Pastoral Sharings: “Why Are We Here?”

WeeklyMessageFr. Phil Bloom
September 1, 2013
Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Message: Why are we here? One word: Humility. We are here for humility in Christ.

This week we begin a new school year. It’s a good moment to ask a basic question: Why are we here? Or to put it another way, What does God want to accomplish by creating and sustaining the universe?

We don’t know the whole answer, but we do know a part: That God created the universe to make souls. The poet, John Keats, called this world a “vale of soul making.”* The world exists to make souls.

Scientists talk about the “anthropic principle”: The cosmos seems fine-tuned to produce a planet like ours that can sustain creatures like us – capable of wondering about the world we came from.

The Bible says God created human beings as his culminating work, that he made us in his image. He gave us a stewardship, a responsibility for his creation, and the ability to know him and freely give ourselves back to him.

Our education system fits into that purpose. Even it doesn’t explicitly teach religion, schools know that they exist not only pass on knowledge but to form character: things like honesty, reliability and respect. We want our schools – whether public, Catholic or home – to form people who tell the truth, people we can count on to keep their word, people who respect themselves and others. That’s character – the inner core of the human person, the soul. You don’t get character by information but by formation: hard work, stumbling, getting back up, making a new beginning.

The Bible has a word for character building. We see it in today’s readings – humility. It’s not a popular word because it can sound like grovelling, a lack of self-esteem. But that’s not it. Sirch says, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more that a giver of gifts.”

Gifts are nice. I have my birthday this week and even though I’ve got about everything I need personally, I can still delight in a gift. But better than a gift is humility. Humility, in fact, is the best gift. The Shakers knew that. One of their songs says, “Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.”

Humility brings us into the right relationship with each other. We see that in today’s Gospel. Jesus tells us to seek the lowest place. Do that and you will always have a job. There will always be a dishwasher to unload, a floor to sweep, a bedpan to empty.

Taking the lowest place doesn’t mean burying your talents. St. Martin de Porres is shown with a broom because he deliberately sought the humblest job. At the same time, he did not hide his medical skills. He wound up managing the infirmary where he cared for ill Dominican brothers and for people of Lima. Take the lowest place and you will know (with prayer) when to put your talents at the service of others.

Humility, then, brings us “where we ought to be.” Humility is character because it means knowing one’s real self. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish. We quickly fall into a false self-image – especially today with things like Facebook. Don’t get me wrong. I like Facebook. It’s a good tool and I invite all of you to become my Facebook friends. But I know I can start to think that the Facebook image I project is the “real me.” It’s not. It can’t be.

Facebook is a tool and like every tool it can be used to build or to destroy. A hammer can make a home , but it can also become a murder weapon. How a person uses Facebook or any other tool depends on character. Maybe we should put this Bible verse on our computers: “Conduct your affairs with humility,” your emails, your Facebook, your texting. Conduct them with humility.

Now, I know a lot of you prefer the old technology – picking ups your phone or even meeting face-to-face. The truth is that even though it takes more time, it works better. The reason is simple: voice-to-voice or face-to-face requires humility. “Conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more that a giver of gifts.”

Let’s bring this back to the original question: Why are we here? What does God want to accomplish by creating the world? The answer: to make souls, beings capable of knowing and loving him. Our purpose is not to amass information, but to form character, to find our right relationship with each other and with God. In Christ, always in Christ. Why are we here? One word: Humility. We are here for humility in Christ. Amen.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 1, 2013

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus goes for a meal to the house of a leading Pharisee and as it says in the text, they watched him closely. We know quite well that the Pharisees were very suspicious of Jesus; they couldn’t make him out and they wondered what his real purpose was.

His every word and action, his very integrity, could be interpreted as a reproach to them and so they constantly watched looking for ways to trip him up. And of course we know the rest of the story.

Humility Opens Doors
(Why the Meek Shall Inherit the Earth)

Why the meek shall inherit the earth and those who are last shall be first.

“Nice guys finish last,” says the world.   “The last will be first,” replies Jesus.

My guess is that the Lord of creation knows best who really wins in the end.  And he says “whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Gospel of Luke 14:11).

To understand why the humble get ahead and why the meek shall inherit the earth, we need to be sure that we understand what humility and meekness really are. 

22nd Sunday: When You Go to A Banquet….
Today’s Gospel contains two teachings of similar styles.  Both start with when, “When you go to a banquet” and ” When you give a banquet.” Both have a cautioning phrase, don’t.  “Don’t sit at a high place, lest you be put down,” and  “Don’t put out a spread for the rich to impress them, lest you already receive your reward.” And both have the teaching, but, “But when you go to a banquet” and “But when you give a banquet.”

