Sunday, April 20, 2014

Celebrating in Absolute!

Easter Sunday – 20 April 2014 

Cathedral of St. Alexander, Kyiv, Ukraine

Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Haec dies quam fecit Dominus; exultemus et laetemur in ea.
Col. 3 :1-4       1 Cor. 5 :6b-8
Jn. 20 :1-9

          Is our everyday where it ought to be such that we know how to celebrate the feast? Easter is here! Alleluia! I wish each and everyone here present and, please, carry the message to all at home: Christ is Risen! Yes, He is truly Risen!
          Is our everyday where it ought to be such that we know how to celebrate the feast? When we think about today’s Gospel account of the panic which descended upon the women who went early in the morning to the tomb of Jesus, on the first day of the week, and found the stone rolled away and His Body gone, the panic of Simon Peter and of the disciple Jesus loved, running to the tomb, what are we to say? We can say that Easter each year does in a sense catch us by surprise as well.
          Jesus had prophesied His sorrowful passion, His death upon the Cross and His glorious Resurrection, but confronted with the stone removed from the tomb, the disciples were confounded. All our lives long, we have been taught in these matters of faith as well, yet how can we say that Easter morning finds us better prepared than they were: “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” Because in our case it is not the first time, we need to phrase the thing a bit differently, that is, this challenge to us for our lack of faith: Is our everyday where it ought to be such that we know how to celebrate the feast?
          In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, by the grace he received on Pentecost, Peter lays it all out for the crowds: “You know what has happened… the baptism, the anointing with power to heal and drive out devils, …that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” Did Easter catch you by surprise? Why were you not prepared? What did or did not change in your life this Lent?
          Not to worry though! The greatest thing about Easter joy is that we don’t, we should not regret if it does take us by surprise. The mystery is indeed too great and should overwhelm us, no matter how much penance we have done, no matter how much we have done to reform our lives.
          At least since last November, through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, right up through these high, holy days to Easter today, we here in Ukraine, from one vantage point or another, have been living life close up and intense, we are witnesses to violence, to cruel betrayal, and on the other hand, to great piety and faith, to unflagging courage and dedication, to great service and deep respect for the human person.  Is our everyday where it ought to be such that we know how to celebrate the feast? For lots of Ukrainians, both by birth and by adoption, I would say undoubtedly yes, simply by virtue of your living this period of trial, which sadly does not seem to know how to respect the feast.
          The Feast of Easter is greater than us and than our experience. The Scriptures teach us that very truth, by recounting the bewildered panic of those who came to Christ’s now empty tomb early of that Sunday, that first Easter Sunday morning. The mystery, the glory of the Resurrection of the Son of Man is beyond our everyday, way beyond the best and worst which life has to offer us.
          Despite two thousand years of celebrating Jesus’ victory over sin and death, practically everywhere on earth, today’s feast still comes as a surprise even to many who at least nominally consider themselves Catholic or Christian. Besides coming to us as a surprise, I wish the feast would provoke the same panic as it did in the disciples on that first Easter Sunday early in the morning. I truly wish we could bring people beyond ignorance and indifference to a genuine encounter with Christ, the Lord of Life. Death today is still too easily embraced. Our lives should be a constant celebration of life restored, of mankind’s reconciliation with God now and for all eternity.
Is our everyday where it ought to be such that we know how to celebrate the feast? Easter is here! Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Yes, He is truly Risen!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sequel to 3 Pillars of Diplomacy

There are lots of nice thoughts in this video of Fr. Barron's on the Meaning of Easter, but what he says about the nature of Christ's victory later in the video has a singular importance for me. He says in effect that contrary to the wisdom of this world, superior strength, greater violence cannot ultimately win the victory over perpetrators of evil in our world; the victory belongs to Christ alone in the glory of His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

In a piece I wrote at the end of March, I intimated that in the world of diplomacy today where most interlocutors refuse to be bound by the natural law and tend even to ignore that body of customary law which we call international law, the third pillar, deterrence, whether armed or economic, looms bigger than it should, no longer as ultima ratio but as sine qua non for those who would practice diplomacy.

