Bottom line: We live in a time of great distress - but, if we are properly guided, pressure can serve a good purpose: it can transform our souls like pressure transforms coal into a diamond.
In today's second reading St. John speaks about a "time of great distress." He seems to be describing our world.* Even though we have opportunities which ancient people (even the very wealthy) would envy, still we have plenty of reason for anxiety: hostile nations with powerful weapons and small groups of terrorists (or lone gunmen) who can wreak terrible havoc; the culture of violence and casual sex which constantly bombards our children; the inability to make ends meet even with two parents employed full-time outside the home. These trends can cause great distress. On top of it all each one of us has particular personal and family problems.
Our society seems to be more frazzled, less courteous. Archbishop Brunett told about the insulting, hateful letters he received after writing an op-ed defending traditional marriage. Some of the letters, of course, came from cranks, but other came from professional people - like teachers, lawyers or doctors. In the reading from Acts we hear about the "violent abuse" which Paul and Barnabas endured. That phrase characterizes much of today's public discourse. We live in a time of great distress.
Although as Christians we should do all we can to be courteous and civil, we also should recognize that distress itself is not necessarily a bad thing. St. John speaks about those who "survived the time of great distress." They now rejoice before the throne of the Lamb, where they intercede for us. While distress is never pleasant, it can serve a useful purpose. Mother Angelica once spoke about that. "A diamond," she said, "at one time was a piece of coal." She then described the "unbelievable pressure" which turns the "ugly piece of coal" into a diamond. Just so, said Mother Angelica, with our interior lives. The Lord permits us to be inundated by pressures so he can transform us into diamonds. He wants to make all of us new.**
Because you and I are subjected to pressure and distress, we need shepherds. We can easily get discouraged, disoriented. We need shepherds to guide us. This Sunday we have the opportunity to support our chief shepherd here in Western Washington. In a few moments I will introduce a family to speak to us about the Annual Catholic Appeal. The Appeal makes possible the work of Archbishop Brunett. It enables the Archdiocese to reach out to street people, to form children, to help those in broken marriages, to educate future priests and to take care of retired and infirm priests. I have asked a family from our parish to give a testimony about why they support the Annual Catholic Appeal. Please give your full attention to Rolly and Emy Bansale and their sons, Ralph and Renard.
*In The Lord Romano Guardini describes the purpose of apocalyptic literature: "From our human outlook we are apt to feel that existence is complete in itself; that it is the primary, natural, self-understood reality which is the point of departure for all things. Behind it is nothing...In the realm of the Apocalyptic, the eternal stirs, swells to a tremendous power that pushes in our neat little doors. The temporal, which only a moment ago seemed so self-sufficient and safe, begins to totter." A comptemporary novelist who uses well the apocalyptic genre is Dean Koontz. His novel The Husband is a good example of that kind of jarring literature.
**From Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality (p. 138) by Raymond Arroyo.
From Archives (Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Parish Picture Album
My bulletin column (April 25, 2010)
St. Mary of the Valley Album
Bulletin (Auction results, prayers for immigration reform, Mass for John Carr)
Archbishop Brunett's Letter to The Seattle Times:
The word "conscience" does not even appear in your editorial, which raises the question of whether you understand the issue you are editorializing. Of equal concern is the apparent religious bigotry involved in the selection and placement of the cartoon.
Archbishop Burke explains why he resigned as Chariman of the board of Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation
Bill Donohue on The Media Reaction in St. Louis
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru