Pastoral Sharings: "The way is narrow.."

WeeklyMessageFr. Michael Phillippino

August 25, 2013
Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

“For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues, and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them” (Isaiah 66:18. RSVCE).
There is a great paradox in our readings today. God invites all peoples to salvation. All are invited to come into the kingdom to share in the wedding feast. But our Lord also tells us the way is narrow. We must enter through the narrow gate. In other words, there are qualifications. It’s not that we can save ourselves, but he does tell us in other passages of Scripture that it takes effort and discipline on our part.

In his parable on the wedding, the person not wearing the wedding garment is thrown out. In other passages, we are told we must strive to put on Christ and to become like Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew Chris tells us to pray, to fast, and to give alms (Mt 6). He tells us to practice works of mercy (Mt. 25). Following Christ means sacrifice, self-giving, and detachment. It means turning the other cheek and going the extra mile.
The Catechism tells us: “Christ enables us to have in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us. By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man. We are called only to become one with him, for he enables us as the members of his Body to share in what he lived for us in his flesh as our model” (CCC 521).
In the gospel today, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem for our sakes and he invites us to come along. Living as a Christian in the world today is a challenge. We must be intentional about it. We must be conscious about our choice to follow Christ each day and that choice must show itself by deeds, by the way we live out our faith before others.
It is a struggle because not only are we fighting against the current of the world with its contempt for religion and with its hedonistic and atheistic philosophies, we are also fighting against our fallen nature within. We live in hope, however, trusting in God’s mercy, but also remembering that the door which is open can also close.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 25, 2013

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 13:22-30
Gospel Summary

Luke reminds us once again that we are on the “way to Jerusalem” with Jesus. This means that the guiding principle in our lives ought to be the loving concern that took Jesus himself to the climax of his career as he gave his life for us in Jerusalem. Though it would be nice if we could all visit the modern city of Jerusalem, this is not what Luke had in mind. He is thinking instead about the true purpose of this human life that God has given us.

Narrow Door to a Universal Church
Start small, finish big.  That seems to be God’s motto.  He begins salvation history with two people from what is now Iraq.  When planning to raise a really big family, why start with an elderly couple who’ve never been able to have kids?  But this is precisely what God does.  He turns the sterile Abram and Sarai into Abraham and Sarah, ancestors of a worldwide family which still celebrates their memory nearly 4,000 years later.

21st Sunday: Embracing Our Christianity
“Oh, poor us, poor us,” they moaned.  “This is all so hard,” they complained.  “We are questioned for our beliefs, and we are often outright persecuted for our faith. Oh, poor us, poor us.  We go to the market place and can’t buy the best meat because it was part of a pagan sacrifice.  Oh, poor us, poor us. Our parents and grandparents were so excited by this new faith, this Christianity, but we are not all that excited.  We put up with it though, just in case it is right.  But it is such a struggle to be  Christians. Oh, poor us, poor us.”

What the Church Wants
During a pilgrimage to France, I had the opportunity to discuss the state of its Church with the proprietor of my bed and breakfast.  I knew that many French no longer practice the faith.  He explained that the French do not know what the Church is asking of them.  The answer may seem obvious.  The Church wants the French to embrace the faith: to obey the commandments of God and the laws of the Church, to practice the virtues, to pray, fast, and give alms, to celebrate the sacraments, perhaps even to read the Bible and other spiritual books and join an apostolate, and certainly to share the faith with others.  I knew, however, that my host’s question was posed on a more fundamental level.  He was really asking, why should the French embrace the faith?  What’s the point?

On Faith and Cafeteria Catholicism
For years the expression “cafeteria Catholicism” has been used to describe an approach to the faith in which individual Catholics pick and choose the teachings of the Church they wish to believe or reject. In this view, the Church’s teachings, like food in a cafeteria, have no particular importance: they are all available to satisfy the individual tastes of the consumer. The more savory teachings can be chosen. The more bitter ones left behind. And no one need apologize for preferences or choices made.

Igniting the World: Ablaze with the Spirit
Sometimes we get fixated on the words in this last Sunday’s gospel about division within our households, but there is another verse which is often forgotten, namely “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized.”
The ties between the reading from Jeremiah and the Gospel run deep. In order to see these ties we might want to understand Christ’s words, “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized.” The Catechism of Catholic Church (CCC) tells us in paragraph 1214 “to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to “plunge” or “immerse…” In our Christian understanding of our Sacrament, “the ‘plunge’ into the water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him..”

The Pope’s Theology of Sin
By now, the Pope’s impromptu press conference, on his flight back from Brazil, has been analyzed the world over. But in all the discussion over Francis’ comments, very little has been said about the key line in his now famous exchange on homosexuality. “This is what is important,” declared Francis to reporters, “a theology of sin.”

If the Pope ever calls you, don’t forget these 9 rules of telephone etiquette…
Francis has already garnered a slew of informal titles, such as “the pope of surprises,” “the pope of the poor,” and “the people’s pope.” Given his growing penchant for phoning total strangers out of the blue, however, he may earn yet another one: “the cold-call pope.”
Two such calls during August make the point.

