Greetings from Roma! Here we are on Day 3 off our Pilgrimage. Hard to believe that - and that tomorrow we're leaving Rome (only for a few days... as we head off to Orvieto and Assisi, but don't want to get ahead of myself)
Today started with a stroll to St. Peter's Square to see what was going on there.
- yep... thousands upon thousands in the square to see Papa Francesco! (He's the little white figure in the window in the second pic) Pretty much every Sunday that the Holy Father is in Rome, he leads the faithful in "The Angelus" a mid-day prayer consisting of 3 Hail Mary's and an Our Father recalling the Annunciation (when God invited Mary to become the Mother of God) While it was "a brief visit" with Pope Francis, it was still amazing to experience the beauty of being Catholic - people of God from around the world united around their Spiritual Father praying together.
After we headed out for more touring around Rome, hitting some more spectacular sights. But first, we had to obey the Holy Father as he ended his Angelus with Buon Pranzo - which means, have a good lunch... So we got to go off to a beautiful square and just have a leisurely (and amazing) meal.
It brought back memories of Sundays growing up where our whole family would eat at my grandmother's. We - especially as Americans - have lost so much as we've given up the Sabbath to NFL-MLB-NBA - not to mention kids sports leagues, shopping, etc.
Today we celebrated Sunday Mass together at a minor basilica dedicated to St. Andrew. Don't let that title mislead you. It's only called "minor" in relation to the 4 basilica's that are "Papal Basilicas" - or Basilicas of the Vatican. Nothing about this place is minor! Truly a spectacular place and somewhat special personally - 3 years ago this was the Church where I celebrated Mass for the first time in Rome!
thanks to one of our pilgrims, Lauren Daigle, for this incredible pic from today's Mass (as well as yesterdays)
Here's my Homily for SUNDAY July 20 -the readings can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072014.cfm
In college, I took a class called the Philosophy of God. One of the most interesting debates we had in that class was over Why do people decide not have any religious affiliation? Probably not very surprising - the major reason that those who fell into that group cited was that they felt people who go to Church are just like everybody else (actually, the way they put it - "people who go to Church are as lousy as everyone else") They said Christians were hypocrites, they were liars, gossips, cheats, etc. among them just like everywhere else in society.
The second reason wasn’t too surprising either - "If there’s a good God, why does he allow so much evil to exist in the world?" People seem upset, (justifiably by the way) that things are not perfect! They are upset just like the servants in the Gospel today –why are there weeds among the wheat? Why isn’t the harvest going to turn out right? Why would the work of the good master fail?
While it’s true, there are some people who are always critical and will never change - for most of us, the problem is we are just intimidated by these darn weeds. We all wonder why they are there...It becomes easy to simply focus on the weeds - their existence - their presence among us and forget the beautiful garden - the flowers that are blooming alongside the weeds.
Sorry to disappoint you - I don’t have the answer as to why God allows the devil to cast his evil into the garden (or, why we continue to allow it to enter in through our sinfulness...) But one thing that’s clear - the Lord will take care of it in His time.
That, unfortunately, requires patience (something I’m not a great fan or practitioner of myself). We are challenged not to dwell, not to be discouraged, not to give more attention to the weeds or more importantly to the Evil in the world.
We are called to recognize the evil, we are called to resist it and to pray that God will take care of it in His time.
In the meantime, we are simply called to do Good instead of Evil -
to bless instead of curse,
to praise instead of criticize,
to forgive instead of resent
to love instead of hate.
The reality is that doesn’t make us feel too good, does it? We still are miffed that those darn weeds are in the field. But if we think about it, we should be happy that God waits a while - that he tells his servants to hold back - that he allows the harvest to grow. Because truth be told - sometimes I’m the weed. There are times things I have done (or failed to do) that didn’t help the Lord’s harvest, didn’t glorify him, didn’t build up his garden.
And yet he gives me - he gives you - he gives us time to come back to him. He allows the evil to exist so that what is good might grow - not in the fields - but in the hearts and souls of each and everyone of us. God created us in his divine image and even though we sometimes act like weeds, we still have the potential within to turn good. Think about it what a blessing that for us as Catholics, we are one good confession away from weeding our garden.
That’s one of the things we recognize here in this Basilica dedicated to St. Andrew - the brother of St. Peter. The humanity of the Apostles is always on display for us. We see in Jesus’ closest circle, as they sat in his presence, experienced the miracles, witnessed all kinds of earthshattering moments (raising people from the dead) - there own weeds would reemerge at the most inopportune times. Yet, ultimately, in faith, they kept persevering - to the moment where they became heroes for Christ - Martyrs for Christ - not only demonstrating how beautiful their own faith had grown, but nourishing ours 2000 years later.
For each of us, we can’t hide our heads in the sand and pretend the presence of evil in the world or in our lives isn’t there. But we always, always, always have to come back to the truth that God’s Love is stronger and even more real, even more present in our lives.
Don’t focus on the weeds and how ugly and destructive they are. Rather, we are to call on the Holy Spirit who is challenging us to yank those weeds out of our own lives - and to recognize what a beautiful world God has given us - what beautiful creatures he has made us.