Faith and Inclusion

WeeklyMessageFather Phil Bloom
December 8, 2013
Second Sunday of Advent  
   
 Faith and Inclusion  

Message: Faith is a light and true faith reaches out to include others – not because of our shining goodness, but through baptism for the forgiveness of sins. 

For Advent this year I am doing a series of homilies on the Light of Faith. Last week we saw why it’s important to once again see that faith is a light. As Pope Francis pointed out, “once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim.” 

Now, I know that many people do not see it that way. They identify faith with exclusion, fanaticism and even violence. Those things are possible, but they are perversions of faith. 

True faith is always inclusive. We see in the Gospel that people came to John the Baptism from “all Judea” and “the whole region around the Jordan.” John received them all – not just the good Jewish people, but also tax collectors, prostitutes and even Roman soldiers. He knows they all have something in common: they need God and they need repentance. 

John brings people together around a common ritual; he baptizes them as they confess their sins. Jesus and the Church he founded continues that practice. Pope Francis states, “The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism.” And quoting Augustine, he makes a reference to infant baptism: “Parents are called not only to bring children into the world, but also to bring them to God, so that through baptism they can be reborn as children of God and receive the gift of faith.” 

Like John the Baptist, the Church invites everyone. We are like a body where every organ and every cell has its role. If we exclude anyone, we know that the whole body suffers. 

John, however, does have a hard word for one group – the Pharisees. He calls them a bundle of snakes – a “brood of vipers.” Why such strong language? Pope Francis gives the reason. They are people who “consider themselves justified before God on the basis of their own works. Such people, writes Pope Francis, “even when they obey the commandments and do good work are centered on themselves; they fail to realize that goodness comes from God.” And as the pope points out, “those who live this way, who want to be the source of their own righteousness, find that the latter is soon depleted and that they are unable to keep the law.” 

How often do we hear people brag about their good deed and who look down others, wind up doing the things they condemn in others? I’m sure you’ve noticed that when a person points his index finger at someone, he has three fingers pointed back at himself. 

When you and I let go of our false self-righteousness, something beautiful happens. We open ourselves to God’s forgiveness and realize that, with God’s grace, we can forgive others. In Lumen Fidei Pope Francis writes: “Forgiveness is possible once we discover that goodness is always prior to and more powerful than evil.” He adds that “forgiveness…demands time and effort, patience and commitment.” 

Faith makes possible forgiveness. It frees us from the cycle of accusation and self-justification. Now, I know there are people I will probably never like and there are people who make me burn inside when I remember what they did or said. Still, because of faith, I cannot resign myself to exclude even one human being. As Pope Francis says, “goodness is always prior to and more powerful than evil.” Thanks be to God for that. I have more own share. If I have received forgiveness by faith then by faith, I can exclude no person. 

Is this just a pipe dream? We will see that faith, like science, has a methodology – and that faith is a valid way to know truth. Not just a subjective, personal truth, but truth that can bring us together in genuine human community. I will not be giving my feeble opinions, but authentic Church teaching directly from Pope Francis – and from the Gospel itself. More next week. 

So, for today, what’s the message? Faith is a light and true faith reaches out to include others – not because of our shining goodness, but through baptism for the forgiveness of sins.* Amen.
http://stmaryvalleybloom.org/homilyfor-2advent-a.html

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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

Second Sunday of Advent
Matthew 3:1-12
Gospel Summary:

Today we hear once again the impatient voice of John the Baptist urging us to change so that we may be worthy to receive the Lord as he continues to come into our world. Crooked ways must be made straight; bad habits need to be corrected; conversion must continue. This message comes straight from God and that is why John proclaims it in the desert–a place that has always been associated with divine mystery and freedom. (See how this is portrayed in the relationship between Ahab and Elijah: 1 Kings 18:7ff). Human control has no place in the symbolic wilderness of divine freedom.
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First the Fast – Then the Feast  – 2nd Sunday in Advent
Christmas cards speak about it.  Christmas carols sing about it.  Even the angels at Bethlehem proclaimed it.  “Peace on earth.”  “The lion shall lie down with the lamb.” (Is 11).  “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever” (Ps 72). 

