CNS STORY: No ‘Yahweh’ in songs, prayers at Catholic Masses, Vatican rules

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the not-too-distant future, songs such as "You Are Near," "I Will Bless Yahweh" and "Rise, O Yahweh" will no longer be part of the Catholic worship experience in the United States.

At the very least, the songs will be edited to remove the word "Yahweh" — a name of God that the Vatican has ruled must not "be used or pronounced" in songs and prayers during Catholic Masses.

CNS STORY: No ‘Yahweh’ in songs, prayers at Catholic Masses, Vatican rules.

I’ll refrain from the “Life of Brian” reference here. I wasn’t too sure what I thought about this issue until this morning. I realize that it’s a good thing, because in these days we have what seems to be a lack of reverence. This is a byproduct, I think, of the whole “Jesus is your friend” movement from the 70s or so. And yes, Jesus is your friend. But he is also God, God both immanent and transcendent.

We’ve lost a kind of reverence. God is just another guy we know sometimes. We need to recapture the need to kneel, to bow, to refrain from pronouncing God’s proper name. We need to be in awe of God (yes, that’s still one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you know!). And so not pronouncing the Tetragrammaton is, I think, a good thing. We’ll just have to learn to sing “O Lord, I know you are near…” or something like that.

Because God is awesome. Let’s never lose sight of that. God is awesome.

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Today's readings [display_podcast]

 

Sometimes we get an idea and it seems well, a little uncomfortable.  We may well have had a call or even a gentle moving from the Lord, and are afraid to act on it.  Today’s Scriptures speak to those of us who are sometimes hesitant to do what the Lord is calling on us to do.

 

I think St. Paul must have been exhausted by this point in his life.  As we hear of him in our reading from Acts today, he is saved from one angry mob, only to learn he is to go to another.  Out of the frying pan and into the fire.  He has borne witness to Christ in Jerusalem, but now he has to go and do it all over again in Rome.  And underneath it all, he knows there is a good chance he is going to die.

 

In the Gospel today, Jesus prays for all of his disciples, and also for all those who “will believe in me through their word.”  And that, of course, includes all of us.  He prays that we would be unified and would be protected from anything or anyone who might seek to divide us from each other, or even from God.  He says that we are a gift to him, and that he wishes us to be where he will be for all eternity.

 

What we see in our Liturgy today is that God keeps safe the ones he loves.  If he calls us to do something, he will sustain us through it.  Maybe we’ll have to witness to Jesus all over again or we’ll have to defend our faith against people in our community or workplace or school who just don’t understand.  We might well feel hesitant at these times, but we can and must go forward, acting on God’s call.  When we do that, we can make our own prayer in the words of the Psalm today: “Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.”

 

Ash Wednesday

ash wednesday

ash wednesday,
originally uploaded by apol3.

I didn’t post my homily for today, because I did the School Children’s Mass and preached extemporaneously. So, instead I’m posting this picture from flickr, which I really like. What grabs my attention in it is how we see the activity through the cross. We’re called to be a people who see everything in the shadow of the Cross and the light of the Resurrection. It’s a wonderful way to let a picture speak a thousand words as we begin our Lenten journey.

Is Lent too early this year? Maybe for many of us, it’s at just the right time.

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Fall is one of those times when we really notice creation. Leaves are changing, the air is getting cooler, the hours of sunlight are rapidly diminishing. It makes us grateful for the bits of life that we still see, because we know that the winter is coming and we will be groaning in eager anticipation of spring.

So maybe we can resonate with what St. Paul is saying in today’s first reading. His basic message is that nothing is perfect yet; we are not where we should be – perfection is still in the future for all of us. We see that our own lack of perfection has repercussions that touch all of creation. There will come a time when God fully reveals everything and we will see ourselves and the entire world through God’s eyes. That is the reward of the Kingdom that we all eagerly hope for. But we are not there yet. We, along with all of creation, groan in anticipation of what will be revealed in those days.

In Masses for the dead, the Third Eucharistic Prayer says, “On that day, we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you for ever through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come.” That’s the promise. It will be like the mustard seed, come to full growth, that becomes a large enough bush to provide shelter for the birds of the sky. It will be like yeast mixed through three measures of flour until it leavens the whole batch of dough.

Put very simply, the best is yet to come for all of us, and for all of creation. In these waning days of the Church year, we continue to long – no, groan – for the day when everything will come to fruition and the Kingdom of God will be revealed in all its glory. We have this as our hope – we don’t see it yet – but as St. Paul says, who hopes for what one sees? We have hope that one day we will enter into the glory of the Kingdom because we will have become holy by being caught up in the One who is holiness itself.

Saturday of the Twentieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

You may often have heard me speak of one of my favorite spiritual principles, and that is: “it’s not about me.” Today, we have two wonderful Scriptural examples of that very principle. First we have Ruth, a foreigner, who came to the aid of her mother-in-law Naomi in her time of need. Naomi had no heir, and her son, Ruth’s husband, had died. This left both of them in a very precarious position. Neither of them had a male figure to afford them any legal status in that society. But Ruth takes care of Naomi anyway, offering to glean ears of grain so that they’ll have something to eat. She didn’t have to do that, she could have left her mother-in-law high and dry, but she didn’t.

