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)
I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood; you have no life in you. (John 6: 53)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

THE CANAANITE WOMAN

 

A Homily for the 20th Sunday of the Year by Msgr. Charles Pope:

Today’s gospel teaches us to pray always and not lose heart. This is a gospel about having tenacity in prayer and, even when the results seem discouraging, continuing to beseech the Lord. It is also a gospel about the Lord’s will to extend the gospel to all the nations and to make the Church truly catholic.

Let’s look at this gospel in five stages.

STAGE I. TRAVELS - The text says, At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Thus Jesus goes north of Israel into the territory we know today as Lebanon.

Now Matthew is not just giving us a quick travelogue here. We are not interested merely in Jesus’ physical location but, even more, in what this location signifies. Jesus has gone up north to pagan territory. Other things being equal, this is a rather odd destination for a Jewish preacher. But we need to recall that Jesus is preparing the Church for a mission to all the nations. So it makes sense that He pushes the boundaries of the Jewish world. Jesus interacted with Gentiles and Samaritans as if to say, “The racism of a Jewish-only world must now end. The Gospel must break the boundaries of nation and race and be truly universal, truly catholic.”

This vision of the Gentiles being drawn to the Lord was actually well attested to in the Old Testament. But, just like today, there were texts in the Scriptures that were popular and well known and others that were conveniently “forgotten” or had little effect. Consider a few examples of texts that announced the entry of the Gentiles into the Holy People of God:

1.The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants–all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples(Isaiah 56:6-9).

2.I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Is 49:6).

3.Babylon and Egypt I will count among those who know me, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia, these will be her children and Zion shall be called “mother” for all shall be her children (Psalm 87:4-5).

4.I come to gather nation of every language; they shall come and see my glory. Some of these I will take as priests and Levites says the Lord … All mankind shall come to worship before me says the Lord (Is 66:18; 23).

Hence we can see that the Jewish people’s own Scriptures spoke of a day when Jews and Gentiles together would worship the Lord and be His people.

This introductory note about Jesus’ location is essential to understanding the text that will follow. We must grasp Jesus’ will to reach out to the Gentiles. We do this in order to appreciate that some of the harsh tone He exhibits later can likely be understood as a rhetorical means of questioning racial and national division rather than as an affirmation of such division. In effect He is tweaking His disciples and the Church and giving voice to their fears and hostilities. In so doing He also calls out the Canaanite woman in order to show forth one who is willing to set aside these racist notions for a greater good.

Let’s watch it unfold.

Stage II. TORMENT – The text says, And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

It is a sure fact that Canaanites were despised by Jews. And Canaanites returned the favor and despised them right back. What is it that would make a Canaanite woman reach out to a Jewish Messiah? In a word, desperation. In her torment and desperation this woman no longer cares who helps her daughter as long as someone helps her!

She has likely heard of Jesus’ power to save and heal. She looks past her racial hatred and, risking terrible personal rebuke, calls on Jesus. Her sorrow crosses boundaries. The only enemy she cares about is the demon afflicting her daughter.

It is sad but true that a common enemy can often unite factions. It should not take this, but the Lord will take whatever he can get to unite us.

So torment has lowered the barriers.

Stage III. TEST - The text says, But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”…. “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

It is a shocking and daring thing that Jesus does here. He takes up the voice of sin, oppression, racism, and nationalism. It is a very strange thing to hear come from the mouth of the Lord, who has already journeyed among the Samaritans and Gentiles, healing them and often praising their faith (e.g. Lk 8:26; Mt 8:10; Lk 7:9; Matt 8:11 inter al).

The usual explanation is that He is calling out this woman’s faith and through her is summoning His disciples to repentance. The disciples want the Lord to order her away. In effect, He takes up their voices and the voice of all oppression and utters the hateful sayings of the world, even going so far as to use the term “dog” to refer to her.

Yes, Jesus is testing her, trying to awaken something in her. He is also giving voice to the ugly thoughts of His disciples and likely others, Gentile and Jew, who were standing by and watching with marvel and disdain the interaction of a Gentile, a Gentile woman, and a Jew.

There is a saying, “Things do, by opposition grow.” And thus, through this test, Jesus increases her faith and possibly that of the bystanders. Just as an athlete grows by facing tougher opponents and a musician improves by playing tougher pieces, so does the testing of this woman’s faith cause it to grow.

Remember, God tested Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Esther, Susannah, Judith, Gideon, and countless others. The Canaanite woman, too, is being tested. And like those of old she, too, will grow by the test.

We, too, are tested. For God seems at times to be strangely silent and we are made to feel like no child of God at all. Indeed we may often conclude that even the dogs live better than we.

So the question for us remains. Will we give way during the test or hold out until our change comes? Will our faith grow or wither? Will our love grow stronger or will it change to resentment?

Stage IV. TENACITY – The text says, But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Note here that the woman is not put off. Whatever anger, grief, or discouragement may move through her, she perseveres.

She is even bold and creative. In a sense, she will not take no for an answer.

1. She is like Mother Mary at Cana, who did not pause for a moment when Jesus seemed dubious of her request (Jn 2:5).

2. She is like the widow before the Judge in Jesus’ parable, who never stopped pestering the judge for a favorable ruling (Lk 18:1-8).

3. She is like the blind man at the side of the road, who still kept calling for Jesus despite the rebuke of the crowds (Lk 18:39).

4. She is like the parents who brought their infants to Jesus for a blessing, who withstood rebuke by the disciples and won through to the blessing (Mk 10:13-16).

5. She is like Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree to see Jesus despite his short stature (Lk 19:1ff).

6. She is like the widow with the hemorrhage, who, though weak and ritually unclean, pressed thorough the crowd and grabbed the hem of Jesus’ garments (Mk 5:28).

7. She is like the lepers, who, though forbidden by law to enter the town, sought the Lord at the Gates and fell down before Him (Luke 17).

Yes, she has tenacity. She will hold out until the change (the healing she desires for her daughter) is accomplished. She will not give up or let go of Jesus no matter how unwilling He seems, no matter how politically incorrect her request appears, no matter how much hostility she encounters from the disciples, the crowds, or even Jesus Himself. She will hold out.

Here is a woman with tenacity! How about you?

Stage V. TRIUMPH – The text says, Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour. Here is the victory. She has gone from torment to triumph by a tenacious and tested faith. Jesus now takes away the veil of His role and shows His true self—the merciful, wonder-working Messiah and Lord.

Jesus says to her, “Great is your faith.” But how has it become so? In the crucible of testing, that’s how. We may wonder at God’s delays, at His seeming disinterest or even anger. But in the end it is our faith that is most important to Him.

Our faith is more important to God than our finances, our comfort, or our desired cures. For it is by faith that we are saved. We are not saved by our health, by comforts, by money, or by good fortune. And God is willing to delay; He is willing to test us and try us, if only for the sake of our stronger faith by which He will save us. God saves us, but He does it through our faith.

Why all this delay? Why the suffering? Why the trials? Stronger faith, that’s why! God may not come when you want Him, but He’s always right on time. For His true goal is not to give us what we want, but rather what we need—stronger faith.

Having done this, the Lord gives her the triumph. We, too, must accept that God’s truest blessing for us is not better health or improved finances; it is stronger faith.