You can argue, if you wish, that the world has never been without its "bad boys", but the point is that the world has probably never believed less than today that at some point the Terrible Judge will take His seat upon the Throne and judge both the living and the dead. With all three pillars in place, I think one can argue for the Holy See's role in the diplomatic world, not only for cultivating relations of a positive nature among powers on an ordinary, everyday basis, but also calling to order, by appealing to the principles of the first two pillars in times of crisis. Without those first two, however, what is the point of jumping into the snake-pit without means of defense? Those who can must indeed stand up for the rights of others in this our world without justice. Those who can must indeed insist that within the community of nations and powers pacts are to be respected and held sacred. More than ever before, for the sake of justice, deterrence is a solemn obligation. It does not stem from such, however, that the Pope needs to raise an army or gather arms; the Church's role in identification with the Bridegroom, Christ, is another.

Such thoughts loom all the larger on this Good Friday, kneeling at the foot of Jesus' Cross, confessing that ultimate victory for me and for our world is in Him and in His Victory achieved through succumbing to violence and embracing death through crucifixion.

It is hard to have confidence in the world's diplomacy, deprived as it is of that sense of fear and trembling for our accountability before the judgment seat of God. What sort of truth or justice can there be in a world which ignores the Creator, Redeemer and Judge of mankind? We need to keep reminding and storming the doors of hardened hearts and heads, in hopes they will finally soften up and open wide for the King of Glory!

Behold the Wood of the Cross on which hung the Savior of the World!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Why did Jesus cry at Lazarus' Grave?

In the Preface for this Sunday, we read:
"For as true man he wept for Lazarus his friend and as eternal God raised him from the tomb, just as, taking pity on the human race, he leads us by sacred mysteries to new life."
That is certainly our traditional understanding and the Church's teaching, but it doesn't keep the little boy in me from insisting as to why Jesus cried at Lazarus's grave. When you are a child you ask why, "...but with His foreknowledge how could Jesus weep?" When you get older, you weep at the drop of a hat and don't ask such questions any more.

As we read in the Gospel for today, Jesus already knew what was and what He was going to do before setting out for Bethany. So then why did He cry? Other folks had their explanations and their mixed emotions, all of them confounded by His "Lazarus, come forth!"

For me, this Gospel and the therein contained great mystery bespeaks Christ's immediacy, His closeness and His will to save in our regard. The Catechism explains that eternal life starts with Baptism and goes on and on. Right now, too often, the "other folks" have the upper hand and by their words place bounds which constrain and leave without hope. The present ambiance is too much conditioned by the here and now. They (and we too if we fall into this sin) truly deserve to be confounded by Christ in our midst.

The raising of Lazarus from the dead, as well as restoring her dead son alive to the widow of Nain were, yes, miracles, but they were clearly God's response to human tears. Does it take little or much to move Him? I guess you have to be a friend of God to know.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Somebody's Brave New World

Here's a frightening little piece on what is abroad in the world of thought on international relations in the world today. 

"Vladimir Putin’s statements and actions concerning Crimea and Ukraine are not adhoc responses but rather represent a new “’Putin doctrine’” for Russian action in foreign affairs, a doctrine that dispenses with many of the most fundamental principles on which the international system has operated, according to Vladimir Ryzhkov.

In a Ekho Moskvy blogpost yesterday, the liberal historian, politician and commentator identifies seven parts of this new doctrine and discusses the way in which Putin and his regime plan to extend its application from Crimea and Ukraine to Moscow’s relations with the rest of the world ("

In a sense, Ryzhkov is kidding only himself in presenting a new "doctrine" of any kind in a world as pragmatic and relativist as ours. Perhaps intellectual honestly might have dictated his admitting that there is nothing here which isn't same old, same old. 

Lord, have mercy on us and on the whole world!