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Pope celebrates Mass with Capuchins – Perspectives


Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis celebrates a special Mass for Franciscan Capuchins and sends message to the people of Tainan in Taiwan. He also sends a video message to the People of Mexico.

Deacon-structing Mercy: We are not God

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It’s always a nice confirmation when the Pope says the same thing you’ve been trying to say. (Maybe he read my blog from last week?)

Last Wednesday, Pope Francis’ General Audience Address was titled, God’s Justice is Mercy.

You can listen to the Vatican Radio report here:

In short, Pope Francis is eloquently making the point that I tried to make last week: That Justice demands Mercy.

If you missed the Audience and the report above does not give you the full sense, read this:

“The Sacred Scripture presents God as infinite mercy, but also as perfect justice”, How can the two be reconciled? They may appear to be contradictory, but this is not the case, as it is precisely God’s mercy that leads us to achieve true justice. In the legal administration of justice, we see that those who consider themselves to have been victims of abuse consult a judge in court and ask that justice be done. It is a retributive justice, inflicting punishment on the guilty, according to the principle that each person receives what he deserves. … But this route does not lead to true justice, as in reality it does not conquer evil, it simply limits it. Instead, only by responding with good can evil truly be conquered”.

The Pope explained that the Bible proposes a different form of justice, in which the victim invites the guilty party to convert, helping him to understand the harm he has done and appealing to his conscience. This is the principle behind restorative justice. Many of us have a hard time picturing how this can work since our justice system is, by nature confrontational. But this is not how we solve conflict in the family. This is not how we solve conflict with people who we care about; not when we value the relationship. Pope Francis continued:

“This is the way of resolving conflicts within families, in relations between spouses and between parents and children, in which the injured party loves the guilty and does not wish to lose the bond between them. It is certainly a difficult path: it demands that the victim be disposed to forgive and wishes for the salvation and the good of the perpetrator of the damage. But only in this way can justice triumph, as if the guilty party acknowledges the harm he has done and ceases to do so, the evil no longer exists and the unjust becomes just, as he has been forgiven and helped to find the way of good”.

This is the way God administers Justice; so that the unjust become just. How profound! Justice has to be served – that’s the natural course when consequences are inevitable. God’s perfection demands Justice. But God’s Justice is Perfect Justice. It seems to me that Pope Francis is telling us that God’s Perfect Justice demands mercy. He also said:

“God does not seek our condemnation, only our salvation. God does not wish to condemn anyone! … The Lord of Mercy wishes to save everyone. … The problem is letting Him enter into our heart. All the words of the prophets are an impassioned and love-filled plea for our conversion”.

This is what I am discovering as I begin my reflection on mercy this Jubilee Year. God demands perfection – that’s why we have purgatory – we strive to be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect”. But all we can do is strive. God’s perfection demands Justice, but only God can administer perfect Justice, which is why it’s not up to us to administer justice. We can’t. All we can do is administer forgiveness. You and I are not capable of justice; we are only capable of mercy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we are not capable of being just. God asks us to be just and righteous (I believe we saw that in all the Scripture references from last week). When we act justly (fairly) we are, in fact, acting mercifully.

What we are not capable of doing is administering justice. We tend to think that justice is receiving payment from someone who has trespassed against us. That is not justice, nor are we capable of exercising that kind of “justice”. Remember that Justice is the quality of being fair or being reasonable. If we demand justice as receiving payment, we will never be satisfied. This is why people have such a hard time with forgiveness and why, instead Pope Francis is inviting us to consider mercy. This is why God calls us to mercy. Mercy is directly related to forgiveness. This is the kind of Justice that leads to reconciliation and healing. It is the Justice that makes us whole, that makes the unjust just. Pope Francis said:

“God’s heart is “the heart of a Father Who loves all His children and wants them to live in goodness and justice, and therefore to live in fullness and happiness. A Father’s heart that goes beyond our meagre concept of justice so as to open up to us the immense horizons of His mercy. A Father’s heart that does not treat us or repay us according to our sins, as the Psalm says”.

“It is precisely a Father’s heart that we encounter when we go to the confessional. Perhaps it will tell us something to better understand our evil, but at the confessional we all go in search of a father who will help us change our life; a father who gives us the strength to go on; a father who forgives us in God’s name. Therefore, to be a confessor is a great responsibility, as the son or daughter who comes to you seeks only to encounter a father. And you, the priest there in the confessional, are the place where the Father does justice with His mercy.”

