Bishop Cote’s Lenten Message 2014

WeeklyMessage Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, D.D.- Norwich Diocese
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
March 2, 2014

My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

As Jesus’ disciples, we begin our journey to Easter on Ash 
Wednesday. All who wish to live in a deeper union with  
Jesus are welcome on this journey to experience God’s 
mercy and to become instruments of His love. Through our fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and the Sacraments, we seek to renew our faith and our love. And so, we journey with Jesus through His passion and death to share in the new life of His Resurrection. Our journey’s destination is Easter. On that solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection from the dead, we will renew our Baptismal promises by renouncing sin and affirming our belief in God, and our desire to live as members of His family.

The days of Lent begin with Jesus’ call to turn away from sin and to embrace the Gospel. Often the route of our sinfulness is selfishness, pride, and greed. Sin is an obstacle to our union with the Lord and to our solidarity with others. Sin impoverishes us morally and spiritually and it deafens us to Jesus’ call to repent and to embrace the Gospel. We turn to the Church for the guidance that we need to live a meaningful and fruitful Lent. Pope Francis provides much valued help to living a good Lent.
 
In his Lenten pastoral, our Holy Father offers “helpful thoughts” for our conversion. His message is inspired by the words of St. Paul, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich, yet for our sake, He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:19).

Reflecting on this verse, the Holy Father writes,” God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is His love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved.” The Holy Father noted that St. Paul’s message encourages us to be generous in helping those persons in need.

Sacred Scripture teaches us that through Jesus’ poverty, “He emptied Himself to assume the condition of a slave and became as men are and becoming as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a Cross,” (Philippians 2:7-8). For in Jesus’ sacrifice we see our own need to give of ourselves without counting the cost. In imitation of Jesus, we are motivated by our fidelity to the Father’s Will. We respond to God’s eternal love by giving of ourselves. In short, we are to love others as God loves us – “a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved.”

Pope Francis’ words focus on the very heart of Jesus’ mission and his message helps us to see Christ more clearly. “In the poor and outcast, we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ.” The moral and spiritual poverty of our day leads to a culture of violence and death. The Lord’s way is love and His love brings about peace and it gives life. It is by Christ’s sacrifice that we are strengthened and become rich in His love. “It is His way of loving us, His way of being our neighbor…Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and loves its parents without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant.

The Holy Father calls us “to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it.” In our Diocesan Church we have several opportunities “to touch the poverty of our brothers and sisters” and to help make their lives better. How real the face of Christ is in the poverty and need of those fed in our diocesan soup kitchens and pantries in Norwich and in Middletown. We see Christ in those helped by our Diocesan Catholic Charities agency and globally we touch the poor through our support of Operation Rice Bowl and our Diocesan Outreach to Haiti. Our Diocesan Housing Initiative repurposes vacant or unused Diocesan buildings to help the (cont.) homeless, poor and elderly, and it creates housing to help those with no place to live.

While a labor of love, the personal price of feeding, clothing, sheltering, and helping the impoverished is our commitment, dedication, our energies, and zeal. We spend ourselves in imitation of Christ. It is our way of life. The steps we take to alleviate moral or physical poverty require sacrifice and prayer, self-denial and almsgiving, the Sacraments and penitential practices. The Holy Father writes, “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.” In short, we need Lent!

This Lent, open your hearts to the Father’s love. To see Christ in our brothers and sisters, to alleviate their poverty and need, we must be freed from the slavery of sin by turning to the Lord and receiving the warm embrace of His merciful love in the Sacrament of Penance. Our parish churches are once again open in welcome to you to experience the renewing and refreshing graces of our Sacrament of Penance. The Light is on for you! In our parishes, special times will be available so that you can celebrate the Sacrament of Penance. In that Sacrament, you will receive the richness of God’s grace and you are cleansed of sin. In experiencing the mercy of God by the forgiveness of our sins, we breathe the refreshing air of new life and know the beauty of the gift of God’s love.

With our Holy Father, I pray that the journey we begin on Ash Wednesday will be fruitful for the Church, for those in need of our love and our help, and for each of us. May this Lenten journey strengthen us to walk with Jesus in the newness of life as we renew our birth by water and the Holy Spirit at our Baptism!

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
March 2, 2014

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 6:24-34
Gospel Summary

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26). There is something wonderfully reassuring about these words of Jesus. He knows how much our sense of security and satisfaction too often depend solely upon the fragile support of human effort alone. He wants us to realize that the only trustworthy support is God’s love for us.
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Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Treasure Today
The first reading for today as well as today’s Gospel contain some of the most comforting words in Sacred Scripture.  The first reading is taken from the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, often referred to as Second Isaiah.  This section of Isaiah was written while the people of Judah were exiled in Babylon in the sixth century before Christ.  They were forced into a slavery.  They had no visible means of escaping.   They knew that they were being punished for their sins.  But they feared that God had forgotten them.  The prophet tells them, “Zion said ‘The Lord has forsaken me; the Lord has forgotten me.  But can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Even if she should forget, I will never forget you,’ says the Lord.”
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God and Mammon?
In the ancient world, most peoples believed in a universe that had many gods.  But even without the help of biblical revelation, Greek philosophers figured something out.  There could only be one Supreme Being, only one almighty and omnipotent Ruler of all, only one God.

In the twelfth chapter of Luke, Jesus asks a question.  Whom do you serve? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or that god called “mammon.”  You can only have one God.
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Advice from the Lord in overcoming anxiety. A sermon for the 8th Sunday of the Year
When we read today’s Gospel we must be careful not to misinterpret its basic vision.  Jesus is not telling us what to do, but offering us something to receive.  The wrong way to interpret this gospel is to simply hear Jesus say, “Stop worrying.”  We all get this advice from people every day and it isn’t very helpful.  This is not what Jesus is saying.  For, remember, in the Sermon of the Mount which we are reading, Jesus is describing what a transformed human person is like.  And what he is teaching us here is that, as He begins to live his life in us many of our anxieties will diminish and go away.
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God Alone Suffices
“Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied” (John 14:8). God alone suffices, and all we need to possess him is to see him, because in seeing him, we see all his good­ness, as he himself explained to Moses: “I will make all my goodness pass before you” (Ex. 33:19). We see all that attracts our love, and we love him beyond all limits. Let us join St. Philip in saying with all our heart, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” He alone can fill all our emptiness, satisfy all our needs, content us, and make us happy.
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Pope Benedict: Francis’ Secret Weapon
History was made again on the weekend when two popes appeared together at Pope Francis’ first consistory. With the first Pope from the Americas creating an unprecedented number of cardinals hailing from the developing world, we are seeing the continued shift in the Catholic Church away from the old world and towards the new world.
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What the Pope Said –and Didn’t Say – About Skipping Mass
Almost since the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis — in his words and in his gestures — often has been misinterpreted by the media. Frequently, his statements have been truncated to sound bites and recast out of context; at other times his simple and humble personal style has been propped up as a sign he is distancing himself from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, a humble pope in his own right who has often been portrayed as pompously embracing the princely regalia of his office. Whether these interpretations — coming from secular and sometimes even religious journalists — are driven by ignorance or personal agenda, their net effect is to create a broad public perception at odds with the authentic Pope Francis.
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Give Thanks After Each Mass
As in the lives of all of the saints, the center and heart of the life of St. Philip Neri was Jesus present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Neri, known for his joy, love for the youth, and fervor in prayer found his strength in Holy Mass.

The joyful saint observed something that disturbed him at the very end of Mass. He noticed a man would rush out of Mass before the final blessing. This greatly bothered Neri. After noticing this man scamper out of Mass, before it was concluded another time, the saint had a plan prepared for the following day.
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From ‘Cafeteria Catholicism’ to the Banquet
The phrase “cafeteria Catholic” refers to a baptized Catholic who doesn’t embrace everything the Church teaches—someone who picks and chooses, a la carte (hence “cafeteria”), from among the Church’s moral rules, rubrics, and spiritual norms.

Many “cafeteria Catholics” are the product of bad catechesis. They disobey certain Church teachings because they’re simply not aware of them. Others reject difficult rules because they’ve never heard them presented in a coherent, persuasive way, seeing them more as restrictive than keys to flourishing.
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Holiness Overcomes Hate
Leviticus! The Lectionary avoids Leviticus like the plague. This reading from Leviticus is one of only two in the whole 3-year lectionary cycle for Sundays. Most Bible readers avoid Leviticus too. Who wants to read about how ancient animal sacrifices were supposed to be conducted or how the Israelites dealt with lepers? Yet Leviticus has at its core a powerful focus on loving, covenant faithfulness, on clinging close to the Lord even in the most mundane of our daily tasks.
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The Problem of A Stubborn and Unrepentant Heart
Jesus once rebuked the people of his time for their stubborn and unrepentant hearts:

This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.” Luke 11:29-32
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Slaying Your Goliath
We all have a Goliath in our lives.  Unlike the biblical story of David and Goliath, ours certainly isn’t the gigantic Philistine with heavy armor that David took out with one stone.  Our Goliath more likely comes in the form of those “big” problems in our lives which seem impossible to overcome.  Our Goliath may be the grip of an addiction, a paralyzing fear, financial hardship, chronic regret or resentment, or an ongoing sin or habit.  At its essence, our Goliath is something that draws us away from God and keeps us from experiencing the peace and joy he wants us to experience in our lives.
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The Mother of All Virtues
Prudence is the “mother of all virtues,” the virtue from which all cardinal virtues flow. Without the ability to make good decisions and actions, no other virtue can be practiced. To practice prudence, however, you must seek God, seek the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. In his classic book, The Four Cardinal Virtues, Josef Pieper identified four mechanisms for practicing prudence: 1) deliberation, 2) judgment, 3) decision, and 4) action. That sounds dry until you pour life into it.

Prudence healed my relationship with my oldest daughter.
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The Saints & Depression
Depression can often have a physiological aspect, which means that an examination by a physician will frequently be a good starting point in addressing the situation and any underlying problems. Severe, ongoing depression isn’t something we should become resigned to or attempt to cope with alone; professional assistance should generally be obtained, usually after a doctor has ruled out a physical or chemical cause.

But almost everyone suffers from a mild form of depression from time to time, and in such situations, the experiences of some of the saints may be able to help and encourage us.
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The Subtleties of Satan
Are demons and angels real?

There are an increasing numbers of new stories about exorcism and the reality of the demonic. I wrote recently on how the demonic may be manifested in many ways other than the obviously shocking stuff of the exorcism movies. The Devil in Ordinary told the story of a guy I met who was outwardly normal, but there was another quality to him which lurked beneath the surface which seemed diabolical.
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Demonic Obsession
There are at least three ways that evil spirits can influence human beings: demonic obsession, oppression, or possession. (I say “at least” because I just now found this interview with Fr. Gabriele Amorth where he lists six.) While demonic obsession has a technical definition, I’m curious whether I could be characterized as having an obsession in the more colloquial sense.
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Vatican Theologians Approve New Paul VI Miracle
VATICAN CITY — The consulting theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Pope Paul VI, moving him one more step closer toward canonized sainthood.

