I hope you noticed that as Pope Francis left our shores a blood moon was rising that quickly went into full eclipse. So often God uses the celestial poetry of the heavenly spheres to get our attention. Think of the Magi and the Star of Bethlehem or the image that John in Revelation saw of a "woman clothed with the sun". It's not so much the movement of the celestial bodies, which occur with regular even though at times rare frequency, but the coincidence with historical events that makes us ponder.
As I watched the eclipse it seemed to be gently showing us that each of us individually and together collectively will be plunged into darkness but that the light would eventually return. The only way to navigate the darkness will be to trust firmly that the light will return. This means trusting God. Trusting that God will see us through the darkness, guide our way through it, provide what we need to endure it and lead us back into light. That is our basis for hope. But we cannot hope nor trust when we are in the midst of the darkness unless we have already learned to do so, lest fear be the basis for the choices we make. Enter the message of Pope Francis to the US.
Pope Francis brought us a message of hope and simple trust in God's plan for our lives and our world. That means trusting God's plan as it has been revealed to us in the Scriptures and imparted by the teachings of the Church. It begins with the trust we learn in our families. If our families are broken and torn apart trust is the last lesson we learn, if at all. That is why strong faith-filled families are essential. The Holy Father issued a clarion call for all of us to strengthen families, which in turn strengthens the Church. He reminded us of all the dangers that our modern world poses for the family and that our only hope of remaining united lies in our willingness to show each other mercy: the very same mercy that Christ demonstrated to us by His willingness to give Himself totally to His Father.
The Church is also giving us the upcoming Year of Mercy as a time to practice mercy. The reason we practice anything is so that it becomes like second nature to us. When we always have to think about the rules of the game our play is weak and uncoordinated. But once we internalize the game's structure we play with ease. Again when dark times come we won't have time to learn the game for we will be in the midst of it. So use this time of preparation wisely.
Our Bishop has issued his own clarion call to the men of our Diocese. "Into the Breach" (www.intothebreach.net) an Apostolic Exhortation by Bishop Olmsted "To my Spiritual Sons in the Diocese of Phoenix" lays down a challenge for Catholic men to step into the ever-widening breach that is causing the collapse of our Catholic culture and families.
Over the years I have come to know our Bishop very well and his deep-rooted faith and love of the Church are always very evident. But I must say this Apostolic Exhortation surprised me. Not so much for its subject matter but for its forcefulness and deep sense of urgency.
From the Exhortation:
"Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes."Men please take time to read this and digest the challenge our Bishop lays down.
So celestial signs, a Papal visit and a Bishop's exhortation set the agenda for the upcoming months for the Church in the USA. Hopefully we don't need to be smacked in the head with a two-x-four for God to get our attention. Let he who has ears, hear!
Love, Fr. John B.
Photo of the Blood Red Moon over Phoenix was taken and photoshopped by Matt Suess and here is the link to how he did it: http://mattsuess.com/making-blood-moon-lunar-eclipse-photo-part-1/