Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Monday, March 27, 2017

SPIRITUAL GROWTH

If we want to grow in our spiritual lives we must do the following:

Truly participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:

Many people attend Mass in a distracted frame of mind. Yet in the Mass we encounter Christ in a unique and unsurpassable way. We must be fully present and prepared. We should not rush into Church thinking of a thousand things.

We must enter Church filled with joy and gratitude, knowing that we go to meet our great love. Our time at Mass should be suffused with prayer.

It should also be filled with anticipation, for during Communion Christ comes to us and lives with us and offers us infinite love. After Mass we should linger before the tabernacle filled with thanksgiving for what we have so graciously been given.

Take advantage of confession:

Sinfulness is part of the human condition — one that separates us from Christ. Christ offers us a way to put our sins behind us and to experience once again his loving embrace through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

What possible reason can there be for ignoring this? If we stay in our sins we push Christ away from us and we have no hope of growing in the spiritual life. Our sins should weigh heavily on us; we should yearn for confession, which offers us Christ again.
Learn to love our Blessed Mother:

Through Mary we meet Christ; through Mary’s prayers we are brought closer to Christ. The Blessed Mother is our mother. She should be our constant companion in the spiritual life.

Develop a life of prayer:

Every moment is an opportunity for prayer. How often do we take advantage of these opportunities? Read Father Groeschel’s book Praying Constantly: Bringing Your Faith to Life.

Here Father Groeschel shows that prayer can pervade our lives, that it can come in many different and unexpected forms, that we never have to be far from a moment of prayer. Each time we pray we draw closer to God. Every moment of prayer, whether it involves the Rosary or the Liturgy of the Hours or simply a few spontaneous words of our own is a conversation with Christ.

Encounter Christ in the Scriptures:

Reading the Scriptures meditatively can be of enormous help in coming to know Christ. Here we find his earthly words, his actions. Here we see again and again his enormous love for us, his great sacrifice for us. Through the Scriptures we come to know Our Lord in a deeper and deeper way and thus our relationship with him grows.

Learn from those who came before us:

The Church has canonized innumerable saints. These are our examples. They have walked the road of holiness, and their lives show us the many ways that closeness with Christ can be achieved. We must learn about the saints; we must study their lives, read their writings and pray for their intercession.

Improve our relationship with others:

Spiritual growth transforms the outer life. There are some people who pray regularly, who go to Mass nearly every day, who are punctilious about every religious rule and regulation. At the same time they are indifferent to the needs of others. At times they may even be cruel. This is a tragic failure. Their relationship with Christ is damaged.

Perhaps they only believe it exists. When we are in real relationship with Christ, we come to see that each human being is created in the divine image and is of infinite value. To grow in the spiritual life is to grow in the love of others — to find Christ in them and to serve Christ in them.
These are only a few of the most obvious ways for a Catholic to deepen his spiritual life, yet many of them are not thought to be very important today. For the Catholic they are essential. Your spiritual life is not truly Catholic if such things do not play a large part in it.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

UNDERSTANDING CHRIST'S TEMPTATION

After John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the Christ was called into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where He humbled Himself so profoundly that in the company of wild beasts and beleaguered by ravenous hunger after a forty day fast, 
He suffered the devil’s temptations. Jesus’ reasons for doing this on our behalf are many concerning the economy of Salvation, but let us recognize at the least that this unmerited act of mercy is vital component of the Gospel message. Fr. Gerald Vann instructs us, “in its symbolism we can see represented the whole life and ministry of Jesus.” 
Indeed, Christ’s temptation in the wilderness is worthy of arduous study and has been a prominent subject of Biblical exegesis from the early Church until the present.
Many important questions surround Christ’s temptation, like why was Jesus thrust into the wilderness for forty days immediately after His baptism? Were there really wild beasts around Him? Was he really tempted? What were His temptations like? 
Were they internal and mental or external and physical? What are we supposed to learn from Christ’s temptation? Did Satan know that Jesus was the Christ? Or did he think he was an ordinary man? 
After reading about Christ’s temptation in all three synoptic Gospels, these questions and many more rise for consideration. However, modern Biblical exegesis has brought a new question into the arena of Scripture study that must be answered before we can consider any other questions: “Did the temptation of Christ actually happen?” 
In concrete historical terms, did Jesus Christ confront temptation in the wilderness at the bidding of Satan himself? If we answer this in the negative, there is really nothing more to discuss.

