Faith is a Gift

WeeklyMessage Father Cusick
October 6, 2013
Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Hebrews 1, 2-3; 2, 2-4; Psalm 95, 1-2.6-7.8-9; 2 
Timothy 1,6-8.13-14; St. Luke 17, 5-10

The apostles implore the Lord Jesus to increase their 
faith. He makes clear that faith will grow for those who are generous with their time, talents and treasure for the sake of the Lord and the kingdom of heaven.
“Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to Timothy: ‘Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.’ (1 Tim 1:18-19.) To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;(Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5;22:32.) it must be ‘working through charity,’ abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.(Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26.)” (CCC 162)
Faith can be lost; it is a gift and thus can be refused. St. Paul uses a dramatic image, evoking a battle or disaster at sea by saying, “Some have made shipwreck of their faith.” He explains how: “By rejecting conscience.”
What do the Church and St. Paul mean when speaking of “conscience”?
“Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:
“Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. . . . [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ. (John Henry Cardinal Newman, Letter to the Duke of Norfolk)” (CCC 1778)
Conscience is given by God for man and woman’s dignity, created in the divine likeness.
“Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God: “We shall . . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 Jn 3:19-20)” (CCC 1781)
Some describe the witness of their conscience as the “feeling” of guilt. Rather than choosing to indulge in the uselessness of guilty “feelings” man and woman are invited instead to see the tugging o their conscience as “a pledge of hope and mercy”. Our merciful Father calls us to return to Him through the gift of conscience. How does one have an upright, or morally correct, conscience?
“Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.” (CCC 1783)
The ten commandments, as well as all the moral teachings of the Scriptures taught by the Church and codified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are some of the sources for properly informing one’s conscience. Learning right and wrong begins early in life but continues as long as one lives.
“The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.” (CCC 1784)
The fruits of a properly formed conscience are serenity and confidence as the faithful pursue a state of grace by living the virtues, seeking forgiveness in Confession when conscience accuses of grave sin, and looking forward in hope and joy to glory in the life of heaven without end.
(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph number 162.) Publish with permission.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
October 6, 2013

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: A Sacred, Open Heart
In the back of the church where we are members there is a statue of the sacred heart of Jesus that we pass on the way to take the kids to the bathroom (which seems to happen frequently, usually right in the middle of the homily).  My kids, who are four and two years old, seem oddly intrigued by it.  They almost always ask me, “Is that Jesus?”  One time I tried to explain how he was pointing at his heart because he had a lot of love and compassion for all people.  And I have memories, particularly from my very Catholic grandmother, of those cards or bookmarks with the image of the sacred heart of Jesus on them (like the one pictured here).

Mustard Seed Faith – Be Not Afraid!
We all admire the heroes of faith like St. Francis (feast day, October 4).  Absolutely nothing stopped him in his pursuit of God’s glory.  When, during the Crusades, he was captured by the Saracens, St. Francis challenged the imams to a duel to prove which was the true religion.  “Light a bonfire,” Francis reportedly said to the Sultan, “and have your imam enter the fire along with me.  Whoever emerges from the flames unhurt, his God is the true God.”  The Sultan thought it was a good idea.  His imam did not.  But from that moment on, the Sultan gave Francis and his friars safe passage passes to travel anywhere in Muslim territories unhindered so much was he moved by Francis’ faith.

27th Sunday: Respect Life
In today’s second reading, from the second Pastoral Epistle of Paul to Timothy, Timothy is told to “guard the trust.”  St. Paul says that Timothy needs to stir up into a flame the gift that he received through the imposition of hands, his ordination, and take as his norms the words he heard about the faith and love of the Lord.   

The passage is meant for more than the ordained.  It is pointed to the great gifts we have all received. We need to guard these gifts, guard the trust given to us.