Boaz, too, didn’t have to be so welcoming to Ruth. It was expected in Jewish law that after the harvest, whatever was left on the stalks was to be left for the poor. But he didn’t have to provide her with water, and see that the men didn’t take advantage of her. But he did.

All of this prefigures what Jesus was telling the people about the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. These Pharisees did everything to be seen, because it was all about them.. They had the law, so they were teaching the right things, but not for the right reasons. Do what they say, Jesus tells them, and not what they do. Because it’s not about us.

St. Pius X

Today’s readings | Today’s saint

pius saintYahweh-shalom is what Gideon called the altar he built to the LORD at Ophrah. “The Lord is our peace” is how we would translate that Hebrew name into English. It was certainly divine revelation that gave him that thought, because the oppression Gideon’s people were suffering under the Midianites was anything but peace. Gideon, however, was led to see that even in suffering, the Lord could bring peace.

St. Pius X was born Joseph Sarto, the second of ten children in a poor Italian family. He became pope at the age of 68, and he too yearned for peace in a generation that wouldn’t really have any. He famously ended, and subsequently refused to reinstate, state interference in canonical affairs. He had foreseen World War I, but because he died just a few weeks after the war began, he was unable to speak much about it. On his deathbed, however, he said, “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.”

“For God, all things are possible,” Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel. Even when peace seems remote, as perhaps it does today, we can rely on our God who will bring peace to our world just as surely as he was able to deliver the Israelites from the Midianites. Yahweh-shalom: the Lord is our peace.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

There is no Scripture story telling us about the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast is based on a strong Tradition that developed in the early Church and has been venerated ever since. Remember that we Catholics believe that Tradition which has come from the early Church is as much a Revelation of God’s word as Scripture itself.

assumptionIn the early Church, it was known that Mary had “fallen asleep” and that there is a “Tomb of Mary” close to Mount Zion, where the early Christian community had lived. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 tells us that, after Mary’s death, the apostles opened the tomb, finding it empty, and concluded that she had been taken bodily into heaven. The tradition was spoken about by the various fathers of the Church, and in the eighth century, St. John Damascene wrote, “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay. . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.” The current celebration of Mary’s Assumption has taken place since 1950, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his encyclical, Munificentissimus Deus, saying: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven.”

Mary’s cousin Elizabeth tells us in today’s Gospel reading why this feast is celebrated: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb… Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Mary was a young girl with all the concerns of a young girl in that time and place. She was as yet unmarried, yet faithfully embraced God’s call, strange and unfathomable though it must have been to her. Mary’s simple faith allowed her to say “yes” to God’s will and made possible the salvation of the world.

Because of that faith, she had a bond with our Savior beyond anything we could ever hope for. And so we truly believe that Jesus, risen from the dead and now ascended into heaven, prepared a place for his mother and caught her back up into his life. She was assumed body and soul into heaven, and death was not allowed to touch the one whose purity made possible the birth of the Savior. As St. John Damascene also said, “It was necessary that she who had preserved her virginity inviolate in childbirth should also have her body kept free from all corruption after death.”

What is important for us to see in this feast, though, is that it proclaims with all the joy the Church can muster that what happened to Mary can and will happen for us who believe. We too have the promise of eternal life in heaven, where death and sin and pain will no longer have power over us. Because Christ caught his Blessed Mother back up into his life in heaven, we know that we too can be caught up with his life in heaven. On that great day, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed, as St. Paul tells us today.

Mary’s life wasn’t always easy, but Mary’s life was redeemed. That is good news for us who have difficult lives or fine it hard to live our faith. Because there are those among us too who have unplanned pregnancies. There are those among us whose children go in directions that put them in danger. There are those among us who have to watch a child die. But because Mary suffered these sorrows too, and yet was exalted, we can hope for the day when that which she was given and which we have been promised will surely be ours.

As I’ve reflected on this feast today, what kept coming to me was the fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother.” Jesus showed us the way to do that by honoring his own mother with grace that she would never know death. We might not be able to do that, but we can certainly call our mother, or for those whose mothers have passed, pray for her. And may we all find in Mary our Mother the example of faith that will lead us to everlasting communion with her Son. May we sing with Mary the great song of the Church:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.”

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

The Israelites wandering in the desert would seem to have had the spiritual life easy. How could they possibly miss God’s presence? There was a cloud to lead them to the Lord by day, and fire by night. But just like the stuff that ended up in the net in today’s Gospel, some people got it and some people didn’t.

The same is true for us. How hard can it be for us to see the Lord’s presence in our own lives? We have the Church, the Sacraments, and the Word of God, prayer that beckons us by day and by night. Still, some people get it and some people don’t.

The Kingdom of heaven, Jesus tells us today, will be like the fishmongers sorting out the fish from the seaborne refuse. May God lead us all to be among those who get it, so that we don’t get thrown out with all that vile stuff. After all, we have something way better than clouds by day and fire by night, don’t we?

The Dedication of St. John Lateran

Today's readings | Today's feast

stjohnlateranThe Church is a reality that is at the same time concrete and experiential and heavenly and eternal. The concrete structures of it are the nuts and bolts that make it work. The building itself, the parish staff, the rubrics of liturgy and the holy books, as well as teachings and dogma and sacraments – all of these are things we can touch, or learn or work with. But there is another layer, one more experiential. These include the people as a whole, on the way to holiness; the Word at work in believers; the effects of grace mediated through the sacraments; the Gospel lived out day by day and the love of God shown through Charity. And in yet another layer, the Church is not just here on earth. It's in heaven, celebrated among the Communion of Saints and sung by the choirs of angels. And finally it is eternal, not just limited to our own puny ideas of time and space, but all wrapped up in the Mind of God who is ever-present, all-powerful and all-knowing. The Church is an incredible reality that has been pondered by people much more saintly and learned than I, and a reality that will be advanced and celebrated for ages yet to come.

Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of a certain church building, the Lateran Cathedral in Rome. Most people think of St. Peter's Basilica as the pope's church, but that's not true. As the Bishop of Rome, his Cathedral Church is the Lateran Cathedral, once dedicated to our Savior, but now named for St. John the Baptist. This site has served as the Cathedral church for the pope ever since the first structure was built in the late 300s. It served until the pope was moved to Avignon, and upon returning, it was found to have been destroyed. The present structure was commissioned in the 1600s and is one of the most massive churches in Rome. Because it is the parish church of the pope, it is in some ways considered to be the parish church for all Catholics. Today we celebrate the feast of its dedication on November 9, 324 by Pope St. Sylvester I.

Any feast like this is an opportunity for us to take a step back and look at this thing we call Church. The misunderstanding in the Gospel between Jesus and the Jews tells us that we cannot view Church as just a building. The reality of Church is brought to great perfection in the Body of Christ, and we see that because of Christ, the Church is a living, breathing thing that takes us in and out of time and space to be the body we were created to be. So today we celebrate Church; we peel back the Church's many layers, touching and learning the concrete, living the experiential, asking for the intercession of the heavenly, and yearning to be caught up in the eternal. The Church is our Mother who has given us birth in the Spirit and who nurtures us toward eternal life.

The river of God's life flows forth from the Church to baptize and sanctify the whole world unto the One who created it all. The Church has its foundation in Christ, who also raises it up to eternity. Blessed are all those who find their life in its sanctuary.

Friday of the 30th Week of Ordinary Time: Thank you!

Today’s readings

Some days it may be harder to know this than others days, but every person in our lives is a gift to us from God. St. Paul knew both sides of that, to be sure. He had days where he had to lay down the law with some of the Churches he founded, and days when he could rejoice in them, like in today’s first reading from his letter to the Philippians. What strikes me about this, though, is the joy that St. Paul takes in telling people how thankful he is for them. How often do we do that? I know I don’t often do that enough.

Striking, too, is the way he goes about telling them what he is thankful for. He acknowledges that all of them are answers to prayer for him. He tells them how much God has blessed them just by putting them in his life. Can you imagine how much all the people in the Philippian community must have rejoiced in hearing this letter? When someone stops to tell you what a blessing you are, it can’t help but be a lift in your day. Recently a staff member here at the church wrote me a nice note to thank me for something that I considered just what I’m supposed to do. So I wasn’t expecting thanks for it, but it was sure nice to receive it.

So I got to thinking, what would my thank-you letter sound like if I were to write one to the community of St. Raphael? Maybe something like this:

I give thanks every time I stop to think about you.
I know what a great blessing you have been to me, from the moment you welcomed me here in June up to the present day.
I rejoice every time I see God working in you, whether it’s by volunteering in service day, helping with office work all around this place, teaching our young people, singing in our choirs or ministering at Mass, or any one of the hundred ways people give of themselves around this parish.
I am overwhelmed with joy when I see you working at Hesed House, or reaching out to the sick and homebound of our community. Many times people at the hospital have told me that they have had several visits from people at St. Raphael’s and that makes me so proud.
I know how generous you are to the parish, and to the poor. I know how often you take it upon yourselves to help with funeral lunches. I see the enthusiasm you have in joining the Knights of Columbus and in supporting our parish school and religious education program.
Not a day goes by that I don’t hear something good about what people at St. Raphael do for Christ, and I know how faithful you are to worship and prayer.
God is working in you and people can see that; I can see that.
So my prayer is that you would continue to grow in your faith and that we might all grow in holiness together. May we come together on that great day to worship in the heavenly banquet with Christ who is All in All. May we give Him glory in every moment.
Amen.

So what thank-you notes do you need to write today? In today’s Eucharist, we should all give thanks for the many people God has given us to show us his love.