Pastoral Sharings




Fr. Michael Phillippino
Eightteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 5, 2012


Dear Parishioners:
A short reflection for you:
Human hunger is deeper than the physical, and the readings today point to Christ as the Bread of Life. He is foretold by the manna and continues to provide our “daily bread” in the Eucharist. 
In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI states that “Development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth” (n.76). Today’s readings help us to focus on both realities and on the interrelationship between the two. Moreover, they focus on the fact that the spiritual growth we acquire in Christ, the Bread of Life, impels us to take on a new way of life, in which life itself is reaffirmed generously and the ways of the culture of death are rejected.
Embracing life, particularly amidst economic difficulties, requires the kind of trust in God and human solidarity experienced by the Israelites on their journey in the desert. It requires the kind of trust, furthermore, that the promises of Christ inspire in his words in today’s Gospel.  
Drawing again from the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, we find this summary of traits:
“Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God’s love. Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God’s providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. All this is essential if ‘hearts of stone’ are to be transformed into ‘hearts of flesh’ (Ezek 36:26), rendering life on earth ‘divine’ and thus more worthy of humanity. All this is of man, because man is the subject of his own existence; and at the same time it is of God, because God is at the beginning and end of all that is good, all that leads to salvation: ‘the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s’ (1 Cor 3:22-23). Christians long for the entire human family to call upon God as ‘Our Father’! In union with the only-begotten Son, may all people learn to pray to the Father and ask him, in the words that Jesus himself taught us, for the grace to glorify him by living according to his will, to receive the daily bread that we need, to be understanding and generous towards our debtors, not to be tempted beyond our limits, and to be delivered from evil (cf. Mt 6:9-13)” (n.79.”

A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 5, 2012

18th Sunday: Do We Want His Bread?
Last Sunday we began five weeks of Gospels from the sixth chapter of John. This long chapter of 69 verses is the basis for much of what we believe about the Eucharist. I would suggest reading the entire chapter and letting it speak to you.

Today’s Gospel takes place the day after the events were heard about last Sunday. Last Sunday we heard about the multiplication of loaves. In today’s Gospel the people who had been fed search for Jesus. They really don’t want Him. They want free food. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to speak about the food that really matters, the Bread of Life that God provides. He tells them about a gift of food that they knew very well, the manna in the desert during the time of Moses. This was seen as the greatest gift of God.

Jesus’ Identity
Bottom line: If we come to Jesus, we will never hunger and thirst for anything else. He is the Bread of Life. That is Jesus’ identity.

This is the second of five homilies on John, Chapter 6 – the Bread of Life Discourse. In the first homily I used the example of Sister Barbara. She shows how we can draw strength from prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the daily reception of Communion, the Bread of Life. I talked about the “love languages,” especially acts of service. Jesus expressed love perfectly and he can help us to love – both God and neighbor.

Reduced to Nothing – A Sign of Hope
Against the tendency to think that we possess knowledge of Christ in our successes and achievements, St. John of the Cross encourages those who are overwhelmed with suffering and sorrow to see their trials as the pathway to deeper union with the Lord:

When they are reduced to nothing, the highest degree of humility, the spiritual union between their souls and God will be an accomplished fact. This union is the most noble and sublime state attainable in this life. The journey, then, does not consist in consolations, delights, and spiritual feelings, but in the living death of the cross—sensory and spiritual, exterior and interior. (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, book 2, chapter 7, 11)

On Tolerance
I’ll begin with a jarring statement to most readers: it seems to me that the Catholic Church is really the most tolerant of anyone or anything.

This is because the Catholic Church has rightfully questioned everything and accepted what it must. It is derived from the fact that we see creation as good and, as such, there is nothing that exists separated from goodness—no matter how hopeless. We are tolerant precisely because we call things evil and because we call things good. These are like the actions of a wise gardener who prunes leaves and branches, allowing the good to grow properly and the bad to fall lifelessly.

When God seems distant….
Most of us experience from time to time that God seems distant. Here we do not consider the distance that may come from mortal sin, but simply that distance of which the psalmist says, Why do you hide your face O Lord? (e.g. Ps 44:24, inter al).
Recently I came across a dialogue from an unknown source wherein a monk speaks to a saintly and wise abbot about his struggle to experience God, about the fact that God seems distant:

The Problem of Evil
As an advocate of the Intelligent Design movement, I’m very often confronted with the following rather pointed criticism: “Well, if the world is designed, then we’ve got to blame the designer for all of the evil in it, don’t we? Backaches and headaches, cancer, cats playing with mice, parasites, floods, Nazis, slavery, starving children—the whole mess would have to be laid at the designer’s door.”


Personal Reflections & Experiences from the Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angelus
In the past several months the Catholic Church has been alerting everyone in the nation to the great new dangers affecting religious freedom: The government determining what constitutes a Church, who belongs, and what services they may or may not offer, and to whom.
The end of June leading to the 4th of July we Catholics celebrated a “Fortnight for Freedom” to highlight the present dangers to our constitutional religious freedoms, and to point out how the federal government increasingly attempts to restrict those freedoms, as well as to regulate how Churches live out their freedoms.