The Simplest, Most Direct Argument for God’s Existence
William Lane Craig is one of the sharpest Christian apologists today, especially on questions about God’s existence, Jesus’ Resurrection, and objective morality. The Evangelical philosopher travels around the country giving workshops and lectures. He’s best known for his public debates with well-known atheists and skeptics. (You can watch many of them online through his excellent Reasonable Faith website.)

Why Are We So Afraid? To Be Afraid of Hell
As I’ve taught classes and given talks on the “New Evangelization,” I’ve been struck at how both Jesus and the apostles make a regular part of their message not only the positive proclamation of the Good News that Christ has, by his sacrifice, won redemption for the whole world, but also the terrible consequences of neglecting such an offer: namely, hell.

Fire Upon the Earth
by Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks the first words of his adult ministry not to his family or to his friends—but to his adversary, Satan, in the desert. He says,“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus begins his public ministry with these first words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Angels Are Our Invisible Friends
“Make friends with the angels, who, though invisible, are always with you. … Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs.” So encouraged St. Francis de Sales.

And as the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “The Church venerates the angels who help her on her earthly pilgrimage and protect every human being” (352).

How to Pray like Jesus
Monsignor Thomas Richter, who was the vocations director of the Diocese of Bismark for eleven years, became the pastor at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, ND in 2012 and is Chaplain of the Catholic Physicians Guild for the Diocese of Bismark, North Dakota, gave a talk once where he explained that praying like Jesus requires one thing: to desire for God to have his way in your life.

What Makes a Saint?
Q: Dear Father John, why does becoming a saint seem to make us less human? I don’t mean “less human” in that we cannot observe beauty, drink wine, listen to DeBussy, cry tears of joy or make love. What I mean is that if you take Mother Teresa as an example or even Pope Francis, it seems that it’s in the denial of their human needs (or in putting the needs of others first) that they are more Christ-like and more aligned with God. So, what I gather from this is that the more I am able to deny myself pleasure and provide it to another, the holier I will become. And that’s the paradox I don’t think I understand. Can you help me out?

A Mortal, Sinful Man
On July 16, 2011, during the funeral rites of Dr. Otto von Habsburg, the last heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, a curious ceremony took place for what will almost certainly be the last time.

Following the requiem Mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, his coffin was carted through the Innere Stadt, the historic old town, to the door of the Capuchin Church of Saint Mary of the Angels. There Ulrich-Walter Lipp, a family friend, used a staff to knock on the door three times.

A Defense of Indulgences
When I first heard about indulgences I was pretty skeptical; they can sound so cold, clear-cut and strangely precise in an imprecise world. Now that I understand the role of indulgences a bit more, I have become an avid indulgence collector. My fellow sisters tease me because I get really pumped up when I hear about available indulgences.

Analyzing the Seven Deadly Sins, Pt. 7: Pride
Pride was the downfall of Lucifer, and it is the downfall of man.  It is intimately linked with despair, which is chained to it like an anchor to the earth: in man’s satanic attempts to usurp God’s throne and place himself upon it, he has always fallen back down to the earth, “brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:15)

The Eighth Deadly Sin?
So far, I have covered a lot of ground in surveying the spiritual battlefield and the seven deadly sins that populate it.  In doing so, we have encountered the flashflood nature of lust, the maggots of envy that worm their way into the conscience, and the burning fires of wrath.  But there is another juggernaut that has not been touched, that dwarfs the other sins because it is their culmination, their ultimate end.  All these sins, in any conscience that is alive and aware, lead to it.  This is the sin of despair.

From whom demons withdraw in terror and pain
The world’s quicksand is shifting under our feet.  More than ever we need the help that God sends us through the loving help of our Guardian Angels.

Yes, there are angels.  Open your Bible and, within a few pages, you’ll find angels.

Seven Practical Steps to Draw Closer to the Lord
We live in difficult times as Catholics. Quite possibly it has always been this way. The culture sends messages to us that are very harmful to our spiritual life. If we have become blind to this truth, it is likely that we are pursuing success as defined by the secular world instead of pursuing the holiness God has called us to live.