Consider well the lesson of this gospel. Though God often seems uninterested, even cruel, He is working His purposes out and seeking to increase our faith. Hard, you say? What parent among you has not had to do the same for your child? For children, untested and untried, who get their every wish, who never have to wait, become spoiled, self-centered, and headed for ultimate ruin. Consider well that God knows exactly what He is doing and consider, too, that most of us are hard cases. God must often work mightily to get our attention and strengthen our faith. Do not give up on God; He is up to something good, very good

Thursday, August 7, 2014

THE IMPORTANCE OF MASS AND THE EUCHARIST

St. Thomas Aquinas
(1225-1274)
Hymn:
"Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The Lord becomes our food:
poor, a servant, and humble.
We beseech Thee,
Godhead One in Three
That Thou wilt visit us,
as we worship Thee,
lead us through Thy ways,
We who wish to reach the light
in which Thou dwellest. Amen.
"Panis Angelicus by St. Thomas Aquinas

 
The Bible on the Eucharist (Holy Communion):

As Catholics one of the truths that we hold that has been handed down from Jesus and the apostles is that Jesus is really (not just symbolically) present in the Eucharist, also called Holy Communion.

“The Church has always and everywhere held and continues to hold, that the four Gospels are of apostolic origin. For what the Apostles preached, in fulfilment of the commission of Christ, afterwards they themselves and apostolic men, under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, handed onto us in writing: … the fourfold Gospel, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John”. “… the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation...” (Sections 18 and 19 of Dei Verbum, a Vatican II document.)

Below are some passsages from the New Testament regarding the Eucharist, which we Catholics believe are literally true because this is the understanding that has been handed down to us through the centuries from the apostles as part of the deposit of the faith. Even though they may seem incredible or miraculous, they are not unreasonable, because we also believe that Jesus is God who not only knows all things but is all powerful and can do all things. We believe this because Jesus taught it and our faith is in Jesus. Jesus loves us so much that He wants to be as united to us as possible and this is one way He decided that we could be united to Him not only in spirit but also receive Him literally into bodies.

Scripture Verses on the Eucharist:

Jesus said in John 6:48-65: " 'I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.' The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?' Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.' These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, 'This saying is hard; who can accept it?'

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them,
'Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.'
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, 'For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.' "

Matt. 26:26-28: "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.' "

Mark 14:22-24: " 'And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, Take; this is my body. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.' "

Luke 22:19-20: "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' And likewise the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.' "

1 Cor. 10:16-17: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."

1 Cor. 11:23-29: "For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself."

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

AVOIDING PURGATORY



"Amen, amen I say unto you: Except that you eat the flesh of the Son of man,
and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you." The Living Bread (St. John 6:54)

Spiritual Growth

[Classification of a soul's progress in the spiritual life by "testing souls on one hand by sin and imperfection, and on the other by their degree of prayer]

1. HARDENED BY SIN

Mortal sin: Stubborn persistence in sin, either out of ignorance or because of a maliciously warped conscience.

Prayer: Deliberate refusal to have any recourse to God.

1. SURFACE CHRISTIANITY

Mortal sin: Considered as a trifling evil, easily forgiven. The soul easily gives way and commits mortal sin at every possible occasion or temptation. -- Confession almost without contrition.

Prayer: Mechanical; either inattentive, or always dictated by temporal interest. Such souls enter into themselves very rarely and superficially.

1. MEDIOCRE PIETY

Mortal sin: Weak resistance. Hardly ever avoids occasions but seriously regrets having sinned, and makes good confessions.

Venial sin: Complete acceptance of this sin, which is considered as insignificant. Hence, tepidity of the will. Does nothing whatever to prevent venial sin, or to extirpate it, or to find it out when it is concealed.

Prayer: From time to time, prays well. Momentary fits of fervor.

1. INTERMITTENT PIETY

Mortal sin: Loyal resistance. Habitually avoids occasion. Deep regrets. Does penance to make reparation.

Venial sin: Sometimes deliberate. Puts up a weak fight. Sorrow only superficial. Make a particular examination of conscience, but without any method or coherence.

Prayer: Not firmly resolved to remain faithful to meditation. Gives up as soon as dryness is felt, or as soon as there is business to attend to.

1. SUSTAINED PIETY

Mortal sin: Never. At most very rare, when taken suddenly and violently by surprise. And then, often it is to be doubted if the sin is mortal. It is followed by ardent compunction and penance.

Venial sin: Vigilant in avoiding and fighting it. Rarely deliberate. Keen sorrow, but does little by way of reparation. Consistent particular examen, but aiming only at avoidance of venial sin.

Imperfections: The soul either avoids uncovering them, so as not to have to fight them, or else easily excuses them. Approves the thought of renouncing them, and would like to do so, but makes little effort in that direction.

Prayer: Always faithful to prayer, no matter what happens. Often affective. Alternating consolations and dryness, the latter endured with considerable hardship.

1. FERVOR

Venial sin: Never deliberate. By surprise, sometimes, or with imperfect advertence. Keenly regretted, and serious reparation made.

Imperfections: Wants nothing to do with them. Watches over them, fights them with courage, in order to be more pleasing to God. Sometimes accepted, however, but regretted at once. Frequent acts of renunciation. Particular examen aims at perfection in a given virtue.

Prayer: Mental prayer gladly prolonged. Prayer on the affective side, or even prayer of simplicity. Alternation between powerful consolations and fierce trials.

1. RELATIVE PERFECTION

Imperfections: Guards against them energetically and with much love. They only happen with half-advertence.

Prayer: Habitual life of prayer, even when occupied in external works. Thirst for self-renunciation, annihilation, detachment, and divine love. Hunger for the Eucharist and for Heaven. Graces of infused prayer, of different degree. Often passive purification.

1. HEROIC PERFECTION

Imperfections: Nothing but the first impulse.

Prayer: Supernatural graces of contemplation, sometimes accompanied by extraordinary phenomena. Pronounced passive purifications. Contempt of self to the point of complete self-forgetness. Prefers sufferings to joys.

1. COMPLETE SANCTITY

Imperfections: Hardly apparent.

Prayer: Usually, transforming union. spiritual marriage. Purifications by love. Ardent thirst for sufferings and humiliations."

Excerpted from The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O., 1946.TAN

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 QUOTES THAT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU ATTEND HOLY MASS

by Dr Taylor Marshall

Saint Gertrude the Great once reported that for each and every Mass that we hear with devotion during our lives, Christ sends a saint to comfort us in death. I was deeply moved the first time I read this.

Intellectually, I know that great value of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - it is the solemn re-presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Father in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. It’s the source and summit of the Christian life. However, it is often difficult to remember this amazing truth in the midst of our common distractions during Holy Mass.

Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that with the Holy Eucharist, the five senses fail. Only faith can lift the veil and perceive the reality of Christ’s presence and sacrifice.

I recently came across 10 quotes from the saints about the importance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. These quotes remind me of the hidden mystery of the Holy Mass. I plan to review them before Mass during Lent. I’d encourage you to do the same if you also struggle with distractions. I may print them out on a card and put them in my missal:

1.When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar. ~ St. John Chrysostom

2.The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass. ~ St. Augustine

3.If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy. ~ Saint Jean Vianney

4.The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross. ~ Saint Thomas Aquinas

5.Once, St. Teresa was overwhelmed with God’s Goodness and asked Our Lord “How can I thank you?” Our Lord replied, “ATTEND ONE MASS.”

6.“My Son so loves those who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that, if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they’ve heard Masses.” Our Lady to Blessed Alan.

