Pastoral Sharings: "23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
  September 7, 2014 

There are quite a few instructions for the Christian  
disciple in today’s readings.

The Prophet Ezekiel tells us that the Lord appointed him 
as a sentry to the House of   Israel. It was his task as a prophet to correct the wicked; to warn them of the 
consequences of their evil ways otherwise their destruction becomes his responsibility.

As a prophet, Ezekiel’s task was to speak out and clearly explain the commands of the Lord. Paul is doing the same sort of thing in his Letter to the Romans; he tells them that they must obey all the commandments and love their neighbours.

Paul’s language is more moderate and poetic than that of Ezekiel: Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. Just as Christ did, Paul focuses down all the commandments to this one command of love.

In our Gospel passage St Matthew recounts Jesus’ instructions to the disciples about how they should deal with a brother who does something wrong. It is the duty of the disciple to point out the error and even to underline it should he not be well received the first time.

St Matthew obviously wants to let the Christians in his community know how to deal with those who drift away from the teaching of Christ or blatantly contravene the commandments. And he chooses those words of Jesus which most stress the authority and the competence of the Christian community, the Church, to deal with these cases: Whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

However, there are some safeguards built into this teaching on reproving those who go astray. Jesus says that first of all you must have it out with him alone. This might lead to a speedy solution and the person’s good name is preserved.

If this achieves nothing, then you can go to him with witnesses and only then appeal to the community. The assumption all along is that the matter is serious; after all we can’t go making complaints about someone to the Church authorities on anything trivial. Yet it seems that the only sanction is that the person be excluded from the community of the Church. That is surely the meaning of the words: treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

But in considering such matters we must be very careful; for getting all worked up about the behaviour of another can frequently be a sign of something else, something much closer to home. It can often be a projection on to others of our own very real but hard-to-face problems.

One of the greatest differences between the Catholicism of my grandparent’s generation and that of today is the lack of stress nowadays on the frequent examination of conscience.

If you look in an old prayer book you will find a fair quota of pages given over to the examination of one’s conscience. It was something every Catholic did nightly as part of their night prayers. It was something done especially before receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion.

I looked up Night Prayers in my grandmother’s old prayer book and found this one: O my Lord Jesus Christ, judge of the living and the dead, before whom I must appear one day to give an exact account of my whole life; enlighten me, I beseech thee, and give me a humble and contrite heart, that I may see wherein I have offended thine infinite majesty, and judge myself now with such a just severity, that then thou mayest judge me with mercy and clemency.

The rubrics then invited the reader to examine what sins he or she had committed and, as it said, to conceive a great sorrow for having offended God.

It is very easy to be conscious of the sins of others and to find in oneself a great zeal to see that these are brought to light and corrected. But this is not the act of the true disciple of Christ.

Rather we who aim to follow Jesus should call to mind the occasion when the woman was caught in adultery and be too ashamed of our own sins to cast the first stone.

It is undoubtedly important to speak the truth. This is the role of every prophet throughout the ages and each one of us as been anointed as a Prophet of the New Testament in our Baptism so we should fearlessly speak out the truth. We should name sin and the works of the evil one for what they are.

But not everyone can bear to hear the complete truth, not everyone is fit or able to receive it, especially when it is aimed at uncovering a moral or personal failing. The naked truth can be crushing.

So what do we do? Well I think we go back to St Paul and further back again to Christ whose words he quotes. The sum of all the commandments is to love our neighbour; this comes before everything else.

So let us speak the truth, but let us speak the truth in love. Let us do things Christ’s way, let us do whatever we do in love. Jesus was himself the very personification of the truth but he was also the very personification of love. And these two virtues were not separated in him.

Like the Prophet Ezekiel we too may rightly consider ourselves sentries of the House of Israel. The sentry must be ever vigilant, but he must also be ever loyal. We can watch out for others who contravene the rules of the Christian life but first we must be sure of ourselves, certain first that we ourselves are in full conformity with the Lord’s commands.

The sentry is vigilant and loyal, but he is also armed and ready to use his weapons. But the arms of the Christian sentry are not the weapons of war; rather they are the weapons of love.

The true disciple loves his neighbour just as much as he loves himself. His weapons are the weapons of the gospel; they are goodness, kindness, gentleness and fraternal concern.

And if our sentry happens to turn a blind eye to his own faults then he can surely turn a blind eye to the faults of his neighbour.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 7, 2014

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—September 7, 2014
Previously in this Gospel, Jesus has spoken about authority in His Church. Today, He shows us how it works.

Gospel (Read Mt 18:15-20)

Today, Jesus teaches His disciples about life in the Church He intends to build. Earlier (Mt 16), He established Peter as its head, giving him the “keys” to the kingdom. Now, He addresses various situations that will undoubtedly arise in His community of followers as they seek to live the new life of that kingdom.

Twenty-third Sunday: Sentinels of Love
As you might know, I’m a city boy.  I grew up in Northern Jersey in what was really a suburb of New York City.  So, I don’t know a whole lot about life in the country.  Still I heard something about the country that I believe is true.  I heard that when crows are descending on a crop, say eating corn or whatever is available, there is always one crow that stands guard high up from a tree.  That crow’s job is to warn the others if he sees a fox or any animal that could attack them.  Now, what I heard was that if the crow does not warn the other crows, and they are attacked, the surviving crows will kill the unobservant sentinel.

Eucharistic Healing
I Thirst

Among many Catholics there is a privation, a sense of absence and even estrangement from true communion with God. This is a paralyzing reality among some believers. How can this be when Jesus is always and truly present in the Eucharist, on the altars and in the tabernacles of the world? Jesus hasn’t abandoned us; He is truly and perpetually present. In His Presence there

Knowing the Trinity
Richard of St. Victor, a 12th-century Scottish theologian, is not exactly a household name in 21st-century Christian circles. Truth to tell, I only know of him because of a curious conversation I once had with my friend, the late Richard John Neuhaus, who, as only he could, told me of a friendly discussion he’d had with Rabbi David Novak one summer about the Scotsman’s Trinitarian theology, which tried to establish by reason that God must be triune. (We talked about a lot of strange and wondrous things, up there on the cottage deck in the Ottawa Valley.)

Saying Yes to Spiritual Discipline
When you watch your favorite athlete what do you notice?  Are you impressed by the grace and skill he brings to the game?  Are you awed by his flawless technique? No doubt, you’re also taken with how much he seems to enjoy what he is doing. Because it looks so easy and fun, we should not assume that he is so good just because he was born with all those talents and skills. We know of many talented athletes who were failures through lack of discipline. For most athletes, to get to the top of their profession requires rigorous discipline.

7 Things You Need to Know About The Catholic Church
- The purpose of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus. Too many people have a false understanding of the purpose of the Catholic Church. After Jesus made the Church, He gave a clear mission statement to His apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” -Matt 28:19-20. Everything else the Church does, feed the hungry, perpetuate the Sacraments, etc. is in service to this mission. Evangelization isn’t optional.

On Lying
Daniel Mahoney’s book, The Other Solzhenitsyn, follows the judicious pattern with which Mahoney, in previous books, treated de Gaulle, Aron, Manent, and other writers. We note that one of the commandments tells us not to “lie.” After reading Mahoney, we suspect that the “lie,” not murder, adultery, or stealing, is the most heinous of all the sins.

God Has a Flare for the Dramatic
NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has recently disclosed that two years ago, on July 23, 2012, planet Earth almost plunged into global catastrophe.

On that date, a solar flare — better known in scientific parlance as a “coronal mass ejection” (CME) — came close to hitting the Blue Planet and disabling electrical appliances everywhere, thereby causing a widespread global blackout. It was the most powerful storm on the sun in more than 150 years.

What You Owe Your Wife
Married love is a potent teacher of truth. The family, as the Church points out, is the “school of love”.  And as a father, I’m learning more and more how vital the love I have and live towards my family has consequences beyond my home.  It’s a school of love, but I am probably not the best headmaster.  But, this headmastership is not an appointment but a vocation, a calling, and God has promised and proven that He sustains and directs those that he calls.  God be with this fool, and if I am a fool may I be one for you.

Sanctity in the Small Things
As Jesus watched at the entrance of the Temple the money being thrown into the treasure-box, He did not pay so much attention to the rich and their large sums that they threw in. Indeed they wanted to be seen and applauded for their abundance given ostentatiously.

Then a poor widow threw a few small coins in the treasure box barely amounting to anything! This was the person that Jesus looked at with great love and approval. Why? Not for the economic substance of her offering—it was barely anything. Rather, Jesus read the depths of her heart. She was giving generously all that she had to live on.

On the Glory of Purgatory
Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross by S. Mark Heim is a fascinating exposition of the thought of Rene Girard to the theology of the atonement or “what really happened when Jesus died on the cross. I’m reading it as part of my research for a book I am working on called The Sacred Sacrifice which will be an explanation and expansion of Girard’s thought for a popular audience.

Toward the end of the book Heim meditates on an element of Anselm’s thought on the atonement, and records this dialogue in Anselm on the need we have not only for forgiveness, but for participation in forgiveness.

Wake Up, The Glory of the Martyrs Shines Upon You!
In his moving novel, Silence, Japanese-Catholic author Shusako Endo once described the continent of Asia as a “swamp” that choked the sapling of the Gospel and made it uninhabitable for Christianity. That image has always haunted me because a part of my own journey — as a convert to Christianity from Buddhism — has been to bridge two seemingly irreconcilable worlds.

Ohio teen with Down syndrome on journey to serve at Mass in 50 states
HARTFORD, Conn. (CNS) — Kara Jackson, a 16-year-old altar server from Holy Family Parish in Middletown, Ohio is on a quest to serve at Mass in all 50 states.

So far she has served at liturgies in 18 states after recently serving at a morning Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.

Kara’s endeavor is a journey of faith that began in 2013. She has traveled with her family to serve at Masses in states as far west as Nevada, as far south as Georgia and as far east as Maine.

Taste and See: The Five Senses of Faith
Ever since Christ invited Doubting Thomas—for whom a vision of the resurrected Son of God was not enough—to put his hands into the visible wounds, Christian faith has engaged with all five senses of the body.

Faith most obviously comes through hearing, as St. Paul first taught us. But in ways subtle and sublime it also is related to each of the four other senses, even the sense of smell and taste.

Thinking Liturgically: The Gloria
After the Confetior and a few short prayers (such as the Kyrie), the priest then intones the Gloria by proclaiming the first few words aloud:  Gloria in excelsis Deo, Glory to God in the highest.  We are reminded of the night Christ was born, when the angels proclaimed this very phrase to the world.

What we might not realize is that we are joining the angels in that proclamation.  The angels said these words to announce to all humanity that a savior had arrived.  In the singing of the Gloria we announce every part of the Gospel for the world, and as a reminder to ourselves of that Gospel.

The Five Stages of Religious Persecution
I first wrote on the topic of religious persecution over two years ago and since then things have only gotten worse. Clearly the situation in Iraq is awful. But here in the U.S. as well, the threats against religious liberty have continued.

Let Christ Be Your Model in the Spiritual Life
There are very few Christians, even among those who are es­pecially consecrated to God, who have a right idea of what true virtue is. Almost all of them imagine it to consist in a cer­tain routine of piety and in fidelity to certain exterior prac­tices. If with this they have at intervals some emotion of sensible devotion, without taking care to discern whether these emotions come from God or from their own efforts, they at once conclude that they are really virtuous.

Remain Here
Our approximately 48-hour visit to the “top of the mountain” neared its end. I knew we soon would be leaving, with only mid-day prayer and a lunch of Vietnamese food ahead on the schedule. I wanted to savor that prayer experience, to let it satisfy my spiritual taste buds in a way no food ever could.
Perhaps, I thought, I had a bit of Peter in me: Lord, it is good for us to be here.

Find Your Strength in Simplicity
Why does the Gospel present to us the dove as the model and ideal of Christian simplicity, saying, “Be ye . . . sim­ple as doves”?1 To understand this, we must have a clear idea of what simplicity really is.

Simplicity, or purity of intention, consists in keeping before yourself, in all your thoughts, words, and acts, one and the same end, one and the same object — namely, the pleasing of God, or, more accurately, the doing of His will. Thus understood, simplicity appears to us as a virtue at once essential and far-reaching.

What 10 Priests Say About Video Games
10 priests were recently asked to write roughly 4 sentences on the topic of video games. Here is what they said…

Five Ways to Be Catholic at Work
Maybe it’s because of September. Maybe it’s because the great Patrick Lencioni will be on campus next week. Maybe it’s because my desk is a pile of papers each facing a different direction … but I have been thinking a lot about work recently. I looked up saintly advice on how to do it better. Here is what I found.

Treasures of Divine Life
On September 6, 2014, Archbishop Aquila is hosting a special catechetical event to repropose the ancient order of the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.   The Catechetical Congress draws its name from a passage in the Catechism, “Treasure of Divine Life.”  These are notes from a presentation in which we will consider how the signs used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist have a certain order in the Bible, and this order reveals the splendor of what it means to be fully human and fully alive.

