Pastoral Sharings: "Easter Sunday"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Easter Sunday
Posted for Arril 5, 2015   


Undoubtedly Easter Sunday is the most important day in 
the liturgical year. Indeed we celebrate all the other 
Sundays as a weekly reminder of the fact that Christ rose 
from the dead on this the first day of the week.

Each year when we celebrate Easter we try to recapture some of the joy that was experienced by the first disciples once they realised that Christ had actually risen. Of course, at first they couldn’t really understand what had happened; we know some of them initially believed that the body of Jesus had been stolen by grave robbers.

But very soon they remembered that Jesus had foretold that he would rise from the dead, but even realising this they were still completely and absolutely astonished when he appeared in their midst.

In the Gospel text for today St John tells us about a sort of a race between himself and St Peter as to who would get to the tomb first. They had been alerted by Mary Magdalene and started running to the tomb. There is a nice little interplay between the two Apostles; John gets there first but then holds back to let Peter enter the tomb in acknowledgement of his seniority.

Peter goes into the tomb and notes how the grave clothes were placed, but when John goes into the tomb it is he who is the first to believe.

This makes him the most reliable witness to the resurrection; this is the event that validates him as the author of his Gospel. He sees that the tomb is empty and he believes that Jesus has risen from the dead. This simple fact places him above all others and gives him absolute authority as the one who can tell the story of Jesus and what he achieved with the greatest authenticity of all.

Due to the great distance in time that separates us from these events we don’t have the privilege of being among the ones to see the empty tomb. Neither is it possible for us to experience the appearances of the Risen Jesus to the Apostles.

No our faith in the resurrection of Jesus comes about because other people have told us what happened. There were the original witnesses, namely Mary Magdalene, the Apostles and the other close disciples of Jesus. These passed the news on, they gave testimony to their friends and then to more distant acquaintances and so the news of the resurrection gradually spread far and wide, eventually coming down to us.

In our case it was most likely our parents who first told us that Jesus had risen from the dead. Seeing their faith in this wonderful event we take it on trust and we find that we can believe it too.

Belief in the resurrection is the very foundation of our faith, the stone on which it is built. Upon this single truth the other doctrines are constructed that make up the faith of the Church. These are not a set of fanciful notions but are rather the logical consequences and the working out of that greatest miracle of all, the resurrection.

It is from the resurrection that everything else flows: our belief in the Eucharist, our understanding of the role of the Saints and our faith in the everlasting life of heaven. There are many other doctrines that flow from these roots of our religion such as our belief in the Church and the power of the sacraments. Without the resurrection none of these concepts would mean anything at all.

As with the feast of Christmas, there are many accretions that have attached themselves to the Easter celebrations over the centuries.

I believe that the Easter Bunny owes more to folklore and paganism than to the Christian religion. Easter Bunnies are more of a fertility symbol than anything else and it is likely that their connection to Easter is due to the coincidence of it occurring in Springtime when fertility was celebrated in pagan times.

Easter Eggs make a bit more sense since they remind us of the stone which was rolled away from the tomb. I remember as a child we would go to a park on Easter Sunday and roll the eggs down a slope in imitation of the stone being rolled away from the tomb.

The prevalence of Easter Eggs is possibly also due to the fact that many people abstained from eggs as part of their Lenten Fast and once Easter came along they were able to be eaten once again. During Lent the eggs were often hard boiled to avoid spoiling; and once that was done it is not so difficult to understand that then they could be decorated as is often the custom in Eastern Europe today.

A more modern addition I suppose is the idea of a chocolate egg, perhaps this is inspired by our consumer culture and the desire for instant gratification. Of course, Easter is a time for great feasting and so I suppose chocolate eggs can be seen in that context.

A very common custom right across Europe is to eat lamb on Easter Sunday. Besides it being the right time of year for lambs to become available they represent, of course, Jesus who is the Lamb of God.

Whatever your particular customs it is very important to celebrate this great feast commemorating the resurrection of Jesus in the home. It is an especially good time for families and for eating a special meal together.

Just to go back briefly to the text of the Gospel, while I spoke earlier about the race between Peter and John I do not want to overlook the role of the very first witness to the resurrection, namely Mary Magdalene.

In her day women were not allowed to be witnesses in a Jewish court because it was thought that they were far too flighty and unreliable, only a man’s word could be trusted. Yet all of the Gospel writers tell us that Mary of Magdala and some other women were the very first witnesses to the resurrection. It is they who tell the Apostles that the tomb is empty.

This is an example of the veracity of the Evangelists; most other authors of the time would simply have omitted the presence of the women, they would have only regarded the men as proper witnesses and the women would most likely never have got a mention. To me this is more evidence, if any more were needed, of the truth of the Gospels in which even uncomfortable truths are not overlooked.

I think that this is also another example of how the Gospel constantly turns our accepted attitudes upside down. Women couldn’t give witness in purely human courts but here they are the ones who are permitted to give witness to things which are entirely supernatural. They can’t give testimony about the rights and wrongs of everyday life, but in the Christian dispensation these women are the ones who give the first witness to the greatest event that ever happened.

Women may be disregarded by men but not by God. Whatever sexism we might think we see in Christianity, make no mistake that there is absolutely none at its roots. Here it is God’s values that are given priority and not any merely human constructs.

The Gospel is always Good News; it is good news for men and it is good news for women. It is good news for everyone that Christ is risen and that new life awaits us all.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday, Year B—April 5, 2015
Today’s Gospel describes an absence that confounds the disciples, preparing them for the Presence their hearts desire.

Gospel (Read Jn 20:1-9)

On Palm Sunday, the narrative of our Lord’s Passion ended with these words: “Then they rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb” (Mk 15:46b). Jesus’ dead Body had been quickly prepared for burial, because the Sabbath sundown approached, and He was laid in the fresh tomb of a rich man. Then, for His followers, there was silence and utter desolation. We can only imagine how much “rest” they got on what must have been the longest Sabbath day of their lives.

Easter: Easter Flowers
The flowers!  We come to Church on Easter and are overwhelmed with the beauty and fragrance of flowers.  Here is an obvious question: Why flowers?  Why do we fill the Church with flowers to celebrate Easter?  The answer is far more than Easter takes place in the Spring when the flowers begin to bloom.  There is a deeper meaning than that.  The flowers signify the beauty of a world renewed.  Easter celebrates the beauty of renewed life in Christ.

Sundown on Holy Thursday during Holy Week marks the beginning of three sacred days (Triduum) that changed the destiny of the human race.  Few of us have sufficient time to make use of all the following suggestions for prayers during these holy days, but it would be a tragedy to let this season of grace go by without taking some time for extended prayer and reflection.  So steal away for as much time as you can and let the Spirit help you pick and choose which devotions will best help you make the most of this special time.  See also the other Triduum readings, prayers, and resources in the Lent and Holy Week sections of The Crossroads Initiative Library.

Spend This Week With Jesus – A Daily Chronology of Jesus’ “Last” Week
At the heart of our faith is the Paschal mystery: the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. All of salvation history leads up to and goes forth from these saving events. The purpose of this post is to describe Jesus’ final week. We call this “Holy Week” because Jesus’ public ministry culminates with His suffering, death, and resurrection.

I Believe in Jesus Christ
To profess belief in the second person of the Most Holy Trinity carries with it unfathomable implications because full understanding lies rooted inconceivably beyond human reach in our eternal Creator. The Catechism elucidates the incarnation as we read: “we believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He ‘came from God’, ‘descended from heaven’, and ‘came in the flesh’ For ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”1 Such profound words constitute a poetic promise by those of us who utter them and compel us by the most strenuous efforts to apprehend (aided by the gifts of the Holy Spirit) who Christ Jesus is and what our belief in Him demands from us.

Does God Still Speak to Us?
I sat quietly; a little disheartened by a conversation I had just had. The person I was talking to told me that she didn’t believe God really talks to her. In fact, she wasn’t sure that He talked to anyone really. I felt a sadness creep into my heart for her. How could she believe that God doesn’t talk to her? How could she miss His voice when there are times I hear it as clearly as I hear my sweet little ones’ voices as they call out, “Mama!”?

Surrender It to God
“Our Lord has shown me the way that leads to love – it is the only way that leads to love – it is the way of childlike trust and surrender; the way a child that sleeps is afraid of nothing in its father’s arms.” — St. Therese of Lisieux

“We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can – namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us.” – St. Teresa of Avila

“Just surrender it to God!” I heard my wise friend saying as I recounted to her the events of the past week. “I am!” I retorted. “I am going to pray for you”, she replied.

15 Amazing Quotes from Saint Padre Pio
When I chose Padre Pio as my Confirmation saint it was because I thought it was cool that he could bilocate and read souls…

So… I really thought hard about that one.

But God can work through anything, and since my Confirmation, through the intercession of Padre Pio, I have grown a lot in my love and understanding of this holy man. I took a class on him in college in an effort to get to know him better. We read thousands of pages of his letters to and from his spiritual directors and directees (the people he gave spiritual advice to). I think it’s safe to say that after hours of study and prayer he and I have moved from “acquaintances” to “spiritual father/daughter.” And I have been so blessed by his wisdom.

Hard Sayings: God’s Word Never Changes
This article’s title comes to us from John 6:60, and is in regards to Jesus telling his disciples that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life. Many followers left him over the doctrine of the Eucharist, apparently not understanding His words of spirit and life in John 6:63 (spirit and life = sacramental reality, not cannibalism).

But there are many other hard sayings in sacred Scripture. As Catholics, we are not only expected to know them, but to observe them as well. Let’s take a look at some other those hard sayings.

On the Lost Justice of the “Sabbath Rest”

Some of us who are older remember that Sundays were once quiet in downtown; in shopping areas, parking lots were empty. Most businesses were closed and few people had to work on Sundays. Surely there were exceptions, such as medical personnel, emergency workers, and those who ran essential services like power plants. But for most, Sunday was a day off. And although the biblical Sabbath was Saturday, in a largely Christian nation Sunday was the “Sabbath” day of rest.

The Forgotten Benefits of Christ Within
I was having my very first funeral service as a seminarian when what I then considered the unthinkable happened – I started to cry as I noticed the deep pains of the bereaved even though I knew nothing about the deceased during her life. I was thinking, “How am I going to be a priest if I get emotional at funerals when I have little knowledge of the deceased? Hasn’t it been drummed into my head in many ways that men do not cry, at least not in public? Isn’t there something wrong with me?”

No Freedom Without Faith, Says Archbishop Chaput
Over at his blog for The American Conservative, Rod Dreher notes that Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia gave a key address at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on March 17.  The Philadelphia prelate said that for religious liberty to endure, traditional religion must endure and thrive:
The biggest problem we face as a culture isn’t gay marriage or global warming. It’s not abortion funding or the federal debt. These are vital issues, clearly. But the deeper problem, the one that’s crippling us, is that we use words like justice, rights, freedom and dignity without any commonly shared meaning to their content.

Who is Deserving of Life and Love?
If I were to tell you that I only love my blue-eyed children, what would you think? There would surely be well deserved outrage! What if God only loved those of us who were saints or we were obligated to only love those with whom we agree? How would the family fare if children only had to obey the house rules that they enjoy?

I could continue with one outlandish example after another, but the point is sufficiently made.

When God Doesn’t Answer
When I was a spiritual newborn, I thought I could study my way into heaven. If I just accrued the right information, gathered the necessary data, I could guarantee a seat in the celestial court, even if only in the nosebleed section. I remember combing the aisles of Barnes & Noble looking for books on Christian spirituality, the Saints, Catholic doctrine and anything else that I perceived could give me the tools to find and know God—and to be happy. I obsessed over gaining more knowledge, rapaciously consuming everything I could because I believed the more knowledge I had of the faith and God, the happier I would be. I was looking for a shortcut, one that detoured from the narrow way and dropped me off right at the front gates, you know, the pearly ones.

Why It’s Impossible to Be a Catholic
It’s those ten commandments. They’re impossible!

Not long ago I had an email correspondence with a man who was divorced and remarried.

He asked why the church could not be more “forgiving”.

By this I think he meant that he wanted the church to say his second marriage was okay, or maybe he wanted me to say the marriage was okay, that it by living with another woman other than his validly married wife he was not, after all, “living in sin”.

Tolerance Has Its Place, But Also Its Limits – A Brief Consideration of a Widely Misunderstood Virtue
Yesterday we discussed the intolerance of the very radicals who are forever calling for tolerance. A couple of people wrote in to indicate that they consider my stance duplicitous, since I likely support Archbishop Cordeleone’s stance requiring Catholic School teachers to demonstrate loyalty to Catholic teachings and promise not to teach to the contrary in Catholic schools. I do in fact support the good Archbishop. But I do not accept the charge of duplicity.

On the Malice of Mortal Sin
What does the sinner do when he commits mortal sin? He insults God, he dishonors him, he afflicts him. In the first place, mortal sin is an insult offered to God. The malice of an insult is, as St. Thomas says, estimated from the condition of the person who receives and of the person who offers the insult. It is sinful to offend a peasant; it is more criminal to insult a nobleman: but to treat a monarch with contempt and insolence, is a still greater crime. Who is God? “He is Lord of lords and king of ings” (Revelation 17:14). He is a Being of infinite majesty, before whom all the princes of the earth, and all the saints and angels, are less than an atom of sand. “As a drop of a bucket…as a little dust” (Isaiah 40:15). The prophet Hosea adds, that, compared with the greatness of God, all creatures are as insignificant as if they did not exist.

On the Eternity of Hell
Were hell not eternal, it should not be hell. Torments which continue but a short time, are not a severe punishment. The man who is afflicted with an imposthume [an abscess] or cancer, submits to the knife or the cautery. The pain is very sharp; but, because it is soon over, the torture is not very great. But, should the incision or cauterization last for a week, or for an entire month, how frightful should be the agony! A slight pain in the eye, or in the teeth, when it lasts for a long time, becomes insupportable. Even a comedy, a musical entertainment, should it continue for an entire day, produces intolerable tediousness. And should it last for a month, or for a year, who could bear it? What then must hell be, where the damned are compelled, not to listen to the same comedy or the same music, nor to submit merely to pains in the eyes or in the teeth, or to the torture of the knife, or of the red-hot iron, but to suffer all pains and all torments? And for how long? For all eternity, “They shall be tortured forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).

Ask Father Mike: Do We Need Confession?
Dear Fr. Mike,

I want to go to Confession, but I don’t really feel bad for my sins. What do I do? Can I be forgiven?

That’s a really common experience. After all, if we think about it, one of the main reasons (if not the only reason!) why we sin is because there is something pleasing about it. Even when Eve saw the fruit, it was “good, pleasing…and desirable to the eyes.” It seems that the only reason we choose to do anything is because we are convinced that it will make us happy. And sometimes it does. Sometimes sin makes us happy.

A Most Fitting Response to the Redefinition of Marriage
Truth doesn’t always need to be harsh. In fact, speaking the truth in charity is the only way that it could ever be heard. Dr. Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation offers a diplomatic, no-nonsense response to the marriage equality debate from a public policy perspective.

The Cross in Our Lives
There are so many reasons that Christ’s Cross should be on our minds as a Christian, especially because we are navigating the season of Lent—that beautiful and prayerful time of year. Holy Mother Church prods us to become more mindful of Jesus’ Passion and Death on the Cross—His unselfish holy sacrifice so that we might have Eternal Life.

We practice the Stations of the Cross devotion on Fridays throughout Lent and we pray to grow closer to Christ and to understand the real meaning of the Cross.

Four Reasons to Praythe Stations of the Cross Daily
The Stations of the Cross is one of the most neglected devotions in daily Catholic prayer. Often we are encouraged to pray the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Liturgy of the Hours (which are all great suggestions) but I do not remember anyone suggesting to me to pray the Stations of the Cross on a daily basis.
This is unfortunate as many of the saints have derived great benefit from accompanying Jesus on his Way to Calvary and many were inspired to compose their own versions of the ancient devotion.

So here are seven reasons (in no particular order) why we should consider praying the Stations of the Cross on a daily basis:

The Shroud: Not a Painting,Not a Scorch, Not a Photograph
This June, Pope Francis will be making a pilgrimage to Turin, Italy, home of the famous Shroud of Turin, which many believe is the 2,000-year-old burial cloth of Jesus Christ. The pope’s June 21-22 visit will include time venerating the Shroud at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. Francis will then visit the tomb of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, buried in a nearby altar. The trip will also include a commemoration of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians and patron saint of youth who worked in Turin; this year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth. The papal visit will take advantage of April 19-June 24 exposition of the Shroud, which was last displayed in public in 2010.

6 Early Christian Controversies That Protestantism Can’t Explain
In an article entitled Saint Patrick the Baptist?, Stephen R. Button tries to claim St. Patrick for Evangelical Protestantism… or at least disassociate him from Roman Catholicism. Button is hardly alone: you can find similar attempts by Don Boys and others, some of them dating back several decades.

The argument tends to work like this. From Patrick, we have (in Button’s words) only the “84 short paragraphs that make up both his Confession and his ‘Letter to Coroticus.’” Baptist authors then mine these texts for any doctrines that Patrick doesn’t mention explicitly, and then claim that he must have held the Baptist view. So, for example, since Patrick doesn’t say who ordained him a bishop, Button concludes that Patrick must have believed that ordination came directly from God, rather than through the Church: ….more

A Fortnight’s Best in Catholic Apologetics
This Fortnight’s Best in Catholic Apologetics features the best articles from around the internet concerning faith proposals and defenses of the Catholicism from the previous fortnight.

In 2014 I complied a weekly ‘Best of Catholic Apologetic’ over at my website, but due to more vital matters competing for my time, I could no longer sustain that effort. Yet, due to Shaum McAfee’s persistence, I’ve decided to bring that effort over the Epic Pew, but on a less frequent scale. That being said, you can still expect even better lists. I hope you enjoy it always.

“How should we face our last years? This booklet will guide you towards an answer
It used to be the case that the only two certainties in life were death and taxes. Now – at least in the prosperous First World – a third has been added to this mordant list: old age. You can’t open a newspaper or listen to the radio without stumbling on yet another discussion about the demographics, economics, political significance or social problems of the elderly. When media guru Joan Bakewell (in her 80s) and Pope Francis (in his late 70s) are both giving their views on the subject, you know it’s here to stay


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Pastoral Sharings: "Palm Sunday"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Palm Sunday
Posted for March 29, 2015

Scholars tell us that what we have just heard is the oldest written account of the passion and death of Jesus. So by reading it in dramatic form as we have just done we are able to get very close to those most significant of all events in the history of the world. 

A few days ago when I was reading the various texts of today’s mass I was struck by the similarity between the account of getting the donkey for the ride into Jerusalem, that we had at the beginning of the mass, with the account of the preparations made for the Passover feast. 

In both cases it seems as though Jesus had made some private arrangements without the knowledge of his disciples. He had made prior provision for the donkey to be there ready for his entry into Jerusalem and he had already booked a suitable room in which he could hold the Last Supper. 

So these were not spontaneous events. Jesus knew what he was doing. We should be quite clear that Jesus was entirely aware of what was going to happen and he deliberately accepted the Father’s will.

I’d also just briefly like to draw your attention to the meal at Bethany right at the beginning of the account of St Mark’s Passion. It is often overlooked. 

This meal we are told took place two days before the Passover and so you could regard it is a sort of pre-Last Supper. At this meal in the house of Simon the Leper a woman anoints his feet with expensive oil. We generally assume that this woman is Mary Magdalene who is named in a similar account in the Gospel of John but Mark has her simply as an anonymous woman. 

This anointing occurs at a very significant moment, after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and immediately prior to his arrest and crucifixion. The whole point of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is that he is revealing himself as the Messiah. The word Messiah in Hebrew or Christ in Greek literally means ‘the anointed one’ —well here you have the anointing! 

But like everything else in the life of Jesus things are turned upside down. This anointing breaks all the rules. It is not in a royal palace it is in the house of a leper. It is not done by the High Priest but by an anonymous woman. There is no acclamation at the fitness of this wonderful action but instead Jesus’ closest disciples are totally unaware of its significance and get annoyed with the woman for wasting the expensive ointment. 

As if to underline the point even more, Mark brackets the incident with two betrayals: one the plotting of the Chief Priests and the Scribes and the other the betrayal by Judas.

Christ himself, however, proclaims the appropriateness of the woman’s action. He says, ‘She has anointed my body for its burial.’ Again things are upside down. A Messiah is anointed and comes into his own when he is enthroned not when he is buried. 

This short prelude to the events of the Passion and Death of Jesus deserves to be studied closely and prayed about deeply. It entirely typifies the paradoxical nature of the Kingdom Christ came to inaugurate.

His Kingdom is a Kingdom of truth, justice and peace. It is a Kingdom based on the Beatitudes. It is a Kingdom in which the poor and the disregarded are raised to the highest positions. It is a Kingdom based on love not power. It is a Kingdom in which Simon the Leper and Mary Magdalene are quite at home. It is a Kingdom which the likes of the Chief Priests and the Scribes see as a threat and do all in their power to undermine.

This is the Kingdom we aspire to and it is this Kingdom we will see inaugurated during the events of this Holy Week.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday, Year B—March 29, 2015
In our Lenten journey, have we discovered that we are studies in contrasts? Did we begin with great aspirations and are now feeling more than ever our fickleness? If so, we are truly ready for Palm Sunday.

Gospel (Read Mark 14:1-15:47)

Today, in the universal Catholic Church, we rise during Mass to hear a full reading of the Passion of Christ. What is our disposition today, having spent nearly 40 days praying, fasting, and doing acts of generosity? Most of us start Lent with some sense of seriousness about our relationship with God. We welcome a whole season in which we seek to know and love Him better. Is that happening? Are the results mixed?

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: Don’t Keep the Secret
(This is a brief homily for after the Proclamation of the Passion. In my parish I would follow this with calling the people to join us in prayer on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Solemn Easter Vigil).

Today’s Proclamation of the Passion was from the Gospel of Mark. This is the Gospel that often presents crowds of people pressing on Jesus to be healed. Jesus heals many people in this Gospel, but he then he directs them, “Tell no one about this.” Jesus silences devils who call out from the possessed that they know who He is. Why? Why the secrecy? Why does Mark present what scripture scholars would call, the Messianic Secret? The message behind the secret is that no one can understand the healings or the Messiah until they understand the cross.

Does God Still Speak to Us?
I sat quietly; a little disheartened by a conversation I had just had. The person I was talking to told me that she didn’t believe God really talks to her. In fact, she wasn’t sure that He talked to anyone really. I felt a sadness creep into my heart for her. How could she believe that God doesn’t talk to her? How could she miss His voice when there are times I hear it as clearly as I hear my sweet little ones’ voices as they call out, “Mama!”?

Seek God’s Face
Love hides its face from two classes of souls: the false lovers and the true. The false confuse appetite with love, and so fail to recognize the real thing when it comes to them; the true are kept in darkness about their love, and so add faith and hope to their search for it. The search in faith and hope for the love that seems to be always out of reach is in fact love already discovered.

Purity of Heart is Needed to See God
I have mentioned here before that my mentor and teacher, Fr. Francis Martin, once asked, “Do you know what is the biggest obstacle for us in understanding the Word of God?” I was expecting him to answer his own question by saying something like, “We don’t know enough Greek,” or “We haven’t studied the historical critical method carefully enough.” But he looked around the room and then said, “The biggest obstacle we have to understanding the Word of God is our sin.”

Three Ways Everyone Is Seeking Christ
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

These words of Jesus Christ, in John 14:6, constitute one of the most forceful expressions of what could be called the scandal of particularity. One Dominican priest summed it up best this way:

Five Lessons from Jesus about the Path to Glory
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

As Christians, we must be people of prayer—pure and simple. If we do not pray, we do not have a relationship with Christ.

There are many types of prayer. Among them, the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists blessing, adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise. Each of these prayers can be expressed in different ways. Again, the catechism mentions vocal prayer, meditation and contemplation.

Don’t let this overwhelm you, instead accept that God calls and invites you to a wonderful personal relationship and prayer is one of the principal ways you spend time with Him.

In her autobiography, St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote this about prayer

Jesus to St. Faustina on Spiritual Warfare: 25 Secrets
In Cracow-Pradnik, June 2, 1938, the Lord Jesus directed a young Polish Sister of Mercy on a three-day retreat. Faustina Kowalska painstakingly recorded Christ’s instruction in her diary that is a mystical manual on prayer and Divine Mercy. Having read the Diary a few times in the past 20 years, I had forgotten about the unique retreat that Christ gave on the subject of spiritual warfare. Then, recently, I was invited to lead a retreat in Trinidad based on Christ’s “Conference on Spiritual Warfare” as presented in the Diary. The Sanctuary of the Holy Family, an amazing group of lay leaders in service to the Archbishop and priests, sponsored the retreat in the Archdiocese of Trinidad and we filled the Seminary of St. John Vianney to ponder this teaching.

What Is Temptation, Why Does God Permit It, and What Are Its Sources?
I will be on the Catholic Answers radio show today (Monday, March 23) at 6:00 PM Eastern Time. The topic will be temptation, what it is and how to avoid and overcome it. I’ve assembled some notes in preparation and I’ll present them (in two parts) in the blog. Today’s post focuses on what temptation is, why God allows it, and what its sources are. Tomorrow I’ll present the second half of the notes, which center on how to avoid and overcome temptation.

Nine Things Gets Wrong About Jesus recently published an article by former Evangelical-turned-freethinker Valerie Tarico titled 9 things you think you know about Jesus that are probably wrong.

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking contained in her arguments, but they’ve been making the rounds in social media, and therefore worthy of a response.

Below are each of the nine points, and how to answer if you find yourself confronted with them.

Of Human Dignity
The following address was given at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on March, 17 2015.

Vatican II ended in December 1965 with an outpouring of enthusiasm and hope. The Council’s hope was grounded in two things: a renewed Catholic faith, and confidence in the skill and goodness of human reason.

Half a century has passed since then. A lot has happened. The world today is a very different place than it was in 1965. And much more complex. That’s our reality, and it has implications for the way we live our faith, which is one of the reasons we’re here tonight. …more

Can Human Free Will and Divine Predestination Both be True?
If God is not love but only knowledge, then it is difficult or impossible to see how human free will and divine predestination can both be true. But if God is love, there is a way.

Freedom and predestination is one of the most frequently asked questions among my students—partly because of modern man’s great concern for freedom, but also, I think, for the largely unconscious reason that we intuitively know both these things must be true because they are the warp and woof of every good story. If a story has no plot, no destiny—if its events are haphazard and arbitrary—it is not a great story.

What Is Serenity and How Can We Grow in It?
During Lent, a gift to seek is greater serenity. The word comes from the Latin serenus, meaning clear or unclouded (skies). By extension it thus means calm, without storm.

Serenity has become more used in modern times with the advent of many 12-Step programs, which use the Serenity Prayer as an important help to their work.

The Weight of Glory
We can believe we are mere mortals dreaming the dream of immortality, while in fact, we are immortals dreaming the terrible dream of mere mortality.

