“Money must serve, not rule!”

May 27, 2018

In the present world our everyday lives are heavily influenced by economic and financial decisions and happenings. Ever since the 19th century several Popes have written a number of Encyclicals touching on these; Pope Francis has not shied away from doing so, just read his Encyclical Laudato Si. Well, on May 17th last the Vatican published a 36 page document on the economy and finance entitled  “Oeconomicae et Pecuniariae Quaestiones” or “Considerations for an Ethical Discernment on Certain Aspects of the Present Economic and Financial System.”  You will find the entire text at: info@zenit.org The Document reiterates what Popes have said over and over again: that all economic and financial systems and structures to be legitimate must be at the service of humanity and that they must promote integral human development (“what truly humanizes man”) for all people and peoples and for every human community in the world. To be truly legitimate economic and financial systems must thrive not only through the quantitative development of exchange but even more by promoting the development of the entire person and of every person. Since pope Francis there is now within the Vatican governing structures a Dicastery for the Service of Integral Development with Cardinal Peter Turkson as its Prefect. In the introduction of the document we read: “What is needed, on the one hand, is an appropriate regulation of the dynamics of the markets, and on the other hand, a clear ethical foundation that assures a well-being realized through the quality of human relationships rather than merely through economic mechanisms that by themselves cannot attain it. This ethical foundation needs to inform a range of persons but especially those working in the fields of economy and finance. In this situation a synthesis of technical knowledge and human wisdom is essential. Without such synthesis, every human activity tends to deteriorate. But where it exists, it can foster progress towards the integral and concrete well-being of the human person, what truly humanizes man … (and later) the well-being of every person, of every human community, and of all people, which is the ultimate horizon of the common good that the Church …seeks to advance.” The document which is addressed to all men and women of good will reminds us that “with a view towards the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life … because there can be no area of human action that legitimately claims to be either outside of or impermeable to ethical principles based on liberty, truth, justice and solidarity.”  It is all too evident in what we are living today at all levels that the common good is often not at the center of our discussions and decisions. The document deplores “a profound amoral culture within which one doesn’t hesitate very often to commit offenses when the foreseen advantages outweigh the fixed penalties” and it criticizes the “morally unacceptable situations, the ethical violations, the “economic cannibalism,” and egoism. The document gives the concrete example of the recent financial crisis which should have “provided the occasion to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and a new regulation of financial activities that would neutralize predatory and speculative tendencies and acknowledge the value of the actual economy. Although there have been many positive efforts at various levels which should be recognized and appreciated, there does not seem to be any inclination to rethink the obsolete criteria that continue to govern the world. On the contrary, the response seems at times like a return to the eights of myopic egoism, limited by an inadequate framework that, excluding the common, also excludes from its horizons the concern to create and spread wealth, and to eliminate the inequality so pronounced today. At stake is the authentic well-being of a majority of the men and women of our planet who are at risk of being “excluded and marginalized” from the development and true well-being while a minority, indifferent to the condition of the majority, exploits and reserves for itself substantial resources and wealth. Therefore, it is time to initiate the recovery of what is authentically human, to expand the horizons of minds and hearts, to recognize faithfully the exigencies of the true and the good without which no social, political and economic system could avoid bankruptcy, failure and , in the long term, collapse. Selfishness, in the end, does not pay while it makes everyone pay a high price; hence, if we want the real well-being of humanity, “Money must serve, not rule!”  The document also shows appreciation for business and financial professionals and institutions and expresses hope for their positive impact to help others. It calls for sustainable policies and perspectives far beyond the short term in the regulation of markets, speculation, credit, consumption, savings, fiscal system, offshore sites, public debt, and the banking system. It calls for “the creation of ethical committees within banks”, for “a minimum tax on the transactions accomplished offshore… to resolve a great part of the problem of hunger in the world.” It pleads for regulations, for financial transparency and invites each one “as sentinels, to watch over genuine life and to make ourselves catalysts of a new social behavior, shaping our actions to the search for the common good, and establishing it on the sound principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.”  “In front of the massiveness and pervasiveness of today’s economic-financial systems, we could be tempted to abandon ourselves to cynicism, and to think that with our poor forces we can do very little. In reality every one of us can do so much, especially if one does not remain alone.” May the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us all guide us and encourage us. Shalom. 

