Pastoral Sharings: "Seventh Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley 
Seventh Sunday of Easter – B Cycle – John 17:11-19
Posted for May 17, 2015  


The nineteen year old body of a young man was found at 
the bottom of a well along with a ritually slaughtered cat. 
Three teens, each 17, were arrested for his murder. The 
19 year old had fifty head wounds. One of the boy’s attorneys was quoted, “They thought they somehow would be rewarded by Satan.” The Devil may be out of fashion as someone has quipped, but he is certainly not out of business. Yet, many adults tell me they do not believe in the Devil. But, unknown to them, many of their teens do. They accept the Christ’s admonition about the Evil One in today’s Gospel literally.  

Some of my material comes from an article by Lisa Ryckman, a national writer for the Associated Press. The headline of her story is titled “Murder, Suicide Among Teens Caught In World of Satanism.” Ms Ryckman begins her illuminating article with a quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. “The mind is its own place, and in itself makes a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” Many teens are guilty of mayhem and criminal activity because they have been influenced by Satanism. At times, this belief is accompanied by hard drugs, equally hard rock, and a potpourri of mysterious rites and signs. “Three years ago, nobody wanted to hear (about Satanism),… nobody believed it was real.” The speaker is Detective Sandi Gallant of the San Francisco Police Department. Gallant averages four calls daily from across the US on crimes accompanied by the satanic or the occult.  

“Now I see skeptics tuning into it, looking to see that it is a reality and facing it head-on.” Take one youngster whom Ryckman refers to. He was 14 years old. He attended parochial school. He struck almost everyone as the all American boy. That view ceased abruptly when he stabbed his mother twelve times with his Boy Scout knife. He burned his books on Satanism in the family living room. He then killed himself. His teachers had warned his parents that the boy apparently was dabbling in Satanic ceremonies. After the fact, his distraught father recalled his son had told a friend he had seen Satan.  

The Evil One had urged him, the 14 year old reported, to murder his family and tell others about his existence. Ryckman writes that the Cult Awareness Network in Chicago reports that no month goes by without their being informed of at least one crime associated in some form with Satan. One could go on. There is an abundance of material on this dark subject. I think, however, you get the picture. Surely then, the Evil One deserves a second look. There are five references to the Evil One in the New Testament. In the Old and New Testaments, there are sixty-nine different references to the Devil while Satan is referred to forty-four times. My adding machine tells me that makes one hundred eighteen pointings to the existence of the Devil.  

Do you not get the feeling that God is telling us something? Some people are willing to drop the D off Devil and concede there is evil in the world. But that tells us nothing about its primary source. With such a position, we do the Devil a service and ourselves a disservice. Satan should be under spotlights for everyone to see him and then do a quick about face. Dante in his Inferno did not underestimate him. He called him “a liar and the father of lies.” The poet JB Tabb wrote, “In all God’s universe there is one, and only one, creature whom we know positively to be damned. And that creature is the Devil. But remember though the Devil is damned, he is no damn fool.” At times the wily Devil hides himself deeply in what Thomas Richstatter calls the “ism” family. The list is long: alcoholism, consumerism, narcissism, nationalism, racism, and sexism.  

A none too deep examination of conscience will unhappily reveal that each one of us has been caught by one or more of these “isms.” It behooves us to shake the Devil off in his “ism” masquerade. As long as we breathe, we live with the Evil One. A cursory reading of the daily mayhem in even a third rate newspaper will confirm this. But we have one powerful weapon. It was outlined by CS Lewis. Each time we attend the Liturgy, we conduct a secret underground meeting. We get ourselves into shape for our next encounter with the Devil. Armed with the Eucharist, we are better able to be members of Christ’s Resistance. We are better able to make our global village prepared for Christ and His Parousia.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
May 17, 2015

The Ascension of the Lord: Taking On the Snakes and Poisons of the World
“These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18 

The Apparition of St. Michael the Archangel
IT is manifest, from the Holy Scriptures, that God is pleased to make frequent use of the ministry of the heavenly spirits in the dispensations of His providence in this world, and especially towards man. Hence the name of Angel (which is not properly a denomination of nature, but office) has been appropriated to them. The angels are all pure spirits; they are, by a property of their nature, immortal, as every spirit is. They have the power of moving or conveying themselves from place to place, and such is their activity that it is not easy for us to conceive it.

Teresa of Avila Reminds Us: “Our Trials Last But a Moment”
“Life is short, our trials last for but a moment…”

Have you ever wondered what the saints were really like? The purpose of the newest book in the Navigating the Interior Life book series, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, is to reveal the unique personality, wisdom, and insight that often emerges out of the letters of the saints. These letters are a window into Saint Teresa’s genuine humanity, witness, and pragmatic advice for pursuing an intimate friendship with God.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace
Throughout more than thirty years with degenerative multiple sclerosis there have been horrible times with the disease that dragged me to deep levels of sickness I did not think were possible. The terrors often came in the darkest nights when exhaustion was at its greatest and I was at the end of my tether emotionally and physically. I would cry out to God while fumbling in the dark for my rosary beside my bed.