How do I Share my Faith when I am Naturally Shy? (Part I of II)
Q: Dear Father John, With the social media we have today (Facebook, etc.), why do I feel hesitant to share God’s messages such as scripture, prayers, testimonies, etc. due to a concern of “negative ramifications.”  Although there are few times I am moved by the Spirit to share without a concern, I am mainly too shy to share; when I do share I can’t help feeling my efforts were done in vain as if expecting positive reinforcement. I tell myself it’s my own vanity, pride and concerns of what people think about me that cause this and praying to our Lord to take this away. Father, do you have any words of wisdom or insights to help me? When coming across moving information, do I share only when I am moved by the Spirit, where I have no hesitations and is rare, or do I put effort to share against my shyness? I fear not being fruitful when an opportunity arrives and I want to make the best of my one little talent.

Piety Gives Us Supernatural Grace to Truly Love God and Neighbor
As we saw last time, Church Tradition describes piety as “the perfection of religion.” That does not tend to score big points for this gift on the Popularity Richter Scale, since most people react negatively to both the words “piety” and “religion.”

Rape victim consoled, encouraged by call from Pope Francis
A 44-year-old woman from Argentina said that after writing a letter to Pope Francis telling him that she had been raped by a local police officer, the Pope called her to tell her, “You are not alone.”

“The Pope told me he receives thousands of letters each day, but that what I wrote moved him and touched his heart,” the woman said in an interview with the National University of Cordoba’s Canal 10 TV station.

“When I heard the Pope’s voice, it was like feeling the hand of God,” she said.

The Universe Was Created for the Sake of the Church
The Catechism of the Catholic Church drops this bombshell:

Christians of the first centuries said, “The world was created for the sake of the Church.” God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the “convocation” of men in Christ, and this “convocation” is the Church. The Church is the goal of all things, and God permitted such painful upheavals as the angels’ fall and man’s sin only as occasions and means for displaying all the power of his arm and the whole measure of the love he wanted to give the world:

Just as God’s will is creation and is called “the world,” so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called “the Church” [CCC, 760].

Why faith matters: Belief as a cornerstone of what it means to be human
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

My task today is talking about why faith matters. I’m happy to do that. But I want to begin by posing a question. The question is this: At what point does love become foolish, and unsustainable, and even fruitless?

Here’s the reason I ask. A number of my friends have children with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is permanent. There’s no cure. People with Down syndrome have mild to serious developmental delays. They have diminished cognitive function. They’re prone to a wide range of health problems. They also tend to have a uniquely Down syndrome “look” – a flat facial profile, almond-shaped eyes, a small nose, short neck, thick stature and difficulties with clear speech.

Testing can now detect up to 95 percent of pregnancies with a strong risk of Down syndrome. And the results are predictable. More than 80 percent of unborn babies in the United States diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. They’re killed simply because they have an extra chromosome – a flaw that’s neither fatal nor contagious, but merely undesirable.

Don’t Just Solve Mysteries. Live them. A Meditation on the Christian Meaning of Mystery
In our modern culture we tend to use the word “mystery” differently than the Christian antiquity to which the Church is heir. We have discussed this notion on this blog before. In this brief post I’d like to review that, and add a new insight I heard recently from Fr. Francis Martin.

Living Inside the Bible
Kraków, Poland—The village of Pasierbiec is in the south of Poland, about thirty miles from the old royal capital of Kraków. Its church, the Basilica of Our Lady of Consolation, is full of votum gifts testifying to favors received through the intercession of the basilica’s namesake. (The church itself reminds me of a comment Pope John Paul II’s secretary, now-Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, once made when we were looking at a photo album of new churches in Nowa Huta, the mill-town built by Polish communists outside Kraków: “Troppo [Too much] Corbusier. . .”)

God Loves you. He even likes you!
Every now and then we need to be reminded that God really loves us. Some of us struggle with this notion especially when we have sinned or experienced a shortcoming.

Recently the readings at Mass have had the heavy theme of warning us about death, judgment, heaven and hell. But of course these warnings are given by a God who loves us and wants to save us.

Whatever the reason that perhaps at times we don’t feel very lovable, consider this:

Father Michael McGivney’s Cause for Canonization Advances
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The cause for sainthood for Father Michael McGivney, a parish priest in Connecticut who founded the Knights of Columbus, has taken another official step forward.

At the fraternal organization’s 131st Supreme Convention in San Antonio earlier this month, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson reported “there is good news concerning Father McGivney’s cause. A possible miracle attributed to his intercession is now under investigation in Rome.”

