Bishop Cote’s Lenten Message 2014

WeeklyMessage Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, D.D.- Norwich Diocese
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
March 2, 2014

My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

As Jesus’ disciples, we begin our journey to Easter on Ash 
Wednesday. All who wish to live in a deeper union with  
Jesus are welcome on this journey to experience God’s 
mercy and to become instruments of His love. Through our fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and the Sacraments, we seek to renew our faith and our love. And so, we journey with Jesus through His passion and death to share in the new life of His Resurrection. Our journey’s destination is Easter. On that solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection from the dead, we will renew our Baptismal promises by renouncing sin and affirming our belief in God, and our desire to live as members of His family.

The days of Lent begin with Jesus’ call to turn away from sin and to embrace the Gospel. Often the route of our sinfulness is selfishness, pride, and greed. Sin is an obstacle to our union with the Lord and to our solidarity with others. Sin impoverishes us morally and spiritually and it deafens us to Jesus’ call to repent and to embrace the Gospel. We turn to the Church for the guidance that we need to live a meaningful and fruitful Lent. Pope Francis provides much valued help to living a good Lent.
In his Lenten pastoral, our Holy Father offers “helpful thoughts” for our conversion. His message is inspired by the words of St. Paul, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich, yet for our sake, He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:19).

Reflecting on this verse, the Holy Father writes,” God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is His love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved.” The Holy Father noted that St. Paul’s message encourages us to be generous in helping those persons in need.

Sacred Scripture teaches us that through Jesus’ poverty, “He emptied Himself to assume the condition of a slave and became as men are and becoming as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a Cross,” (Philippians 2:7-8). For in Jesus’ sacrifice we see our own need to give of ourselves without counting the cost. In imitation of Jesus, we are motivated by our fidelity to the Father’s Will. We respond to God’s eternal love by giving of ourselves. In short, we are to love others as God loves us – “a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved.”

Pope Francis’ words focus on the very heart of Jesus’ mission and his message helps us to see Christ more clearly. “In the poor and outcast, we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ.” The moral and spiritual poverty of our day leads to a culture of violence and death. The Lord’s way is love and His love brings about peace and it gives life. It is by Christ’s sacrifice that we are strengthened and become rich in His love. “It is His way of loving us, His way of being our neighbor…Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and loves its parents without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant.

The Holy Father calls us “to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it.” In our Diocesan Church we have several opportunities “to touch the poverty of our brothers and sisters” and to help make their lives better. How real the face of Christ is in the poverty and need of those fed in our diocesan soup kitchens and pantries in Norwich and in Middletown. We see Christ in those helped by our Diocesan Catholic Charities agency and globally we touch the poor through our support of Operation Rice Bowl and our Diocesan Outreach to Haiti. Our Diocesan Housing Initiative repurposes vacant or unused Diocesan buildings to help the (cont.) homeless, poor and elderly, and it creates housing to help those with no place to live.

While a labor of love, the personal price of feeding, clothing, sheltering, and helping the impoverished is our commitment, dedication, our energies, and zeal. We spend ourselves in imitation of Christ. It is our way of life. The steps we take to alleviate moral or physical poverty require sacrifice and prayer, self-denial and almsgiving, the Sacraments and penitential practices. The Holy Father writes, “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.” In short, we need Lent!

This Lent, open your hearts to the Father’s love. To see Christ in our brothers and sisters, to alleviate their poverty and need, we must be freed from the slavery of sin by turning to the Lord and receiving the warm embrace of His merciful love in the Sacrament of Penance. Our parish churches are once again open in welcome to you to experience the renewing and refreshing graces of our Sacrament of Penance. The Light is on for you! In our parishes, special times will be available so that you can celebrate the Sacrament of Penance. In that Sacrament, you will receive the richness of God’s grace and you are cleansed of sin. In experiencing the mercy of God by the forgiveness of our sins, we breathe the refreshing air of new life and know the beauty of the gift of God’s love.

With our Holy Father, I pray that the journey we begin on Ash Wednesday will be fruitful for the Church, for those in need of our love and our help, and for each of us. May this Lenten journey strengthen us to walk with Jesus in the newness of life as we renew our birth by water and the Holy Spirit at our Baptism!

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
March 2, 2014

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 6:24-34
Gospel Summary

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26). There is something wonderfully reassuring about these words of Jesus. He knows how much our sense of security and satisfaction too often depend solely upon the fragile support of human effort alone. He wants us to realize that the only trustworthy support is God’s love for us.

Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Treasure Today
The first reading for today as well as today’s Gospel contain some of the most comforting words in Sacred Scripture.  The first reading is taken from the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, often referred to as Second Isaiah.  This section of Isaiah was written while the people of Judah were exiled in Babylon in the sixth century before Christ.  They were forced into a slavery.  They had no visible means of escaping.   They knew that they were being punished for their sins.  But they feared that God had forgotten them.  The prophet tells them, “Zion said ‘The Lord has forsaken me; the Lord has forgotten me.  But can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Even if she should forget, I will never forget you,’ says the Lord.”

God and Mammon?
In the ancient world, most peoples believed in a universe that had many gods.  But even without the help of biblical revelation, Greek philosophers figured something out.  There could only be one Supreme Being, only one almighty and omnipotent Ruler of all, only one God.

In the twelfth chapter of Luke, Jesus asks a question.  Whom do you serve? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or that god called “mammon.”  You can only have one God.

Advice from the Lord in overcoming anxiety. A sermon for the 8th Sunday of the Year
When we read today’s Gospel we must be careful not to misinterpret its basic vision.  Jesus is not telling us what to do, but offering us something to receive.  The wrong way to interpret this gospel is to simply hear Jesus say, “Stop worrying.”  We all get this advice from people every day and it isn’t very helpful.  This is not what Jesus is saying.  For, remember, in the Sermon of the Mount which we are reading, Jesus is describing what a transformed human person is like.  And what he is teaching us here is that, as He begins to live his life in us many of our anxieties will diminish and go away.

God Alone Suffices
“Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied” (John 14:8). God alone suffices, and all we need to possess him is to see him, because in seeing him, we see all his good­ness, as he himself explained to Moses: “I will make all my goodness pass before you” (Ex. 33:19). We see all that attracts our love, and we love him beyond all limits. Let us join St. Philip in saying with all our heart, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” He alone can fill all our emptiness, satisfy all our needs, content us, and make us happy.

Pope Benedict: Francis’ Secret Weapon
History was made again on the weekend when two popes appeared together at Pope Francis’ first consistory. With the first Pope from the Americas creating an unprecedented number of cardinals hailing from the developing world, we are seeing the continued shift in the Catholic Church away from the old world and towards the new world.

What the Pope Said –and Didn’t Say – About Skipping Mass
Almost since the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis — in his words and in his gestures — often has been misinterpreted by the media. Frequently, his statements have been truncated to sound bites and recast out of context; at other times his simple and humble personal style has been propped up as a sign he is distancing himself from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, a humble pope in his own right who has often been portrayed as pompously embracing the princely regalia of his office. Whether these interpretations — coming from secular and sometimes even religious journalists — are driven by ignorance or personal agenda, their net effect is to create a broad public perception at odds with the authentic Pope Francis.

Give Thanks After Each Mass
As in the lives of all of the saints, the center and heart of the life of St. Philip Neri was Jesus present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Neri, known for his joy, love for the youth, and fervor in prayer found his strength in Holy Mass.

The joyful saint observed something that disturbed him at the very end of Mass. He noticed a man would rush out of Mass before the final blessing. This greatly bothered Neri. After noticing this man scamper out of Mass, before it was concluded another time, the saint had a plan prepared for the following day.

From ‘Cafeteria Catholicism’ to the Banquet
The phrase “cafeteria Catholic” refers to a baptized Catholic who doesn’t embrace everything the Church teaches—someone who picks and chooses, a la carte (hence “cafeteria”), from among the Church’s moral rules, rubrics, and spiritual norms.

Many “cafeteria Catholics” are the product of bad catechesis. They disobey certain Church teachings because they’re simply not aware of them. Others reject difficult rules because they’ve never heard them presented in a coherent, persuasive way, seeing them more as restrictive than keys to flourishing.

Holiness Overcomes Hate
Leviticus! The Lectionary avoids Leviticus like the plague. This reading from Leviticus is one of only two in the whole 3-year lectionary cycle for Sundays. Most Bible readers avoid Leviticus too. Who wants to read about how ancient animal sacrifices were supposed to be conducted or how the Israelites dealt with lepers? Yet Leviticus has at its core a powerful focus on loving, covenant faithfulness, on clinging close to the Lord even in the most mundane of our daily tasks.

The Problem of A Stubborn and Unrepentant Heart
Jesus once rebuked the people of his time for their stubborn and unrepentant hearts:

This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.” Luke 11:29-32

Slaying Your Goliath
We all have a Goliath in our lives.  Unlike the biblical story of David and Goliath, ours certainly isn’t the gigantic Philistine with heavy armor that David took out with one stone.  Our Goliath more likely comes in the form of those “big” problems in our lives which seem impossible to overcome.  Our Goliath may be the grip of an addiction, a paralyzing fear, financial hardship, chronic regret or resentment, or an ongoing sin or habit.  At its essence, our Goliath is something that draws us away from God and keeps us from experiencing the peace and joy he wants us to experience in our lives.