God will judge people on care for the poor, for the planet, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The powerful of the earth will face God’s judgment and will be asked to account for how they cared for the poor and how they cared for the environment so that it could produce food for all, Pope Francis said.

“The planet has enough food for all, but it seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it with everyone,” Pope Francis said May 12 during his homily at a Mass opening the general assembly of Caritas Internationalis.

Why the Church Distinguishes Between Mortal and Venial Sin, Part I
Many supposed “theological differences” between Catholics and Evangelicals are, I think, founded in semantics rather than in substantial disagreement.

For example, when I was an Evangelical one of the periodic arguments I ran across against Catholic moral theology was that the concept of mortal and venial sin is unbiblical. Sin is sin, say Evangelicals, and there’s no good in trying to make out some sins as “minor.” To us Evangelicals such nice distinctions smelled a great deal like rationalization and looked like an escape clause from the commandment “Be holy, for I, the Lord, am Holy.”

Why the Church Distinguishes Between Mortal and Venial Sin, Part II
Last time, in this space, we were looking at the question of mortal and venial sin and trying to understand how St. James  remark that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (Jas 2:10). Perhaps a useful analogy would be to say rather “Injury is injury, but there’s injury and there’s injury.” Sin is fundamentally injurious. But it is tricky because it fools us into imagining some of the injuries we inflict on ourselves and others are “fun” (like lust) and some are “bad” (like murder). We console ourselves that as long as we don’t commit the “bad” sin, it’s okay to dabble with the “fun” ones.

How to Go to Heaven
Sometimes people make it sound like the Catholic understanding of how to get to heaven is really complex.

It’s not.

While you can go into any of Christ’s teachings in a lot of very rich detail, he made sure that this one can be understood even by a child.

I can summarize it in two sentences.

Fatima’s Vision of Hell
It is sobering to remember that the visions of Fatima are not just the wishful thinking of three peasant children or the fanciful imaginations of ignorant children.

The visions have been approved by the Church, validated by five popes and given credence by millions.

Therefore we ought to take them seriously.

Well Said: The Holy Spirit Bothers Us
“To put it simply: the Holy Spirit bothers us. Because he moves us, he makes us walk, he pushes the Church to go forward. And we are like Peter at the Transfiguration: ‘Ah, how wonderful it is to be here like this, all together!’ … But don’t bother us. We want the Holy Spirit to doze off … we want to domesticate the Holy Spirit. And that’s no good. because he is God, he is that wind which comes and goes and you don’t know where. He is the power of God, he is the one who gives us consolation and strength to move forward. But: to move forward! And this bothers us. It’s so much nicer to be comfortable.” 

Pope Francis, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday

Well Said: What is certain in life and death
If anyone should ask: What is certain in life and death — so certain that everything else may be anchored in it? Life teaches us that this is the only true reply. Not people — not not even the best and dearest; not science, or philosophy, or art or any other product of human genius. Also not nature, which is so full of profound deception …  The answer is: The love of Christ. … Only through Christ do we know that God’s love is forgiving. Certain is only that which manifested itself on the cross. The heart of Jesus Christ is the beginning and end of all things.

Romano Guardini, The Lord

From the Pious Puppy Dog…
…Good Lord Deliver Us

I hope you will excuse me from venting, but has anybody else noticed the rise of what I call “the pious puppy dog”?

The pious puppy dog is the kind of Christian who seems to be nothing but fluffy sweetness and light and happiness and goodness all the time. 24-7.

He always has a kind of sweetly sad expression on his face.

Why I’m Catholic: Sola Scriptura isn’t Historical, Part I
“History is not a creed or a catechism, it gives lessons rather than rules; still no one can mistake its general teaching in this matter, whether he accept it or stumble at it.  Bold outlines and broad masses of color rise out of the records of the past. They may be dim, they may be incomplete; but they are definite.  And this one things at least is certain; whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism.  If ever there were a safe truth, it is this.ˮ

“The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this.”

Five Reasons Why “Back to the Basics” Churches Stumble
There’s always a tendency in religion to want to get back to the original–to return to the primitive form of religion–to get back to the basics.

Big mistake.

Favorite Books of the Bible
Since my parents purchased a Bible for me, at my request, for Christmas 1970, I have read a chapter from the New Testament and a chapter from the Old each night.  What a magnificent collection of books the Bible is!  Prophecies, histories, court chronicles, songs, gospels, letters, codes of laws and so much more.  The Bible is a boundless sea on which the human mind and soul can glimpse the eternal voyage.  Choosing one’s favorite books of the Bible is rather like picking one’s favorite children, but here goes.