Did the Temptation of Christ Really Happen?

Modern Biblical exegesis has been evolving for centuries. The twentieth century saw the solidification of many new methods of Biblical exegesis coalesce under the umbrella term “Critical methods for studying the Gospels” illustrated by such fields as historical criticism, textual criticism, form criticism, source criticism, literary criticism, redaction criticism, and many other types of criticism besides. 
The one thing they all have in common is that they are reductive and oriented to inductive reasoning. To describe only one example, form criticism is an exegetical method that takes pieces of scripture broken down into units and categorizes them according to literary pattern and then tries to trace each unit to its time of oral transmission.
These modern methods of Biblical criticism have swept across the world and are perhaps most popularly typified by Albert Schweitzer’s quest for the historical Jesus. Their questions and conclusions hinge on the historical record accompanied by textual analysis. 
New times ushered in this new thinking as historical, form, text and redaction criticism gained ever more purchase on the imaginations of academic theologians. One of the most prominent new exegetes of the twentieth century was Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976). 
Bultmann was a German Evangelical Protestant minister. In 1921, he published the book The History of the Synoptic Tradition. He was one of four German protestant Biblical scholars to introduce form-criticism of the New Testament.
Bultmann ended up calling for the demythologizing of the New Testament. He almost completely eliminated the historicity of most of the events conveyed by Mathew, Mark, and Luke. 
As the protestant Biblical scholar Craig Blomberg writes in Jesus and the Gospels, “many proponents of the “historical critical method” have defined it to included three quite skeptical principles of the nineteenth century philosopher Ernst Troeltsch: (1) methodical doubt,: where by one is suspicious of any historical narrative unless strong corroborations evidence is found to support its claims,” (2) the use of analogy, and (3) the principle of correlation.
Bultmann ended his historical Jesus quest concluding that we can know little more about Jesus other than that he did exist, that he may have been crucified and that a few of the sayings he uttered are in fact attributable to him. Bultmann along with G. Bornkamm, W. Grundmann and most academic historical critical exegetes deny the historicity of the Temptation.
It is important to remember that empirical methods can never yield certainty, despite the exaggerated importance attributed to the material sciences in this age. Coming to the truths about the Faith are not well approached by modern methods grounded in the anti-faith principle of skepticism. 
These new exegetes contradict nearly two thousand years of Church tradition and teaching with very little substantive content. Perhaps, however, it is important to answer the questions of whether or the temptation actually took place in history. If sacred scripture is the word of God, and it is written that it happened, then either it happened or the Bible is false. We cannot have it both ways.