Pope Francis to celebrate wedding Mass for 20 couples
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis will officiate at the weddings of 20 couples who plan to tie the knot at St. Peter’s Basilica on Sept. 14.

The Vatican said Friday (Aug. 29) that the couples, all from Rome, would be married by the pope, who is also recognized as the bishop of Rome.

My Big Profound Spiritual Revelation
What a day! Bus late, no breakfast, missed deadline, headaches, depression and post-nasal drip. And when I got home my kids were whiney, my wife mentally quick-fried to a crackly crunch and I was as prickly as a porcupine.

Summoning fatherly concern to its height, I brushed past my weepy child and made for a darkened bedroom (stopping briefly to peck my wife Janet on the cheek). She asked for some kind of help–something about setting the table–but “Urk,” was all I mumbled in reply. I just wanted to go blotto with a pillow over my head till dinner. Maybe with luck an asteroid would strike the earth, annihilate civilization and I could rest.

Virtue Is Attractive: The Crossroads Walk
For the past 20 years, some wonderful young college students have been participating in “Crossroads Walk,” dedicating the 3 months of their summer vacation to trek each year across the nation on behalf of life.

The walk started in 1995 when 15 Franciscan University of Steubenville (OH) students took up then-Pope John Paul II’s challenge to you to spread the gospel of life. Those 15 students now number several hundred thousand and their 1 annual walk has grown into 3. Beginning in May and ending in August, participants trek from Seattle, San Francisco, and San Jose-Los Angeles, crossing 36 states before reaching their destination: Washington, DC. Each group covers anywhere from 10k-15k miles. Weekends feature the groups praying, providing counselling in front of abortion clinics, and speaking at local churches.

Who is the False Prophet of the End Times?
I was brought up in a Protestant church steered by dispensationalist theology.

The preachers loved to study the Biblical books of prophecy almost like fortune tellers to try to predict the future. They tried to read the Biblical books of prophecy in one hand and yesterday’s paper in the other.

Don’t Give in to Discouragement: Finding Hope in the Trials of Life
Psychologists tell us that one of the chief evils of our age, an evil apparently less evident in earlier ages, is that of easy defeat. Be this as it may, most people who are honest with themselves would probably have to admit to indulging in despondency. They are fortunate if they have nothing worse to confess than despondency; there are many who labor under the weight of near-despair. Whether guilty of surrendering to the tempta­tion or whether burdened with a sense of guilt that in fact is without foundation, a man can reduce his spiritual vitality so as virtually to close his soul to the operation of hope. When hope dies, there is very little chance for faith and charity.

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Pastoral Sharings: "22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 31, 2014

Last week we heard in our Gospel reading about Peter’s
spontaneous profession of faith “You are the Christ, the
Son of the Living God.” This was followed by Christ’s
great mandate to Peter and his successors, “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” And yet here we are with the immediately following text where Jesus calls Peter a stumbling block and says, “Get behind me Satan!” It is hard to credit that these two things should be in the same Gospel, let alone in the same chapter.

Of course, since we are dealing with a period of three years condensed into twenty-six short chapters (excluding the infancy narratives) we are not expected to take the chronology absolutely literally. For the sake of brevity and the need for a flowing text, things that happened at different times and on different days are often placed right next to each other and so we sometimes get the impression that one followed immediately on the other. However, there are some clues that last week’s Gospel text and this week’s one did not happen immediately after each other. In the first line this week we are told that “Jesus began to speak” about going up to Jerusalem and suffer and die at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees and then rise again.

This is important because it is the first prediction of his passion in Matthew’s text. But we are not given any exact data about the timing. When it says “he began to speak to them” it is not very specific and so we must take it to mean from that time on, not necessarily the very next minute. Whatever the actual timing, Matthew has deliberately chosen to put these incidents together. First we have the profession of Peter’s faith together with Jesus’ declaration that it is on the rock of Peter that he will build his Church and then immediately following we have the text today about him becoming a stumbling block and the famous phrase “Get behind me Satan.” Matthew puts these two things together as a warning to us, the members of the Church, the people to whom this Gospel is primarily addressed. It is a warning that we should not take the first part of the text in any sort of triumphal way.

We should not become so confident that we are members of the true Church of Christ that we start to believe that this means we can do no wrong. Actually, what he is telling us is that we have to tread very carefully indeed so as not to become the very opposite of what we are meant to represent. Peter did not mean to offend Jesus, and he certainly did not want to do anything to obstruct Jesus’ plan of salvation; it is simply that he didn?t understand it in all its fullness. Peter was simply saying the kind of thing any other human being would say in the circumstances; he can’t really believe that Jesus would need to suffer and die. Because he loves Jesus he does not want him to die and so comes out with his statement of disbelief.

One can’t help but think of how human Peter was; his very impulsiveness being one of his most endearing characteristics. It seems that in the Gospels he always speaks from the heart even if what he says is a bundle of contradictions. We find this to be very reassuring. Jesus did not choose the perfect man on which to build his Church. No, he chose a man like us; someone with all the same sorts of faults and contradictions that we recognise within ourselves and yet someone who is essentially good and straightforward.

Even when we get to the moment of Peter’s greatest betrayal, when he denies Christ three times, we find that it is not something blatantly bad that he is doing. Actually he is trying to be near Jesus, to find out what is going to happen to him and, one is tempted to think, try to help Jesus if he can. What happens is that his cover is blown, he is recognised and it is the panic that this induces that causes Peter to deny that he even knows Jesus. And here in our text today we see that Peter’s real intention was not to be a stumbling block so much as to try to protect Jesus from harm. We are inclined to think that Jesus is being a bit hard on poor Peter in order to stress very clearly what is going to happen and that anything that gets in its way is contrary to the will of his Father.

The underlying assumption of Peter is that suffering is bad and it is something that we should be protected from, and this is an assumption that we all share in our everyday lives. Christ, though, tells us something different; he tells us and shows us in his own life that suffering is redemptive. He tells us that suffering is essential to his work of salvation. One of the greatest problems in the world is that people do not seem to understand this anymore. And indeed one of the most common arguments against the existence of God put forward by ordinary people today is that God allows the innocent to suffer. What they fail to take into account is that suffering has a meaning.

They fail to understand that it is often only through suffering and struggle that a greater good can come about. Now this is not to say that suffering and pain are good in themselves or we would feel obliged to flagellate ourselves every five minutes! No this would be a distortion of God’s intention. But we do know that in suffering there is something deeply mysterious, valuable and redemptive.

In time Peter was to come to understand the meaning of the Cross. We know that when faced with his own crucifixion at the hands of the Romans he asked to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to imitate Christ. There is another tradition which tells us of Peter leaving Rome to escape persecution and as he passes down the Via Appia meets Christ travelling in the opposite direction, towards Rome.

He greets Christ with the words “Quo Vadis, Domine?” Where are you going, Lord? Only for Jesus to respond that he was going to Rome to be crucified once again. At which point Peter turned around and returned to the city to face his own death. This little story might be apocryphal but there is something in it for each one of us.

Our following of Christ will inevitably lead to the Cross and it is how we regard the Cross that will determine our response to it. We will then face the moment of truth; which we hope, with God’s help, will be the moment of our salvation.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 31, 2014

Every Round Goes Higher, Higher – A Homily for the 22nd Sunday of the Year
In today’s Gospel the Lord firmly sets before us the need for the Cross, not as an end in itself, but as the way to glory. Let’s consider the Gospel in three stages.

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—August 31, 2014
Gospel (Read Mt 16:21-27)

In the verses preceding today’s passage, Jesus and Peter had a remarkable exchange. Peter identified Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God; Jesus announced that God had revealed this truth to him. On that basis, Jesus changed his name and made him head of the Church He was to build. He made a promise to preserve that Church, giving us some confidence that He wasn’t making a terrible mistake. However, in today’s reading, that confidence gets tested.

Twenty-second Sunday: Conform or Be Transformed?
“Times have changed, Father.  I’m only doing what is perfectly acceptable by our society.” And with these words, the elderly lady explained away her present living condition.  And with the same words, the young man justified his “wild” lifestyle, and with the same words the substance abuser justified his actions. And on and on and on.  Add in whatever immoral behavior you can think of, and someone will say, “I’m only doing what is perfectly acceptable by society.”

Twenty Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
Matthew 16 : 21 – 27

Last week we heard a passage immediately before this Gospel in which Peter responded to the question of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter makes a profession of faith in Jesus in declaring his belief that “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16: 16) Jesus’ response to this shows his high regard toward Peter, “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16: 18 – 19) This is followed by Jesus making the first prediction of His Passion. Peter gives, what seems to be, a sensible and caring response, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” (Matthew 16:22) The response of Jesus to this was no doubt unexpected by Peter. “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16: 23)

You Can Be With Him In Paradise
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father” (Mt 7:21); yet the Good Thief, whom tradition has named “Dismas,” says “Lord,” and Jesus promises him paradise that very day. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Besides acknowledging Jesus as Lord,  in the short time that he encountered Jesus and died with him on Mount Calvary, how else did Dismas do the will of the Father?

Encounters with Angels
A visit to the local bookstore will reveal a whole shelf of books on angel encounters, angel channeling, and angelology. There’s even a book called The Physics of Angels which tries to blend quirky physics theories with the theology of St Thomas Aquinas. A quick look at the books on offer make you realize that the New Age understanding of angels stretches from “listening to the light within” to the fully fledged summoning up of the “dark angels” — in other words, modern angelology is the stuff of fantasy, neo-gnosticism and a rather nasty occult religion.

How Can I have a Better Relationship with God?
Dear Father John, I want to follow Christ more closely but I don’t seem to be doing that.  How can I draw closer to Christ?  How can I have a better relationship with God?

Frustrations in Prayer
Fr. Ronald Knox, an English Catholic of the early 20th century and convert, gave retreats and talks to lay people to help them deepen and improve their spiritual life. In his Spiritual Guidance for Christian Living: A Retreat for Lay People, he gathers two dozen talks and homilies written for lay people and the troubles they experience. One chapter deals with the rich young man from Mark 10:17-31.

I cannot feel God’s presence, am I a bad person?
I am a Catholic or try to be one, and I am having problems feeling the Power of my religion. I have been so hurt throughout my life and I’ve tried to forgive the people, but it does no good. I feel like I get far more satisfaction out of my work than my faith. It’s so hard for me to get the concept that when I go to communion, its Jesus’ Body and Blood that I’m receiving. That is so deep to me that I can’t grasp it.

The 14 Most Challenging, Radical, Do-We-Really-Have-To Teachings of Jesus
Everyone loves Jesus – until they read what he really taught.

Jesus’s life and teachings are just as radical today as they were 2000 years ago. It’s easy to call ourselves Christians. But are we really willing to accept and follow everything Jesus taught?

All of Christ’s teachings are important, but here are some of the most challenging:

Jesus Wept
Since my beloved son Larry died last year, not a day has gone by that I have not thought of him.  Immediately after his death I would think about him, literally, almost every minute of each day.  Now it is usually once every 15 minutes.  He enriched beyond measure the life of myself and my bride and I miss him with all my heart.  Larry had autism, and, as a result of his autism, my conversations with him were limited in words, although we each got our meanings across.  I greatly admired the way in which my son did not let his disability add sorrow to his life, and the joy he normally radiated warmed my soul.  I have had several privileges in my life that have been granted me by God, but I think the greatest was being entrusted with Larry.

Reasons to Go to Confession
“If there is a heavenly idea in the Catholic Church, surely, next after the Blessed Sacrament, Confession is such.”  -Blessed John Henry Newman

Confession is one of my favorite sacraments, and I try to go as often as I can. But this wasn’t always the case. I am a convert, and I still remember the awkwardness of my first confession. I dreaded it for weeks, about as much as you would if you had to tell your parents you totaled their brand new car.

Catholics With a Past
“The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?” says Rabbi Abraham Herschel. He may be onto something. When we look for insight and understanding, we go to someone who has been wronged, and who has come out stronger and wiser: survivors of wars, genocide, concentration camps; people who have overcome massive disabilities; people who have been abused and outcast, and who have responded with love, gentleness, generosity, and wisdom.

But what about the man who caused his own suffering? The man who has been selfish, foolish, ugly, cruel, and who has suffered because of his own willful sins?  What can he possibly know, anyway?

Our Lady of Czestochowa: The Black Madonna
The Black Madonna was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist; and it was while painting the picture, Mary told him about the life of Jesus, which he later incorporated into his gospel. The next time we hear of the painting is in 326 A.D. when St. Helen found it in Jerusalem and gave it to her son and had a shrine built for it in Constantinople. During a battle, the picture was placed on the walls of the city, and the enemy army fled. Our Lady saved the city from destruction. The picture was owned by many other people until 1382, when invading Tartars attacked a Prince Ladislaus’ fortress, where the painting was located. A Tartar’s arrow lodged into through the throat of the Madonna. The Prince transferred the painting to a church in Czestochowa, Poland.

