Pastoral Sharings: Fr. Mike Phillippino

WeeklyMessageBy: Fr. Mike Phillippino
Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 17, 2013
One of the changes instituted by Vatican Council II was the reform of the liturgy. Part of that reform was reflected in the way the Church looked at Lent. We went from a Lent that was characterized by a severe and somber time to an older tradition that looked at Lent as a time of initiation and reconciliation.
The readings for Year C predominately emphasize reconciliation. As Deacon Sau will be preaching from the Year A readings because of our candidates and catechumens I thought I might reflect a little on the Gospel reading for Year C which is the year that we are in.
The Gospel is John 8:1-11. Jesus is teaching in the Temple area when he is confronted by the scribes and Pharisees. They bring to him a woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus forgives her but the last words of our Lord should not be forgotten: ‘from now on,’ he says, “do not sin anymore” (John 8:11).

The mercy of God is inexhaustible but at the same time, he warns us not to presume upon his mercy. We must make an effort ourselves to change, to confess our sins and “repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:14). God wants to “heal our defection and love us freely” (Hosea 14;4) but we must be willing to “return to the Lord” (Hosea 14:2).
In this sacred time God calls us to repentance, to reconciliation that we may experience his forgiveness and be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit. We have not yet, as Paul said of himself; “taken possession” (Phil. 3:12). We are not there yet. So let us “strain forward to what lies ahead…the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Phil 13,14).
So, sisters and brothers, do not forget that this week, Tuesday, March 19th, at St. Francis of Assisi Church on Elm Street, we have our Deanery Lenten Penance Service at 7:00 PM. I will be there; I hope you will be as well.

Peace to you and remember to “follow through.”

Father Mike

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
March 17, 2013

5th Lent: Come All You Sinners
What was going through her mind? She was being dragged to the Lord. She had to have been terrified. Certainly these men were going to kill her. The woman was caught in adultery. Women have been killed for far less. Even in our modern times, women are treated throughout the world as chattel, their lives completely dependent on the will of their fathers, brothers or husbands. Horrible things continue to happen to women in the name of religion.

Jesus Writes Our Sins on Sand and His Pardon on Our Hearts
Love forgives
Once more we listen to a Gospel of mercy. Last Sunday we have contemplated the embrace of the merciful Father who with his love hugs and rehabilitates the prodigal son, who had left the paternal house and had wasted not only his inheritance, but also his dignity.
Today we contemplate Jesus, who writes the sins of the fragile humanity on sand and his mercy in the heart of a woman thirsty for life..

Oh, That I Might Live Like An Accuser
This Sunday’s gospel reading is the ever-famous “Woman Caught in Adultery” scene, found in John 8:1-11. In recent years, I have begun to refer to this incident as a “both sides of the punctuation” topic. If you attend Mass, you will doubtless hear homilies centering on our inability to cast the first stone, which I in no way mean to diminish. I always say that in the ways most pertinent, you, I, and the “worst of the worst” (Osama bin Laden, for instance) are on the same ground: having lost our footing as a result of sin and in need of saving. That is why Jesus is so eager to explicitly say, “Neither do I condemn you.”


Pope Francis—The Journey Begins
As the newly elected pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s papacy has already been historical. His is a part of the world no other pontiff has hailed from. His is an order no other pontiff has claimed. His is a name no other pontiff has taken. Even from this, it may be fair to expect that the pontificate of Pope Francis will be one to break with precedents and blaze new paths for the faithful. If ever there was a saint that did such a thing, it was his namesake. If ever there was a time that the Church would welcome a Francis, it is now.
The Vatican confirmed that this first Pope Francis is named after the first Saint Francis: St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order.

Without Christ crucified, Church a ‘pitiful’ Organization, Pope says
The day after he was elected, Pope Francis emphasized that every believer – including bishops, cardinals and Popes – must proclaim Jesus crucified to be true Christians.

“We can build so many things but if we don’t confess Jesus Christ, then something is wrong. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, spouse of Christ,” Pope Francis said in his March 14 homily.