The Church Answers

There is no doubt in the mind of Holy Mother Church that in fact Christ was tempted, in real temporal terms and as a historical fact. There is hardly a great Church father from Irenaeus, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, Justin, Jerome, Gregory the Great, and too many more to name who do not discuss the events of the temptation as greatly significant and obviously real. 
First as the redemption and fulfillment of the first Adam who fell when faced with his temptation and then as a foreshadowing of Christ’s passion and finally as a guide for us from the perfect teacher on the temptations the faithful will have to face as we observe that the fullness of time unfolds the events of Salvation History. 
Not one of these faithful and monumental saints have ever uttered a word against the historicity of Christ’s temptations, or any other divinely inspired Gospel accounting. In all cases, their treatments of the topic assume its veracity and importance so emphatically as to render the question moot, not to mention an offense against the authority and integrity of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Universal Church Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas treats of the temptation in his masterpiece the Summa Theologica in part III, question 41 On Christ’s Temptation. It is worth noting that the fact that St. Thomas Aquinas comments on Christ’s temptations signals his assent to their veracity. 
He first answers the question about whether or not it “was becoming that Christ should be Tempted?” He goes on to consider the role of the desert in Christ’s temptation. After that he considers the time of the temptation and finally he considers the mode and order of the temptation. 
The nature and seriousness of St. Thomas’ work ought to signal clearly that the first assumption upon which this consideration is grounded is that it in fact a historical reality that our Christ was tempted in the wilderness.
St. Thomas Aquinas would hardly have considered the temptation a topic worth memorializing or contemplating had it never happened. If we conclude with the modern exegete that the temptation did not happen, then we must also necessarily say that St. Thomas Aquinas’ work on this matter was done in vain. 
A cursory glance at their respective conclusions at the end of their lives speaks volumes- Bultmann ended in denying everything mystical about Christ and St. Thomas Aquinas, having been gifted the Beatific Vision, could no longer suffer the mundane, even his own inspired writing projects.

Choose Holy Mother Church

There is a modern divide in this age between academia and faithful theologians. The proper use of the will and intellect as they correspond to faith and reason are intended to be, as Pope St. John Paul II said at the outset in his vital encyclical Fides et Ratio “like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” 
Pope St. John Paul II squarely identifies our greatest difficulty today, we no longer know the truth about ourselves, and this has dramatically affected our teaching class.
Over the centuries, since the advent of nominalism, we have gradually cut ourselves off from the transcendent aspects of our existence. We are left in this age with a misunderstanding of the Christian anthropology. 
The manifestation of the modern moral and intellectual errors in the Ivory Tower is that intellect and will have been excised from academic considerations. Inductive reasoning has replaced the first principles of deductive reasoning and speculative philosophy. 
Scientific reductionism has reduced previously intellectual considerations like theology, philosophy and the humanities to reductive social sciences that embody the Enlightenment trope that “man is the measure of all things.”
Ironically, it requires a much bigger act of faith to believe Christ didn’t actually face temptation as it is written because the only source is a single miniscule mind who asserts skepticism as a thing that is true. 
In this Dark Age we ought to reject the primacy of the historical critical method and suggest that the faithful subordinate these methods to the lowest level of exegetical importance where they belong. 
Let us reject the conclusions which are not in accord with the Tradition and Teaching of Holy Mother Church. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for us, did in fact face the temptations in the desert from Satan, and He did so for us!
It has been the position of the Church from the beginning that historically, Christ was in fact tempted, in real terms and as an artifact of His earthly mission. To side against Holy Mother Church, the Church Fathers, Doctors and Saints is a bold arrogation to be in possession of knowledge that is impossible to acquire. 
If we side with Scripture as the inerrant word of God as expounded by the Magisterium that Christ was in fact tempted by Satan in the wilderness, then we can move on with confidence to examine other interesting questions concerning the nature of temptation and our duties in the spiritual combat. 
Let us ignore the cant coming from the world and embrace the marvels of revelation conveyed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit to all souls of good will.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

EMOTIONAL WOUNDS?

Bring them to the Eucharist to be healed

Complete healing comes from touching and being touched by the sacred 

by Roberto Mena

Recently, a man came to me asking for help. He was carrying deep wounds in his soul — emotional ones, not physical. What surprised me at first was that, even though he was deeply wounded, he had not been traumatized in his infancy or his adult life.

Apparently, he’d had to bear the typical blows and bruises that many of us deal with: disrespect, bullying, never being the favorite, dissatisfaction with his own body, disenchantment with his family and siblings, difficulties in his studies, disappointment in his workplace, the sensation of being ignored all the time, having the impression of not being appreciated, and the self-pity and lack of confidence that result from all of the above.

But he was a sensitive man, and the combination of all these seemingly small things had left him, now a late middle aged man, incapable of being the good - natured and happy adult that he wanted to be.