Ascension and Pentecost 2018

May 13, 2018

There are a number of feast days which we celebrate with wonderful music, great liturgies, good food and great company. I am sure we can all name them: Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, the baptisms of our children/grandchildren.  And then there are those other feast days which in our consumer world take on ever greater dimensions: Valentine’s Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, anniversaries, etc. All these feast days are celebrated with their holidays, their gifts and cards, with special flowers and balloons, specialized food, etc. Well, there is another very important and great feast day which so far has escaped the consumer mentality but which for us Christians is really as great a feast day as are Christmas and Easter: yes, Pentecost !  Just as Christmas would have no meaning without Easter and vice versa, so the Ascension and Pentecost are an inevitable outcome of Christmas and Easter. They are all linked and very important.   Easter was the celebration of the highlight of our faith: in Jesus God became flesh and lived within our human existence. Jesus tried to tell us who God is for us. Jesus’ whole life, his words and his actions revealed to all of humanity the incomprehensible, illogical and irrepressible love of God for all of humanity. In Jesus, we learned that God loves us as brother, as father, as sister, as mother. God’s love, God’s mercy and healing, God’s wisdom and strength became real, became flesh in Jesus and were present in our midst. And all this so that Jesus might by his suffering and death free us from all that binds and oppresses us and bring us “home” to God. At the feast of the Ascension we celebrate that the Christ event came full circle and that the risen Lord, born the vulnerable babe in Bethlehem, has gone home to God and glory after a full life of joys and pains, struggles and hopes. The feast of the Ascension is a reminder to us that we too are destined to go home and live in the glory of God, that we might become sharers in God’s divinity.  Jesus the anointed one needed to leave us. Why? Well, Jesus himself gives us a response. In the Gospel of John Jesus will say that he has lost nothing of what the Father had given him. Jesus is not returning to God and glory empty-handed! Jesus has taken with him everything that is ours. He has taken us with him because he loved us so intensely, so closely that we could not possibly be separated from him! God remains close to the ones he loves, to all of us. How? By the gift of the Holy Spirit: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him/her to you (John 16:7-8).” This Spirit God is already in us!  It took a while for the first disciples of Jesus to understand that the physical presence of Jesus in their lives would continue with the greatest gift that Jesus could give them: the Spirit of God which had encouraged him in his life and which raised him from death. At first they were frightened, confused at the loss of their beloved Jesus but then God again took the initiative and the gift of the Spirit overpowered their fear and paralysis and empowered them to become messengers of the good news by their words and actions. The power of the Spirit had no limits in them and now in us.  Yes, the Spirit is here in us and yet not fully here. When Jesus’ Spirit is in us, then we are the Lord’s and he is ours. And yet, there is still the pain of waiting for the Spirit’s fulfillment in eternal life, the pain of hope not completely fulfilled, the pain of a pilgrimage not ended. But we do not look up toward heaven or to the future like the men of Galilee in Acts 1:10: “People of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” We are called to keep our eyes fixed on the present. We are called in our daily lives to make real among us the “first fruits” of the gift of the Spirit in us.  Karl Rahner in his book “The Content of Faith” tried to explain this paradox of the already here and the not yet by writing: “When the Spirit performs the miracle of faithfulness and courage in our poor lives from day to day, there is the Spirit of Christ. And where the Spirit of Christ is present, the true festival of the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated.”  As we prepare for the feast of Pentecost on May 20th let us today pray that we may come to a fuller understanding and appreciation of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism and renewed especially at Pentecost.  Already described in Isaiah 11:2-3, these seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are later described by Saint Ambrose as poured out on a believer at baptism and confirmation as being: Spirit of Wisdom; Spirit of Understanding; Spirit of Counsel; Spirit of Strength/courage, Spirit of Knowledge; Spirit of Godliness/reverence; Spirit of Holy Fear/ awe and wonder. Let us pray that we may once more receive these seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and that our daily lives may bear it’s fruits in our world, described in Galatians  5: 22-23 as being: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness,  self-control.”            Shalom,

