Pastoral Sharings




Fr. James Gilhooley
Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 12, 2012

Henry Fehren tells a wickedly delicious story. It is set in Africa, but it also could be your own community or my own. 

A great chief was planning a mammoth banquet. He invited everyone in the phone book. This was to be the party of the season and then some. All the best people would be there – even Tarzan and Jane. The invitation spelled it out loud and clear. The chief would supply all the meats, salads, and an overflowing dessert cart. But each guest had to bring a bottle of wine. It was your standard BYOB affair. Each couple’s wine would be poured into a huge vat and so there would be plenty for all. 

One enterprising couple decided they would save a few dollars and bring but a bottle of colored water. No one would know they were El Cheapos. Party day arrived. All the guests put on their party clothes. One man wore a T-shirt that read: “Life is brief. Eat dessert first.” They came to a giant tent and poured their wine into the vat. The time came for the first toast – to the chief of course.  The Baccarat crystals were filled. Everyone raised a glass to drink deeply. Disbelief registered on the face of all. They sipped again, but they were right the first time. Each couple had had the same brainstorm. They had reasoned their bottle of colored water would be lost in the giant vat.  Yes, everyone had brought a bottle of water. They got back exactly what they had brought – a glass of water. 

Fehren cleverly applies his story to those people who cry out in something approaching pain, “I don’t go to Mass because I get nothing out of it.” They are a nickel a dozen at the college where I was chaplain. In turn, I am sure the students were simply articulating what they heard at home from Mom and Dad from a very early age. 

The story line indicates very nicely, thank you, that such people get nothing out of the Liturgy precisely because they bring nothing to it. They approach the church with empty spirits and holes in their minds. They come as empty vessels. Given those givens, what did they really expect to get from the Eucharistic celebration? All they bring with them is a bottle of colored water. Some come with a bottle with a hole both at the top and the bottom. Can you think of any other slice of life where we get something when we bring nothing?
Dolores Schirh writes: “‘Eat my body. Drink my blood.’ is not just another metaphor…When Jesus said, ‘I am the vine,’ He didn’t tell us to eat twigs. When He told us, ‘I am the light of the world,’ He didn’t tell us to eat light bulbs. But when He said, ‘I am the bread of life,’ He said, ‘Eat this bread.'”
Thus we come to the Eucharistic celebration because the Teacher invites us. We come to participate in a divinely free banquet. We certainly do want to be raised up on that famous last day that today’s John 6:44 promises. Each of us wants to say with Gerard Manly Hopkins: “In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am at all at once what Christ is…and this Jack…is immortal diamond.” And it is later than anyone of us dare think.

Check out what He does not promise. Christ does not say the celebrant will behave like a vaudeville comedian. He has never been quoted as saying the music will be of Mozart quality. Nor does He promise the Liturgy will be something choreographed by Barishnykov and the church structure will be designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Even the flowers may be faux. 

If one is getting the body and blood of the most provocative person in recorded history, are we really coming up with a bad hand? And, if we feel we are, are we not saying something about our own empty selves? Each weekend everyone of us is invited to attend a banquet. And, unlike the one thrown by the African chief, we do not even have to bring the wine nor even a bottle of colored water. Relax and party!
The emperor Napoleon was asked what the greatest day in his life was. It was expected he would mention one of his great victories. But he answered the day of his First Communion.
And, while you party, reflect on the words of St Francis de Sales. “Only two kinds of people need frequent Communion – the not so good that they might become better and the good that they might stay that way.”

A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 12, 2012

Elijah’s Bread ForeshadowsThe Eucharist, Food for the Journey
It’s hard enough to do the right thing. But when you get blame for it instead of praise, it really takes the wind out of your sails, even if you happen to be a prophet.