The Reform of the Whole World Takes Place One Soul at a Time, Starting with My Own
Yesterday’s blog on the increasing darkness in our culture received a lot of good feedback. Special thanks to Patrick Madrid for spreading the word. Reading such data can cause us to feel discouraged at times. Here are a few thoughts on this discouragement and what we can do about it.

1. The beatitude “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” comes to mind. Who are those who mourn?

St. Therese’s daring teaching on Purgatory
Before we discuss St. Therese of Lisieux’s teaching on Purgatory, I want to put that teaching into context. Her teaching is daring. Some of the nuns she lived with in the Carmelite monastery were scandalized by it, thinking it presumptuous. The last thing St. Therese (or I) would want is for people to interpret her teaching in such a way that they thought they could be spiritually lax and still go straight to Heaven.

So, As you read about her teaching, keep these things in mind:

Jesus Pulls a Fast One
So, there I am, at a weekday Mass, mind wandering as usual (“Focus, man, focus! You’re at the threshold of heaven, and, um,…what does that guy’s t-shirt say?”), and we get to the Gospel:

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you…. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church. If he refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”

Please Don’t Say These Six Things at My Funeral
There will come a day, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, when the man in the coffin will be me. They say the dead don’t care, but I’m not dead yet, so as long as I’m still alive, I’d like to have some say in what goes on at my funeral. And, truth be told, I think the dead do care. Not that they will be privy to the details of what happens at their own funerals, but they still care about the world, about their family, about the church. The saints in heaven continue to pray for those who are still on their earthly pilgrimage, so how could they not care about them?

The Casual Catholic Men
There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of Catholic men, while not rejecting the faith explicitly, have implicitly rejected the faith because of a lack of commitment.  They are like an empty suit; the clothes are there, but the man is not.

These are Casual Catholic Men, men who are casual in their faith.  Here, the word “casual” is carefully chosen: the etymology of the word traces to the Latin casualis, meaning “by chance” and from the Latin casus, meaning “chance, occasion, opportunity; accident, event”.  When speaking of persons, the word “casual” can mean the person is  “not to be depended on, unmethodical.”

St. Therese’s daring teaching on Purgatory
Before we discuss St. Therese of Lisieux’s teaching on Purgatory, I want to put that teaching into context. Her teaching is daring. Some of the nuns she lived with in the Carmelite monastery were scandalized by it, thinking it presumptuous. The last thing St. Therese (or I) would want is for people to interpret her teaching in such a way that they thought they could be spiritually lax and still go straight to Heaven.

So, As you read about her teaching, keep these things in mind:

The Priest and the Prostitute
The day before the Independence Day holiday weekend, the Catholic Answers staff headed up to Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California, for a retreat. It was led by a Norbertine priest from St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. The priest chose Divine Mercy as his topic for the retreat.

As part of his talk, he told us a story from the private revelation allegedly given to Maria Simma. I don’t know much about Maria Simma, except that she was a mystic who died a decade ago. According to our retreat master, her visions of visits with the holy souls in purgatory, as recorded in her book Get Us Out of Here!, have the approval of her local bishop. Nonetheless, Catholics are not required to put stock in private revelations, as is affirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Hilarious Evangelist – On Laughter in Religion
I’m waiting for my ride at San Antonio airport. The car pulls up. A Latino fellow leans out the passenger window with a huge grin, “Hey Father Longenecker! I get to meet you at last! I read your stuff all the time man!”

It was Catholic lay Evangelist Jesse  Romero. I have had the pleasure of spending a weekend with Jesse and Dr Ray Guarendi at the Fullness of Truth Conference in San Antonio.

Blasphemy Against Mercy
Back in 1997, I was browsing a bookshop and came upon a book that truly shocked and horrified me. A feminist theologian had written a book wherein she argued that the two greatest “crosses” Catholic women must bear are the Catholic Church’s opposition to women’s ordination and its opposition to abortion. I could hardly believe that blasphemy had reached this level, but there was no denying my senses, as much as I might have wished myself caught in a nightmare.

19 of the Most Refreshingly Commonsensical G.K. Chesterton Quotes
A person can never get enough of the great Apostle of Common Sense. Enjoy!

1) “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

The Everlasting Man, 1925

2) “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

ILN, 4/19/30

The Beauty of Prayer Brought to Life with 37 Impressive Photos
A collection of photos that invites us to meditate on the beauty and mystery that is hidden behind prayer… do you really think that those who don’t pray aren’t missing out? Check out the post and respond for yourself!

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Pastoral Sharings: "21st Sunday in Ordinary Time"


Homily from Father James Gilhooley
21 Ordinary Time

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – A Cycle -
Matthew 16:13-20

Without the 19th century essayist Charles Lamb, William
Shakespeare would be Missing in Action. It was Lamb’s
essays that snatched the 17th century playwright from
obscurity after he was famous for Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes.

One night Lamb and his guests were chatting about Bill Shakespeare over Madeira port and illegal Cuban cigars. “Supposing,” one asked Lamb, “Shakespeare were to stroll into our dining room at this moment.” The essayist replied, “We would raise a glass of port to the great man.” “Supposing,” asked another, “Jesus were to come here.” Lamb answered, “We would get down on our knees.”

There is the difference between the Man from Nazareth and other great people you can think of. The Christ is God and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but actors strutting on the stage for a brief time and then exiting.

When today’s Gospel opens, Jesus was in Caesarea Philippi in the northeastern corner of Palestine. There the FBI and paparazzi would not look for Him. This was not His usual territory. The sand in His clock was running out. A barbaric cross awaited Him. Yet, He had much to teach the twelve before He could give them their theology doctorates. This was quality classroom time.

This, too, is one of the most decisive periods in Christ’s life. Though He was aware of His divinity, were His own people equally aware? He realized He had a rendezvous to keep with His executioners. Thus, He had to know whether the apostles had any inkling whom they were traveling with. The right answer to His question would make His day, even His life. The wrong answer would mean He was a loser. Three years of hard work would go down the tubes.

So, He put the question to them that went to the heart of the matter, “Who do you say I am?” Imagine how His skin must have crawled with pleasure when Peter acting as spokesman for the others told Him He was “the Son of the living God.”

Surely neither Peter nor any of the apostles with the possible exception of the young and sharp John could have given a precise theological explanation of that accolade. But every mother’s son of them knew in his guts that the highest human terms one could think of were totally inadequate to categorize their Leader. He was an original.

It is not enough to learn what others, even apostles, say about the Teacher. One could write an encyclopedia about the Christ and still not be a card-carrying Christian. One might spellbind one’s friends by telling them about all the thousands of volumes written on the eternal Galilean and still not be a believer. Jewish theologians have written beautifully on Jesus, but they do not believe. (William Barclay)

To each baptized, Jesus leans over and whispers, “But YOU…who do YOU say I am?” That question will never go away.

In their artistic works, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Georges Rouault, Franco Zeffirelli. Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Mel Gibson have all given their answers to the Master’s searing question.

Now it is our turn to step up to the plate and take a swing. The Nazarene must forever be one’s discovery. Our knowledge of Him can never be something that stays in a closet. It must be outed. Christianity does not mean memorizing the Nicene Creed. Rather, it does mean knowing our Saviour.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, assassinated in 1980 while defending Jesus, said eloquently: “Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed or laws to be obeyed. Rather, Christianity is a person. Christianity is Christ.”

Governor Pilate asked Jesus if He was in fact the King of the Jews. Christ, though exhausted and barely able to stand, shot back a query like an automatic machine gun, “Does this question come from you or have others told you about me?” (John 18:34)

When St Paul was writing to young Timothy on his word processor, he did not write, “I know what I have believed.” Rather he typed in his best hunt and peck manner, “I know WHOM I have believed.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

We must join to our belief John’s text of Christ that says, “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.” Like Christ, we must turn the community about us upside down. True faith produces a life full of actions, not a head full of facts; Christ came not to make us feel good but to do good. (Unknown)

If we bypass the question “Who is Christ?” by saying, “Let’s talk about me instead!”, we trivialize Christ’s challenge to us. Are you a follower of Jesus or just a distant admirer? (Unknown)

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 24, 2014

If No One Is Pope, Everyone is Pope. A Homily for the 21st Sunday of the Year
The Gospel today sets forth the biblical basis for the Office of Peter, the Office of the Papacy, for Peter’s successors are the Popes. The word “Pope” is simply an English version (via Anglo-Saxon and Germanic tongues) of the word “papa.” The Pope is affectionately called “Papa” in Italian and Spanish as an affectionate indication that he is the father of the family, the Church.

That Peter receives an office, and not simply a charismatic designation we will discuss later. As to certain objections regarding the office of the Papacy, we will also deal later. But for now lets look at the basic establishment of the Office of Peter in three steps.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Gospel (Read Mt 16:13-20)

Today’s Gospel is so familiar to Catholics that the potential for missing the punch it packs is inordinately high. If ever we are challenged on our belief in the papacy, we always look to this passage to begin our defense. We see that when Jesus quizzes the apostles about His developing reputation, they are well aware of what people were saying. This helps us understand that there was a buzz in the air about Jesus. The apostles had families and friends; they heard the conjectures about the itinerant preacher/miracle worker. The Jews, from their own history, had lots of ideas of who Jesus might be—Elijah, Jeremiah, or “one of the prophets.” Some even thought the spirit of the now dead John the Baptist had somehow come back to live in Jesus. Then comes the pivotal question: “But who do you say that I am?” We should move through this familiar part of the passage slowly if we are to let its importance register.

Twenty-first Sunday: The One Who Holds the Keys
This Sunday we are presented with two figures who are given keys.  The first is Eliakim.  Eliakim was the secretary to Shebna the Master of King Hezekiah’s palace back in the 8th century before Christ.  According the first reading from Isaiah, Shebna lost favor with the Lord and was replaced by Eliakim.  Isaiah goes on to say that God placed the keys of the Kingdom on Eliakim’s shoulder.  He would be Master of the Palace and the one through whom others would have to go to get access to the King.

he Gospel reading presents Peter as receiving the keys of the Kingdom of God.  Like Eliakim, he would determine who has access to the King.  Peter is usually pictured as having carrying large keys, representing the authority given to him by the Lord.

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 16: 13-20

The reading from the prophet Isaiah that we hear at mass today: “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open” is the lyrical muse for the beautiful antiphon “O Clavis David…” which the Church sings in the divine office every Advent, on December twentieth. This antiphon accompanies the Marian hymn known as the Magnificat and is intended to remind us—sung as it is in anticipation of the Nativity—that the promises of God whose fulfillment has been awaited since the time of King David are brought to completion in Jesus Christ.

Why the Pope must be infallible, even if he’s not impeccable
And I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

We do not hesitate to assert the Christ Jesus is the true rock upon which the Catholic Church is built – how could there be any other? And yet, we likewise affirm that Peter is the rock upon which Christ has built his Church; for the Greek is clear: “Peter” is petros while “rock” is petra, and the Aramaic would be clearer yet as the one word used for both was cepha.

Holy Hour: Healing Through Forgiveness
Through many dark days and nights, Jesus the Eternal High Priest carried me through tumultuous waters. My encounters with Jesus during daily Holy Hours undoubtedly saved my family as the cross bore down upon us.

We, The Church Militant
Well, here we are in the 21st century Catholic Church. We have survived all of the liturgical innovations brought to us by the “spirit of Vatican II,” including clown masses, balloon masses, puppet masses, homemade banners, horrible liturgical music (Sons of God, anyone?), and somewhat-less-than-awe-inspiring architecture for new churches.  For sure, Vatican II was a great Holy Spirit-inspired Church Council, and its sixteen documents are blueprints for a great future of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.

Redemptive Suffering
The fear of suffering, pain, and death may seem like unconquerable mysteries. My time here at CPE [Clinical Pastoral Education] has helped me to understand, via experience, that they are not necessarily things that need to be conquered. No amount of faith excludes us from experience pain, loneliness, and death. Money, power, and other earthly things often make these three experiences worse as well.

Practicing Vocal Prayer
There are two broad divisions of prayer: vocal and mental. We shall consider these forms of prayer in some detail so that our notion of prayer may be well rounded and as accurate as possible.

Vocal prayer is prayer in word or action. Since man is com­posed of soul and body, he must use not only his mind in prayer, but also his body and its senses for the glory of God. You express your interior sentiments and reverence for God in articulated words or in bodily posture, such as kneeling, stand­ing, bowing, or folding your hands. Vocal prayer can be as pleasing to God and as useful to you as mental prayer is.

On Revelation
The word “revelation” means that something that is not known is made manifest or clear. If I maintain that nothing can be “revealed” to me, I imply either: a) that I am myself omniscient; or, b) that nothing intelligible, not already known, can come to me except what is accessible to human knowledge by its own finite powers.

Coming to Terms With Our Inner Samuel – Don’t ignore the Bible’s violence. Understand it.
My Episcopal church uses its lectionary to decide what particular readings it will use throughout the year, but those texts often have what seem like strange omissions. In one cycle, for instance, we work through the books of Samuel, and the stories of kings Saul and David. To an attentive listener, though, there are puzzling holes in the plot, threads of the narrative that the church seems determined to avoid. In fact, my church, like most others, tries to navigate around one of the most distressing stories in the Bible, a scripture that has incited real bloodshed through history. The motives for excluding such texts are obvious enough, but there must be a better way of responding to them than simply pretending they are just not there.