Instead, he admitted that he was habitually trapped in a certain self-absorption; more specifically, a self-centered anxiety that filled him with the sensation that life hadn’t been fair to him.

Consequently, he was always fixated in a certain way on protecting himself, and was resentful of those who could progress confidently in self-confidence and love.

“It bothers me,” he said, “to see people like Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II talk with such self-confidence about the largeness of their hearts. I always get filled with resentment and think, ‘Lucky you! You haven’t had to bear everything that I’ve had to suffer in life!’”

This man had already received some professional therapy that had brought him to a deeper level of self understanding, but it still left him paralyzed as far as being able to overcome his wounds.

“What can I do with these wounds?” he asked. My answer to him, and to all of us who are wounded, is, “Bring them to the Eucharist.”

Every time that you go to a Eucharistic celebration, you are near an altar, and you receive Communion, bring your defenselessness and your emotional paralysis to God. Ask him to touch your body, your heart, your memory, your bitterness, your lack of self-confidence, your self absorption, your weaknesses, your helplessness.

Bring your sore body and heart to God. Express your defenselessness in simple and humble words:

Touch me. Take my wounds. Take my paranoia. Heal me. Forgive me. Warm my heart. Give me the strength that I cannot give myself.
Pray this prayer, not only when you are receiving Communion and you are being physically touched by the Body of Christ, but especially during the Eucharistic prayer, because that is when not only are we being touched and healed by a person, Jesus, but we are also being touched and healed by a sacred event.

This is the part of the Eucharist that we generally don’t understand, but it’s also the part of the Mass that celebrates the transformation and healing of wounds and sin.

During the Eucharistic prayer, we commemorate the “sacrifice” of Jesus; that is to say, the event when, as Christian tradition tells us so enigmatically, Jesus became sin for our sake. There is a lot packed into that cryptic phrase.

In essence: in his suffering and death, Jesus carried our wounds, our weaknesses, our infidelities and our sins; he died in them, and then healed them through love and hope.

Every time we go to the Eucharist, we allow that trans - formative event to touch us, to touch our wounds, our weaknesses, our infidelities, our sin and our emotional paralysis, and it transforms them into healing, energy, joy and love.

The Eucharist is the source of healing where divine mercy becomes manifest. I believe that there is great merit in different kinds of physical and emotional therapy, just as there is immeasurable merit in 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and in sharing our wounds simply and honestly with people whom we trust.

There is also, I believe, merit in a certain strong-willed effort, in the challenge contained in Jesus’ command to the paralyzed man: take up your stretcher and walk. We must not allow ourselves to be afflicted by paralysis due to hypersensitivity or self-pity. God has given us skin to cover our most sensitive nerves.

But, even granting that, we still can’t cure ourselves.

Therapy, self-knowledge, close friends, and disciplined effort can only take us so far, not all the way to complete healing. Complete healing comes from touching and being touched by the sacred.
More specifically, as Christians, we believe that this touch involves a touch of the sacred in that place where God “became sin for our sake.” That place is the death and resurrection of Jesus.

That event becomes available to us, to touch it and enter it, during the Eucharistic Prayer, and when we receive the body of Christ in Communion.

We need to bring our wounds to the Eucharist, because that is where the sacred love and energy that underlie everything that lives and breathes can cauterize and cure everything in us that is unhealthy.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

THE 2017 DIRTY DOZEN LIST

WHY?

No corporation should profit from or facilitate sexual exploitation.

Unfortunately, many well-established brands, companies, and organizations in America do just that. Since 2013, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation has published an annual Dirty Dozen List to name and shame the bad corporate actors in America that perpetuate sexual exploitation—whether that be through pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking.

The Dirty Dozen List is an activism tool that has instigated tremendous changes, leading to policy improvements at Google, Hilton Worldwide, Verizon, Walmart, and the Department of Defense (see more below!)

NCOSE will announce the 2017 Dirty Dozen List on February 22 at 1:00 PM ET in a live online press conference streamed right here.

