Are all religions the same? No. Ask any practicing Jew, Muslim or Christian. Only a secularist would propose this absurdity. It doesn’t mean that religions can’t coexist. They can and have, but only when we acknowledge that they are different. So how is Christianity different from other world religions?
For the children we serve experiencing homelessness, it can be a dreaded time of year. They may worry about not being able to attend their same school because they moved into an emergency shelter or a different relative’s house over the summer.
We seldom sense the presence of the sacred in moments of terror, natural or man-made. Nature itself, of course, follows the patterns instilled in the universe by God from the moment of first creation. Of course, we humans sometimes find ourselves crosswise with nature’s powers, but God obviously means no evil intent; nature does what nature was created to do.
It all started when I read an article about Popes Francis’ initiative to provide showers for the homeless. One homeless person reportedly said, “They treat us like friends.” Here in Magadan, Russia, we don’t have many homeless, but we have some folks with handicaps who need care.
Alaska has the highest number of veterans per capita of any state in the union. It is a tragedy to see that veterans experience homelessness at a higher rate than the general population across the country.
At a recent Mass our Sunday reading was from 1 Peter 3:15-18, and included this line: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” The homilist that day told us we should spend time thinking about what our explanation would be. Hope defines a Christian. Hope is the noisy and exuberant, sometimes somber and diligent, antithesis to quiet desperation. Hope is what gets us out of bed in the morning, albeit occasionally reluctantly.
“Who is Jesus Christ for us today?” The question popped up for me again as I read the Gospel for this 14th Sunday in ordinary time where Jesus’ family and his neighbors find him: “His wisdom was beyond them. After all, is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his family living here with us?” Who is this person really?
If a young Catholic reaches adulthood with a poor understanding and personal appreciation of how the sacraments infuse her life with the grace of God, then she will feel little reason to go to regular confession, attend weekly Mass, marry in the church, baptize her children and bury her loved ones with the aid and guidance of the church. The question for many is, “What difference does it make.”
In the homily today, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke of the importance of ‘confessing faith in Christ’, of persecution and prayer. I have prayed during this week’s pilgrimage that we will all better witness to Christ – confessing him to the world around us by the lives we lead, our values, priorities, virtue and charity.
My dear family, as I write this month’s column, I am in Indianapolis for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ June assembly. Much will have transpired between now and the publication of the July Catholic Anchor. This “in between time” is the topic of my reflection, because it very much involves all of you.