I am not capable of administering justice. Let’s leave that to God. Instead, I am capable of mercy. I am capable of great mercy. That has been given to us. Let’s not try to be God by judging everyone and everything around us and let’s be humans who are merciful; who are forgiving, who seek reconcilication; who seek to help the unjust become just; as we strive to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is Perfect.

Last week I received a comment about my use of the word “doctrine.” Come back next week and let’s deacon-struct that word. In the meantime, I am curious to know your thoughts: How would you define “doctrine”? What is the difference between “dogma” and “doctrine”? Email me pedro@saltandlighttv.org and help me with next week’s post.]


Photo credit: Pope Francis at Feb 3, 2016 General Audience in St. Peter’s Square (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


PedroHeadShot

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Mercy: Justice

PoliceTicket

mer·cy
noun: mercy; plural noun: mercies

  1. Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

jus·tice
noun: justice; plural noun: justices

  1. Just behavior or treatment.
  2. The quality of being fair and reasonable.

By now you know that when trying to figure out what words mean, I always find out where the word came from. The English word, “justice” comes from the Old French “justice,” which meant, “justice, legal rights or jurisdiction.” That came from the Latin “iustitia” which meant, “righteousness or equity,” and in turn that came from the Latin word, “iustus” which means, “upright or just.” The word began to be used in English around 1200 as a title for a judicial officer.

The word “mercy” comes from the Latin “merces” or “mercedem” which means “reward or wages” (in Vulgar Latin “favor or pity”). As of the late 12 century, the word was used in English to mean, “God’s forgiveness of his creatures’ offenses.” This comes from Old French mercit or merci, which meant “reward, gift; kindness, grace or pity.” The meaning, “reward” comes from from the Latin “merx” which means “wares or merchandise” (as in market). In French, the word “merci” meaning pity was largely replaced by miséricorde. The word “merci” kept the meaning and use as a word of thanks.

Today we generally equate “justice” with “fairness”. We also equate “mercy” with “compassion”.  I actually would like to propose that true justice demands mercy. Let me tell you a little story.

I began the Year of Mercy by breaking the law.

Well, technically:  I was driving without a headlight. To be fair, the bulb had burned out that morning and so we were only driving without the headlight for about an hour. In fact, when the officer pulled us over, we had already purchased the replacement bulb and, had it not been 10pm we would have been replacing the bulb as soon as we got home.

Turns out that when the officer pulled us over, our licence plate light bulb was also out. We had broken two laws: driving without a headlight and driving without a license plate light. We thought we would simply get a warning (we were really only about a block home and had the replacement bulb), but as it goes, being the end of the month, there was no mercy; only justice. The officer very politely gave us, not one, but two tickets: $110 each!

I have to admit that I was not happy. But after giving the matter some thought, I figured that this was just; this was fair: There’s a law and we had broken the law, therefore we had to pay the fine.

But I contested the ticket.

A few weeks later I received a notice in the mail for an “early resolution” appointment.

And here began my reflection on the Year of Mercy.

Justice is defined as “Just behavior or treatment.” That means, pay both tickets. That’s fair. Suck it up and don’t drive without a headlight.

However, justice is also defined as “The quality of being fair and reasonable.” Surely if the police officer could not be reasonable, the Justice of the Peace (or judge or clerk) would be. I should be forgiven the tickets. We didn’t know about the license plate light. We intended to replace the headlight bulb. We meant no harm. That’s fair.

Mercy is defined as “Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” At the very least, the Justice of the Peace would be merciful and forgive the offence. Afterall, we had replaced the bulbs. If the purpose of the law is to prevent people from driving without lights, because that is not safe, then we had been warned. Is it reasonable to have to pay $220 in order to learn that lesson? If it was up to the Justice of the Peace to effect justice and that meant paying both tickets, then I hoped that reasonable-ness would prevail and forgiveness shown. What would it be, mercy or justice?

A few weeks before my court appearance one of the readings at Mass was from Isaiah 42.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold
my chosen one in whom I delight;
will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
(Isaiah 42:1)

This is what Jesus came to do: to bring justice to the nations. To bring what’s fair and reasonable to the nations. The passage continues:

He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
(Isaiah 42: 2-4)

Isaiah is telling us that “justice” means, not shouting or crying out. It means not breaking a bruised reed. It means not snuffing out a smoldering wick. That means not breaking those who are bruised, not destroying those who are weak and dying. This is the justice that Jesus will establish. This is the justice that gives us hope.