Did Jesus Really Die and Rise?
Christian belief boils down to one thing: The literal, bodily resurrection of a man named Jesus, who lived in first century Palestine.

If Jesus of Nazareth did not die on a Roman cross, if he was not buried, and if he did not rise again on the third day, alive, then you have no reason to give him or Christianity another thought. But if he did, then he deserves your full attention. As C.S. Lewis said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

Angels, Anointing and Peace at the Last
Twice in the last three days I have had the privilege of attending the death bed of an old woman.

In both cases the dear souls were surrounded by loved ones, and in both cases they were struggling in the final stages of their lives.

Friendship with Christ Jesus
When I arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1986 shortly after my ordination at the hands of St. Pope John Paul II, I was contemplating a compelling portrait of Jesus. It was an image of His Sacred Heart, with flames of fire radiating from His Heart. However, what seemed to really captivate me most in the moment, were six words in Spanish that have been almost a motto of my life as Catholic, Religious and priest, and follower of Christ. These words were: “Jesus, el Amigo que nunca falla.” Translation:  “Jesus, the Friend that never fails!”

Being Catholic MeansYou May Risk Losing Friends
We all need to remember that, when it comes to pursuing spiritual maturity, our own efforts are never enough. On the other hand, St. Thomas Aquinas reminded us many centuries ago that “grace builds on nature,” and that means that we can do a lot to create a favorable climate for God’s grace to be fruitful, to take root in our souls and bear abundant fruit, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:8).

Why Catholicism is the True Religion
I recently met a man, about sixty-five years old, who, after I told him what I do, related this story: “When I was in Catholic high school, I asked one of the brothers, ‘How do we know that of all the religions in the world Catholicism is the right one?’ This question had been bugging me, and I was anxious to hear his answer. He replied, ‘We don’t know. We have to take it on faith.’ His response completely deflated me.”

Was Your Prayer a Failure?
This was one of the questions a journalist asked Pope Francis on the plane ride back to Rome from Korea:

Given what has happened in Gaza, was the Prayer for Peace held in the Vatican on June 8 a failure?

Pope Francis answered, in part (according to the English transcript reporter Gerald O’Connell wrote up, first published in America:

The 12 Step Biblical Guide to the Pope and Infallibility
Listers, the Office of the Papacy and Infallibility are biblical gifts to the Church. According to the Gospels, St. Peter – the first to be given the Office of the Papacy – was commissioned by Christ to be the vicar of the kingdom of God, to strengthen the faithful, and to be the chief shepherd of the Lord’s flock. In short, the Vicar governs the kingdom according to the King’s laws until the King returns. The following list is meant to demonstrate the strong biblical argument for the papacy, but it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Catholics should be weary of proof-texting – a subpar hermeneutic that seeks to support ideas by stringing together selective Scriptures – for a few reasons. First, Holy Scripture should always be viewed holistically. A single verse that can be tortured to read a certain way is not a legitimate reading of Scripture. The list at hand seeks to avoid proof-texting by offering a wide range of Scriptures from both the New and Old Testaments supported by historical and linguistic insights.

What were the Rituals Associated with Death and Burial in Jesus’ Day?
The Jewish people took the burial of the dead quite seriously; it was the way a community paid its last respects to the one who died. The Scriptures laid down quite firmly that no dead body was to be left unburied—even that of one’s worst enemy. Perhaps one of the stronger horrors that a Jewish person could imagine was stated in Psalm 78: They have thrown the bodies of thy servants as food for the birds of heaven; wild beast feast on the corpses of the just.

Uniting With Christ Through Our Senses
How do we perceive the Divine and communicate with God as beings who possess both physical and spiritual senses?

Some ascetics might try to starve their physical senses to sharpen their inner senses, but such a notion seems to me to be contrary to Catholic wisdom and practice. The Catholic Church  repudiates Gnosticism, realizing that believers come to a fuller sense of Christ through the totality of their human person.

Parenting Wisdom in Shorthand
In recent decades, we have seen Satan engage the world as never before. In all of human history we have never witnessed evil promoted so effectively, while virtue, character, and morals are roundly mocked and rejected. Meanwhile, it could be said that the Mystical Body — the Church — has never been so unprepared for and unengaged in the challenging mission of spiritual warfare. It is obvious that Satan’s forces are well trained and well organized, while ours clearly are not. At the very beginnings of our great nation, Sir Edmund Burke warned, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Not only divorced from marriage, divorced from reality.” An essay on the ugliness of divorce
Some years ago a woman (and parishioner) told me, almost in passing,  that she and her husband were planning to divorce. Knowing that she had two young children, both under 10, I asked her in so many words, “What about the children?” Unabashedly she assured me that they were in fact divorcing for the sake of the children. Perhaps she saw my bewildered, dubious look, so she added, “We don’t want them to experience all the yelling and bickering.” “Hmmm … ,” I said. “Well then stop the bickering and yelling. Get whatever help you need, but don’t make the kids pay even more for your problems.”

A Winning Program for Renewal
Recently, I wrote here about the perils and benefits of technology. Assuming that many of you are on your way to freedom from serious addiction to technology, I hope you have more time to dedicate to the most challenging task of our time – re-conversion  of a once-great country (America) and civilization (the West), both now swimming in hedonism and practical atheism.

Are Saints New Revelation?
It seems, said my friend, that the Church contradicts itself. On the one hand, Catholic teaching declares revelation complete with the close of the apostolic era. Yet consider the canonization of, say, Joan of Arc. It appears a Catholic must believe one of the following:

1. Revelation continues. It was revealed to the Pope in 1920 that Joan of Arc was in heaven.

2. Revelation ended with the apostles, but before the Ascension, Christ gave Peter a long list of those who would eventually be canonized and Joan’s name was on the list.

3. There is no revelation concerning Joan of Arc and we have no way of knowing where she is now.

The First 10 Popes of the Catholic Church
Listers, we’ve catalogued the first ten Vicars of Christ for the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Save the information on our first pope – St. Peter – all the information presented is taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia and links for further reading are provided.

1. Pope St. Peter (32-67)

St. Peter held a primacy amongst the twelve disciples that earned him the title “Prince of the Apostles.” This primacy of St. Peter was solidified when he was appointed by Jesus to the Office of the Vicar – demonstrated by Christ giving St. Peter the Keys to the Kingdom.

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Pastoral Sharings: "20th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage  Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
  Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time August 17, 2014

  In our liturgy today we are considering the tension in the
  early Church between the  Jews, the Chosen People, and 
  the Gentiles. This might not seem to us today to be a
  very important topic; we might think of it as an old 
  problem and something not really worthy of our

And yet arguments about who is in and who is out are just as relevant today as they have ever been. And in any case we are dealing with the scriptures, with the words and actions of Jesus and the problems of the first Christian communities and all of these must be relevant to any serious Christian.

The woman is a Canaanite. In the similar but briefer account in Mark Chapter Seven she is referred to as a Syro-Phoenician woman. In both accounts she is clearly a pagan but by calling her by the ancient and somewhat derogatory term Canaanite Matthew raises the question of the settlement of the Chosen People in the land of Canaan. The Canaanites were the dispossessed former inhabitants of Israel and any contact with them was practically forbidden.

I don’t want to be too controversial, but in the very same area today there are quite a number of dispossessed people. There are dispossessed people not only in Palestine but in many other parts of our world also. When it comes to the scriptures you never have to look very hard to find relevance!

Jesus uses very strong language, perhaps even shocking language to our ears when he refers to the Canaanites as “dogs not fit to eat the children’s food”. This is not characteristic of Jesus and here he is surely repeating the kind of language used to reinforce the discriminatory behaviour of the Jews.

Perhaps he does this with irony, though there is no indication in the text that this is so. Jesus knows he has come for the salvation of the Gentiles as well as the Jews, he knows that the Gentiles are not excluded from God’s plan. And he is normally open-hearted and welcoming to all yet here he is seemingly refusing to heal this lady’s daughter and using as an excuse the fact that she is not a Jew.

None of this squares with the Jesus we have come to know and love, so what is going on?

Let me suggest that this passage has some relevance for the community in which Matthew is living and for whom he is writing.

This community we know included both convert Jews and convert Gentiles and it is strongly suspected that there was some tension between them. Being converted to Christianity doesn’t change all your attitudes at once; it is a life-long process. And we often retain attitudes from our background culture which are in contradiction with our faith and yet we do not easily recognise this. So it is no surprise to find the tensions outside of the Christian community reflected also within it.

Even though they had become Christians the Jews quite likely still had the notion that they were of the Chosen People, and they were not wrong. They faced the problem now that they had become Christians of making sense of their chosenness. What did being a member of a chosen race mean when now as Christians they seemed to be on the same level as Gentiles?

According to the Jews the fact that they were God’s Chosen People meant that they had privileged role in God’s plan for salvation. The problem is that it is easy to go on from this to conclude that they therefore had a privileged place in the kingdom but this is not something that could ever be guaranteed.

Certainly God singled out the Jews to be his Chosen People. It is through them that he revealed himself to the world. But now in the new dispensation it is through Jesus the Jew that all come to be saved. This Jewishness of Jesus is very important for it is through him that the promise of Abraham was fulfilled.

This the first and perhaps the most important promise of God is fulfilled in the very person of Jesus. The Jews are the chosen people and Jesus the Jew is the Messiah. They are privileged because it is from among them that the Messiah comes but this does not mean that they have a free-pass to heaven; they have to work just as hard to get there as anyone else.

We Catholics risk falling into a similar trap. We know that we possess the fullness of the truth of the Gospel in the doctrines and traditions of the Church. In this we are greatly privileged; but that does not mean that it is any easier for an individual Catholic to gain entry to the Kingdom of Heaven.

We are chosen by God; singled out to be bearers of the Good News in the world today. In this we are the most fortunate of people. But we still have to live our life in accordance with these values and that is just as difficult for us as it is for anyone else.

What is important is our faith. Not how much we have but what we do with what we’ve got. The Canaanite woman was a pagan but Jesus commends her faith and gives her what she wants. The Pharisees are filled to the brim with beliefs and doctrines but Jesus condemns their hypocrisy.

Certainly Jesus wants faith but it must be sincere faith; faith with humility and love. He is attracted also to people with needs. This Canaanite woman has all these things and she is in real need for her daughter is dreadfully afflicted and because of the love she has for her daughter she is prepared to cross all sorts of boundaries to find healing for her.

Her persistence and astuteness is rewarded by Jesus because it reflects the depth of love she has for her daughter. She seeks no privileged place in the Kingdom, she is a member of no chosen race, rather the contrary. She seeks nothing for herself and it is precisely because of these things that Jesus compliments her on her faith and restores her daughter to health and wholeness.

The lesson for us is clear: our Catholicism is not our key to the Kingdom but a sign for the world. It is on how well we perform our task of being a sign for the world and on how well we live out the Gospel that we will be judged. The label is not a ticket it is a responsibility.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 17, 2014

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—August 17, 2014
Today, as Jesus travels away from Jerusalem toward the region of the Gentiles, He meets a Canaanite woman who desperately needs His help. Why did He give her the cold shoulder?

Gospel (Read Mt 15:21-28)

To best understand this Gospel episode, we need to know that it follows a description of the great opposition Jesus faced from the Pharisees in Jerusalem. Even though He was performing amazing miracles of healing (read Mt 14:36), the Pharisees could only find fault with Him (read Mt 15:2). Jesus got frustrated with them, calling them “blind guides” (Mt 15:14). He decided to leave the city and head north, up to the region of Tyre and Sidon. These were cities in Phoenicia, territory that was primarily Gentile, not Jewish. It almost seems as if He wanted to get as far away from the hard-hearted Pharisees as He could.

Twentieth Sunday: The Humility to Experience His Love in Others
The initial reaction I had to this Sunday’s readings was: Huh? Here we have Paul speaking in circles to the Romans,  “you have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.” Huh?  Then we have the incident of Jesus and the Canaanite women.  She has a real need, and she cries out to him.  But He refers to her people as  dogs and says that he came only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  Huh?

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time , Cycle A
Matthew 15 : 21 – 28

This Gospel account involving the Canaanite woman is similar to the story earlier in Matthew of the Centurion. In both of these accounts you have a Gentile approach Jesus asking him to heal someone. For the Canaanite woman it was her daughter, and for the centurion his servant. In both cases Jesus reaches beyond the mission which his followers assumed was to the lost sheep of Israel, and honors the faith of the Gentile. Taking the message of Jesus to the Gentiles was a mission that the Apostles and early Christians struggled with and oftentimes resisted. How did the Apostles finally follow the example of Jesus and break out of their narrow vision into the broader vision of Christ’s mission?

On Praying for our Children – Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.

