Pastoral Sharings: "Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS  
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for September 6, 2015
 

The miracles of Jesus never cease to make us wonder. If 
we were in the place of the onlookers on that day we too 
would be utterly amazed and our admiration would, like
theirs, be unbounded. 

And in a certain sense we today actually are onlookers to that miracle, even if at the distance of 2000 or so years. Down the ages those words resonate: He has done all things well, he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak. 

Even as we read the words of the scriptures as they tell of that great miracle those words seem as if they were our own words; he certainly has done all things well! 

There is no doubt in our minds that Jesus was the Son of God and that he can perform great miracles, both when he walked this earth and indeed also in our own day. But miracles and signs and wonders are not really what Jesus is about. They are not his primary purpose. They are not what he came among us to achieve. 

What he came for was to give his life in sacrifice for our sins so that we might be saved and have the way to eternal life opened up for us. In other words, he came to bring us salvation. The miracles of Jesus are not, however, some sort of temporary sideshow in the life of Jesus. They are not merely incidental.   

They are filled with meaning because the miracles are signs indicating clearly who Jesus is. They also point to the salvation he brings us and let us know what form it takes. 

In the first reading we hear the prophecy of Isaiah which gives a list of the things that will accompany the coming of the Savior: the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, the lame leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy.  

In performing miracles Jesus confirms these and other prophecies and shows himself definitively to be the Messiah so long expected. That he comes in a gentle and unobtrusive way, that he is a Messiah who refuses the trappings of power, that he is no conqueror but rather a peacemaker does not bring him to the attention of the religious authorities. 

They fail to recognize that he is the true Messiah but yet the signs are there if they would but only look. And that is what the miracles of Jesus are, signs. They are metaphors for the salvation he brings. In the Kingdom of God the dumb speak, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the possessed are freed, the sick healed, the water becomes wine, all are fed and the dead are raised to life. 

The particular aspects highlighted in today’s Gospel passage are speech and hearing. Jesus opened that man’s ears but in a real sense he opens all our ears. He opens them to the Word of God, to himself in other words. 

Jesus speaks to us. He does so in a myriad of ways: through his words in scripture, through the mouths of our brothers and sisters, through signs and events, and seeming coincidences in our own lives. He quite often has to break through a lot of barriers to make himself heard. We put up many obstacles such as our prejudices, our treasured opinions, our so-called experience. 

Frequently we actually make ourselves deaf to the Word of God, especially if we feel that on hearing it we might be obliged to make some changes in our lives. We easily delude ourselves into making exceptions to the Gospel to suit our own particular circumstances. 

Jesus, however, can break through all this. He only has to say ‘be opened’ and we will hear his saving words despite all the self-generated ‘wax’ that has blocked our ears for so long. 

But we do not have to wait for Jesus himself to decide to intervene. We can ask him now to help us to hear his Word. We can ask him to unblock our senses, enabling us to hear his Good News afresh. We can ask him to speak again to us in ways that we can easily understand. 

Here is a new prayer to add to your list: Lord, unblock my ears; help me to hear what you have to say to me.

And the dumb speak. It is not only our ears that need to be put to proper use but also our tongues. There are few people who are truly dumb. There are, however, a lot of us who put our tongues to improper use. 

The man in the miracle spoke clearly. The people took up the refrain and told everyone they could about what had happened. They praised God and proclaimed his wonders. 

God gave us the gift of speech to tell the truth and to make known the wonders of the salvation he won for us. Let our second prayer today be: Lord loosen my tongue so that I may bring your Good News to all I meet.  

We are speaking of a miracle that occurred when Jesus walked this earth. What about the miracles that he performs in our midst right now? We do not speak about them much and tend to think that the miraculous belongs to the past or to Lourdes or some other far off place. We don’t think much about miracles today here in Wealdstone. 

And if we don’t think about miracles we won’t expect them. And if we don’t expect them then we’ll fail to recognize them when they do occur. And if we don’t expect them then we would never think of asking for a miracle, a serious error indeed. 

If you were a priest you would frequently hear about miracles, not every day but often enough for you to realize that they are happening all around. Almost everyone you meet has a story to tell of some extraordinary intervention in their life. 