Two Hard Sayings of the Lord that Offend Modern Notions
The Gospel of Matthew features two hard sayings, or expressions, of the Lord. They are “hard” because they offend against modern notions. And since they are difficult for us “moderns” to hear and we are easily taken aback by their abrupt and coarse quality. Here is the “offending” verse:

Why Do Catholic Bibles Have More Books?
We Catholics are known to have more books in our Bibles than Protestants, and there is a very good reason for this.  I’ll explain below.  First, it’s important to note that the New Testament of the Bible is exactly the same between Catholics and Protestants.  There is no difference at all.  They both consist of exactly twenty-seven (27) books, Matthew through Revelation, with no distinction whatsoever.  What differs between Catholics and Protestants is the Old Testament.  We Catholics have forty-six books in our Old Testament (46), while Protestants have only thirty-nine (39).  Protestants also have shorter versions of the books of Daniel and Esther.  The difference between the Catholic and Protestant Bibles specifically centres around the Old Testament and the Old Testament alone.  The seven additional books in question are…

Chilean Twin Brothers Saved from Abortion Became Catholic
Fathers Felipe and Paulo Lizama, two twins saved from abortion when it was legal in Chile, are now both Catholic priests.
The siblings say their mother’s determination to protect them in her womb fostered their vocations.

Is the Catholic Faith Too Hard To Live?
“I’d go to Church more often, but I don’t need that Catholic guilt.” “I go to confession, but it doesn’t work for me. I only confess the same sins again and again anyway. What’s the point?” “Who can follow all of those rules, rules, RULES!”  “I’ve left that religion with all of those man-made rituals and regulations in order to have a personal relationship with Jesus.”

To Forgive or Not to Forgive- That is the Question
A man—I’ll call him Robert—wrote to me recently telling me a horror story about his ex-wife. To say she acted uncharitably during and after their separation and divorce would be an understatement. Of course, I am only hearing one side of the story, but his question boiled down to this: “Am I required to forgive her, even though she is not sorry for anything she has done, and then to forget about what she has done because God ‘forgets’ when he forgives and calls us to do the same? I must confess to you that I just cannot live this because I believe she is dangerous to both me and our children.”

When a Saint Imitates a Saint
Throughout this Year of Faith it has become abundantly clear how important it is for each of us to live and to pray like Mary.  Why?  In the introduction to his October 1954 encyclical titled Ad Caeli Reginam, Pope Pius XII explains it this way:

From the earliest ages of the catholic church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother’s solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.

The Scourging at the Pillar
The Rosary,” wrote Blessed Pope John Paul II, “precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning.”

Pope Paul VI wrote that “without [this contemplation,] the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas and of going counter to the warning of Christ: ‘And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words’ (Mt 6:7).’”

How Catholics Can Save Our Dying Civilization
In a recent address, Archbishop Chaput articulated how much we depend on the residual religious capital of earlier times, but once the capital is spent, “we may not like the results, because the more we delete God from our public life and our private behavior, the more we remove the moral vocabulary that gives our culture meaning.”

Obedience Restores Creation
Adam and Eve

“In the beginning God created heavens and the earth. … God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light” (Gen 1:1, 3). God spoke and it was made. There was no resistance, no struggle. All of creation was obedient to His word.

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them. Male and female he created them” (1:26, 27). Man is created in the image of God—man is a reflection of the divine image. Man, like all things, came to be without struggle. His intelligence reflected divine intelligence, his power the divine power, and his love divine love.

I Got a Robe! A Teaching on one of the most shocking parables Jesus ever told
The Gospel from Thursday’s  Mass contains one of the most shocking parables Jesus ever told. It is the Parable of the Wedding Banquet a King gives for his Son. Most know it well, but in case you want to review it, the full text of the Gospel is here: Parable of the Wedding Feast

It does not take a degree in biblical theology to understand that the Parable is an allegory. The “King” is God the Father, the “Son” is Jesus, and the Wedding feast is the Great Wedding Feast of the Lamb further described in Revelation:

An Encounter in Front of a Cathedral
I was just standing there looking into the foyer of the Cathedral to see if the door opened as a man pulled the handle. It was almost midday in midweek and I wasn’t sure if it would be open. The door opened.

Do I really want to finish the last of my Starbucks tall Pike Place brew before I go in?

It would be inappropriate to carry the cup inside and there is no trash can anywhere in sight.

Okay, if I have to, I’ll just walk back outside and try and find a place to dump it.

I turned towards the steps and heard a voice say, “It’s too bad they closed, the people in there were really nice people.

Blaming Satan
Beware, this is a rant.

I am so tired of reading in print and hearing in speech that something evil is caused by Satan.

Let me explain that there are three reasons for evil in this world and Satan in only one reason.

One, original sin and its consequences. I realize when I walk to Mass or the shops daily in Dublin that the VAST majority of people I pass are most likely not baptized.
This means that they are still bound by Original Sin and have no sanctifying grace. They are not adopted children of God or heirs of heaven

Is Hell Highly Populated?
Having just finished Ralph Martin’s excellent study on universalism, Will Many Be Saved?  it leads me to wonder about this thing we call speculative theology. It seems to me that theologians may well speculate when sacred Scripture and church teaching is unclear about something, but in the matter of heaven, hell and salvation there is not really very much room for speculation. The Scriptures are clear in their teaching that many will be damned and few will be saved.  Furthermore, Ralph Martin shows that it has been the unanimous teaching of the church and the witness of saints and mystics that many are damned and few are saved.


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