Our Savior, willing to be conquered by the prayers of the Canaanite woman, did not disdain to free her daughter from demonic oppression. This mother’s prayers won the mercy of Jesus and inspire all parents as they entreat our Lord for every good thing for their children.

How is it that our prayers for others can be of value? What can a parent do to pray more effectively for his children? Why does God seem at times to ignore our petitions for the conversion of children, relatives, and friends?

The example of this woman will profit is greatly as we answer these questions.

Why We Must Pray
Why do people not pray enough? The answer is partly because they do not want to make the effort to begin, and partly because they do not know how to go on once they have begun. A lot of this difficulty would be cleared up if people would only understand that prayer comes from God, is kept going by God, and finds its way back to God by its own power. All we have to do is to lend ourselves to the process as generously as we can, and not put any obstacles in the way.

Why Be Catholic? Patrick Madrid Has All the Answers
Have you ever read a book by Patrick Madrid?  If you have, I’ll bet you haven’t stopped at just one–that his easy style, clarity and humor captivated you, and you’ve picked up another of his titles along the way.

I’m a fan, and here’s why:  Patrick is a master of Plainspeak–not lofty theological prose which only a doctoral candidate could wade through, but clear, direct explanations for Catholic teachings and traditions.  He writes apologetics for the masses, and I think he’s just what the doctor ordered for most folks who are casually inquiring about the Faith.

Ten Helps to Grow in Prayer
The following is a short article to encourage all of us to desire to grow in our prayer life, seek the means to grow, but especially to persevere in this most important of activates—our salvation, the salvation of our families and loved ones, and the salvation of the whole world depends on men and women who have decided to dedicate their lives to prayer, which is the key to heaven.

Turn the Other Cheek
As a father of eight (two in heaven, and six on earth), I have the perfect excuse to watch children’s movies. “I just happened to be nearby and just happened to see…”

Prepare Your Heart to Pray
Prayer is, as it were, being alone with God. A soul prays only when it is turned toward God, and for so long as it remains so. As soon as it turns away, it stops praying. The preparation for prayer is thus the movement of turning to God and away from all that is not God. That is why we are so right when we define prayer as this movement. Prayer is essentially a “raising up,” an elevation. We begin to pray when we detach ourselves from created objects and raise ourselves up to the Creator.

Wanted: An American Missionary Church– Soon
Pope Francis is shaking up the Catholic Church – that much is clear. But to what end? Opinions differ: To make it a Church of the poor and the marginalized; a Church more of mercy and perhaps less of law. A Church in which collegiality is a fundamental principle of governance.

These are indeed things Francis hopes to accomplish. But he also has another aim in view, embracing the rest: to reshape the Catholic Church as a Missionary Church. He said as much in the first chapter of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which set out the program of the pontificate, under the heading “A Church Which Goes Forth”:

The Sound of Silence
The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.

These are the words that appeared on Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s “business card” while she still walked the earth, and it deeply shapes the spirituality of the order she founded. Working with the Missionaries of Charity in the Bronx this summer has given me opportunity to reflect on these words. To me the most striking line of the card is the first one. While most Christians who take their faith seriously recognize their need for prayer, faith, love, service, and peace, it is easy to forget the importance of silence.

When Jesus was on Earth, did the Demons know Jesus was the Messiah?
Father Fortea, when Jesus was on earth, did the demons know He was the Messiah?

As we have said, demons do not know everything. They do not even know all that happens in this world; they are among us, but they come and go. The demons watch over the saints in a very special way, and they knew that Jesus was a man who was especially holy. They could see that He had never committed a sin or even an imperfection. The devil, though steeped in sin, is the consummate appraiser of virtue.

The Only Acceptable Rebellion
Come on, we know better than the Church, don’t we? After all, this is the twenty-first century and times have changed. Modern man is fully capable of deciding what is good and moral on his own, right? All the really smart people in the media, government and academia who encourage us to embrace abortion, contraception, euthanasia and same-sex marriage can’t be wrong, can they? After all, everyone knows that new and fresh ideas must clearly trump nearly two millennia of Church teaching. Right?

How Can I Strengthen My Will and Grow in Holiness?
We all need to remember that, when it comes to pursuing spiritual maturity, our own efforts are never enough. On the other hand, St. Thomas Aquinas reminded us many centuries ago that “grace builds on nature,” and that means that we can do a lot to create a favorable climate for God’s grace to be fruitful, to take root in our souls and bear abundant fruit, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:8).

Be Who You Are: Embracing Your Own Kind of Sanctity
“Be who you are, and be that well.” – St. Francis de Sales

Have you ever admired someone? I mean to the degree that you want to be just like them.

For years now, I’ve admired, even venerated, G.K. Chesterton—and I don’t mean just his writing, as brilliant as that is, but Chesterton as a man. Chesterton is what I would like to be, if I had my way: joyful, witty, hilarious, humble, brilliantly insightful, imaginative, poetic, an effortless writer, childlike, prolifically productive, encyclopedic, a friend to all, even his intellectual and spiritual enemies—and the list goes on.

Good vs. holy
In nearly 30 years as a journalist, one of the most interesting phenomena I’ve seen occurs in courtrooms, when a person found guilty stands before a judge and says, “I’m a good person.”

It is not uncommon. Ask a prosecutor. It does not matter if the convicted person stole a car, plotted a bank heist, committed voter fraud or broke into a house and throttled some old lady before grabbing her jewelry and cash. When the judge asks if the guilty person has anything to say before the sentence is imposed, “I’m a good person” is typical.

Good Non-Catholic Christians– Is There Salvation Outside the Church?
The sudden death of Tony Palmer–the friend of Pope Francis–has raised the question whether he could be saved even though he never converted to the Catholic faith.

Some Catholics would shake their head sadly and quote the famous phrase, Extra Ecclesiam nulls salus- Outside the Church, No Salvation.

Does this mean that everyone who is not a Catholic will go to hell?

Let’s think it through.

A Mother’s Tears
Why do mothers weep? What pain crushes their hearts the most? And when do they cry out to heaven in supplication, in total surrender and confidence to the divine will of God?

It is when their children are in trouble.

The Culture of Envy
Götz Aly’s Why the Germans? Why the Jews?recounts the rise of anti-Semitism in the territories that became the German Republic. He describes some historical trends prior to the 1930s and his study might have a wider application even in this country – since we still have not learned everything that we can from the history of modern Germany. The route from sophistication to savagery is a parable for many countries like the United States that already calmly countenance the slaughter of countless unborn babies as just one of the acceptable costs of modernity.

Spiritual Warfare: Why We Are Losing
In recent decades, we have seen Satan engage the world as never before. In all of human history we have never witnessed evil promoted so effectively, while virtue, character, and morals are roundly mocked and rejected. Meanwhile, it could be said that the Mystical Body — the Church — has never been so unprepared for and unengaged in the challenging mission of spiritual warfare. It is obvious that Satan’s forces are well trained and well organized, while ours clearly are not. At the very beginnings of our great nation, Sir Edmund Burke warned, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

What were weddings like in Jesus’ day?
The word family had a wider meaning in both Aramaic and Hebrew than it does in English today. The Hebrew ah and the Aramaic aha could be used to refer to those who were brothers, half-brothers, cousins, and even other near relations. Extended family networks were both insisted upon and essential for survival. To have these ties and be dependent upon them was every Jewish person’s duty, and an absolute necessity for survival.

Fifty Answers about the Catholic Church
1. How do we know that Jesus of Nazareth was God come to save us?

There is no more important teaching of the Christian faith that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. In our Creed, which goes back to the 5th century, fifteen hundred years ago, we say every Sunday at Mass that Jesus was “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father”.

How does the Church Respond to Suicide?
The news of Robin Williams’ death is heartbreaking, as is any news of the death of one of our heroes. Just as was the news of mega-church pastor Rick Warren’s son’s suicide.

I can understand Williams and I feel pity and sorrow for those souls. I really can and do. Between the time I was 14-17 I tried on three separate occasions to kill myself. All three times I couldn’t even overdose correctly. That, or my guardian angel was purifying the poison I had consumed inside my body. That was an awful time of my life; I hated who I was, what I was addicted to, and certainly believed I had no reason to live and didn’t want to.

“Worshipping the Devil by Default”
In his very first homily at the Missa Pro Ecclesia in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis quoted the famous words of Leon Bloy, stating “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” Nature abhors a vacuum. Our experience of the material world tells us that things tend to occupy vacancies; substances naturally move into areas of lower pressure, with less competition for space and survival.

The same is true with spiritual things. Where God is made absent due to human exclusion (remember, even in his omnipotence he does not overpower our free will), the Enemy seeks to fill the void.

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Pastoral Sharings: "19th Sunday in Ordinary Time"



   1 Kings 19, 9. 11-13; Psalm 85; Romans 9, 1-5;
   Matthew 14: 22-32

   Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Lord, save me.” Peter, frightened by the wind and the 
  waves, cries out desperately for  help in the Gospel 
  according to St. Matthew, chapter fourteen, verses   twenty-two to thirty-three. Christ had granted Peter the power to walk on the water, but giving in to his fear, the apostle had begun to sink. “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
There is a mystery here, that our faith is a gift from God, but at the same time, our faith is a cooperation with God; we freely choose to believe. And we can also choose to doubt and fall into fear as did Peter.
Fortitude is the virtue of which Peter stood in need at his moment of temptation.
“Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. ‘The Lord is my strength and my song.’ ‘In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ “ (CCC 1808)
It is through grace by faith that we receive the gift of fortitude.  Peter confesses faith in Christ’s divinity, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water”. Moments later that faith gives way to fear, and Peter is threatened with destruction by the forces of nature. Do we need power to “walk on water” in order to be happy? What are the things that we fear, that drive the power of faith, and the power of God, out of our lives? Is sin among them? Do we disregard the corrosive power of falsehood, the destructive force of unchastity?
What we cannot do without is a reverent spirit of worship, the power to confidently acclaim Jesus as Lord, and then to call upon Him for what we need to live as the praise of His glory.
Bearing witness to the Lord, confessing our Faith before others, enables us to practice and to grow in the virtue of fortitude.
“The faithful should bear witness to the Lord’s name by confessing the faith without giving way to fear. Preaching and catechizing should be permeated with adoration and respect for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (CCC 2145)
When the disciples witnessed the power of Christ over the wind and waves, they fell down and worshipped Him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  They acclaimed Him in faith and thus they saw with true vision through the supernatural power of God working in them.
“Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as ‘Lord’. This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing. At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, ‘Lord’ expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus. In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: ‘My Lord and my God!’ It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: ‘It is the Lord!’ ” (CCC 448)
Let us ask for the virtue of fortitude in worship and witness that our faith may grow and others may come to the Lord as well.  Above all, it is Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist that calls for our adoration.  We can, for example, better witness before the world by our more attentive genuflection as we enter or depart a church or chapel where the Lord is present; by an interior spirit of adoration as we process forward during the Communion of the Mass; by pausing to make a profound bow before receiving our Eucharistic Lord in Communion; by carefully resting one hand upon the other to receive the Lord and then reverently placing the Host on our tongue. 
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, we adore thee!
-Fr. Cusick

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 10, 2014

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)—August 10, 2014
Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus let the apostles struggle for many hours in a violent storm before going to them. Why did He wait so long?

Gospel (Read Mt 14:22-33)

After the miraculous feeding of the five thousand (last Sunday’s Gospel), Jesus sent both His disciples and the vast crowd away. The disciples took a boat to the other side of the lake; Jesus would eventually join them there. In the meantime, He “went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Whenever we see Jesus retreating to solitude for prayer this way, it reminds us that He was a sojourner here. His original and permanent life is in Heaven, in communion with His Father. Like Him, we are also sojourners here. Like Him, we also need solitary times with our Father.

Nineteenth Sunday: The Still Small Voice
I have always been fascinated by today’s first reading from 1 Kings 19.  It presents Elijah.  Elijah was the great and powerful prophet whose sharing in the Spirit of God caused a drought and a rainstorm.  Elijah called fire down on Mount Carmel, and defeated the false prophets of Baal.  Elijah left the earth in the fiery chariot of God causing people to wonder if he would come again, or, centuries later, if he had come again in a man named John the Baptist, or another who was infinitely more powerful than John, Jesus Christ.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Matthew 14: 22-33

Today’s readings use rich imagery of the power and grandeur of the natural world to illustrate the even greater glory of God revealed to us in Christ.

Nature imagery is widely used in the bible as in other literature contemporary with the scriptures to convey an idea of the omnipotence and benevolence of God. In order to appreciate how effective such descriptions can be, one need only read the creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis, or the story of Noah and the flood, or peruse poetic texts such as Psalm 29, where the Lord is manifested through the appearance of a terrible storm, or the final chapters of the book of Job, where God reviews the mysteries of creation which are beyond human understanding.

