Pastoral Sharings: "Love Your Neighbor"

WeeklyMessagePriests for Life, July 14, 2013
Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings provide a powerful foundation for preaching on the call of God’s people to be the People of Life and to take concrete action to defend the lives of the unborn.

As Moses said, the law of God “is not too mysterious and remote.” Often people complicate the Church’s pro-life teaching unnecessarily. In reality, it is simple. We are called to love people, not kill them. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” as the Gospel indicates. It seems that the scholar of the law thought the teachings were “too mysterious and remote.”

But they are not. “Love your neighbor” does not have distinctions, limitations, or exclusions. It includes our unborn neighbors. And to love them “as yourself” means first to recognize them as a person like yourself. The “pro-choice” mindset is, ultimately, just another form of prejudice, this time
directed at the people still in the womb.

Both the first reading, with the exhortation, “You have only to carry out,” and the Gospel passage, with its concluding command, “Go and do likewise,” call us beyond being pro-life in attitude to becoming pro-life in behavior. It is not enough for us to “believe” abortion is wrong; we have to intervene for those in danger of being aborted. The man who fell in with robbers, and in danger of losing his life, is also the unborn child. Many pass along the way and do nothing. They let them die. The priest and Levite knew the words of Moses in today’s first reading. They failed, however, to carry out those words.

The reason may be that they were afraid that this was a trap. Maybe the robbers were around the next curve of this road from Jerusalem to Jericho, which had come to be know as “The Bloody Pass,” and were ready to attack anyone who would stop to help the victim. The mistake that the priest and Levite made was that they asked, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”
The Samaritan reversed the question, as we are called to do, and asked, “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” And so we must ask in regard to the unborn. Stop counting the cost and calculating the risk to yourself; start thinking about the risk to them.

All of our pro-life activity flows from our union with Christ. The second reading today is actually a commentary on the first few words of the Bible, “In the beginning, God created…” Paul shows us that this “beginning” is Christ. He is the source and purpose of all life, of all creation. To stand with him, then, is to stand with life, and against all that destroys it.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
July 14, 2013

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 10:25-37

Gospel Summary

The lawyer in today’s gospel is not to be confused with the lawyers of our day. He was a student of the Torah–a word which is more properly translated as “instruction” or “revelation.” Today, he would be called a theologian. And he asks the question that is primary in the mind of every theologian, namely, how do we human beings achieve the fulfillment intended by our creator? Jesus gives the classic answer from Deut. 6:5 (love of God) and Lev. 19:18 (love of neighbor). Everything else is secondary.

Parable of the Good Samaritan
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most famous of all Bible Stories.  Here is a commentary that goes beyond pious platitudes to real-life, practical application.

To this day, the road from Jericho to Jerusalem is long, winding, and desolate. The two travelers could have been heading back home after weeks on temple duty.  Or they could have been on their way to the Temple for their shift (Luke 1:8).  In either case, the priest and the Levite were in a hurry to get where they were going.  The pious duty of liturgical prayer in one direction.  Family who needed them in the other direction.  It was too bad about the half-dead man in the road.  But someone else would have to attend to it.  They just did not have time.

15th Sunday: The Good Samaritan Next Door
The three ladies had been friends since high school.  They all grew up in the same Church and were pretty active as Teens.  Eleanor married Fred and had three children, one was still in college, the other two were on their own.  Sally married Tom.  Their two were in high school.  Phyllis married Sam. They  had two in college and one in the service.  Eleanor and Fred, Sally and Tom, and Phyllis and Sam; they  remained friends….to a degree.  Time and children kept them busy.  Sally and Tom, particularly, weren’t around all that much.  The other two couples remained very close.  All three families went to the same Church, but Sally and her family were not as involved as Eleanor’s and Phyllis’.  Sally never had the time.  Eleanor and Phyllis were concerned.  They wondered if she and her family were even coming to Mass regularly.  They didn’t want to confront her, but they did pray for her and Tom to return to a more fervent practice of the faith.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet of Faith
The uniquely penned encyclical “Lumen fidei” is about the light of faith, as well as divine life, true love, and absolute truth