The Early Church: The Rule of Faith
After a time a hero arose in the Church by the name of Irenaeus of Lyons. His monumental work “Against Heresies,” written between 182 and 188 AD, is lauded as a Western classic and, while it receives little attention today, the Early Church unanimously consented to its orthodoxy and power of persuasion. Irenaeus was said to have been a follower, or taught in some capacity by Polycarp, whom Irenaeus lavishes with praise as a true, concrete, and powerful proof of the Apostolic faith.

Who was John the Baptist? (11 things to know and share)
John the Baptist is a mysterious figure in the New Testament.

He was famous in his own day, even before he became the herald of Christ.

We even know about him from outside the New Testament.

His memorial is August 29th, so it’s an excellent time to catch up on him.

Here are 11 things to know and share . . .

Seeking God’s Face
I always cringe a little when I hear people of various Protestant denominations say they belong to a “Bible-based” church and that, as a Catholic, I don’t.
They aren’t right, of course. Unfortunately, they aren’t completely wrong, either, when they imply that, generally, Catholics don’t “know our Bible” the way many of them do.

Blessing Your Blessings
This morning, my second-oldest kid went off to her first day of high school.  It’s only a half day and I was only half awake, so I forgot that I had meant to give her a blessing before she left the house.  (Hey, just because my “end-of-summer,-do-ALL-the-things” freakout is over, that doesn’t mean it’s too early for my “beginning-of-school,-do-ALL-the-things” freakout to begin.)

Why bless your kids?  There are several reasons.  First is that parents have a unique spiritual authority to ask God’s blessing for the kids, so why would you not take advantage of that?  It’s also a pleasant, intimate, and very easy way to show your kids that you love them.  And it does something else:  it reminds us that a big part of our job as parents is letting our kids go.

The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
Back in June, I wrote an article “What Catholic Are Reading: Four Books for Your Summer Reading List” and in this article I said, “If I’m on my game, I’ll follow up this article with some book reviews/cliff notes and allow you all to join into the discussion on these books.” Well, I don’t know if I’m exactly “on my game,” but I am delivering to you the first of my book reviews.
So, here it goes. . .

The Courage to Trust in God
In today’s Gospel of the passion of Saint John the Baptist, we encounter a pitiable man: Herod.

On the one hand, even though John the Baptist rebuked Herod, Herod knew John “to be a righteous and holy man,” and “he liked to listen to him” (Mk 6:20). On the other hand, his wife, Herodias, wanted the man killed for denouncing their marriage. And so Herod compromises. Refusing to take a firm stance, he settles for the middle ground and has John arrested. It is a pitiable attempt to please Herodias while trying to keep his conscience clean.

Ten Reasons You Should Get to Confession This Weekend
1. You need to.  You have a mortal sin on your soul, and it’s killing you.  You know you want to live. So go to confession.

2.  You don’t need to.  Oh, really, you don’t need to?  You don’t need to have your soul refreshed, your courage strengthened, your dusty, crusty, venial sin-chapped hide soothed with the sweet balm of forgiveness?  You don’t need to hear one more time that the Almighty Son of God came down from Heaven, was born, suffered, died, and rose again so that you, personally, could be saved?  No thanks, you don’t neeeeed any of that right now?  Really?  Go to confession.

Catholicism For Protestants
Catholicism For Protestants — An explanation of Roman Catholicism from a Biblical perspective. Written in a simple Question & Answer format, like the old Baltimore Catechism, this book is easy-to-read and designed for anyone curious to learn more about the Catholic Church. It is excellent for Catholics who want to better explain their faith, and perfect for Protestants seeking to understand Catholic teachings and practices. The book is based on the article below, but improved, expanded and copiously annotated with footnotes and Scripture references. It’s perfect to share with your Protestant friends and excellent to help you answer those tough questions Protestants often ask.  The article below is just a primer to give you a taste of what the book is like.  So if you like the article below… get the book!

Visiting Uncle Joe: A Corporal Work of Mercy in Action
This past Spring I received a phone call from my cousin, Joseph.  He told me his father, my Uncle Joe, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  The news was especially distressing for me since Uncle Joe has always been my favorite uncle. Although Uncle Joe is 86 years old I can’t imagine being without him.

Uncle Joe had remained a bachelor until his mid-thirties. As a boy, and being the oldest of his nephews, I greatly benefitted from his single status in life.  Having time and a few extra dollars, he planned events that often included me.  He took me to the beach, the movies, the zoo, the circus and we went deep sea fishing.  He also took me to an old neighborhood watering hole, Jackson’s Bar and Grill, where he had a cool one and I had a coke. Just meeting the guys at the bar made me feel so important.  These outings integrated me into the world of men.

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