The last month has, at times, been a blur. After being hit by a car on my bike just over a month ago, I have had to look at life through a different lens. Is there really an “upside” to tragedy? Indulge me as I reflect on the lessons I believe God is trying to teach me through this unexpected event in my life.

The Importance of Myths and Fairy Tales for Christian Children
Many Christians believe that pagan myths and fairy tales are detrimental to Christian children. They fear that children will be lead astray from their upbringing, but really myths and fairy tales provide a foundation from which to build a Christian education. I was questioned myself by a well-meaning, Catholic relative, who had been asked by my children to read from D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. My six year old, whom we home school, responded to questioning about the myths versus Scripture that the myths were created by people who “did not know about the real God.”

Answering Common Objections to Catholic Teaching on Marriage
In His infinite love and goodness, God created man and woman in freedom to know, love and serve Him in this life and to spend all eternity with Him in the life to come. This call to holiness is our vocation and dignity.

“Man is by nature and vocation a religious being. Coming from God, going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by his bond with God.” (CCC ¶ 44)

We are incorporated into this life by Baptism. How we are to live out this call to holiness is what we refer to as our vocation. From the moment of our baptism, we are to prayerfully discern the vocation to which God calls us:

Are Catholic Families Different? Five “Marks” of the Catholic Family
Are Catholic families supposed to be different?

What would that difference look like? The Church has been considering these questions in earnest, especially in light of the upcoming World Meeting of Families and the 2015 Synod on the Family. While I don’t presume to offer definitive answers, considering the Church’s writings on the matter, here are what I would like to suggest are the five most important differences that distinguish a family committed to living the Catholic vision of family life.

3 Signs That a Private Revelation is From God
In the Catholic Church we believe that on rare occasions God speaks to a soul directly in visions or words, which are also known as “private revelations.” Typically God speaks to a soul discreetly through thoughts, desires or through another person.
However, with certain privileged souls who have an intimate relationship with Him, He shares many special graces.

Modesty: A Virtue of Respect and Responsibility
Each year with the dawn of warm weather, Catholic media is suddenly buzzing with a myriad of posts and articles addressing the virtue of modesty. Given the current state of cultural fashion trends, this crusade for modest apparel is certainly justifiable. Parading around in cut off shorts and bikinis is hardly a dignified way to adorn the body. However, as a young Catholic woman I must express my concern that modesty is continually approached as a problem which can be remedied through a series of laws for women’s dress.

Who is the Devil?
Who indeed?

Now having read Who is the Devil? by Nicolas Corte it is all too clear, if unnervingly so.

Sophia Institute Press has done us all a service in reprinting this classic text first published in French under the title Satan l’adversaire. At the time of its publication in 1958 it was a brave counterblast to the then fashionable theological thinking, in some quarters at least, that relegated belief in the devil to that of folklore, a psychological regression or, worse still, an outdated medieval superstition.  If at that time there was a need to impress on minds the threat posed from the evil one then how much more timely is this new edition for today’s world?

Losing My Religion: Why People Are REALLY Leaving the Church (It’s not what you think.)
A new report from Pew Research shows that religion is losing ground as more people drop out of church.  According to the report….

The shrinking numbers of Christians and their loss of market share is the most significant change since 2007 (when Pew did its first U.S. Religious Landscape survey) and the new, equally massive survey of 35,000 U.S. adults.

Whatever the Cost
A year ago, I wrote an article challenging the American Church to do more in the face of religious persecution of our Christian brethren abroad. At that time, the kidnapping of 276 young school girls by the Islamist group Boko Haram had captured the world’s attention. I wrote the following:

On Marriage, Leadership and Honoring Our Wives
Marriage is in trouble everywhere, especially in our country where over half of marriages end in divorce. Our culture, so influenced by Hollywood and materialism, has set about creating a society which no longer values marriage and the family, but instead favors one which glorifies selfishness, greed and offers false idols for us to worship instead of God. As an author and speaker, I attempt to reach people with Christ-inspired work which will help them lead authentic and integrated Catholic lives. Many of us are called to other roles in the world that require great courage and effort, but I suggest nothing will do more to strengthen marriage and the family than men having the courage to reject the surrounding culture and embrace their role as loving husbands, faith-filled fathers and leaders in their homes.

The Commitment Differences: 5 Reasons Faith-Filled Marriages Work Countless articles, memoirs and studies explore why so many marriages in our society deteriorate and ultimately fail. Just recently, a blog post at USA TODAY by Anthony D’Ambrosio gained attention for identifying the top five reasons that marriages don’t work: intimacy issues, financial strife, failure to truly connect, desire for attention, and an obsession with social media. These factors woven through our society contribute to a rocky foundation for marriage, predispose couples to walk the path to divorce, and directly contributed to the unraveling of his own marriage, according to D’Ambrosio, a 29-year-old.

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