Thursday, March 4, 2010

"But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!"

Third Sunday in Lent (3LentC), March 7, 2010

BURNING QUESTION: Is salvation a sure thing for Christians?
FEATURED BLOG: What is sin? - a video by Fr. Larry Richards
PASTORAL HISPANA: Proposito de la Iglesia

Dear Friends,

Sunday's Gospel passage refers to two recent tragedies that were on people's minds. Jesus comments that the victims of these tragedies were no greater sinners than other people were. He says: "But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did." Then he tells them the parable about the person who had planted a fig tree that did not bear any fruit. Our Discussion Questions this week will guide your bible study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

An Even Greater Spiritual Tragedy

Jesus uses the experiences of the worst possible physical human tragedies in order to reveal the possibility of even a greater spiritual tragedy, explains. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. Unless we turn to God to be saved from our condition of spiritual death, Jesus warns us, all of us will remain in it and perish. Fr. Orly Sapuay, M.S. adds that Jesus gets to the real point as He sees it. Forget about whether others are sinful. No, worry about your own actions and repent now while you've got the chance.

But why is repentance such a difficult journey in the modern world? Father Stephen explains that it's because our psychologized culture has lost the language and the instinct of repentance. Also, history has clearly shown that the more we participate in evil, the less we notice its existence. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino presents Lent as the time for us to face up to our own failings as we recognize that God can and will heal us and help us. It is this repentance in the heart, Father Cusick explains, that leads to confession with the lips. Contrition is not something added to the Gospel as an option but is necessary if we are to love God and receive the gift of salvation.

And the salvation of souls, explains Fr. Phil Bloom, is why the Church exists. Like Jesus, its purpose is to call people to repentance.

Are We Productive Fig Trees?

Fr. John Foley, S. J. says Jesus is not the landowner but the gardener in the fig tree parable this Sunday. The gardener is asking mercy for the disobedient fig tree. Isn’t this exactly what Jesus is doing when he warns us we will perish if we don’t repent?

So, are we ready for Him? Are we a fig tree that is producing fruit, or would we have to be cut down with every other part of creation that has failed to serve its purpose? This short video by Fr. Larry Richards is a moving tool that can help us understand sin and place it in its proper perpective.

Fr. James Gilhooley reminds us further that the self-denial we attempt during Lent can make us feel virtuous. But what does it really accomplish? Swearing off something you like to eat means nothing when other people are hungry. Instead, he suggests, carry those sweets to a rest home, hospital or children's home. Or contribute to a soup kitchen. The list of possibilities is endless. And the blessings are boundless.

And you know the nagging feeling of tiredness we get even after we've rested?
Fr. Ron Rolheiser says it's because we didn’t forgive anybody and our hurts and bitterness are the deep roots of our tiredness. Reconciliation means setting ourselves right in our relationships with others, God first and then with His presence in His people.

And tying up the burning bush story of Abraham in the First Reading to the rest of the Readings, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB makes clear for us the lessons of Sinai: We too shall be truly free if we learn to obey as Jesus did. The encounter of God and Moses on Mount Horeb in the Sinai enshrines at the heart of our religion the mystery of the liberating obedience, which finds its fulfillment in the perfect obedience of Christ, by his birth in Bethlehem and his crucifixion in Jerusalem.

Repentance & Lent

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D looks to Lent not as a time for fasting, the goal is to save our appetite so that we can feast on other things such as the Word of God. When’s the last time you sat down and read an entire book of the bible, from start to finish? Or how about the Eucharist, the greatest nourishment of all? Lent is a great time to go more often, even daily. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass helps us derive more benefit from our Eucharistic feast.

Discussing this further. Msgr. Charles Pope explains that while one has abstained from things for Lent, it is possible to set it aside on Sundays in Lent. He says nothing, not even the Lenten season, can eclipse the joy of the resurrection that is meant to permeate every Sunday.

Also, if you've ever wondered how Lent was celebrated 200 years ago, here's “The Little Guide for Lent,” circa 1808. It seems only Google and the Lyon library have a copy of it. But a quick glance at its contents makes one feel like the book was talking about today. Check it out.

Videos: Sin & Confession

Many parishes are hosting Reconciliation services this Lent. If you're one of the many Catholics who are intimidated by the idea of confessing your sins to a priest, let the late Archbiship Fulton Sheen help you. In this video, the good archbishop reminds us of the overflowing abundance of God's love when he says, "If you have never sinned, you never could call Jesus, Saviour." Watch the video.

And Father Larry Richards delivers s similar moving message in this other video presentation we have prepared for you. He assures us, "You can sin a million times over. But God will never stop loving you." Watch the video.

Faith & Social Justice

"What Faith Looks Like" is an ongoing study of the Catechism by Pat Gohn. She explains that wWhile each believer experiences faith in a personal way, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) describes characteristics of faith common to all believers.

And Msgr. Charles Pope discusses how essential the Social Gospel is to our Faith. But he warns us that it cannot eclipse the Full Gospel. In the end, even serving the poor can become a kind of idol to which God has to yield. It is the strangest idol of all for it comes in very soft sheep’s clothing, the finest wool!

Catechesis, Public Service & US Anglican Conversion

The good monsignor also rightly points out that almost no one in the Church would claim today that we have done a good job of handing on the faith to our children. He offers the two critical keys for Catholic Catechesis: Discipline and Content. And the good folks at Catholic Aggies postulates that if we are to reform the Church, then we need reform to start where young Catholic students are going to school - at non-Catholic institutions. Why? 80% of Catholic university and college students go to non-Catholic schools.

And in a talk delivered at Houston Baptist University, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver delivered a talk that criticized President John F. Kennedy's historic campaign speech on his faith that impacted his possible presidency. He said the JFK 1960 speech on faith was “sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong.” The archbishop called on his audience to get involved in the Christian “vocation” of being engaged in public service, at a time when religion is being increasingly ignored in the political sphere.

Plus we bring you some truly breaking news. The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America has formally requested to enter the Catholic Church. All 99 parishes and cathedrals!

Pro-Life: A Raving Atheist & Baby Gianna

In December of 2008, the popular atheist blogger formerly known as "Raving Atheist" announced his stunning conversion to Christianity. He changed his blogging name to "Raving Theist" and dedicated his site "to Jesus Christ, now and forever." And it was the Church's teaching on Life that played a key role in his illumination.

We also ran into this Life story of Baby Gianna. Her mother, Rebecca, initially wanted an abortion but was talked out of it. When Rebecca's boyfriend learned of her decision, he repeatedly and savagely kicked her in the stomach. While examining her, the doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy. She chose Life. And you can read the rest of the story here.

Oscar Awards & iPhone Apps

The Oscar Awards are this Sunday and Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP shares with us that human connection, and therefore human dignity and justice, is a theme that runs through many of the films nominated. Using this as a lens, the good sister shares her views on some of the films that I have seen of the twenty-nine nominated as worthy of an Oscar. Her article is called "The Oscars 2010: Movies that Connect Us."

There has been a good deal of buzz in the Catholic blogosphere in the past few weeks about Catholic iPhone apps. If you're one of the lucky ones to own an iPhone, here's a little laundry list of iPhone Catholic updates you can download to your phone.

Still on the iPhone, the Vatican is launching an iPhone application. And it chose Wordnet TV's Fr. Mike Manning to deliver the app's daily inspirational message. Fr. Mike hosts a longtime show on Trinity Broadcasting Network, has authored several books and is recipient of a 2006 papal award. He also pens the ParishWorld blog "Catholic Q&A with Fr. Mike." The app's release is expected in early April.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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