reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
All the voices around Justin clamored that they had the truth he sought so desperately. He had listened to them all since he first came to Rome to get his education. They each shouted that they held the one and only answer but he felt no closer to the truth than when he had started his studies. He had left the Stoic master behind but the Stoics valued discipline as truth and thought discussion of God unnecessary. He had rejected the Peripatetic who seemed more interested in money than discussion. The Pythagorean had rejected him because he didn't know enough music and geometry -- the things that would lead him to truth. He had found some joy with the Platonists because the contemplation of ideas gave wings to his mind, but they had promised wisdom would let him see God and so, where was God?
There was one place that Justin always escaped to in order to get away from these shouting, confusing voices and search out the quiet inner voice that led him to truth. This place was a lonely spot, a path that seemed made for him alone in a field by the sea. So sure was he of the isolation of his retreat that he was shocked one day to find an old man following him.
The old man was not searching for truth but for some of his family. Nonetheless they began a discussion in which Justin identified himself as a philologian, a lover of reason. The old man challenged him -- why was he not a lover of truth, a lover of deeds. Justin told him that reason led to truth, and philosophy led to happiness. This was certainly an interesting thing for Justin to say since he had not found the truth in the study of reason or happiness in his quest among the philosophers! Perhaps the old man sensed this for he asked for Justin's definition of philosophy and of happiness.
In the long discussion that followed, Justin spoke eloquently to the old man's searching questions but even Justin had to admit that philosophers may talk about God but had never seen him, may discuss the soul but didn't really know it. But if the philosophers whom Justin admired and followed couldn't, then nobody could, right?
The old man told him about the ancient prophets, the Hebrew prophets, who had talked not of ideas but of what they had seen and heard, what they knew and experienced. And this was God. The old man ended the conversation by telling Justin to pray that the gates of light be opened to him.
Inflamed by this conversation, Justin sought out the Scriptures and came to love them. Christ words "possess a terrible power in themselves, and are sufficient to inspire those who turn aside from the path of rectitude with awe; while the sweetest rest is afforded those who make a diligent practice of them."
Why hadn't Justin known about Christianity before with as much as he had studied? He had heard about it, the way other pagans of second century Rome had, by the rumors and accusations that surrounded the persecution of Christians. The fearlessness of their actions made him doubt the gossip, but he had nothing else to go by. Christians at that time kept their beliefs secret. They were so afraid that outsiders would trample on their sacred faith and descrate their mysteries that they wouldn't tell anyone about their beliefs -- even to counteract outright lies. To be honest, there was goodreason for their fears -- many actors for example performed obscene parodies of Christianritual for pagan audiences, for example.
But Justin believed differently. He had been one of those outsiders -- not someone looking for trouble, but someone earnestly searching for the truth. The truth had been hidden from him by this fear of theirs. And he believed there were many others like him. He exhorted them that Christians had an obligation to speak of their faith, to witness to others about their faith and their mysteries.
So Justin took his newfound faith to the people. This layman became the first great apologist for Christianity and opened the gates of light for so many others. He explained baptism and Eucharist. He explained to the pagans why they didn't worship idols and why that didn't make them atheists. He explained to the Jews how Christians could worship the same God but not follow Jewish laws. He explained to the Greeks and the philosophers how philosophy did not take into account the dignity of humankind. He wrote long arguments known as apologies and traveled to other lands in order to debate publicly. His long education in philosophy and rhetoric gave him the skills he needed to match his oponents and the Holy Spirit gave him the rest.
It is not surprising that Justin was arrested during the persecution under Marcus Aurelius. Along with four others (Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus) he was brought before the Roman prefect, Rusticus, to be accused under the law that required sacrificing to idols. When Rusticus demanded that they "Obey the gods at once, and submit to the kings," Justin responded, "To obey the commandments of our Saviour JesusChrist is worthy neither of blame nor of condemnation."
When Rusticus asked what doctrines he believed, Justin told him that he had learned all the doctrines available during his quest but finally submitted to the true doctrines of the Christians, even though they didn't please others. (An understatement when he was under danger of death!)
When Rusticus asked where the Christians gathered, Justin gave a response that gives us insight into Christian community and worship of the time: "Where each one chooses and can: for do you fancy that we all meet in the very same place? Not so; because the God of the Christians is not circumscribed by place; but being invisible, fills heaven and earth, and everywhere is worshipped and glorified by the faithful."