As a priest people tell you in private all sorts of remarkable things. Sometimes they realise the meaning of what has occurred, other times they are puzzled and need you to help them interpret these events. Very often the outsider can see what the person involved cannot, and often what is there to be seen is the hand of God working in a truly remarkable way in their lives. 

There are healings, there are divine interventions, there are extraordinary coincidences, and there are what at first seem to be terrible tragedies but which bring untold blessings in their wake. There are all sorts of things going on around us that can only be the work of God. 

Let our third prayer today be: Lord, help me to see your hand at work in the world and in my life.

If we frequently say this prayer, or one like it, we will begin to realize one of the most important truths of our religion: salvation is not something only for the end of the world, salvation is a present reality. 

The saving work of Christ is going on now in the present—his miracles are only the signs and indicators of it. We need to open our eyes and ears to see this great work being achieved among us and to loosen our tongues to tell the world about the glory of God that is being made manifest here and now.

Lord, unblock my ears; help me to hear what you have to say to me.
Lord, loosen my tongue so that I may bring your Good News to all I meet.
Lord, help me to see your hand at work in the world and in my life.
Amen
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=2238.

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
September 6, 2015

Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time:

Listen and Proclaim the Good News

He put his fingers into the man’s ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 

This was a sign of the Messiah.  Isaiah had said, in our first reading, that the eyes of the blind would be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared, the lame would leap like a stag and the tongue of the mute would sing. The people realized that Jesus was performing these signs.  With a joy beyond comprehension, they realized that the Messiah was among them.

…more

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic

Mark 7: 31–37

Gospel Summary

Jesus leaves the district of Tyre, and by way of Sidon goes into the district of the Decapolis. People beg him to cure a deaf man with a speech impediment. Jesus puts his finger into the man’s ears, touches the man’s tongue with his spittle, looks up to heaven, groans, and heals the man, saying, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) The people are astonished and say, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.” 

…more

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—

September 6, 2015

When Jesus heals a deaf, mute man, He fulfills an old prophecy in a startling, unexpected way. How?

Gospel (Read Mk 7:31-37)

St. Mark describes for us an episode that took place while Jesus was ministering in a primarily Gentile region (the Decapolis). “People brought to Him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged Him to lay His hand on him.” We don’t know if these were Jews or Gentiles, but we do know that this was an earnest intercession for a needy person. Because so much of our own prayer lives, as well as that of the whole Church, is taken up with intercessions of exactly this sort, we would do well to pay careful attention to the outcome.

…more

We Are Saved by Christ, Not by Rules

Sometime back, the media got itself all in a tizzy about “the Vatican” supposedly issuing “seven new deadly sins”.  As one particularly egregious headline put it “Recycle or go to hell, warns Vatican”.

Given this view of the Faith, discussions in the press then break down into inane prattle about mortal and venial sin.  Here, for instance, is  Slate explaining it all for you:

…more

The Holy Bible and Sacred Tradition comprise the

Word of God

One of the “pillars” or founding principles of the Protestant Reformation is the teaching of Sola Scriptura. Simply defined, Sola Scriptura is the belief that the Bible alone is the sole rule of faith for the believer. In other words, if a teaching is not contained in the Bible, then it is to be rejected as having no authority over the individual Christian. Therefore, according to Sola Scriptura, the Church’s teachings (or a pastor’s—or anyone’s teachings, for that matter) are true only as far as they are found in the bible. Another aspect of Sola Scriptura is that each believer, guided by the Holy Spirit, will be led to the proper interpretation and understanding of what he reads in the Bible.

There are several problems with this teaching:

…more

To Teach as Jesus Taught – A Reflection on the Qualities of Jesus as Preacher and Teacher

As a priest I am called to preach and teach, and as such I must look to Jesus Christ as my model. In this I refer to the real Jesus of Scripture. Too many people today have refashioned Jesus into a sort of “harmless hippie,” an affable affirmer, a pleasant sort of fellow who healed the sick, blessed the poor, and talked about love but in a very fuzzy and “anything goes” manner. But absent from this image is the prophetic Jesus, who accepted no compromise and called out the hypocrisy in many of His day.