7.When we receive Holy Communion, we experience something extraordinary – a joy, a fragrance, a well-being that thrills the whole body and causes it to exalt. ~ Saint Jean Vianney

8.There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us. ~ Saint Jean Vianney

9.When we have been to Holy Communion, the balm of love envelops the soul as the flower envelops the bee. ~ Saint Jean Vianney

10.It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass. ~ St. Pio of Pietrelcina

That last quote from Saint Pio is profound. The entire cosmos is sustained by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…

Question: How to we restore a sense of the awe and sanctity to the liturgy? How do we remind ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ that the sanctuary is “filled with countless angels” during the consecration? It’s an inspiring reality. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts or any other inspiring quotes about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

THE IMPORTANCE OF MASS AND THE EUCHARIST

St. Thomas Aquinas
(1225-1274)
Hymn:
"Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The Lord becomes our food:
poor, a servant, and humble.
We beseech Thee,
Godhead One in Three
That Thou wilt visit us,
as we worship Thee,
lead us through Thy ways,
We who wish to reach the light
in which Thou dwellest. Amen.
"Panis Angelicus by St. Thomas Aquinas

 
The Bible on the Eucharist (Holy Communion):

As Catholics one of the truths that we hold that has been handed down from Jesus and the apostles is that Jesus is really (not just symbolically) present in the Eucharist, also called Holy Communion.

“The Church has always and everywhere held and continues to hold, that the four Gospels are of apostolic origin. For what the Apostles preached, in fulfilment of the commission of Christ, afterwards they themselves and apostolic men, under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, handed onto us in writing: … the fourfold Gospel, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John”. “… the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation...” (Sections 18 and 19 of Dei Verbum, a Vatican II document.)

Below are some passsages from the New Testament regarding the Eucharist, which we Catholics believe are literally true because this is the understanding that has been handed down to us through the centuries from the apostles as part of the deposit of the faith. Even though they may seem incredible or miraculous, they are not unreasonable, because we also believe that Jesus is God who not only knows all things but is all powerful and can do all things. We believe this because Jesus taught it and our faith is in Jesus. Jesus loves us so much that He wants to be as united to us as possible and this is one way He decided that we could be united to Him not only in spirit but also receive Him literally into bodies.

Scripture Verses on the Eucharist:

Jesus said in John 6:48-65: " 'I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.' The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?' Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.' These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, 'This saying is hard; who can accept it?'

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them,
'Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.'
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, 'For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.' "

Matt. 26:26-28: "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.' "

Mark 14:22-24: " 'And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, Take; this is my body. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.' "

Luke 22:19-20: "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' And likewise the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.' "

1 Cor. 10:16-17: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."

1 Cor. 11:23-29: "For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

THE MYSTERY OF SUFFERING

Suffering, either in this world or the world to come, is a subject no one likes to think about. In our day, and, in particular, the Western culture, suffering is seen as an evil to be avoided at all costs. Not much has changed since Jesus suffered a horrible, shameful death on the Cross - with His Mother witnessing and sharing His agony.

Suffering - yes, it is a mystery. Yet if we wish to share in the glory of Jesus' Resurrection, we must be prepared to accept what He accepted - suffering for the sake of others in union with Jesus. All He did was for others. That's where suffering begins to make sense.

Jesus -- the Son of God -- was willing and eager to share in our sufferings. He experienced all of them in His flesh. Some might be tempted to say, "Suffering is evil -- the root of all evil." But that was what Peter thought when Jesus told him he would suffer, be crucified and die, and on the third day be raised again. Jesus rebuked Peter abruptly, and told him what was truly evil: "Get behind me, Satan".

No Cross, no Resurrection - no dying to self, no new life in Him.
 For the majority of souls, self-will, self-love asserts itself: "My will be done, not yours, Lord." We are not willing to embrace suffering. We are not willing to be generous with our suffering and offer it for the salvation of souls, as Our Lady at Fatima lamented.

Most souls will not be ready to see Love in His Absolute Purity and Goodness. We have been blinded by our own selfishness, and have fallen for the ancient temptation 'to be like gods'. We want our way.

Most souls will to go to purgatory - to be cleansed, to be purified. One account, in particular, highlights this desire. St. Gertrude saw, in a vision, a very devout nun standing before Our Lord, but was unable to gaze at His Face. She backed away as He beckoned her to come. When the Saint asked her why she did not go to Him, she replied that she was not yet cleansed of every stain left on her soul by her sins. She knew she was not pure enough, and wanted to be purified. She chose to be purified in purgatory.

God is Love -- and if He suffered, and if we wish to call ourselves Christians, His followers, we must do the same, for the same reason. Blessed Mother Teresa once said,"when suffering comes to us, we should accept it with a smile, because it is the greatest gift that God gives us. It is a gift to have the courage to accept everything that He sends us."

The choice is ours. We can love now, as He loved, and willingly accept and offer our suffering for others. By doing so, we will show our love for Him and gain great merit. Or we can wait, and have it imposed later, by purifying necessity, with no merit.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

EIGHT TIPS FOR CATHOLICS

by Jennifer Fulwiler

“I feel like I’m losing my faith,” an acquaintance told me the other day. This person explained that she used to have an intimate relationship with God, but now feels empty inside, and has even begun to question whether God exists at all. She wanted to know how I recommend that she proceeds.

Even though I’m neither a saint nor an expert on the spiritual life, I get asked questions like this fairly frequently. Perhaps it’s because I’m an atheist-to-Catholic convert, or because readers of my personal blog know that I’m a spiritual spaz and therefore am likely to have been through a variety of rough patches in my relationship with God. Whatever the reason, over the course of the past six years I’ve had dozens of conversations with people who are struggling with doubts. Through these conversations, as well as meetings with confessors and spiritual directors about problems I’ve faced in my own spiritual life, I’ve learned a lot about traveling the rocky road of doubt. So for my acquaintance who’s questioning her faith, as well as anyone else who might be struggling with beliefs that used to come naturally to them, here are the top tips I think you might find helpful:

1. Make sure that the problem is doubt

First, make sure that your main issue is doubt. Problems like clinical depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. can lead to a lack of closeness with God that might initially seem like doubts, but have a deeper root that would be best addressed with a qualified Catholic therapist . Similarly, in my own life there was a time when I said I was experiencing doubts, but when I took a closer look I realized that it was simply a lack of consolation (i.e. a spiritual dry spell) rather than serious questions about the validity of the teachings of the Faith. “Doubt” is often used as a catch-all term that covers a variety of spiritual problems, so it’s important to take a second look to make sure that you’ve diagnosed the situation correctly.

2. Confess your sins

Whenever I complained of problems in my prayer life, my spiritual director would always ask me if I’d made a good confession recently. Having doubts isn’t necessarily caused by being in a state of sin, but certainly our sins can fuel any existing feelings of distance from God. Visiting the confessional is a good first step to clear your spiritual slate before moving forward.

3. Listen to the Church’s side of the story

This one seems obvious, but is surprisingly easy to overlook. When I talk to folks who have begun to embrace viewpoints that are contrary to Catholic teaching (such as those of the New Atheists), I often find that they have not spent much time listening to the Church’s counter-arguments. I see this most often among people who were raised Catholic: There’s a feeling of, “If there were a good response to this I surely would have heard it in Catholic school or in a homily at some point, and since I haven’t, there must not be a good answer.” The Church has a two-thousand-year-old body of wisdom that covers pretty much every aspect of human existence, so it’s perfectly possible that even someone raised in a faithful Catholic environment could have misunderstandings about exactly what the Church believes in certain areas. If you haven’t done so already, find faithful Catholic authors and see what they have to say about the areas in which you’re experiencing doubts. (The EWTN Catalog and Lighthouse Catholic Media (both have great resources to get you started.)

My spiritual director always used to say that we shouldn’t make big decisions when we’re feeling agitated, and never is this more true than in matters of faith. If you’re feeling stressed out, frazzled, angry, exhausted, resentful, or otherwise unsettled, try to regain a sense of calm before you begin seeking answers to your questions. As much as we like to believe that we can turn ourselves into truth-evaluating robots, the reality is that our abilities to assimilate and evaluate data are always impacted by our mental states—especially when it comes to those truths that cannot be deduced mathematically or through the scientific method alone.