When Rusticus asked each of them if they were a Christian, they all responded the same way: "Yes, I am a Christian." When Rusticus tried to put responsibility for this on Justin, they responded that God had made them Christians.
Just before Rusticus sentenced them he asked Justin, "If you are killed do you suppose you will go to heaven?" Justin said, "I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it."
Justin and his fellow martyrs were beheaded in the year 165 and went to be with the Truth Justin had longed for all his life. He is often known as Justin Martyr and his works are still available.
“Mary journeys, Mary encounters, Mary rejoices.” That was how Pope Francis described the Mother of Our Lord on May 31, 2019.
“Mary sings of the mighty things that the Lord has done for his humble servant; hers is the great hymn of hope for those who can no longer sing because they have lost their voice. That hymn of hope is also meant to rouse us today and to make us join our voices to it.”
The Holy Father’s remarks came during his homily during Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Bucharest, the last public event of the first day of his May 31 – June 2 apostolic journey to Romania. He went on to amplify those three aspects of Mary’s life.
First, he pointed out that her life included several journeys. She went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She traveled to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. She escaped Herod by fleeing to Egypt. She traveled to Jerusalem each year for the Passover. And she followed Jesus to his crucifixion.
“These journeys all have one thing in common: they were never easy; they always required courage and patience,” Francis said. “They tell us that Our Lady knows what it means to walk uphill, she knows what it means for us to walk uphill, and she is our sister at every step of the way. She knows what it is to be weary of walking and she can take us by the hand amid our difficulties, in the most perilous twists and turns in our life’s journey.”
Second, her life was one of “encounters”. She encountered Elizabeth — but also the Holy Spirit. And Mary and Elizabeth are not separated by their age difference.
“Remarkably, the younger woman goes to meet the older one, seeking her roots, while the older woman is reborn and prophetically foretells the future of the younger one,” the Pope explained. “Here, young and old meet, embrace and awaken the best of each. It is a miracle brought about by the culture of encounter, where no one is discarded or pigeonholed, but all are sought out because all are needed to reveal the Lord’s face.”
Third, she rejoiced. She was filled with joy upon learning that she would be the Mother of Our Lord. And in a world of so many fears, she shows us the importance of joy.
“Without joy, we remain paralyzed, slaves to our unhappiness,” the Holy Father said… “Faith wavers when it just floats along in sadness and discouragement. When we live in mistrust, closed in on ourselves, we contradict the faith.
“Mary comes to our aid, because instead of reducing things, she magnifies them in ‘magnifying’ the Lord, in praising his greatness. Here we find the secret of our joy. Mary, lowly and humble, starts from God’s greatness and despite her problems – which were not few – she is filled with joy, for she entrusts herself to the Lord in all things. She reminds us that God can always work wonders if we open our hearts to him and to our brothers and sisters.”
The Holy Father’s Full Homily
The Gospel we have just heard draws us into the encounter between two women who embrace, overflowing with joy and praise. The child leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb and she blesses her cousin for her faith. Mary sings of the mighty things that the Lord has done for his humble servant; hers is the great hymn of hope for those who can no longer sing because they have lost their voice. That hymn of hope is also meant to rouse us today and to make us join our voices to it. It does this with three precious elements that we can contemplate in the first of the disciples: Mary journeys, Mary encounters, Mary rejoices.
Mary journeys… from Nazareth to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth. It is the first of Mary’s journeys, as related by the Scriptures. The first of many. She will journey from Galilee to Bethlehem, where Jesus will be born; she will go down to Egypt to save her Child from Herod; she will go up again every year to Jerusalem for the Passover (cf. Lk 2:31), and ultimately she will follow Jesus to Calvary. These journeys all have one thing in common: they were never easy; they always required courage and patience. They tell us that Our Lady knows what it means to walk uphill, she knows what it means for us to walk uphill, and she is our sister at every step of the way. She knows what it is to be weary of walking and she can take us by the hand amid our difficulties, in the most perilous twists and turns in our life’s journey.
As a good mother, Mary knows that love grows daily amid the little things of life. A mother’s love and ingenuity were able to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 286). Contemplating Mary enables us to turn our gaze to all those many women, mothers and grandmothers of these lands who, by their quiet sacrifices, devotion, and self-denial, are shaping the present and preparing the way for tomorrow’s dreams. Theirs is a silent, tenacious and unsung sacrifice; they are unafraid to “roll up their sleeves” and shoulder difficulties for the sake of their children and families, “hoping against hope” (Rm 4:18). The living memory of your people preserves this powerful sense of hope against every attempt to dim or extinguish it. Looking to Mary and to all those mothers’ faces, we experience and are nourished by that sense of hope (cf. Aparecida Document, 536), which gives birth to and opens up the horizons of the future. Let us state it emphatically: in our people, there is much room for hope. That is why Mary’s journey continues even today; she invites us, with her, to journey together.