Vatican Insider’s Andrea Tornielli reported Feb. 21 that, earlier that week, the congregation’s theological experts had unanimously recognized the healing of an unborn child through the intercession of the late pope.
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Why We Love the Saints
Having the family background that I do (I am the only one in my family of origin that is still Catholic—everyone else now worships at the local Assembly of God) I have been asked, “Why do Catholics pray to and worship saints?” I have been told that it is idolatry and it takes away from Jesus’ role as the “one mediator between God and mankind” (1 Tim. 2:15).  So, this let us look at saints and their powerful witness and intercession. I have also been asked, “Why don’t you just pray directly to God?”
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How Do the Two Become One?
How is it possible that two different people with totally separate upbringings, opposite temperaments, and opposing personalities can come together to live under one roof in peace and harmony until death do them part?

By participating and cooperating with the grace that flows from the Sacrament of Marriage. God created marriage as a sign of His love for us here on earth and to point us to the infinite bliss of the next life, and it’s only in keeping this perspective continually in mind will couples discover the joy that they’re seeking.
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Teaching Kids The 5 Steps To A Good Confession
We are preparing for the Sacrament of First Reconciliation at home this year, and it’s coming up for Lydia very soon! I made a printable set of the “5 Steps To A Good Confession” as from the First Communion Catechism. You can tape the signs onto your actual steps at home (or anywhere else) for your kids to see and memorize in the weeks leading up to their First Penance.

We have had these on our stairs leading to our playroom for about a week now, and Lydia told me yesterday “Mommy, I almost have these completely memorized because I read them every time I go up the stairs!”. This made my heart so happy. Hooray for passive teaching!
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‘The Passion of the Christ,’ a Decade Later
When the movie The Passion of the Christ debuted in theaters 10 years ago, on Feb. 25, 2004, it was described by many as a cultural phenomenon. Millions liked the film as a whole; others were offended by it.

It was the highest-grossing R-rated film (so rated because of its graphic depictions of the cruelties inflicted on Jesus) in the United States, grossing in excess of $600 million during its theatrical release. Because only the biblical languages of Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin were used, it also became the highest grossing non-English language film of all time.
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Was the Star of Bethlehem a myth? A UFO? Or something else? 8 things to know and share
The Star of Bethlehem is endlessly fascinating. All kinds of theories about what it was have been proposed.

Based on the way Matthew describes it, some have thought it was a supernatural manifestation that led the magi around.

Some have even suggested it was a flying saucer.

Some have said it was a myth and never really existed.

All of these views are based on the idea that the star didn’t move the way a normal star would.

Is this correct? 

Here are 8 things to know and share . . .
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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Pastoral Sharings: " The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessageFather Alex McAllister SDS
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 23, 2014

The Gospel text today continues our review of the teaching of Jesus given in what is called the Sermon on the Mount.

It seems all very straightforward and clear, even if it is at times a very difficult teaching. We are very familiar with the concepts Jesus uses. And indeed many of his actual words taken from this text have entered the language. We can immediately call to mind common phrases such as “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile” which are used by people who have no idea of their origin.

The common understanding is that Jesus is ratcheting things up for his followers. In the Old Testament, for example, the rule “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was brought in to moderate an earlier system which worked on the principle “a life for an eye, a life for a tooth.”

And now Jesus says, “Offer the wicked man no resistance” as a further moderation. He raises the standard and moves things on to a completely new level by advocating the kind of passive resistance as later taken up by the likes of Ghandi and Martin Luther King.

However, I chose my words carefully when I said, “it seems very clear”, because once you look below the surface things are not always as clear as all that.

The whole business of “turn the other cheek” is a case in point. We modern readers we take this teaching at a literal level and understand it as a physical attack to which we make no response, even going so far as to invite our opponent to hit us again.

But when you read the commentaries some other considerations come to the surface. What we find is that this is not so much about a physical attack as an insult.

Because of the nature of the wording here in Matthew’s account the scholars think that what is being referred to is being hit by the back of the opponent’s left hand. This implies an insult rather than an assault. The Christian, we are being told, simply turns away.

So we should be quite clear that Jesus is not saying that we ought to allow ourselves to be abused. We should not abase ourselves before our enemies. No we should retain the moral high ground and rise above the fray, as it were.

The Christian thing to do is to ignore the insult. This, therefore, is not so much about inviting further injury as refraining from retaliation, not perpetuating a disagreement.

Something similar is to be found in the teaching about loving our neighbour. The text says, “You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But actually this teaching is to be found nowhere in the Old Testament.

One might wonder if we are being misled here, and, if we can’t be misled by Jesus, then is it Mathew who is being a bit tricky?

I suppose the point is that the consequence of not loving your enemy is not that you hate them but that you might as well hate them because indifference towards them has much the same effect.

What Jesus is getting at is that if God loves them irrespective of their actions then we should be doing the very same.

You can analyse all these things to death. And although it is extremely interesting and informative to study these texts very closely it doesn’t necessarily move us forward.

The main point though is not that Jesus sets a higher standard for Christians than for everyone else. It is that instead of looking at what other people do or don’t do, we should be looking at what God does and this should be the guide for everyone.

God made us, God loves us irrespective of our actions, and God wants even the greatest sinner to love him in return and so wish to enter eternal life with him.

This is what should be the measure of our actions. Not treating others as we wish them to treat us but loving them in exactly the same way as God does.

This is not passionate love which the Greeks called eros, it is not the kind of love that comes from friendship which they called philia. No, it is the purest form of love that there is and the word used in the New Testament is agape which is often translated into English as charity.

But don’t be confused by that word either because this is not about Guide Dogs for the Blind or Cancer Research or any other official kind of charity.

This is loving others not because of any relationship or special closeness or even because they somehow deserve it. It is entirely generous, spontaneous and is given without thought of return. This love finds its expression simply because the other person exists.

In short, it is the kind of love that God has for us. And in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is inviting us to lead the kind of life in which this specific kind of love is our motivating force.

We Christians take up this challenge. We’re not very good at it, but at least we are giving it a go and we really do want to love our fellow human beings in this wonderful way.

Often we forget, and frequently we revert to lower feelings and desires; but the reason we are sitting in this Church this morning is because we want to live our lives in accordance with the Gospels. We can see the way ahead and we know that it is the road to fulfilment and the only road which brings glory to God. Having this desire is all that Christ asks of us.

There is a story of a reporter who visited a lep  er colony run by some nuns in a developing country. He saw a young nun bathing the badly infected wounds of leprous patient. He couldn’t bear to look at the terrible wounds and said to the nun, ‘I wouldn’t do that for a million pounds!”

She simply replied, “Neither would I.”
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1587

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
February 23, 2014

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5:38-48
Gospel Summary

This Sunday’s gospel reading is taken from the section in Matthew’s Gospel that came to be called the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7). Matthew summarizes the teaching of Jesus on a variety of life issues such as anger, adultery, retaliation, almsgiving, prayer, money, judging others, and discipleship. Jesus teaches us how to respond to those who do us evil. He tells us to love them, and to pray for those who persecute us.
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Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time: The Law of Talons vs the Law of Love, Capital Punishment and the Catholic
I want to begin this morning with a phrase from the famous English writer G.K. Chesterton.  Chesterton was at the height of his literary career about ninety years ago.   He took a serious look at his relationship with God and asked to be received into the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps you might remember from your school days that Chesterton loved to coin phrases that at first glance were humorous, but on further thought were really quite deep.  One of my favorites is: The problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting but that it has not been tried.
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Turn the Other Cheek?
“Love your enemies.”  “Turn the other cheek.”  (Mat 5:38-40).  This sounds admirable to some, but preposterous to others.  The 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche thought such talk promotes a society of weaklings.  Karl Marx thought these words keep the oppressed under the thumbs of the capitalists. 

Does Jesus want us to be doormats, suckers who allow ourselves to be taken advantage of by every bully, dictator and gangster that comes down the pike?
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Pope Francis: Gossip Is Poisonous
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus message emphasized the importance of avoiding all forms of slander in living a Christian life.

“It’s so rotten, gossip. At the beginning, it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy.  But at the end, it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us,” Pope Francis said Feb. 16.

“I tell you the truth,” he preached to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square. “I am convinced that if each one of us would purposely avoid gossip, at the end, we would become a saint! It’s a beautiful path!”
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Your Soul Is Worth So Much
All the money, possessions, houses, mountains, oceans, animals, all of creation itself has much less value than your immortal soul. Your immortal soul has infinite value. Nobody in the world can fully plumb the depths of the value of just ONE immortal soul.

How do we know this?   Jesus articulates this with luminous clarity:  “What would it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his life in the process? What can a man give in exchange for his immortal soul?(Mk. 8:36)
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Were You Made for Greatness or for God?
One of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s most often quoted lines is this:

“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” (Sources: 123)

It’s a good line, but did he ever really say it? Well, I’ve been doing some digging to try and track down this line (Others have tried too). To me, it looks like he never actually said it. However, he said a couple things that were close. In a visit with German pilgrims in the first month of his pontificate, back in April, 2005, Benedict said:

“Christ did not promise an easy life. Those who desire comforts have dialed the wrong number. Rather, he shows us the way to great things, the good, towards an authentic human life.” Source
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How the accounts of Jesus’ childhood fit together: 6 things to know and share
Both Matthew and Luke contain accounts of Jesus’ infancy.

But they don’t describe all the same events.

As a result, some have even accused Matthew and Luke of contradicting each other.

What’s the true story? Why did they record different events? And can the two be fit together?

Here are 6 things to know and share . . .
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Why Mary’s Picture Hangs In a Catholic Home
You’ve seen pictures of the Immaculate Heart of Mary beside the Sacred Heart of Jesus in many Catholic homes. In our home, the “alliance of the two hearts” devotion, (as it is popularly called) is not just a design fix to balance out our fireplace mantle decor.  Mary is enthroned with Jesus after a solemn ceremony based on theologically sound reasons for Mary’s role in our family:  she is our mother, queen and intercessor.
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ASTOUNDING – Pope Francis Records Private Video for Kenneth Copeland? Yes! Wow…
This is what Christian unity looks like. It doesn’t ignore the differences that we have with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters.
It isn’t triumphalistic.
It isn’t us vs them.

Rather, it is the love of Christ for all people. Jesus prayed for Christian unity and we must all acknowledge that the fact is – division within Christianity is both scandalous and a counter-sign to a God of unity to a world that needs Him.
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Knowing the Novena
Succinctly, a novena is a nine-day period of private or public prayer to obtain special graces, to implore special favors, or make special petitions. (Novena is derived from the Latin novem, meaning nine.) As the definition suggests, the novena has always had more of a sense of urgency and neediness.
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Some Standards and Concerns Jesus will NOT have on the Day of Judgment
We human beings tend to assess our relative status and success based on things like money, possessions, popularity, career and power. If I am wealthy, and well-connected, if I have a large house with the great room, the cathedral ceilings, Granite counter tops, and numerous widescreen TVs, (even in strange places like the bathroom), if I have a glamorous career instead of a “demeaning” job, if I have good looks, (Through big hair, cosmetics and even plastic surgery)… All of this from a worldly perspective, means that I am successful, that my life has reached it’s goal, that I have made it to the top.
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Kick-Starting Your Prayer Life
All of us have difficulties with prayer and we have to understand this is normal. Prayer is a relationship and one that takes a lot of work to get even to the point of even being OK.