Sounds like mercy.

In fact, most of the references in the Old Testament about God’s justice equate justice with doing what is right, with fairness and with compassion.

In another place, Isaiah says,

“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.”
(Isaiah 30:18-19)

God is a God of Justice; He rises to show us compassion!

The prophet Zechariah says,

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.”
(Zechariah 7:9)

Justice, mercy and compassion go hand in hand.

And one of my favourite passages in Scripture is from the prophet Micah:

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
(Micah 6:8)

Not only is God a God whose justice is mercy, but this is what He requires of us, to act justly and to love mercy – this is how we walk humbly (not righteously) with our God.

In the end justice was served: I was forgiven my trespasses of the law. Both tickets were forgiven once I showed that we had replaced the bulbs. This is God’s justice; a justice that demands mercy and forgiveness, because that is what’s fair.

Justice and mercy were served.

Come back next week and we can look at one of the reasons why we are not God.


DcnPedro

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Mercy: Doctrine

PopeFeetPedro

With Pope Francis’ changes to the Holy Thursday liturgy last week, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a young man during the Christmas holiday. He was visiting from Europe and was expressing concern about where Pope Francis seems to be taking the Church. He said that among his circle of friends and acquaintances everyone is concerned that the Pope seems too relaxed on doctrine and putting too much emphasis on feelings, on people, on the “pastoral”. He didn’t actually say it in these words – he said things like, “it’s not the way” and “this is not how the Pope is supposed to behave” (I paraphrase). He also echoed the concern that many seem to have about the Pope making changes.

Let me say, first and foremost that no one needs to be afraid that Pope Francis is going to change Doctrine. Doctrine is Doctrine and no Pope has the authority to change it. I fully believe that the Holy Spirit is in charge and the Holy Spirit was in charge during the Conclave. The Holy Spirit is always guiding the Church.  We have the Pope that is right for this time. Pope Francis is as solid a Catholic as they come. That means his Doctrine is solid.

Now, are you concerned about doctrine being diluted? No worries. Read carefully what Francis says (not what others say he said). No diluting here.  Concerned about what he does? Well, here’s where we should be following his lead.

Pope Francis is reminding us that, ultimately, everything we believe is reflected in how we navigate through the messiness of life. Oh, if life were clean and neat! Oh, if the Church were a clean and sterile museum! But it isn’t; it’s a field hospital.  Field hospitals are full of blood, sweat and injuries, and amputees and there’s yelling and sometimes swearing and… well, you get what I mean.

But the doctors in the field hospital would not be able to do their work in the messiness of the place, had they not gone to medical school. If they didn’t know their doctrine, they would not be able to function in such a place. In fact, some doctors who are used to an urban emergency room cannot function in a field hospital, where they lack equipment and resources; sometimes there’s no electricity; no antibiotics; no anesthesia. You need doctrine and experience in order to navigate through the messiness of life.

“Doctrine is about ideas and ideas are always clear,” my uncle said to me once during a lovely brunch while I argued with him about abortion. “But we don’t live in a world of ideas; we live in a real world of broken and bruised people.” He’s right. But it’s having those clear ideas that allows us to find our way in the darkness and fogginess of that very real world.

Doctrine is what we can hang-on to while we wade in the murkiness of the waters. But wade in the waters we must. Grasping doctrine tightly with one hand and with the other hand rolling up our sleeves and pant legs.

This is why Pope Francis has called for a Year of Mercy.  Perhaps it’s because he’s confident that we know our doctrine. We are secure in our doctrine; we had St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI to work with us on doctrine; now it’s time to put it into practice.

And the only way to put doctrine into practice (and that’s really the only purpose, otherwise it’s useless – just ideas) is to always look at it and filter it through a pastoral lens. Being pastoral doesn’t mean going against the Magisterium. I would argue that the Magisterium calls us to be merciful and pastoral (in the true sense of the word; how does a shepherd take care of the sheep?).

