will powerfully help Mr. Trump be generally the kind of president the United States and the world need at this time? Can you and I make that commitment? Will we?
THOUGHTS TO PONDER
• “During the 40 days of Lent we reflect on how we choose to live as followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus teaches us how to live fully. ‘In Him we live, and move and have our being!’” (Bishop Douglas Crosby, O.M.I., Heart to Heart, February 24, 2017)
• “It can seem as if we are living in a world where fact, truth and evidence no longer exert the rational pull they once did” (Philosopher Mark Kingwell).
• Knowledge is very important for our health and well-being. One day not too long ago I heard Doctor Phil McGraw state this on the “Doctor Phil” show. My immediate reaction was “well, of course!” This is a fundamental principle for all care-givers and social professionals but it also is so for ministers, clergy, and religious leaders. I believe in this 100% and, therefore, in the Consortium newsletters and other Consortium materials, you will see and encounter articles and other materials (and some that are not explicitly religious) that are grounded in this principle. And as our knowledge basis expands rapidly in our modern world, it is incumbent on all of us to keep updating that knowledge. For me, this is a basic and essential presumption for all ministry. God bless us all with this kind of understanding. Amen.
May our loving compassionate God be merciful and kind to you always. Amen.
Father Fred Scinto, C.R.,
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
(519-885-4370 or toll free 1-877-242-7935)