We all know what the weight of glory is, whether or not we have read Lewis’ golden sermon.

Archbishop Chaput: What Is True Religious Freedom?
In a lecture at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia’s shepherd discusses emerging threats to religious freedom a half century after the Council Fathers approved Dignitatis Humanae.

PHILADELPHIA — In an address on the state of religious freedom in the United States and across the globe, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia targeted the shifting semantics that obscure objective truth, as church-state tensions escalate and U.S. society debates new definitions of human freedom and the family.

Is the Bible Inspired And Without Error?
The Pontifical Biblical Commission publishes document on proper interpretation of Scripture and tackles tough questions about biblical violence, the status of women, historical errors and who authored what books.

The Pontifical Biblical Commission was asked by Pope Benedict XVI to study the question of the proper interpretation of Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution that deals with the transmission of the word of God.

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself
“You don’t have to like everyone but you have to love everyone”: A simple way of explaining the second great commandment to our children. Love your neighbor as yourself.

“Even bad guys, Mummy?”

“Yes, even bad guys. You don’t have to like what they do but you do have to love them.”

But what does that mean exactly? Is it a throw away line? Can we say and do whatever we want in relation to a person so long as we pay lip service to some sort of wishy-washy love? Or must we love our neighbor by supporting every single decision they make and characteristic they possess? No, but both of these attitudes are quite common.

Serve the Poor or Go to Hell–A Step by Step Guide to Avoiding Eternal Damnation
“I’ve said many times over many years that if we ignore the poor, we will go to hell: literally,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said, most recently, here.

I love that. I am well aware that, just as perfect contrition is better than imperfect contrition, it is better to serve the poor out of love for God and neighbor than out of fear of reprisal.

But I also know that, to get over spiritual and moral inertia, sometimes we need a little push.

As It Was in the Beginning is Now, and Ever
The other night, I was frustrated with my critics, frustrated with my children, and frustrated with my disobedient German shepherds who take my donning of a coat to mean the dawning of a walk, even near midnight. I was grateful to be pulled outside though. The sky was clear beyond bits of late snow, one of those spirity nights when the winds of impending Spring wipe away the clouds, and the starlight casts shadows. “My God,” I prayed, “the stars are so bright!”

A Mission of Love
The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September should be more than a vast Catholic “gathering of the clans” around Pope Francis—and so should the months between now and then. If the Church in the United States takes this opportunity seriously, these months of preparation will be a time when Catholics ponder the full, rich meaning of marriage and the family: human goods whose glory is brought into clearest focus by the Gospel. Parents, teachers and pastors all share the responsibility for seizing this opportunity, which comes at a moment when marriage and the family are crumbling in our culture and society.

Four Critical Principles for Catholic Father
It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” (Pope St. John XXIII)

I often feel completely lost and befuddled as a Catholic father in today’s world.

How do I set the right example?

How do I help my sons grow up with a strong Catholic faith?

How do I prepare them for a culture that often teaches and rewards actions counter to what we believe and how we should live?

Overcoming Sinful Anger
If you read anything by St. Francis de Sales, you come away with the impression that he was patience incarnate. He talks endlessly about the wonderful benefits of meekness, gentleness, and kindness—especially to those who deserve it least.

Yet, many don’t realize that this great saint struggled for most of his life with a fiery temper and an intense impatience. By his own admission, it took him nearly 20 years to overcome these tendencies. It is a testament to his fierce battle against self that he is known and remembered for the exact opposite virtues of patience and gentleness, rather than those that came easily to his nature.

What Other World Religions Think About Jesus
People trying to discover the truth about God should take a hard look at Jesus before looking anywhere else. While that may sound like a bold assertion in and of itself, it really isn’t when you consider that every major religious movement considers Jesus to be an important religious figure. Every religion makes some effort to account for His existence and teaching. Even secular scholars are interested in the life of Jesus—for example, the recently debuted CNN series, Finding Jesus, explores the person of Jesus from a historical perspective.

This ought to give seekers a reason to pause and consider the life of Jesus seriously.

Here is what a few other major world religions believe about Jesus:

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Pastoral Sharings: "Fifth Sunday of Lent"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.  
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Posted for March 22, 2015   

John 12: 20–33
Gospel Summary

Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast say to Philip, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Jesus responds, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He then says that in order to produce much fruit, a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die; and only the person who “hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” Those who follow him, Jesus promises, will be where he is, and the Father will honor them.
Jesus, realizing that his “hour” will involve suffering and death, is troubled; yet, he entrusts his life to the Father. Through giving himself to his Father’s will, the world will be judged, and the ruler of this world will be driven out. Jesus then reveals the purpose of the “hour” he is about to enter: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”   

Life Implications    

The incident of the Greeks asking to see Jesus marks a turning point in the fourth gospel. Before, as at the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus had always said that his “hour” had not yet come. Now through the symbolic presence of the Greeks, Jesus will be able to draw everyone to himself—Gentiles as well as Jews, people today as well as people of the first century. We, too, would like to see Jesus.    

One of the most elusive concepts in the entire bible is “glory.” John uses the term to refer to the divine presence manifesting itself in the world, and also to the recognition of that supreme presence by a faithful person. In the hour that has come upon him, how will the Father’s presence manifest itself to Jesus, and how will he honor that divine presence? It is clear from many incidents in the fourth gospel that Jesus loved and enjoyed his human life. He took part in a wedding feast at Cana. At the death of his friend Lazarus, Jesus was moved with the deepest emotions (anger or indignation as well as sorrow). He wept, so much did he love his friend. Now that his “hour” has come, Jesus is troubled at the prospect of losing his life. The Letter to the Hebrews states: “In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death….” (Hebrews 5: 7).   

Because human life is so precious, perhaps the deepest human instinct is for its survival. We seek power and possessions to secure it. We seek pleasures to enjoy it. We seek honors to assure ourselves of its worth. Jesus, too, faced the temptation to make the preservation of his own life his supreme value. In prayer, however, he recognized the presence of the Father’s eternal life dwelling in him, and he committed himself to his Father’s will even if it meant he would die. In this the Father glorifies his name by showing us in Jesus that divine life and love overcome death, not only in his beloved Son but in every human being who follows Jesus.   

When Jesus dies on the cross, it appears to be the “hour” when the “ruler of this world” has triumphed once and for all. However, the reality is that Jesus is lifted up not to end his life on the cross, but is lifted up to eternal life in the Father. The good news that John’s gospel proclaims is that now Jesus draws everyone to himself. The Greeks and all who now “see” Jesus and follow him in faith will be where he is, with God.   

The crucial “hour” when one must choose either to love one’s life in this world above everything else, or to love one’s life in God, of course, will come in the particular circumstances of one’s own world. There are immediate implications of that decision. To define one’s ultimate meaning in relation to any reality but God is to live in a state of anxiety because that finite reality, however precious, may pass away at any moment. On the other hand, to define one’s meaning in relation to life in God brings peace beyond understanding. Even though, like Christ, we may experience the deepest emotions at the death of a loved one, or be troubled at the prospect of our own death, the final word is peace. “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16: 33).

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
March 22, 2015

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B—March 22, 2015
In our Gospel, some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem to worship at Passover asked to see Jesus. When told about this, Jesus announced that His “hour” had come. Why?

Gospel (Read Jn 12:20-33)

St. John tells us that when Jesus was in Jerusalem for His final Passover festival, “some Greeks who had come to worship” desired to see Him. These were non-Jews who were strongly attracted to the God of Israel and so participated in the liturgical feasts at the Temple. They may have been actual converts (meaning they had been circumcised), but, more probably, they were “God-fearers,” Gentiles who tried to keep the Law of Moses and to observe the pious practices of the Jews. We see they approached Philip with their request. He had a Greek name and was from Galilee, so he probably spoke some Greek. These men may have heard stories about Jesus’ miraculous works, especially the raising of Lazarus, recorded in the previous chapter of the Gospel.   When Philip and his brother, Andrew, tell Jesus about the Greeks’ request, He begins speaking about His “hour,” His glory, and His death.

Fifth Sunday of Lent: Our Hours
The days are coming when I will write my law deep within their hearts.  All of them, from the least to the greatest will know that I am their God.

In the first reading, the Prophet Jeremiah spoke about a time when God’s people would be so united to God that they would know within themselves how to serve Him.  That time is now.  God’s law is written deep within each of our hearts.  We don’t need anyone to tell us what we should do.  Deep within ourselves we know if we are true to God or not. Some people will argue with us.  They will say, “It’s OK to get drunk, to try this, to do that.”  They will argue that all the bad things that high school, college and basically people of all ages get into is really normal behavior.  We know that is a lie.  Everything within us, deep within us, tells us that this is a lie. We know that we cannot behave immorally and face our God. So much of what the world tells us to do conflicts with the deep life within us.   We have to recognize that what some call normal behavior is for us Christians, abnormal behavior.

If God so Loves the World, Why is There a Hell?
As the camera pans the crowd at a football game, you see a few fans holding up the sign. It simply says “John 3:16.”

For years, evangelical Protestants have extolled this little bible verse as the heart of the Gospel. In their minds, if you only have a moment to tell people something about the Christian faith, this is the Scripture to quote: “For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whosoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life.”

Ten Reasons Why Christ Conquered Caesar…
I’ve just finished a book I had been wanting to read for some time,The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries.

Stark is a sociologist and with years of research and a sociologist’s tools he asks how a tiny Jewish sect following an executed criminal could possibly have dominated the pagan Roman Empire in just three hundred years. How is it that a rag tag band of disciples could organize a movement that grew so quickly and spread so widely that by the mid 300s it had become the state religion of the Roman Empire?

Try Hard, Love Much
“She tried hard and loved much.”

Not to be morbid, but I hope that can be truthfully put on my tombstone. I’m not planning on dying any time soon, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Over the years I have come to realize that a great way to live is to really consider my own death. What is important in life? How could someone sum up what I’ve done in my short time (hopefully 99, give or take, “short” years of course) on this earth? In a busy world of seemingly endless demands and constant choices which must be made almost instantly, what should I strive for most? What, in short, really matters?

You Can’t Have Jesus Without the Church
Of all the many movements within Protestantism, among the most disturbing is the notion that one can have Jesus but does not need the Church. In order for this to be true, one must separate the bridegroom from the bride. This is impossible:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her …. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” [Genesis 2:24]. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25, 29-32 RSVCE)

So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:6 RSVCE)

Learning Deep Repentance in Lent
Why do you go to confession anyway?

There’s a first level of repentance which is simply duty. The church says you should go to confession at least once a year. So off you go. You stand in line. You “make your confession” but it’s a superficial grab at some top level sins. Maybe you aren’t even aware of the difference between mortal sin and venial sin, so you trot through a little list. You’re not sure you’ve really done much wrong at all, and you go through the motions.

You’ve not really examined your life or the state of your soul in any depth.

Tolerance Has Its Place, But Also Its Limits – A Brief Consideration of a Widely Misunderstood Virtue
Yesterday we discussed the intolerance of the very radicals who are forever calling for tolerance. A couple of people wrote in to indicate that they consider my stance duplicitous, since I likely support Archbishop Cordeleone’s stance requiring Catholic School teachers to demonstrate loyalty to Catholic teachings and promise not to teach to the contrary in Catholic schools. I do in fact support the good Archbishop. But I do not accept the charge of duplicity.

Why? Because, as I hope to teach, tolerance is a virtue, but it is not an absolute virtue. …more

At Lenten penance service, pope announces Holy Year of Mercy
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to highlight the Catholic Church’s “mission to be a witness of mercy.”

“No one can be excluded from God’s mercy,” the pope said March 13, marking the second anniversary of his pontificate by leading a Lenten penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica.

There’s No Middle Ground on the Path to Heaven, Pope Francis Says
VATICAN CITY — It is the saints — not the hypocrites — who carry the Church forward, Pope Francis said Thursday, cautioning that there is no middle ground on the path to heaven.

“Jesus says: ‘Whoever is not with me is against me.’ And there is no compromising. You are either on the path of love or on the path of hypocrisy,” the Pope told attendees of his March 12 daily Mass, held in the Vatican’s St. Martha guesthouse.

When Faith Falls Out of Fashion
In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple, which he consecrated in Jerusalem (2 Chr 36:14).

This is what happens when faith falls out of fashion. The Israelites learned that the hard way. Is there any other way? That’s the only way that I know how to learn.

God, the Life of the Soul
God did not make death. On the contrary, he created the rational soul to dwell in indissoluble union with the human body. When the psalmist sang, “A body hast thou prepared for me”, it was as if he had said to the Creator:

Shadows of Suffering Fade in the Light of Christ
Maurice Ravel’s Pianoforte Concerto for the left hand was written for Austrian pianist, Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in the 1st World War.

Imagine Wittgenstein’s grief! Music was the center of his world. He grew up in a prominent Viennese household visited by composers such as Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Straus: As a boy, Paul Wittgenstein occasionally played duets with them. He was close to 30 years of age when he lost his arm. It must have been a terrible shock!

Morality, Facts, and Opinions
Even those who do not torture themselves by the daily reading of The New York Times may have heard about the article “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts” by Justin McBrayer, a philosophy professor who complained about quizzes his son’s second-grade class were given to teach them to distinguish, either/or fashion, between “facts” and “opinions.”

Consider the following list of propositions from worksheet materials McBrayer found on-line:

A Philosopher Takes on Hitler
My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich   –   By Dietrich von Hildebrand

Wow, what a book! You may have thought you’ve read everything about the persecution of Catholics by the Third Reich before and during the Second World War. 