Perhaps not coincidentally, today’s Gospel reading (3rd Sunday, Ordinary Time, Cycle C) has Jesus taking his missional cue from Isaiah: “…to proclaim good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18)  That should be our missional cue as well: Everything we do, whether teaching, preaching and correcting (using solid doctrine) must be done as we proclaim good news. No matter what, we must always give hope. All our actions must proclaim freedom. We do all we do with compassion and love. That’s being pastoral. Maybe we need to be reminded of this. That’s why we need a Year of Mercy.

Maybe someday we’ll have a Year of Justice, I doubt it, but I don’t know; for now let’s have a Year of Mercy. That means a Year of pastoral approach: a year of not following just the words of the Law but learning and working through the Spirit of the Law.

In the next couple of weeks, I’d like to look at the difference between Justice and Mercy and why we are only capable of mercy.

CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters


DcnPedro

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Ecumenism

Ecumenical-groupTomorrow is the beginning of the Week for Prayer for Christian Unity. This special week has been taking place for almost 110 years and is celebrated around the world between the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter on January 18 and the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul on January 25. It’s very simple: We join with people around the world to pray for Christian unity – in worship, reflection, study, and fellowship.

But, Christian unity is not something that should be left for just one week a year; it is something that we should be praying for, and living every day.

Ecumenism is the movement promoting unity among Christian churches or denominations. The word refers to the “representation of the entire (Christian) world,” as it comes from the Latin oecumenicus, meaning “general” or “universal.” The Latin actually comes from the Greek oikoumenikos, which is a word that referred to “the inhabited world” as known to the ancient Greeks. (For those of you who love words and etymology, this comes from oikoumenos, which is the present passive participle of oikein, which means  “inhabit,” which in turn comes from oikos, which is “house” or “habitation.”)

I wish more parishes and Christian congregations would do more to build relations with each other. When I was in the Middle East, working on Living Stones in 2013, I was humbled at how the Melkites, the Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Protestants and Anglicans have no issue praying together, and in certain circumstances worshiping together. In fact, over there, they don’t refer to themselves as “Catholic” or “Lutheran” or “Copt” or “Maronite.” They’re all “Christians.” Isn’t that what Jesus prayed for according to John 17:20?

As an aside, this year, as Christians are being encouraged by Pope Francis to sponsor refugees, three  churches in my community of Bradford, Ontario have come together to sposor a Syrian family. The United, Anglican and Catholic congregations have created BRIDG: Bradford Refugee Inter-Denominational Group. We hope that this is one of many activities we can work on together.

If you’re wondering what your plan for Christian unity can be, you should visit the Canadian Council of Churches. You will find all kinds of wonderful resources to get you on your way to practical ecumenism.

This year’s theme is “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of God” (from 1 Peter 2:9) and was developed and chosen for the whole world by the church in Latvia.

Ecumenism, or the work of Christian unity predates Vatican II. Since the beginning, Christians have been sorting out what Jesus meant when He prayed, “may they all be one.” But, Vatican II put out a Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio. It is a great document that I encourage you to read:

All the faithful should remember that the more effort they make to live holier lives according to the Gospel, the better will they further Christian unity and put it into practice. For the closer their union with the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, the more deeply and easily will they be able to grow in mutual brotherly love.

This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name, “spiritual ecumenism”.

Let me leave you with a thought: Ecumenism requires conversion. For all of us. We may not know what Jesus wanted when He prayed that we all would be one, and we may not know God’s plan for ecumenism, but we do know that we are called to be the Church that Christ founded and intended.

And so we pray:

God, from whom life flows in rich diversity, unite us in love. May we be mindful of Christ as the source of our life together and strive to build up your Kingdom of love. We pray in the unity of the Spirit.

May we all be one.

Watch some of our programs on Ecumenism:
Perspectives Weekly: Ecumenical Update 2016
Perspectives Weekly: What is God’s Plan for Ecumenism?
Perspectives Weekly: What Does Christian Unity Look Like?
Perspectives Weekly: How Do you Live Ecumenism?


Photo Credit: Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap. of Boston gathers with Christian leaders at an Ecumenical service during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2014. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)


DcnPedro

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Mercy: Where are you going?

WhereAreGoing

Two weeks ago we looked at why we need mercy and last week we reflected on Don Francisco’s beautiful song, “Adam, Where Are You?”