“He who doesn’t pray to God prays to the Devil,” the Pope added in an apparent quote.

A few “bloopers”
We cardinals here in Rome – – along with all our brothers in the Sacrament of Holy Orders – – take our task of teachers of the faith very seriously.
These days in the Eternal City offer us a welcome occasion to do that. I sure have enjoyed my meetings with people here, especially the journalists, who give me the chance to teach.
It’s clear to me that there are quite a few misconceptions out there about the church. Let me mention a few to you.

Does God interfere with our free will?
Q: Dear Father John, When we pray for a good and holy intention for a soul, for example: for someone’s return to the Roman Catholic Faith and their Holy Death or that someone will resist committing a serious sin, am I correct in my understanding that Our Dear Lord will stand beside this Soul and bestow upon them the necessary Graces they will need to make the right and wise decision of returning back to their Holy Faith in the Catholic Church, as I mentioned above or resist committing a serious sin, but that it is ultimately up to the individual’s Free Will to accept or refuse these Heavenly Graces from God? I understand that Our Dear Lord will never interfere with our Free Will.
A: You are correct, but it is well worth reflecting on the mysterious tension that your questions identifies and highlights.

What the Lord means when He says the “Gates of Hell will not prevail” and why the traditional Catholic understanding is more likely.
Recently I have found a persistent line of questioning in reference to the traditional understanding of the Lord’s promise to the Church: the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it (Matt 16:18) . Yesterday on the blog a reader stated the question quite well:
This is just a curiosity question, but why is it that “gates” is always phrased by Catholics as if they were an offensive weapon being wielded against the Church? I’ve never heard them used as such ….
But in the normal usage of the word “gates” wouldn’t it be that the Church is doing the attacking against [the domain of] Hell, but that Hell’s gates will not be able to hold out (ie, prevail) against the Church’s onslaught [in Christ]? Gates don’t normally go around attacking things on their own…

Are You Willing to Forgive?
As human beings we are an emotionally fragile bunch. That however is not a bad thing. Indeed, it is our emotional state that most readily separates us from the animal kingdom. We perceive love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness and fear, and we can deliver those positive or negative emotions to others in the way we act. These negative emotions when given or received, hurt, and can hurt very deeply. The old school yard response to bullies runs, ’sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me’. It may be a cute rhyme but it’s not true. What affects us most deeply is not the physical insults that come our way but those which offend us on a personal level. To have a trusted friend betray us hurts. To have a sibling insult another sibling hurts. These hurts are very real and they do not easily dissipate.

Evangelical Catholicism and Being an Ambassador for Christ
In his new book, Evangelical Catholicism, George Weigel maintains that the Catholic Church is entering a new era in which it must make its case, preach its message, and offer its graces to a civilization in the West that has become increasingly secular and aggressively hostile to the message of Christ and his Church. This, of course, must be coupled with a vibrant and attractive witness on the part of the faithful, the clergy, and the magisterium. For when the former is unmoored from the latter – that is, when faith is without hope and charity – the Church’s message begins to sound like “a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.” (1 Cor. 13:1)

The Transfiguration of the Church
Years ago, an Oxford don, not rare as an eccentric but singular in his way of being one, kept in his rooms a small menagerie including a mongoose to whom he fed mice for tea, and an eagle that flew one day into the cathedral and tried to mate with the brass eagle-shaped lectern which was cold and unresponsive. It is claimed that the choristers at that moment were singing “O for the Wings of a Dove” by Mendelssohn, who had recently dedicated his “Scottish Symphony” to Queen Victoria. No dove is safe around an eagle, and the dove and the eagle represent in iconography very different aspects of the spiritual life. The oldest eagle lectern in Oxford is not in the cathedral but in nearby Corpus Christi college chapel, and there are eagle lecterns all over the world, symbolizing Saint John whose record of the saving Gospel soars on wings not of this world.