…more

Lessons From A Monastery: Love is a Call to Action

What does it mean to partake of the life of the Holy Trinity? What does it mean to have communion with God? Think of a married couple. In this marriage, the couple fulfills all their duties. They are good to each other, respectful. They build a home where all obligations on both sides are met. There is even love for one another. Years go by and nothing changes. The couple never grows in love nor do they ever try to know anything more about one another than what was necessary to begin the marriage. They never move beyond pleasantries in their marriage.

…more

Pope Francis: Families’ Faith and Love Can Change the World

VATICAN CITY — Encouraging families to hear God’s word and to put it into practice, Pope Francis said Wednesday that the family, by being allied with God, is called to counteract the “desertification” found in today’s cities.

“Our cities are becoming desertified for lack of love, for lack of smiles,” the Holy Father said, addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 2 for his general audience.

…more

Why Bother Attending Mass? Because Of Its Power

I hate the Sunday mornings when I am in such a bad mood as we leave the house until it has me questioning why we are even going to church in the first place.

Our morning starts off good enough, but then Leo gets into the cereal, spreading it all over the kitchen, while another one won’t share the brush, and someone else looks like they wore their church clothes to bed and then slept in them for three days, despite me telling them the night before to let me know if they need anything ironed. And then there is the argument that nearly causes World War III because someone looks at someone else in a wrong way. Then I come unglued and I start to yell. Meanwhile, as we are finally ready to get out the door (later than I had hoped), someone has lost their shoes and is in tears.

…more

What is mercy?

As we prepare for Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, we should also be preparing for the usual spin on his message.  One of the messages of Pope Francis that is often skewed is his call for mercy and compassion.  Mercy has definitely been a theme of Francis’ pontificate, as he repeatedly comes back to it in homilies and addresses, and has now called for the Jubilee Year of Mercy to be celebrated next year.  It’s one of the reasons the culture today loves him.  But sadly, many people love Pope Francis for what they think he’s saying, and it’s not always what he actually said.  Perhaps it’s because they only listen to part of what he’s said, or they’ve only heard his message from a third party, or they’ve misunderstood him completely.  But to many modern ears, the Pope’s call for mercy seems to be a carte blanche to do what the Church once condemned.

…more

Beware the Error of Those Who Proclaim Mercy Without Repentance

As we prepare for the Year of Mercy, a blessed declaration from our Holy Father to be sure, permit me to express one concern. Fundamentally it concerns a flawed notion of mercy that is widespread in the world today, and also to some extent in the Church.

A simple way of describing the problem is to say that one of the great errors of our day is the proclamation of mercy without repentance, without reference to our sinful condition. So many pulpits have gone silent on sin! And therefore they are silent on the true glory of mercy and the astonishing gift that it is! Ah, mercy! Divine mercy! Perfect mercy! But only when we know and acknowledge our sins can this joyful cry be deep and authentic.

…more

Tradition is not a four-letter word!

One of the great battle cries of the Protestant Reformation was “sola scriptura!”  Many thought that the Catholic Church had cluttered up the simple Christian faith by adding all sorts of practices, customs and doctrines over the centuries. They thought the Church in their day was guilty of exactly the same Pharisaical obsession with traditions condemned by Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 7:1-23). The solution, it seemed, was simple. Let’s purify the Church by ditching all these traditions and keeping the Bible alone.

But if we read this portion of the Bible closely, the Lord is not telling us that tradition is a dirty word.  His apostle Paul, in fact, tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 to “hold fast to the traditions you received from us, either by our word or by letter.”

…more

Blessed are the Pure of Heart – A Reflection on an Often Misunderstood Beatitude and Virtue

One of the beatitudes taught by Jesus is often misunderstood, largely due to the popular translations of it from the Greek text: “Blessed are the pure of heart,” or “Blessed are the clean of heart.” Let’s look at three facets of the beatitude: its fundamental meaning, its focus, and the freedom it gives.