Be Not Afraid, Be Not Mean
In my work with newly bereaved families (in perinatal death) and in my life experiences of suffering, I have seen a strange dynamic over and over and I finally was able to see this behavior repeated enough to learn something from it.

Most of us probably consider ourselves as “nice” most of the time and always to those who are suffering. I have seen, however, some seemingly “nice” people turn harsh (nearly punitive) to those who are suffering the worst. What would cause this?

Perhaps no more than 100 years ago or so, I would think that society – both secular and religious – would have been shocked to see the amount of satanic artwork, music, and posturing exhibited by so many nowadays.  One need only open their eyes and look around – the T-shirts covered in pentagrams and leering goats, blasphemous artwork mocking Christ, right on down to books in the humor section wantonly jeering and making light of the faith.

The Devil’s War on Silence
There are key strategies of indirect attack that the enemy of our souls uses to significantly disrupt our spiritual progress. One is the corruption of human sexuality. As the analogy of holy spousal love is one of the most effective in understanding divine intimacy, the enemy desires to corrupt human sexuality in order to further obscure what it means to understand the possibilities of union with God.

Christianity and the New Paganism
The most serious challenge for Christianity today isn’t one of the other great religions of the world, such as Islam or Buddhism.

Nor is it simple atheism, which has no depth, no mass appeal, no staying power. Rather, it’s a religion most of us think is dead. That religion is paganism—and it is very much alive.

How to Read the Bible– A Three Step Plan
How do you read the Bible? Today is the feast day of Saint Jerome, who once quipped, “Ignorance of  Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

It’s a running joke that if you want to find a Bible verse, you ought to ask a Protestant and not a Catholic. Protestants read the Bible. Catholics not so much.

This raises the question:

Pregnancy is a Gift, Not a Flaw
The Church’s stance on birth control is one of the most controversial issues of our day. Why should women be enslaved to pregnancy and child-rearing instead of pursuing something, anything else? Why should a woman’s right to contraception be taken off the table? Why is the HHS Mandate such a big deal? Does the Church just want all women to be oppressed, barefoot, and pregnant in the kitchen? These questions completely miss the point. Far from wanting to degrade women, the Church always wants to honor womanhood.

Some thoughts on Holy Trinity from physicist’s perspective
As a religious physicist, I have occasionally fielded questions from various people pertaining to my Faith and how I reconcile it with my understanding of physics.  One point that is often brought up is the apparently “illogical” nature of the Holy Trinity, which is of utmost importance to Orthodox Christians:  The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.   “How can three be one and yet be distinct at the same time?” I am often asked, and I never really had a good answer for that question.

Who was St. Francis of Assisi? 12 things to know and share
St. Francis is one of the most famous saints in Church history.

He’s so significant that the current pope—Pope Francis—chose to take his name.

October 4th is his memorial day.

But who was he, and what did he do?

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .

Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II to be Canonized Together on Mercy Sunday
The official announcement from the Holy See “decreed that Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II will be enrolled among the saints on April 27, 2014, the Second Sunday of Easter, of the Divine Mercy.” 

During a public consistory with his brother Bishops, Francis, often called the Pope of Mercy by the faithful, announced the expected news that Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II will be raised to sainthood, canonized, together. The confirmation of the date chosen is utterly fitting. The Canonizations will take place on the Sunday Feast of Divine Mercy, April 27, 2014.

Children as casualties of the sexual revolution
“In contemporary America,” says Anthony Esolen, “condemnation of pedophilia rests on sentiment and not on moral reasoning. Nobody can simultaneously explain why pedophilia is so vile and uphold the first commandment of the sexual revolution: Fulfill thy desires.”  Though society, at present, still condemns pedophilia, Dr. Esolen shows that the same principle is governing other fronts in the sexual revolution:  children’s well-being must be sacrificed to adult desire.

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