Get the hell out of here
I could not believe how quiet it was. Outside there is loudness, in there it is quiet, just me and my sins.
It was dark. There were no candles, no lights, just shades of colors that bounced off the walls. I take that back, there were two small lights up on the wall, a green and red light.
It was silent. All I could hear were faint sounds, murmurs. Every once in a while I could make out the sound of beads on a chain.
“What am I doing here again?” the thought crossed my mind. “I am confused. I strive to live by God’s two greatest commandments. But I fail. I am sorry.”

The Two Shall Become One Flesh
There may be no better commentary on marital unity than the following excerpt from the Exhortation Before Marriage, which was once commonly used at the time of the sermon during the marriage rite.

Henceforthyou will belong entirely to each other; you will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete.

Why is Seafood Allowed on Fridays in Lent? St. Thomas Aquinas Provides the Theological Answer.
So on Fridays during Lent, Catholics may eat shrimp, sea-bass, and lobster, but not steak, spam, chicken, or hot dogs. Why? Is this distinction completely arbitrary or is there a theological, or even biblical, argument for this rule?

Notes on Mark: Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
MARK 3:28-30
I always wondered why blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was the only unforgivable sin. This makes it crystal clear.

Jesus has just worked a miracle but the scribes refuse to recognize it “for they had said ‘He has an unclean spirit'” (v. 30). They do not want to admit that God is the author of the miracle. In this attribute lies the special gravity of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit — attributing to the prince of evil, to Satan, the good works performed by God himself … That is why our Lord says that he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven: not because God cannot forgive all sins, but because that person, in his blindness towards God, rejects Jesus Christ, his teaching and his miracles, and despises the graces of the Holy Spirit as if they were designed to trap him (cf. St. Pius V Catechism, II, 5, 19; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 14, a. 3). CF. note on Mt 12:31-32.

The Navarre Bible: St. Mark

Veiling in the Liturgy
Theologian Han Urs Von Balthasar once wrote, “We thus [understand] truth as the unveiledness, uncoveredness, disclosedness, and unconcealment of being …. Unveiledness is an absolute property inherent in being as such” (Theo-Logic I, page 37).
For von Balthasar, being (which is convertible with truth) is essentially mystery. There is an incommunicable core in everything that exists. No matter how deeply we try to understand an object, we will never exhaust the mystery that lies at its center. Two opposite errors can occur when we come face-to-face with this mystery. On the one hand, we can abandon our pursuit of truth to the realm of the “unknowable.” Such is the attitude of those who look at the Trinity and leave it at, “Well, it’s a mystery, so you can’t understand it.”

Contraception and Celibacy
What has contraception to do with celibacy? The quick witted might observe that celibacy is the most effective contraception. It’s also a sure fire way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
However, that’s not the point of the headline. Instead I’ve been thinking about the way artificial contraception has radically changed the whole idea not only of sex, but of celibacy, and especially the celibate priesthood.

The Danger of ‘Nice.’
“Be nice.” “That’s not nice.” “Wouldn’t it be nice if people would just get along?”
Nice is almost as hard to define as the notoriously subjective “fair,” but I’m starting to think it’s far more dangerous. ’Nice’ is applied to a standard of behavior that does not raise objection among those who are around to be offended; ‘nice’ is a sort of vague version of ‘polite,’ centered around everyone feeling good.

Totalitarian Irrationality
In the previous blog post, we explored Pope Benedict’s account of the roots of relativism — roots which ultimately blossomed into full-scale secularism in the West. Again, Benedict sees the problem in reason itself, or what has been done to reason.
To review, while secularists claim to champion reason, they actually put forth a constricted form of reason — so constricted that it mutilates both our reason and our humanity. Reason, secularism asserts, must be restricted only to what is material and measurable. The mutilation occurs because secularism then assumes that what is not material and measurable is not real, or at best, merely a subjective fancy.

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1 Response to Pastoral Sharings: Fr. Mike Phillippino

  1. Joel Schmidt says:

    Fr. Mike, thanks very much for sharing my latest Catholic Stand post. Peace and blessings to you and St. John Church!

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