…more

Forming A Healthy Conscience

Each one of us is born with and endowed with a singular conscience by which we are obliged to form, to cultivate, and to follow in order to live a richer and more moral life. However, this necessitates a properly formed conscience within the soul.

If we do not properly form a conscience we will most likely end up with a bad one, or what is more properly called a mal-formed conscience.  So, in order to arrive at a well formed conscience, it will take vigilance and ultimately reforming our soul to be properly ordered to the good.

…more

Without God, Everything is Permissible

“If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

  Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

A civilization where belief in God is on the wane, is a civilization where people are merely objects and will be treated as such.  The greatest thinkers of the human race have understood this.  Benjamin Franklin, who was far from being an orthodox Christian, saw what the world would be like without religion in a letter dated December 13, 1757:
…more

He Delights in You

Pitter patter the little feet came running from around the corner at the sound of my voice. Being a grandmother is the next best thing to being a mom. While my husband of thirty-five years is always happy to see me, I might think he was after something if he ran to me every time he heard my voice. Experiencing such an enthusiastic display of love and authentic joy really puts a smile on my face and indescribable delight in my heart.

You can’t find this ready to serve at the local grocery store or field fresh from the farmer’s market. It is a pure, generous, free gift, which expects nothing in return. At least at twenty-two months anyway.

…more

Full-Time Mother: My Decision Of Vocation

I have recently taken the plunge of quitting my job and officially becoming a full-time mother. This might sound cliché on these circles of Catholic blogs, but for me, especially living in Portugal, it is outrageous. While about 29% of mothers stay at home in the USA, only 6.3% do so in Europe. Plus, Portugal has the lowest birth rate in Europe.

The Catholic Church is wonderfully diverse in the way people live their vocations. Whether to work outside the home or not is up to the woman, and both options are considered equally wonderful. There are working mom saints and “stay-at-home mom” saints. Yet in this anti-motherhood culture, the right to stay at home should be not only valued but defended.

…more

Truth and Consequences

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, in paragraph 2051, that apart from the teaching authority of the Church, it is impossible to maintain the “saving truths of the faith:”

The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed.

Too many Catholics take for granted the great gift of the Magisterium of the Bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome that has safeguarded the truth of the Faith for 2,000 years. In fact, there is no human way to explain the reality of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5) that we have experienced in the Catholic Church for two millennia apart from this supernatural gift. But perhaps even fewer of us consider some of the consequences that have come as a result of the absence of this great gift.

…more

Love, Honor and Obey

From the time of my first Communion in 1964 to the turbulent 1970s of my adolescence, the Catholic family values I learned as a child had been all but replaced with an attractive new ideology of “free love” and contraception. It wasn’t long before I followed the popular wisdom of the sexual revolution into personal disaster: My involvement with an older man ended with a pregnancy and a secret abortion. After that life-shattering event, I found myself on a path of self-destruction that ultimately led to a second abortion.

Some years later, I settled in with the man who would become my husband. When we started to think about having children, we finally decided to marry, a second marriage for him. Within the next three years, our daughter and son were born.

Witnessing the miracle of my children’s births brought tremendous joy, but also awoke buried sorrow and regret for my abortions.

…more

Pope Francis: Families’ Faith and Love Can Change the World

VATICAN CITY — Encouraging families to hear God’s word and to put it into practice, Pope Francis said Wednesday that the family, by being allied with God, is called to counteract the “desertification” found in today’s cities.

“Our cities are becoming desertified for lack of love, for lack of smiles,” the Holy Father said, addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 2 for his general audience.

…more

Why Bother Attending Mass? Because Of Its Power

I hate the Sunday mornings when I am in such a bad mood as we leave the house until it has me questioning why we are even going to church in the first place.

Our morning starts off good enough, but then Leo gets into the cereal, spreading it all over the kitchen, while another one won’t share the brush, and someone else looks like they wore their church clothes to bed and then slept in them for three days, despite me telling them the night before to let me know if they need anything ironed. And then there is the argument that nearly causes World War III because someone looks at someone else in a wrong way. Then I come unglued and I start to yell. Meanwhile, as we are finally ready to get out the door (later than I had hoped), someone has lost their shoes and is in tears.