Mary encounters Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39-56), a woman already advanced in years (v. 7). But Elizabeth, though older, is the one who speaks of the future and, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 41), prophesies in words that foreshadow the last of the Gospel beatitudes: “Blessed are those who believe” (cf. Jn 20:29). Remarkably, the younger woman goes to meet the older one, seeking her roots, while the older woman is reborn and prophetically foretells the future of the younger one. Here, young and old meet, embrace and awaken the best of each. It is a miracle brought about by the culture of encounter, where no one is discarded or pigeonholed, but all are sought out because all are needed to reveal the Lord’s face. They are not afraid to walk together, and when this happens, God appears and works wonders in his people. The Holy Spirit impels us to go out from ourselves, from all that hems us in, from the things to which we cling.
The Spirit teaches us to look beyond appearances and enables us to speak well of others – to bless them. This is especially true with regard to our brothers and sisters who are homeless, exposed to the elements, lacking perhaps not only a roof over their head or a crust of bread, but the friendship and warmth of a community to embrace, shelter and accept them. This is the culture of encounter; it urges us as Christians to experience the miraculous motherhood of the Church, as she seeks out, protects and gathers her children. In the Church, when different rites meet, when the most important thing is not one’s own affiliation, group or ethnicity, but the People that together praise God, then great things take place. Again, let us state it emphatically: Blessed are those who believe (cf. Jn 20:29) and who have the courage to foster encounter and communion.
Mary, as she journeys to visit Elizabeth, reminds us where God desired to dwell and live, where his sanctuary is, and where we can feel his heartbeat: it is in the midst of his People. There he is, there he lives, there he awaits us. We can apply to ourselves the prophet’s call not to fear, not to let our arms grow weak! For the Lord our God is in our midst; he is a powerful savior (cf. Zeph 3:16-17). This is the secret of every Christian: God is in our midst as a powerful savior. Our certainty of this enables us, like Mary, to sing and exult with joy.
Mary rejoices because she bears in her womb Emmanuel, God-with-us: “The Christian life is joy in the Holy Spirit” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 122). Without joy, we remain paralyzed, slaves to our unhappiness. Often problems of faith have little to do with a shortage of means and structures, of quantity, or even the presence of those who do not accept us; they really have to do with a shortage of joy. Faith wavers when it just floats along in sadness and discouragement. When we live in mistrust, closed in on ourselves, we contradict the faith. Instead of realizing that we are God’s children for whom he does great things (cf. v. 49), we reduce everything to our own problems. We forget that we are not orphans, for we have a Father in our midst, a powerful savior. Mary comes to our aid, because instead of reducing things, she magnifies them in “magnifying” the Lord, in praising his greatness.
Here we find the secret of our joy. Mary, lowly and humble, starts from God’s greatness and despite her problems – which were not few – she is filled with joy, for she entrusts herself to the Lord in all things. She reminds us that God can always work wonders if we open our hearts to him and to our brothers and sisters. Let us think of the great witnesses of these lands: simple persons who trusted in God in the midst of persecution. They did not put their hope in the world, but in the Lord, and thus they persevered. I would like to give thanks for these humble victors, these saints-next-door, who showed us the way. Their tears were not in vain; they were a prayer that rose to heaven and nurtured the hope of this people.
Dear brothers and sisters, Mary journeys, encounters and rejoices because she carries something greater than herself: she is the bearer of a blessing. Like her, may we too be unafraid to bear the blessing that Romania needs. May you be promoters of a culture of encounter that gives the lie to indifference and division, and allows this land to sing out the mercies of the Lord.
“Each time we say ‘Our Father’, we state that the word Father cannot stand on its own, apart from Our. United in Jesus’ prayer, we are also united to his experience of love and intercession, which leads us to say: ‘My Father and your Father, my God and your God’ (cf. Jn 20:17),” Pope Francis proclaimed May 31, 2019, during a special service in the new Orthodox Salvation Cathedral of the People of Bucharest. “Today we wish to raise, side by side, from the heart of this country, the Lord’s Prayer.”