How Charlemagne Discovered the Relics of Saint Anne the Mother of Mary
I love Saint Anne (she is my wife’s patron) and I love Charlemagne (our dog is named Charlemagne). So the following story is especially dear to me. It’s also one of the best relics story of all time.

On Easter AD 792, Charlemagne discovered the relics of Saint Anne with the help of a deaf handicapped boy. It’s a wonderful tale for this feast day of Saint Anne.

Top Ten Most Influential Saints: READER VOTES
The votes are in and here are the saints readers nominated for being the most influential of their time—the results contained quite a few surprises. Other than St. Bernard and John Paul II, discussed in separate previous posts here and here, they are:

Why Did God Make You? – And 24 Other Basic Catholic Questions
Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions. SPL has also reproduced 29 Questions Explaining Indulgences and 46 Questions to Help Explain the Sacraments. Those who missed Part I of The End of Man can visit What Is Meant By the “End of Man” and 10 other Questions.

Hell has to be – my response to blog comments disputing the teaching on Hell
There was a lot of very good discussion on the blog yesterday about the topic of hell. I had wanted to be a bigger part of the discussion, but I’m traveling through the Puget Sound by ferry.

Given my travels and my difficulty in posting today, I thought it might be good to republish a post I wrote over two years ago on the topic of hell. The post amounts to how I would answer most of the objections raised to the teaching on hell. Although it is not extremely philosophical or Thomistic, it is more what I would call pastoral.

Crash Course on the Crusades
The Crusades are one of the most misunderstood events in Western and Church history. The very word “crusades” conjures negative images in our modern world of bloodthirsty and greedy European nobles embarked on a conquest of peaceful Muslims. The Crusades are considered by many to be one of the “sins” the Christian Faith has committed against humanity and with the Inquisition are the go-to cudgels for bashing the Church.
While the mocking and generally nasty portrayal of the Crusades and Crusaders on the big screen ranges from Monty Python farce to the cringe worthy big budget spectacles like Kingdom of Heaven (2005), it is the biased and bad scholarship such as Steven Runciman’s History of the Crusades, or the BBC/A&E documentary, The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones (of Monty Python acclaim) that does real damage. From academia to pop-culture, the message is reinforced and driven home with resounding force: the Crusades were bad and obviously so. The real story is of course far more complicated and far more interesting.

In the Absence of Fathers: A Story of Elephants and Men
Wade Horn, Ph.D., President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, had an intriguing article entitled “Of Elephants and Men” in a recent issue of Fatherhood Today magazine. I found Dr. Horn’s story about young elephants to be simply fascinating, and you will too.

Hangin’ With A Hermit
The Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville (my alma mater) is a highlight of the year. Fabulous speakers. Cool people everywhere. Tons of priests available for confession. The Portiuncula Chapel indulgence. What can be better?
Hangin’ with a hermit at Defending the Faith.

Jesus Never Said Anything About Homosexuality, or Did He?
Consider these facts:
1. Jesus is never quoted in the New Testament as having directly addressed rape, incest, domestic violence or homosexual behavior. So are we supposed to believe all these practices are okay with Him? Read on. . . .

2. Gospel writer and apostle John tells us there are many teachings and deeds of Christ that are not included in their New Testament accounts (John 21:25).

3. Christ is quoted at one point that God created people “in the beginning” as male and female, and that marriage is the union of one man and one woman joined together as “one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9) Nothing is said about any other type of union.

The Regnerus Controversy: Children In Traditional Families Do Better Than Those Raised In Non-Traditional Settings
Doubtless the nastiest phenomenon in nature is when an impassioned school of shark turn on one of their own and savagely rip their brother animal to pieces, eating him alive. Not a pretty sight and a reminder the world in its natural state is not a paradise.
Similarly, it is a nauseating sight when a school of sociologists, including amateur sociologists we call “the press,” go mad and engage in a frenzied, no-holds-barred attack on one of their own. An ugly, stomach churning business.

Misunderstanding God: Where Atheists Go Wrong in Opposing Christianity
A post I wrote last week on Catholicism and atheism received over 200,000 views and (as of this writing) over 900 comments. Most of these were negative, but they were helpful in showing the areas that many atheists go awry in their opposition to religion. I’m hardly the first to notice that the same errors get made time and time again. Fr. Robert Barron, of the popular Catholicism and Word on Fire series, has labelled these errors the “YouTube heresies.”
Four of the major errors that Fr. Barron identifies are: (1) a misunderstanding of what Christians mean by God – whether God is understood as the highest Being or as the ground of Being itself; (2) a belief that Biblical literalism is the most accurate way to understand the Bible; (3) a belief in scientism, “the reduction of knowledge to the scientific way of knowing,” with a concomitant belief that religion and science are antithetical; and (4) the belief that religion is invariably violent. All four of these views were prominently featured in the comments, but I want to focus specifically on two of them: scientism (and its accompanying errors), and the misunderstanding of what Christians mean by “God.”

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