…more

What is mercy?

As we prepare for Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, we should also be preparing for the usual spin on his message.  One of the messages of Pope Francis that is often skewed is his call for mercy and compassion.  Mercy has definitely been a theme of Francis’ pontificate, as he repeatedly comes back to it in homilies and addresses, and has now called for the Jubilee Year of Mercy to be celebrated next year.  It’s one of the reasons the culture today loves him.  But sadly, many people love Pope Francis for what they think he’s saying, and it’s not always what he actually said.  Perhaps it’s because they only listen to part of what he’s said, or they’ve only heard his message from a third party, or they’ve misunderstood him completely.  But to many modern ears, the Pope’s call for mercy seems to be a carte blanche to do what the Church once condemned.

…more

Beware the Error of Those Who Proclaim Mercy Without Repentance

As we prepare for the Year of Mercy, a blessed declaration from our Holy Father to be sure, permit me to express one concern. Fundamentally it concerns a flawed notion of mercy that is widespread in the world today, and also to some extent in the Church.

A simple way of describing the problem is to say that one of the great errors of our day is the proclamation of mercy without repentance, without reference to our sinful condition. So many pulpits have gone silent on sin! And therefore they are silent on the true glory of mercy and the astonishing gift that it is! Ah, mercy! Divine mercy! Perfect mercy! But only when we know and acknowledge our sins can this joyful cry be deep and authentic.

…more

Tradition is not a four-letter word!

One of the great battle cries of the Protestant Reformation was “sola scriptura!”  Many thought that the Catholic Church had cluttered up the simple Christian faith by adding all sorts of practices, customs and doctrines over the centuries. They thought the Church in their day was guilty of exactly the same Pharisaical obsession with traditions condemned by Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 7:1-23). The solution, it seemed, was simple. Let’s purify the Church by ditching all these traditions and keeping the Bible alone.

But if we read this portion of the Bible closely, the Lord is not telling us that tradition is a dirty word.  His apostle Paul, in fact, tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 to “hold fast to the traditions you received from us, either by our word or by letter.”

…more

Blessed are the Pure of Heart – A Reflection on an Often Misunderstood Beatitude and Virtue

One of the beatitudes taught by Jesus is often misunderstood, largely due to the popular translations of it from the Greek text: “Blessed are the pure of heart,” or “Blessed are the clean of heart.” Let’s look at three facets of the beatitude: its fundamental meaning, its focus, and the freedom it gives.

…more

Forming A Healthy Conscience

Each one of us is born with and endowed with a singular conscience by which we are obliged to form, to cultivate, and to follow in order to live a richer and more moral life. However, this necessitates a properly formed conscience within the soul.

If we do not properly form a conscience we will most likely end up with a bad one, or what is more properly called a mal-formed conscience.  So, in order to arrive at a well formed conscience, it will take vigilance and ultimately reforming our soul to be properly ordered to the good.

…more

Without God, Everything is Permissible

“If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

  Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

A civilization where belief in God is on the wane, is a civilization where people are merely objects and will be treated as such.  The greatest thinkers of the human race have understood this.  Benjamin Franklin, who was far from being an orthodox Christian, saw what the world would be like without religion in a letter dated December 13, 1757:
…more

He Delights in You

Pitter patter the little feet came running from around the corner at the sound of my voice. Being a grandmother is the next best thing to being a mom. While my husband of thirty-five years is always happy to see me, I might think he was after something if he ran to me every time he heard my voice. Experiencing such an enthusiastic display of love and authentic joy really puts a smile on my face and indescribable delight in my heart.

You can’t find this ready to serve at the local grocery store or field fresh from the farmer’s market. It is a pure, generous, free gift, which expects nothing in return. At least at twenty-two months anyway.

…more

Full-Time Mother: My Decision Of Vocation

I have recently taken the plunge of quitting my job and officially becoming a full-time mother. This might sound cliché on these circles of Catholic blogs, but for me, especially living in Portugal, it is outrageous. While about 29% of mothers stay at home in the USA, only 6.3% do so in Europe. Plus, Portugal has the lowest birth rate in Europe.

