Seeking God’s Counsel

WeeklyMessage

 

Fr. Phil Bloom
September 8, 2013
Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Seeking God’s Counsel

Message: I invite you to join me in seeking the counsel of God.

This Sunday I would like to introduce a series of homilies on seeking God’s counsel. We are at the beginning of a new school year – and in our parish we are continuing a two-year study of the Bible in our Generations of Faith.

The reading from the Book of Wisdom helps to understand why it is important for us to know the Bible. It begins by underscoring the limitations of human knowledge.

First, we have only a limited understanding of our natural world. “Scarce do we guess the things on earth,” says Wisdom. Who imagined that North Dakota would become our oil capital!?* And what about the material world itself? When I was in high school it seemed fairly simply. We learned that everything was made of atoms – each one had a nucleus with electrons circling it like planets going around the sun. Today students learn about quarks (six “flavors”), leptons (also six “flavor”), glutons (eight) and, of course, the Higgs boson. And if that’s not enough, some physicists speculate that the whole universe is made up of some kind of string. The more scientists discover about the material world the more mysterious it seems. Scarce do we guess the things on earth.

The make-up of the material world is mysterious. So is personal experience. Even those things “within our grasp we find with difficulty.” I’m sure you have had the experience of being with a family when one member starts describing some significant past event. Another member jumps in and says, “No, that’s not the way it happened.” Even things close to us we know only with difficulty.

So the author of Wisdom says that if we cannot know the precise nature of visible things or even of events we have personally experienced, how can we to understand the invisible, divine wisdom – what he calls the “counsel of God.” Like you, I often wonder about suffering, disease and death. Why does one person die young, while someone else lives an extended life? It does not make sense that some suffer terribly while others seems to get off easy.

The Book of Wisdom asks those questions, but it does not sink into skepticism or despair. If you read the entire book, you will see that it give a surprise answer: Although our lives seem like an unsolvable puzzle, a mystery we can never understand, still we can know something of the God’s counsel, of his design. Not by our own intelligence, but because he has chosen to freely reveal something of himself to us. If you read the whole Book of Wisdom, you will see that it offers an extended reflection on God’s revelation and how it applies to us.

I would like to do something similar in the coming weeks. Obviously, I cannot offer something as in-depth as the Book of Wisdom, but I would like propose a simple way of understanding God’s counsel, his revelation to us. It is called the “Geography of Faith.” I learned it from a fine bishop – Bishop Liam Cary. He is bishop of Eastern Oregon. With such a huge territory, he travels a lot and uses that time to pray, learn from CD’s and prepare his mind to give retreats and sermons. He has developed a beautiful way of understanding the Bible and how it applies to our lives. He calls it the Geography of Faith.**

It happens that next Sunday’s first reading mentions the three basic countries (or places) in that geography. When you hear it, you will be able to figure where you currently live: what country or place you dwell. You may want to travel to a better place. The Geography of Faith can help you find it. What I will explain next week will relate most directly to young people – but all of us will benefit. I encourage you to return next Sunday to learn more. Don’t miss it.

So, for this Sunday we have Wisdom describe the limitation of human understanding. And the great question: Who can know the counsel of God? Who can conceive what the Lord intends? The answer is that we can only know what he chooses to reveal to us. I invite you to join me in seeking the counsel of God. We will do that by exploring the Geography of Faith. As today’s Psalm says, “Teach us…that we may gain wisdom of heart.” Amen.

************

*As of February, the state had 8,500 wells and was producing about 779,000 barrels of oil per day. With the current technology, each well is expected to produce for about 30 years, and each one will produce about 550,000 barrels of oil. http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/04/north-dakota-oil-facts/

**To fellow homilists: Unless you had a similar conversation with Bishop Cary or attended one of his retreats, you will want to say something acknowledging, “Bishop Liam Cary has developed the concept of a Geography of Faith.” You can find videos of his retreat at Youtube by searching for “Bishop Liam Cary Geography of Faith.” Here is the link for the first video of seven. Well worth watching.
http://stmaryvalleybloom.org/homilyfor-23sunday-c.html

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 8, 2013

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 14:25-33
Gospel Summary
  
Luke was a native of the ancient city of Antioch in Syria. This was a major trading center where the inhabitants represented extremes of wealth and poverty–something that was unusual in Israel. The cold-hearted philosophy of power experienced by Luke in Antioch caused him to be overwhelmed by the contrasting tenderness of the all-powerful God of Israel. Hence his wonderful gospel stories about the mercy of God, e.g. the parable of the prodigal son.
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Universal Call to Holiness
When I was a kid, I got the distinct impression there existed a two-track system in Catholicism.  Some really decided to go for it.  They became priests, nuns, and brothers because they “had a vocation.”  They “gave up” lots of things.  Like marriage, family, success in business, and lots of creature-comforts.

The rest of us, however, don’t “have a vocation” and therefore don’t really need to run for the gold.  It is enough to just finish the race.  We don’t have to deprive ourselves of what most people have.  We can get married, have kids, climb the corporate ladder, acquire a vacation home and buy a boat.  We just need to go to Mass on Sunday, avoid breaking the Ten Commandments, get to confession when we fail, and basically be decent people.
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23rd Sunday: Free to Love
A slave is returned to his Master, still a slave in the Roman society, but now free to be a brother in Christ.  In the second reading for today, from Paul shortest letter, a note to a wealthy Christian named Philemon, Paul sends Philemon’s escaped slave back to his master.  The slave, who is named Onesimus, had become a Christian in Rome while Paul was being held under a sort of house arrest.  He revealed to Paul that he had escaped from Philemon’s service.  He may even have stolen something from his master, we can’t be sure of this.  Paul asks Philemon to take Onesimus back, but not just as an escaped slave but as a fellow Christian.  Being a Christian was and is infinitely more important than social status, even if that status is slavery.  It is not that St. Paul is endorsing slavery.  He is simply noting that something is more important than whether one is a slave or not.  And that something, or better Someone, is Jesus Christ.
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The Miracles We Seek
One of the basic instincts of human nature is to seek signs that validate what we know or believe to be true.

It’s why young lovers seal their engagement with a ring, why couples that have been married for decades still give each other anniversary gifts, and why children still look forward to birthday cards from their grandparents—all are tokens, or signs, of affection from people who we know love and care for us.
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Let’s Hear It for St. Augustine: A Theologian for Our Times
Who is your favorite saint? Mine is St. Augustine (Hippo), whose feast day was last Wednesday, August the 28th.

Rather than giving his biography and conversion story (which most of you reading this blog would already know), I thought it would be worthwhile to demonstrate how relevant for us today are his words, particularly those dealing with the philosophy and theology of Creation.
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Can you go to hell for the “flimsiest of reasons”?
On the August 27, 2013 Coast to Coast radio show George Noory interviewed Catholic historian  Charles Coulombe on a variety of topics during the last three hours of the show. Coulombe was consistently excellent, had his facts about Church teaching straight, expressed himself succinctly and charitably, and very well-represented the Church to members of an audience that might not otherwise ever hear an accurate portrayal of Church matters.

After listening to the entirety of the interview, I only wished he would have expounded more on one issue. The issue was raised by a caller, Ray in Niles, OH, who asked the following (emphasis mine):
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A New Kind of Priest
When the priest is ordained he is told: “imitate what you handle.” The reference, of course, is to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus Christ is THE Priest. Priests simply participate in his priesthood. What would we get if we consider the priesthood starting with Jesus Christ and dropping the cultural baggage?
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What Every Catholic Should Know About Purgatory
One of the most misunderstood teachings of the Church, and maybe one that is least reflected on, is the teaching on purgatory. To understand and embrace this teaching does not require deep, exhausting theological study. A short and simple explanation of its meaning should wash away the distortions that cause so many people to doubt or neglect it.
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10 Quotes about the Rosary
I really love everything about the Rosary. It is quite refreshing to read what other giants of the Holy Catholic Faith have to say about this priceless devotion.
Quote #1

“The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.” Pope Saint Pius X

Quote #2

“Go to the Madonna. Love her! Always say the Rosary. Say it well. Say it as often as you can! Be souls of prayer. Never tire of praying, it is what is essential. Prayer shakes the Heart of God, it obtains necessary graces!” St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
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Should We Burden Priests with Our Sins?
In last week’s post, Ten Reasons You Should Get to Confession This Weekend, one commenter expressed some doubts about burdening priests with frequent confession.

“You might want to give the priests a break,” she said.  “Instead of dumping your ‘sins’ on them, why don’t you offer them some comfort?”
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Who’s in authority here?
All the beliefs that divide Catholics from fundamentalists are derived from the teaching authority of the Church.

Because Catholics believe in the Church, they believe a fuller, more complex and mysterious set of things than the narrowed down fundamentalist. Thus, the Church is the essential point of divergence.
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Three Traps Set by Satan Against Goodness
Saint John Climacus, also known John Scholasticus, John Sinaites, and John of the Ladder, was a 7th-century monk who lived on Mount Sinai. He is famous for his classical writing The Ladder of Divine Ascent or simply the “Climax”. The Ladder is an ascetical treatise on how to reach a state of “feelinglessness” vital to the monastic life. While many things in the book are not immediately practical and need to be greatly adjusted to the modern life, his reflections on the nature of temptation to help us become more aware of the snares of our terrible Enemy.

Here are the 3 traps set by Satan against goodness, according to St. John Climacus.
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Is Pre-Marital Sex Always Wrong?
Q – Is pre-marital sex always wrong (a sin)?