5. Practice forgiveness

Per the above, there are a lot of things that could cause a person to be in an unsettled state. However, the one that I see most often in people with doubts is resentment. When I am able to have long conversations with people who are having serious questions about their faith, more often than not the subject will turn to some unresolved hurt in their lives. It makes sense: Since God is love itself, to seek the truth about God is to seek the truth about love; and, naturally, our view of love becomes clouded when we’ve been hurt by those who were supposed to love us. Forgiving those who have wounded us is much easier said than done, and may even take months or years of work with confessors, therapists and/or spiritual directors, but I’ve found it to be a necessary step for evaluating doubts with clarity.

6. Watch out for hidden payoffs

Another point that seems obvious, but is easy to overlook, is that the search for truth can be influenced by the payoffs that await different conclusions. For example, one person recently told me that she now believes that the main reason she lost her faith in college is because she secretly wanted to be “free” to live the immoral lifestyle that was popular on campus at the time.

7. Find a spiritual director

Going through a time of doubt can be an alienating experience. Especially if it seems that everyone around you has a rock-solid faith life, you might be hesitant to talk to your family or friends about what you’re thinking. This is where a spiritual director can be extremely helpful: He or she can help you analyze your questions in a relaxed environment, and you don’t have to worry about it leading to arguments or tension the way it might with people in your personal life. If you’re not sure how to find one, the Catholic Spiritual Direction Blog has a great post about that here.

8. Keep praying (and ask others to pray for you)

It’s a natural reaction to stop talking to God if you’re not even sure that he’s there to hear you, but keep doing it anyway. Tell him you have doubts. Ask for help. Ask him to guide you to the right people and resources—and don’t forget to remain open to any answers you might receive. Ask others to pray for you too; if you don’t want to tell them you have doubts, just say it’s for a special intention. This may be the most difficult step of all, especially if you’ve been questioning your faith for a long time, but it is also the most important step.

The good news is that many people I’ve talked to over the years have come through their times of doubt to have a faith more vibrant than ever before; in fact, it seems like the worst periods of spiritual confusion often precede the most amazing spiritual transformations. So to anyone who’s experiencing difficulties in your faith life: Keep searching, keep praying, don’t lose heart, and know that I’ll be praying for you as well.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

CITY OF GOD

St. Augustine’s The City of God

analysis by Lindsey Hurd

"There is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.” Psalm xivi.iv

It was the year 410 A.D. Toppling from the heights of her golden throne, Rome, the great mistress of the world, opened her gates to barbarian invaders. Throughout the civilized world, rumors of the sacked city were greeted with horror or unbelief. Three years later, in response to the pagan’s charge that Christian impiety towards the Roman gods had brought the gods’ wrath upon the city, Saint Augustine, bishop of Hippo, took up his pen to defend Christianity from this charge.

These writings were the beginning of his great literary work, which would prove to become one of the most respected and frequently cited books of Church history. Thirteen years of labor completed this work; Augustine called it The City of God. This city, he wrote, is “…surpassingly glorious, whether we view it as it still lives by faith in this fleeting course of time, and sojourns as a stranger in the midst of the ungodly, or as it shall dwell in the fixed stability of its eternal seat . . .”

There is another city of which he also writes: the earthly one. Of it, he says, “though it be mistress of nations, it itself is ruled by its lust of rule. ”Throughout the City of God, he traces the journeys of these two cities, from the time they were founded, to how they relate with one another, the conduct of their life, and finally, their ultimate end.

When God created the world with divine perfection and set man in the midst of His garden, He knew that man would sin. The eating of the fruit brought God’s just retribution as he promised, and not just upon Adam, but upon all of his posterity, for an imperfect nature cannot beget a perfect nature. To those who found God’s punishment harsh, Augustine wrote, “But eternal punishment seems hard and unjust to human perceptions, because in the weakness of our mortal condition there is wanting that highest and purest wisdom by which it can be perceived how great a wickedness was committed in that fist transgression.

The more enjoyment men found in God, the greater was his wickedness in abandoning Him; and he who destroyed in himself a good which might have been eternal, became worthy of eternal evil.” Thus, Adam’s sin left all of mankind in the city of man, from whence it could not be freed except by Christ’s blood. Augustine believed that God chose to redeem His own people so that the world could see the efficacy of earthly grace, and on the other hand, He chose to let the rest continue in condemnation so that the world might also see the severity of retribution.

Of the worldly city, Augustine wrote that Cain was the founder, and of the heavenly city, Abel. Though it could be argued that Adam actually founded the earthly city when he ate of the fruit, Augustine apparently preferred Cain as founder. At the hands of Cain, the earth first swallowed the blood of man, and it was first recorded of him that he arose and built cities. Whoever were the true founders, Augustine was certain that all of humanity is divided into one of these antithical cities.

One consists of those living according to man, while the other lives according to God; “one is predestined to reign eternally with God, and the other to suffer eternal punishment with the devil.” (XV.1) Thus, these the two cities exhibit two loves; the earthly loves itself to the contempt of God, whilst the heavenly city loves God, to the contempt of flesh. The former seeks glory from men, the latter from God, saying, “Thou art my glory. And the lifter up of mine head.” (Ps. 3:3)

That part of the heavenly city which sojourns here on earth is composed of numerous households, and the way these are ruled contributes in a very real way to the function of the whole city. The principles this city must live by, and which must be encouraged on behalf of all household members by the head of the house are the two greatest commandments: Thou shalt love the Lord they God, and thy neighbor as thyself.

In the spiritual life of each individual Christian, Augustine indicated that there must be a balance between living an active Christian life (societal involvement) and a contemplative life (that is, contemplation of God). Not surprisingly, however, Augustine placed more emphasis upon the latter. Influenced as he was by this platonic doctrine of contemplation of the greatest Good, he believed, to some degree, in the encompassing superiority of contemplation in the whole of Christian life. However, he also recognized the importance of active Christian life and the danger of selfishly indulging in contemplation to the detriment of Christian service in the body of Christ.

On the flip side of this, he warned that active life, unaccompanied by contemplation, quickly saps a Christian of the strength to press forward. In his own words, “No man has a right to lead such a life of contemplation as to forget in his own ease the service due to his neighbor; nor has any man a right to be so immersed in active life as to neglect the contemplation of God.” (XIX.17)

In the earthly city, the people thereof receive the rain and food the Father gives them, but their darkened hearts are deprived of His unchangeable light, and they give him not thanks. These citizens prefer their own impious and proud gods and delight in their own strength, which represents itself in the person of their rulers. Oftentimes, the greed and selfishness of these rulers grasp for self-serving privileges and divine honors at the expense of their subjects, so that they lead their people into bondage and make war upon liberty itself.

Besides the physical qualities surrounding the life of the earthly city, there are also the stark spiritual and moral qualities which threaten the people therein. Augustine writes, “where there is no true religion, there are no true virtues . . . For what kind of mistress of the body and the vices can that mind be which is ignorant of the true God, and which, instead of being subject to His authority, is prostituted to the corrupting influences of the most vicious demons?” Though the earthly city may demand strict moral obedience to its law, true virtue will not result because there is no religion other than the true religion which has an absolute law of justice and morality.