The coming of the Messiah obviously has something to do with the advent of peace.
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The Second Sunday of Advent: Put Off the Toiling and Let Love In
“I am not going to make it!  I am not going to make it!” muttered the lady in the supermarket the first week of Christmas. 

“It” probably referred to the massive preparation needed to provide her family with a beautiful Christmas.  There were gifts to buy, to wrap, and some to send.  There were meals to prepare and parties to attend.  There was the house.  It had to be immaculate.  Her husband’s mother would be visiting. Enough said.  Then the kids.  They seem to have more parties to attend and higher expectations made of them then adults.  And then there were Christmas cards.  How was she supposed to get all this done for Christmas?   “I’m not going to make it,” she muttered.
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The Poor in Spirit – The Witnesses to A New Advent
What is the secret of joy in these days of Advent? Even before apostolic action, the Holy Father’s latest teaching invites us to a deeper contemplation — a prayerful gaze that sees the poor from God’s perspective.

Pope Francis wants a Church that is “poor and for the poor.”  He believes the poor have much to teach us, that we need to be evangelized by them, and that they should be in the heart of the Church’s pilgrim way.
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Five Advent Tips
Advent makes us grateful to be Catholic: It is full of beautiful, ancient traditions unique to our faith — an ideal time to instill a yearning for Christ in our kids.

During Advent, we can experience with our children what it was like to be an Old Testament people, longing for a Savior.
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Three Reasons to Pray the Angelus this Advent
Farmers pause in their fields at midday and bow their heads in prayer. Businessmen and women overhear the ringing bells of nearby churches during their lunch break in the downtown business district. Neighbors to Catholic Churches hear the church bells toll thrice daily at six, noon, and six, as an invitation to pray the traditional devotion of the Angelus.
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History and Symbolism of the Advent Wreath
The lights of the candles on the Advent Wreath break through the darkness, reminding us of the Light of Christ that we anticipate during this holy season. Where did this tradition come from, of lighting four candles in an evergreen wreath to mark the weeks preceding Christmas?
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The Little Flowers of Pope Francis
There is a point to the popular mythology about Saint Francis of Assisi. Obviously, the emasculated bard of the 1972 film Brother Sun, Sister Moon is a mostly insipid caricature. Saint Francis of Assisi was much more than an animal-loving peacenik with an odd haircut.
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Many are called, but few are chosen
It is a gift to be chosen to partake of the divine revelation that God wishes to share with those He wants. Who are those who listen to the word of God and receive a special enlightenment while others don’t understand anything? It is a matter of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is likened to the wind – no one knows where it comes from and no one knows where it is going.
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Peter the Rock
Few texts have been the occasion for the spilling of more ink than Matthew 16:18-19:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven
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The Devil You Say?
Considering all the extravagant evil in the world, I have always found it remarkable that so many people do not believe in the existence of Satan and his fallen angels. Pope Leo XIII foresaw this, which is why he gave us the prayer to Saint Michael. In 1942 CS Lewis in The Screwtape Letters wrote what may be an epitaph for the age in which we live:
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Evil Isn’t Private (and Neither Is Good)
For infecting at least 46 people with hepatitis C, David Kwiatkowski was sentenced to 39 years in federal prison with no chance of parole.  Kwiatkowski was a hospital lab tech here in NH.  An alcoholic and narcotics addict, he routinely injected himself with powerful pain killers meant for patients.  He would then refill the syringes with saline solution, tainting them with the infection he carried, and send them off to be reused.
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The Human Person and Morality
Last time, we looked at our experience of beauty as a doorway into looking at God as the Good.  But, of course, there are other aspects of the Good that we experience as well.