The Catholic Church is wonderfully diverse in the way people live their vocations. Whether to work outside the home or not is up to the woman, and both options are considered equally wonderful. There are working mom saints and “stay-at-home mom” saints. Yet in this anti-motherhood culture, the right to stay at home should be not only valued but defended.

…more

Truth and Consequences

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, in paragraph 2051, that apart from the teaching authority of the Church, it is impossible to maintain the “saving truths of the faith:”

The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed.

Too many Catholics take for granted the great gift of the Magisterium of the Bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome that has safeguarded the truth of the Faith for 2,000 years. In fact, there is no human way to explain the reality of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5) that we have experienced in the Catholic Church for two millennia apart from this supernatural gift. But perhaps even fewer of us consider some of the consequences that have come as a result of the absence of this great gift.

…more

Love, Honor and Obey

From the time of my first Communion in 1964 to the turbulent 1970s of my adolescence, the Catholic family values I learned as a child had been all but replaced with an attractive new ideology of “free love” and contraception. It wasn’t long before I followed the popular wisdom of the sexual revolution into personal disaster: My involvement with an older man ended with a pregnancy and a secret abortion. After that life-shattering event, I found myself on a path of self-destruction that ultimately led to a second abortion.

Some years later, I settled in with the man who would become my husband. When we started to think about having children, we finally decided to marry, a second marriage for him. Within the next three years, our daughter and son were born.

Witnessing the miracle of my children’s births brought tremendous joy, but also awoke buried sorrow and regret for my abortions.

…more

Pope Francis: Families’ Faith and Love Can Change the World

VATICAN CITY — Encouraging families to hear God’s word and to put it into practice, Pope Francis said Wednesday that the family, by being allied with God, is called to counteract the “desertification” found in today’s cities.

“Our cities are becoming desertified for lack of love, for lack of smiles,” the Holy Father said, addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 2 for his general audience.

…more

Why Bother Attending Mass? Because Of Its Power

I hate the Sunday mornings when I am in such a bad mood as we leave the house until it has me questioning why we are even going to church in the first place.

Our morning starts off good enough, but then Leo gets into the cereal, spreading it all over the kitchen, while another one won’t share the brush, and someone else looks like they wore their church clothes to bed and then slept in them for three days, despite me telling them the night before to let me know if they need anything ironed. And then there is the argument that nearly causes World War III because someone looks at someone else in a wrong way. Then I come unglued and I start to yell. Meanwhile, as we are finally ready to get out the door (later than I had hoped), someone has lost their shoes and is in tears.

…more

What is mercy?

As we prepare for Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, we should also be preparing for the usual spin on his message.  One of the messages of Pope Francis that is often skewed is his call for mercy and compassion.  Mercy has definitely been a theme of Francis’ pontificate, as he repeatedly comes back to it in homilies and addresses, and has now called for the Jubilee Year of Mercy to be celebrated next year.  It’s one of the reasons the culture today loves him.  But sadly, many people love Pope Francis for what they think he’s saying, and it’s not always what he actually said.  Perhaps it’s because they only listen to part of what he’s said, or they’ve only heard his message from a third party, or they’ve misunderstood him completely.  But to many modern ears, the Pope’s call for mercy seems to be a carte blanche to do what the Church once condemned.

…more

Beware the Error of Those Who Proclaim Mercy Without Repentance

As we prepare for the Year of Mercy, a blessed declaration from our Holy Father to be sure, permit me to express one concern. Fundamentally it concerns a flawed notion of mercy that is widespread in the world today, and also to some extent in the Church.

A simple way of describing the problem is to say that one of the great errors of our day is the proclamation of mercy without repentance, without reference to our sinful condition. So many pulpits have gone silent on sin! And therefore they are silent on the true glory of mercy and the astonishing gift that it is! Ah, mercy! Divine mercy! Perfect mercy! But only when we know and acknowledge our sins can this joyful cry be deep and authentic.

…more

Tradition is not a four-letter word!