The future is made wherever people find their way to one another in life-shaping convictions. And a good future grows wherever these convictions come from the truth and lead to it.” —Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Preface to the Second Edition (2004) of Introduction To Christianity

“Faith by its specific nature is an encounter with the living God—an encounter opening up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason. But it is also a purifying force for reason itself. From God’s standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly.” — Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est 

Italian “Vanity Fair” crowns Francis Man of the Year
The July issue of the Italian edition of Vanity Fair magazine, on news stands tomorrow, has dedicated its front cover to Pope Francis, with the title “Francesco Papa Coraggio” (Francis Pope Courage) and his appeal for the forgotten immigrants who lost their lives trying to reach the southern Italian island of Lampedusa: “Chi ha pianto per la morte di questi fratelli e sorelle? Domandiamo al Signore la grazia di piangere sulla nostra indifferenza” (“Who cried for the deaths of these brothers and sisters?… Let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference”).

The Hospitable Pope?
We are now over a hundred days into the Franciscan papacy, and it’s clear that people both within and outside the church see something about Francis which differs in appealing ways from what they have come to expect from the Catholic Church and its Supreme Pontiff.  This past week, even a blogger for who self-identified as an atheist wrote that he had to admit that Pope Francis is “kind of awesome.”  While the approval of Esquire magazine—which is not exactly known for promoting the virtues of poverty, chastity, or obedience—may be a dubious endorsement, I think it does actually point to what may turn out to be a defining characteristic of this pope, and one of the reasons so many people find him so attractive.

Faith Lights life
Thus when faith dies — when the light of faith flickers — “all other lights begin to dim.” Autonomous reason turns out to be self-cannibalizing. Athens without Jerusalem decays into Berkeley (or, if you like, the New York Times editorial board); reason, no longer confident of its capacity to grasp and discern truths in reality, loses its tether to Things As They Are. The best reason can do is to affirm “your truth” and “my truth”; but that doesn’t work for very long, because “my truth” is, sooner or later, deplored as irrational and hurtful bigotry by the Supreme Court of the United States, or at least by the dicta of Mr. Justice Kennedy.

What really is love for our neighbor? Part II of II
Q: Dear Father John, I have a question which may seem silly but I would like to ask it… Can you explain, what really is love for our neighbor? We hear you don’t have to like your neighbor but you have to love your neighbor. Take the…Boston bombings. Do we have to love the person who did so much damage, injured people, killed people for absolutely no reason, except that they wanted to commit murder? Then on the other hand, the book club’s “33 Days to Morning Glory,” [looked] at the Polish priest, St. Maximilian Kolbe, who suffered so much in the German Camp. What would he have done to show love for his tormentors? Which brings me back to my question, what really is love for our neighbor?

Paradoxical symbols in the Book of Revelation (7 things to know and share!)
Revelation contains many symbols. Some of them are easy to understand, some are hard, and some are just paradoxical.

Ironically, the paradoxical ones can be particularly easy to figure out.

Here’s what you should know . . .

The Trouble with Mary (Part I of II)
I remember sitting in a conference where the speaker, an Evangelical Protestant, began to talk about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in complimentary terms. He stopped quickly then said, “I know it makes some of you uncomfortable talking about Mary like this. You’re afraid we might accidentally slip up and start worshipping her.”

The line got a laugh and I thought, as an Evangelical Protestant at the time, how true it was – as if there existed a razor-thin line between merely complimenting Mary or falling to our knees in the kind of unbridled worship that would make God jealous. I thought much later that that’s why some Christians tend to relegate Mary to Christmas alone, with maybe a cursory acknowledgement at Easter. There’s a fear they might start acting like frenzied Catholics.

Are We Re-Crucifying Jesus in the Mass?
Anti-Catholics often charge that Catholics “re-crucify” Jesus through the sacrifice of the Mass.

If we were, that would be a problem, because the Bible repeatedly indicates that Jesus suffered and died “once for all.”

What’s really going on here?