Last week  we also saw what the Church teaches about Original Sin: Once we were in a state of Original Grace. Original Sin is the state of deprivation of that state, of original holiness and justice. (CCC#417) Since then, God has been doing everything to bring us back into that state of Original Grace. The Catholic Church gives us the tools to continually strive to receive God’s Grace.

It is apparent that the author of Genesis did not see a world that was united with God. We live in a world that is fragmented, separate from God, and our quest to “know, love and serve God” is in fact our desire to get back to the Garden of Eden, to get back to that state of unity with God to which the Sacraments point. Furthermore, the physicality of the Sacraments, the required matter, indicates that despite our current human state, there are glimpses of Eden in our physicality. We are created in the image of God and His image is still in us, despite Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We are not completely separated from God.

But we have free will. That has been the case from the beginning. God creates out of love. He wishes the best for his creatures. He wishes that his creatures love him freely – not robotically. Therefore, his creatures, in His image, are free. This is why the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil had to be within reach. Humans have to be able to choose. Another reason why we need Mercy.

And every time we choose away from God, He calls to us “ayeka; where are you?” to give us the opportunity to turn back to him and say “sorry.” This was perhaps Adam and Eve’s greatest mistake. Twice God gave Adam the opportunity to repent. First Adam deflects the question and then passes the blame. I wonder how different the story would have been, had Adam responded to God’s, “ayeka?” with a “Here I am. I’m sorry. We ate from the Tree you forbade. It won’t happen again.”

And isn’t this the story of our lives? We live in a world where people have lost all sense of shame. We live in a world where we’ve lost the ability and desire to ask for and offer forgiveness and mercy. We are a people that continuously goes to great extents to re-define good and evil so as to suit our own petty, selfish needs, because facing God, answering his “ayeka?” is too painful and too much work.

Still, humans are continually choosing between good and evil, between life and death. The reality is that we humans are lost without God. And God is continually pursuing us, loving us, searching for us, hoping that we will finally come home, as Don Francisco says at the end of his song, “before it’s time to finally close the door.” (Another good image to keep in mind as we cross through Holy Doors this year.)

As we journey through this Christmas Season and we begin a new year, it is most appropriate that we ask the questions, “Where am I? What have I done? Where am I going? How was last year? How did I live today? How was I in bondage today? How was I blameless before God?” These are all “ayeka?” But in asking, the danger, as what happened to Adam and Eve, is to hide rather than answer, to flee rather than face, to evade rather than accept responsibility for what we have done and for what we have left undone.

I remember a few years ago I was speaking to a representative of the Gideons International In Canada who showed me their newest pamphlet, titled, “Where is the map?” This is a perfect image for all of us who strive to “get back in to Eden.” But, if we don’t know where we are going, how do we know which map to use? Catholic singer/songwriter Sarah Hart in her song: “Any Road” says, “Any road will do if you have no destination, but really where are you, if any road will do?” (Any Road by Sarah Hart. From Obvious. Oregon Catholic Press ©2001) We have a destination and we have a map. This year, Pope Francis is inviting us to consider using the map of Mercy.

It is my prayer and hope that all of us are able to choose the right destination, and using the right map, we can choose the right road, so we know at all times where we are. Let us be aware of our need for Mercy and our need to offer mercy to others. When God asks us, “ayeka, where are you?” may we be able to say yes to his offer of Mercy and we are able to answer, not like Adam and Eve, but like Abraham, like Samuel and like Mary, “Here I am, Lord. Amen. Let your will be done.”


DcnPedro

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Mercy: Where are you?

GardenofEden1

Last week we saw that the reason why we need mercy is because we are sinners. St. Paul tells the Ephesians, “we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” (Eph 2:3b-5) We are by nature “children of wrath”, that means that by nature (original sin) we deserve God’s wrath; his punishment. But God,  in his mercy, makes us alive again. We are sinners in need of mercy because of original sin. So the reason why we need mercy is rooted in the Genesis “fall” narrative.

After Adam and Eve eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they are ashamed and they hide. God then, while walking in the garden calls for them: “Where are you?”

As a teenager, I spent a lot of time listening to Christian singer and songwriter Don Francisco. One of his songs is “Adam, Where Are You?”

Unashamed and naked in a garden that has never seen the rain,
Rulers of a kingdom, full of joy — never marred by any pain,
The morning all around them seems to celebrate the life they’ve just begun;
And in the majesty of innocence the king and queen come walking in the sun

But the master of deception now begins with his dissection of the Word
And with all of his craft and subtlety the serpent twists the simple truths they’ve heard,
While hanging in the balance is a world that has been placed at their command
And all their unborn children die as both of them bow down to Satan’s hand.