However, you are likely to be surprised by the memoirs of one of the great philosophers of the last century, Dietrich von Hildebrand.

The Grace of a Slow, Painful Death
The list of things reflective of the gradual but now quickening loss of the Catholic mind is long. Among the things demonstrative that Catholics no longer think like Catholics is the often expressed wish, “I hope I die a quick and painless death.”

Death can be scary, for sure, and I resist and avoid pain as much as the next wimp. But for as long as I can remember, a quick, unsuspecting, and painless death is the specter that haunts my dreams. I cannot count how many people I have heard express the wish, “I hope I die in my sleep.” When a Catholic expresses this wish, I shake my head and offer a prayer that their wish will go unfulfilled.

An Act of Love: Stations of the Cross for Priests & Laity
During the Lenten season the Church invites us to spend some time reflecting on Jesus’ journey to Calvary. To do so is an act of love. As we accompany the suffering Eternal High Priest along the Way of the Cross it is most fitting to pray for all priests. The Sacrament of Holy Orders has radically changed them into other Christs for us. This is God’s act of love for us.

Why must we pray for priests? Fr. John Hardon, S.J., compellingly expresses both the urgency and the primacy of praying for priests:

Lent: Choose Your Weapons Wisely – How to fight the battle for our souls — and win
If you knew you had to fight for your life, would you want some time to prepare for that struggle? How would you spend that time? Surely, you would want to spend some of that time choosing suitable weapons and defenses, and you would want to learn how to use them well.

The Family as the Icon of the Holy Trinity
My nephew Tom came home from first grade in anguish. At dinner he could barely keep the tears out of his six year old eyes. When his parents pressed him to find out what was wrong, he replied that “this kid at school says I have a funny name.” His parents glanced at each other, thinking, “‘Tom Shea’ is a funny name?” So summoning their best parental wisdom, they told him to ignore the kid and he would go away.

Of course, this didn’t work. The kid kept it up for another day or two till Tom was really beginning to worry: maybe he did have a funny name.

Finally, Tom’s parents decided it was time to take action. Reasoning that they would have to go talk to his folks, they asked at dinner that night, “What’s the boy’s name, Tom?”

Tom looked at them, blinked his big blue innocent eyes and said, “Farquhar Muckenfussen, Jr.”

Has Confession Been a Part of Your Lenten Journey?
Dioceses around the country encourage people to prepare their hearts for Easter.
“When was the last time you made a confession?” Pope Francis asked during a general audience last year.

“And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Be courageous, and go to confession!”

Is Reincarnation Biblical?
Recently, I was asked the question: “If Catholics believe in the natural immortality of the human soul, why would you not believe in reincarnation? After all, didn’t Jesus indicate John the Baptist was the reincarnation of the prophet Elijah, in Matthew 17:10-13?”

What is Sloth? It is More Subtle and Devilish Than Mere Laziness
One of the more misunderstood of the cardinal sins is sloth. This is because most see it merely as laziness. But there is more to sloth than that. Let’s take a moment and consider some aspects of the cardinal sin we call sloth.

A Crash Course on the Crusades
The Crusades are one of the most misunderstood events in Western and Church history.  The very word “crusades” conjures negative images in our modern world of bloodthirsty and greedy European nobles embarked on a conquest of peaceful Muslims.  The Crusades are considered by many to be one of the “sins” the Christian Faith has committed against humanity and with the Inquisition are the go-to cudgels for bashing the Church.

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Fourth Sunday of Lent


Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Posted for March 15, 2015

The readings today are all about salvation. The extract 
from the Book of Chronicles gives us an account of the 
great exile known as the Babylonian Captivity that 
occurred in 586 BC.

This was a most extraordinary event. After over four hundred years of rule by the descendents of King David the Kingdom of Judah was overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon and the majority of the population were taken into captivity.

In many ways things in the Middle East haven’t changed that much, there have been power struggles going on there right down the ages to our own day. In the period we are thinking about the newly ascendant empire was that of Babylon. Their King, Nebuchadnezzar, was well aware of the riches owned by his weaker neighbour and soon decided to plunder Judah and enslave its inhabitants.

One sure way to keep a whole people in slavery is to destroy their hope. Since the hope of a nation is often expressed in its religion Nebuchadnezzar lost no time in destroying the Temple in Jerusalem. He was convinced that this would send the people into despair and they would become more easily manageable.

Nebuchadnezzar thought that the Israelites would conclude that their God was weak and powerless since he could not even defend his own Temple.

But, of course, the very opposite happened. The Prophet Jeremiah had foretold these events and the people came to understand that the destruction of the Temple and their enslavement was not a result of the weakness of God but due to their own infidelity. They interpreted the Captivity as appropriate punishment by God for disobeying him rather than viewing it as constituting any inadequacy on his part.

The Captivity lasted seventy years and then God moved the heart of the new ruler of Babylon, the Persian King Cyrus, to release them and to rebuild the Temple.

This must have seemed quite incredible to the People of Israel. They had been lamenting their lot in Babylon as is so eloquently expressed in the Psalm given to us today. And then this new pagan king suddenly expresses his belief in their God and says that he has been instructed by him to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

This was surely a most extraordinary miracle and a profound vindication of the God of their fathers; a faith strengthened and renewed rather than extinguished by seventy long years of captivity.

Just imagine their rejoicing as they returned home to freedom. This can only be described as a profound experience of salvation.

We should remember that this wasn’t the first time that the People of Israel had experienced captivity and exile. You will remember the Exile into Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs and how Moses led the Chosen People through the Red Sea and then through forty years in the desert until they reached the Promised Land of Canaan.

These experiences of salvation were deeply ingrained in the history and culture of Israel. You could not think of a better way of preparing a race of people for the definitive saving event of all time –the salvation won by Jesus Christ.

The only trouble with us humans is that we have a tendency to forget. We continually forget even the most important lessons in life. And, as a people, the Jews were no different in that they continually forgot the lessons of the deepest experiences they had collectively endured.

Jesus explains this to Nicodemus. He tells him how what Moses achieved was going to happen once again but in a greater and more definitive way.

This time there would be no exile into slavery, no journey through the desert, no glorious entry into the Promised Land. There would be no captivity in Babylon, no sudden change of heart by a pagan Emperor.

No, this time the circumstances would be almost banal. A squalid betrayal by a once loyal brother, an arrest in a garden in the middle of the night, a trumped up trial, the exchange of his life for that of a rebel and the crucifixion by the Romans on behalf of a corrupt Jewish priesthood.

What we have been speaking about is mostly the memory of things long past but we know that there are different kinds of memory. We are all familiar with short-term memory. We remember where we left our car in the supermarket car park. But we don’t retain this information for long otherwise our minds would be clogged up with a lot of unnecessary data.

Then there is long-term memory. This is more difficult; we often remember scenes from our childhood or significant events. Sometimes events flood unbidden into our minds, things that we thought were long forgotten.

And there is collective memory. This is the memory of a whole nation or community. It is about the significance of their history. A good example would be the memory of the holocaust for the Jews of today, and indeed also in an opposite way for the German nation. Keeping these events alive is important in order to maintain the identity of the community concerned.

The events of the Exodus and the Captivity have been highly significant for the Jews down through the ages. They were demonstrations of their chosenness by God which was precisely what they considered made them different from all the other nations of the earth.

These were extremely strong experiences of salvation which affected a whole people for many generations. They were powerful demonstrations of God’s love despite the infidelity of a considerable proportion of the nation.

And yet, by the time of Jesus, these things were being forgotten. The priests especially were caught up in a highly clerical religion which exploited the people and which ensured places of privilege from themselves. This was accompanied by highly inappropriate collusion between them and the Roman invaders.

Jesus tells Nicodemus what is about to happen. He reveals to this important member of the Jewish hierarchy that God is now going to intervene in a most spectacular way and is going to definitively bring about salvation not merely for the Jewish people but for the whole human race.

Memory remains important, because it is our collective memory which communicates this extraordinary intervention of God in the history of the world to future generations.

We keep this memory fresh by constantly reading the scriptures and by gathering together to celebrate the Eucharist each week. These are the means by which the Good News of the Kingdom is kept alive in the world today.

In the words of consecration Our Lord says: Do this in memory of me. It is his memory we keep alive, it is his salvation that we celebrate, it is his Kingdom that we look forward to so much.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
March 15, 2015

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B—March 15, 2015
Once, in Israel’s wilderness wanderings, Moses put a bronze serpent on a pole and lifted it up for the healing of God’s people. Why does Jesus compare Himself to that serpent?

Gospel (Read Jn 3:14-21)

Today, we read the last part of a conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had come to Him at night to talk. Most Pharisees were suspicious and contemptuous of Jesus, but not Nicodemus. He recognized Him as “a teacher from God” because of the miraculous works He did (see Jn 3:2). Jesus understood right away what this man was looking for, so He began a discussion with him about the need to be “born anew” to enter the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3). This completely baffled Nicodemus, of course, because he knew a person cannot re-enter the womb for a second birth. Jesus pressed the point: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5). When Nicodemus continued to struggle with this idea, it was Jesus’ turn to be baffled: “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this?” (Jn 3:10)

Fourth Sunday of Lent: We Are God’s Work of Art
I was blessed as a child to be exposed to good art.  My Mom worked for a book distributer who dealt with Harry N. Abrams among other publishers.  Abrams was then and still remains one of the main publishers of books on art and artists. When I went to high school, I took a course on art appreciation and as part of the class went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where I still hold a membership.

The Trinity: Source of All Mysteries
The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is, as stated in the General Catechetical Directory, “the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith.” The unfathomable nature of the Trinity beckons us to the highest reaches of the human intellect and beyond to that real understanding only possible by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and even then at best we will bask in what remains a glorious mystery. In paragraph 234 of the Catechism we are instructed that “the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.” To know with our hearts what has been revealed to us about the Most Holy Trinity, we must commit to arduous intellectual work which is best carried out with the help of a learned tutor.

The Gravity of the Father’s Love in Heaven and on Earth
The Lord taught us to call on our heavenly Father not because God is distant or inaccessible, but because the Father is awaiting for us with love. This means that heaven is near and dawning on us even now.   This means that we are the objects of a particular joy, a special and un-repeatable delight that has lived in the Heart of God from the beginning. He respects our freedom but no power from above or below can thwart the hidden purpose of His exceeding love. He is making His will on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Jesus, Mary, and the Saints
I would like to present to you in a few words five of the most beautiful jewels in the heart of Mary: her simplicity, her abandonment, her love for the Cross, her thirst for souls, and her love.

The Gospel tells us nothing about the childhood of Mary. It seems that God willed jealously to hide this dia­mond of greatest beauty. And Mary, all her life, kept her love of reticence, of self-effacement, of the hidden life, under the veil of simplicity, like a marvelous treasure.

How did Saint Thérèse Conquer Satan and Attain Perfection?
There is a story from the Early Church Fathers that relates how a monk was slapped on the cheek by a young girl possessed by a demon. The monk in turn simply turned his other cheek in obedience to the Lord’s command. The demon could not take it and immediately left the girl. Those who witnessed what happened said, “The pride of demons must fall before humble obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ.” (Manual for Spiritual Warfare, 181)

Learn to Recollect Yourself to God
There is a distinction to be made at the outset that will throw a strong light upon the problem of thinking always of God. We must be on our guard to avoid confusing the act of prayer with the state of prayer. Further on we shall see in what consists the state of prayer.

An act of prayer may be either vocal or mental, ac­cording as it is formed of words recited by the lips, or is the inner cry of the soul expressed in formulated or unformu-lated transports of love, or in the silence of union with God. In these two cases, our thoughts are occupied or try­ing to be occupied with God.

Bogged Down in Lent? Here Are Five Prayer Pointers
We’re supposed to pray more in Lent.

So pray more why dontcha?

Here are  some ideas for kickstarting your Lenten Prayer life.

Looking for modern St. Josephs
The Church will celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph , the second greatest saint after Mary, on March 19 and that has me thinking about the need our Church and society has for strong men, especially fathers.

Man’s purpose was given to him in the Garden of Eden, when God entrusted Adam—the father of all men—with guarding and cultivating the garden. The Jewish people believed that the Garden of Eden represented all of creation, and so man’s mission in the garden had universal implications.In a 1958 radio message to American Catholic schoolchildren for Lent, Pope Pius XII offered a wonderful reflection on how these qualities were present in St. Joseph.

What Are Passive Purifications and Why Are They Needed?
Have you undertaken certain Lenten practices or abstinences to assist you growth in holiness? If so, you do well. Practices such as these are included in what are known as “active purifications.” Active purifications consist of our holy works and efforts and our mortifications, which, by the grace of God, help to purify our mind, our heart, and what is called our “sensitive appetite.”

On Mistaking Morality
In a lecture I listened to recently via podcast, a distinguished evolutionary biologist asked the question, “What is goodness?” In developing his answer, he distinguished between two views of goodness: the absolutist and the relativist. The absolutist view holds that goodness is a “formula” or “rule” that can be applied, always and everywhere, to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. The relativist view says simply that there is no single, “one-size-fits-all” rule of goodness for human beings. The good is simply the name we give to the collection of our preferences.

Just the Moral Facts, Ma’am
As I write this article, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is giving some young cyberpunks a much-needed lesson in moral facts.

Here’s the story: Last week, Schilling’s daughter Gabrielle was accepted by Salve Regina University on a baseball scholarship. (According to Wikipedia, Schilling is a “born-again Christian”.) As proud daddies want to do in the twenty-first century, Schilling tweeted his joy to his followers.