How should we understand the relationship of the Mass to the sacrifice of the Cross?

How does someone become a saint? A 5 step process
How does someone become a saint?

To answer the question directly, the Catholic Church believes that anyone can become a saint—that is someone who makes it to heaven. Whether you are a priest, a married women, a single man, a religious sister, etc., the Catholic Church calls all men and women, whatever their state in life, to seek holiness and sainthood. This idea has been given more attention recently and maybe most significantly during Vatican II and the released of the document Lumen Gentium that outlined what the Catholic Church calls the Universal Call to Holiness.

In the Midst of Life, We Are in Death
After a long final illness, my father finally passed away early this morning at the age of 90. Although he lived well and died at home, it was an emotional and physical rollercoaster at the end, and I was left trying to figure out the point of it all. Does it mean something, or is it just the final, cruel grinding down of a human life to ash without any hope or purpose?

I think it was the nurses who finally gave me my answer: not by word, but by deed

Don’t Forget Me!!
Right now someone is staring at you…. well not with human eyes, angelic eyes! Remember him? He’s your guardian angel!

I think often people forget about their guardian angels because they have “better” things to do. They don’t spend any time with them because maybe they don’t talk, maybe they’re not fun, and maybe you just aren’t close right now. But I’m telling you, if you give your guardian angel a chance, I promise you, he won’t let you down. So who is he? What are the benefits? Is it really him, or have I just lost it and am talking to myself? Well, hopefully this article can help with these questions.

The Faith of Theologians: A Love Story With the Church
This post is part of a series on the Faith of Theologians. Read the introduction here and Dana’s post here. Read Charlie and Emily’s post here and here.

I grew up in South Carolina. My dad was a Baptist. My mom was Catholic but had not been practicing for some time. Of five kids, I was the only one raised Catholic, and with only patchwork catechesis at that. It was a mixture of the Baltimore Catechism, generic 1970s spirituality, and Red State Libertarianism. I also spent my entire childhood in a hotbed of anti-Catholicism (Ever heard of Bob Jones?). It wasn’t until high school that I had any other friends who were Catholic. When my mom and I went to mass, it was at a traditional parish almost an hour away, so it wasn’t like the parish was the center of our life.

Priest Saves Baby with Desperate Facebook Plea
This is one of those stories that’ll make you feel good about humanity. So if you don’t want to restore your faith in your fellow man you should stop reading now.

Fr. Thomas Vander Woude of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville, Va was talking to a few people who knew a couple who were planning to abort their unborn child because the child had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

On the Relationship Between Light, Time and the Mystery of God
I was meditating on time today, perhaps because it is my 52nd birthday. But also on account of some new mysteries I have learned about the light of the Sun that reaches this earth.

I have long known that to look up in the night sky is to look far into the past. Looking up at the star Sirius I am looking nine years into the past. Looking over to the star Antares I am seeing 250 years into the past. Looking over at the star Rigel I am looking 600 years into the past. Looking further still at the Andromeda galaxy, I am seeing one million years into the past. That is how long it takes the light of these stars and galaxies to reach us. We are not seeing them as they are now, but as they were then. The past, even the distant past, is very present to us.

5 Things You Don’t Know about the Our Father
It’s a prayer faithful Catholics say at least once a week at Mass, if not several times daily. The words are well-known and well-worn in our mind, but there is a lot more to the Our Father than at first meets the eye.

Here are five things you did (or may) not know about this, the most central of all Christian prayers.

Are We “Down with the People” or Up with the Cross? A Call to Courage in Preaching the Cross
Some forty years ago the Venerable Bishop Fulton J Sheen admonished the priests of his day in these words:

We become real priests when we empty ourselves, and no longer seek our [own] identity, and where we are lifted up to the cross, not going “down to people.” Too many of us today feel we have to be loved…[thinking] the young will not love us unless we talk like them, eat like them, drink like them, clothe ourselves like them. No! They will not love us simply because we go down, they will love us when we lift them up. Else, the world will drag them down…. (Retreat for priests, “The Meaning of Being a Priest)

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