A – It seems like a simple enough question – is pre-marital sex always a sin? The answers to that question given by Catholics might shock you. Here is a snip from an article on these results from Msgr. Charles Pope:
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For the Pause That Refreshes: Thoughts of the Desert Fathers on Living In Harmony
A few days ago, I shared some brief thoughts on God by St. Augustine and a lesser know Dominican named Luis de Granada. Short passages they may have been, but they were formulated from swimming in deep waters. The same can be said of the thoughts of the hermits who fled to the deserts of Egypt around the time the Church ceased to be persecuted.
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Dr. Peter Kreeft on the Need for Sacraments
Four elements stand out in the traditional Catholic doctrine of what a sacrament is. Fundamentalism is suspicious of all four. A sacrament is “a sign that effects what it signifies, instituted by Christ to give grace.”

1. Sacraments are signs and symbols. Fundamentalism is temperamentally wary of symbolism. It has a plain, “no-nonsense” mentality. Symbols are too poetic for its hardheaded mind to grasp, whether in Scripture or in sacrament.
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What is a novena and why do Catholics pray them?
Dear Sister Benedicta Marie,

What is a novena? Where did they come from and why do we pray them?

Dear Friend, Novena comes from the Latin Language and means nine. As used by Catholics this means a series of nine prayers. Usually the series refers to a prayer or devotion offered on nine consecutive days, but the series could be a series of devotions for nine consecutive weeks, or months, or – Mother Teresa’s so-called ‘emergency novena’ or ‘express novena’ consisted of reciting nine consecutive Memorares!
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Overestimating Me
When you live a life where you try to stay as connected to your Creator as this broken world and your sinful ways allow, you change your perspective on the big picture and the details.  He has control over all of it.  He can guide your path, deal with the obstacles on the way and every pebble upon which you may trip.  Living in faith is not something I do perfectly.  Mother Teresa, she was pretty close.  The Blessed Mother had it down.
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Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven
Earlier this summer, San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh had a group of boys running plays and catching passes. It sounds like an ordinary football camp drill, although it was anything but. Harbaugh was in Piura, Peru, to teach the local youth about American football — and to build bamboo houses, deliver food packages, visit prisoners and much more.
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The Conversion of Souls: Never Give Up!
At a recent Catholic conference I attended, one of the guest speakers asked those present if they had a family member who had either lapsed from the Catholic faith or if they had family members who never had it to begin with.   Out of the more than 700 attendees, nearly every hand in the audience went up.  Not surprising since it is estimated that upwards twenty million Americans consider themselves to be lapsed Catholics.  More than likely, we all know of someone within each of our families who simply no longer practice the faith or who have not yet come to know Jesus.  Yet despite this, Jesus wants each person to receive salvation.   We know through the Gospels that Jesus continually interceded for others throughout his ministry – including the sick, the possessed, and even his Apostles. Following Jesus’ example, we know that God the Father also wants us to intercede for the conversion of others.
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Six Tips To Help YouEvangelize Lapsed Catholics
We talk a lot about technology in the New Evangelization, and rightly so:

“The commemoration of this half millennium of evangelization will have full significance if, as bishops, with your priests and faithful, you accept it as your commitment; a commitment not of re-evangelization, but rather of a new evangelization; new in its ardour, methods and expression.”  (The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, 5.)

The new methods in our time definitely include technology.
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22 Biblical Words for Sin and What They Teach Us
There are about two dozen words for sin in the Bible, depending on how you count. Each underscores a different aspect of sin—sin as wandering away from the straight path, sin as rebellion, and sin as a distortion of our nature, to name a few. We ought to contemplate these words—not to wallow in despair—but in order that we might be especially on guard for the many ways in which it is possible for us to stray from God and the good life He intends for us.
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The Coen Brothers and the Voice from the Whirlwind
In the course of my ministry as a teacher, lecturer, and retreat master, I hear, perhaps more than any other question, the following: “how do I know what God wants?” Put in more formal theological language, this is the question concerning the discernment of God’s will. Many people who pose it tell me that they envy the Biblical heroes—Moses, Jeremiah, Jacob, David, etc.—who seem to have received direct and unambiguous communication from God. I usually remind them that even those great Scriptural figures wrestled mightily with the same issue. And then typically I draw their attention to Job, the person in the biblical tradition who anguished most painfully over the matter of discerning what in the world God is doing.
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How to Expel Evil
In the first reading, St. Paul reminds us Christians to be watchful for the coming of the Lord. Since we are sons of light, we must stay awake and sober. A Christian knows that he is called to live always in the presence of God who sees all things at all times. God is his invisible master who expects him to be a light to others, to live a prayerful life and to do good works. St. Gregory the Great, pope and doctor of the Church, was always aware that his every action must be directed to guiding or edifying others. With the weak and sinful, he was patient; with the strong, he was encouraging and supportive. With the barbarians threatening to invade Rome, he was brave and fearless..
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