No fighting God
Some months after my son-in-law, Rob Susil, died, a longtime friend asked me, in a gentle but point-blank way, “Are you still fighting God?” The only honest response was, “Yes.” At which my friend said, simply, “You’re not going to win, you know…”

I think back on that exchange now, during the Lent following the fifth anniversary of Rob’s death, because Lent is the “acceptable time” [2 Cor 6:2] to ponder the mystery of suffering and death, and what it teaches us about God’s ways, our ways, and the incalculable difference between the two.

Boys will always be boys, even in heaven
I remember vividly how happy I was when my little brother Sergio was born. I was seven, and until Sergio came along, I was the only boy and the middle child out of five. My two younger and two older sisters would play in pairs, while I had to play with mom. Not that it was bad playing with mom, but it is not hard to imagine how the arrival of a little brother was the best thing that could happen to a seven-year-old.

I remember time and again going to my little brother’s crib to pray to God repeatedly, “Make him grow fast! I promise you that he will be my pal and I will never leave him!”

The Treasure of Silence
One perfect Word, and a world full of noise; one perfect proof of love, yet millions of lonely-hearted souls; one perfect God, and a bewildering number of imposters adored —this is the world in which we live, sorely in need of silence, love, and truth.

The chatter never ceases, in spite of the eternally perfect speech. Everyone has something to say — some in words, some in music, some in writing. Voices and music blast from iPods and headphones, from stereos and CD players. Speakers in stores and gas stations and shopping malls fill every available second with auditory stimuli. Television, via cable and satellite, brings a mind-boggling supply of noise, too — music and unmusic, art and unart, edifying and damning digital entertainment, provided in every imaginable form all day and all night. Some of these things are not fit to wake the dead, let alone entertain the living.

Five Ways to Practice Forgiveness
The renowned English poet Alexander Pope stated: “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” How true this statement, but how difficult it can be! Holding on to resentment indeed is interior slavery. Whereas, to forgive is truly imitating God Himself, but also setting the captive free and that captive is me.

Frequently and in unequivocal terms Jesus has reaffirmed the indispensable obligation of all to forgive those who hurt us, to pray for our enemies, and to do good to those who hurt us! Once again, easier said than done! Actually without God’s grace to forgive those who have wounded us and to love and pray for our enemies far transcends and supersedes our natural powers. In sum, we need Gods’ grace to forgive our enemies.

Three Words of Advice From Saint Faustina on Spiritual Combat
“Strengthen yourself for combat.” – Words of Jesus to Saint Faustina Kowalska (Diary, Notebook I, 145).

Saint Faustina was certainly a gifted soul. She had such great wisdom in the spiritual life and she received it all from the hand of God.

St. John Paul II had a great devotion to her and used all of his influence to further the cause of her canonization. He knew that her writings and example would be a beacon of hope in a world clouded in darkness.

In particular, Saint Faustina was a great spiritual Warrior and encourages us today to prepare for the spiritual battle that rages for our soul. She gives us three words of advice that will greatly help us win the war: trust, prepare, pray.

What is the meaning of the 12 and 7 baskets left over from the feeding of 5000 and 4000?
What is the meaning of the 12 and 7 baskets left over from Christ’s feeding of 5000 and 4000 in the Gospels? The Evangelists often omit details but they always specify the numbers in these episodes. Christ Himself asks them plainly:

“When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”

“And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (St Mark 8:19-21)

Christ’s childhood home found?
The “historical Jesus” is only of passing interest in comparison to the Lord of Salvation.

The Daily Mail has a piece about how archaeologists, reading medieval manuscripts, have identified a likely place …

‘The Confessional Is a Place of Victory’
Father Mike Schmitz is the director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth, Minn., the chaplain for Newman Catholic campus ministry at the University of Minnesota at Duluth and a popular speaker.

As the chaplain, he makes the sacrament of reconciliation available every day and has written about this sacrament from his priestly perspective.

A Child Is Never a Burden
The stories of heroic mothers rarely appear on the nightly news, even when they include prominent figures like Genevieve Shaw Brown, Travel and Lifestyle Editor for ABC News. Genevieve recently wrote about her infant son, William Michael Brown, who has Down syndrome. The Browns knew prior to his birth that he would be born with Down syndrome, and of those months leading up to his birth she writes,

Marks of True Devotion
“I now know how devoted you are to God.”

The Patriarch Abraham is praised for being a devoted servant of God: “I now know how devoted you are to God.” What makes him merit this praise of being truly devoted? Is it just because he was willing to sacrifice his only son, the son of God’s promise, in obedience to the Lord’s command? On a level deeper than the greatness of Abraham’s obedience to God, the patriarch can be said to be truly devoted to God because he gave like God.

Is Confession Dead?
The confessionals are empty. The sinners have gone away. Or should I say, “sin has gone away.” Not to be judgmental, but rather to be observant, I sense poignantly a lack of what I would call “sin awareness” among modern Catholics. We seem to have assimilated the secular notion that the concept of sin places outdated, even psychologically damaging restraints on people, or that the feeling of guilt for wrongdoing (or wrong-thinking) is emotionally debilitating. Thus, we see in society the virtual elimination of the word “sin.” We don’t want to hurt anybody’s self esteem. Catholics, perhaps innocently, have bought into this nonsense.

Twenty-Four parables that will make you feel uncomfortable
Anyone who has read any of the essays, books or articles of Fr George William Rutler, a parish priest in New York, knows they have a treat in store: a feast of sharp wit, erudition and insight, seasoned with irony. The temptation is to read him merely for these qualities, without realising that his prose style conceals an old-fashioned priest who believes that saving souls is more important than public standing or popularity.

A Way Everyone Should Pray
Every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of what Jesus felt at times. For instance, I can understand a little of what he must have been thinking when his disciples asked: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

He could have responded with amazement: “How can you not know how to pray? I have been with you all this time. You have heard me as I prayed. You know that when I pray, I simply communicate with the Father. Are you so dense that you can’t even imitate a little of my prayers?”

Instead, he was gracious, gentle and insightful. He taught them from the depths of his heart and soul.

“Our Father, who art in heaven …”

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Third Sunday of Lent

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Third Sunday of Lent
Posted for March 8, 2015

If you have a picture in your head of ‘Gentle Jesus, Meek 
and Mild’ then today’s Gospel ought to make you get rid
of it straight away. If you think of Jesus as some sort of  namby-pamby figure then I suggest you think again.

Where this widespread idea comes from I do not know, but it certainly is not in accord with what the scriptures tell us about Jesus. It is most likely a 19th Century invention and probably comes from the sort of edifying pictures the Victorians thought were appropriate to childhood nurseries in middle class households.

But this kind of image of a sweet and saccharine Jesus is really quite subversive and does true religion no good whatever. What it does is turn our Divine Saviour into a weak-minded do-gooder. It strips him of his divinity and turns him into a kind of inoffensive romantic individual with a nice sideline in miracles.

This is not Jesus. This is not the Christ of the Gospels. This is not the Saviour who died for us on Calvary. And this is certainly not the Christ who drove the money changers out of the Temple.

Catholic doctrine has from the earliest times taught that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. And if he is true man then he is a full person with all the emotions and all the moods and all the feelings that constitute a real and authentic human being.

So we should immediately put out of our heads the meek and mild individual of the holy pictures in the nursery. It says in today’s extract from St John’s Gospel, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ To be consumed with zeal implies someone who is firing on all cylinders. It implies someone who puts every ounce of energy into their emotions and desires.

As always, we can learn from Our Lord. And the lesson today surely is that we should not be afraid of our emotions and we should feel free to give them appropriate expression.

I suppose the one emotion most people are afraid of is anger. We don’t like to be in the company of angry people and like it even less when we ourselves are overwhelmed by what we perceive as the most destructive of the emotions.

Actually, I’m not sure that anger is the most destructive of the emotions; I tend to think that jealousy is far worse. But as we say, there is a time and a place for everything and what we see today in the Gospel is anger appropriately and justifiably expressed by Jesus.

The scene described by John misses out some important background information that might help us to understand the reason for Jesus’ anger. Because of the rules for ritual purity the people could only make their offering to the Temple in Jewish currency and not in the money in ordinary circulation.

Hence the need for moneychangers who of course charged a hefty commission. And, no doubt, licences to offer money changing in the Temple precincts cost a few bob payable to the Temple authorities.

Jesus was right; his Father’s house had been turned into a den of thieves. And anger was the appropriate response.

The key to Jesus’ anger is to be found in the first reading. “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me.”

This is the first and most important of the Ten Commandments. It forbids belief in false Gods or the worship of idols. Now in those days this was understood in a very straightforward manner and became institutionalised in the sacrifices offered in the Temple.

But Jesus is not content with mere outward conformity to the Law of God; what he wants is interior obedience, obedience of the heart. These merchants are clearly serving not God but themselves. Their aim is not true worship of the unseen God but the accumulation of money. And worse of all this involves the exploitation of the poor and devout.

This is what makes Jesus angry and leads him to clear them from the Temple. But the direct consequence of the Cleansing of the Temple was Christ’s arrest and death on the Cross. Indeed in his remarks about destroying the temple and it being raised up in three days Jesus makes it quite clear that he is fully aware of the consequences.

It was this intervention into what they regarded as their territory that upset the Temple authorities. From that moment they were determined to do away with this “usurper”.

It was not Jesus’ anger that was inappropriate it was the anger of the Temple authorities that was totally out of place. These people who were supposed to be guarding the faith of Israel against the worship of false Gods end up killing the very Son of God. If this is not the greatest irony of all time then I don’t know what is!

Just going back to anger and how to deal with it; as we have said anger or any other emotion can never be sinful in itself. It is the thoughts and actions that flow from our emotions that can be destructive and therefore sinful.

If we experience anger or jealousy or any other strong and potentially destructive emotion we need to find appropriate ways to express it without falling into sin. We need to release the emotion without making things worse and this is not easily done. Often when we experience strong emotions our judgement becomes clouded and we are then unable to distinguish rights from wrongs.

The key I suppose is not what we do when we are angry but what we do when we are calm. That is not what we do in those few moments when we are filled with strong emotions but what we do all the rest of the time when we are in a normal and steady frame of mind.

If we normally take the trouble to see the other person’s point of view, if over a long period we try to develop an inclination towards tranquillity, if we consistently try to follow the teachings of the Beatitudes in our ordinary lives then when we do fly off the handle our anger will be short lived and we will be unlikely to do anything rash.

As it says at the end of our text today, “he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.” From this we understand that Jesus knows all there is to know about human nature. Perhaps it is us who still have a lot to learn.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
March 8, 2015

Third Sunday in Lent, Year B—March 8, 2015
Today, Jesus drives out vendors and moneychangers from the Temple. What prompted this rare flash of aggression?

Gospel (Read Jn 2:13-25)

St. John describes a visit Jesus made to the Jerusalem Temple near Passover. To best understand this episode, we need to know something about the physical arrangement of the Temple at this time, as well as some of the customs and business conducted there. The “temple area” refers to the Court of the Gentiles, a space outside the holy inner chambers that was offered to God-fearing Gentiles who, although not converts to Judaism, wished to pray to the God of the Jews. When Solomon built the first Temple, this space was added to the Tabernacle design used in Israel’s wilderness wanderings. It acknowledged their vocation to be a “kingdom of priests” (see Ex 19:6), inviting the whole world into God’s blessing.

Third Sunday of Lent:The Wisdom of the Cross
This Sunday’s gospel put Jesus’ knowledge of our human nature so clearly: He really knew what was going on in men’s hearts.  He knew what they thought.  He saw what they did to the Temple.  The Temple was a place of worship.  It was a place of celebrating the spiritual presence of God in the world.  And they transformed it.  They changed the Temple into a marketplace.  They utilized a system of money changing that robbed the poor people, forcing them to spend extra money for the prescribed practices.  He knew men’s hearts.  He knows our hearts.  He knew that our celebration of his birth at Christmas would be transformed from a day to celebrate the Spiritual Becoming One with Us to a celebration of materialism.  He knew that we would hide the celebration of the Resurrection behind the Easter Bunny.  He even knew that some people would begin their Easter celebrations two days early and have a party on Good Friday (That, to me, is the height of paganism.)

Out of Pride and Into Humility: A Lenten Meditation on a Teaching by St. Bernard of Clairvaux1
In yesterday’s post, we considered the twelve steps of pride set forth by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. In escalating ways, the twelve steps draw us to an increasingly mountainous and enslaving pride.

St. Bernard also enumerates the twelve steps to deeper humility (I am using the list from Vultus Dei HERE)  and it is these that we consider in today’s post. As with yesterday’s post, the list by St. Bernard is shown in red, but the commentary on each step is shown in plain, black text and represents my own poor reflections. Take what you like and leave the rest. To read St. Bernard’s reflections, consider purchasing his book Steps of Humility and Pride.

Value of Time
“Son,” says the Holy Ghost, “be careful to preserve time, which is the greatest and the most precious gift which God can bestow upon you in this life.” The very pagans knew the value of time. Seneca said that no price is an equivalent for it. “Nullum temporis pretium.” But the saints have understood its value still better. According to St. Bernardine of Siena, a moment of time is of as much value as God; because in each moment a man can, by acts of contrition or of love, acquire the grace of God and eternal glory. “Modico tempore potest homo lucrari gratiam et gloriam. Tempus tantum valet, quantum Deus: quippe in tempore bene consumpto comparatur Deus.” (Fer. quarta post Dom. I. quad., cap. iv.)

God From God: The Courage of St. Leander
…God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father…

We utter those words at every Mass, words as familiar as the backs of our own hands, and sometimes just as taken for granted.  Intellectually we know that every word of the Creed is there for a purpose.  We know that saints have given their lives defending the truth of those words.  But without the point of reference history gives us, a dry, academic understanding of the Creed fails to burn it very deeply into our hearts.