Thus, the earthly city’s laws are always open to abuse, ambiguous interpretation, or “progress.” There is no higher law than the leaders of this city. In fact, Augustine believed that the very virtues exhibited by the unbelievers are in actuality vices if they are not exercised within a biblical framework. These, he says, are “inflated with pride, and are therefore reckoned vices.” What he essentially meant is that when sinful man, in the pride of his own might undertakes to live a virtuous life apart from the lordship of Christ, he obviates his stiff-necked refusal of God’s Word all the more.

These two cities, Augustine wrote, share a common desire: peace. However, they have different methods of seeking it. The earthly city seeks earthly peace and an orderly society, but it strives for peace as the product of man’s intelligence and administrative abilities. That part of the heavenly city which dwells on earth seeks earthly peace as well, but only when it complements their ultimate goal of peace under God.

As Augustine writes, they “[make] this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven; for this alone can be truly called and esteemed the peace of the reasonable creatures, consisting as it does in the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God.” (XIX.17) Because of this different view of peace, discord sometimes arises between these two cites.

The eternal lot of the earthly city is eternal death, where they dwell because they forsook their God, after which God forsook them.“Death,” Augustine wrote, “then, of the soul takes place when God forsakes it, as the death of the body when the soul forsakes it.Therefore, the death of both – that is, of the whole man—occurs when the soul, forsaken by God, forsakes man. For in this case, neither is God the life of the soul, nor the soul the life of the body” (XIII.1). The City of God welcomes its citizens to their heavenly home, where they live in eternal rest and blissful joy with God, where all things cry out that He is indeed God.

“Now, when they were come up to the gate, there was written over it in letters of Gold, ‘Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city’” - (Pilgrim’s Progress).

Friday, May 23, 2014

UNDERSTANDING CATHOLIC DEVOTION TO MARY

By: Thomas Merton

This is often forgotten by Catholics themselves, and therefore it is not surprising that those who are not Catholic often have a completely wrong conception of Catholic devotion to the Mother of God. They imagine, and sometimes we can understand their reasons for doing so, that Catholics treat the Blessed Virgin as an almost divine being in her own right, as if she had some glory, some power, some majesty of her own that placed her on a level with Christ Himself.

They regard the Assumption of Mary into heaven as a kind of apotheosis placed in the Redemption would seem to be equal to that of her Son. +++ But this is all completely contrary to the true mind of the Catholic Church.+++ It forgets that Mary's chief glory is in her nothingness, in the fact of being the "Handmaid of the Lord," as one who in becoming the Mother of God acted simply in loving submission to His command, in the pure obedience of faith. She is blessed not because of some mythical pseudo-divine prerogative, but in all her human and womanly limitations as one who has believed.

It is the faith and the fidelity of this humble handmaid, "full of grace" that enables her to be the perfect instrument of God, and nothing else but His instrument. The work that was done in her purely the work of God. "He that is mighty hath done great things in me." The glory of Mary is purely and simply the glory of God in her. and she, like anyone else, can say that she has nothing that she has not received from Him through Christ.

As a matter of fact, this is precisely her greatest glory: that having nothing of her own, retaining nothing of a "self" that could glory in any- thing for her own sake, she placed no obstacle to the mercy of God and in no way resisted His love and His will. Hence she received more from Him than any other saint. he was able to accomplish His will perfectly in her, and His liberty was in no way hindered or turned from its purpose by the presence of an egotistical self in Mary.

She was and is in the highest sense a person precisely because, being "immaculate," she was free from every taint of selfishness that might obscure God's light in her being. She was then a freedom that obeyed Him perfectly and in this obedience found the fulfill- ment of perfect love.

The genuine significance of Catholic devotion to Mary is to be seen in the light of the Incarnation itself. The Church cannot separate the Son and the Mother. Because the Church conceived of the Incarnation as God's descent into flesh and into time, and His great gift of Himself to His creatures, she also believes that the one who was closest to Him in this great mystery was the one who participated most perfectly in the gift.

When a room is heated by an open flame, surely there is nothing strange in the fact that those who stand closest to the fireplace are the ones who are warmest. And when God comes into the world through the instrumentality of one of His servants, then there is nothing surprising about the fact that His chosen instrument should have the greatest and most intimate share in the divine gift.

Mary, who was empty of all egotism, free from all sin, was as pure as the glass of a very clean window that has no other function than to admit the light of the sun (Son). If we rejoice in that light, we implicitly praise the cleanness of the window. And of course it might be argued that in such a case we might well forget the window altogether.

This is true. And yet the Son of God, in emptying Himself of His majestic power, having become a child, abandoning Himself in complete dependence to the loving care of a human Mother, in a certain sense draws our attention once again to her. The Light has wished to remind us of the window, because He is grateful to her and because He has an infinitely tender love, it is certainly a great grace and a privilege, and one of the most important aspects of this privilege is that it enables us to some extent to appreciate the mystery of God's great love and respect for His creatures.

That God should assume Mary into heaven is not just a glorification of a "Mother Goddess." Quite the contrary, it is the expression of the divine love for humanity, and a very special manifestation of God's respect for His creatures, His desire to do honor to the beings He has made in His own image, and most particularly His respect for the body which was destined to be the temple of His glory. If Mary is believed to be assumed into heaven, it is because we too are one day, by the grace of God, to dwell where she is. If human nature is glorified in her, it is because God desires it to be glorified in us too, and it is for this reason that His Son, taking flesh, came into the world.

In all the great mystery of Mary, then, one thing remains most clear: that of herself she is nothing, and that God has for our sakes delighted to manifest His glory and His love in her.

It is because she is, of all the saints, the most perfectly poor and the most perfectly hidden, the one who has absolutely nothing whatever that she attempts to possess as her own, that she can most fully communicate to the rest of us the grace of the infinitely selfless God. And we will most truly possess Him when we have emptied ourselves and become poor and hidden as she is, resembling Him by resembling her.

And all our sanctity depends on her maternal love. The ones she desires to share the joy of her own poverty and simplicity, the ones whom she wills to be hidden as she is hidden, are the ones who share her closeness to God.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

JESUS' RESURRECTION

Jimmy Akin

St. Paul is adamant about the importance of Jesus' Resurrection to the Christian faith. He tells us: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished" (1 Cor. 15:17-18).

Fortunately for us, there is a huge amount of evidence that Jesus' Resurrection really happened--that it is a true miracle, one that we can believe in. We can only cover a fraction of that evidence in this email, but here are seven key points:

1. The Empty Tomb

The starting point for proving Jesus' Resurrection is the fact that his tomb was empty. When the disciples visited it (e.g., Luke 24:12, John 20:3-9), they found it empty. This calls for an explanation.

The explanation that they offered was that he had been raised from the dead. Before we look at why they said that, let's look at a couple of additional points that confirm that the tomb really was empty.

2. Opponents Agree

The Jewish authorities agreed that Jesus' tomb was empty. If they had not also found the tomb empty then they would have simply pointed to the presence of Jesus' body as evidence that he had not been raised from the dead.

They, too, needed an explanation for this fact--only one that did not imply the Resurrection. Matthew records that many first century non-Christian Jews claimed that the disciples stole the body (Matt. 28:11-15).

This is implausible because the Jewish authorities themselves had gone to the Roman governor, Pilate, and arranged to have a guard set over the tomb to prevent precisely this (Matt. 27:62-66). Such guards would have faced severe consequences had they fallen asleep and let anyone violate what they were guarding. This is why the authorities had to give them money and promise to protect them for telling this story (Matt. 28:12, 14).

3. Women Were the First Witnesses

All four gospels record that women were the first people to find the tomb empty (Matt. 28:5-8, Mark 16:2-8, Luke 24:1-8, John 20:1-18). This is significant because, due to the prejudices of the day, women were often regarded as unreliable witnesses.