Why Do We Doubt? (Matthew 14:22-36)
“If I try by myself to swim across the ocean of this world, the waves will certainly engulf me. In order to survive I must climb aboard a ship made of wood; this wood is the Cross of Christ. Of course, even on board ship there will be dangerous tempests and perils from the sea of this world. But God will help me remain on board the ship and arrive safely at the harbor of eternal life.”                                                          – St. Augustine

Saying your Prayers versus Praying your Prayers
In the spiritual life, the language we use intimately reflects our hearts. As an example, let’s look at prayer. Do we “say our prayers?” Or do we pray in an intimate relationship with God? The former is like saying, “I said words to my wife.” The latter is closer to saying, “My wife and I had a wonderful dinner together.” Prayer, when spoken of in impersonal terms, can depict and encourage impersonal aspirations, which can then lead to impersonal attempts at prayer. And impersonal prayer is not prayer at all, because it only amounts to a person saying things, rather than any real encounter with God. Here’s what St. Theresa of Avila had to say about “saying” prayers:

Simplicity in Devotion
When I first converted to Catholicism, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of devotions Catholics practiced. There was devotion to the five wounds of Christ, the brown scapular, the green scapular, the Divine Mercy chaplet, devotion to the Holy Face, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Rosary, devotion to the Sacred Heart, devotion to the seven sorrows of Mary, total consecration, and countless others.

This treasury of devotions is one of the most beautiful things about Catholicism.

How can I Hear God Speaking to me in Prayer?
The phrase “conversation with God” describes Christian prayer beautifully. Christ has revealed that God is a real person, and that he is interested—passionately interested—in our lives, our friendship, our closeness. For Christians then, prayer, as Pope Benedict explained when he visited Yonkers, New York, in 2007, is an expression of our “personal relationship with God.” And that relationship, the Holy Father went on to say, “is what matters most.”

Why Is Faith by Hearing?
Faith, as St. Paul wrote in Romans, comes by hearing. But why?

In other words, why doesn’t faith come through reading? Couldn’t reading through the Scriptures, the lives of the saints, or devotional works also bring us to faith? Yet, in Romans 10 and again in Galatians 3, Paul insists that faith comes through what we have heard.

Prayer is the Life of the Soul
St. John of the Cross says: “The person who flees prayer is fleeing everything that is good.”  Without air to our lungs it is just a matter of minutes that we will suffocate and die; what air is to the lungs, prayer is to the soul.  St. Paul exhorts us: “Pray without ceasing” (I Thes. 5:17). To the Ephesians ha says “Pray at all times.” (Eph. 6:18).  In the Garden of Olives Jesus earnestly warned the Apostles to pray: “Watch and pray”. (Mt. 26:41).Because they failed to pray the Apostles failed Jesus when He most desperately needed their company and their friendship.

Finding God Through Suffering
We are often reluctant to do so because we know we may be mocked, laughed at and persecuted. In truth, our fidelity to God and His Word may bring us pain and suffering. It is so difficult to follow Him. At times we don’t want to do as He asks. What He wants from us sometimes seems too painful, too difficult, and too burdensome. We want to flee and hide from Him. But we can’t. He is everywhere. He has given us Himself. Our salvation and that of others hinges on our sharing and living this Truth. So we must go on – imperfectly and inconstantly no doubt – but we must go on, trusting that God will be at our side.

The Battle for Purity
The battle for purity is ultimately fought deep in the recesses of the human heart. Our hearts were made to love, but since the Fall, they have been tainted by a desire to use others. This effect of original sin is seen perhaps most dramatically in our encounters with the opposite sex, wherein our hearts often are drawn to the other person more for the emotional or sensual pleasure we may derive from them than for any true commitment to what is best for them and their true value as a person. In this reflection, we will see that chastity is so much bigger than simply saying “no” to certain sexual actions we may commit in the body. In the end, chastity is a matter of the heart.

Life as Preparation for Death
Shortly before taking leave of this world, Sir Winston Churchill, who had lived a very long and illustrious life, was reportedly asked about the state of his soul:

“I am perfectly ready,” he said, “to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

Only someone of the stature of Sir Winston could pull off a piece of effrontery that egregious. And, thank God, there’s probably not much of him in most mortal men. I doubt that there was any at all in my brother Michael. He was far too humble to trade witticisms with the Deity.

When I’m Dying, Please Do This
I’ve become a Father John Riccardo podcast junkie.  I’m still processing his podcast on the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  I learned some great insights into the sacrament itself.  More importantly, Father Riccardo reminded me of the tremendous dignity the suffering and dying have.  We all should listen to the show, but those of us who are either dying ourselves or know someone on their deathbed need to hear these words.  (Click this link to access the podcast.)  Reject what the world says about the dying, and remind them of their invaluable mission:

God Works in Mysterious Ways. Sometimes.
It is often said that God sometimes works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, however, He doesn’t. Sometimes the answer is so much simpler than anyone thought. But amazing nonetheless.
Father Steve Mattson of the Church of the Resurrection parish can recall praying the Diving Mercy Chaplet in front of Lansing Michigan’s last free standing abortion clinic. He recalls praying fervently for the closing of the clinic. He didn’t know how it could happen but he prayed nonetheless.

A Constellation of Saints
The night sky in its magnificent beauty has beckoned to me ever since I was a small child. At night, especially on a summer’s night, I would slip away and sit on our front porch, or better still, I would lie on the grass and just look up at the stars. I learned to recognize one constellation from another and once in a while view an eclipse of the moon.

God is Not Welcome Here
“A small error in the beginning leads to a multitude of errors in the end” – Aristotle, De Coelo The small error in this case is the assumption made long ago by the members of the United States Supreme Court that they had the power to play God. First, the court ignored the science on the subject of how birth control chemicals work and removed all barriers to the sale of such drugs.

Jesus does not hold anything back… do you?
There is a great old popular jazz standard written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons titled All of Me that is one of my favorite tunes.  I particularly like the rendition performed by Louis Armstrong and another done later by Willie Nelson. The song is about a fellow who lost his heart to a girl who left him, so he croons, “You took the part that once was my heart, so why not take all of me?” But, all that aside, let’s look at the lyrics of the opening bars: “All of me, why not take all of me? Can’t you see that I am no good without you?”

The Queen of Sin: 10 Things Catholics Need to Know
Listers, the Queen of Sin conquers the hearts of men and surrenders them to her generals. It is a war of vice and virtue. No individual, however, becomes virtuous or vicious because of a single act. Both virtue and vice are habits. The Philosopher, Aristotle, defines a habit as “a disposition whereby someone is disposed, well or ill.” Those habits which habituate the person toward the good, are called virtues. Those habits that dispose the person to evil are called vices. A person’s habits define who they are. Following Aristotle, Aquinas notes that habits are a species of quality. In this light, the Philosopher states, “a habit is a quality which it is difficult to change.”

What We Fear Controls Us. A Meditation on the “Eighth Deadly Sin.”
What we fear controls us. Consider the following story.

Trichloroethane, an aerosol propellant that was used in the spray cans of many household cleaners, is toxic when inhaled in large concentrations. Back in the 1980s, teenagers discovered that they could get high by spraying the cleaner into bags and breathing in the fumes.

A  label on the can clearly warned of death or serious injury if the product was inhaled. But the young people who inhaled it simply ignored these sorts of warnings, leading to a number of deaths.

Unbearable Loss
My earliest recollection of Caitlin was in her mother’s womb. Her mom and I were both pregnant with daughters. Information we did not know at the time, but would later bring great delight. This “wasn’t our first rodeo” as they say, I was on child number four and Caitlin made six. The girls were born months apart and grew up a half a block away from each other. I remember Caity as a happy child, loved without limit by her family and all that knew her.

Be a Living Parable
I’ve personally never had a difficult time believing in God, and for that I consider myself blessed. Even in the particularly difficult times of my life, times when God felt eons away, I have never been able to simply relinquish my faith in His existence. For me, it’s all too reasonable.

Yet, for so many, this is not the case. For them, believing in God poses  much more of a challenge, and it’s not so much that they’re unwilling to believe, but rather they are unable or not quite ready.

What Others Think Of Us
I have had numerous conversations with friends and professional acquaintances over the years on the subject of openly sharing our Catholic faith. I am always a little surprised at how often many of them express strong reluctance to being open about their beliefs. The reasons given have included, “I don’t want to offend anyone.” “We could never do that at work.” and “I don’t like to discuss that outside of my parish.” Do we ever stop and reflect on how often our public actions and thinking are overly influenced by what others may think about our Catholic faith?

“Ten Commandments of Reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament”
An old friend of mine, Msgr. Charles Mangan noticed my answer about safeguarding the Blessed Sacrament and sent me this to share with you.

“Ten Commandments of Reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament”

1. Attend Holy Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, even daily if possible.

25 Questions Every Catholic Should Ask An Evangelical About the Bible
It is a joke so common that even Catholics make it on themselves… and then they laugh. And the punchline always goes something like this; “…Because Catholics don’t read their Bible (insert laughter here).” This is less true today than it used to be, but it nevertheless remains a serious issue. It’s one of those hilarious things that really isn’t hilarious when you get right down to it. There are any number of historical reasons for this, but regardless, the fact remains most Catholics are generally incapable of engaging in a real Biblical dialogue with their Protestant brothers and sisters.

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Pastoral Sharings: "18th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 3, 2014 

You might not agree with me, but I think that it is a pity that in our Lectionary we do not
have much longer extracts from the Gospels!

So often on a Sunday we have read to us wonderful 
stories  about the life of Jesus or one or other of his miracles and yet they are mostly presented to us as isolated incidents 
completely out of context.

Today we have a good example in the feeding of the Five Thousand. On its own it is a marvellous account of one of the greatest and most attested to miracles. But to put it in context is to open up whole new layers of meaning and depth.

I say that this is one of the miracles most attested to because it is recorded in all the Gospels and astonishingly twice in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.

Today we have the account from Chapter 14 of Matthew but there is another account of what is essentially the same miracle in Chapter 15. In today’s version there are five thousand men with five loaves and two fish and in Chapter 15 we find four thousand men with seven loaves and a few fish.

If you are looking for historical evidence for a multiplication of loaves then six accounts of it in the pages of the New Testament surely ought to be enough to satisfy you!

There are two approaches often taken in relation to these miracles. One takes a reductionist view and downplays the miraculous content altogether in order to say that the real miracle was to get the people to share their food with one another.

We ought to put this out of our minds straight away for it reduces one of Christ’s greatest miracles to the level of the merely trivial.

The other approach often taken by scholars is to heighten the importance of the symbolism stressing the numeric significance of the five loaves, the two fish and the twelve baskets, etc. Again if you go down this road then the simple fact of the miracle is easily lost.

Now while clearly there are strong symbolic elements in the story we mustn’t let them get in the way of what actually occurred. You don’t generally find six accounts of nothing! Symbols are fine but they must be connected to an actual event and it is on that we must focus.

But what about the context I mentioned earlier? Well, Chapter 14 begins with Matthew’s account of the banquet at which John the Baptist was executed. This was an old-style royal banquet of the worst kind.

Herod is there with his cronies enjoying the best food and drink the kingdom has to offer. There is debauchery, arrogance, rivalry and scheming; and the upshot of all this is that the head of John the Baptist is triumphantly brought in on a plate.

This paragraph ends and the next one opens with our text today and has Jesus going to a lonely place. But finding himself followed by the throngs of people he takes pity on them and feeds them in a miraculous meal drawn from five loaves and two fish. All are satisfied; they are fed both physically and spiritually and there was an astonishing amount left over.

What a difference! Matthew sets these two banquets beside each other precisely in order to make this contrast between a banquet presided over by a worldly, brutal and selfish king and the banquet of a loving and generous Saviour to which the poor are invited. He is deliberately making a direct contrast between the values of this world and the values of the Kingdom of God.

Herod’s squalid banquet does nothing for anyone, least of all Herod who comes out of it with a guilty conscience. All who participate in that banquet come out the worse for it; except perhaps the one reluctant guest, John the Baptist.

For him it meant the crown of martyrdom. It meant the fulfilment of his role. He died knowing that he had completed his task and paved the way for the Saviour of the World.

But this is not the only context in which this wonderful miracle is set. If we look back into the Old Testament we find the great prophet Elisha performing something very similar in the Second Book of Kings. He has only twenty barley loaves but he satisfies the hunger of one hundred men.

Matthew’s readers would have been familiar with this incident and of course understood that however great the prophet Elisa was Christ is in a different league altogether.

That’s looking back into the pages of the Old Testament, but we must also look forward to the Last Supper to which the Feeding of the Five Thousand also alludes. There are clear Eucharistic references in the text such as Jesus taking the bread raising his eyes to heaven, blessing it, breaking it and giving it to them. This miracle is clearly therefore a foreshadowing of the Last Supper.

We who are familiar, as Matthew’s readers also were, with the frequent celebration of the Eucharist realise that what happened in the Upper Room is multiplied throughout the world and down the ages.

The bounty of God, the great outpouring of his love, the constant nourishment that he gives us is not restricted to that lonely place by the Sea of Galilee or within that Upper Room in Jerusalem. It reaches out to us now in the sacrament we celebrate this morning and connects us to him in an unbreakable bond of love.