It is St. Leander of Seville that we have to thank for the inclusion of the Nicene Creed in Mass, and St. Leander we have to thank for the triumph of Catholicism over Arianism in Spain.

What is Heaven?
Then Cardinal Ratzinger, in his book, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, published in 1988, warns against depicting heaven as an extension of this life prettied up with depictions of “lions laying down with lambs,” and eternal picnics. Not only do we have the real problem with the fact that most of the world lives in abject misery, materially speaking—we forget that living in our modern United States of American where “the poor” often means not being able to afford all 2,000 cable channels—but we also must remember that lions, lambs, and picnics get boring after a few million years. These depictions just don’t cut it for the modern, thinking man.

Knock, and the Door Will Be Opened for You
If you’ve ever experienced the power of a novena, you can truly understand these words of Jesus told by St. Matthew in today’s Gospel .

Novenas are often discovered out of despair, when your own attempts for a solution have failed. You discover one that fits your situation and you start praying like mad, knowing there will be an answer. Deep inside we all have something called faith, that awakens when called upon.

The Virtues of Lent
In today’s Gospel at Mass, Jesus describes the righteousness one needs in order to reach the kingdom of heaven, noting that it must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. He discusses the relationship one should have with one’s brother, saying that there is much more to it than simply observing the Old Testament commandment not to kill. It is wrong even to be angry with one’s brother or to call him a fool. Furthermore, Jesus advises us that if we are not at peace with our brother we should make peace with him before offering gifts to God.

To Complete the Suffering of Christ
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.” (Colossians 1:24-26)
This passage, tucked away in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, is perhaps one of the most mysteries passages in the entire New Testament. Nevertheless, I think that if one could take just a little time here to uncover its meaning, he would find a valuable lesson for the season of Lent.

The Seven Deadly Comforts
Throughout history the so-called seven “deadly” or “capital” sins have been enumerated in different ways. Aquinas preferred to speak of the seven capital vices: vainglory, envy, anger, sloth, covetousness, gluttony, and lust (ST Ia IIae q. 84 a. 4). The reason they are called “capital” is because they “give rise” to all the other vices. The common element of all vice is that it deceives one into seeking after evil “on account of some attendant good.” Vainglory, for example, is an excessive desire for honor and praise, which are goods when sought after in the right way and to the right degree. Again, with respect to gluttony, food and drink and nourishment of the body are good things, but the glutton pursues these goods inordinately. So, too, with lust, which involves the inherent goods of sexuality such as preservation of the species. Covetousness seeks after the external good of riches in a disproportionate way. Aquinas notes that it is often out of an exaggerated desire to avoid the evils contrary to these attendant goods that one develops these extreme appetites.

Saddle-Up your High Horse! Time to Shoot Down Myths about the Crusades, the Inquisition & the War on Women
Conservative media were in an uproar last week over the President’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. He said that we see “faith being twisted and distorted … sometimes used as a weapon” and “lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Nearly everyone took the statement to mean “Catholic pot, don’t call the Muslim kettle black.” And they were quick to point out that the “terrible deeds in the name of Christ” were committed 600 to 1000 years ago when everyone was kind of “medieval” anyway. End of story. Only it’s not.

Six Keys to help you Surrender your Life to Jesus Christ
At the center of Mark’s Gospel, the Transfiguration of Christ (Mark 9:2-10) stands prominently as an encouragement along the walk from Baptism to Resurrection; a walk that must pass through the Cross.

Place yourself in the position of the Apostles—they have journeyed with Jesus since he began his public ministry and I am sure that they could not have been more astonished at what they had witnessed since the Lord’s baptism.

Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes, walked on water, calmed storms, healed the sick, cast out demons, and restored a girl from death to life.

He forgave sins of those he encountered. He taught with a compassion, wisdom and authority not previously seen. He turned the world upside down!

And during it all, he faithfully made time to be alone in prayer.

Do You Enjoy Being Miserable?
Let’s face it. Some people enjoy being miserable.

Here’s why:

First of all, it could be that it is simply their personality type. When I ran a business training company before I was ordained we used a personality type program to help people improve working conditions. I soon realized that there were three personality types who gain pleasure from being miserable.

Was a bum buried in the Vatican?
Willy Herteleer was a homeless man who lived in the Borgo — the network of narrow streets north of St. Peter’s Square. He went to Mass every day at the Pontifical Church of St. Anne just inside the Vatican walls. The Catholic News Agency quotes his views about Mass: “My medicine is Communion.”

Willy Herteleer was also known as a street evangelist. As he roamed the streets with his belongings in a pull cart and a cross around his neck, he would stop and ask passersby, “When did you last go to confession? Are you going to Communion? Do you go to Mass?”

Is Beauty a Temptation or a Path to God?
Is it true, prince, that you once declared that ‘beauty would save the world?’

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This oft-quoted line from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot is bold and provocative. Is it possible that beauty, so often misused in the modern world, could save the world?

Ten Catholic Answers to “Why Do You Call Your Priests ‘Father’”?
If you have encounters with non-Catholic Christians you might hope that they will ask you questions that really matter like, “Why do you trust church tradition in addition to the Bible?” or “Do you worship the Pope?” or “What is the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary?”

Unfortunately one of the most common challenges is “Why do you call your priests ‘Father’ when Jesus clearly says, ‘Call no man Father.’ in Matthew 23:9?”

Here are ten answers to this common question.

Czech Priest Witnessed the ‘Cihost Miracle’ and Was Killed for It
ROME — A priest who witnessed a miracle in communist Czechoslovakia in the 1940s was tortured and beaten to death for refusing to recant what he’d seen. And now Catholics from the country are honoring his heroic virtue and pushing for him to be recognized as a martyr.

At a recent gathering in Číhošť commemorating the priest’s brutal death, his current successor at the parish church says he’s grateful for efforts to overturn the decades-long silence on atrocities against Catholics in the 20th century.

Yes, Enoch and Elijah went to heaven
Many Catholics are aware that Jesus “opened the gates of heaven” and allowed the righteous dead to go there.

The Catechism even says it:

CCC 637 In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.

This leads to a question that comes up periodically: What about figures like Enoch and Elijah, who seem to have been assumed into heaven prior to the time of Christ?

Love and the Skeptic
“The greatest of these,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Many centuries later, in a culture quite foreign to the Apostle to the Gentiles, the singer John Lennon earnestly insisted, “All we need is love.”

Different men, different intents, different contexts. Even different types of “love.” You hardly need to subscribe to People magazine or to frequent the cinema to know that love is the singularly insistent subject of movies, songs, novels, television dramas, sitcoms, and talk shows—the nearly monolithic entity known as “pop culture.” We are obsessed with love. Or “love.” With or without quotation marks, it’s obvious that this thing called love occupies the minds, hearts, emotions, lives, and wallets of homo sapiens.

Five Biblical Truths About Fasting
Last week, I asked the question, “Are you looking for the secret to a better, deeper, more joyful life in Christ?” and responded by exploring the reasons for the Catholic practice of self-denial. We saw that “fasting and other forms of self-denial, as spiritual practices of materially subduing and controlling the physical appetites of the body, helps us, by God’s grace, to enable the soul to more perfectly and freely pray.  This leads to a deeper union with God and thus we become better stewards of the gifts God has given to us, freeing us to more effectively care for our neighbor, especially those in greater need than we.” Thus, we have the connection between prayer, fasting and almsgiving—the three pillars of Lent.

Today, I want to provide the biblical teaching on why such practices of self-denial are not just a good idea, but a necessary one.

Is Confession Dead?
The confessionals are empty. The sinners have gone away. Or should I say, “sin has gone away.” Not to be judgmental, but rather to be observant, I sense poignantly a lack of what I would call “sin awareness” among modern Catholics. We seem to have assimilated the secular notion that the concept of sin places outdated, even psychologically damaging restraints on people, or that the feeling of guilt for wrongdoing (or wrong-thinking) is emotionally debilitating. Thus, we see in society the virtual elimination of the word “sin.” We don’t want to hurt anybody’s self esteem. Catholics, perhaps innocently, have bought into this nonsense.

Show Some Love and Punish Your Kids
My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.

In our times, we have tended to set love and punishment in opposition; we also set mercy and punishment in opposition. But this is wrong. It is possible, at least with human beings, that a certain punishment can be excessive. But of itself, punishment (often called chastisement in the Bible) is a work of love and mercy.

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Second Sunday of Lent

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Phil Bloom   
Second Sunday of Lent
Posted for March 1, 2015   

Message: We ask God for spiritual sight to see reality.

Last Sunday we saw how the ministry of angels can help 
us have a new mind and heart. Today, in our opening 
prayer, we ask God for “spiritual sight” – in other words, 
a new heart and mind so we can see reality as it is. In our Gospel we have a remarkable example of spiritual sight: the Transfiguration – that moment when three disciples glimpse Jesus’ glory, his inner reality.

Before talking about the inner reality of Jesus, I would like to make a comparison: When we look at someone’s face we are seeing an external, material reality, something science could analyze – cells, chemical reactions and so on. But unless you are dermatologist, when you look at a face, you want more than what science can provide. In that other person’s eyes, their smile, the lift of the eyebrows, you want to see some of their inner reality. You’ve no doubt heard, “eyes are the window of the soul.” When we look at another’s eye, we hope to glimpse the soul.

Something similar applies to the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John – the three men closest to Jesus – had walked with him for months. They have heard his teaching, seen his wonders and experienced his moods and emotions. Now they have a time of silence, alone with Jesus – on a mountain, away from the crowds. They glimpse something glorious – more than Mount Rainier on a clear day, more than the most stirring song.

St. Mark describes this glory in an interesting way. To understand you need to know that while we moderns tend to be more impressed with size – big buildings, big galaxies – what most impressed ancient people was not size, but brightness.* Mark notes that Jesus’ garments became dazzling white! Even his outer robe reflected the glory of his inner reality.

The glory shines in more than the clothes. Next to Jesus appear Moses and Elijah. In the Bible and Jewish tradition Moses and Elijah had been taken bodily into heaven. So the three disciples see not just their souls, but their transformed bodies.

Moses and Elijah represent the Laws and the Prophets. Their presence indicates that Jesus completes Jewish sacred history. The more we understand the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) the more we see the reality of Jesus.

Our first reading – which is from the Old Testament – gives us a key. The reading tells about Abraham and, as I am sure you, Jewish history begins with Abraham. God tells him that by an act of faith he will become the “father of many nations.” To believe that promise requires enormous faith because he and his wife Sarah are old – and they have no children.

And when they miraculously receive a son, God tests their faith a second time – and in a severe way. He tells Abraham to offer his son in sacrifice. It’s a double sacrifice: father offering the son and son obeying the father.

You might ask: Why does God put Abraham and Isaac through something so horrible? From a human point of view it seems against reason, but we have to remember: God sees all in a single glance – from the Big Bang till the end of the world. When God looks at creation and human history, he sees the cross. He sees his own Son offering his life in perfect obedience. That’s the central event – the cross.

As Isaac walks up Mount Moriah he carries something on his back – a bundle of wood. Isaac foreshadows – previews – Jesus carrying the wood of the cross.

The Transfiguration prepares Peter, James and John for the mystery of the cross. Isaac’s sacrifice ends well – and so ultimately will the cross. That’s why Jesus charges them not to tell about the Transfiguration – until he has risen from the dead.

These past weeks I have seen a beautiful witness to faith in the cross. Many of you know Archbishop Sartain had a serious operation in January which involved removing two cervical vertebrae. I talked to someone who had a similar operation and he told me he had five years of terrible pain before the operation. Archbishop Sartain never indicated to us what he was suffering. He always seemed upbeat and happy. Believe me, if I was going through that I would let everyone know. About 25 years ago when I was in Peru I experienced two days days of intense back pain. I moaned to everyone. And I am still talking about it today.

Well, Archbishop Sartain is different. And it isn’t just a matter of suffering in silence. At the Rite of Election he spoke about trials and temptations. When they come, he said, we should say, “Praise God.” When you think about it, every trial, every temptation contains something good.

For example, I am sometimes tempted to anger. I can grit my teeth, but how much better to recognize something good in the anger. I might be angry because of an injustice. Anger is the desire for justice. Praise God – and, God, help me to direct that energy not take it out on the person next to me. So it should be with any temptation. Praise God for whatever good draws me. But also if I say “Praise God” the devil flees. He can’t stand to hear God praised – and he leaves.

So we have learned that we need to ask God for spiritual sight to see reality. Not to just see surface, not just to see someone’s face but what it reveals. And above all the spiritual sight to see Jesus and his cross: A new mind and heart as we confront suffering, trials and temptations.

It’s not easy. Next Sunday we will see Jesus carrying out an act of violence. But that’s for the coming week. For today let’s go back to the initial prayer:

Nourish us inwardly by your word,
That, with spiritual sight made pure,
We may rejoice to behold your glory.


*Lewis says it this way: “Any reader of old poetry can see that brightness appealed to ancient and medieval man more than bigness, and more than it does to us. Medieval thinkers believed that the stars must be somehow superior to the Earth because they looked bright and it did not. Moderns think that the Galaxy ought to be more important than the Earth because it is bigger.”

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
March 1, 2015

Second Sunday in Lent, Year B—March 1, 2015
Today, high on a mountain, Jesus briefly draws back the veil of His humanity to reveal His bright glory to three of His amazed disciples. Why did He think they needed this?