One of the great battle cries of the Protestant Reformation was “sola scriptura!”  Many thought that the Catholic Church had cluttered up the simple Christian faith by adding all sorts of practices, customs and doctrines over the centuries. They thought the Church in their day was guilty of exactly the same Pharisaical obsession with traditions condemned by Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 7:1-23). The solution, it seemed, was simple. Let’s purify the Church by ditching all these traditions and keeping the Bible alone.

But if we read this portion of the Bible closely, the Lord is not telling us that tradition is a dirty word.  His apostle Paul, in fact, tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 to “hold fast to the traditions you received from us, either by our word or by letter.”

…more

Blessed are the Pure of Heart – A Reflection on an Often Misunderstood Beatitude and Virtue

One of the beatitudes taught by Jesus is often misunderstood, largely due to the popular translations of it from the Greek text: “Blessed are the pure of heart,” or “Blessed are the clean of heart.” Let’s look at three facets of the beatitude: its fundamental meaning, its focus, and the freedom it gives.

…more

Forming A Healthy Conscience

Each one of us is born with and endowed with a singular conscience by which we are obliged to form, to cultivate, and to follow in order to live a richer and more moral life. However, this necessitates a properly formed conscience within the soul.

If we do not properly form a conscience we will most likely end up with a bad one, or what is more properly called a mal-formed conscience.  So, in order to arrive at a well formed conscience, it will take vigilance and ultimately reforming our soul to be properly ordered to the good.

…more

Without God, Everything is Permissible

“If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

  Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

A civilization where belief in God is on the wane, is a civilization where people are merely objects and will be treated as such.  The greatest thinkers of the human race have understood this.  Benjamin Franklin, who was far from being an orthodox Christian, saw what the world would be like without religion in a letter dated December 13, 1757:
…more

He Delights in You

Pitter patter the little feet came running from around the corner at the sound of my voice. Being a grandmother is the next best thing to being a mom. While my husband of thirty-five years is always happy to see me, I might think he was after something if he ran to me every time he heard my voice. Experiencing such an enthusiastic display of love and authentic joy really puts a smile on my face and indescribable delight in my heart.

You can’t find this ready to serve at the local grocery store or field fresh from the farmer’s market. It is a pure, generous, free gift, which expects nothing in return. At least at twenty-two months anyway.

…more

Full-Time Mother: My Decision Of Vocation

I have recently taken the plunge of quitting my job and officially becoming a full-time mother. This might sound cliché on these circles of Catholic blogs, but for me, especially living in Portugal, it is outrageous. While about 29% of mothers stay at home in the USA, only 6.3% do so in Europe. Plus, Portugal has the lowest birth rate in Europe.

The Catholic Church is wonderfully diverse in the way people live their vocations. Whether to work outside the home or not is up to the woman, and both options are considered equally wonderful. There are working mom saints and “stay-at-home mom” saints. Yet in this anti-motherhood culture, the right to stay at home should be not only valued but defended.

…more

Truth and Consequences

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, in paragraph 2051, that apart from the teaching authority of the Church, it is impossible to maintain the “saving truths of the faith:”

The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed.

Too many Catholics take for granted the great gift of the Magisterium of the Bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome that has safeguarded the truth of the Faith for 2,000 years. In fact, there is no human way to explain the reality of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5) that we have experienced in the Catholic Church for two millennia apart from this supernatural gift. But perhaps even fewer of us consider some of the consequences that have come as a result of the absence of this great gift.

…more

Love, Honor and Obey

From the time of my first Communion in 1964 to the turbulent 1970s of my adolescence, the Catholic family values I learned as a child had been all but replaced with an attractive new ideology of “free love” and contraception. It wasn’t long before I followed the popular wisdom of the sexual revolution into personal disaster: My involvement with an older man ended with a pregnancy and a secret abortion. After that life-shattering event, I found myself on a path of self-destruction that ultimately led to a second abortion.

Some years later, I settled in with the man who would become my husband. When we started to think about having children, we finally decided to marry, a second marriage for him. Within the next three years, our daughter and son were born.

Witnessing the miracle of my children’s births brought tremendous joy, but also awoke buried sorrow and regret for my abortions.

…more

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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