In many ways prayer is like any other relationship. Many of us start out basing it, in many ways, on good experiences and emotions. This, as in a romantic relationship, is a good thing, because it helps bring two people closer together. But, real love can only be fostered once we stop relying on emotional highs and great experiences. Once the emotions leave, we must decide to love the other person for their own sake, not what they do for us. Real love is choosing what is best for another regardless of the cost to myself.
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Pray to God in Secret
“Go into your room” (Matt. 6:6) — that is, into the most private part of your home, or rather, go into the most in­timate place in your heart. Recollect yourself completely. “Shut the door” (Matt. 6:6). Shut your senses, and let no foreign thoughts enter. “Pray in secret.” Open your heart to God alone. Let him be the keeper of your innermost sorrows.
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Discovering the Love of God through Marriage
The love God has for his people is intense, all-consuming, a torrential force of love that is poured out from His heart and on to us. His love is not deserved, earned, or ours to claim as if we were entitled to it. No, it is a freely given gift from a good and merciful God who loves us like crazy.
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What is a Marriage Annulment and Should it be Easier?
John Allen writes in the Boston Globe here suggesting that Pope Francis and the cardinals, when facing the question of whether divorced and remarried Catholics should be able to receive communion, might come up with a compromise. Here’s the problem:
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Olympic Figure-Skating Star Hailed as Example for Catholics
Sharing the Rosary, and praying publicly before she steps onto the ice, are just some of the things that South Korea’s Yuna Kim does to witness to the faith.

WASHINGTON — Catholic Olympian and international skating superstar Yuna Kim is a role model not only of dedication and athleticism, but also an example of how to live the faith publicly, a fan says. 
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What the Book of Proverbs has to say to us of the times in which we live
We are reading from the Book of Proverbs in the Office of Readings just now. In it are many good descriptions, or maxims that state well what we who are believers and seek wisdom are up against. They have a lot to say of the times in which we live.
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For Wisdom Folks Miss Because They Think Reading The Bible Is Lame
Wait. Who said reading the Bible is lame?

Well, I can’t really say for sure. It just seems like it’s not done in the Catholic church, you know, apart from hearing the readings at Mass. This is one of the reasons why we can go on and on about “religious education,” but folks are still clueless and confused about things as rudimentary as understanding that John the Baptist didn’t write the Gospel of John (or any other book in the New Testament).

“Yeah, yeah,” you say. “Leave it to a former Protestant to bang the obvious drum that ‘Catholics don’t read the Bible.’”
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What does Scripture mean by the term “The Flesh” ??
There are many references to “the flesh” in New Testament Scripture, especially in the letters of St. Paul. The phrase confuses some who think it synonymous with the physical body, or sometimes with sexual sin.

It is true that there are many times when Scripture uses the word “flesh” to refer to the physical body. However when the definite article “the” is placed before the word “flesh” we are dealing with something else.
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In What Age of the Church Are We Living?
If true wisdom is anything, it is the ability to judge current situations within an historical context:  ‘to know the age in which one lives.’  Such historical contextualization is often crucial to the moral assessment of one’s ‘life and times.’  For example, we would be at a loss to assess adequately the disordered state of contemporary sexual mores without discovering their roots in the cultural and sexual revolution of the late 1960’s.

Consequently, it is always a valid question for Christians to ask themselves: What age or moment of the Church are we living in?
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Marry or Move In Together? Brain Knows the Difference
Marriage is linked with numerous health benefits that simply cohabiting doesn’t seem to provide. Now, research suggests the reason why — the brain links “just” living together with a lack of commitment and can’t relax.

The new study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the brains of cohabitating and married heterosexual couples, as well as same-sex couples, half of whom considered themselves married despite lacking legal recognition. The findings revealed that parts of the brain are less reactive to stress when somene is with a person they consider themselves married to.
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Pastoral Sharings: " The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Father Alex McAllister SDS
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 16, 2014

There is some very difficult material in today’s Gospel. ‘If anyone kills he will answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: Anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court.’ ‘You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ ‘If your right hand causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.’

All this makes Jesus’ teaching on divorce seem quite mild. There are only twenty verses in this passage; yet, when I picked up a commentary I found thirty-five  pages trying to explain what Jesus meant.

I am a little worried at Jesus teaching about anger. That may sound a strange thing for a priest to say. But anger is an emotion and therefore is neither good nor evil. What we should do with an emotion is that it should be recognised and find an appropriate expression. If we are angry with our brother because of something he has done then we should acknowledge our feeling, confront the situation and seek reconciliation.

However, people often think that anger itself is wrong. They then either suppress it or brood over it.

Suppression is unhealthy, it denies the feeling pushing it into the unconscious so as to pretend it is not there. What happens then is that much later it reappears in an inappropriate way.

Brooding is just as unhealthy, when we brood we nurse the anger, we feed it and keep it to ourselves. The whole thing grows out of all proportion and leaves us feeling bitter hatred.

I think that Jesus was talking about these two inappropriate expressions of anger. As we have said, anger is an emotion and as such is neither good nor evil, it is what is done with it that brings it into the moral sphere. After all Jesus himself showed anger when he chased the money changers out of the Temple.

Perhaps what we need to do is to look at the actual words Jesus uses: ‘Anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court.’ The court meaning, presumably, the court of God.

There we have it. We are answerable for our anger. This does not mean that we are in the wrong every time we are angry. It means that we are answerable, we are called to account. There are appropriate expressions of anger and inappropriate expressions of it. It is how we handle our anger that becomes moral and this can be either good or bad.

You might be asking by now: ‘Why is he going on so much about anger?’ I am going on about it because I think it is very important. Learning to handle anger is one of the most important lessons in life, and it has real consequences for our mental and spiritual well-being. Suppressing anger is the road to an overdeveloped sense of guilt.

I was once watching a TV soap about two American girls living in a flat in New York. The Jewish one tried to make the other one feel guilty about something. The reply came as quick as a flash. ‘Don’t lay that on me. I’m a Catholic, I’ve got more than my fair share of guilt.’

There is a real truth there. We Catholics are experts when it comes to guilt. We know all about it and we can feel guilty over the most trivial thing. What did the old Confetior say: ‘I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.’ We certainly knew how to rub it in. And I think that we still do.

In this Gospel passage Jesus lays it on the line. If we were to summarise what he has to say in one sentence it would be: Outward conformity to the law is insufficient, true conversion is conversion of the heart.

Jesus does not just want slavish obedience to the letter of the law. He wants us to see things through his eyes, he wants us to live like he did, he wants us to do the things he did, he wants us to model our lives so closely on him that we become one with him. But most of all he wants us to be free. He does not want us to be overburdened with a heavy sense of guilt.

Everything that Jesus did was to remove guilt. He did not diminish sin, he acknowledged it, and forgave it, and thus banished guilt. He said: ‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.’ These words could never have come from someone who wanted people to feel guilty. In another place he says: ‘I will set you free, and you will be free indeed.’

When we are faced with a difficult passage from the Gospel and we don’t know what to make of it we remember one thing: it is the Gospel and therefore it is the Good News. Then we look at it afresh and we see the Good News in it. This passage today is not about extending the law to cover inward actions as well as outward actions. It is about seeing what is behind the law, it is about how to be free and how to live a good life.

When we are faced with strong emotions like lust and anger. We mustn’t pretend that they don’t exist and suppress them; battening down our emotional hatches. No, we try to give them expression in an appropriate way.

We acknowledge that we are angry or strongly attracted to another and we experience the emotion. But then we ask ourselves the question: what is the right way to deal with this? And then we do what our conscience dictates. This is the way to live our lives in a way that improves our mental health and stability. This is the way to live our lives in accordance with God’s law.

Two monks were on a long journey. They came to a ford in a wide river and wanted to cross. There was an exceptionally beautiful woman with a low cut dress who also wanted to cross. One of the monks picked her up on his shoulders and waded into the river carrying her across. When they reached the other side he put her down and the two monks continued their journey. When at long last they got to somewhere they could stay the night the other monk berated his companion.

‘How are we going to explain to the Abbot the disgrace you have brought on the monastery? People would have seen you carrying that woman across the river. Had he forgotten that he was a monk? How dare he touch a woman, let alone one so provocatively dressed.’ He went on and on. Finally, the first monk said: ‘Brother, I left that woman on the bank of the river, you seem to have been carrying her all day.’
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1580

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
February 16, 2014

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5:17-37
Gospel Summary

This lengthy excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount echoes the note struck in last Sunday’s gospel where Matthew urged us to seek a more spiritual and personal ideal of moral behavior. Being keenly aware of the more conservative and traditional Jewish Christians in his community at Antioch, he defends their respect for the Mosaic Law and makes it clear that he does not in any sense reject the wisdom expressed there.
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Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time: The Fullness of the Law
Let’s begin today by talking about the Gospel of Matthew today.  This is the gospel that we will hear proclaimed the most this liturgical year.  Matthew’s gospel was written primarily for  Christians who had first been Jews. These were Christians who were grounded in the scripture and traditions of the ancient Hebrews. The gospel also addressed Jews who were considering becoming Christians as well as all who wanted to learn more about this New Way, as our faith was first called..
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Holiness of the Pharisees
Radio talk show hosts make a living on it.  Show after show, they bring before our eyes stupid, unjust and wasteful situations in order to produce outrage.  We love to listen and get ourselves all worked up.  Our indignation keeps us tuned in and the show’s ratings high.

It’s easy to focus on the outrageous things that others do.  It’s easy to clamor that this intolerable situation must come to an end now.  For to say this requires little or nothing from us–our demand is that others do something about it, that others mobilize and take action, that others be set straight.
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There’s No Hall Pass for Sin
We humans love to escape responsibility. When Mom runs to the room where sounds of a fight are coming from, she finds brothers pointing fingers at each other. When confronted with our trespasses, it is easy to blame someone else. Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. But one roundabout way of denying responsibility is to claim that we did not have freedom in the first place, that our hand was forced, that we couldn’t help but do what we did. This moral argument comes in many forms: that a person’s upbringing was so bad that he wasn’t really free, that all of human life is physical material and so our moral outcomes are dictated by our DNA and our environment, not by our choices.
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Scripture Speaks: Law for the Heart
Jesus told the crowd listening to Him on a mountain that their righteousness must “surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees.”  Why?

Gospel (Read Mt 5:17-37)

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave His followers extended, detailed instructions about life in the kingdom of God.  He started with the Beatitudes, describing “blessedness” in terms those hearing Him had never heard before.  Lest they begin to think that He was completely overturning all they knew about life as God’s people, Jesus reassured them:  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”  What did He mean?
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They Chose Life. A Beautiful Story
This is beautiful. Whenever we hear of a bad diagnosis of an unborn child, we pray for a miracle. But sometimes we must remember the miracle is that individual life, no matter how long they stay.