Called to be a living, loving community

April 29, 2018

On these Sundays we are having as Gospels passages from what is called the “Farewell Discourse” in the Gospel of John. John’s Gospel is the fourth and latest Gospel written at the end of the First Century for a Christian community which had little by little become disconnected with Jesus the Risen Lord. That community was also under persecution and no doubt some people had started to doubt about who this Jesus really was, what the meaning of his life was for them. So, the writer of John’s Gospel wants to reinvigorate not only the faith of his own community, but the faith of all future communities, and yes, that includes our community of faith here in Saanich Peninsula Parish. He wants to tell us how we need to interpret the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. He does so by collecting all kinds of sayings attributed to Jesus, grouping them together according to themes in four chapters, and placing them into a “Farewell Discourse” (John 13:1 – 17:24) by Jesus before his departure. Humans are always interested to learn what famous people said before their death. It is really last instructions, a teaching, an evangelization, of people who need encouragement in difficult times, including our own difficult times. What strikes us when we read these words is their optimism, the tone of encouragement. Jesus could have been pessimistic as he saw the end     approaching. After all, he seemed to have accomplished so little. He could have been filled with anxious warnings for his followers or he could have said words of how great he was. Instead, his words show no anxiety but rather   reassurance. His concern is for the well-being of his followers, of us.  And so we are told that as followers of Jesus we will never lose touch with him because we form together part of a living plant. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches; we depend on Christ for our life and vitality. The same intimate relationship that exists between Jesus and his Abba–God, exists between Jesus and his followers. Jesus has made his life a gift to his followers, to us. And that gift of life flows through us now. We need to become ever more aware and conscious of that vitality in us: Christ’s life flows through us and is the source of our fruitfulness in the world. Christ is alive now and we can live out Christ’s dream for ourselves and others by drawing on his life force within us. And we are not alone on that journey; we are together with companions, companions on the journey. There are other branches on this vine; we form one plant lovingly cared for by our   loving, nurturing God. Jesus sees us all connected to him and thus, to one another through him. The importance is that we remain connected, that we see ourselves in fundamental solidarity with one another, especially with the sick and lonely, the poor and marginalized, the forgotten close by and far off.  This is why we need to come together  on Sundays to break open the Scriptures and reflect on them, to give thanks and praise, and pray for ourselves and the world. Otherwise we forget who we are and to whom we belong. Jesus tells this connected community to love one another, to remain connected. The memorial that Jesus leaves the world is not a statue in bronze, not a list of accomplishments. The memorial that Jesus leaves to the world is a living, loving community. It is this living, loving community that is a living memorial of its founder; it will be known by its love for one another, by the name Christian. This community is the Word spoken in the world, a Word of love and of mercy, a Word of justice, reconciliation and peace. This concrete sign of God’s love, spoken in each generation, will draw others to itself, the way Jesus’ followers were drawn to him, a Word spoken in darkness.  Others are drawn to this living community and through the love and care of its members they will hear the voice of the shepherd, be drawn to it and thus come to follow the shepherd; remember Good Shepherd Sunday (April 22)? Pope Francis has called upon the Church “to take up the joyful call to mercy once more” and to refashion itself as a place not of judgment or condemnation but of pardon and merciful love: “Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”   As we prepare ourselves for the Feast of Pentecost (May 20), let us pray that we may discern the signs of the times so that as a Church we may learn what needs to be changed (“Christian life is not a museum of memories” – Pope Francis). Let us pray that the Gift of Christ’s Spirit may strengthen our own living loving community so that we may be for ourselves and others God’s love and mercy in action in this our time, in this our world. Shalom, Fr. Rolf, OP