Gospel (Read Mk 9:2-10)

Today’s reading really requires attention to the context in which it appears (read Mk 8:31-9:1) to best understand it. We see that when Jesus “began to teach [the apostles] that the Son of man must suffer many things” (8:31a), Peter rebuked Him. Peter did not want to hear anything about a fate like this for Jesus, because suffering seemed to admit defeat and failure. This brought forth a stern rebuke from Jesus: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

Second Sunday of Lent: The Covenant of Faith
Today’s readings present us with several figures from the Jewish tradition. In the first reading we come upon Abraham, the Father of Faith and his son Isaac.  In the Gospel we encounter Moses, the law-giver, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets.  On the Mountain of the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah discuss God’s plan for his people with Jesus.  This plan was to be a new and greater covenant, a new and greater relationship, greater even than the original relationship established with Abraham.

10 things you need to know about Jesus’ Transfiguration
The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent commemorates the mysterious event known as the Transfiguration.

This event is hard to understand. Why did it happen? What did it mean?

Here are 10 things you need to know.

During Lent, pope offers handy tips for preparing for confession
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Catholics are encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their lives during Lent, Pope Francis offered some quick tips to help people prepare for the sacrament of penance.

Pope: Don’t let meatless Fridays be selfish, soulless, seafood splurge
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Real fasting isn’t just restricting food choices, it must also include cleansing the heart of all selfishness and making room in one’s life for those in need and those who have sinned and need healing, Pope Francis said.

Faith without concrete acts of charity is not only hypocritical, “it is dead; what good is it?” he said, criticizing those who hide behind a veil of piety while unjustly treating others, such as denying workers fair wages, a pension and health care.

I Believe in God
When we say “I believe” as we recite the Apostle’s Creed we are making a statement about our Faith. The theological virtue of Faith is supernatural and infused by gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Thomas Aquinas points out that Faith is not only the first thing we need, but that we cannot be proper Catholics without it.


Catholicism and the Cross
St. Peter was riding high. Jesus had just asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” While the rest of the disciples stumbled around in confusion, Peter hit a home run. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then, moments later, Jesus blesses him and entrusts him with the keys of his kingdom, giving him far more authority than he could imagine. Whatever you bind in heaven will be bound? Oh yes, Peter was feeling fine.

Seek God for Help
In the book of Esther, the Jews of Persia were being threatened with extermination. But Mordecai and Esther both prayed to God with all their might and implored Him to deliver Israel. God saved His people and their enemies were destroyed.

Oftentimes we go about our daily lives doing many things. When something goes wrong, we try to fix the problem. Often as a last recourse, we ask God for help. To pray to God does not mean not to rely on one’s capacities. It means to invite God into our daily life activities and struggles. It is always good to pray at the beginning of the day, during the day and at the end of the day. In this way, we will be calmer in our decisions, much less impatient and more clear-headed.

The Gift of Sorrow for Sin – A Meditation on the “Mass for the Gift of Tears” in the Missal
Most pastors and confessors are aware that in any parish there are going to be a few who are scrupulous, even in times like like these. Some have a kind of scrupulosity that is mild and almost admirable.  A sensitive conscience is a beautiful thing and bespeaks a kind of innocence that is rare today.

Some others have a more unhealthy form of scrupulosity, rooted too much in cringing fear of a God who is seen more as a punishing adversary than a delivering Father who wants to help us overcome our sin.

On Being Restless
“Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” (St. Augustine, Confessions).

I think most writers are naturally introspective and reflective.  While in Eucharistic Adoration a week ago I prayed for many things, including strength and courage to stay focused on the path Christ wants me to follow and that my heart and mind would be prepared for Lent.  As I sometimes remember to do, I let my mind grow quiet and tried to listen as much as I prayed.  The quote from St. Augustine above, which is one of my favorites, crossed my mind and I thought of little else for the rest of my time in the parish chapel.  The word from the quote which resonated most with my desire to stay on the right path was restless.  Why “restless”?

How to Deal With Temptation
When one speaks of temptation, it tends to carry a negative connotation because it is often attributed to something we shouldn’t do. However, I would propose that the art of temptation reveals a certain beauty in that a person is faced with a decision to either act out the temptation or not. Whether the decision takes a split-second or is carefully drawn out, a dilemma ensues as to whether the person should or shouldn’t. What we have here is a battle between an attraction that is contrary to right reason and judgment against God’s commandments.

Spiritual Warfare 101: Are You Ready for the Fight?
Are you ready for the fight? If you were to enter the boxing ring today, would you be primed? Or are your muscles a little flabby, your lungs easily winded and your feet dragging instead of dancing? Besides you don’t want to break your nose.

Competitive boxers prepare through discipline and hard work. They recognize that only through perseverance, mental fortitude, stamina and skill will they beat their opponent. Their vigorous fitness training includes both physical conditioning and mental preparation. It’s not just the boxer who delivers the explosive punches, hooks, and jabs that wins. It’s the boxer, who outfoxes and outmaneuvers his opponent, mentally and physically, packing the powerful punches and persevering until the end that is declared the winner.

The 2015 Ultimate Lenten Resource Guide
Ideas for drawing closer to Christ these 40 days

Every year before Lent begins, I scour the Internet and books for inspiring resources and creative ideas, then prayerfully discern how I can go beyond a chocolate fast to make the most of the penitential season.

I’ve recently gathered some of my favorite Lenten tools for living out the 40 days in a spirit of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. You’re bound to find at least one that speaks to your heart and motivates you to draw closer to Christ and the mystery of his passion this Lent.

How to Make Heaven Rejoice
The silence truly had been golden. I hadn’t heard or spoken many words for a couple of days — save for at the Liturgy of the Hours in the chapel. The immersion in the silence had been one of the most special, holiest gifts I could receive.

That had been one of the overriding reasons my two friends and I chose the monastery in rural Missouri for our retreat. The weekend at Assumption Abbey would provide us the opportunity to pray the Divine Office with the Trappist monks who lived there. It was a “personal-directed” retreat, which meant we could do whatever we wanted: pray, read, attend Mass, take in nature.

Like the Waters of the Flood
In today’s fuzzy moral landscape, it is quite unpopular to even speak of sin, never mind condemn it. It’s even more politically incorrect to talk about God taking stern action against sin and those who promote it.

But that is exactly what the story of Noah and the flood is all about, as we are reminded by the scripture readings for the first Sunday in Lent. The great flood is a testament to God’s hatred of sin and determination to wipe it from the face of the earth. He of course offers a way to escape the waters of destruction. He instructs Noah to build an ark which carries to safety eight people and a pair of every animal. With these, he provides the earth and the human race with a new beginning. As a sign of God’s covenant of friendship with the newly recreated world, he places a rainbow in the sky.

Uncertainty of the Hour of Death
It is certain that we shall die; but the time of death is uncertain. “Nothing,” says Idiota, “is more certain than death; but nothing is more uncertain than the hour of death.” My brother, God has already determined the year, the month, the day, the hour, and the moment when I and you shall leave this earth and go into eternity; but this time is unknown to us. To exhort us to be always prepared, Jesus Christ tells us that death shall come, unawares, and like a thief in the night. ”The day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). He now tells us to be always vigilant; because, when we least expect him, he will come to judge us.

Remaining Alive to the Enigma of Life
“I WOULD NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, WANNA BE YOUNG AGAIN!” – So goes the refrain of a song that I cannot quote at length on a family-friendly website. But that lyric will suffice; at any rate, it sums up my own feeling about having turned 30 last October. I do not lament getting older, or long for the past. I am frankly glad to be done with it!

False Teachings on Meditation & Contemplation: Sts Peter of Alcantara & Teresa of Avila
In 1577, St. Teresa of Avila completed what is heralded as her seminal work on mental prayer, meditation, and contemplation in the Interior Castle. This guidebook to the most profound depths of prayer has become the standard against which all serious inquiries into interior progress must be measured. This is the reason that it is to St. Teresa that the Catechism of the Catholic Church poses the question, “What is contemplative prayer?”

A Cold, Cold Heart
There ring in my childhood memory the songs of Hank Williams—songs my dad loved to listen to as he strummed his guitar. One in particular was a classic called “Cold, Cold Heart.” As I sit and think about it, I realize that those three words truly define the cultural attitudes of our day toward those in our midst who require care, unselfish love, and time.

One of the lines in Williams’ song asks: “Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart?” This line summarizes how I feel about the growing mentality among many who advocate for quick fixes to the overwhelming challenge of dealing with confronting the end of life.

What Happens When Truth is Rejected
This is Part V of a series; find Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, and Part IV here.

So many have looked to and continue to look to the Catholic Church as a reliable source of religious and moral truth on account of the truth of Humanae Vitae. It is a remarkable truth at the heart of both the “culture of life” and the New Evangelization. To name but one individual attracted to the Church because of HV, the late British writer Malcolm Muggeridge spoke movingly about the encyclical already before his conversion to the Faith. It was, he says in his Confessions of a 20th Century Pilgrim (1988), the Catholic Church’s firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally convinced him to convert.

The Enemy’s Tactic #11: How the Devil Redefines Humility
Humility is a virtue that is one of the hardest to acquire. While we all know what pride looks like, few of us have been taught how to practice true humility. The devil pounces on this lack of knowledge and twists the definition of humility around in our minds, convincing us that we are practicing a virtue when we are not even close.

‘God has saved me,’ says Indian Jesuit after release from Afghanistan
NEW DELHI (CNS) — A Jesuit priest kidnapped in Afghanistan and held for eight months told reporters “God has saved me,” but he said he did not want to discuss details of his captivity.

Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar, 47, kidnapped June 2 in Afghanistan’s Herat province, was flown to New Delhi from Kabul Feb. 22 with the intervention of the Indian government.

Liturgical Wisdom from the Mouths of Children
This past Yuletide, my husband and I decided to escape the Minnesota winter by taking our family to South Texas. We had a joyfully green Christmas, with our children running wild on the beach while the Gulf of Mexico lapped at our toes. We didn’t miss the snow. Of course, there are always drawbacks to such ventures, and this was no exception. While Christmas at our home parish is something to savor, our Christmas liturgies this year featured campy banners, schlocky music, and homilies with little discernable connection to the Catholic faith.

Does Your Mind Wander When You Pray?
Do you have trouble paying attention while praying? Does your mind wander? Do you sometimes fall asleep? Do you forget where you were and stop? Do you then feel ashamed and disappointed in yourself? Do you get frustrated? Do you want to give up trying to pray long prayers like the Rosary? Do you give up? Or do you keep trying?

Remembering a World War II Death Trap — and a Miraculous Rescue
Seventy years ago today, U.S. Marines iconically raised the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

And 70 years ago today, hundreds of miles to the south, my aunt walked to freedom.

Sister Mary Beata Mackie spent more than three years in a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines during World War II. Like most of the more than 2,100 others in the camp, she was malnourished and emaciated in the end.

Discovering God in Silence
A prayerful, meditative silence is the mother of truth.

God cannot be found in noise and agitation. His true power and love are revealed in what is hardly perceptible, in the gentle breeze that requires stillness and quiet to detect. In silence, God listens to us. In silence, listen to Him. In silence, God speaks to our souls and the power of His word is enough to transform our very being. We cannot speak to God and to the world at the same time. We need the sacred space that silence creates in order to turn our undivided attention toward God even if it is only for a few precious moments of our day.

Because It’s True
Not infrequently, Catholics are asked to give reasons for why they are Catholic. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. After all, St. Peter himself says “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). What is often troubling, however, is the account we give. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard Catholics “make defenses” in this way:

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Pastoral Sharings: "First Sunday of Lent"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
First Sunday of Lent
Posted for February 22, 2015

This has got to be one of the shortest texts for a Gospel in 
the whole liturgical calendar. It is just four verses and 
only seventy words altogether.

Mark’s account of the Temptation in the Desert takes just 
two verses and is about as succinct as you can get. It is just the bare facts. The other Evangelists give much more detail describing the various temptations at length accompanied by complex dialogue between Jesus and the Devil.

But Mark has none of this; it is just the bare facts, as far as he is concerned Jesus was in the desert for forty days and was tempted by the Devil. He mentions also that he was with the wild animals and also was ministered to by angels and that is it –nothing more.

Like Matthew and Luke though, Mark is clear that it was the Spirit that took Jesus into the desert to be tempted. The words Mark uses are very strong. He says, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness.” Matthew and Luke say that he was merely led by the Spirit.

The use of the word ‘drove’ is no accident; it reflects the great dynamism present in the Gospel of Mark who frequently has Jesus doing this or that ‘immediately’. His use of vocabulary means that there is a feeling of constant movement in this Gospel which is much shorter and therefore much more action-packed than the others.

The point here though is that God is in charge and it is he who is the catalyst behind the actions of Jesus. It is the Spirit of God that forces Jesus into the wilderness and so inaugurates his public ministry. Mark is not so concerned with the struggle between Jesus and the Devil as with the fact that he resisted temptation and then begins his ministry.

In the last couple of verses Jesus goes into Galilee and announces that, “The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”

I am sure I have told you this before but in Greek there are two words for time Chronos and Kairos. Chronos means time that passes; we use it in this sense when we say someone has a chronic illness, meaning that it is an illness going on for a long time. The word Kairos which Mark is using here means a favourable time or a decisive moment.

So when Jesus says that the time has come he means that the propitious moment has arrived for the proclamation of the Gospel to begin. He means that everything is now ready and that this is the time chosen by God for him to begin his ministry. It is at this appointed time that the Kingdom of God begins to break in to our world.