The Mother of All Virtues
Prudence is the “mother of all virtues,” the virtue from which all cardinal virtues flow. Without the ability to make good decisions and actions, no other virtue can be practiced. To practice prudence, however, you must seek God, seek the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. In his classic book, The Four Cardinal Virtues, Josef Pieper identified four mechanisms for practicing prudence: 1) deliberation, 2) judgment, 3) decision, and 4) action. That sounds dry until you pour life into it.

Prudence healed my relationship with my oldest daughter.

The Saints & Depression
Depression can often have a physiological aspect, which means that an examination by a physician will frequently be a good starting point in addressing the situation and any underlying problems. Severe, ongoing depression isn’t something we should become resigned to or attempt to cope with alone; professional assistance should generally be obtained, usually after a doctor has ruled out a physical or chemical cause.

But almost everyone suffers from a mild form of depression from time to time, and in such situations, the experiences of some of the saints may be able to help and encourage us.

The Subtleties of Satan
Are demons and angels real?

There are an increasing numbers of new stories about exorcism and the reality of the demonic. I wrote recently on how the demonic may be manifested in many ways other than the obviously shocking stuff of the exorcism movies. The Devil in Ordinary told the story of a guy I met who was outwardly normal, but there was another quality to him which lurked beneath the surface which seemed diabolical.

Demonic Obsession
There are at least three ways that evil spirits can influence human beings: demonic obsession, oppression, or possession. (I say “at least” because I just now found this interview with Fr. Gabriele Amorth where he lists six.) While demonic obsession has a technical definition, I’m curious whether I could be characterized as having an obsession in the more colloquial sense.

Vatican Theologians Approve New Paul VI Miracle
VATICAN CITY — The consulting theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Pope Paul VI, moving him one more step closer toward canonized sainthood.

Vatican Insider’s Andrea Tornielli reported Feb. 21 that, earlier that week, the congregation’s theological experts had unanimously recognized the healing of an unborn child through the intercession of the late pope.

Why We Love the Saints
Having the family background that I do (I am the only one in my family of origin that is still Catholic—everyone else now worships at the local Assembly of God) I have been asked, “Why do Catholics pray to and worship saints?” I have been told that it is idolatry and it takes away from Jesus’ role as the “one mediator between God and mankind” (1 Tim. 2:15).  So, this let us look at saints and their powerful witness and intercession. I have also been asked, “Why don’t you just pray directly to God?”

How Do the Two Become One?
How is it possible that two different people with totally separate upbringings, opposite temperaments, and opposing personalities can come together to live under one roof in peace and harmony until death do them part?

By participating and cooperating with the grace that flows from the Sacrament of Marriage. God created marriage as a sign of His love for us here on earth and to point us to the infinite bliss of the next life, and it’s only in keeping this perspective continually in mind will couples discover the joy that they’re seeking.

Teaching Kids The 5 Steps To A Good Confession
We are preparing for the Sacrament of First Reconciliation at home this year, and it’s coming up for Lydia very soon! I made a printable set of the “5 Steps To A Good Confession” as from the First Communion Catechism. You can tape the signs onto your actual steps at home (or anywhere else) for your kids to see and memorize in the weeks leading up to their First Penance.

We have had these on our stairs leading to our playroom for about a week now, and Lydia told me yesterday “Mommy, I almost have these completely memorized because I read them every time I go up the stairs!”. This made my heart so happy. Hooray for passive teaching!

‘The Passion of the Christ,’ a Decade Later
When the movie The Passion of the Christ debuted in theaters 10 years ago, on Feb. 25, 2004, it was described by many as a cultural phenomenon. Millions liked the film as a whole; others were offended by it.

It was the highest-grossing R-rated film (so rated because of its graphic depictions of the cruelties inflicted on Jesus) in the United States, grossing in excess of $600 million during its theatrical release. Because only the biblical languages of Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin were used, it also became the highest grossing non-English language film of all time.

Was the Star of Bethlehem a myth? A UFO? Or something else? 8 things to know and share
The Star of Bethlehem is endlessly fascinating. All kinds of theories about what it was have been proposed.

Based on the way Matthew describes it, some have thought it was a supernatural manifestation that led the magi around.

Some have even suggested it was a flying saucer.

Some have said it was a myth and never really existed.

All of these views are based on the idea that the star didn’t move the way a normal star would.

Is this correct? 

Here are 8 things to know and share . . .

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