Consequently, if you were making up a story that you wanted people to believe, you would not make women the first witnesses to the key fact. The fact that the gospels record that women were the first witnesses to the empty tomb (and, in Mary Magdalen's case, as the first witness to the risen Christ) is therefore a mark of truth.

  4. Post-Resurrection Appearances

  So far we have looked at evidence that Jesus' tomb was empty. Now we turn to why his disciples said he had been raised from the dead. Simply put: They saw him alive and interacted with him after his death (Matt. 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21).

And it wasn't just his immediate disciples. According to St. Paul more than 500 individuals witnessed him alive after his Resurrection, many of whom were still alive to be questioned about the fact (1 Cor. 15:6).

5. Jesus' Broken Heart

One could claim that Jesus was able to appear alive after the Crucifixion if he didn't really die on the Cross. Perhaps he just appeared to die or, as some have put it, he "swooned" on the Cross. This is impossible because of a fact John records: When Jesus died, a Roman centurion pierced his side with a lance and blood and water flowed out (John 19:34).

In the ancient world, they wouldn't have known the medical explanations for this phenomenon we well as we do, but to produce this kind of effect both extreme prior trauma and a deep body cavity puncture wound by the spear (likely piercing the pericardium--the sac that surrounds the heart) are required. Nobody could have survived that, particularly not in the ancient world and without even primitive medical care administered. (He was hurriedly buried, remember?)

6. Twin? . . . What Twin?

One also could claim that Jesus didn't really die on the Cross--or, if he did, that it wasn't really him who appeared alive afterwards--if someone else looked just like him, enough to fool his own disciples. In other words, if he had a twin.

But only about 1 in 300 people have an identical twin in the first place. It's a rare phenomenon.

And if Jesus did have an identical twin, people would have known about it. Certainly, his family would have, and his close associates would have known as well.

Think about it: If you knew someone who had an identical twin and you seemed to see him after his death, what would you think? That he had risen from the dead or that you were seeing his twin? Or perhaps that it was his twin who died. Either way, you would think that there was a perfectly natural explanation other than Resurrection.

7. You Don't Die for a Lie

If it was really Jesus who died on the Cross, and if he had no twin, and if his disciples reported him alive afterwards then this could have been false if they were lying.

Were they?

The evidence says otherwise.

While we don't have as much information as we would like, we do have information about where Jesus' core disciples (the apostles) went to preach after his ministry. There they faced significant persecution, as well as martyrdom for the faith.

They were already dying for their faith when the New Testament was being written, as the cases of St. James son of Zebedee (Acts 12:1-2) and St. Peter show (John 21:18-19).

What we don't have is an instance of any of Jesus' disciples saying, "Hey, I wasn't serious. Jesus didn't die and rise again. It was all a hoax or a mistake or a spiritual allegory of some kind. You can let me go now."

Nowhere, anywhere that the Christian message went, do we find that.

The apostles were willing to die for their faith, and as it has often been quipped, "You don't die for a lie."

We are truly fortunate that, by God's providence, we have evidence for the Resurrection of Christ that, even 2,000 years later, is substantial enough to stand up under cross-examination.

There have been all kinds of alternative theories proposed, but a reasoned look at the evidence reveals the problems with each one.

The case for the Resurrection is solid. And so is the basis of our faith.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

POPE FRANCIS ON THE END OF THE WORLD

When we meet with misfortunes in life, we often comfort ourselves by saying, “It’s not the end of the world.”

But one day . . . it will be.

The world will end–either for us at the end of our lives or for everyone at the end of the age.

How should we regard this? How should we prepare for it? Should we be scared?

Here is an “interview” with Pope Francis. Like the other papal “interviews” we’ve done, I’ve composed questions and taken the answers from Pope Francis’s writings.

Let’s begin . . .

1) Your Holiness, thank you for being with us today. Do you think that modern people are too caught up in the affairs of the world, in “The Now”? Do they devote enough thought to the end of the world?

In the Creed we profess that Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”

Human history begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and ends with the final judgment of Christ.

Often these two poles of history are forgotten, and, above all, faith in the return of Christ and the last judgment sometimes is not so clear and steadfast in the hearts of Christians.

[But] Jesus, during his public life, often focused on the reality of his last coming.

Today I would like to reflect on three Evangelical texts that help us enter this mystery: that of the ten virgins, the talents and the final judgment. All three are part of the Jesus’ discourse on the end of times, in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

2) Okay, let’s talk about those. They are found in Matthew chapter 25. Where do we stand in history with respect to these parables?

First of all, remember that with the Ascension, the Son of God brought to the Father our humanity, which he took on, and he wants to draw all men to himself, to call the whole world to be welcomed into the open arms of God, so that, at the end of history, all of reality will be handed over to the Father.

There is, though, this “intermediate time” between the first coming of Christ and the last, which is precisely the time that we are living.

The parable of the ten virgins is placed within this context (cf. Mt 25:1-13).

3) What is the parable of the ten virgins about?

It involves ten girls who are waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom, but he delays and they fall asleep.

At the sudden announcement that the bridegroom is coming, all prepare to welcome him, but while five of them, who were wise, have oil to trim their lamps, the others, who are foolish, are left with unlit lamps because they have no oil; and while they go out to find some, the groom arrives and the foolish virgins find the door closed that leads to the bridal feast.

They knock persistently, but it is too late, the groom replies: “I do not know you.”

4) How should we understand this parable?

The groom is the Lord, and the waiting time of arrival is the time He gives us, all of us with mercy and patience, before his final coming.

It is a time to be vigilant; a time in which we need to keep lit the lamps of faith, hope, and charity; a time in which to keep the heart open to the good, to beauty, and to the truth; a time to live according to God, because we know neither the day nor the hour of Christ’s return.

What is asked of us is to be prepared for this encounter – prepared for an encounter, for a beautiful encounter, the encounter with Jesus – which means being able to see the signs of his presence, to keep alive our faith through prayer, with the sacraments, to be vigilant in order not to sleep, not to forget God.

The Christian life asleep is a sad life, it isn’t a happy life. The Christian must be happy, have the joy of Jesus.

Let’s not fall asleep!

5) What happens in the parable of the talents?

The second parable, that of the talents, makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts received from God and his return, when he will ask how we used them (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

We know the parable: Before departure, the master gives each servant some talents, to use well during his absence.

To the first he gives five, to the second, two, and to the third, one. During the period of his absence, the first two servants multiply their talents – ancient coins -, while the third prefers to bury his and deliver it intact to the master.

Upon his return, the master judges their work: He commends the first two, while the third is kicked out into the darkness, because he kept his talent hidden out of fear, closing in on himself.

6) How should we understand this parable? What is the difference between the one who hides the talent and the ones who don’t?

A Christian who closes in on himself, who hides everything that the Lord has given him as a Christian . . . he isn’t a Christian!

He is a Christian that does not thank God for all that he has given him!

This tells us that the time of waiting for the Lord’s return is the time of action. We are in the time of action, the time in which to put to use the gifts of God not for ourselves, but for Him, for the Church, for others, the time during which always to try to increase the good in the world.

And especially now, in this time of crisis, it is important not to close in upon oneself, burying one’s talent, one’s own spiritual, intellectual, material riches–everything that the Lord has given us–but to open oneself, to be in solidarity, to be attentive to the other.

7) When we’re young, we all think we will be immortal. It is particularly easy for young people, at the beginning of their lives, to forget about the end. Yet youth is also the time when we have the most energy. What would you say to young people and how they should use their talents?

To you, who are at the beginning of the journey of life, I ask: Have you thought about the talents that God has given you?