In reflecting on the Feeding of the Five Thousand we look back to the time of Elisha and we look forward to the Last Supper and find definite resonances. But it goes beyond this for, as with everything Christ does, it refers also to the Kingdom which will come into its fullness at the end of time.

Just as Elisha’s miracle foreshadows Jesus’ miracle in Galilee, and it in turn foreshadows the Last Supper, the Eucharist we now celebrate; so this in turn foreshadows the Banquet of Heaven. Actually not foreshadows it, but already enables us to begin to participate in it.

You can see now something that can only be described as a great crescendo building up over the centuries which will come to its fulfilment on the Last Day. And this breathtaking crescendo is a tremendous up-swell of goodness, truth, beauty, generosity and self-sacrifice.

It is a wave of love that wants to catch up all of humanity and bring it to its fulfilment in God.

That simple meal on the side of the lake did not simply fill the bellies of those five thousand people; it was a sign of the Kingdom. It was a token of God’s love for us. It was a pledge of his promise to open for us the way to eternal life.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 3, 2014

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—August 3, 2014
Today, Jesus has pity on a vast, hungry crowd; the miracle He performs has profound Eucharistic meaning.

Gospel (Read Mt 14:13-21)

Our reading begins with a description of Jesus’ response to the news of the death of John the Baptist: “He withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by Himself.” Surely He had withdrawn to mourn in solitude the martyrdom of His cousin, whom He had once described as the greatest man born of woman (Mt 11:11). John died at the whim of people who refused to listen to the prophet’s call to repentance (read Mt 14:1-12). A fancy birthday party, in a palace filled with guests and fine food, ended in the death of the precursor to the Messiah. Upon hearing this, Jesus heads for a place as far from a scene like that as He can get, a “deserted place.”

Eighteenth Sunday: The Culture of Life
The Gospel reading for this Sunday begins with Jesus hearing the news of the death of John the Baptist, murdered, as you know, by Herod as part of the plot of his wife, Herodias,  to protect her position at court.  You know the story. Herod had been riveted by John the Baptist’s prophecy and had been listening to the Baptist’s condemning Herod’s present marital situation.  Herod had met up with his brother Philip in Rome and fallen in love with Philip’s wife.  He then divorced his own wife, Phasaelis, daughter of a King Aretus of Nabatea, and stole his brother’s wife. Most likely, she changed her name to Herodias.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Gospel Matthew 14 : 13 – 21

Place our sufferings, disappointments and cares into the hands of Jesus, and he will work great marvels in our lives. This is not merely a nice saying meant to give comfort to someone during a time of distress, it is the reality of God’s care for us in every aspect of our lives. In the Gospel for today this can be seen in how Jesus deals with the news of John the Baptist’s death, the multitude that sought him out and His concern for providing food for the crowd.

Sharing in God’s Eternity
When I was young, even three and four years old, I used to cry at night thinking about death and eternity. It was a feeling as if the wind has gotten knocked out of me and a huge weight was being pressed upon me. Even now, a feeling of terror can come over me when I think of eternity in relation to time. How can our lives which are so limited and passing endure forever? Forever itself seems to be an insolvable puzzle that twists the minds in knots. If I think of eternity, just sheer eternity, it makes me want to crawl under a rock and hide!

Solomon’s Wisdom: On the Necessity of Reading the Old Testament
Once I had dinner with another priest.  As we were eating we talked about the Bible.  “I preach the same homily every weekend,” he said. “Really?” I asked.  “And how are your collections?” While we were at it, he justified himself by declaring that it was no longer necessary to preach on the Old Testament. “Why do we need to talk about that dusty old book anymore? Jesus nullified it. Every word of it. End of story. Leave it on the shelf. Or use it as a doorstop or as a paperweight.”

How God is Present in Us
We have taken it for granted that God, then, is present somehow in the soul by grace. We have now to con­sider what sort of a presence this really is. Do we mean absolutely that God the Holy Spirit is truly in the soul Himself, or do we, by some metaphor or vague expres­sion, mean that He is merely exerting Himself there in some new and special way? Perhaps it is only that, by means of the sevenfold gifts, He has a tighter hold on us and can bring us more completely under the sweet dominion of His will.

Stained Glass and the Book of Revelation
Most Catholics are unaware of the fact that our traditional church buildings are based on designs given by God Himself. Their designs stretch all the way back to Mount Sinai, when God set forth the design for the sanctuary in the desert and the tent of meeting. Many of the fundamental aspects of our church layouts still follow that plan and the stone version of it that became the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Our traditional church buildings also have numerous references to the Book of Revelation and the Book of Hebrews, both of which describe the heavenly liturgy and Heaven itself.

What Do We Mean By Full of Grace?
Hail Mary, full of grace.

The words are beautiful, angelic, and rich in meaning. They are also a centuries-long fault line between Protestants and Catholics. Everything, it seems, hangs upon what is meant by full of grace, or whether full of grace is even the correct translation of Luke 1:28. In Latin, the phrase becomes two words: plena gratia. In the original Greek, it’s just one, the phonetically unwieldy but potent in meaning verb, kecharitōmenē.

The case for the Catholic reading of this is not only far more compelling than Protestant critics will let on, but also far stronger than many Catholics today probably realize.

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God
This is the famous first line of Psalm 19 – a lovely sentiment that poses a serious question: Do the heavens really declare the glory of God?  Is meaning something out there in the world?  Or is meaning merely something in me – something I create in my mind, a sort of mental varnish I paint on the world rather than a breath of fresh air I take in from it.

Five Ways to Sanctify Your Day
We all live busy lives, rushing to work, running errands, and navigating rush hour traffic. With all the busyness, it’s hard to live a prayerful life and be mindful of God’s presence, even if we want to. But ultimately, quietness comes from within,  and incorporating holy habits into our lives can help us keep recollected in the midst of all the noise and chaos of the modern world.

Here are five simple ways to slow down and live a more peaceful and prayerful life.

Reverence Please… Jesus is Present!
Our teenagers just came back from a Steubenville Retreat. They are fired up. They have had a palpable sense of the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Then they come to Mass in the parish and that feeling begins to ebb away. Why? Why doesn’t every single Mass remind us and fill us with a sense of God’s real presence? I think there are two reasons and two clear things that we all can do to change this dynamic.

The answers I am talking about are REVERENCE and ATTENTION.  The first one has to do with how we all treat the House of our Lord. Too often we begin to talk out loud even during the final song. We call to a friend across the aisle. We bring the secular into God’s house by talking to each other without reference to where we are and how we should behave.

Ten Reasons to Rejoice
St. Paul exhorts us in his letter to the Philippians to rejoice, not just once but twice:  “Rejoice in the Lord; I say it again: rejoice in the Lord.” (Phil. 4:4).  Pope Francis’ Apostolic exhortation reiterates the same theme—“The Joy of the Gospel”.  St. Francis de Sales remarks on spiritual progress commenting that after sin the worse thing is sadness.  St. Ignatius agrees, warning us that when we are in a state of desolation—that is to say sadness and discouragement—that is the moment that we are a prime target for the fiery arrows of the devil.

Wisdom – A Matter of Give and Take
I for one never expected to find nuggets of wisdom in a training book for high school wrestlers. Yet one coach seemed to know as much about human and spiritual development as he did about takedowns and pins. His book was sprinkled with wise sayings that have stayed with me over the years. One, attributed to an anonymous source, goes like this:
“The main reason why people fail instead of succeed is that they trade what they most want for what they want at the moment.”

All That Really Matters is How Much You Love Jesus?
When I resigned from my position as an Anglican priest one of the ladies in the parish was very upset.

She couldn’t figure out the point of my decision.

“Surely!” she cried, “All that really matters is how much we love Jesus?”

This is the response from many non-Catholics when faced with the doctrinal claims of the Catholic church.

In some ways they are right. How much we love Jesus is the most important thing, but that’s where the discussion begins, not where it ends.

Demonic Infection and Victory Over Sin
Is there a demonic element to seemingly ordinary human problems?


While full blown demonic possession is rare, it is much more common for souls to be troubled by what might be called “demonic infection”...

When I Used to Say: God, I Don’t Know What You Are
When it first started to happen, it made me anxious. I had been through my doubting, socialist phase. I had battled a serious illness. I had returned to the Catholic Church. I should have been settling into a quiet, normal life.

But then it would happen. I’d be lying in bed late at night, or looking at the ocean or even walking down the street, and the thought would come into my mind: I don’t know what you are..

La Nigrita, Showing The Everyday Beauty of Miracles
I don’t remember who it was who encouraged me to start talking to my guardian angel. It was certainly after I became Catholic, because prior to that I would have laughed out loud in the face of such a blatant absurdity. The only reason I was open to this idea of talking to my angel was because of a book I had read, clarifying that angels were not, in fact, fat little winged babies.

I started to think of my angel as a peer, though I know they are far above humans in intellect. The challenge was not to elevate an angel higher than God, so I started thinking of my angel walking beside me. When I heard the old adage (new to me because I had not been raised Catholic) that the angels finish any rosary that’s started, I began to get a picture of a special kind of intimacy with my angel. “Does he know what I’m thinking?” I wondered.

Shouldering the Weight of the World – Commentary on the witness of families
On Nov. 11, 1993, a date worth remembering, Pope John Paul II slipped on a newly installed piece of carpeting in the Hall of Benedictions atop the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica. He fell down several steps and, though in pain, did not lose his mental equilibrium. In an attempt to reassure his concerned onlookers, he said, “Sono caduto, ma non sono scaduto” (I have fallen, but I have not been demoted).

Catholic Dads Must Read Scripture!
Jesus was a master teacher, the greatest teacher who has ever lived, for He is the Only Son of God. There can be no human teacher who can approach the wisdom of Jesus Christ.

One might say with certainty that the Bible is the greatest textbook ever written, for in it is absolute Truth, written throughout the minds and hands of men who were inspired by an actual encounter with God Himself. The Bible is the Source of the Wisdom of God, documented and preserved by the Catholic Church. The New Testament has its source in the actual teaching of Jesus during the Incarnation, preserved orally by Christ’s hand-picked Apostles and eventually written down with the guidance of the Holy Spirit (for more on this, read from the Catechism of the Catholic Church sections 101-137).

The Five Stages of Persecution
Seeing the rise of persecution against Christians in Iraq, the far East and Africa, Mgr Pope has a great archived article here on the five stages that precede outright persecution. Can it happen in the USA – land of religious freedom? Mgr Pope observes the five stages.

The Fundamental Option: A Pernicious Choice
In the theological turmoil that followed the Second Vatican Council, the theory of the “fundamental option” is among the most pernicious developments. Fundamental option separates specific moral actions from a more general – fundamental – orientation of life. It holds, therefore, that specific sins do not bear on the status of one’s soul, or on the destination of one’s soul after death. All that matters for salvation, in this view, is that one “fundamentally” lives for God rather than evil.

My answers to questions about gay “marriage”
Have a seat, this is a long one. Here is a list of the questions I come across most often, with my brief answers:


“Why are you against gay marriage?”

It’s not that I am against gay “marriage” per se, it’s that gay “marriage” is an ontological impossibility. It’s like asking why I am against square circles. Marriage has an essence, a meaning. It has always been a certain kind of union of persons, specifically a conjugal union rooted in biology itself; it is complementary and heterosexual by its very nature. The particulars of marriage contracts have varied over time and cultures, but the essence of male/female has not. Brides have always presupposed grooms.

‘Amazing Parish’ movement unites clergy, laity in renewal
Denver, Colo., Jul 29, 2014 / 02:06 am (CNA).- A new movement seeking to unite the faithful and their pastors in the formation of thriving parishes has seen a wide scope of interest throughout the U.S. in the time since it was started little more than a year ago.

“The response has been great,” Pat Lencioni, one of the founders, told CNA.

The Amazing Parish movement seeks to give Catholic leaders, both clergy and lay, the resources and support they need to create strong, fruitful parishes.

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Pastoral Sharings: "17th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 27, 2014

In our Gospel today we are presented with three more 
parables about the nature of the Kingdom. The first two 
about the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price 
tell us about the inestimable value of the Kingdom. The 
third one about the dragnet tells us about the great 
diversity of its make up.

I recently visited a most interesting Auction House, I’d noticed it was viewing day and as I was in the vicinity went in to take a look. It’s a fascinating place; there were all kinds of interesting items of furniture as well as a lot of old crockery, jewellery, paintings and many other curiosities.

There’s only one day for viewing so the place was full of people examining the various items they were interested in and making notes in the catalogue.

I watched a chap examining a collection of rather old clocks. He had a magnifying glass in one eye and was carefully peering into the back of each of the clocks to see the state of the mechanism.

He reminded me of the merchant in the parable today looking for the pearl of great price. This clock dealer was using his expert knowledge to see which of the clocks were worth buying. And who knows, one day he might discover a clock worth thousands that no one else has recognised!

This is a very good image for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is all around us but most people aren’t aware of it. But those of us who do realise that it is there do everything we can to possess it.

The majority of people only have the very haziest notion of the spiritual; they think that there might possibly be a God but don’t see much evidence of his hand at work in the world and so forget about him most of the time.