Looking at the human person illustrates this, particularly because we are human beings, not just “impartial observers” looking at human beings. When we see this we begin to notice something besides our love of beauty: namely, morality. For we do with moral goods just what we do with all other goods: we presuppose some Ultimate Standard against which we measure moral acts and moral agents.
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Five Ways Catholics Can Make a Real Difference
Do we sometimes feel overwhelmed in the face of the relentless assault on the Church, our beliefs, and our families by the media and modern culture? Is it difficult to stand up for what we believe? Do we ever feel like we can’t make a difference? Many Catholics I encounter are struggling through daily battles to live out their faith and protect their loved ones…all in the midst of a very difficult eco­nomic climate. It would be easy to throw in the towel and give up or remain silent, but that is not an option for us. We are called to do more. We are called to be holy: “Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 39)
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10 Reasons Every Catholic Should Read Pope Francis’ New Document
If you didn’t know, Pope Francis issued a new document today. It is entitled “Evangelii Gaudium” which means “The Joy Of The Gospel” and it is about evangelization – sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. I am not exaggerating when I say I have read almost every modern Church document and many ancient ones too. But, this is my favorite papal document I have ever read! Why? See below.
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Pope venerates apostle’s relics, urges people focus on Christ
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis closed the Year of Faith by calling on people to keep Christ at the center of their lives, especially in times of trouble.

“When Jesus is at the center, light shines even the darkest moments of our lives; he gives us hope,” he said in his homily Nov. 24, the feast of Christ the King.
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Full Text of Benedict XVI’s Letter to Atheist
Exclusive to the Register, we publish below the first English translation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s letter to the militant Italian atheist, Piergiorgio Odifreddi.

In September, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica printed extracts of the letter whose full contents were published in Italian on Nov. 23 by the German-language agency Kath.net.

The Pope Emeritus sent the letter in response to a book Odifreddi wrote in 2011 entitled Dear Pope, I’m Writing to You. The work was a critique of certain arguments and lines of thought found in Benedict’s theological writings, beginning with his 1967 volume Introduction to Christianity, and including his book Jesus of Nazareth, which he wrote as pope.
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The Thrilling Tale of the “Great” Pope You’ve Never Heard Of
He hasn’t been officially canonized yet, but Pope Bl. John Paul II is already the most beloved pope of modern times, with his devotees increasingly referring to him as “John Paul the Great”. There’s a high school and a university with the name, as well as books and holy cards. There are even homilies from Cardinal Angelo Sodano and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington D.C. archived on the Vatican’s website that use the title.

The title is quite the honor and should not be taken lightly. Of the 266 men who have ruled from the throne of St. Peter, only three of them have “Great” attached to the end of their names. All three lived in the first millenium, and all three lived within just a few centuries of each other. That’s right: until John Paul II, no pope in the last 1100 years of the Church merited the high honor.
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Take Jesus to Work Because the Devil Will be There
What’s God got to do with business?  After all, not everyone even believes in him. So, why should God have a place in the workday?   A big reason is because the devil never calls in sick for work.  He is there every day.  He is present in the gossip around the water cooler.  He is a matchmaker for office affairs.  The devil likes to create momentum that makes one feel like there is no other way or no turning back.  He encourages lying, prideful ambition, greed, jealousy, stealing, and stifling a conscience. Cheating a boss out of work time, doctoring records, giving less than your best…are all in a day’s work for the devil.
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How did Lucifer Become Satan? (Thomas Aquinas answers)
The Sacred Scriptures teach that there good angels and bad angels. The bifurcation of angels into good angels (like Saint Michael) and bad angels (like Satan) is discussed by Saint Thomas at Summa theologiae I, qq. 63-64. Let’s take a look.
Following passages from the Old and New Testament, Saint Thomas teaches that the angels were tested. Some angels adhered to God and were rewarded with the beatific vision of God’s essence (good angels) and some rebelled and lost grace (bad angels or demons). According to Christian tradition, Satan was once a seraph and the highest angel of all.
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Pope Francis Announces the Year for Consecrated Life
Pope Francis, speaking this morning to Superiors of religious orders from around the world, announced that the coming year will be dedicated to Consecrated Life.

The occasion was the 82nd General Assembly of the Union of Superiors General, which is meeting in the Salesianum, a hotel and conference center in Rome, on November 27-29.  The Holy Father had been expected to speak for just a few minutes; instead, he chose to meet with the Superiors for three hours, engaging in a “long, colloquial and fraternal discussion…composed of questions and answers
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Vatican, Google team up to bring ancient Christian catacombs to light
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Early Christian burial sites are now easier to see, both in person and via the Internet, thanks to 21st-century technology and collaboration between Google and the Vatican.

“This is perhaps the sign of the joining of two extremes, remote antiquity and modernity,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi Nov. 19, at a news conference at the Catacombs of Priscilla in northeast Rome.
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