This is background we need in order to understand this Sunday’s first reading. Elijah had just brought an end to a two year famine by doing away with the idolatrous prophets of Ba’al. So what thanks does he get from Queen Jezebel? She demands his head on a platter. Within seconds he goes from being a hero to a fugitive. After running for his life, he finally drops exhausted in the desert under the only shade he can find. Feeling sorry for himself, he prays for death. God decides instead to give him food. An angel appears with bread and water and tells him to take nourishment. He has a long journey ahead of him and there is no time for moping.

19th Sunday: Why Murmur?
The word for today is onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is the name of those words that imitate the sound they are referring to, like fizz, and crackle and hiss, and murmur. Murmur is the word we hear today in the Gospel and which we heard many times in the Old Testament account of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. Those people were really great murmurers, or horrible ones depending on your point of view. God delivered them from the slavery of Egypt through the miracles performed by Moses and the people murmured that they would be caught by Pharaoh’s troops and die in the desert. After God saved them by parting the Red Sea, they murmured that there would not be enough food for them to eat in the desert. After God gave them manna, they murmured that the food was boring and wanted better grub. Literally speaking, they may have been on to something here because manna was probably a byproduct of desert insects.

Why the Formation of the Soul and Education of the Soul are Distinct
Aristotle wrote the Ethics before the Politics because he understood there had to be an exploration of the soul before the laws could educate the soul. Likewise, the Declaration of Independence was written and shaped as the soul of America and the Constitution was written as an education of that soul. The formation and education of our own immortal souls fit this same pattern!
For the past weeks I’ve been thinking about the formation my soul must undergo before it can be actually educated. I think about questions like this a lot because while the formation of my soul (my personal Declaration, if you will) strives to love God and conform to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the education of my soul is much different.

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

Why Do the First Books of the Bible Have Those Strange Names?
The names of the first five books of the Bible sound rather strange: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
What do these names mean, and where do they come from?

“Knowing What We Now Know”
Schall is not the first to maintain that Charles M. Schulz of Peanuts fame was a first-class thinker and theologian. He is easier to read than most philosophers and theologians. But that is a virtue provided one speaks the truth of things.
Linus and Sally are standing in a field. She looks at him puzzled. He observes that “Life is peculiar.” In the next scene, he reflects: “Wouldn’t you like to have your life to live over if you knew what you know now?” In the third frame, Sally and Linus silently look in the distance, reflecting on this profound observation. Finally, to an impassive Linus, Sally asks: “What do I know now?”

The History of the Mass
The Mass has been with the Church as the primary form of worship since Jesus instituted it at the last supper. The words of Saint Justin Martyr from the 2nd century make it clear that the actual structure of the liturgy has changed little in 1800 years. James Akin explains below:

He Still Walks Among Us
At some point in their Christian journey, most Christians lament that they weren’t alive when Jesus Christ walked the earth.
An experience I shared with more than a thousand youth and their priests and chaperones at Steubenville North’s youth conference in Rochester, Minnesota a few weeks ago convinced me that He still walks among us.

Quinque Puncta … Five Points To Be Recited Usefully
If we don’t know who we are as Catholics, and if we don’t keep firmly in mind our common Christian vocation to holiness, we will not be able to fulfill our particular vocations and we will not be able, as a Church, to fulfill Christ’s command to bring Him and His Good News to every corner of the world.

We have to know who we are and live who we say we are in order to have any influence in the public square, especially in this time when so many are trying to marginalize Christ and His disciples.

The recovery of our Catholic identity is the point of the New Evangelization and the upcoming Year of Faith, which Pope Benedict has called us to observe.

The Tolerance Deal Is Broken
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means” — Inigo Montoya
Among all the words in a language already so battered and bruised as to almost become unrecognizable, one word stands out for having taken the brunt of the beating.
Tolerance has been so misshapen by the abuse that many people think that it means something opposite to its nature. After all the injustice the word has suffered, I am unsure if it can or even should survive. Nevertheless, I wish to testify to its true meaning, even if in eulogy.

