Evening reflection: God’s purpose

Today’s readings focus heavily of sin and the need to avoid it, better ourselves. So too in this slightly expanded reading at Vespers:

“So, my dear friends, you have always been obedient; your obedience must not be limited to times when I am present. Now that I am absent it must be more in evidence, so work out your salvation in fear and trembling.
It is God who, for his own generous purpose, gives you the intention and the powers to act. Let your behaviour be free of murmuring and complaining so that you remain faultless and pure, unspoilt children of God surrounded by a deceitful and underhand brood, shining out among them like bright stars in the world.”

Philippians 2: 12-15

What struck me here is the line “It is God who, for his own generous purpose, gives you the intention and the powers to act”. I have frequently written that God created us as free creatures, capable of independent thought and action. Yes, that’s not just an ability of ours, but an obligation. In the line quoted we find confirmation of that, but with the added qualification that we are so created for God’s own purpose.

Whenever we do, say, write or think something, there is a reason for it, and we have some purpose for it. It’s no different for God. He has created us for a purpose, and our own purposes and goals should be seen in the framework of His purpose with us. Sin has no place there, since it is not an attribute of God, and we should therefore work hard to get it out our system. The first step, as St. Paul indicates above, is to “be free of murmuring and complaining”. A tall order, to say the least, but a possible one with our own free faculties used within the framework of God’s purpose.

Giving no quarter: Cardinal Eijk on the offensive

In a letter dated to the fifth of March, Cardinal Wim Eijk has informed the priests, deacon, pastoral workers and others with a mission from the archbishop of Utrecht that he will be focussing more closely on how the liturgy, especially that of the Eucharist, is celebrated in the Archdiocese of Utrecht. It is a letter with a rather harsh tone, as the passage quoted below illustrates. One can debate if such a tone is justified, but the cardinal does address a serious concern: a worthy celebration of the Eucharist in union with the world Church is not a given in many Dutch parishes. When he was bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden, Cardinal Eijk saw himself faced with the same problem, and it seems clear that he intends to use the same tried and tested method that worked in the past.

“Out of my office and responsibility as archbishop of Utrecht I [..] urge all priests, deacons, pastoral workers and spiritual caregivers who are working with a pastoral mission in the Archdiocese of Utrecht to know and carefully follow the liturgical regulations which are in force for the Holy Eucharist as well as for other liturgical celebrations (as established in the Code of Canon Law, the General Instruction for the Roman Missal and the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum).

[…]

Should it happen that in the future I will have to conclude that the liturgical regulations which are in force for the Holy Eucharist and/or other liturgical celebrations have once again been violated, I will not hesitate to impose, or have imposed, canonical sanctions on those responsible, not excluding retraction of their pastoral mission.

I very much hope that it will not have to come to this and that you, from your various offices and duties, will all continue to contribute loyally to a dignified and correct celebration of the liturgy, especially the Holy Eucharist, in our archdiocese.”

Will hackles be raised? Will people feel attacked and will there be protests? No doubt. But the fact remains that there is a major problem in how too many people treat the liturgy of the Church: as outdated rules that are out of touch with modern faithful, a burden on the people’s spirituality. But where the liturgy of the Church is given a chance, spirituality becomes a mature faith.

Photo credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

An attempt at tackling the hard questions

In the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch yesterday, some 30 pastoral workers gathered for a day of reflection. Among the items on the agenda was a meeting with Bishop Antoon Hurkmans where certain current affairs were discussed. I want to share one of the points discussed, as well as the bishop’s response, with you:

Why are the Dutch bishops always so silent about current topics such as the mobile euthanasia teams?

“In the Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch we expressly spoke about euthanasia following the Liempde affair. Other topics, such as San Salvator, have also proven to be worthy of media attention.”

I am glad the question is being asked, because too often the culture of death in this country seems to be taken for a fact by much of the populace, including the Catholic segment. It is good that people now wonder if the Church in should not be taking a public  stand against it. Bishop Hurkmans’ answer is far from satisfactory, though. The two examples he mentions, Liempde and San Salvator, are small brush fires compared to the larger developments in the entire western world. They are fairly local affairs which concern the internal affairs of a diocese (although they should be taken seriously by all Catholics) more than a concerted effort to counter developments.

A second point is the fact that the diocese is the passive party here. The affairs that Bishop Hurkmans mentions only seem to be worthy of attention because the media say they are. The Church should be able to decide for herself what she thinks is worth discussing, promoting or criticising. The bishops can’t sit back and let the media do the work for them. As bishops of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands they must take the lead as shepherds. That should include, in my opinion, a clear and active voice against such developments as the promotion of abortion, euthanasia and other examples of the culture of death.

That’s not happening now.