Have you thought about how you can put them at the service of others?

Don’t bury your talents!

Bet on big ideals, those ideals that enlarge the heart, those ideals that will make your talents fruitful.

Life is not given to us so that we can keep it jealously for ourselves, but is given to us so that we may donate it.

Dear young people, have a great soul! Don’t be afraid to dream great things!

8) What about the third parable–that of the sheep and the goats?

Finally, a word on the passage of the final judgment, that describes the second coming of the Lord, when He will judge all humans, living and dead (cf. Mt 25:31-46).

The image used by the Evangelist is that of the Shepherd separating sheep from goats.

On the right are those who acted according to the will of God, helping their neighbor who was hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, thus following the Lord himself; while on the left are those who haven’t come to the aid of their neighbour.

9) What does this parable tell us?

This tells us that we will be judged by God on charity, on how we loved him in our brothers, especially the weakest and neediest.

Of course, we must always keep in mind that we are justified, we are saved by grace, by an act of God’s gratuitous love which always precedes us. We alone can do nothing.

Faith is first of all a gift that we have received.

But to bear fruit, God’s grace always requires our openness, our free and concrete response.

Christ comes to bring us the mercy of God who saves.

We are asked to trust him, to match the gift of his love with a good life, with actions animated by faith and love.

10) The end of the world and the prospect of the final judgment is a frightening thought for many. Should we be scared of it?

Dear brothers and sisters, may we never be afraid to look to the final judgment; may it push us rather to live better lives.

God gives us with mercy and patience this time so that we may learn every day to recognize him in the poor and in the little ones, may we strive for good. And we are vigilant in prayer and love.

May the Lord, at the end of our existence and history, may recognize us as good and faithful servants. Thank you!

Thank you, Your Holiness.

* * *

The answers in this “interview” were taken from Pope Francis’s weekly audience of April 24, 2013. .

If you’d like to learn more about the thought of Pope Francis, I recommend his book On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century. .

This was a dialogue book that he wrote with a Jewish rabbi before he was elected pope, and it gives many fascinating insights on his thought.

It’s very interesting!

Until next time, don’t forget to share this information with friends and let them know how they can sign up. In the Secret Information Club , be sure to “whisper as LOUDLY as possible”!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

IS ANYBODY THERE?....IN HELL THAT IS?

 

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Someone once asked the famous mystic Padre Pio, what he thought of modern people who didn’t believe in hell. His terse reply was, “They will believe in hell when they get there.”

Is it possible to believe in hell? Surely, when faced with Auschwitz, Hiroshima, the Gulag and the killing fields, the question should be, “Is it possible not to believe in hell?” I don’t simply refer to the fact that concentration camps were a kind of hell on earth. Instead I wonder how one can deny the existence of a place of severe punishment when faced with Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and African soldiers who chop off little girls hands for fun. When faced with such monsters can we really cry with a good conscience, “God would not send anyone to burn forever in the fires of everlasting torment!”

After a century that has witnessed more genocide, religious martyrdom and brutality to children than ever before in human history, can we really dismiss the only punishment left for the dictators, abortionists, terrorist bombers and genocidal maniacs who have got away with their crimes? If it were true that there is no hell I, for one, would be howling with rage at the insanity and unfairness of it all. Yet those who deny the existence of hell calmly assume that their denial shows how enlightened and humane (and therefore fair) they are.

These are good people. They dismiss the possibility of hell not because they deny the wickedness of human beings, but because they affirm the goodness of God. They believe in a God who is so very good that he would not send anyone to hell. It would certainly be nice if there were a heaven but not a hell. But can you believe in one without the other? What I mean is, how can someone believe in heaven, which must after all, be a place of goodness, (and if goodness, then justice) while denying the fact of hell which makes justice possible? Therefore it seems to me, that if you believe in heaven you must also believe in hell. Hell is somehow written into the constitution of heaven.

Nevertheless, good-hearted people insist that a good God would not possibly send anyone to be tormented in hell for all eternity. This is a laudable sentiment, but I worry that that’s all it is: a sentiment. Nevertheless, the conviction that God would could not send anyone to hell is a feeling I myself incline to—especially after a warm day in May followed by a very good dinner with four glasses of claret. Furthermore, at that moment I am not usually thinking about Pol Pot or Stalin. I am thinking that God would not send an ordinary, decent fellow like myself to hell.

  But this is exactly the point where the possibility of hell is meant to knock me down and shake me up. We are told that the road to hell is a wide smooth, downhill highway, while the road to heaven is a narrow and hard mountainous climb. What if hell were populated with hordes of overweight complacent people just like me who never really did anything magnificently evil, but also never bothered to do anything spectacularly good? Why should we imagine that heaven is reserved for the mediocre?

When I look at it this way I have the dreadful suspicion that perhaps those who deny hell because God is too good to send anyone there are really proposing that God is too good to send them there. It is ironic that people who believe in heaven are sometimes blamed for wishful thinking. Isn’t it that more likely true of those who disbelieve in hel? I say this because the person who disbelieves in hell doesn’t really believe in heaven either. He believes in oblivion. He desperately hopes that he will cease to exist after death. In other words he hopes he will get away with it after all, and this, it seems to me, is real wishful thinking.

Others protest that the concept of eternal punishment makes God out to be an angry, short-tempered disciplinarian of the worst sort. But is God such a nice middle class English gentleman that he would not be angry enough to send anyone to hell? [ Read More ]

Thursday, April 10, 2014

MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

The two truths which stand out like mountain peaks in the chain of revelation concerning Our Blessed Lady, and around which cluster all other truths we hold about her, are her divine maternity and her fullness of grace, both of which are affirmed in the Gospels and in the Councils of the Church.

- Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,OP - The Mother of the Saviour

Our Lady's greatest title is that of the "Mother of God" and, in view of that, she was created "full of grace". "To be the worthy Mother of God, Mary needed to receive fullness of grace", St Thomas (111a, q.27, a.5 corp. et ad2)

The Privileges of the Mother of God

1. Mary was conceived without stain of original sin (Immaculate Conception).

2. From her conception Mary was free from all motions of concupiscence.

3. In consequence of a Special Privilege of Grace from God, Mary was free from every personal sin during her whole life.

4. Mary was a Virgin, before during and after the Birth of Jesus Christ.

5. Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit without the cooperation of man.

6. Mary bore her Son without any violation of her virginal integrity.

7. Also after the birth of Jesus, Mary remained a virgin.

8. Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven.

from "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" by Ludwig Ott

Mary's Splendour

from "The Mother of the Saviour" by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,OP - Art IV

"... theologians commonly hold that Mary's initial grace was greater than the final grace of the highest of angels and men ..."

Again:

"Since Mary's first grace prepared her to be the worthy Mother of God, it must have been proportionate, at least remotely, to the divine maternity. But the final consummated grace of all the saints together is not proportionate to the divine maternity, since it belongs to an inferior order. Hence the final consummated grace of all the saints united is less than the first grace received by Mary."

Again:

"... In short, from the time she could merit and pray, Mary could obtain more without the saints than they could without her. But merit corresponds in degree to charity and sanctifying grace. Hence Mary received from the beginning of her life a degree of grace superior to that which the saints and angels united had attained to before their entry into heaven."

Even more amazingly:

Thus Mary, in virtue of the first grace which disposed her for the divine maternity, was worth more in God's eyes that all the apostles, martyrs, confessors, and virgins united, more than all men and all angels created from the beginning."

Our Mother, too

"Mary's role in the sanctification of the Christian has been beautifully described in the writings of St. Louis Mary de Montfort. Here is a synthesis of his teaching:

all Christians are called to perfection and sanctity;

to reach perfection it is necessary to practice and perfect the virtues;

to practice the virtues we need the help of God's grace;

to obtain God's grace it is necessary to receive it through Mary.