Mark certainly manages to pack a lot into a very few words: forty days in the wilderness, the temptation, wild beasts and angels, the arrest of John the Baptist, the journey into Galilee, the proclamation of the Gospel and the formal announcement that the time has come for God’s definitive intervention into our world.

We are left breathless and amazed that all this is packed in to just four short verses of the Gospel of Mark.

In the First Reading we are told about how after Noah and his family were saved by the Ark God made a covenant with him and gave the sign of the rainbow to act as a reminder of it. Then in the Second Reading St Peter recalls the Ark and tells us how those events so long ago are a foretaste of our Baptism.

What we need to understand from this sequence of scriptural readings is that God makes decisive interventions in our world. He sent the rain after forewarning Noah to build the Ark. His Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted and so launched his public ministry. And it is God too who decisively intervenes in our lives through Baptism making us members of his body and washing us free from original sin.

The message is clear, it is God who is in charge of the world and he makes his interventions in our world at moments of his own choosing when, according to him, the time is right; when the Kairos or the propitious moment has arrived.

We need to realise that God has not done this just a few times and then left us to it. No God is constantly intervening in our world. Of course, some of these interventions are more decisive than others and some of them might only concern us, though some are clearly much more significant than that.

We can easily think about God’s many interventions in our own lives: we can think of our birth into our particular family, our Baptism, the choice of school, job, partner in life, children and all sorts of things that many people might describe as coincidences but that we know are actually crucial parts of God’s plan for us.

God’s Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness but he is also constantly driving us. God is the unseen force behind all that happens to us as we go through our lives. We know that he respects our free will and he gives us the choice as to whether to cooperate with him or not; but, make no mistake about it, he is deeply involved in everything that happens to us, everything that goes on around us.

When Jesus announced that the time had arrived for the proclamation of the Gospel and invited us to repent and believe the Good News he was not suggesting that this moment had arrived and the next moment it would be gone.

No what Jesus was saying is that from then on would be the favourable time to repent and to believe. That special moment is not some fleeting thirty seconds that occurred two thousand years ago; no, that moment carries on until the very last day.

That favourable moment is now. There is no better time for repentance and accepting the Gospel than this moment now. Conversion is something that is always going to be a good thing and we should embrace it now, this very minute.

The Kingdom of God is truly very close at hand; it needs to be grasped by us now. We need to embrace it with all our hearts so that our lives are truly transformed and his salvation is made wonderfully present in our lives.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
February 22, 2015

First Sunday of Lent, Year B—February 22, 2015
Today, we hear Jesus announce the familiar call of the Church during Lent: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

Gospel (Read Mk 1:12-15)

In one of the lectionary’s shortest Gospel readings, St. Mark describes the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Right after His baptism by John in the Jordan, “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” St. Mark, unlike the other evangelists, doesn’t give us details of the temptation. His focus is on the forty days and on Jesus’ contact with both fallen and ministering angels. Why is it important to know that this was a forty-day event?

First Sunday of Lent: The Weeping Jesus
The grave purple colors, the ashes and sticks, the lack of flowers, crosses everywhere, all remind us that this week we begin Lent. 

“Here we go, again,” we might think.  “No, not already,” we might protest.  Maybe we’ll look into our religious storeroom and cart out some of practices we’ve stored since last Spring.  Let’s see, “Oh yeah, I gave up………last year.  That worked.  Hmm, I also gave up alligator nuggets.  Not a whole lot of desire for those anyway.  Hmm, I made extra time for some spiritual reading, that was good.  I made a contribution to Catholic Relief Services.  That worked.” And so, we pull out of the closet well worn items to enter the season properly.

Jesus’ Ministry Begins: 9 things to know and share
This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent, and we read about events that occurred at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

Following his baptism, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness—his own, personal equivalent of Lent.

It was a time of preparation for the beginning of his public preaching in Galilee.

Here are 9 things to know and share . . .

A Prophet’s Legacy
Have you ever been the excited recipient of an inheritance? If so, you may have received money, property or a treasured family heirloom. As a high school student I became one of the beneficiaries of my paternal grandfather’s inheritance. Knowing that I had intended to go on to a Teacher’s College, he had investigated the tuition for the four years, which came to a grand total of $600.00. Obviously that dates me! Gone are those days however!  But I was able to enter and complete college without any financial concerns, thanks to his departing gift to me. As welcome as these legacies are, more important, however,  would be the inherited treasures left by St. Elijah, prophet of the Old Testament and inspiration for the Order of Carmel.

Audience: Children, a gift for the family, the Church and society
(Vatican Radio)  Continuing his catechesis on the family this Wednesday Pope Francis spoke about the joy of children in family life and how the choice to have children is not irresponsible but vital for a healthy, happy society.

Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear brothers and sisters,

Twelve Things to Remember If You Keep Falling Into the Same Sin
One of the things that gets people down the most when they are really trying to make spiritual progress is when they keep falling into the same sin over and over again.

We’re sorry. We think we’re not going to do it again.

Then we do.

We’re filled with guilt, regret and shame.

It’s easy to want to give up.

How did Saint Thérèse Conquer Satan and Attain Perfection?
There is a story from the Early Church Fathers that relates how a monk was slapped on the cheek by a young girl possessed by a demon. The monk in turn simply turned his other cheek in obedience to the Lord’s command. The demon could not take it and immediately left the girl. Those who witnessed what happened said, “The pride of demons must fall before humble obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ.” (Manual for Spiritual Warfare, 181)

Ten Things Every Catholic Should Know About St Peter
If you are involved in a discussion with an Evangelical Christian you can bet they will have John 3:16 memorized. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in his will not perish but have everlasting life.”

Sometimes Catholics are embarrassed that Evangelicals have that verse memorized, but I’ve found that almost all Catholics have our foundational verse memorized too. They just don’t know they do. So ask your typical Catholic to finish this verse: “You are Peter…” You bet they will say, “…and on this Rock I will build my church.” Most of them will go on to recite, “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

9 Things You Need to Know About Lent
This week the liturgical season of Lent begins.

Here are nine things you need to know about it . . .

1. What is Lent?

According to the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar [.pdf]:

27. Lent [is a liturgical season that] is ordered to preparing for the celebration of Easter, since the lenten liturgy prepares for celebration of the paschal mystery both catechumens, by the various stages of Christian initiation, and the faithful, who recall their own Baptism and do penance.

The 2015 Ultimate Lenten Resource Guide
Ideas for drawing closer to Christ these 40 days

Every year before Lent begins, I scour the Internet and books for inspiring resources and creative ideas, then prayerfully discern how I can go beyond a chocolate fast to make the most of the penitential season.

I’ve recently gathered some of my favorite Lenten tools for living out the 40 days in a spirit of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. You’re bound to find at least one that speaks to your heart and motivates you to draw closer to Christ and the mystery of his passion this Lent.

The Death of Shame
After selling over 100-million copies of the book, the overhyped-movie version of E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey was released on St. Valentine’s Day.  Variety reports that for its first weekend, the movie grossed $81.67M with a projected four-day total of $90.658M, placing it as the best Presidents Day weekend opening record of all time; only second behind the movie Passion of the Christ, which opened with $83.8M. (Isn’t that comparison rather satirical?)

Like the cultural transformation to successfully legalize birth control and abortion, who do we credit for the glorification of violence and abuse of women in a bestselling book and movie? Why women, of course!

The Good Fight: Battles of the Flesh
Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).

It is heartbreaking to hear the countless stories of family wreckages due to sins of the flesh. It is tragic to see the wounds of young men and women who first experienced pornographic material and/or sexual abuse in their own homes. Horrific is the loss of innocence, the defilement of the human being, body and soul, created in the image of God who is the essence of purity.

How to Develop a (Nearly) Unbreakable Habit of Prayer
To conclude our series on prayer, let us dive into what everyone is waiting for: how can I make this new schedule of prayer stick? Many of us are familiar with “New Year’s Resolutions” or even “Lenten Resolutions,” whereby we promise that we will go to the Adoration chapel every day or even read the entire Bible cover to cover. Unfortunately those “resolutions” only last for about a week and we find ourselves right back where we started.

Fear of the Lord Part 1: Holy Fear
“The gifts of the Holy Ghost are seven in number: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord [Isaiah 11:2-3]…. The gifts proceed in orderly fashion and gradually ascend by degrees. From the fear of the Lord, the soul rises to the other gifts, one after the other, to arrive at the most lofty and excellent of all, which is the gift of wisdom. Fear of the Lord arouses and awakens in us a fear of God: not the servile fear which the Apostle calls the spirit os bondage [Romans 8:15], but a fear proper to the adopted sons of God. Such a fear enables the Christian to venerate his merciful father with filial reverence, striving conscientiously never to offend him in the slightest way nor to lose His grace and love. St. Augustine calls it a chaste fear which is born of Charity”

   Venerable Louis of Grenada, O.P., Summa of the Christian Life (II.3.5)

Ignorance of God: The Spirit Poverty of Our Age
We often think that ignorance is a lack of knowledge, education or social training. But if ignorance is not knowing, then not knowing God is the greatest human ignorance.

I want to address ignorance in the context of the human heart’s ignorance of God.  It is my opinion that this form ignorance is the primary crisis of the 21st Century.

Ten Things Every Catholic Should Know About Sola Scriptura
Do you know how to answer a non Catholic Christian who challenges you about the Bible?

Knowing how everybody loves lists, here are ten things every Catholic should know about Sola Scriptura:.

Some Wisdom from John of the Cross
Today at Holy Hour I read this passage in “The Living Flame of Love,” by St. John of the Cross:

He [The Holy Spirit] touches the soul not with His shadow only, for He unites Him self to it, feeling and tasting with it the form and attributes of God in the shadow of God: that is, feeling and tasting the property of divine power in the shadow of omnipotence: feeling and tasting the divine wisdom in the shadow of the divine wisdom: and finally, tasting the glory of God in the shadow of glory, which begets the knowledge and the taste of the property and form of the glory of God.”

An Atheist Haunted by God: My Conversion to Catholicism
One thing I could never get on the same page with my fellow atheists about was the idea of meaning. The other atheists I knew seemed to feel like life was full of purpose despite the fact that we’re all nothing more than chemical reactions. I could never get there. In fact, I thought that whole line of thinking was unscientific, and more than a little intellectually dishonest. If everything that we call heroism and glory, and all the significance of all great human achievements, can be reduced to some neurons firing in the human brain, then it’s all destined to be extinguished at death.

Happily Ever After Has No Age Limit
When Carmelo Segona, 66, lost his wife, the future looked “black,” and the last thing on his mind was getting remarried.

But, over time, Segona, a devout Catholic and the father of three, began to open up to the idea of dating, even as he struggled to find compatible women who shared his faith.

“One day I listened to Father [Benedict] Groeschel talk about Ave Maria Singles, so I went on the site and was impressed with the faith life of the members,” Segona told the Register.

What It’s Really Like to Be Married to Jesus
I’m a nun.

Technically, I’m a religious Sister, because “nun” refers to cloistered contemplatives. But no matter. We answer to “nun,” too, because it’s in common parlance and rhymes with a lot of words… like “fun.

How to Defend Your Faith Without Being Defensive
It’s not easy to explain a Catholic lifestyle to friends or relatives who just don’t seem to “get it.” They see neither the appeal of your theology, nor the truth of it. Religion in general may have no credibility with them. Indeed, they may even be hostile to all religions, believing the old chestnut that religion is the cause of most of the violence and injustice in the world.

The Deadly Sin of Sloth: The Most Subtle of the Vices
It is tempting to disregard the sin of sloth or not take it as seriously as other deadly sins like wrath, gluttony, and lust.

The wrath of a furious man or woman—often compared to a raging fire—is visible and pronounced, and the effects of insults, quarrels, or revenge are immediate and graphic.

The gluttonous person also reveals the fault in a transparent way by intemperate eating and drinking that reveal themselves in outward forms like obesity and drunkenness. Lust too is not easily concealed, for adultery, out-of-wedlock children, and sexually transmitted diseases come to light as inevitable consequences.

Anchor for his soul: Lester Holt reflects on faith and journalism.
NEW YORK — For the longest time, Lester Holt would finish the Sunday edition of NBC’s “Today” show at 9 a.m., just when services began at the Manhattan Church of Christ. When the elders moved the start time to 9:30, no one was happier than Holt. “I don’t know if it was a personal favor to me, but it really has helped,” a chuckling Holt told The Christian Chronicle in an interview at the “Today” studios. “For a long time, I’d get off at 9, and then I’d have to bugaloo over there and get there about the third or fourth song before communion. “I was the guy kind of sneaking in. Now, I have a little more time.”

Do Christians Believe in Talking Snakes?
You know how the story goes: in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve have a conversation with the serpent.

Does this mean Christians believe in talking snakes? That’s the charge from certain atheists.

Catholics Fight Rising Tide of Suicide
WASHINGTON — “If I die tonight, would anyone cry?”

Amber Cornwell, 16, took her life shortly after leaving behind those final words on Facebook on Dec. 20. According to local media in North Carolina and a memorial Facebook profile, she was both beautiful and talented — and bullied at school. Sadly, she is one of the thousands of stories giving a face to the rising U.S. suicide epidemic, now at a 25-year high.

The Real History of the Crusades
Many historians had been trying for some time to set the record straight on the Crusades—misconceptions are all too common. For them, current interest is an opportunity to explain the Crusades while people are actually listening. With the possible exception of Umberto Eco, medieval scholars are not used to getting much media attention. We tend to be a quiet lot (except during the annual bacchanalia we call the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, of all places), poring over musty chronicles and writing dull yet meticulous studies that few will read. Imagine, then, my surprise when within days of the September 11 attacks, the Middle Ages suddenly became relevant.

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