A Christian couple from Illinois is sharing their story about choosing life for their unborn terminally ill son and how their son changed their lives in his ten days in the world.
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Run away … or stand up and fight for the Truth?
In the increasingly hostile climate that surrounds the Catholic Church today, we are faced with two ways to respond. And more and more Catholics are deciding that running away is not their style. Fueled by the attacks on the Church, they instead are leaning in and working to better understand and defend their faith.
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God’s Law is Personal
There is a danger when we speak of God’s Law, to consider it as we might any secular law. For example, we may well consider secular law merely to be some sort of impersonal code written by some nameless legislators or bureaucrats. We have not met them, we do not know them, or necessarily love or trust them. In effect, they are an abstraction in our mind called “the government” or “the man” or just “they,” as in, “They don’t want you to park here” or “They’ll fine you for that.”
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Pope Francis: Mass Is God’s Time
VATICAN CITY — In his daily homily on Feb. 10, Pope Francis reflected on the meaning of the Mass, highlighting how it is a real participation in Jesus’ presence, and he encouraged all to enter more fully into the mystery of the Mass.

“When we celebrate the Mass, we don’t accomplish a representation of the Last Supper: No, it is not a representation. It is something else: It is the Last Supper itself,” the Pope explained in his homily.
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Let Our Lady Inspire Perfection
Over the years, I have wondered how much Mary and I have in common.  First I wondered because I wasn’t a mother and we lived in such different times.  Now I wonder because I am not so patient or flawless in my mothering as I imagine she was.

I have asked myself if she could possibly understand the frustrations, the challenges, the difficulties I face monthly, daily, hourly.  I have pondered whether she actually looked, in real life, as pristine, as calm, as together, as she does in the various images of her.

I found my answer in Our Lady of Lourdes.
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Coming Out of Our Caves
When I speak with someone who is curious about the faith, I realize my revelations about the spiritual life in the Mystical Body of Christ are completely foreign. I might as well be a fantasy character explaining life in an alternate reality outside of their own personal cave.
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Growing in True Love
We who have grown up with the omnipresent Disney movies all know the story: Guy meets princess, conflict ensues, guy and princess marry, and it’s “happily ever after.” But they never seem to show what happens next.

We have been married for six months. And we are learning what happens in the “ever after.”

Sometimes we disagree. Sometimes we eat Chinese food while watching Kung Fu Panda 2, laughing and weeping together (it’s a sad movie, okay?). Sometimes we have cute romantic dates. And other evenings there is simply quiet reading.
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Humility is Greater Than Unity. – A Meditation on the Story of the Tower of Babel
The Story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, is a memorable story for most. And yet it has a strange angularity to it.

On the one hand it seems to be a retelling of what is described in Genesis 10 of the table nations who spread forth from Noah’s sons, filled the earth and began to speak different languages. Chapter 11 seems to want to re-tell what we already know, supplying us with the inner details.
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Jesus did not take away suffering, he transformed it
“Physically I suffer a lot, but my soul sings,” 18-year-old Chiara Badano told her mom as she battled one of the most aggressive and painful forms of bone cancer. I recall the story of this saintly teenager because her life offers deep insights into suffering and because the Church observed the World Day of the Sick on Feb. 11.

You may not have heard about this saintly Italian girl, who died in 1990 at the age of 19, but she is truly a model of Christian suffering.
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Clergy on the Way
As Joseph Ratzinger once wrote, Catholics are on the Way. The Way is Christ. What does this mean for clergy? You can turn any part of spiritual or temporal life into a checklist of fascinations or in Ratzinger’s words “religions.” First-century pagan life was like this and still is today. Ratzinger’s point was that being Catholic means either following the Way or, in the case of a priest, frittering life away by having several “religions” like being a snob, ageism, seeking power, social standing, the next promotion, etc.
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Loving God When Our Children Suffer
When we mothers see our children suffering, the slip off the cliffs of despair can be easy. When Pope Francis tells us, “Let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God” (April 7, 2013), the trust doesn’t exactly overflow. Mercy would be nice, Lord; how about a cure please.

But we are commanded to love the Lord our God from Genesis to Revelation. How do we do that when our beloved children suffer? How do we work up warm feelings for the great I Am, Who could fix things but does not? How did Mary do it?
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The Devil in Ordinary
Last week the exorcism of Latoya Ammons and her children was in the headlines and it got me musing about the demonic. An old puzzle in my own mind surfaced–the question of whether demonic possession is extremely rare or extremely common.
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On Letting the Light Shine
As a rather observant child, I made a mental note of the fact that my maternal grandmother would ask me to “make a light” instead of asking me to switch it on. When she was a child, no one switched lights on.  At night, light was not had without effort, not in her English town nor in most places yet.  She was born on the day that Gladstone introduced his Irish Home Rule bill in the House of Commons, the same Gladstone who gave a lamp to Newman who had “never sinned against the Light,” a lamp that still can be seen on his desk in Birmingham, and it certainly was not electric. Four years after my grandmother’s birth, Florence Nightingale recorded her voice on a wax cylinder patented by the Edison Company.
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Should John Paul II’s personal meditations have been burned or not? 14 things to know and share
It was recently announced that Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz did not burn the private papers of Bl. John Paul II, as was requested in his will.

Now they are being published in book form in Poland, and it’s causing quite a stir!

It also raises some interesting questions.

Here are 14 things to know and share . . .
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5 Ways to Prepare Yourself For Marriage
Marriage is wonderful, but it brings with it a lot of responsibilities and duties. Scripture and the teaching of the Church are quite clear— the husband is the head of the home, and he bears the primary responsibility before God for its happiness and holiness. In imitation of Jesus, the husband is the prophet, priest, and king of the domestic church.

Because marriage is serious business, entering it with the mentality of an adolescent, with no forethought whatsoever, is a recipe for disaster. It is alright to be immature when you get married, but it is not alright to stay that way. You should be pursuing maturity and holiness with passion long before you begin to think about marriage.
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9 Ways Noah Preconfigured Jesus
Jonah—the runaway prophet who became depressed when the city where he preached repented and was spared destruction—seems a mostly unlikely figure to prefigure Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament account of Jonah is a familiar one: God calls the prophet to preach against Nineveh, warning the ancient Assyrian city that its wickedness had angered God. Jonah responds immediately:  rather than be the bearer of bad news, he boards a ship for Tarshish, which, as a Phoenician colony on Spain, was just about as far away as could be imagined from Nineveh. But Jonah cannot escape his aura of doom and destruction. A storm hits the boat and Jonah finds himself confronted by angry shipmates wanting to know why he endangered their lives by fleeing from God.
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Pastoral Sharings: " The Salt of The Earth"

Rev. James J. Sucholet
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 9, 2014

Dear parishioners and friends of our two parishes,
Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
 
This is the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. As we continue these Winter weeks in Ordinary Time, we hear once again a challenge from Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ challenges us to become salt, light, and a city on a hill, a beacon to the world.
 
Salt is almost certainly the oldest seasoning used by the human race. We have archeological evidence of facilities for the refining of salt as early as 6,000 B.C. I have visited the very famous Salt Mine of Wieliczka, about a half hour drive outside the City of Krakow, Poland. It includes many fascinating artistic images and chapels built all out of salt by the miners. Of course, salt was used for more than seasoning: salting was for centuries the only way we had to preserve foods from decay and corruption.
 
Salt was, in fact, so valuable that a wide variety of cultures have used it for religious purposes. In ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, salt mixed with water was offered to the pagan gods; in ancient Israel, salt was included in grain offerings and burnt offerings; salt was used to purify and to exorcise demons; but it also symbolized the table fellowship of a shared meal.
 
So when Jesus tells his followers that they are the salt of the earth, Jesus is, as is the case with any good metaphor, saying a number of things at the same time. True disciples of Jesus give our world its flavor; they are the ones preserving the world from moral decay and corruption; they are a pleasing offering to God; they are a foretaste of the coming day when all humanity will be gathered around the table in the Heavenly Kingdom. But, having told them that they are salt, Jesus also gives a warning, “If salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (St. Matthew 5:15).
 
If disciples of Jesus lose their power to season and preserve, then they will not serve the purpose for which Jesus has called them. Being a follower of Jesus requires ” saltiness,” not bland conformity. Christians should stand out, like a light shining from a hilltop, not to call attention to themselves, but to give always the glory to God. Ask yourself, ” how am I salt?” ” How do I let my light shine?” Let us never lose our flavor, or hide our light.
 
February gives Catholics some very beautiful Feast Days. Tuesday, February 11th is the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. Blessed Pope John Paul II designated this as the WORLD DAY OF THE SICK. Winter flu, colds, and so many other very serious sicknesses like cancer ravage the body and soul. Let us turn to Our Lady of Lourdes, whose miraculous healing waters and maternal heart has deep affection for the sick.

Saint Valentine, a priest and martyr of Rome, died during the persecution of the Emperor Claudius II, in 270 A.D. The day of his death, which became his feast day, was February 14th. From early Christian times, young men and women on this day declared their love for each other, or chose a ” steady partner” for a certain period of time. Our greeting cards on February 14th are a modern form of this very ancient Christian practice. Thus Saint Valentine became the heavenly patron of youths and young lovers.
 
They placed their affection, love, courtship and engagement under Saint Valentine’s care and protection. Does it seem unreasonable in the 21st century to suggest that friendship and dating between young Catholics could still be under the special protection of Saint Valentine, the heavenly patron of youths and young lovers?

Perhaps this ancient practice of Rome might prove to be very valuable and helpful if revived again in its full meaning. Parents could certainly draw consolation from the fact that their children are conscious of this heavenly guidance and protection in the months and years of courtship and early love. We have good Catholic families where children are taught to say a prayer to Saint Valentine every night, that he may protect them in their companionships, guide their feelings of love and affection, preserve them from all dangers and strengthen their good intentions. At least on Saint Valentine’s Day, February 14th, if not more often, we should thank God for the precious gift of loving and affectionate friends, for all our married couples and all those couples preparing themselves to receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, imploring Saint Valentine’s intercession and blessing for each one and those to whom we send Valentine cards.
 
Today is WORLD MARRIAGE DAY, sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter. Checkout their informative website: wmd.wwme.org. Blessings today! Let us make these celebrations this Winter week a time to renew our commitment to listen to God and respond with willing and very loving hearts. Have a good Sunday and week ahead!
Semper,
                                                                Father Jameshttp://content.seekandfind.com/bulletins/03/0204/20140209B.pdf

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
February 9, 2014

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5: 13-16
Gospel Summary
Jesus tells his disciples that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He adds, “. . . your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.”
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Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time:

Shining the Light of His Wisdom
Today’s readings lead us to a discussion of wisdom and light. 

We begin with the Gospel of Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount, from which today’s gospel reading is taken.  Immediately after proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus tells His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.”  Salt of the earth.  He wasn’t speaking about that white stuff in a shaker on the table.  He was speaking about wisdom.  The ancients associated salt with value.  Slaves were often purchased for salt.  The expression, “He’s not worth his salt,” is based on this.
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Salt of the Earth, Light of the World
As a teen growing up in a Catholic family, living in one of the most Catholic area of the US, I never would have considered abandoning my faith.  But I also never would have considered getting excited about it either.  Why should I?  Nobody else in my parish seemed to be excited.  The teens in the parish went wild at the rock concerts we attended, and the adults got excited about New Years Eve and Super Bowl parties.

But when I looked around at these same people during Sunday Mass, I saw more blank faces than passionate ones.  So I assumed being Catholic was about denying yourself a bit of fun now so that something really bad wouldn’t happen to you later (namely, hell).  But I did not want a dull life either, so I paid my weekly dues at church and tried to avoid real serious sin as I grabbed for as much gusto as I could.
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Pope Francis: The Eucharist Keeps the Church Alive
VATICAN CITY — During his Feb. 5 general audience, Pope Francis spoke on the significance of the sacrament of the Eucharist, explaining that it is a banquet that reminds us of the eternal life that is yet to come.

“The Eucharist configures us in a unique and profound way with Jesus,” the Pope noted, “renewing our heart, our existence and our relationship with him and with our brothers and gives us a foretaste of communion with the Father in the banquet of the King of heaven.”
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Justice, Fortitude, Temperance
In justice to God, we uphold vows taken to Him and make sacrifices for the sake of His love, such as accepting martyrdom rather than abandoning the faith.

The second duty in justice is toward our neighbor. A person must not only refrain from doing evil toward his neighbor, but also do what is good toward his neighbor. As such, a person must respect the rights of each person and establish relationships that promote equity among all people and build-up the common good.
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The Truth Is Always Pastoral
Canon lawyers are fascinated by the Samaritan woman at the well. The moment we hear about her five husbands, and her consort, we start thinking about how her case might be handled at the marriage tribunal. But the most instructive part of the story is how Jesus relates to her: he is kind to her, and respectful, but he is unabashed about telling her the truth.
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The Hypocrisy Trap
It is so easy to fall into hypocrisy. External, commitment-free religious practices can feel consoling, but they can also become a serious trap. In Isaiah 58, the Lord warns his people against empty worship. Their temptation was to pray, fast, and discuss religious things without backing them up with practical moral action. The prophet’s words make clear that God despises hypocritical, insincere religion.
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The Great Family of the Heavy-Hearted
I read about a young man paralyzed in a freak accident. The story gave a glimpse of his grief and sorrow. It’s been just a year since his accident. The terrible prospect of permanent disability is beginning to sink in and it’s breaking his heart. He told the reporter, “It’s really, really hard.” And so it is. Life with catastrophic disability is a hard journey. I know, I’ve lived with degenerative multiple sclerosis for 30 years.
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Find Your Philosophy of Life
Why are we here in this world? All people have a philosophy of life, even though most are unaware of this truth! Too many today can be compared to a chicken with his head cut off. Still others like sailors tossed in the midst of the storms at sea with no port in view. Then there are those like a dog running madly after his tail, barking frantically and never able to catch his fleeing tail!
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If You don’t think you have the fear of death, think again. The Bible says it is the chief doorway that Satan uses
Today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v Wade, which effectively legalized abortion on demand.  It’s a time to look back and look ahead.  The abortion struggle of the past four decades teaches a very useful lesson.  Evil talks a lot about “tolerance” when it’s weak.  When evil is strong, real tolerance gets pushed out the door.  And the reason is simple.  Evil cannot bear the counter-witness of truth.  It will not co-exist peacefully with goodness, because evil insists on being seen as right, and worshiped as being right.  Therefore, the good must be made to seem hateful and wrong.
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The Mind That Matters
King Solomon, we read in Scripture, possessed wisdom that “excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was the wisest of all men.” In modern parlance, he was, “the smartest guy in the room.”

At least for a while – threatening to cut up the baby to discover the real mother, etc. He was big on government and public works projects as well, and good at them (not just the Temple, though back then you didn’t have to make the case that they were shovel-ready, since you could commandeer the wealth of the nation and had an inexhaustible supply of slave labor.) By the end of his reign, Israel had been transformed into a great nation, Jerusalem into a city of conspicuous wealth and, as a result, not a few problems.
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The Rosary’s Joyful Mysteries
Growing up praying the Holy Rosary as a young man, I used to see the joyful mysteries of the Rosary as implying that these are the mysteries in which there was no suffering at all compared to the Sorrowful mysteries. However, on closer meditation of the Scriptures and contemplation of the Gospel scenes, and after some life experiences, I quickly realized that these joyful mysteries, especially the fourth joyful mystery, the Presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple, were all tinged with suffering in one form of another.
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Faith and Emotion
“I don’t feel anything when I pray.” “I am bored at Mass.” “When I talk to God, I do not sense that someone is listening.” These laments, experienced at one time or another by both the pious and the lost, rise from the very heart of Christian praxis. They express the natural human desire for vibrant emotion and feeling in prayer, a reality that many often lack, especially as the faith is lived over the years,
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Praying While Waiting
Why does God, who is love, keep us waiting? Because He is love, and seeks love. Love that does not know how to wait is not love. To love is to give ourselves. Not only for a fraction of a lifetime, nor with a part of its strength: love is, and seeks, the total gift of self.
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Indulgences: An Embarrassment of Riches
A friend recently wrote me of his plans to visit the Holy Land and of his great excitement because it gives him the opportunity to gain plenary indulgences for his deceased parents during the pilgrimage.

When I asked him why he hadn’t tried to obtain one by his weekly holy hour or his family rosary, I was stunned by his response. He was quite irritated that I (supposedly!) had never mentioned this to him before. He thought this should be more widely taught.
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The Anatomy of Original Sin: The Sin of Adam was Far More than Eating a Piece of Fruit
Many understandings of Original Sin, the sin committed by Adam and Eve, tend to describe the sin as the eating of a forbidden fruit. While this description is not inaccurate, it is incomplete and many rightly wonder as to how and why all this trouble came from the mere eating of a piece of fruit.
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Don’t try to fight Satan by using Satan’s weapons
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Don’t try to fight Satan by using Satan’s weapons.

Slander and personal malice are Satan’s weapons.

Ergo, do not use personal attacks against other people, even when they are pro abortion, pro gay marriage, or some other pro or anti that gets your riled.
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A Date to Remember
Papal approbation being no bad thing, I was delighted to learn that Pope Francis, in a homily a few weeks ago, had suggested that his congregants learn the date of their baptisms and celebrate it—which is precisely what I have been proposing to audiences around the country this past year, when discussing my book, Evangelical Catholicism.
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Get Married, Young Man
For years now, I’ve been interested in World War II. I especially love reading first hand accounts of battle from the heroic and courageous men who fought in this war, such as those contained in books by Marcus Brotherton and Stephen Ambrose.

But stories of valor aside, I’m always entertained by how simply these war veterans viewed dating and marriage. The story of how they met their wives, contained in their biographical sketches, usually goes something like this:
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Samurai’s Cause for Beatification Forwarded to Rome
Beginnings and endings, finite measures of years meted out for us again and again, season after season, generation after generation, age after age—all amount to little more than markers of time. The clock strikes and we call it an hour. A calendar page turns while a bud blooms or leaves fall or icicles grow, and we call it a season. A baby is born and we say it is a new generation; teens pound the sidewalk with their pants falling off and we say it is a lost generation; a grandfather dies and we say that he belonged to a good generation. Fashions, inventions, and empires rise and fall, and we call it an age.
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7 Amazing Scientific Insights of Biblical Writers
We hear often about the scientific difficulties raised by the Bible, particularly the Old Testament—the six-day creation narrative, the Genesis flood, Jonah being swallowed by a whale, to name but a few of the best known.

But what about those Bible verses that are remarkably consistent with modern scientific discoveries? We never seem to hear much about those. Here are seven of them:
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Pastoral Sharings: " Presentation of The Lord"

 WeeklyMessageFather Phil Bloom
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 2, 2014

Message: There will be a lot rituals today at MetLife 
stadium. Enjoy them, but remember your priorities.

Someone has put out a T-shirt that says, “God, Family 
and the Seahawks…in that order.” Today’s Feast can help
  us get things in their right order. It’s a nice coincidence
  that the Super Bowl falls on the Feast of the Presentation. So let’s talk about how this Feast can help us rightly order our lives.

First of all, let me say I do not want to dampen anyone’s fun. I’ll certainly be rooting for the home team and, all in all, sports are a good. But, like anything good, we need to place the right value on sports. You will agree, I am sure, that God and family are more important than the Seahawks. At the same time, what we know in our minds does not always play in out the way we live our lives.

The Feast of the Presentation will help us live our priorities. One way it does that is by showing how keeping track of dates can be part of honoring God. Today, February 2, is exactly forty days since Christmas. If you add the days between Christmas and New Years (7), the month of January (31) and the first two days of February, you reach a total of 40.

I have asked groups of children – and adults – if they know what happened forty days after Jesus’ birth. They give all kinds of wild guesses, but seldom the correct answer. We have it in today’s Gospel: the purification of Mary and the presentation of Jesus.

After childbirth the mother remained apart for forty days. This custom may have emerged for very practical reasons. The birth of child brings enormous joy, but also great pain and stress. The mother needs time to recover physically and emotionally. While the amount of time varies from woman to woman, forty days seems like a good average.

So, forty days after Jesus’ birth, Mary received the rites of purification. They did not imply any sin, but rather physical and emotional re-integration into the community.

Like any Jewish couple, Joseph and Mary kept careful track of the days since the birth of their child. It meant an end to the mother’s days of seclusion, but it also meant something significant for the child.

At the same time the mother was “purified,” the parents presented their first-born male child. Parents who possessed sufficient resources offered a lamb, but the poor could substitute a pair of pigeons.* Thus Joseph and Mary fulfilled the rite which extended back to the Escape from Egypt (c. 1250 B.C.). They identified themselves as members of a chosen people.

This sense of identity and belonging also is part of the Super Bowl. People in Seattle and Denver feel pride that their home team made it to the big game. It’s a fairly harmless form of pride because (even though we talk about the importance of the “twelfth man”) we know that we can take little or no personal credit. The Jewish people likewise the pride in their identity. The rituals speak about their relationship to God and the world. The Presentation signifies dependence of God and dedication to him. It means to put God first and to see everything in relation to Him.

The Presentation also involved a family celebration. No doubt, for a couple like Joseph and Mary, it was a modest affair – but still a celebration infused with joy. Just so, for the early Christians today was a joyful day. They celebrated it by having a candle-light procession. Here is how one writer describes this day:

“Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole world radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go out to meet Christ.”

Now, you and I will be seeing a lot of rituals today – not candle processions, but there will be plenty of rituals at MetLife stadium. Enjoy them, but remember your priorities. Maybe today your family can find time for another small ritual: light a candle in your home. Tonight, after the game is over – whoever wins – light a candle. Like Simeon we can say, “My eyes have seen your salvation…a light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.” Amen.

************

*No doubt the early Christians saw an irony: the parents who could not afford a lamb, present the true Lamb of God.
http://stmaryvalleybloom.org/presentation2014.html

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
February 2, 2014

Presentation of the Lord
Luke 2:22-40
Gospel Summary

The parents of Jesus, faithful to the prescriptions of the law given to Moses, bring their child Jesus to Jerusalem in order to present him to the Lord through the observance of the appointed temple ritual. A man named Simeon, also a faithful Jew inspired by the Holy Spirit, came to believe that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah. He took the baby Jesus in his arms recognizing him to be the promised one who would bring salvation not only to Israel, but to all people. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary that she would know a deep sorrow.
…more

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord: He Shared Fully in Our Humanity
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.  This feast returns us to the Christmas season focusing in on the person of the Lord.  Jesus is seen as a child, presented to the priests according to the law of Moses.  You may remember that the final plague upon the Egyptians to force them to let the children of Israel go was the killing of the first born.  The Angel of Death came into Egypt, but passed over the children of Israel.  Since the first born of the children of Israel were spared the plague, they were seen as belonging to the Lord.
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The Presentation of the Lord
I recently led a group of pilgrims to Jerusalem.  As we stood at the foot of the Temple Mount and remembered the Presentation of Jesus, several people had questions.  There were questions about the redemption of the first-born son.  About the rite of purification after childbirth.  About how to put Matthew and Luke together in terms of chronology and geography—Bethlehem, the Temple in Jerusalem, the flight into Egypt, and the return to Nazareth.
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Desiring Heaven Where Love is Complete
I remember sitting with my father in a boat on the middle of a still prairie lake. It was August of 1969 and I was sixteen years old. A cool mist rose from the surface of the lake that August morning. Fishing was good just after sunrise and so there we sat still half-asleep, casting our lines into the water.

It was the last summer he and I would have together.
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What are celibacy, chastity, and continence? 9 things to know and share
There is a great deal of confusion about what celibacy, chastity, and continence are.

Each one of these concepts is subject to common misunderstandings, but the differences between them are easy to sort out.

A reader from the Asian country of Myanmar writes:
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A Biblical teaching on the problem of (self) Deception
One of the more troublesome and damaging human traits is the tendency for us to be deceived. Scripture speaks often of this problem, and we do well to look to some of the texts and see what they have to teach us.

Perhaps, it is good it first to look to the Latin and Greek roots of the word “deceive.”
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10 Reasons Why Being Catholic Is Wicked Awesome
1. Civil disobedience.  In refusing to obey laws that are unjust, we show the world that there are more important things in life than just getting along. When necessary we march, picket, and if it comes to it, we will even be thrown in jail or killed for our beliefs:

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square”  -Cardinal George of Chicago
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Jesus Wants More Than “Fans”
Perhaps you’ve heard it said, or even said it yourself: “I wish people would get excited about Christ and the Gospel, the way they get excited about the Super Bowl! Why can’t we bring that kind of enthusiasm to the things that are most important?”
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10 Reasons Why Many Catholics Would Stop Going To Church If Jesus Was Their Pastor
1.He expects radical commitment and he never will shy away from demanding it from those who say they follow Him.
Here are just 2 examples:

**“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matt 5:11-12

**”I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” -Matt 5:44-45
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When evil is weak, it insists on tolerance. When evil is strong, real tolerance gets pushed out the door…
Today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v Wade, which effectively legalized abortion on demand.  It’s a time to look back and look ahead.  The abortion struggle of the past four decades teaches a very useful lesson.  Evil talks a lot about “tolerance” when it’s weak.  When evil is strong, real tolerance gets pushed out the door.  And the reason is simple.  Evil cannot bear the counter-witness of truth.  It will not co-exist peacefully with goodness, because evil insists on being seen as right, and worshiped as being right.  Therefore, the good must be made to seem hateful and wrong.
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Contemplation – its length and breadth, height and depth
Saint Paul reveals to us a vital dimension of Christian prayer when in his prayer for us:  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  (Eph. 3:18-19).

To be filled with the fullness of God; to understand the breadth and length, the height and depth; to know the love of the Visible Image of the Invisible God surpassing all knowledge; all of this is what we avail ourselves to every time we begin to pray.
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Pope Francis: A ChristianWithout the Church Is an ‘Absurd Dichotomy’
VATICAN CITY — In his daily Mass on Thursday, Pope Francis reflected on the intrinsic relationship between the Church and the people of God, stating that Christians need to be humble and obedient to her teachings in order to be faithful.

“It is an absurd dichotomy to love Christ without the Church; to listen to Christ, but not the Church; to be with Christ at the margins of the Church,” he said. “One cannot do this. It is an absurd dichotomy.”
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A Brief Meditation on Mystery
In the secular world a “mystery” is something which baffles or eludes understanding, something which lies undisclosed. And the usual attitude of the world toward mystery is to resolve it, get to the bottom of, or uncover it. Mysteries must be overcome! The riddle, or “who-done-it” must be solved!

In the Christian and especially the Catholic world, “mystery” is something a bit different.
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Shattered and Reborn: Positive Suffering
I once asked a priest what my life would have been like if I had not experienced suffering, if I had married a well-off dentist, had 1.25 kids and lived in an efficient, modern house. He put on a phony, pious face, put his hands together in prayer, and said in a high, mocking voice, “Oh, you would be a nice Christian lady, praising the Lord.” What he meant by that amusing bit of acting was that I would be shallow, without depth and strength.
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The Secrets of Happiness
How happy really are we today? How do we define that we have really ‘lived’?

We live in a marketing led world – a place of big dreams and bucket lists. Generally we have a high standard of living, yet we are constantly on the hunt to get more out of life.

We have everything we could possibly nee, but still feel that our lives are incomplete. According to what comes across from media, this isn’t until we’ve taken selfies on the latest iPhone while flying over Europe, wearing a size zero designer dress, and eating a sugar/grain/dairy free cronut… First world problems huh?
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Find Your Spiritual Kryptonite
We all know Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter, his double life—reporter and Superman! As Superman he is invincible, Samson-like, and superior to any first-class athlete. However, exposed to one element—the famous Kryptonite would cause his debacle and downfall.

Like Samson who found strength in his long locks of hair, and Achilles who had to protect and guard over his heel, Superman could not be exposed to Kryptonite; otherwise disaster would be his lot!
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The Most and Least Bible-Minded Cities in America
Chattanooga, Tenn., ranks No. 1. Providence, Rhode Island ranks last.
To conduct effective ministry, American Bible Society wants to know what U.S. cities embrace the best-selling book of all time.

Chattanooga, Tenn., ranks No. 1, according to American Bible Society’s study, America’s Most Bible-Minded Cities. Knoxville, Tenn., claimed last year’s top spot.

America’s Most Bible-Minded Cities, our second consecutive study, shows that the Midwest and South continues to perform strongly.
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10 Ways to Love Your Children Without Words
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray” (NRSV). So what is the right way to train a child? First and foremost, I want to train my children to love as Jesus did. Here are ten easy things you can do each day to love your children more fully, and teach them to love as Jesus did.

1. Make eye contact with your kids.
Eye contact takes just a few seconds, yet most of the time when we are responding to our kids, we are focused on our own tasks. Take a moment and look up from your computer, phone, or housework to make eye contact with your child’s beautiful eyes while you talk to them.
 
They will love you for it.  It will brighten your day, too.
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Time to Fly
What is holding you back? It could be something great or small, but we all face hurdles and roadblocks on our journey toward the Lord.  When discerning, it seems that these can’t always be named and some seem unsurpassable.  What is holding you back?

St. John of the Cross speaks a great deal about “detachment” in the spiritual life.  In one of his writings, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, he writes:
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Now Is the Appointed Time
Beginnings and endings, finite measures of years meted out for us again and again, season after season, generation after generation, age after age—all amount to little more than markers of time. The clock strikes and we call it an hour. A calendar page turns while a bud blooms or leaves fall or icicles grow, and we call it a season. A baby is born and we say it is a new generation; teens pound the sidewalk with their pants falling off and we say it is a lost generation; a grandfather dies and we say that he belonged to a good generation. Fashions, inventions, and empires rise and fall, and we call it an age.
…more

2013, year of martyrs
“Fides” new agency has informed that 22 pastoral care workers were killed worldwide (mostly priests) in 2013, almost double compared to the 13 who were killed in 2012. “On the night of December 31, 2013 and January 1, 2014, Fr. Eric Freed, a priest in Eureka, California was killed: The police are investigating to determine the reasons of such murder. For the fifth consecutive year, the place most affected, with an extremely elevated number of pastoral care workers killed is Latin America, especially in Colombia.”
…more

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

WeeklyMessage Father Alex McAllister SDS
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 26, 2014

In our Gospel reading today we hear how Jesus began his
ministry in Galilee at Capernaum. St Matthew is keen to
point out how Jesus only begins his ministry once he hears
that John the Baptist has been arrested; this is to make it
clear that there is no sort of competition between John the
Baptist and Jesus. John is his forerunner and Jesus only begins his ministry once John is off the scene, so to speak.

St Matthew also gives us a quote from the Old Testament so that we are reminded that Jesus’ coming was predicted by the prophets and in particular by Isaiah. The prophecy he quotes is about where Jesus was to begin his ministry, namely on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.

This area was the first part of Israel to be invaded by the Assyrians many years before and there was a tradition that because of this it would be from this area that the Messiah would appear. It was the darkest moment in the history of the people of Israel and so they reckoned that it would be from here that the brightest light would come.

Matthew being a good Jew is careful to point these things out to his readers. He is very interested in continuity with the past and wants his readers, who could well have been mostly Jews in the first instance, to receive Jesus favourably. Mathew therefore portrays Jesus as being obedient to a Divine plan already laid down in scripture.

Another thing worth noting in this regard is that Matthew wants us to know that Jesus begins his ministry very much in continuity with the message of John the Baptist. He starts out on this new ministry with the words of John on his lips, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.’

This message of repentance that Jesus preached places him directly in the line of the Prophets who time and time again called the people of Israel to turn from their evil ways and return to the God of the Covenant.

When Jesus says that the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand he is very directly inaugurating the Kingdom of God itself. For Jesus the Kingdom is not something that is far off in the future; no, for him it is something which has already started. His message is that the Kingdom has already begun and ought to be embraced by everyone in the world.

Even in our own day we can see signs of the Kingdom all around us. We meet holy people, we obtain miracles in answer to our prayers and through the liturgy we are connected with the Angels and Saints in heaven.

Naturally enough Jesus actually begins his ministry with the call of the Apostles beginning with two sets of brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew and then James and John.

That they are fishermen gives Jesus the opportunity to use the play on words about them becoming fishers of men. We should be aware that these are not poor men; they have a reliable occupation and a good living. Clearly they had a lot to lose by leaving their profession and following Jesus. This highlights the radical nature of their choice to become Apostles.

In the case of James and John they leave their father Zebedee and once again this demonstrates the fact that they are relinquishing the extremely strong bonds of kinship and loyalty to one’s father.

We are inspired too by their unhesitating acceptance of Jesus call. There is no dilly-dallying here. T
heir response is immediate, direct and unhesitating. The nearest parallel in the Old Testament is the call of the Prophets. Indeed it might be useful to think of the Apostles as the Prophets of the New Testament.

Another thing worth pointing out is that the new Apostles have no preparation or previous experience to rely on. Neither do we get the impression that this is because Jesus sees in them some special quality or characteristic that might be useful in their new role. Actually, as we see later on, they frequently fall short as Apostles with Peter denying Christ and most of them deserting him after his arrest at Gethsemane.

We also note that the Apostles were individually called by Jesus; discipleship does not come about of one’s own volition, it is something to which you are called. Ask any priest or religious and they will tell you that they felt that they were directly responding to the call of God. This is why we speak of a vocation; that’s where the word comes from: the Latin is vocare, to call.

Normally if someone wanted to follow a Rabbi they took the initiative themselves but here it is Jesus who approaches the Apostles. This puts their kind of discipleship in a completely different league.

The text concludes with a very brief description of what Jesus’ ministry actually consisted in: three things; namely teaching, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and healing. These activities were to occupy the next three years and all the while he was accompanied by the Apostles. They learned from his teaching and preaching and they witnessed his miracles.

On occasion Jesus sent them out to prepare his way before him and invited them to perform the same sorts of miracles. These three years were a kind of apprenticeship for the Apostles, all the time they were learning from their master even if occasionally they did not fully understand what was going on.

It was, of course, all a preparation for the time when they would assume the leadership of the Church. After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they were sent out to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations. We have to say that they and their successors have been remarkably effective in their task and that today believers form a majority of the world’s population.

In conclusion we could say that this was the first miracle recorded in St Matthew’s Gospel. We can say so because these men did not expect Jesus to wlk by that particular day and yet they responded in a wholehearted way, leaving everything to follow their new master. It was something entirely spontaneous and only explainable as being the grace of God acting in their hearts.

But this was not a one-off event; it is something that continues in the world right up to the present day. Christ continues to call Apostles to his mission of making the Kingdom of God a present reality. He may well be calling you to embrace the Gospel in a radical way and to leave your old life behind and to begin a completely new life, a life dedicated entirely to him.

Maybe you can find it in yourself to do what those first four Apostles did and immediately get up and go after him. If you do, then we will all be very glad indeed and will support you in every way we can.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1557

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
January 26, 2014

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 4: 12-23
Gospel Summary
  
When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, he left Nazareth and went to Capernaum. Herod Antipas was ruler of this territory, Galilee of the Gentiles, regarded as a region of God-forsaken pagan ways. It is here that Jesus goes to take up what is now the dangerous mission of John, to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom.
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Third Sunday of Ordinary Time: St. Agnes and the Victory of Christ’s Peace
I want to begin by telling you about a little girl, most likely 12, possibly 13 years old,  who took on a mighty empire and won.  The little girl was named Agnes.  At least that is the name she is remembered by.  Agnes means lamb.  She was like a little lamb. Agnes was a child of a noble family in ancient Rome, and lived around the year 300 AD.  She was a Christian in the  last decades of Rome’s persecution of the Christians.
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Meaning of the Church: Are You Called?
Flick on the television, turn to the news, and notice how hopeless it all looks.  Terrorists kill hundreds and intimidate millions.  Government debt in the US and Europe balloons out of control and whole countries need to be bailed out. 

Things did not appear much better in first century Galilee.  The king was an irreligious adulterer and a lackey of the hated Romans.  Traitorous tax collectors took a big cut of the little money people managed to earn.  The Sea of Galilee was really only a moderate sized lake and competition to catch its few fish was stiff.  Only two things were (and still are) inevitable: death and taxes.
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Pope to Youth: ‘Christians Were Not Chosen by the Lord for Small Things’
VATICAN CITY — In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis urged youth to listen to the call of God, stating that this is often faced with obstacles and requires “going against the tide.”

“We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for small things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals!” the Holy Father remarked in his Jan. 17 message to youth.
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Understanding the Spiritual Works of Mercy
It used to be required that all young Catholics memorize the Works of Mercy as an ever-present mandate for how we are to live. But nowadays, memorization is forgotten and most people only know a couple of the Corporal Works. Do you remember—feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, bury the dead? Yet, our world is in desperate need of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, so perhaps we should bring back that memorization practice to our Sunday School programs. Do you agree
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The Catholic Church: Home for Sinners
Perched majestically atop courthouse buildings in almost every land, there stands the Roman goddess Justitia, armed with sword in one hand, scales in the other, exercising her fine art of giving all and sundry exactly what they deserve.  Often depicted wearing a blindfold to emphasize the pure impartiality of her judgments, one cannot help but admire the sheer unbending objectivity by which she executes justice.  Such a satisfying prospect it must be to punish the wicked, to acquit the innocent.
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Finding the One, True Church: Connect the Dots Approach
In reality, the Bible illustrates that there is indeed one truth, and that there is one church which was established to help us learn and live that truth… After looking at these verses and connecting the dots, finding that one, true church is relatively easy!”  – Gary Zimak

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine any Christian looking at the above verse and disagreeing with its content. Essentially, it is a summary of our mission as followers of Christ. But exactly how does the Lord teach us “His way” so that we can “walk in His truth”? Even though we acknowledge Jesus as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, we still need a set of guidelines for making moral decisions.
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Pope: God chooses the small, the gentle, the least powerful…
During his daily morning Mass at the Vatican, the Pope talked about why Christians must always have humility. The Pope emphasized that unlike people, God doesn’t focus on appearances, but rather on hearts.

“Our Christian loyalty is all about safeguarding our smallness so that we can have a dialogue with God. That’s why humbleness, gentleness and daily habits are so important in the life of a Christian, because it safeguards our smallness and pleases God.”
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Collapse of Conscience
It seems there is no place for conscience nowadays.

Its only place in the modern world is in the minds and hearts of the so-called “unenlightened” — the backward, the judgmental. No one with half a mind would be caught dead with one.

For most modernists, conscience is a thing of the past, an artifact of an early more naive, more primitive, more compliant era. Conscience is an anachronism, like the virtue of chastity and the code of chivalry, like common courtesy and common sense.
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IFinally Stopped Worrying. Here’s How I Did It…
I got to thinking the other day and I came to a surprising realization…

I don’t worry anymore!

If you have heard me speak or read my books, you’ll understand why this is a monumental occurrence. It is a well known fact that I have been a severe worrier for most of my life. While I credit my anxiety with drawing me closer to the Lord, the act of worrying was having the opposite effect. The more I would worry, the less I would trust God. Now, despite two years of full time work as a Catholic Evangelist (with no guaranteed salary and literally living month to month), I have found myself in a position that I never thought possible. I don’t worry anymore!
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Courage to Change the Things I Can
The country singer Brad Paisley recently released the song, I Can’t Change the World, which indirectly contains a valuable reminder for Catholics regarding the way we should treat others. After a verse describing the feeling of helplessness which comes from seeing so much suffering in the world, the chorus is as follows: “I can’t change the world / Baby, that’s for sure / But if you let me, girl, / I can change yours.”
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Chastity: The Forgotten Virtue
The Catechism has a beautiful section on chastity, describing it as the virtue that “means the successful integration of sexuality within the person.” Sexuality is what it is meant to be only when, as the Catechism says, “it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman” (2337).

But many, unfortunately, do not understand the Church’s truth, either because they haven’t heard it proclaimed at church or because they have not heard why it is a beautiful teaching.
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Courage to Change the Things I Can
With the March for Life upon us, as well as other pro-life events, how can families instill in their children respect for the unborn and all people?

“The two biggest ways are prayer and witness,” says Mary Ann Kuharski, founding member and director of Prolife Across America (ProlifeAcrossAmerica.org). She is also a mother of 13 children, as well as a grandmother, author and speaker on life and family issues.
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John Paul II, Champion of Marriage
All of Rome is sold out for the end of this April.  St. Peter’s Square, and every road around it will be jammed with people on Mercy Sunday (April 27, 2014).  On that day, Pope Francis will announce the canonization of the most beloved Pope of modern times, Pope John Paul II.
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Waltzing With Satan
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

We live under the delusion that Satan was defeated at Calvary. If you think that assessment is unrealistic take a look around. How often do you hear Satan referenced in a homily? How often do you talk to your children about Satan, teach them strategies to recognize and avoid his traps, and his desire to steal souls from God? How often do you pray for St. Michael’s protection for you, your family, your country?
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Is Purgatory in the Bible?
This may well be the most common single question I receive concerning our Catholic Faith whether it be at conferences, via email, snail mail, or any other venue. In fact, I’ve answered it twice today already, so I thought I might just blog about it.

We’ll begin by making clear just what we mean by “Purgatory.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
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‘Time Touches Eternity’: Live Well the Present
Everything I ever needed to know about the single life I learned from C.S. Lewis.

Seriously.

Long before I knew my ring finger would remain ring-free late into my 30s, Lewis’ books counseled me in prudence and fortitude, chastity and temperance, patience and trust.

Of all the lessons I learned from him, however, I think the most important was this: Do not give the future your heart. Do not place your treasure in it.
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Restless
“Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee”                                          (St. Augustine, Confessions)

I think most writers are naturally introspective and reflective.  While in Eucharistic Adoration a week ago I prayed for many things, including strength and courage to stay focused on the path Christ wants me to follow.  As I sometimes remember to do, I let my mind grow quiet and tried to listen as much as I prayed.  The quote from St. Augustine above, which is one of my favorites, crossed my mind and I thought of little else for the rest of my time in the parish chapel.  The word from the quote which resonated most with my desire to stay on the right path was restless.  Why “restless”?
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God and Truth
What does it mean to say that “God is truth?” I recently read a brief explanation of this in one installment of a “read the catechism in a year email campaign” from flocknote.com, and it left me still questioning what exactly the statement means. Part of the explanation was that “’God is light and in him is no darkness.’ His Word is truth, and his Law is truth.” A few lines later it also said, “We know that God is truth on the basis of the absolute credibility of Jesus. He is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life….’ If God were not ‘true’, then faith and reason could not have a dialogue with each other. An agreement is possible, however, because God is truth, and the truth is divine.” To reach a fuller answer, we can look at what truth itself is.
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Does Vatican Insider have the inside scoop on Medjugorje? 11 things to know and share
The Medjugorje Commission has completed its work, and a new phase of the inquiry has begun.

In the wake of that, Vatican Insider carried a story which purported to describe some of the Commission’s findings.

What is the present state of things, and what should we make of Vatican Insider’s claims?

Here are 11 things to know and share . . .
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I Don’t Want to Go to Church!
When I was a high school chaplain I had a set of parents fix an appointment to see me. They turned up on time. Dad was a moderately successful business man. Mom was well turned out. Just proper. Nice and tidy neat and together suburban Protestant couple who had chosen to sent their tenth grader to Catholic school.
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The Lamb of God

WeeklyMessage Father Alex McAllister SDS
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 19, 2014

We begin the Sundays in Ordinary Time with this account 
from the Gospel of John of the occasion when John the
Baptist points out Jesus and identifies him as the Lamb of  God.

The first thing we should realise is that according to the Law of Moses a lamb was sacrificed each morning and evening in the Temple for the sins of the people. Also on the feast of Passover each family sacrificed a lamb and eat its meat in a sacrificial meal.

This meal called to mind the meal the People of Israel eat on the night of the first Passover when they were rescued by God from slavery in Egypt. There is a strong connection with sin, since sin is a form of slavery and is definitely something that we need rescuing from.

So when John the Baptist said ‘Look there is the Lamb of God’ the people would have had understood that he was making an explicit link with the hundreds of lambs sacrificed for sin in the Temple and also the many more lambs sacrificed on the night of the Passover Feast.

John is pointing out that Jesus is the one who is coming to free the people from their sins.

Of course, all those lambs sacrificed in the Temple did not actually free the people from any actual sins. Only God can forgive sin and so it had to be God who seeing the sacrifices that were being offered exercised his mercy and forgave the people their sins.

But, as we know now, all these lambs were merely foreshadowing Jesus who is the real Lamb of God and who by his sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary would really and definitively expunge all our sins past, present and future.

It is no mistake then that the death of Jesus occurred at Passover time. Nor was it any surprise that at the moment of his death the veil of the Temple was torn in two as a sign that from then on men should turn to Christ and see him as their one true Saviour.

We begin these Sundays of Ordinary Time right at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry but we do so with an eye on the end of the story. We see from the outset that Jesus is the Lamb of God and that his principal task is to take away the sins of the world. This is the reason he has come among us, this is his true purpose, this is something in which the whole world can rejoice.

In the text John says twice that he did not know Jesus. We have to take this with a pinch of salt. We know from the accounts in St Luke’s Gospel that John the Baptist certainly knew Jesus indeed that he was his cousin and only six months older. So we cannot and should not take these words of St John literally.

According to me, what John the Baptist means is that he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah. John instantly recognises who Jesus is when he walks towards him on that glorious day. He already knew he was Jesus of Nazareth but at that particular moment he had a revelation or an inner recognition that Jesus was the one who had come from God to save us from our sins.

He then does the thing that he was destined to do, the one thing that for his whole life he had been preparing, he identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God. So important is this incident that the Church explicitly refers to it every time we celebrate the Eucharist when the priest holds up the host and the chalice and says, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.’

Christianity is a historical religion, we deal in real and actual historical events, real physical people situated in a particular time or place. This is not so with other religions that rely heavily on myth and allegories.

The events in the Gospel reading today actually happened, On that blessed day Jesus walked towards John who recognised him and proclaimed to the crowd just who Jesus was.

This is specific, it is real, it actually happened. And Christians down through the ages return over and over again to the specific events of the life of Christ to learn more about him and also to learn how to live out the beliefs and tenets of Christianity in their own day.

This is what Paul is on about in his letters, such as the one given to us today written to the Corinthians; he wants them to come to a realisation of what is required of a Christian who is living in another place or another era than that of Christ himself.

That our religion is based on actual facts on specific occurrences and real people living in history tells us that the events of our everyday life are vitally important. Ours is not an otherworldly religion; it is not based on myths and legends. No, it is historical and factual and it is all about the real world in which we live.

As Christians we regard time itself as sacred; we are living in what we might call redeemed time, because of our salvation all time has been made holy. We commemorate this through the sacred liturgy which marks time off with its recurring feasts and seasons.

The liturgy helps us to realise that the time in which we live is sacred and blessed because it is the place in which we live out our Christian lives, it is the milieu in which we work through our struggles with evil and by the frequent use of the sacraments come ever closer to God.

Moreover, what happens to us each day is part of the unfolding history of Christianity. The challenges we face, the threats to our faith and how we overcome them, all these things are part of a much wider picture which is that of the growth of the reign of Christ in the world.

Like Paul we too are called to be Apostles, to be Christ’s servants in the world in which we live. Like John the Baptist it is our task too to point out to those around us just who Jesus is.

It is not sufficient that the people among who we live know that a man called Jesus lived his life two thousand years ago. No, they need to be aware that he is indeed the Lamb of God, the one true Saviour of the World.

This is our task; this is the role we have been given by Christ –to make him known. And we are to convey not just that he existed but precisely who he is, that he is the Son of God, that he is our Saviour, that he loves us and wants us to live with him for all eternity in heaven.

This is indeed Good News and it deserves to be heard by every single person in the world.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1546

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
January 19, 2014

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 1: 29-34
Gospel Summary
   
These verses are the climactic conclusion of the prologue to the gospel according to John (1: 1-34). In the prologue John establishes the basic themes that will unfold in the ensuing drama of his gospel: Jesus, the Word from the beginning lives with God, is God. The Word became human and made his dwelling in our world of sin; those who accept Jesus become children of God and are at home in God.
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Second Sunday of Ordinary Time: The Lamb of God
The poinsettias are gone, the lights are down, the Christmas season is over.  Now we move on with the very beginning of Jesus’ public life, usually referred to as his ministry.  We come upon John the Baptist seeing Jesus and pointing to him.  “This is the Lamb of God”, he says. 

“Lamb of God.”  We use that term so often, that it is easy for us to overlook the deep theology and the tremendous love of our God contained in his sending his Son to be the Lamb.
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Jesus – Lamb of God?
The Protestant Church is all about the Bible; the Catholic Church is all about the Sacraments.  Right?

Not exactly.  When it comes to personal Bible reading, Protestants often put Catholics to shame.  But as far as Sunday worship goes, it is hard to find a more biblical service than the Mass. The readings are awesome enough, but even the prayers of the Mass are chock full of Scripture.  Many lines spoken by priest and people are, in fact, direct quotes from the Bible.  Consider, for example, what the priest says just before communion: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”  That’s a direct quote from John 1:29 where John the Baptist says this as he points out Jesus to his disciples.
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Why Goodness Depends on God
One of the most common observations made by opponents of religion is that we don’t need God in order to have a coherent and integral morality. Atheists and agnostics are extremely sensitive to the charge that the rejection of God will conduce automatically to moral chaos. Consequently, they argue that a robust sense of ethics can be grounded in the consensus of the human community over time or in the intuitions and sensibilities of decent people.
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Are Catholics “Born Again”?
My mother was Catholic and my father Baptist. My mother was firmly committed, as was my father after serious and prayerful consideration, to raise their children Catholic and baptize us at infancy. Years later I met non-Catholic Christians who would invariably ask me if I had been saved and if I was born again. Of course, the question perplexed me at first, but I had the great advantage of a Baptist father who could explain to me the nature and meaning of their question. Because of his study of the Catholic faith, he was also able to provide a positive explanation consistent with Church teaching.
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Fear of the Lord Gives Us the Desire Not to Offend God
As we saw last time, fear of the Lord is ordered toward Christian hope, and hope is linked with suffering as Christ the Son, not Christ the slave, suffered. “We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope; and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which has been given to us” (Romans 5:2-5).
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Truth Cannot Contradict Truth
As I mentioned last time in this space, it’s a strange time to be alive when an explanation of St. Thomas’ argument for the existence of God is attacked—by Catholics—as an assault on the Faith. But that is what I frequently found during the Natural Revelation discussion in November. On the central question—whether God exists and is Creator—I agree with the ID guys and not with atheists.
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You are Enough
As in seasons past, our recent Advent, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations are now only distant memories.  The weather remains quite frigid and winter has not yet let go of its grip. But even if the days remain dark, we know that spring is ever closer and the sun will shine brighter with each coming day. Many of us are settling into our routines for the year with work, school, and family life.
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Pope to Parents: ‘Hand on the Faith’
VATICAN CITY — During his homily at Sunday Mass Jan. 12 at the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis reminded parents who had brought their infants to be baptized of their duty to pass on the faith to their children.

“Today, carry this thought home with you: We must be transmitters of the faith. Think of this, think always of how to hand on the faith to [your] children,” he told the families who were gathered for Mass in the Sistine Chapel.
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What we can learn about suffering in the story of Joseph, the Patriarch
One of the greatest and most painful of mysteries is the problem of suffering and the broader problem of evil in the world. I was meditating with my Sunday School parents this past weekend on the Old Testament Patriarch Joseph. That story is rich with lessons about family struggles, envy, jealousy, pride, mercy and forgiveness. But the story also has a lot to say about suffering and the way that God can use it to bring blessings.
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How To Be A Biblical Literalist
“Part of being a Biblical literalist is recognizing that Jesus meant what He said when He gave the Church the authority to teach in His name, and to bind and loose sins. Knowing that the Church has this authority means that we don’t, and shouldn’t, use our own interpretation of the Bible as our sole and final authority.”
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What did the Gospel writers know?
Some biblical scholars are too quick to say that, because a particular Gospel doesn’t include a given story or saying of Jesus, the Evangelist who wrote it must not have known about it.

Really?

What would cause a person to think this?
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The Two Most Important Questions in Life
There are two questions most people avoid. The questions are: “Why am I here?” and “Where am I going?”  They are such penetrating questions that vast numbers of people spend their lives going to great lengths to avoid them.Questions call for answers and these two questions pierce to the core of who and what a person is (or is not). They will expose a person’s spiritual state and their humanity (or lack of it). The questions can be unpleasant, threatening and make a person feel uncomfortable. They can spark internal crisis.
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What Popes Can and Can’t Do
A good friend habitually refers to the Wall Street Journal as his “favorite Catholic newspaper”—a bit of whimsy not without foundation, given the openness of the Journal’s op-ed pages to serious Catholic argument on numerous issues. But just as Homer occasionally nods, so does America’s best newspaper. And on Jan. 2, the Journal nodded, big-time, in this description of why Pope Francis was one of the “People to Watch” in 2014:

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‘Trendies and Traddies’
The Good Shepherd carries a staff to help him herd the sheep. With the crook at the top, he can reach out to rescue the fallen, and with the point at the bottom, he can prod the sheep if necessary to keep them in line.

It is no mistake, therefore, when one blogger described Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) as “the shepherd prodding the flock.” One commenter complained that the Pope was “a scold.”
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Does God Love the Poor More than the Rich?
I have a friend named Trish who frequently corners me after Mass to ask questions about things she finds baffling about Scripture or Catholic teaching. Her questions range from the mundane – “Why, if Mary remained a virgin, does Scripture refer to the ‘brothers and sisters’ of Jesus?” – to the sublime – “How can it be that Jesus is both human and divine?” Why Trish brings her questions to me, I’m not sure, but I always try to reward her curiosity by patiently providing as full an answer as I can.
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Notes on Mark: Hell
I have noticed that it is very common today that moral assessments seem to center quite a lot around the intentions and feelings of the person involved. What is actually being done seems less significant and as long as a person “means well” or feels something is right then it is OK for them and we should make no further moral discernment. It is enough for too many that the person feels the act is right and means well.
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Getting Your Act Together
During a recent coffee meeting with a friend, he said, “You seem to have your act together on the fatherhood front. What’s your secret?” I was taken aback because I don’t think I have my act together at all. I don’t mean that out of false humility. I pray every day to be a better husband and father because I know all of the areas where I fall short. Before I could answer my friend, he received a call on his cell phone and had to run. The topic, however, stayed on my mind throughout the day.
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How to Go to Confession
Q
: I admit I have not been to confession in many years and am no longer sure I know how to properly avail myself of the sacrament. Would you please review how one should go to confession?
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What No One Told Me about Catholicism
There are things no one tells you when you convert to Catholicism: that six-year-olds will know prayers you don’t; that you’re supposed to end every statement about a future contingent with “God willing”; and that you will feel the irrepressible urge to genuflect before leaving a room where something important has happened.
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What Is Your Middle Schooler Being Taught About the Crusades?
Yesterday, something interesting happened: my daughter asked me to print out her 7th grade Social Studies homework, which was a lesson on the Crusades. Coincidentally, I was teaching the same subject that evening, and what I saw in my daughter’s lessons drove home the absolutely necessity of Catholics telling our own story and teaching our own history.

I’ve been teaching Church history to 8th Grade Confirmation candidates for 6 years, and I’ve developed a series of history lessons that are taught to multiple classes each year. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the controversies of our history in order to better teach them to the students. I never whitewash it. I tell my student, “We have not always been as good as we should have been, but we have never been as bad as our enemies have said.” The truth is usually in the middle of two extreme views.
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God and Morality

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