The reasons for the last statement are as follows:

1. of all God's creatures, only Mary found grace before God, both for herself and for others;

2. Mary gave birth to the Author of grace and is therefore called the Mother of grace;

3. in giving Mary his only begotten Son, the eternal Father gave Mary all graces;

4. God appointed Mary as dispenser of grace, and by reason of this office she gives grace to whom she wishes and when she wishes;

5. as in the natural order a child must have a father and a mother, so in the order of grace the Christian has God as the father and Mary as the mother;

6. since Mary formed the Head of the Mystical Body, she should also form the members;

7. Mary was and still remains the spouse of the Holy Spirit;

8. as in the natural order the child is nourished by its mother, in the supernatural order Mary nourishes and strengthens her children; and

9. he who finds Mary, finds Jesus, who is with her always."

Jordan Aumann, OP - Spiritual Theology

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE

The issue of homosexual "marriage" is a controversial one today.

It is being voted into law, or imposed by courts, across the United States and across the world.

What does the Catholic Church have to say on the subject, and why does it teach what it does?

Here we offer an "interview" with former Pope Benedict XVI that draws on his previous writings on the subject of homosexuality, on giving legal recognition to homosexual unions, and on the duties of Catholic politicians.

Among the topics we'll cover are . . .

• How we should respond to the "powerful forces" that former Pope Benedict saw trying to alter the legal definition of marriage.

• The charge that this is a religious matter which has no place in a modern, pluralistic society.

• Are homosexual unions are on a par with heterosexual ones, only with the genders changed?

• How should people with same-sex attraction be treated?

• Why states shouldn't give legal recognition to homosexual unions.

• Whether the state should split marriage in two so that there are "state" marriages and "church" marriages.

• Whether we have an obligation to oppose "civil unions" that are proposed instead of homosexual marriages. • What are the responsibilities of Catholic politicians on this matter.

And more!

Just click this link to read this fascinating "interview" with Pope Benedict on one of the most divisive issues of our time.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

REAL PRESENCE

The Eucharist and Christ's Real Presence

And as they were eating,
He took bread, and blessed, and broke it,
and gave it to them, and said,
'Take; this is my body.'
(Mark 14:22)  
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks
he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.
And he said to them,
'This is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many.'
(Mark 14:23-24)

The simplest way to express what Christ asks us to believe about the Real Presence is that the Eucharist is really He. The Real Presence is the real Jesus. We are to believe that the Eucharist began in the womb of the Virgin Mary; that the flesh which the Son of God received from His Mother at the Incarnation is the same flesh into which He changed bread at the Last Supper; that the blood He received from His Mother is the same blood into which He changed wine at the Last Supper. Had she not given Him His flesh and blood there could not be a Eucharist.

We are to believe that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ - simply, without qualification. It is God become man in the fullness of His divine nature, in the fullness of His human nature, in the fullness of His body and soul, in the fullness of everything that makes Jesus Jesus.

He is in the Eucharist with His human mind and will united with the Divinity, with His hands and feet, His face and features, with His eyes and lips and ears and nostrils, with His affections and emotions and, with emphasis, with His living, pulsating, physical Sacred Heart.

That is what our Catholic Faith demands of us that we believe. If we believe this, we are Catholic. If we do not, we are not, no matter what people may think we are.
Father John A. Hardon S.J.

Monday, March 17, 2014

ABORTION - AN AMERICAN HOLOCAUST

AN INTRODUCTION to using graphic photos

THE WOMB is the most dangerous place on earth!

A pro-abortion woman asked a mother who was holding up an anti-abortion sign..."How can you allow children to see those horrible pictures?" The mother rightly responded by asking..."How can you allow children to become those pictures?" When the greatest injustice in our midst is exposed, we need to be ready to respond.

We respond not with cowardice which dismisses the need to expose the injustice, but rather with the courage to learn from social reform movements of the past, and to reject the heresy that "we need to be liked to be successful."

The word ABORTION has lost practically all its meaning. Not even the most vivid description, in words alone, can adequately convey the horror of this act of violence. Abortion is sugar-coated by rhetoric which hides its gruesome nature. What a pro-life person has in mind when he speaks about abortion and what the average American has in mind when he hears the word are two very different things.

One of the key reasons the pro-life movement is not making more progress is that we so often assert before the public that abortion is an act of violence, but do not produce the evidence which would lead people to this conclusion.

Photographic evidence is the most trusted source of information in any discipline. It transcends language and logic, and goes straight to the heart, where people are motivated to take action, instead of merely to the head, where people passively entertain all sorts of concepts without any commitment necessarily following.
People absorb impressions rather than substance. Although a photo is just a slice of reality, if it is the right slice, it captures the distilled essence of an event in a way that nothing else can. A photo is even more powerful than a video, since it is the difference between 30 images per second vs. one image for 30 seconds. Ask any audience around the country whether they have seen any kind of surgery on television. Almost all will raise their hands.

But if you ask that same audience how many have seen an abortion on those same networks, none raise their hands.

Yet abortion is the single most frequently performed surgery in America. Some claim it is legitimate medicine, and in fact an integral part of women's health. But look at it?? Take it out from under the veil of euphemism and abstract language?? No way !!

The First Amendment has a price:

The fact that the use of such images is disturbing does not mean such use is wrong. The free-speech rights guaranteed under the First Amendment apply even to speech which is disturbing, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld (see The Right to Protest, ACLU: Gora et al.).

Such disturbance is part of the price we pay for freedom. People might also be disturbed, annoyed, and upset by the blaring sirens of an ambulance rushing through the neighborhood. Yet the noise serves a purpose: People's lives are at stake, and the ambulance must be given the right of way.

Too many people remain either in ignorance or denial about abortion, and hence too few are moved to do something to stop it. Graphic images are needed. A picture is worth a thousand words -- and in this battle, it can be worth many lives as well.

Graphic images of abortion have saved lives. One example is a letter I have from Violet Sherringford of New Jersey, who went to an abortion facility and found pro-life protesters there.

"The posters they displayed, though very graphic, did succeed in bringing me back to reality and in conveying the horrible mutilation and dismemberment inflicted on the unborn child.... I decided to have the baby. It was the best decision I ever will make."

...It seems to me, furthermore, that if we find it difficult to explain images of abortion to our children we will find it even more difficult to explain why we didn't do more to stop abortion itself. The bottom line is that if graphic images of abortion are too terrible to look at, then the abortions themselves are too terrible to tolerate.

We need to expose the injustice, and then direct our displeasure toward those allowing the injustice to continue, not toward those who speak against it. "There are no charts, no words, that can convey what these photographs can," argued prosecutor Brian Kelberg in a dispute over whether photos of the slashed murder victims could be shown to O.J. Simpson's jurors.

The defense had argued that the photos were too distressing and sickening, and should not be shown. Charts and diagrams were suggested as an alternative. But the judge allowed the photos.

Social evils cannot be addressed unless they are faced. Denial gets us nowhere. "These photographs show what happened to these two people," Mr. Kelberg correctly stated.

It's time more people saw the photos and films of what has happened to some millions of babies by abortion.

Anyone willing to defend abortion ought to be willing to see one, and those who fight abortion ought to be willing to expose it. Only then will enough people feel the appropriate sense of outrage needed to make the sacrifices necessary to end this injustice.

Prudence must be used in all things, but prudence also involves enduring discomfort in order to root out evil. Just ask Violet…."

Frank Pavone National Director Priests For Life