After his address, those gathered recited the Our Father in Latin and Romanian, punctuated by the execution of Catholic Easter songs and Orthodox Easter songs. After the final song, the Holy Father greeted several national authorities. The Holy Father is on an apostolic journey to Romania from May 31 – June 2.
Pope Francis on May 22, 2019, concluded a series of catecheses at his Wednesday General Audiences on the “Our Father.” He built on the themes of those teachings during his remarks in Bucharest:
To you, Father, who art in heaven, a heaven that embraces all and in which you make the sun rise on the good and the evil, on the just and the unjust (cf. Mt 5:45), we implore the peace and harmony that here on earth we have failed to preserve.
Together with them, we wish to hallow your name, placing it at the heart of all we do. May your name, Lord, and not ours, be the one that moves and awakens in us the exercise of charity
We wait in expectation for your kingdom to come.
Thy will be done, not our will.
Each day we need him, our daily bread. He is the bread of life (cf. Jn 6:35.48) that makes us realize that we are beloved sons and daughters, and makes us feel no longer isolated and orphaned.
Each time we pray, we ask that our trespasses, our debts, be forgiven.
And when the evil that lurks at the doorway of our heart (cf. Gen 4:7) makes us want to close in on ourselves; when we feel more strongly the temptation to turn our back on others, help us again, Father, for the essence of sin is withdrawal from you and from our neighbour.
Following are the Holy Father’s Full Remarks
Your Beatitude, Dear Brother, Dear Brothers, and Sisters,
I am grateful and moved to be in this holy temple that brings us together in unity. Jesus called the brothers Andrew and Peter to leave their nets and to become together fishers of men (cf. Mk 1:16- 17). The calling of one brother was incomplete without that of the other. Today we wish to raise, side by side, from the heart of this country, the Lord’s Prayer. That prayer contains the sure promise made by Jesus to his disciples: “I will not leave you orphaned” (Jn 14:18) and gives us the confidence to receive and welcome the gift of our brothers and sisters. I would like therefore to share some thoughts in preparation for this prayer, which I will recite for our journey of fraternity and for the intention that Romania may always be a home for everyone, a land of encounter, a garden where reconciliation and communion flourish.
Each time we say “Our Father”, we state that the word Father cannot stand on its own, apart from Our. United in Jesus’ prayer, we are also united to his experience of love and intercession, which leads us to say: “My Father and your Father, my God and your God” (cf. Jn 20:17). We are invited to make my become our, and our to become a prayer. Help us, Father, to take our brother or sister’s lives seriously, to make their history our history. Help us to not judge our brother or sister for their actions and their limitations, but to welcome them before all else as your son or daughter. Help us to overcome the temptation to act like the elder brother, who was so concerned with himself that he forgot the gift of the other person (cf. Lk 15:25-32).
To you, Father, who art in heaven, a heaven that embraces all and in which you make the sun rise on the good and the evil, on the just and the unjust (cf. Mt 5:45), we implore the peace and harmony that here on earth we have failed to preserve. We ask this through the intercession of all those brothers and sisters in faith who dwell with you in heaven after having believed, loved and suffered greatly, even in our own days, simply for the fact that they were Christians.
Together with them, we wish to hallow your name, placing it at the heart of all we do. May your name, Lord, and not ours, be the one that moves and awakens in us the exercise of charity. How many times, in prayer, do we limit ourselves to asking for gifts and listing requests, forgetting that the first thing we should do is praise your name, adore you, and then go on to acknowledge, in the brother or sister whom you have placed at our side, a living image of you. In the midst of all those passing things in which we are so caught up, help us, Father, to seek what truly lasts: your presence and that of our brother or sister.
We wait in expectation for your kingdom to come. We ask for it and we long for it because we see that the workings of this world do not favor it, organized as they are around money, personal interests, and power. Sunken as we are in an increasingly frenetic consumerism that entices us with glittering but fleeting realities, we ask you to help us, Father, to believe in what we pray for: to give up the comfortable security of power, the deceptive allure of worldliness, the vain presumption of our own self-sufficiency, the hypocrisy of cultivating appearances. In this way, we will not lose sight of that Kingdom to which you summon us.
Thy will be done, not our will. “God’s will is that all be saved” (SAINT JOHN CASSIAN, Spiritual Conferences, IX, 20). We need to broaden our horizons, Father, lest we place our own limits on your merciful, salvific will that wishes to embrace everyone. Help us, Father, by sending to us, as at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, source of courage and joy, to impel us to preach the good news of the Gospel beyond the confines of the communities to which we belong, our languages, our cultures, and our nations.