And just before the evening in the cool of the day, they hear the voice of God as He is walking
And they can’t abide His presence, so they try to hide away;
But still they hear the sound as He is calling:

“Adam, Adam, where are you?

In the stifling heat of summer now the gardener and his wife are in the field
And it seems that thorns and thistles are the only crop his struggles ever yield
He eats his meals in sorrow ’til he sinks into the dust whence he came
But all down through the ages he can hear his Maker calling out his name.

“Adam, Adam, where are you?

And though the curse has long been broken Adams’ sons are still the prisoners of their fears
Rushing helter skelter to destruction with their fingers in their ears
While the Father’s voice is calling with an urgency I’ve never heard before
“Won’t you come in from the darkness now before it’s time to finally close the door!”

“Adam, Adam, where are you?
Adam, Adam, I love you!”

(Adam, Where Are You? by Don Francisco. From He’s Alive. Rocky Mountain Ministries © 1977)

Don Francisco’s song summarises Genesis 2 and 3 quite succinctly. He hits all the main points of the story: There’s a garden where there is no pain or disorder, where the rulers (Adam and Eve) walk around not knowing shame. In the garden there is a deceiver that “twists” the simple truths that the “king and queen” of the garden have heard. Sadly, they bow down to the deceiver, who is Satan, and bring death and sin into the world, a state that will be passed on to all generations to come.

For Don Francisco, the climax of the story is God’s question, “where are you?” Musically, the feeling is that of desperate longing, almost sad – a parent searching for a lost child in the midst of a multitude. But this God/parent does not give up. Even though Adam’s sons are “still the victims of their fears” and are “running to destruction with their fingers in their ears”, the Father’s voice is calling with unrestrained urgency, “where are you? Come in from the darkness! I love you.” This is the story of the prodigal son, the story of the lost sheep, of the widow looking for her lost coin, the story of the Hound of Heaven, the story of Mercy; the story of Salvation.

Don Francisco infuses the Garden of Eden story with a salvific message, a message of Mercy, redemption and of hope. I would love to ask Don Francisco about his lyrics and message, because it is clear by the text of some of his other songs that this message of God’s Mercy is resonant in his ministry. He has a song titled, “I Don’t Care Where You’ve Been Sleeping” that says:

And although you’ve chosen darkness with its miseries and fears,

Although you’ve gone so far from Me and wasted all those years
Even though my name’s been spattered by the mire in which you lie
I’d take you back this instant if you’d turn to Me and cry.

I don’t care where you’ve been sleeping, I don’t care who’s made your bed
I already gave My life to set you free;
There’s no sin you could imagine that is stronger than my love,
And it’s all yours if you’ll come home again to Me.

(I Don’t Care Where You’ve Been Sleeping by Don Francisco. From He’s Alive. Rocky Mountain Ministries © 1977)

This is the message of “Ayeka?” God does not need to know where we are. He knows. But we need to know where we are. God gives us the opportunity, as He gave Adam and Eve, to come clean, to tell him where we are, to come up with a “speech from the Throne”, or a “state of the union” address, to see where we are: where we came from and where we are going. Creation and disorder, Grace and fall, are not moments that happened in a garden long ago, they happen to us daily, as God continues to create us and save us through his Mercy.

Come back next week to see what all this means in our own daily life.


DcnPedro

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

2015 Year-End-Review Special


What are the highlights of 2015? What stands out most in your memory? It’s time to gather this year’s Year-In-Review Panel and look at the Church in 2015. Join Deacon Pedro and producers, Sebastian Gomes, Alicia Ambrosio and Gabriel Chow as they remember and comment on the highlights of 2015.

Visit us on Facebook or Twitter and tell us what you think was the most important story for the Church in 2015 and share with us your favourite 2015 Pope Francis photo. Use the hashtag: #SL2015.

Tonight, Thursday, December 31, 2015 at 7pm and 11pm ET (4pm and 8pm PT).
Rebroadcast: Friday, January 1, 2016 at 7pm and 11pm ET (4pm and 8pm PT).
Sunday, January 3, 2016 at 7pm and 11pm ET (4pm and 8pm PT).

Pope Creates New Diocese – Perspectives Daily

Tonight on Perspectives – Pope Francis creates the new diocese of Barisal in Bangladesh and Catholic News Service reports on how some Iraqi Christian refugees celebrated Christmas.

Deacon-structing Mercy: In the Beginning

GardenOfEden

So far we’ve looked at two things that must be present for mercy to take place, we’ve seen the direct relationship between mercy and love and forgiveness. We’ve also looked at why we are being invited to “walk through the door” of mercy this year. This week and next, as we celebrate Christmas and the beginning of the new year, let’s look at why we need mercy in the first place.

To put it very simply: we need God’s Mercy because without it we could never be united with God. Our sinful nature and God’s perfection demand justice. What is just is that human beings receive punishment because we have sinned against God. We have trespassed. We have offended God. And all of that began with the book of Genesis.

The Creation narratives in Genesis are probably the best recognised stories of the whole Bible, yet at the same time, perhaps the most misunderstood. For Christians, the story of Adam and Eve reveal the relationship between God and humans, between male and female, about sexuality, togetherness and separation from God. Pope John Paul II departed from the Genesis story to make the case for his Theology of the Body catechesis on Marriage, Sex and Love. Christian scholars throughout the centuries have referred to the third Chapter of Genesis in order to explain our human brokenness and frailty. It is used to explain the nature of sin and the devices of the tempter. St. Augustine developed the concept of Original Sin using the story of Adam and Eve’s fall. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the first sin was that of disobedience triggered by Adam and Eve’s desire to become like God. Thus Adam and Eve immediately lost for themselves and all their descendants the original grace of holiness and justice. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #396-403, #415-417)

Genesis 3 is for many the basis of moral teaching and moral understanding. For others, it explains the relationship between man and woman, and others who infuse it with Christological meaning, see in it the first mention of the Bible’s redemptive message, in fact, the first mention or insinuation of the messianic salvation. (Genesis 3:15)

For us today, as we continue our reflection on God’s Mercy, Genesis 3 is where it all began.

The shortest question in the Torah is God’s first question. Adam and Eve have just eaten fruit from the forbidden tree and, sensing God’s presence in the Garden of Eden, they hide among the trees. While they are hiding, God asks Adam a question, which in Hebrew is a one-word question: “Ayeka?” In English it means, “Where are you?

A refresher for those who haven’t looked at Genesis since their “Children’s Bible” days: First God creates everything. In the second Creation narrative (Genesis 2), God is more “hands on” than in Genesis 1: He “fashions”  Adam; He breathes life into him. He puts him in a garden. He provides this beautiful garden with fruits and plants for him to enjoy. He asks Adam to take care of the garden. God then forbids Adam to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, “for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die.” (Genesis 2:17) He then finds a suitable companion for Adam. God creates woman out of man’s rib, and the man and his wife are naked and without shame. This is where we begin our mercy story:

Out of nowhere appears the “serpent”. The serpent is described as “more crafty than any other wild animal.” (Genesis 3:1) The serpent speaks to the woman. (It is not clear whether her husband was with her at the time of the temptation, or whether he was only with her afterwards when they eat of the fruit.) The serpent raises doubts about what God had said: “You will not die. Instead you will be like God, knowing good from evil.” (Genesis 3:5) Adam and Eve eat from the fruit. They do not die, instead their eyes are “opened” and they realise that they are naked. (Genesis 3:7)

They then hear the sound of God walking in the garden, in the cool of the day, and they hide. God calls them, “Ayeka, where are you?” Adam responds by saying they are naked and hiding. God asks them how they know they are naked and then, “have you eaten from the fruit of the tree which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11) Then the blaming contest begins: Adam blaming Eve (and God: “the woman whom YOU gave to be with me”), and Eve blaming the serpent.

God then acknowledges that humans have indeed become like gods, knowing good and evil and, concerned that they would take from the other tree, the Tree of Life, and therefore live eternally, banishes them from the Garden of Eden.

This is where “Original Sin” begins. Our Church teaches that in the beginning we were in a state of original grace. Adam and Eve did not need the Sacraments – Original Sin is the state of deprivation of original holiness and justice. (CCC#417) This is why we need God’s Mercy now.

Come back next week so we can look at that question, “where are you?” in more detail.


DcnPedro

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org