MORE BACKGROUND

At the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, we work for a world where the pornified vision of reality—with its raw, brutal, debasing, hate-filled themes—becomes intolerable to all those who have concern for the well-being of humanity, respect for human dignity, and affirm human rights.

We work for a world where human beings are not bought and sold for sex, whether on seedy street corners or via the modern convenience of the Internet. We work for a world free from sexual exploitation in all its forms.
One way we do this is through the annual “Dirty Dozen List,” which names and shames a range of actors who contribute significantly to the normalization of pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking, and other forms of sexual exploitation.

The groups, agencies, and businesses named to this list are among the nation’s worst for masquerading as mainstream entities with respectable reputations, while facilitating access to, or pandering and profiting directly from pornography and or prostitution.

Others push policy agendas that normalize egregious forms of sexual exploitation. This list ensures that their participation and collusion with the various aspects of the sex trade becomes public knowledge, and equips concerned citizens with information and tools to hold them accountable.

We will continue naming and shaming until these mainstream contributors to the normalization of sexual exploitation no longer stand in allegiance with pornographers, sex traffickers, and sex buyers, and join us in fighting for the right of everyone to live sexexploitation free lives.

Monday, February 13, 2017

STOP TRIPPING OVER YOURSELF

It is very easy to write and speak of God, of Jesus, of Catholicism when your inside seems all aglow.

But, all too often, that glow seems to quickly fade. And, replacing the glow seems to be a dark feeling of loneliness, sadness and an unwillingness to review our own life.

This feeling, however, is not an indication that something is wrong with us. It is just an obstacle that we must deal with, climb over and move on. The problem is, however, that the hollowness inside us seems to militate against any positive movement.

We seem destined to wallow in our own self-pity. The more empty we feel, the less inclined we are to want to strive vigorously forward. Sadly, it is just easier to feel sorry for ourselves.

The expectations we have for ourselves actually get in the way of any forward movement in our lives. We become disheartened. We are ashamed. We feel hopeless and alone. The more we allow these negative feelings to bubble up inside us, the less likely we are to realize that the answer is there waiting to be discovered by us.

Think of EVERY possible reason for you to feel down. Maybe you are worried about health issues, or even concerns about death. Maybe you are worrying about loved ones, or problems that you cannot seem to resolve or conquer. These are all major issues.

I don’t think there are any worse kinds of concerns. And yet, what is the sadness that they bring about in you? Why the hollow pit in your stomach? What can worries do to correct any of these issues? Nothing. We are imperfect human beings. We are hampered by poor judgments.

We feel a hollowness inside that we try to alleviate with possessions, or wealth, or addictions, or anything else that we think will satisfy us. “If only this or that would happen, all will be better”, we reassure ourselves. But even if this-or-that were to happen, we would only find something else to bring us down. You know that this is true!

We are placing our trust in…. ourselves. We think WE can correct these negative feelings. We are sure that WE can set the matter straight. STOP trusting in yourself. It is that simple.
We don’t have the answers. We don’t have the capability to correct problems that we have no domain over. When are we going to believe that? When are we going to realize that we are creatures and not Creator? God, and only God, can write straight with the crooked lines that we scribble.

If we believe, truly believe, that God loves us, if we believe, truly believe, that God wants only the best for us, if we believe, truly believe, that God came to this earth to show us how to live, then we can stop the useless trust of ourselves and trust, truly trust, this God who loves us.

His love for you and me has no limits. He patiently waits for us to wake up, and to realize that He is eminently trustworthy. Why should we put our trust in weak earthen vessels, when our God is waiting with arms outstretched to embrace us?

I think all of us are really afraid of God. We are afraid that what He wants, what He will allow, is not what we want. And so, we worry about the outcomes of events, and try to manipulate them in some way.
If we can trust a doctor, or a pharmacist, or anyone else who has been trained to know, recognize and diagnose our ailments, why can we not trust our God?