Each day we need him, our daily bread. He is the bread of life (cf. Jn 6:35.48) that makes us realize that we are beloved sons and daughters, and makes us feel no longer isolated and orphaned. He is the bread of service, broken to serve us, and asking us in turn to serve one another (cf. Jn 13:14). Father, as you give us our daily bread, strengthen us to reach out and serve our brothers and sisters. And as we ask you for our daily bread, we ask also for the bread of memory, the grace to nurture the shared roots of our Christian identity, so indispensable in an age when humanity, and the young in particular, tend to feel rootless amid the uncertainties of life, and incapable of building their lives on a solid foundation. The bread that we ask begins with a seed slowly grows into an ear of grain, is then harvested and is finally brought to our table. May it inspire us to be patient cultivators of communion, tireless in sowing seeds of unity, encouraging goodness, working constantly at the side of our brothers and sisters. Without suspicion or reserve, without pressuring or demanding uniformity, in the fraternal joy of a reconciled diversity.
The bread we ask today is also the bread of which so many people today are lacking, while a few have more than enough. The Our Father is a prayer that leaves us troubled and crying out in protest against the famine of love in our time, against the individualism and indifference that profane your name, Father. Help us to hunger to give freely of ourselves. Remind us, whenever we pray, that life is not about keeping ourselves comfortable but about letting ourselves be broken; not about accumulating but about sharing; not about eating to our heart’s content but about feeding others. Prosperity is only prosperity if it embraces everyone.
Each time we pray, we ask that our trespasses, our debts, be forgiven. This takes courage, for it means that we must forgive the trespasses of others, the debts that others have incurred in our regard. We need to find the strength to forgive our brother or sister from the heart (cf. Mt 18:35), even as you, Father, forgive our trespasses: to leave the past behind us and, together, to embrace the present. Help us, Father, not to yield to fear, not to see openness as a threat, to find the strength to forgive each other and move on, and the courage not to settle for a quiet life but to keep seeking, with transparency and sincerity, the face of our brothers and sisters.
And when the evil that lurks at the doorway of our heart (cf. Gen 4:7) makes us want to close in on ourselves; when we feel more strongly the temptation to turn our back on others, help us again, Father, for the essence of sin is withdrawal from you and from our neighbour. Help us to recognize in every one of our brothers and sisters a source of support on our common journey to you. Inspire in us the courage to say together: Our Father. Amen.
And now, let us recite the prayer that the Lord has taught us.
Christian Churches seek to be credible reflections of God’s presence and living witnesses of His example.
Pope Francis kicked off his May 31 – June 2, 2019, visit to Romania stressing this point to Romanian authorities and the diplomatic corps this morning in Bucharest.
This visit marks his 30th Apostolic Visit, 45th country visited. ZENIT French journalist, Anne Kurian, is following the trip from the papal flight.
“I am happy to find myself in your beautiful land twenty years after the visit of Saint John Paul II and in this semester when Romania, for the first time since its entrance into the European Union, holds the presidency of the Council of Europe.”
The Holy Father greeted “with fraternal love my brother Daniel,” also extending his respectful greeting to all the Metropolitans and Bishops of the Holy Synod, and to all the faithful of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Confirming Country’s Catholics in Faith
“With affection, I greet the Bishops and priests, men and women religious, and all the members of the Catholic Church, whom,” he underscored, “I have come to confirm in faith and to encourage on their journey of life and Christian witness.”
Christian Churches, the Holy Father said, “can help to rediscover and strengthen the beating heart that can be the source of a political and social action based on the dignity of the person and leading to commitment to work with fairness and generosity for the overall common good.”
“At the same time,” he continued, “they themselves seek to become a credible reflection of God’s presence and an attractive witness to his works, and, in this way, they grow in authentic mutual friendship and cooperation.”
This, Francis said, is the path that the Catholic Church wishes to follow. “She desires to contribute to the building up of society. She desires to be a sign of harmony in the hope of unity and to be at the service of human dignity and the common good.”
Pope Francis concluded, offering his prayerful good wishes for Romania’s prosperity and peace, and invoking an outpouring of God’s blessings and the protection of the Holy Mother of God.
“God bless Romania!” he said.
Below is the full Vatican-provided text of the Pope’s remarks, following their introduction: