Pastoral Sharings: "26th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage  Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
  Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
  September 28, 2014 

  The themes of the First Reading and the Gospel are all
   about changing one’s attitude and behaviour. In one 
  word this is what the Christian life is all about: change.

  Unfortunately we human beings are normally quite 
  resistant to change and yet we do acknowledge its important role in our lives. We acknowledge that the alcoholic has to make a decisive change and has to reorient his life and begin to live soberly.

To take other cases the same is true for the drug addict, the gambler, the habitual criminal or the serial adulterer. We can think of plenty of other examples for ourselves.

Without a decisive change of direction such people face personal disaster. The only problem is that when we look at things in this way we tend to disassociate ourselves from such people. We think that alcoholism, addiction and other serious problems involve other people and not ourselves.

In the scripture readings today however all this is summed up in the word sin. And sin as we know affects every single person in the world. Sin affects each and every one of us; and we fool ourselves if we think that we are an exception.

And make no mistake about it sin is addictive. The child who starts off by stealing sweets from the supermarket can all to easily end up involved in far greater thefts and frauds. It is therefore vitally important that we instil good habits in our children. The more children learn to do what is right, in other words to have a well formed sense of morals, the better people it will make them in the long run.

I worked for many years as a prison chaplain and it very soon became obvious to me that crime runs in families. Being brought up in a home with practically no morals inevitably meant that the children too inevitably became criminals; sometimes even ending up in the very same jail as their parents.

Habit is what it is all about. Helping your children to acquire good habits is the best gift you can give them. The task of each parent is to help the child to develop good behaviour and to acquire the virtues necessary to live a good and fulfilling life.

The worse thing is for a child to acquire bad habits and warped ways of thinking. We all know getting rid of a bad habit is anything but easy. It requires a great deal of determination and involves us in making hard and inflexible decisions.

Jesus gives us today the rather fine little parable about the two brothers one who says he won’t go to the vineyard but then relents and does so and the other brother who says that he will go to the vineyard but in fact doesn’t.

Both changed their minds; one positively, the other negatively. Objectively we easily know which one did the right thing but we have no difficulty seeing ourselves in either role. We know that sometimes we do the right thing and at some other times we do the wrong thing. In Christian terms we call this falling into temptation.

Resisting temptation is an essential part of the struggle that is the life of a Christian. And it is not easy, however there are some helpful steps that we can take.

First we have to acknowledge the particular temptation and be conscious of any inappropriate desires that arise within us. Be clear about it if we don’t openly face our weaknesses we can never overcome them.

Then we have to avoid those particular temptations by taking evasive action such as never going into a particular shop where we might spend inappropriately or avoiding the company of someone we are inappropriately attracted to. This is the classic advice given for avoiding temptation and can be summed up in one word: flee.

After this we have to exercise our willpower and make decisions in relation to our temptations. In many cases this means making the choice to stop doing certain things. In this way we can build up a sort of moral barrier against falling into sinful ways.

And lastly we need to substitute good behaviours for bad ones. This is important because after resisting temptation we need to reward ourselves with a virtuous act, something we can feel good about. By doing this we reinforce good behaviour.

Let me repeat these steps: First acknowledge the temptation, then take evasive action; after this make a decision to do better and then finally substitute good behaviour for bad.

Taking such steps to avoid sin is vitally important for us all. By taking these steps we gradually build up our good character and so become better people; we then find that we have acquired high standards and begin to see that others look up to us.

The other important thing for Christians to learn is the lesson of repentance, something which is highlighted in the Gospel reading. The first son said he would not go to the vineyard but repented and eventually did go there.

So on those occasions when we do give in to temptation we must programme ourselves to feel remorse and then immediately repent of our sin. Of course, the Church gives us an excellent mechanism in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to enable us to express our repentance and to experience healing and forgiveness.

Reconciliation is a sacrament that we might not need to use every week but it should be used every few months to help us stay on the right track.

This whole area of temptation and how to avoid falling into sin is of vital importance to anyone who is serious about following the Christian life. We are all too aware that our life can be a struggle but it is important to know who the real adversary is. We minimise the role of the Tempter at our peril.

When you read the lives of the saints you often come across periods of their life when they struggled with the Devil, sometimes in an almost literal way. We tend to gloss over these incidents and sometimes think that these are pious imaginings. But they are not. The Devil is battling for the soul of each person in this Church, and indeed each person in the world.

Do not underestimate your adversary. Realise that the real struggle in life is against sin and temptation and that whenever we try to minimise the deadly effects of sin we are making a big mistake. Lulling ourselves into a false sense of security actually puts us in much greater danger.

So I urge you to keep those two sons in mind. Think about them often. Ask yourself often which of them you are at any given moment and then ask yourself which of them would you more life to be.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1809

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 28, 2014

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—September 28, 2014
Today, Jesus shocks the Jewish chief priests by telling them something about themselves that no one else would have dared to say. What was it?

Gospel (Read Mt 21:28-32)

Our reading is in a portion of St. Matthew’s Gospel that reports on the tangles Jesus had with the religious leaders of Jerusalem. In the preceding verses, they questioned His authority to enter the Temple to teach (see Mt 21:23). He answered their question with a question of His own first: “The baptism of John, whence was it?” They refused to answer, of course. If they said, “From God,” then Jesus would embarrass them by asking why they didn’t believe him. If they said, “From men,” the people would be up in arms. They pleaded ignorance, thus forfeiting any explanation of Jesus’ authority.
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Twenty-sixth Sunday: Empty Means Full
Today’s second reading is from the second chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.  The reading contains one of the most beautiful Christological hymns in scripture. Paul begins by telling the Philippians to care for each other, be united in one heart and do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. He then tells us to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus.  The Christological hymn follows: “who though he was in the form of God did not deem equality with God something to be grasped, but rather emptied himself….etc.” 
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Encountering God In Daily Life
New York City can be a daunting place for a Catholic, or anyone who wants to live a religious or moral life. While it is a most materialistic and secular city, I have managed to find inspiration and people who share my love for God. They are rare and very precious to me. Some I found in obvious places such as my church, and some through my cab-driving; my interface with the world. Either way, it is in the unexpected that I find small blessings.
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Pope: ‘Our Strength Is the Love of Christ’
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has made an appeal for prayer and aid for the victims of the Ebola outbreak, which has been sweeping through several West-African countries.

Speaking during his general audience, the Pope expressed his closeness “to the many people affected by this terrible disease. I invite you to pray for them and for the many who have so tragically lost their lives.”
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Let him who has ears, hear! The Parables that Portray the Drama of Human Choice
In yesterday’s post, I pondered the great drama of human life as Scripture sets it forth. We are caught up in a great and cosmic battle and must choose sides. There are two armies and no third way given. Sadly, most have lost any sense of the battle and of the drama of life, despite the battle lines being clearer than ever.
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Signs From Heaven
I used to have a strange, very naive idea that I would be closely united with my father after his death. I know that we are united with the communion of saints, and that death no longer separates us (Romans 8:38-39). I believe we can pray to the saints, and even pray to and pray for our relatives who have gone before us. But I guess my interpretation of what that union would look like differed from reality.

I thought that all I had to do was pray and that my dad would visit me in my dreams, or that God would send me endless consolations to constantly comfort me. I believed that my father would send me signs of his present happiness from “the other side” in big ways.
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Christ, the One Teacher of All (Mysticism and Magisterium: Part III of VI)
We might summarize the previous two posts in this series by saying that we are called to think with the Church because Christ and the Church possess same Spirit who is present throughout history in the details. When the Church teaches, Christ teaches, and those who depart from the Church depart from Christ. In this post, we shall examine than manner in which Christ is the one Teacher of all.
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Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?
Last week I wrote a post here on David Hume, miracles, and the resurrection of Jesus. Some of the commenters took issue with my claim that “all the alternatives to the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead are more incredible than the miracle.” I’d like to elaborate on that here.

Christians claim that the historical human being Jesus of Nazareth was executed then physically rose from the dead and stayed alive. He was seen by many people and then was seen to vanish into the invisible realm. Here we have the most revolutionary and radical question of human history. Did it really happen?
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Moral Chaos Should Strengthen Your Faith
While many pious people are wringing their hands over the popular culture and wondering if God will save his people, I find that the moral decay and preposterous incongruities we witness daily actually reinforce all I believe about Divine Revelation. What else is to be expected when God is removed from the Public Square?
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Hail Mary: The Invincible Victory of the Black Madonna
Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa Brings Global Unity to Battle for Life

“An icon is the visual image of the invisible, given to us so that our understanding may be filled with sweetness,” wrote St. John of Damascus in his eighth-century defense of the veneration of icons.
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Our Lady’s Message in Wisconsin: Conversion & Catechesis
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2010, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help located about sixteen miles northeast of Green Bay, Bishop David Ricken endorsed our country’s first Church-approved Marian apparition:

“I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.”
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The Devil: Is He for Real? Why Does God Let Him Hang Around?
Dear Father John, I’ve heard that talking about the devil is just a way to talk about bad things that happen.  On the other hand, there are some people that claim there really is a devil.  Is the devil for real?  If so, why does God let him hang around when our purpose is to get to heaven?  It seems so contradictory.
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What Does the Church Teach About the Devil?
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Last spring, Father Michael Drea, the senior Catholic chaplain at Harvard University, read a text message from a student, who reported that a Satanic “black mass” would be held on the Cambridge campus in early May.

The chaplain and his flock quickly launched a campaign to stop the event that gained national attention and ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the black mass at Harvard, while a Holy Hour scheduled for the same evening drew thousands.
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A Voice From Hell
Author’s Note:  Recently, I had a conversation with a high school friend of mine, concerning how people rarely think about the reality of hell, and going there for all eternity. We agreed that very few people do. This article is a work of pure fiction. However, hopefully, it will get people to at least start thinking about what awaits us after death, if we do not repent.
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5 Prayers Recommended by an Exorcist to Combat Evil
Listers, Father Gabriele Amorth claims to have performed over 70,000 exorcisms from 1986 to 2010. The good priest serves as an exorcist for the Diocese of Rome and is the founder and honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists. He has written two books:An Exorcist Tells His Story & . And yes, his favorite movie is The Exorcist.An Exorcist: More Stories
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Raphael: Our Joyful Angelic Friend
Couched in between the Book of Nehemiah and Judith can be found an endearing, heart-warming, uplifting and inspiring short Book of the Bible with the title Tobit.  Composed of only fourteen short chapters, the story runs smoothly and quickly with simple but profound messages for the whole world and at all times. The Word of God is like a two-edged sword that pierces bone from marrow. Jesus reminds us that man does not simply live on bread alone but on every word that issues forth from the mouth of God. The Psalmist calls our attention to the fact that the word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.
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Archangels and Guardian Angels
Last week, we began our discussion of angels, examining their role in sacred Scripture and even investigating the nine choirs of angels. This week, we focus our attention on the archangels and the guardian angels. Sacred Scripture identifies by name three angels, who are the great messengers of God — Sts. Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.
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The Weapon for These Times: 54 Day Rosary Novena for Divine Assistance
“The rosary is the weapon for these times.” – St. Padre Pio

Have you read the news lately? It is seemingly nothing but terrorism, beheadings, mass murders, suicide, sexual anarchy, persecution, and even blatant Satan worship. While one might argue that such things have always existed in human history, I am convinced that evil is emboldened, and that it is being unleashed in a way not seen in a very long time.
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Visiting the Sick Takes Christlike Courage
We can be awfully smug when it comes to Old Testament taboos. Many people assume they were nothing but superstitious, pre-scientific attempts to avoid disease.

All this leads, of course, to a triumphant and confident conclusion that we are 4,000 years smarter than the people who shackled themselves with barbaric nonsense about eating unclean food or avoiding people with rashes.
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Now, Make Your Act of Contrition
Confession. To say that it is on my heart is an understatement. Confession is on my heart because I’ve had the pure blessing of watching over 150 children make their first confession. Confession is on my heart because I need it so much, and I am reminded of that fact in a radical way during Lent. Confession is on my heart because I’m always blown away that God would even welcome me in a confessional, much less forgive my sins.
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How The Saints Faced Anxiety
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.                   -Philippians 4:6-7

Some saints were as prone to worry and anxiety as the rest of us are. But, by placing their trust in the Lord’s presence and care, they were able to overcome their fears. Some of these fears were relatively minor ones, as faced by Bl. Helen of Udine, who, during a period of distress, was terrified even of loud noises.
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Ghosts in the Bible: The Old Testament
Ghosts posed a problem for the early Church because they seemed to reflect a holdover of pagan belief and superstition. Yet reliable witnesses continued to report encounters with what to appeared to be spirits, and witnesses were not so easily dismissed as they are now. As we head into Halloween, I hope to do a few posts examining the place of ghosts in Catholicism: how have people reacted to accounts of ghosts, and how has the reaction changed over time?
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You Can Fly With An Eternity Attitude At A Heavenly Altitude
The old man was generous to a fault, had raised a passle of kids, and loved even more grandkids. He and one son-in-law, though so different in age, had shared the experience of serving their country, he in combat in WWII in the Pacific and the son-in-law serving stateside during the Vietnam War. The son-in-law had an unspoken respect for the old man and sometimes marveled at the old man’s dedication to his wife and family. Often, when the son-in-law would say something cynical, uncharitable, arrogant, or ridiculing someone else, the old man would tell him “You don’t have the right altitude.” Not “attitude,” but “altitude.”
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Three Catholic, non-fiction books to enhance your faith…
Journey To Heaven: A Road Map For Catholic Men (Emmaus Road Publishing): Over the past two years I’ve known him, Randy Hain has been one the most encouraging supporters of my work. So when he asked me to review his new book, I was delighted to return at least one of the many favors I owe him.

Here’s the problem: I wanted to write a thorough review, which meant I took forever to actually read Journey To Heaven, a mistake of epic proportions.

This book is not only well-written and practical, but it’s sorely needed in today’s world.
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The Top 10 Reasons to be a Catholic Man
In the post-modern “anything goes and nothing means anything” world, men are lost, not knowing what to believe or what to do.  Seduced into pursuing their own selfish passions, post-modern men are manipulated like C.S. Lewis predicted they would be:  “men without chests”, who don’t know what to believe and are manipulated by those with political and material power through propaganda to do what the powerful desire.  This is not freedom, it is slavery.
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Seeking Satisfaction – Gluttony
There is a grotesque scene in the Monty Python film The Meaning of Life in which a hugely corpulent character named Mr Creosote eats a gigantic meal, vomits repeatedly and then, after eating a tiny after dinner mint, explodes. The comedy is completely outrageous, but you can’t miss the explicitly revolting depiction of gluttony.
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The Devil’s War on Silence
There are key strategies of indirect attack that the enemy of our souls uses to significantly disrupt our spiritual progress. One is the corruption of human sexuality. As the analogy of holy spousal love is one of the most effective in understanding divine intimacy, the enemy desires to corrupt human sexuality in order to further obscure what it means to understand the possibilities of union with God.
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To Be or Not to Be a Priest or Nun
As a college junior six years ago, Marisa Cirenza told her family she was discerning whether God wanted her to change her vocational plan from “doctor” to “religious sister.”

Emanuel and Linda Cirenza of Charlottesville, Va., challenged their only daughter, realizing that if she became a religious sister with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (often known as the Nashville Dominicans), it would mean a big change for the family.
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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Pastoral Sharings: "25th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 21, 2014

The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard which we 
have as our Gospel reading today is very typical of Jesus’ 
teaching. It tells us about the owner who pays his
labourers the same amount of money despite the widely 
different numbers of hours they have spent working in 
his vineyard.

What Jesus is trying to point out is how different God’s attitudes are from our own. And this is well summed up in the phrase from the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, “The heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.”

We human beings usually have extremely well defined concepts of justice although our application of them is not always very consistent. We are quite good at knowing if an injustice has been done to us but we are not so good at recognising whether injustices are being done to others.

If you want to see the truth of this just watch a group of children trying to cut a cake. There will be endless complaints about which one has the biggest slice. And we adults are not much better than children in this regard.

Our tendency is to reflect only on our own situation and simply not to notice what is happening to other people. Such attitudes lead to many injustices being continued from one generation to the next. We end up with extreme imbalances between rich and poor and the exploitation of the weak and those who have no power.

The contrast between our way of doing things and that of the owner of the vineyard could not be more extreme. He does not seem to be concerned about rewarding his labourers for the quantity of work they have completed; he is more preoccupied with giving everyone enough to live on regardless of the amount of work they have completed.

The owner is motivated not by natural justice or even his own profit. No, he is motivated by his own overwhelming generosity of spirit. And Jesus is telling us that this is how God is and he invites us to change our own attitudes and make them more like those of God.

In the Kingdom of God everything is topsy-turvy, everything is the opposite to the way things are in this world. The Kingdom of God is an upside down world, in it the rich are poor and the poor are rich; in it, as Jesus says in today’s reading, “the last will be first and the first last.”

It is hard for us to understand this concept because we are so concerned with equality and getting our fair due. We think that our work should be rewarded fairly and that those who in our opinion choose not to work should therefore not be given the same rewards as those of us who do work very hard.

In this world this seems to be a fair enough point of view, it accords with our idea of natural justice and ties in with our need to have a roof over our head and our desire to put food on the table for our families.

It is difficult for us therefore to come to terms with the proposal of Jesus that we should be motivated by kindness and generosity rather than anything else. He wants us to take the way God is for our model but we find that this is very difficult to do. We feel that we have to live in the real world where money is the measure of most things.

Taking God’s way of doing things and making it our own is actually a very revolutionary thing to do. It requires a complete change of outlook and a total modification of our priorities. But I assure you that once you have made this change in attitude you will find it very fulfilling.

Making such a change lessens your preoccupation with material things; it liberates you from worry and helps you to see everything in its true perspective.

I remember some years ago discussing this parable with some parishioners and one of them compared the workers in the vineyard with those of us who were baptised as children and those who converted to the faith late in life.

Those who were baptised as children he compared with those who went to work in the vineyard at daybreak and those who converted late in life to the ones who came at the eleventh hour. Whenever the decision to follow the Lord is made it comes with the exact same reward.

It just so happens that we are baptising an adult at the 12.30 mass today, a cause of rejoicing if ever there was one. In this case it comes at the end of a lifetime of accompanying his wife to Church but just because the decision was made gradually over a long period it is no less sincere for that.

I know that there are many others who come regularly to this Church even though they are not Catholics. Maybe they come with their partner or their children but were not brought up in the faith themselves. This would be a good moment for them to think about the possibility of converting and becoming a Catholic. We have a programme starting soon where people can learn about the faith leading to Baptism or reception into the Church at Easter.

Whether we embraced the faith in our childhood or later in life makes no difference. Following the Lord as a member of his Church is a wonderful thing and it brings great rewards. Committing oneself to the Gospel changes our perspective from the ways and attitudes of this world to the ways and attitudes of the Lord. We start to see things through God’s eyes and through the lives we live are able to share the Good News of the Gospel with everyone around us.

Today we rejoice at one Baptism and we look forward to many more at Easter.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1804

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September21, 2014

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—September 21, 2014
Jesus tells a parable that poses an interesting question: Would we ever grumble about God’s generosity?

Gospel (Read Mt 20:1-16a)

In the verses preceding today’s Gospel, Jesus told the disciples “it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:23). A “rich young man” had just gone away “sorrowful” from Jesus, because he could not detach from his possessions to follow Him. When the disciples hear that even the rich, thought to be especially blessed by God, would have a hard time entering heaven, they ask, “Who, then, can be saved?” (Mt 19:25) Jesus gives them an answer that He further elaborates in today’s reading: “With men, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).
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Twenty-fifth Sunday: It Is Never Too Late
It certainly seemed like the workers who spent the entire day in the vineyard had a point. It didn’t seem just for them to receive the same pay as those who worked a few hours. After all, they were out in the sun all day, while those other guys only worked in the late afternoon. But the owner of the vineyard also had a point. He had made an agreement with each group as he called them to work in his vineyard. He did not violate his agreement with the first group by being so generous to the last group.
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What is the meaning of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard?Question: “What is the meaning of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard?”
Answer: This lengthy parable is found only in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus tells the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) in response to Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Peter wanted to know what reward would be given to those who give up everything to follow Jesus. In response, Jesus explains this truth about the kingdom of heaven.
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Parables and Parabolic Images in the Gospels
What is a “Parable”?

Definition: “At its simplest a parable is a metaphor or simile  drawn from nature or common life,  arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness,  and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application  to tease it into active thought.” (C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961, p. 5)

Implications of this definition:
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Pope Francis: God Visits His People and Gives Them Hope
The Pope prayed: ‘We ask for the grace that our Christian witness be a witness that brings the closeness of God to his people, that closeness that sows hope.’

VATICAN CITY — On Tuesday, Pope Francis focused on the importance of giving hope to the world by imitating Jesus Christ’s closeness to God’s people.

“When God visits his people, he restores hope to them. Always,” Pope Francis said in his Sept. 16 homily at his Casa Santa Marta residence.
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The saint who came from a family of martyrs
The first Korean Catholic priest and a martyr for the faith, St Andrew Kim Taegon is a renowned figure in the history of Catholicism in his native land.

Born on August 21 1821, Andrew came from a family of martyrs. During the 19th century, Catholics in Korea were persecuted by the ruling Joseon Dynasty for abandoning Confucianism and Andrew’s great-grandfather, Kim Chin-hu Pius, died in prison in 1814 after being arrested for his conversion to Catholicism.

The saint’s father, Kim Chae-jun Ignatius, was also martyred in 1839 for the practice of the faith.
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7 Church Fathers on that Profound Insight of Mary as the New Eve
In his 1st letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul teaches that Jesus is the “last Adam” who fixed the problems caused by Adam’s sin:

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15.21-22)

But we also know from Genesis that Eve played an important role in the Fall. If Jesus took the place of Adam, who took the place of Eve?
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A God-Centered Romance
“Choose someone God-fearing, and make God the center of your relationship.” When this advice was given in a talk for college students about dating and marriage, a girl in the audience asked, “If we’re going to be thinking of God all the time, how can our relationship be exciting?”

The idea of a God-centered romance is, indeed, alien to today’s culture. This age assumes that a God-centered romance is an oxymoron, a dull and platonic relationship as opposed to a wild, pleasure-centered one. But this is hardly the impression I get from the last letter written by Blessed Bartolome Blanco Marquez to his girlfriend before he was executed for his faith during the Spanish Civil War.

The letter begins:
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Beauty Set Free
Immodesty is on display almost everywhere, even at Mass. Magazines, advertisements, movies, music, television and many stores promote immodest clothing as normal and moral. But Catholic public figures — as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and St. John Paul II — disagree with the values endorsed by secular culture. Guided by Church teaching, these Catholics explained their take on modesty and provided advice concerning modest dress with the Register.
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The Heart of a Mystic
When we consider the concept of mysticism, most of us assume mystics are somehow set apart from the rest of humanity as mysterious and highly intuitive people who participate in an exceptional relationship with God.  Mysticism is easily translated across multiple religions, and even within Christianity, there is some debate as to what defines a mystic.  As a lifelong Catholic, I have always been drawn to the notable mystical saints: St. Padre Pio, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila.  Their extraordinary ability to sense and recognize God in vast mysteries has fascinated and lured me into the supernatural realm of knowing and being.
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Reigning With Christ
As Christians we are called to both accept the reign of Christ our King and also to join with him in reigning.

We should ask first, though, is Christ truly a king or is this just a nice metaphor? To answer, Christ’s Kingship is absolutely fundamental to his identity. The word Christ itself means “anointed” in Greek, which itself is meant to be equivalent to the Hebrew word Messiah. The Messiah was the Davidic King, who was anointed for that task. The Jews were expecting the Messiah, which meant the restoration of the Davidic Kingship. When we call Christ, therefore, we are affirming the Kingship of Christ.
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A Voice From Hell
Author’s Note:  Recently, I had a conversation with a high school friend of mine, concerning how people rarely think about the reality of hell, and going there for all eternity. We agreed that very few people do. This article is a work of pure fiction. However, hopefully, it will get people to at least start thinking about what awaits us after death, if we do not repent.
…more

Mass Etiquette: 20 Things To Do And Not Do In Mass
1. Fast before Mass. It is Church law that one fasts for at least 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion. Water and medicine can be consumed, of course. The purpose is to help us prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

2. No Food and Drink in Church. The exceptions would be a drink for small children, water for the priest or choir (if discreet) and water for those who are ill. Bringing a snack into church is not appropriate, because we want to set the church apart as a place of prayer and reflection.
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Worshipping Mammon
We think of greed as a fat cat banker who pays himself a million dollar bonus after already receiving a salary of three million for working a seventy hour week doing shady almost legal deals for people. Or we think greed is shown by a person who is a tightwad: pinching every penny and cutting every corner to make a little bit more money wherever he can.
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Christ’s teaching on poverty
One of the greatest challenges to my own faith was Christ’s teaching about the elevation of the poor. It simply makes no sense to me to see any special spiritual significance to mere poverty. By itself it does nothing to improve behavior or adherence to law, and for every “smiling face in an impoverished village” that gets mentioned in sermons there are just as many savage and violent faces, to say nothing of the cheerful faces among those in penthouses or lake homes. But I think my challenge was based on confounding two separate elements in Christ’s teaching that need to be kept separate. I’ll call these two elements “the older account” and “the newer account”.
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Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Sacrament of the Eucharist
This week at the parish I work at in Arizona, my Pastor and I began a five-week study on the Catholic Mass for the parents in our Family Faith Formation Program. Because of the large number of children that attend Religious Education, we divide the sessions into four different groups made up of 2 groups per night for two weeks. This means that each group meets every other week.
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Beholding our Mother
Have we ever pondered why Jesus choose to reveal Mary to us as our Mother only a few moments before He died on the Cross? We have no doubt that in these words, “Son, behold your Mother,” Jesus was offering His beloved Mother to us as His gift to us. The moment of death is a solemn moment when words are spoken with deep reflection and intent. For those of us who may argue that Jesus did not intend His words literally, remember that dying men do not make figurative statements! Jesus really gave us His Mother to be our own Mother also.
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The Saint Who Didn’t Fit In
Sometimes I feel surly because the majority of saints don’t look like me.  They’re not married, or they don’t have large families, or they lived a long time ago in Europe or something, and generally didn’t have to deal with the spiraling decay of modern life while still striving for heaven.
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How Strange: Longing For Heaven Is Almost Never Expressed Today
There is a long list of things that people never hear in sermons anymore: mortal sin, judgment, Hell, purgatory, fornication … you name it. But there is another omission that is rather odd given the tenor of these times: Heaven.
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Choirs of Angels
Q: With all of the talk about angels, the multitude of pictures and books about them, and even the television shows with angels, why don’t we ever hear more about them? Some of these shows make angels seem like fantasy spirits. Too many people have a superficial view of angels. Do we still believe in them?.
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God Reveals – We Respond?
As Christians we are called to listen and respond to God’s direction, because our lives revolve around God. We have no business asking God to bless our great ideas and projects.

Decades ago, I ranted and raved at the efficient, organized people who tried to carry out their own personal agendas within the Catholic Church. Yet, I lacked the words to connect with these proactive Catholics who dismissed me as some sort of  irrelevant, passive mystic.  It seemed that I was the proverbial contemplative Mary-type, trying to reason with practical Martha-types, all to no avail.
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Could Jesus Have Sinned? Absolutely Not!
Sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and the teaching of the magisterium are unanimous that Jesus Christ was, and still is, sinless. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” This same teaching is echoed in the Catechism (CCC 467) and also appears in the following general audience given by Pope St. John Paul II:
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Between the Skeptic and the Fundamentalist
Reading Scripture as a modern Catholic is a perpetual balance between extremes; among them, the extremes of farfetched skepticism and equally farfetched supernaturalism. For, unlike these extremes, the Faith takes both the unseen realities of the Spirit and the ordinary life of human beings seriously. It believes in both accountants and angels. But many people, seeing only one of these truths clearly, then proceed to use that pet truth as a cudgel against the truth they don’t see.
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God is an Artist
Why do Catholics honor the saints? Because God is an artist, and the Church is his masterpiece. Catholics do not honor the saints because they forget to worship God. They honor the saints because these are the saints in whom God has brought glory to himself. If you want to make much of an artist, you don’t ignore or downplay his art. Rather, you marvel at it. You walk around it again and again, always learning something new. When you love an artist, you don’t put his masterpiece in the closet. You frame it. You put it on a pedestal. So it is that God is an artist, and the Church is his masterpiece, his city on a hill (Matt. 5:14).
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Premarital Sex is a Mortal Sin – Of this we must be clear and insist on repentance as the only way to be saved
We live in times in which many call good or “no big deal” what God calls sinful. This is especially true in the area of sexuality, where whole sectors of our society not only tolerate but even celebrate sexual practices that the Scriptures call gravely sinful, and which will lead to Hell if not repented of. Acts of fornication (pre-marital sex) and homosexual acts cannot be considered acceptable by any Catholic or by any person who sincerely accepts the Scripture as the Word of God.
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Why I Chose to be Chaste
I decided very early on in my life that I was going to wait until marriage to have sex. I can’t take all the credit for being some amazingly religious and reverent young man who was destined for greatness in following every verse and commandment I had ever known. Surely being in a private, Catholic school since the third grade had something to do with it; quite honestly maybe I was just scared to death. Scared of sinning, scared of hurting my religious mother and father, and scared of giving something up I couldn’t have back.
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Pastoral Sharings: "24th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage  Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
  Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
  September 14, 2014
 
  Exaltation of the Holy Cross
 
  One of the distinctive characteristics human beings have 
  is the ability to reason, to think 
  in a clear and logical fashion.

Many experiments have been undertaken in attempts to prove that some of the higher primates also have this same ability, if to a lesser extent, but the results of these enquiries are very questionable and are largely only the results of repetitive acts.

A chimpanzee can, of course, use a primitive tool to get some tasty ants out of a hole but whether this can seriously be described as the use of reason is very much open to question.

Human beings, however, certainly do have the ability to reason and are able to do so at quite high levels so I think that, whatever some experimental psychologists might want to believe, it remains one of our defining characteristics.

The only problem is that, as the parable we are presented with today ably demonstrates, our emotions often get in the way. We can think logically but don’t always act logically. And we also frequently fail to make use of the great gift of reason.

Even the dullest schoolboy can see that the servant in the parable who had his debts forgiven is being totally inconsistent. This man whose extremely large debt was absolved so magnanimously is unable to show forgiveness in a comparatively small matter and so we rightly regard him as hardhearted and cruel.

But a parable is not just a nice story it is also a mirror, a mirror we cannot avoid holding up to ourselves. And this parable set before us today is one which really makes us squirm because in it we clearly see our inadequacies.

We who receive so much forgiveness and understanding from God are so frequently unable to forgive others or even see things from their point of view. We who crave forgiveness from God frequently fail to even see the need to give it to our fellow human beings.

I think that one of the best ways to improve in this area is to regard oneself as a conduit. Do not think that God’s forgiveness and love is meant for you alone but rather that you are a special conduit of his forgiveness and love for others. Let the forgiveness you experience flow through you to others.

This is not just some mental trick it is exactly what happens. God is constantly pouring out his grace on mankind. And he is simply using us as a means to spread that love everywhere. Our principal job is not to get in the way, not to block this flow of grace and mercy.

Yes, we know God very well and we speak to him directly in prayer and over the years we have sensitised ourselves to the many different ways he speaks to us, we especially appreciate how he acts in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

But most people in our society are not as aware of God as we are, most people are unable to recognise what God is doing and saying.

They might crave God’s forgiveness, for example, but be quite unaware that this is what they really want or need in life. They might just be walking around with a heavy load of guilt and not even be able to give it a name, let alone knowing that it is God to whom they must turn to be relieved of this great burden.

This is where we come in. By recognising our role as conduits of God’s love we allow him to act through us to bring his love and goodness to those who for whatever reason are unable to recognise him.

This is especially the case with forgiveness. It is not customary in our society to forgive easily. Reconciliation between individuals or groups in conflict is certainly understood as necessary but this usually comes a long time after a clash has occurred and then only after protracted negotiations.

In our world holding a grudge is considered quite normal and not speaking to someone who has offended you is commonplace. It is often thought to be unnecessary to forgive and neighbours who ought to be helping one another can be at loggerheads for years at a time.

Partly the reluctance to forgive is because of the fear of losing face but mostly, I think, because of the effort it takes. Forgiveness requires doing something; you have to go to the other or find a suitable opportunity to speak words of peace. Forgiveness is always active, it is always a reaching out, it is always involves taking the initiative.

In our Gospel reading Peter is told that he must not forgive his brother merely seven times but seventy-seven times. This mystical number actually means an unlimited number of times and rightly so for there is no limit to God’s love and mercy.

If we are real and effective conduits of his salvation then there can be no limits to the amount of times we forgive our brother or anyone else for that matter. There can be no limits to the extent of the love and kindness God conveys to the world through the agency of his servants; and by that I mean us!

None of this is easy. Very little comes naturally. And certainly we all fall far short of the ideal. But embracing this idea that the role of a disciple of Christ is to be a conduit of his love can certainly help. It can help us to be a bit more forgiving and gentle with ourselves and most of all enable us to be real agents of forgiveness and reconciliation within our community.

I remember very clearly a fellow seminarian, Bernard, talking about how he decided to take up his vocation. He said that it all started with an argument in a pub! He fell out with someone and they had a bitter argument and he went home still seething with anger.

Naturally enough it was difficult for him to sleep and after some hours tossing and turning he decided that it might help if he said a few prayers. So in traditional style he knelt by his bed and started to say the Our Father but found that he simply couldn’t get past those first two words.

He couldn’t get past them because he realised that God was just as much the father of the fellow he’d just had such a bad argument with. He resolved there and then to make it up with him first thing the next day and he did so. The only problem was that this changed his whole way of thinking and indeed caused him to consider the orientation of his life much more carefully and what God might want from him, hence his decision to try his vocation.

Bernard only lasted one year in the seminary having discovered that his true vocation in life lay elsewhere. But I often think about him and the life-changing event of that argument in a pub. And, of course, the importance of those two wonderful words ‘Our Father.’
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1787

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September14, 2014

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Year A
September 14, 2014
Today’s feast prompts us to marvel over how an instrument of shame, brutality, and defeat became the most glorious symbol in the cosmos.

Gospel (Read Jn 3:13-17)

Today, the Church calls us to celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This means more than meditating on the meaning of the Cross for sinners like us, as fruitful as that would be. No, the idea today is to ponder the exaltation of the Cross, and there is a world of goodness for us as we answer this call.
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The Triumph of the Cross: God Loves Us
For five years I lived in one of the most beautiful places in our country, believe it or not, in New Jersey.  I attended Don Bosco Seminary in Sussex County, the Northwest corner of New Jersey.  This is an area of green rolling hills and the most colorful autumns you could ever imagine.  It is hard to explain the hills of New Jersey to folks who have lived in the flat area of Florida all there lives.  The hills just seem to pop up everywhere.  Naturally the main roads are in the valleys between the hills.
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God Desires Your Love
Some time ago, while on a train from Washington to New York, I became engaged in conversation with a young man. He was a graduate of a Catholic college, proud of the fact, and quite determined that the Faith was to be his guiding star through life.

A friend had recently given him a copy of the autobi­ography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. What surprised him most, he said, was the ease with which this young nun talked of her intimate friendship with God.
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What is Ecclesiology and Why is It So Important Today?
Many troubles today within the Church, and also among Christians in general, come down to a problem of mistaken or false ecclesiology. “Ecclesiology” refers to the nature of the Church. What is the Church? What is the fundamental mission of the Church? How essential is the Church in the life of every believer? What authority does the Church have in our life? Who has the authority in the Church to speak for Jesus Christ and teach in His name? What is the Church’s relationship to Holy Scripture and the sacred deposit of faith?  Is there but one Church, or many? And so forth. These are questions dealt with in the branch of sacred theology known as ecclesiology.
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THOU SHALL NOT INDULGE: 5 Myths & Misunderstandings of Indulgences and Purgatory
MYTH #1 – The Catholic Church no longer has indulgences.

This is just not true. Indulgences are a good thing and are still part of the Church’s teaching.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s answer to the question, “What is an indulgence?”:
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Rely on Christ When He Seems Distant
Through the intuitions of love, more than through the liveliness of the imagination, we have often constructed interiorly an arresting scene: the ominous sky, the wild winds, a little boat tossed by the seething waves of Lake Tiberias, with Jesus asleep in the stern. What a con­trast between the fury of the tempest and the sweet, majestic peace of the divine slumber! The omnipotent, the Most High, He who is infinite activity because He is infinite perfection and unfailing felicity, surrendered to that sure sign of limitation and misery: sleep.
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Why is this Lord’s Day no different from any other day?
In our neighborhood, on almost any day of the week, you might walk into a supermarket and notice a conservatively dressed woman with a hat and skirt and a rather large number of children in tow, and you might make a shrewd guess that she was a conservative or orthodox Jew, and there’s a good chance that you would be right.
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Religion and Spirituality
Sometimes, Catholics get stuck…

Some get stuck on their “Sunday obligation” — which is the minimum commitment and they think that’s all that’s required.

Others get stuck on religious rules and regulations and think if they just mind their manners they’ll be just fine with the Lord.
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Lead Us Not into Temptation
Q: In the Our Father, we pray, “And lead us not into temptation.” This sounds a little odd, because why would God lead us into temptation?

Upon first hearing, this petition of the Our Father does sound like we are asking God not to lead us into temptation. (The Our Father is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.) In this sense, the petition sounds like God would purposely place us in temptation and set us up for a fall to sin. The literal translation of the Greek text is indeed, as we recite, “and lead us not into temptation.”
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Purgatory — Perfected by the Love of God
Last Friday morning, while leading a bible study for about 40 retirees, the question of purgatory, the punishments due to sin, and salvation came up. They already possessed and good understanding of this important doctrine. But, the discussion reminded me that Purgatory remains one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Church, and maybe one that is least reflected on. To understand and embrace this teaching does not require deep, exhausting theological study. A short and simple explanation of its meaning should wash away the distortions and misunderstandings that cause so many people to doubt or neglect it.
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As For Me and My House
The growing darkness and moral evil in the world today has at least one good effect on us: we are forced to choose. Where are we to go, for shelter from the storm? Where are we to stand, when we are called to declare who we are, and what we believe, and what we live for, and where we draw the line and say to this world, “No! – no further will I go with you – here our paths diverge, and here I make my stand.”
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Are Sacraments Narrow!
My friend Ludwig was puzzled. “I don’t understand,” he said, “what is meant by those who say grace is imparted through sacraments. It seems to me to involve an intolerably narrow view of grace. As a Protestant, I’ve always understood grace to mean unmerited favor, plain and simple. Why are sacraments needed to bestow this? Doesn’t this narrow the scope of grace to those who are lucky enough to get baptized or eucharized? I thought God’s love was universal.”
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Is Sacramental Grace Magic?
My friend Ludwig was troubled again. We had talked before about the Catholic understanding of grace, but he still found the notion of sacraments uncomfortable to his Evangelical bones. Ludwig said to me, “It seems to me that the Catholic image of grace is vaguely magical, as though grace is some sort of substance God “pours out” through baptismal water, Eucharist and the like. But I thought the biblical reality is that grace was God’s attitude of unmerited, forgiving favor toward us, not some magical something or other that must be bestowed like a charm or “good medicine.” Why does grace require matter to get the job done in the Catholic scheme of things?”
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How to Use the Lord’s Prayer as a Spiritual Weapon
I once attended a seminar on the deliverance ministry conducted by the author and psychiatrist Kenneth McCall.

During the questions and answers three rather excitable women told Dr McCall that there was a witches coven meeting in their town and they wondered how to get rid of it.
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Being True Friends of Jesus Christ
A childhood friend of mine once visited me while I was a seminarian in Boston. Sadly, he had lost the faith that we so joyfully shared and practiced as teenagers growing up in Nigeria. During his brief visit, he blasphemed our Lord Jesus Christ, insulted the Blessed Virgin Mary, and mocked Catholic faith and morals right in my face. I was both angry and disappointed with him and did not get in touch with him for several weeks after that visit. I thought to myself, “He is not a friend of Jesus. He hates Jesus’ beloved mother and all that the Body of Christ believes and stands for. How can he still be my friend?”
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Justice
Presence of God – Teach me, O Lord, to love justice and to hate all that is opposed to it.

MEDITATION

When with clever astuteness, the Pharisees asked Jesus if it were lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, He replied: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s” (Mt 22,21). By this simple reply, Jesus gave us clearly and precisely a description of the virtue of justice: to give to everyone what is his due.
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Jesus’ Ancestors: Murderers, Cheats, Prostitutes, Refugees, Adulterers…
Today (Sept. 8) is the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and at mass this morning I inflicted upon the faithful the long genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel.  It’s here if you want to read it.

I did so for a good reason.
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Distorted Desires: The Seven Deadly Sins
The seventeenth century poet Thomas Traherne is known for his joyful and positive spirit. He affirms that human souls are driven by desire, and that we desire what is good. The problem is, that desire is either distorted or directed wrongly by sin.
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Spiritual Adulthood
There are those times in our lives when God seems distant, even absent from us. These are usually times when our faith seems weak and we struggle to believe God really cares for us, or perhaps we begin to question whether God even exists. In Western Christian tradition these moments are often referred to as the dark night of the soul. God seems as though He’s far removed from us and we struggle with our faith.
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Sacramental Marriage: Light in the Darkness
In a culture that abases sacramental marriage; a culture that is more sexualized, secular and sinful, perhaps marriage is harder. Nonetheless, marriage is a light in the darkness, a covenant gift of God wherein family is formed in life-giving, sacrificial love.

Sacramental marriages are born of God’s light and contribute inestimable good in the world. Marriage threatens the kingdom of darkness because it mirrors Trinitarian life and builds up the kingdom of God. Satan seeks to build his kingdom of eternal death by leading others into his fall from God.
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Everyone Has Time to Read the Gospels
Assuming that the average person’s reading speed is around 250 words per minute, and given the number of words in each book, about how long does it take to read the Gospels?
Matthew:  1 hour, 14 minutes
Mark:  46 minutes
Luke:  1 hour, 18 minutes
John:  1 hour, 3 minutes

The Four Gospels:  4 hours, 21 minutes
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How Do We Know It’s the True Church?
Twelve Things to Look For
My conversion to the Catholic faith began in the world of Protestant fundamentalism. After being brought up in an independent Bible church, I attended the fundamentalist Bob Jones University. While there I became an Anglican; later, I went to England to become an Anglican priest.
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Thinking Liturgically: The Scriptures
Whatever Mass we attend here in the Roman Rite is broken up into two parts:  The Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. 

There are endless debates in reform communities over which is more “important”, and that debate bores me.  It really isn’t Catholic to say one part of Mass is more important than the other.  While that exists within rigid theology manuals, the Mass makes the entire life of Christ present, from his preaching to his death on the Cross, to even his Resurrection.  While it is true only the Eucharist provides sacramental grace, we cannot overlook the way we encounter Christ in the liturgical readings, and how those readings play a vital role in forming us to properly receive the Eucharist.
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Pro Tennis Player Accompanied by Our Lady of Guadalupe on World Travels
         Colombia native Santiago Giraldo Salazar is devoted to the Mother of God.
When Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are brought up in conversation, images of laser-beam winners hit by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal come to mind. One of the last topics to be associated with professional tennis is Our Lady of Guadalupe. Yet she has appeared at the grass courts of London and the hard courts of New York.

Well, sort of.
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What’s a Christian to Do as the World Sinks into Chaos?
Disturbing violence fills the international headlines: ISIL is beheading journalists, crucifying Christians and exterminating Yazidis. Mexican drug cartels run rampant, leaving headless corpses in their wake—and they are increasingly setting up shop on our side of the border. Gang rape is big problem in India, Australia and Great Britain as police battle sex slave rings.
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Giving Thanks for Our Meals Publicly, Don’t Shy Away
Out for dinner with the family, the waitress set the food on the table. I turned to my son, Jaime, and said, “Why don’t you lead us in the prayer, and give thanks for this meal.” We made the sign of the cross and said grace.

Praying before meals is something my wife and I have done since our kids were little, and it does not matter if we are at home or in public.
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Holy Cuteness! Rare Photos of 12 Saints as Children
The older a person gets, the more they can usually appreciate the incredible potential that exists within every young child.

What will they learn? What will they discover? Will they have a family of their own? What will be their greatest highs? What will be their darkest lows?
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Sweaty tourists could be damaging the Sistine Chapel
VATICAN CITY — The “Francis effect” has spilled over into the Sistine Chapel, bringing a surge in visitors but also increasing risks to maintenance of what Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, calls “the world’s chapel.”
…more

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Pastoral Sharings: "23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And if our sentry happens to turn a blind eye to his own faults then he can surely turn a blind eye to the faults of his neighbour.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1784

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

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

Gospel (Read Mt 18:15-20)

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

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

Among many Catholics there is a privation, a sense of absence and even estrangement from true communion with God. This is a paralyzing reality among some believers. How can this be when Jesus is always and truly present in the Eucharist, on the altars and in the tabernacles of the world? Jesus hasn’t abandoned us; He is truly and perpetually present. In His Presence there
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Knowing the Trinity
Richard of St. Victor, a 12th-century Scottish theologian, is not exactly a household name in 21st-century Christian circles. Truth to tell, I only know of him because of a curious conversation I once had with my friend, the late Richard John Neuhaus, who, as only he could, told me of a friendly discussion he’d had with Rabbi David Novak one summer about the Scotsman’s Trinitarian theology, which tried to establish by reason that God must be triune. (We talked about a lot of strange and wondrous things, up there on the cottage deck in the Ottawa Valley.)
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Saying Yes to Spiritual Discipline
When you watch your favorite athlete what do you notice?  Are you impressed by the grace and skill he brings to the game?  Are you awed by his flawless technique? No doubt, you’re also taken with how much he seems to enjoy what he is doing. Because it looks so easy and fun, we should not assume that he is so good just because he was born with all those talents and skills. We know of many talented athletes who were failures through lack of discipline. For most athletes, to get to the top of their profession requires rigorous discipline.
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7 Things You Need to Know About The Catholic Church
1
- The purpose of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus. Too many people have a false understanding of the purpose of the Catholic Church. After Jesus made the Church, He gave a clear mission statement to His apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” -Matt 28:19-20. Everything else the Church does, feed the hungry, perpetuate the Sacraments, etc. is in service to this mission. Evangelization isn’t optional.
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On Lying
Daniel Mahoney’s book, The Other Solzhenitsyn, follows the judicious pattern with which Mahoney, in previous books, treated de Gaulle, Aron, Manent, and other writers. We note that one of the commandments tells us not to “lie.” After reading Mahoney, we suspect that the “lie,” not murder, adultery, or stealing, is the most heinous of all the sins.
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God Has a Flare for the Dramatic
NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has recently disclosed that two years ago, on July 23, 2012, planet Earth almost plunged into global catastrophe.

On that date, a solar flare — better known in scientific parlance as a “coronal mass ejection” (CME) — came close to hitting the Blue Planet and disabling electrical appliances everywhere, thereby causing a widespread global blackout. It was the most powerful storm on the sun in more than 150 years.
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What You Owe Your Wife
Married love is a potent teacher of truth. The family, as the Church points out, is the “school of love”.  And as a father, I’m learning more and more how vital the love I have and live towards my family has consequences beyond my home.  It’s a school of love, but I am probably not the best headmaster.  But, this headmastership is not an appointment but a vocation, a calling, and God has promised and proven that He sustains and directs those that he calls.  God be with this fool, and if I am a fool may I be one for you.
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Sanctity in the Small Things
As Jesus watched at the entrance of the Temple the money being thrown into the treasure-box, He did not pay so much attention to the rich and their large sums that they threw in. Indeed they wanted to be seen and applauded for their abundance given ostentatiously.

Then a poor widow threw a few small coins in the treasure box barely amounting to anything! This was the person that Jesus looked at with great love and approval. Why? Not for the economic substance of her offering—it was barely anything. Rather, Jesus read the depths of her heart. She was giving generously all that she had to live on.
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On the Glory of Purgatory
Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross by S. Mark Heim is a fascinating exposition of the thought of Rene Girard to the theology of the atonement or “what really happened when Jesus died on the cross. I’m reading it as part of my research for a book I am working on called The Sacred Sacrifice which will be an explanation and expansion of Girard’s thought for a popular audience.

Toward the end of the book Heim meditates on an element of Anselm’s thought on the atonement, and records this dialogue in Anselm on the need we have not only for forgiveness, but for participation in forgiveness.
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Wake Up, The Glory of the Martyrs Shines Upon You!
In his moving novel, Silence, Japanese-Catholic author Shusako Endo once described the continent of Asia as a “swamp” that choked the sapling of the Gospel and made it uninhabitable for Christianity. That image has always haunted me because a part of my own journey — as a convert to Christianity from Buddhism — has been to bridge two seemingly irreconcilable worlds.
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Ohio teen with Down syndrome on journey to serve at Mass in 50 states
HARTFORD, Conn. (CNS) — Kara Jackson, a 16-year-old altar server from Holy Family Parish in Middletown, Ohio is on a quest to serve at Mass in all 50 states.

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

Kara’s endeavor is a journey of faith that began in 2013. She has traveled with her family to serve at Masses in states as far west as Nevada, as far south as Georgia and as far east as Maine.
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Taste and See: The Five Senses of Faith
Ever since Christ invited Doubting Thomas—for whom a vision of the resurrected Son of God was not enough—to put his hands into the visible wounds, Christian faith has engaged with all five senses of the body.

Faith most obviously comes through hearing, as St. Paul first taught us. But in ways subtle and sublime it also is related to each of the four other senses, even the sense of smell and taste.
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Thinking Liturgically: The Gloria
After the Confetior and a few short prayers (such as the Kyrie), the priest then intones the Gloria by proclaiming the first few words aloud:  Gloria in excelsis Deo, Glory to God in the highest.  We are reminded of the night Christ was born, when the angels proclaimed this very phrase to the world.

What we might not realize is that we are joining the angels in that proclamation.  The angels said these words to announce to all humanity that a savior had arrived.  In the singing of the Gloria we announce every part of the Gospel for the world, and as a reminder to ourselves of that Gospel.
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The Five Stages of Religious Persecution
I first wrote on the topic of religious persecution over two years ago and since then things have only gotten worse. Clearly the situation in Iraq is awful. But here in the U.S. as well, the threats against religious liberty have continued.
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Let Christ Be Your Model in the Spiritual Life
There are very few Christians, even among those who are es­pecially consecrated to God, who have a right idea of what true virtue is. Almost all of them imagine it to consist in a cer­tain routine of piety and in fidelity to certain exterior prac­tices. If with this they have at intervals some emotion of sensible devotion, without taking care to discern whether these emotions come from God or from their own efforts, they at once conclude that they are really virtuous.
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Remain Here
Our approximately 48-hour visit to the “top of the mountain” neared its end. I knew we soon would be leaving, with only mid-day prayer and a lunch of Vietnamese food ahead on the schedule. I wanted to savor that prayer experience, to let it satisfy my spiritual taste buds in a way no food ever could.
  
Perhaps, I thought, I had a bit of Peter in me: Lord, it is good for us to be here.
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Find Your Strength in Simplicity
Why does the Gospel present to us the dove as the model and ideal of Christian simplicity, saying, “Be ye . . . sim­ple as doves”?1 To understand this, we must have a clear idea of what simplicity really is.

Simplicity, or purity of intention, consists in keeping before yourself, in all your thoughts, words, and acts, one and the same end, one and the same object — namely, the pleasing of God, or, more accurately, the doing of His will. Thus understood, simplicity appears to us as a virtue at once essential and far-reaching.
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What 10 Priests Say About Video Games
10 priests were recently asked to write roughly 4 sentences on the topic of video games. Here is what they said…
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Five Ways to Be Catholic at Work
Maybe it’s because of September. Maybe it’s because the great Patrick Lencioni will be on campus next week. Maybe it’s because my desk is a pile of papers each facing a different direction … but I have been thinking a lot about work recently. I looked up saintly advice on how to do it better. Here is what I found.
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Treasures of Divine Life
On September 6, 2014, Archbishop Aquila is hosting a special catechetical event to repropose the ancient order of the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.   The Catechetical Congress draws its name from a passage in the Catechism, “Treasure of Divine Life.”  These are notes from a presentation in which we will consider how the signs used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist have a certain order in the Bible, and this order reveals the splendor of what it means to be fully human and fully alive.
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Pope Francis to celebrate wedding Mass for 20 couples
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis will officiate at the weddings of 20 couples who plan to tie the knot at St. Peter’s Basilica on Sept. 14.

The Vatican said Friday (Aug. 29) that the couples, all from Rome, would be married by the pope, who is also recognized as the bishop of Rome.
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My Big Profound Spiritual Revelation
What a day! Bus late, no breakfast, missed deadline, headaches, depression and post-nasal drip. And when I got home my kids were whiney, my wife mentally quick-fried to a crackly crunch and I was as prickly as a porcupine.

Summoning fatherly concern to its height, I brushed past my weepy child and made for a darkened bedroom (stopping briefly to peck my wife Janet on the cheek). She asked for some kind of help–something about setting the table–but “Urk,” was all I mumbled in reply. I just wanted to go blotto with a pillow over my head till dinner. Maybe with luck an asteroid would strike the earth, annihilate civilization and I could rest.
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Virtue Is Attractive: The Crossroads Walk
For the past 20 years, some wonderful young college students have been participating in “Crossroads Walk,” dedicating the 3 months of their summer vacation to trek each year across the nation on behalf of life.

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

The preachers loved to study the Biblical books of prophecy almost like fortune tellers to try to predict the future. They tried to read the Biblical books of prophecy in one hand and yesterday’s paper in the other.
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Don’t Give in to Discouragement: Finding Hope in the Trials of Life
Psychologists tell us that one of the chief evils of our age, an evil apparently less evident in earlier ages, is that of easy defeat. Be this as it may, most people who are honest with themselves would probably have to admit to indulging in despondency. They are fortunate if they have nothing worse to confess than despondency; there are many who labor under the weight of near-despair. Whether guilty of surrendering to the tempta­tion or whether burdened with a sense of guilt that in fact is without foundation, a man can reduce his spiritual vitality so as virtually to close his soul to the operation of hope. When hope dies, there is very little chance for faith and charity.
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Pastoral Sharings: "22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time"

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

August 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

Every Round Goes Higher, Higher – A Homily for the 22nd Sunday of the Year
In today’s Gospel the Lord firmly sets before us the need for the Cross, not as an end in itself, but as the way to glory. Let’s consider the Gospel in three stages.
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Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—August 31, 2014
Gospel (Read Mt 16:21-27)

In the verses preceding today’s passage, Jesus and Peter had a remarkable exchange. Peter identified Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God; Jesus announced that God had revealed this truth to him. On that basis, Jesus changed his name and made him head of the Church He was to build. He made a promise to preserve that Church, giving us some confidence that He wasn’t making a terrible mistake. However, in today’s reading, that confidence gets tested.
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Twenty-second Sunday: Conform or Be Transformed?
“Times have changed, Father.  I’m only doing what is perfectly acceptable by our society.” And with these words, the elderly lady explained away her present living condition.  And with the same words, the young man justified his “wild” lifestyle, and with the same words the substance abuser justified his actions. And on and on and on.  Add in whatever immoral behavior you can think of, and someone will say, “I’m only doing what is perfectly acceptable by society.”
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Twenty Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
Matthew 16 : 21 – 27

Last week we heard a passage immediately before this Gospel in which Peter responded to the question of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter makes a profession of faith in Jesus in declaring his belief that “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16: 16) Jesus’ response to this shows his high regard toward Peter, “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16: 18 – 19) This is followed by Jesus making the first prediction of His Passion. Peter gives, what seems to be, a sensible and caring response, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” (Matthew 16:22) The response of Jesus to this was no doubt unexpected by Peter. “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16: 23)
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You Can Be With Him In Paradise
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father” (Mt 7:21); yet the Good Thief, whom tradition has named “Dismas,” says “Lord,” and Jesus promises him paradise that very day. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Besides acknowledging Jesus as Lord,  in the short time that he encountered Jesus and died with him on Mount Calvary, how else did Dismas do the will of the Father?
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Encounters with Angels
A visit to the local bookstore will reveal a whole shelf of books on angel encounters, angel channeling, and angelology. There’s even a book called The Physics of Angels which tries to blend quirky physics theories with the theology of St Thomas Aquinas. A quick look at the books on offer make you realize that the New Age understanding of angels stretches from “listening to the light within” to the fully fledged summoning up of the “dark angels” — in other words, modern angelology is the stuff of fantasy, neo-gnosticism and a rather nasty occult religion.
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How Can I have a Better Relationship with God?
Dear Father John, I want to follow Christ more closely but I don’t seem to be doing that.  How can I draw closer to Christ?  How can I have a better relationship with God?
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Frustrations in Prayer
Fr. Ronald Knox, an English Catholic of the early 20th century and convert, gave retreats and talks to lay people to help them deepen and improve their spiritual life. In his Spiritual Guidance for Christian Living: A Retreat for Lay People, he gathers two dozen talks and homilies written for lay people and the troubles they experience. One chapter deals with the rich young man from Mark 10:17-31.
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I cannot feel God’s presence, am I a bad person?
I am a Catholic or try to be one, and I am having problems feeling the Power of my religion. I have been so hurt throughout my life and I’ve tried to forgive the people, but it does no good. I feel like I get far more satisfaction out of my work than my faith. It’s so hard for me to get the concept that when I go to communion, its Jesus’ Body and Blood that I’m receiving. That is so deep to me that I can’t grasp it.
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The 14 Most Challenging, Radical, Do-We-Really-Have-To Teachings of Jesus
Everyone loves Jesus – until they read what he really taught.

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

All of Christ’s teachings are important, but here are some of the most challenging:
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Jesus Wept
Since my beloved son Larry died last year, not a day has gone by that I have not thought of him.  Immediately after his death I would think about him, literally, almost every minute of each day.  Now it is usually once every 15 minutes.  He enriched beyond measure the life of myself and my bride and I miss him with all my heart.  Larry had autism, and, as a result of his autism, my conversations with him were limited in words, although we each got our meanings across.  I greatly admired the way in which my son did not let his disability add sorrow to his life, and the joy he normally radiated warmed my soul.  I have had several privileges in my life that have been granted me by God, but I think the greatest was being entrusted with Larry.
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Reasons to Go to Confession
“If there is a heavenly idea in the Catholic Church, surely, next after the Blessed Sacrament, Confession is such.”  -Blessed John Henry Newman

Confession is one of my favorite sacraments, and I try to go as often as I can. But this wasn’t always the case. I am a convert, and I still remember the awkwardness of my first confession. I dreaded it for weeks, about as much as you would if you had to tell your parents you totaled their brand new car.
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Catholics With a Past
“The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?” says Rabbi Abraham Herschel. He may be onto something. When we look for insight and understanding, we go to someone who has been wronged, and who has come out stronger and wiser: survivors of wars, genocide, concentration camps; people who have overcome massive disabilities; people who have been abused and outcast, and who have responded with love, gentleness, generosity, and wisdom.

But what about the man who caused his own suffering? The man who has been selfish, foolish, ugly, cruel, and who has suffered because of his own willful sins?  What can he possibly know, anyway?
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Our Lady of Czestochowa: The Black Madonna
The Black Madonna was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist; and it was while painting the picture, Mary told him about the life of Jesus, which he later incorporated into his gospel. The next time we hear of the painting is in 326 A.D. when St. Helen found it in Jerusalem and gave it to her son and had a shrine built for it in Constantinople. During a battle, the picture was placed on the walls of the city, and the enemy army fled. Our Lady saved the city from destruction. The picture was owned by many other people until 1382, when invading Tartars attacked a Prince Ladislaus’ fortress, where the painting was located. A Tartar’s arrow lodged into through the throat of the Madonna. The Prince transferred the painting to a church in Czestochowa, Poland.
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The Reform of the Whole World Takes Place One Soul at a Time, Starting with My Own
Yesterday’s blog on the increasing darkness in our culture received a lot of good feedback. Special thanks to Patrick Madrid for spreading the word. Reading such data can cause us to feel discouraged at times. Here are a few thoughts on this discouragement and what we can do about it.

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

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

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you…. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church. If he refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”
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Please Don’t Say These Six Things at My Funeral
There will come a day, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, when the man in the coffin will be me. They say the dead don’t care, but I’m not dead yet, so as long as I’m still alive, I’d like to have some say in what goes on at my funeral. And, truth be told, I think the dead do care. Not that they will be privy to the details of what happens at their own funerals, but they still care about the world, about their family, about the church. The saints in heaven continue to pray for those who are still on their earthly pilgrimage, so how could they not care about them?
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The Casual Catholic Men
There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of Catholic men, while not rejecting the faith explicitly, have implicitly rejected the faith because of a lack of commitment.  They are like an empty suit; the clothes are there, but the man is not.

These are Casual Catholic Men, men who are casual in their faith.  Here, the word “casual” is carefully chosen: the etymology of the word traces to the Latin casualis, meaning “by chance” and from the Latin casus, meaning “chance, occasion, opportunity; accident, event”.  When speaking of persons, the word “casual” can mean the person is  “not to be depended on, unmethodical.”
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St. Therese’s daring teaching on Purgatory
Before we discuss St. Therese of Lisieux’s teaching on Purgatory, I want to put that teaching into context. Her teaching is daring. Some of the nuns she lived with in the Carmelite monastery were scandalized by it, thinking it presumptuous. The last thing St. Therese (or I) would want is for people to interpret her teaching in such a way that they thought they could be spiritually lax and still go straight to Heaven.

So, As you read about her teaching, keep these things in mind:
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The Priest and the Prostitute
The day before the Independence Day holiday weekend, the Catholic Answers staff headed up to Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California, for a retreat. It was led by a Norbertine priest from St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. The priest chose Divine Mercy as his topic for the retreat.

As part of his talk, he told us a story from the private revelation allegedly given to Maria Simma. I don’t know much about Maria Simma, except that she was a mystic who died a decade ago. According to our retreat master, her visions of visits with the holy souls in purgatory, as recorded in her book Get Us Out of Here!, have the approval of her local bishop. Nonetheless, Catholics are not required to put stock in private revelations, as is affirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
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The Hilarious Evangelist – On Laughter in Religion
I’m waiting for my ride at San Antonio airport. The car pulls up. A Latino fellow leans out the passenger window with a huge grin, “Hey Father Longenecker! I get to meet you at last! I read your stuff all the time man!”

It was Catholic lay Evangelist Jesse  Romero. I have had the pleasure of spending a weekend with Jesse and Dr Ray Guarendi at the Fullness of Truth Conference in San Antonio.
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Blasphemy Against Mercy
Back in 1997, I was browsing a bookshop and came upon a book that truly shocked and horrified me. A feminist theologian had written a book wherein she argued that the two greatest “crosses” Catholic women must bear are the Catholic Church’s opposition to women’s ordination and its opposition to abortion. I could hardly believe that blasphemy had reached this level, but there was no denying my senses, as much as I might have wished myself caught in a nightmare.
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19 of the Most Refreshingly Commonsensical G.K. Chesterton Quotes
A person can never get enough of the great Apostle of Common Sense. Enjoy!

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

The Everlasting Man, 1925

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

ILN, 4/19/30
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The Beauty of Prayer Brought to Life with 37 Impressive Photos
A collection of photos that invites us to meditate on the beauty and mystery that is hidden behind prayer… do you really think that those who don’t pray aren’t missing out? Check out the post and respond for yourself!
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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Pastoral Sharings: "21st Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
21 Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

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

That Peter receives an office, and not simply a charismatic designation we will discuss later. As to certain objections regarding the office of the Papacy, we will also deal later. But for now lets look at the basic establishment of the Office of Peter in three steps.
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Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Gospel (Read Mt 16:13-20)

Today’s Gospel is so familiar to Catholics that the potential for missing the punch it packs is inordinately high. If ever we are challenged on our belief in the papacy, we always look to this passage to begin our defense. We see that when Jesus quizzes the apostles about His developing reputation, they are well aware of what people were saying. This helps us understand that there was a buzz in the air about Jesus. The apostles had families and friends; they heard the conjectures about the itinerant preacher/miracle worker. The Jews, from their own history, had lots of ideas of who Jesus might be—Elijah, Jeremiah, or “one of the prophets.” Some even thought the spirit of the now dead John the Baptist had somehow come back to live in Jesus. Then comes the pivotal question: “But who do you say that I am?” We should move through this familiar part of the passage slowly if we are to let its importance register.
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Twenty-first Sunday: The One Who Holds the Keys
This Sunday we are presented with two figures who are given keys.  The first is Eliakim.  Eliakim was the secretary to Shebna the Master of King Hezekiah’s palace back in the 8th century before Christ.  According the first reading from Isaiah, Shebna lost favor with the Lord and was replaced by Eliakim.  Isaiah goes on to say that God placed the keys of the Kingdom on Eliakim’s shoulder.  He would be Master of the Palace and the one through whom others would have to go to get access to the King.

he Gospel reading presents Peter as receiving the keys of the Kingdom of God.  Like Eliakim, he would determine who has access to the King.  Peter is usually pictured as having carrying large keys, representing the authority given to him by the Lord.
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Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 16: 13-20

The reading from the prophet Isaiah that we hear at mass today: “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open” is the lyrical muse for the beautiful antiphon “O Clavis David…” which the Church sings in the divine office every Advent, on December twentieth. This antiphon accompanies the Marian hymn known as the Magnificat and is intended to remind us—sung as it is in anticipation of the Nativity—that the promises of God whose fulfillment has been awaited since the time of King David are brought to completion in Jesus Christ.
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Why the Pope must be infallible, even if he’s not impeccable
And I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

We do not hesitate to assert the Christ Jesus is the true rock upon which the Catholic Church is built – how could there be any other? And yet, we likewise affirm that Peter is the rock upon which Christ has built his Church; for the Greek is clear: “Peter” is petros while “rock” is petra, and the Aramaic would be clearer yet as the one word used for both was cepha.
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Holy Hour: Healing Through Forgiveness
Through many dark days and nights, Jesus the Eternal High Priest carried me through tumultuous waters. My encounters with Jesus during daily Holy Hours undoubtedly saved my family as the cross bore down upon us.
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We, The Church Militant
Well, here we are in the 21st century Catholic Church. We have survived all of the liturgical innovations brought to us by the “spirit of Vatican II,” including clown masses, balloon masses, puppet masses, homemade banners, horrible liturgical music (Sons of God, anyone?), and somewhat-less-than-awe-inspiring architecture for new churches.  For sure, Vatican II was a great Holy Spirit-inspired Church Council, and its sixteen documents are blueprints for a great future of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.
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Redemptive Suffering
The fear of suffering, pain, and death may seem like unconquerable mysteries. My time here at CPE [Clinical Pastoral Education] has helped me to understand, via experience, that they are not necessarily things that need to be conquered. No amount of faith excludes us from experience pain, loneliness, and death. Money, power, and other earthly things often make these three experiences worse as well.
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Practicing Vocal Prayer
There are two broad divisions of prayer: vocal and mental. We shall consider these forms of prayer in some detail so that our notion of prayer may be well rounded and as accurate as possible.

Vocal prayer is prayer in word or action. Since man is com­posed of soul and body, he must use not only his mind in prayer, but also his body and its senses for the glory of God. You express your interior sentiments and reverence for God in articulated words or in bodily posture, such as kneeling, stand­ing, bowing, or folding your hands. Vocal prayer can be as pleasing to God and as useful to you as mental prayer is.
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On Revelation
The word “revelation” means that something that is not known is made manifest or clear. If I maintain that nothing can be “revealed” to me, I imply either: a) that I am myself omniscient; or, b) that nothing intelligible, not already known, can come to me except what is accessible to human knowledge by its own finite powers.
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Coming to Terms With Our Inner Samuel – Don’t ignore the Bible’s violence. Understand it.
My Episcopal church uses its lectionary to decide what particular readings it will use throughout the year, but those texts often have what seem like strange omissions. In one cycle, for instance, we work through the books of Samuel, and the stories of kings Saul and David. To an attentive listener, though, there are puzzling holes in the plot, threads of the narrative that the church seems determined to avoid. In fact, my church, like most others, tries to navigate around one of the most distressing stories in the Bible, a scripture that has incited real bloodshed through history. The motives for excluding such texts are obvious enough, but there must be a better way of responding to them than simply pretending they are just not there.
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Did Jesus Really Die and Rise?
Christian belief boils down to one thing: The literal, bodily resurrection of a man named Jesus, who lived in first century Palestine.

If Jesus of Nazareth did not die on a Roman cross, if he was not buried, and if he did not rise again on the third day, alive, then you have no reason to give him or Christianity another thought. But if he did, then he deserves your full attention. As C.S. Lewis said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
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Angels, Anointing and Peace at the Last
Twice in the last three days I have had the privilege of attending the death bed of an old woman.

In both cases the dear souls were surrounded by loved ones, and in both cases they were struggling in the final stages of their lives.
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Friendship with Christ Jesus
When I arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1986 shortly after my ordination at the hands of St. Pope John Paul II, I was contemplating a compelling portrait of Jesus. It was an image of His Sacred Heart, with flames of fire radiating from His Heart. However, what seemed to really captivate me most in the moment, were six words in Spanish that have been almost a motto of my life as Catholic, Religious and priest, and follower of Christ. These words were: “Jesus, el Amigo que nunca falla.” Translation:  “Jesus, the Friend that never fails!”
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Being Catholic MeansYou May Risk Losing Friends
We all need to remember that, when it comes to pursuing spiritual maturity, our own efforts are never enough. On the other hand, St. Thomas Aquinas reminded us many centuries ago that “grace builds on nature,” and that means that we can do a lot to create a favorable climate for God’s grace to be fruitful, to take root in our souls and bear abundant fruit, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:8).
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Why Catholicism is the True Religion
I recently met a man, about sixty-five years old, who, after I told him what I do, related this story: “When I was in Catholic high school, I asked one of the brothers, ‘How do we know that of all the religions in the world Catholicism is the right one?’ This question had been bugging me, and I was anxious to hear his answer. He replied, ‘We don’t know. We have to take it on faith.’ His response completely deflated me.”
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Was Your Prayer a Failure?
This was one of the questions a journalist asked Pope Francis on the plane ride back to Rome from Korea:

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

Pope Francis answered, in part (according to the English transcript reporter Gerald O’Connell wrote up, first published in America:
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The 12 Step Biblical Guide to the Pope and Infallibility
Listers, the Office of the Papacy and Infallibility are biblical gifts to the Church. According to the Gospels, St. Peter – the first to be given the Office of the Papacy – was commissioned by Christ to be the vicar of the kingdom of God, to strengthen the faithful, and to be the chief shepherd of the Lord’s flock. In short, the Vicar governs the kingdom according to the King’s laws until the King returns. The following list is meant to demonstrate the strong biblical argument for the papacy, but it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Catholics should be weary of proof-texting – a subpar hermeneutic that seeks to support ideas by stringing together selective Scriptures – for a few reasons. First, Holy Scripture should always be viewed holistically. A single verse that can be tortured to read a certain way is not a legitimate reading of Scripture. The list at hand seeks to avoid proof-texting by offering a wide range of Scriptures from both the New and Old Testaments supported by historical and linguistic insights.
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What were the Rituals Associated with Death and Burial in Jesus’ Day?
The Jewish people took the burial of the dead quite seriously; it was the way a community paid its last respects to the one who died. The Scriptures laid down quite firmly that no dead body was to be left unburied—even that of one’s worst enemy. Perhaps one of the stronger horrors that a Jewish person could imagine was stated in Psalm 78: They have thrown the bodies of thy servants as food for the birds of heaven; wild beast feast on the corpses of the just.
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Uniting With Christ Through Our Senses
How do we perceive the Divine and communicate with God as beings who possess both physical and spiritual senses?

Some ascetics might try to starve their physical senses to sharpen their inner senses, but such a notion seems to me to be contrary to Catholic wisdom and practice. The Catholic Church  repudiates Gnosticism, realizing that believers come to a fuller sense of Christ through the totality of their human person.
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Parenting Wisdom in Shorthand
In recent decades, we have seen Satan engage the world as never before. In all of human history we have never witnessed evil promoted so effectively, while virtue, character, and morals are roundly mocked and rejected. Meanwhile, it could be said that the Mystical Body — the Church — has never been so unprepared for and unengaged in the challenging mission of spiritual warfare. It is obvious that Satan’s forces are well trained and well organized, while ours clearly are not. At the very beginnings of our great nation, Sir Edmund Burke warned, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
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Not only divorced from marriage, divorced from reality.” An essay on the ugliness of divorce
Some years ago a woman (and parishioner) told me, almost in passing,  that she and her husband were planning to divorce. Knowing that she had two young children, both under 10, I asked her in so many words, “What about the children?” Unabashedly she assured me that they were in fact divorcing for the sake of the children. Perhaps she saw my bewildered, dubious look, so she added, “We don’t want them to experience all the yelling and bickering.” “Hmmm … ,” I said. “Well then stop the bickering and yelling. Get whatever help you need, but don’t make the kids pay even more for your problems.”
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A Winning Program for Renewal
Recently, I wrote here about the perils and benefits of technology. Assuming that many of you are on your way to freedom from serious addiction to technology, I hope you have more time to dedicate to the most challenging task of our time – re-conversion  of a once-great country (America) and civilization (the West), both now swimming in hedonism and practical atheism.
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Are Saints New Revelation?
It seems, said my friend, that the Church contradicts itself. On the one hand, Catholic teaching declares revelation complete with the close of the apostolic era. Yet consider the canonization of, say, Joan of Arc. It appears a Catholic must believe one of the following:

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

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

3. There is no revelation concerning Joan of Arc and we have no way of knowing where she is now.
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The First 10 Popes of the Catholic Church
Listers, we’ve catalogued the first ten Vicars of Christ for the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Save the information on our first pope – St. Peter – all the information presented is taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia and links for further reading are provided.

1. Pope St. Peter (32-67)

St. Peter held a primacy amongst the twelve disciples that earned him the title “Prince of the Apostles.” This primacy of St. Peter was solidified when he was appointed by Jesus to the Office of the Vicar – demonstrated by Christ giving St. Peter the Keys to the Kingdom.
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Pastoral Sharings: "20th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lesson for us is clear: our Catholicism is not our key to the Kingdom but a sign for the world. It is on how well we perform our task of being a sign for the world and on how well we live out the Gospel that we will be judged. The label is not a ticket it is a responsibility.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1749

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

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

Gospel (Read Mt 15:21-28)

To best understand this Gospel episode, we need to know that it follows a description of the great opposition Jesus faced from the Pharisees in Jerusalem. Even though He was performing amazing miracles of healing (read Mt 14:36), the Pharisees could only find fault with Him (read Mt 15:2). Jesus got frustrated with them, calling them “blind guides” (Mt 15:14). He decided to leave the city and head north, up to the region of Tyre and Sidon. These were cities in Phoenicia, territory that was primarily Gentile, not Jewish. It almost seems as if He wanted to get as far away from the hard-hearted Pharisees as He could.
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Twentieth Sunday: The Humility to Experience His Love in Others
The initial reaction I had to this Sunday’s readings was: Huh? Here we have Paul speaking in circles to the Romans,  “you have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.” Huh?  Then we have the incident of Jesus and the Canaanite women.  She has a real need, and she cries out to him.  But He refers to her people as  dogs and says that he came only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  Huh?
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Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time , Cycle A
Matthew 15 : 21 – 28

This Gospel account involving the Canaanite woman is similar to the story earlier in Matthew of the Centurion. In both of these accounts you have a Gentile approach Jesus asking him to heal someone. For the Canaanite woman it was her daughter, and for the centurion his servant. In both cases Jesus reaches beyond the mission which his followers assumed was to the lost sheep of Israel, and honors the faith of the Gentile. Taking the message of Jesus to the Gentiles was a mission that the Apostles and early Christians struggled with and oftentimes resisted. How did the Apostles finally follow the example of Jesus and break out of their narrow vision into the broader vision of Christ’s mission?
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On Praying for our Children – Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.

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

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

The example of this woman will profit is greatly as we answer these questions.
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Why We Must Pray
Why do people not pray enough? The answer is partly because they do not want to make the effort to begin, and partly because they do not know how to go on once they have begun. A lot of this difficulty would be cleared up if people would only understand that prayer comes from God, is kept going by God, and finds its way back to God by its own power. All we have to do is to lend ourselves to the process as generously as we can, and not put any obstacles in the way.
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Why Be Catholic? Patrick Madrid Has All the Answers
Have you ever read a book by Patrick Madrid?  If you have, I’ll bet you haven’t stopped at just one–that his easy style, clarity and humor captivated you, and you’ve picked up another of his titles along the way.

I’m a fan, and here’s why:  Patrick is a master of Plainspeak–not lofty theological prose which only a doctoral candidate could wade through, but clear, direct explanations for Catholic teachings and traditions.  He writes apologetics for the masses, and I think he’s just what the doctor ordered for most folks who are casually inquiring about the Faith.
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Ten Helps to Grow in Prayer
The following is a short article to encourage all of us to desire to grow in our prayer life, seek the means to grow, but especially to persevere in this most important of activates—our salvation, the salvation of our families and loved ones, and the salvation of the whole world depends on men and women who have decided to dedicate their lives to prayer, which is the key to heaven.
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Turn the Other Cheek
As a father of eight (two in heaven, and six on earth), I have the perfect excuse to watch children’s movies. “I just happened to be nearby and just happened to see…”
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Prepare Your Heart to Pray
Prayer is, as it were, being alone with God. A soul prays only when it is turned toward God, and for so long as it remains so. As soon as it turns away, it stops praying. The preparation for prayer is thus the movement of turning to God and away from all that is not God. That is why we are so right when we define prayer as this movement. Prayer is essentially a “raising up,” an elevation. We begin to pray when we detach ourselves from created objects and raise ourselves up to the Creator.
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Wanted: An American Missionary Church– Soon
Pope Francis is shaking up the Catholic Church – that much is clear. But to what end? Opinions differ: To make it a Church of the poor and the marginalized; a Church more of mercy and perhaps less of law. A Church in which collegiality is a fundamental principle of governance.

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

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

As we have said, demons do not know everything. They do not even know all that happens in this world; they are among us, but they come and go. The demons watch over the saints in a very special way, and they knew that Jesus was a man who was especially holy. They could see that He had never committed a sin or even an imperfection. The devil, though steeped in sin, is the consummate appraiser of virtue.
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The Only Acceptable Rebellion
Come on, we know better than the Church, don’t we? After all, this is the twenty-first century and times have changed. Modern man is fully capable of deciding what is good and moral on his own, right? All the really smart people in the media, government and academia who encourage us to embrace abortion, contraception, euthanasia and same-sex marriage can’t be wrong, can they? After all, everyone knows that new and fresh ideas must clearly trump nearly two millennia of Church teaching. Right?
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How Can I Strengthen My Will and Grow in Holiness?
We all need to remember that, when it comes to pursuing spiritual maturity, our own efforts are never enough. On the other hand, St. Thomas Aquinas reminded us many centuries ago that “grace builds on nature,” and that means that we can do a lot to create a favorable climate for God’s grace to be fruitful, to take root in our souls and bear abundant fruit, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:8).
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Be Who You Are: Embracing Your Own Kind of Sanctity
“Be who you are, and be that well.” – St. Francis de Sales

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

For years now, I’ve admired, even venerated, G.K. Chesterton—and I don’t mean just his writing, as brilliant as that is, but Chesterton as a man. Chesterton is what I would like to be, if I had my way: joyful, witty, hilarious, humble, brilliantly insightful, imaginative, poetic, an effortless writer, childlike, prolifically productive, encyclopedic, a friend to all, even his intellectual and spiritual enemies—and the list goes on.
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Good vs. holy
In nearly 30 years as a journalist, one of the most interesting phenomena I’ve seen occurs in courtrooms, when a person found guilty stands before a judge and says, “I’m a good person.”

It is not uncommon. Ask a prosecutor. It does not matter if the convicted person stole a car, plotted a bank heist, committed voter fraud or broke into a house and throttled some old lady before grabbing her jewelry and cash. When the judge asks if the guilty person has anything to say before the sentence is imposed, “I’m a good person” is typical.
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Good Non-Catholic Christians– Is There Salvation Outside the Church?
The sudden death of Tony Palmer–the friend of Pope Francis–has raised the question whether he could be saved even though he never converted to the Catholic faith.

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

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

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

It is when their children are in trouble.
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The Culture of Envy
Götz Aly’s Why the Germans? Why the Jews?recounts the rise of anti-Semitism in the territories that became the German Republic. He describes some historical trends prior to the 1930s and his study might have a wider application even in this country – since we still have not learned everything that we can from the history of modern Germany. The route from sophistication to savagery is a parable for many countries like the United States that already calmly countenance the slaughter of countless unborn babies as just one of the acceptable costs of modernity.
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Spiritual Warfare: Why We Are Losing
In recent decades, we have seen Satan engage the world as never before. In all of human history we have never witnessed evil promoted so effectively, while virtue, character, and morals are roundly mocked and rejected. Meanwhile, it could be said that the Mystical Body — the Church — has never been so unprepared for and unengaged in the challenging mission of spiritual warfare. It is obvious that Satan’s forces are well trained and well organized, while ours clearly are not. At the very beginnings of our great nation, Sir Edmund Burke warned, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
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What were weddings like in Jesus’ day?
The word family had a wider meaning in both Aramaic and Hebrew than it does in English today. The Hebrew ah and the Aramaic aha could be used to refer to those who were brothers, half-brothers, cousins, and even other near relations. Extended family networks were both insisted upon and essential for survival. To have these ties and be dependent upon them was every Jewish person’s duty, and an absolute necessity for survival.
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Fifty Answers about the Catholic Church
1. How do we know that Jesus of Nazareth was God come to save us?

There is no more important teaching of the Christian faith that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. In our Creed, which goes back to the 5th century, fifteen hundred years ago, we say every Sunday at Mass that Jesus was “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father”.
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How does the Church Respond to Suicide?
The news of Robin Williams’ death is heartbreaking, as is any news of the death of one of our heroes. Just as was the news of mega-church pastor Rick Warren’s son’s suicide.

I can understand Williams and I feel pity and sorrow for those souls. I really can and do. Between the time I was 14-17 I tried on three separate occasions to kill myself. All three times I couldn’t even overdose correctly. That, or my guardian angel was purifying the poison I had consumed inside my body. That was an awful time of my life; I hated who I was, what I was addicted to, and certainly believed I had no reason to live and didn’t want to.
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“Worshipping the Devil by Default”
In his very first homily at the Missa Pro Ecclesia in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis quoted the famous words of Leon Bloy, stating “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” Nature abhors a vacuum. Our experience of the material world tells us that things tend to occupy vacancies; substances naturally move into areas of lower pressure, with less competition for space and survival.

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