It is often only when there is a crisis that they bring him to mind, but because they are so unfamiliar with the things of the Spirit they don’t know how to pray or call upon his aid.

They don’t realise that one of the greatest signs of God’s presence in the world is the very fact that he doesn’t make himself overtly known.

Clear evidence of God’s presence is that he gives us the tremendous gift of free will and leaves us to make our own decision as to whether we acknowledge him or not.

Paradoxically it is God’s apparent absence that shows how great he is. He doesn’t need to press himself upon us and make himself known. Actually it would be a sign of weakness if he had to constantly advertise himself. He prefers anonymity and ambiguity, he wants us discover him for ourselves rather than force himself upon us.

In ordinary life to give an anonymous gift is regarded as something special. This is particularly the case when the gift is a large one. But most people, quite naturally, want a bit of credit and it is hard for them to resist the temptation to reveal who the giver is.

And yet there is a negative side to making oneself known because it can place an obligation on the receiver of the gift. They might feel that they have to be extremely grateful or obliged give something in return.

This is the very reason why God doesn’t advertise his presence overmuch. If he let us know just how much he has done for us we would feel under such a heavy obligation to him that we would be completely paralysed and wouldn’t be able to do anything other than praise and thank him for the rest of our lives.

In the person of Jesus God has revealed himself definitively to the world. Through Jesus he has shown us what he is like and makes the great sacrifice that takes our sins away. But there is no definitive proof of this; we are invited to take it on faith.

And so the choice rests with us. The invitation is placed before us and it is entirely up to us whether we accept it. We are invited to believe in all that Jesus told us and to embrace the Gospel as our way of life, but there is absolutely no compulsion.

It could be that those of us who have taken Jesus at face value have a special sensitivity to the things of the Spirit or perhaps it is that we are open to the action of God’s grace in our lives.

Whatever the reason, we have come to know God; we have come to appreciate that his Kingdom of love and peace is indeed the “pearl of great price” that we simply must possess.

But unlike the merchants in the story or the man in the auction house we do not only want to possess it for ourselves because we understand that the Kingdom of God is not that kind of thing. It is not something that can be limited only to us; it is something that in order to possess we must share with others.

This is one of the great paradoxes of the Gospel. To possess the Kingdom means to share our knowledge of it with others. To truly believe in Christ means leading other people to the same knowledge; for secret faith is no faith at all.

We need to be like the householder, mentioned at the end of our Gospel reading today, who brings out of his house things both new and old. We should be happy to bring out of the house that is our life all kinds of treasures to share with our neighbours.

But these treasures are not things like clocks and pearls but attitudes and virtues like love and justice and truth and hope and so on. What we bring out from our treasure store are the values of the Kingdom, the attitudes of Jesus and the knowledge of the one true God.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
July 27, 2014

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—July 27, 2014
Gospel (Read Mt 13:44-52)

The Gospel reading gives us another cluster of parables about the kingdom of heaven, adding to an unusually high number in just one chapter. The first two are very similar. In one, the kingdom is compared to a “treasure buried in a field.” The one who finds the treasure immediately recognizes its great value, so he hides it again, for safe-keeping, and “out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” He is thrilled with the prospect of the riches the treasure will bring him. Knowing its value, he has no trouble selling all his other possessions. Nothing he currently owns is worth more than the treasure in that field. In the next parable, a merchant is out searching for fine pearls. He finds one of staggering quality; he, too, “goes and sells all he has and buys it.” He knows that the pearl of great price will more than compensate him for whatever losses he has to count. What is the message here?

Seventeenth Sunday: Wisdom
This Sunday’s readings begin Solomon’s request for Wisdom and conclude with a summation of the Lord’s teaching on the parables. 

At the conclusion of the Dissertation on the parables in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus states: “Every scribe of the Kingdom is like the head of the household who brings out from his storeroom both the new and the old.”  Jesus spoke to the Jewish people, well versed in Hebrew scripture.  The Gospel of Matthew was pointed towards Jewish Christians. Jesus is not replacing what we call the Old Testament with the New Testament.  He is combining the best of the Hebrew Scriptures with the New Way, the Kingdom of God. The wise one, the scribe of the Kingdom, therefore, knows how to use what is old and what is new.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Matthew 13: 44-52

The tone of the first reading of today’s mass is shaped by the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, made nearly three hundred years before the birth of Christ. Classical Greek language and culture had a strong intellectual and conceptual focus, often seeking to capture ideas and realities in abstract terms. This stood somewhat in contrast to Hebrew language and thought, which was intensely earthy and visceral. An example of the differences in the Greek and Hebrew ways of thinking shows through in this text from the First Book of Kings. In the translation influenced by Greek idiom we hear King Solomon ask for the gift of “an understanding heart”, whereas in the Hebrew original we read that he asked for “a listening heart”.

Reflections for Sunday, July 27, 2014
Knowing We are Treasured by God

Out of joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)

Have you ever noticed how much effort some people put into identifying themselves with certain groups? From social clubs to frequent-flyer programs, from parish committees to social networks, we are all looking for some sense of belonging. But the problem is, for every group that has welcomed you, there are even more that won’t. This is why the gospel truly is good news: Jesus welcomes everyone, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, slave and free. He has established a group where no one ever has to be turned away.

Jesus is in the House! A Consideration of How Jesus’ Teaching Must Take Place in the Church
In the 13th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, which we are currently going through in daily Mass, there are a number of parables that Matthew seems to have collected from Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Among them are the parable of the sower, the parable of the wheat and tares, the parable of the mustard seed, and the parable of the yeast.

Another structure employed by Matthew, likely recording the actual practice of Jesus, is the mention of  “the house.”

Angels, Our Friends Indeed
Never forget that God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten son. And he so loved his children, that he gave us each an angel.

I recall scooting to one side in my desk during second grade at St. Albert the Great school to make room for my angel to sit next to me. Our teacher Sr. Annette had just talked to us about our angels and made the suggestion that we could leave room in our seats for our angels to sit next to us. Since angels are spirits without physical bodies, it might seem silly, but I think my angel really did fill in that space next to me.

Front Row With Francis: The Sacrament of Confirmation
When I got assigned to write about Pope Francis’ general audience on Confirmation, I was filled with joy. I smiled thinking how beautiful God works in our lives. I go to different churches and talk about the importance of Confirmation to our young people and tell them my story, and how the Holy Spirit worked so powerfully in my life.
Pope Francis puts an emphasis on how important it is for baptized Catholics to fulfill the graces they received from Baptism and go on to Confirmation to be sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Abandonment to Jesus
Per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso: through Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus.

“Without me, you can do nothing.”

“With You, Jesus, I can do all things.”

Renew these thoughts which bind you to Him and which plunge you into the abyss of love which is His Heart. The logical and necessary consequence of the complete confidence which I have preached to you until now is total abandonment.

Our Journey to God Never Ends—Even For Saints
When Catholics speak of conversion, we usually mean the journey of our hearts, minds, and souls to God—not an instantaneous experience, a sudden surge of faith and emotion, or a bolt of supernatural lightning that seals us forever as the elect.

The idea of faith as a journey is well illustrated in the lives of some of the twentieth century’s greatest apologists. Thomas Merton climbed the “seven story mountain.” C.S. Lewis went from the Church of Ireland to atheism to high Anglicanism. Malcolm Muggeridge, a prominent British journalist, spent most of last century on his path to conversion, ending in the Church in the early 1980s. Muggeridge described it as finding his “resting place.”

What is the Answer to Suffering, Pain and Loss?
Many years ago, I taught 4th Grade CCD for my parish religious education department. It was the first evening of classes and I was starting the process of getting everyone introduced to one another when one boy blurted out, “I am going to be your worst nightmare.” He was speaking to me. You could say that I was taken aback, but that would be an understatement. Where in the world did that come from? And how should I respond?

Miracles and Evangelism
Some of the greatest gifts God has given to the Church for evangelism are the gifts of miracles. As a Pentecostal before I became Catholic, I always believed God still performs miracles, but I never saw anything close to what Catholics too often take for granted in both the number and kind of miracles God pours out upon his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church in every generation. Everything from the raising of the dead, to restorative miracles of the body and more have been experienced in the Church for 2,000 years fulfilling our Lord’s prophetic words of Mark 16:17-20:

Ten Ways To Grow in Prayer
Prayer is the key to salvation.  St. Augustine says that he who prays well lives well; he who lives well dies well; and to he who dies well all is well. St. Alphonsus reiterates the same principle:  “He who prays much will be saved; he who does not pray will be damned; he who prays little places in jeopardy his eternal salvation.  The same saint asserted that there are neither strong people nor weak people in the world, but those who know how to pray and those who do not. In other words prayer is our strength in all times and places.

Irrationality and Infallibility
Not too long ago I spoke with yet another Protestant minister who is about to leave his ministry and join the Catholic Church. He said he ended up in this situation because he had a seminary professor who kept challenging his students to, “Think it through.”

He tried to think through his opposition to Catholicism because he had a parishioner who was asking troublesome questions in his own journey to the Catholic Church, and as the pastor tried to think things through he ended up becoming a Catholic himself.

6 Ways to Cultivate the Virtue of Humility
Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist, there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.     —St. Augustine

If you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you’ll know that I speak frequently about the importance of humility. The saints make it perfectly clear that humility is the foundation of all spiritual growth. If we are not humble, we are not holy. It is that simple.

But while it’s simple enough to know that we should be humble, it’s not always so easy in practice. Accordingly, I want to discuss six methods to cultivate the virtue of humility.

Why Prophecy?
“Despise not prophecies. But prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” –1 Thessalonians 5:20

From time to time on a Catholic blog or Facebook post someone will make reference to the prophetic utterance or alleged message from some saint, seer, or sage.

Almost always in discussions about prophecy, whether old or new, somebody will correctly state that even approved private revelation is not binding on us and nobody is ever obligated to believe in it.

So the question is, why bother with it at all?

How to Forgive When I Can’t Forget
While many people believe forgetting an injury is part of forgiveness, Fr. Justin Waltz, pastor of St. Leo’s Church in Minot, ND, suggested just the opposite during a retreat he gave. In fact, he stated that forgetting is not even possible. “The only type of forgetting I have heard of is stuffing,” he said during a retreat presentation and added, “The hurt is not gone, it is just buried deep within.”

A Timeless Lesson and the Burden of Sin
I have been thinking a great deal about my experience at Reconciliation this past Saturday. I felt an intense and unexplainable urge to go and confess my sins when I woke up that morning. I try to go every six weeks or so, but this was no routine visit to the priest for me. I needed to unburden myself of the numerous venial sins I had committed since I last participated in this Sacrament. I was able to see the true nature of these sins as a tremendous burden on my shoulders, as a fog that kept me from seeing the path ahead and absolutely as obstacles in my relationship with Christ. I know these observations to be true because the moment I left the confessional booth I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted, my spiritual vision was restored and I was again focused on serving the Lord.

Ten Tips for a Better Confession
In the context of an Ignatian retreat it is always beneficial to prepare oneself to make an excellent Confession. To make a good confession demands prior preparation. The better the prior preparation, the more abundant the graces and the more overflowing the river of peace in your soul!

Following are ten short helps to make the best confession in your life.

We Don’t Call Her “The Virgin Mary” For Nothing
Whenever we talk about Mary, we address her with many different titles: Mother of Jesus, Mother of God, Holy Mary,  Blessed Mother. However, out of all these, the one most often heard across Catholic (and Protestant) aisles is The Virgin Mary.

Virtually every person that claims the Christian faith accepts that Mary miraculously conceived Christ as a virgin. Yet, it is widely believed across every Protestant denomination that after Mary gave birth to Jesus, she was free to give herself fully to her husband Joseph, and thus ceased to be “the virgin” Mary.

For Catholics, it’s a different story.

Responding to “Spiritual but Not Religious” Christians
Over the last several years I have encountered a fair number of Christians who claim they are “spiritual but not religious.” In other words, they do not identify with a particular Christian denomination, using the Bible alone to guide their faith. It’s an ideology that says religious institutions are outdated and unnecessary.

A Place for Family Prayer
Life today is fast-paced and can lead us astray, so we need to slow down sometimes and reset our direction toward God. The best way to begin this reorientation is by making space – both physically and spiritually – for prayer in the home.

Catholicism and the Perils of Technology
A confession: I am writing this column on my MacBook Air computer with my iPhone at my side. And I regularly enlist the help of a cellphone App to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. And after all, I live in the heart of Silicon Valley and have lectured to 300 actual and would-be Techies and Masters of the Universe.

Five Rules for Consoling the Dying
There are some things that should never be said to the dying. I’ve never bothered developing a comprehensive “no-no” list but years of parish ministry have attuned me to the particularly egregious.

First, if you are approaching a bedside, try not to act like a novice Optimist Club member, all hale and hearty and booming of voice. I know you are trying to cheer people up, but that’s not the way to do it. Ginned up bon ami “let’s do lunch soon” camaraderie makes me wonder if you can see reality.

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