Scientists Discover Remains of the High Priest Caiaphas
“It is better that one man should die, rather than the people.”

This was the prophecy from the high priest Caiaphas, as quoted by the John in the 18th chapter of the fourth Gospel.

And it is Caiaphas who questions Jesus about His divinity in Matthew 26:57-64, before turning Him over to Pontius Pilate to be crucified.

A priest who saved hundreds of Jews during WWII by disguising them as seminarians
In 1943, in the midst of the Second World War, Pius XII urged Catholic institutions to help Jews who were being persecuted by Hitler’s Nazi regime.
Here in Rome, one of the many people who risked their lives was Francesco Bertoglio, who back then served as the rector of the Pontifical Lombard Seminary. The current president says that hundreds of Jews were sneaked in. They were dressed as seminarians to make them blend in. But even so, there were people, who were spying from the outside the seminary.

Ancient Testimonies Against Abortion
In doing research for an Our Sunday Visitor column (my regular Q and A column), I found it necessary to comb through some of the early Church sources regarding the teaching against abortion. I thought it might be helpful here, by way of a resource, to post some of those teachings here. While I have seen a quote here and there, I was actually quite pleased to find several quotes I had not seen or read before on the question of abortion and to assemble in one place a good number of quotes.

Taking a tour of biblical Top 10s
The Bible is all around us. People hear Scripture readings in church. We meet the Good Samaritan (Lk 10), welcome home the Prodigal Son (Lk 15), and look for the Promised Land (Ex 3, Heb 11). Some biblical passages have become popular maxims, such as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12), “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex 20:15), and “Love thy neighbor” (Mt 22:39). But the Church also strongly encourages us to read Scripture at home. And today’s Catholic is called to take an intelligent, spiritual approach to the Bible.

The following pages are intended to help people build their knowledge of Scripture by organizing important people, places and events into “Top 10” lists. To get started, here are tips for fruitful Scripture reading:

The Practical Power of Penitence
It’s there right up front, and you can’t avoid it. The first step in following Christ is repentance. The first thing we have to do is say “I’m wrong.” Only then can we begin the journey. It’s like a magic password.

The Greek word is metanoia which means ‘turning around’. It’s there in the story of the prodigal son where the turning point is when he is in the pig pen eating the swill. Then the old version–is a stroke of psychological insight–says, “He came to himself.”

What Satan would like us to believe is that penitence is a gloomy, miserable self-tortured mentality. It’s not. True repentance is one of the most joyful and liberating things we can do. At the moment true repentance takes hold the chains of our self pride, vanity and worldly foolishness fall away.

The Five Joys of Being Catholic
It has been ten months since I returned to the Church of my youth. I am happier being Catholic than I have ever been in my life. Just a little over a year ago, however, I would not have imagined being back in the Catholic Church. But in reflecting some on my faith journey, and the various twist and turns it took, I’ve come to realize that my being in the Church was inevitable. For the first time in my Christian life, I have joy, real joy. There is true joy in being Catholic–the joy of being home.

What do I mean? Where have I found my joy?

Wisdom is a Gift
I’ve gotten into some pretty rough conversations over the past week. What often happens is that I’ll receive comments from people who like my articles. They’ll say things like “this is nice” or ‘well put’ and so on. I agree and disagree with my personal friends on a number of things and we still have many-houred conversations which remain amiable—so don’t be afraid to talk with me or disagree with me. It’s actually much more pleasant to speak with others on topics where we act as friends as opposed to rivals.

10 Things Jesus Wants You To Know About Worry And Anxiety
Anxiety proved to be a blessing since it caused me to seek comfort by turning to the Lord. Whenever I give talks about the subject of anxiety, I like to open the Bible and highlight some of Jesus’ comments about the subject. His words are clear and to the point and far more effective than any advice I could give. If you’re a worrier, here are 10 things Jesus wants you to know about anxiety. Some are statements and some are questions, but they are all designed to help you feel His peace.

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