Thursday, April 22, 2010

"My sheep hear my voice"

"My sheep hear my voice"
Fourth Sunday in Easter (4EasterC), April 25, 2010

BURNING QUESTION: Believe in God or in the Church?
FEATURED BLOG: Learning the Spiritual Dimension of the Holy Mass
PRIESTS STORIES: A Bishop in the Father's Heart
PASTORAL HISPANA: ¿Qué significa seguir a Jesús?

Dear Friends,

The fourth Sunday of Easter is “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The Gospel Reading gives us the last part of Chapter Ten of John’s Gospel. In this short text Jesus plainly tells us 1) that we are the gift of the Father to Jesus; 2) we are his and no one can steal us from him and 3) he will give us eternal life. Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Our Discussion Questions this week will guide your bible study sessions with your family, friends and church roups.

How Free are we REALLY?!

This Sunday’s Readings raise some intriguing questions. And Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio asks them. Does Jesus call all, or just certain people? Is my eternal salvation secure, or is my destiny up for grabs? Is there no free choice, then?

These questions are why someone like young adult Dan Finucane, a senior at St. Louis University, finds this Sunday's Gospel readings difficult to understand. He says it can be hard for us to accept that “no one” can take us “out of the Father’s hand” – that we are one of the sheep for which he cares. Another unicersity senior, Joe Martinez of UC-Riverside, offers his own thoughts on Fate and Predestination. His piece is called "Is God Crossing my Stars."

The Good Shepherd's Purpose

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says we are called upon today to recognize Jesus' presence in our lives. Like the disciples of Paul and Barnabas at the conclusion of today’s first reading, the only real need we have in our lives is to learn how to be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. For the Mercy of God directs our lives to happiness. Fr. James Gilhooley explains further that Jesus' agenda was twofold - making both this life more attractive and making heaven the final stop.

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us that while Jesus guides and protects us, this doesn’t mean that we are passive and dependent creatures. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS suggests further that we are called to be faithful stewards of the Good Shepherd. Once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, Stewardship is not an option. Stewardship is what we do, with all that we have, after we say, "I believe." It is using the gifts God has given us, to do the work God is calling us to do.

Hearing God's Voice

Today's Gospel passage presents to us one of the deepest mysteries of the human spirit. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB exoplains that Faith, the ability to hear and to follow a call, is a gift to Jesus and a gift to the followers of Jesus. To belong to the spiritual flock of Jesus, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. tells us, is to hear his voice. This means much more than simply reading or hearing about him. Such information is always helpful, but the decisive moment comes when we go beyond external testimony and begin to discover Jesus at the center of our lives in a profoundly intuitive and trusting manner.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser adds that God’s voice is not a loud, overbearing, threatening voice. Rather, God’s voice invites in, beckons, leaves you free, and is as non-threatening as the innocence and powerlessness of a baby — or a saint. Thus Fr. John Foley, S. J. offers his hunch that you do recognize Jesus’ voice when you hear it. Your feelings move when you hear trustingly a certain Gospel, for instance. Or when you receive the bread of everlasting life and the cup of unending salvation—not as a stranger might, but as a member of the well-fed and greatly cared for flock.

What about trying, Sunday, to notice whether your spirit inclines to Jesus? Maybe you settle into his lap for petting. Your soul seeks him always.

"The Father and I are one."

Father Cusick says there is and can be no mistaking it: the Lord knew and revealed his divinity by his words and works. And Fr. Phil Bloom offers his bottom line for this Sunday's Gospel: Jesus wants us to share his oneness with the Father - now.

Finally as part of our Good Shepherd reflections this week, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains that God told His people that they, simple sheep though they were, had an exalted destiny, to be God’s sons and daughters and live with Him forever. And as we reflect on this Gospel challenge, let us say a prayer that our Church may recover its stray Catholics. Out of approximately sixty million nominal Catholics only 25% or so actually practice their faith by attending Sunday Mass regularly and confession yearly. Fr. John McCloskey offers his thoughts on how we may bring our fallen-away Catholics back into the fold.

World Vocation Sunday

This Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Parishes across the globe are encouraged to pray for an increase in priestly vocations. In view of this day, Pope Benedict XVI this week encouraged sick people to offer their sufferings for vocations. The Christian practice of "offering sufferings" is one that this Pope has tried to renew.

From the US, the USCCB reports that nearly one-third of the ordination class of 2010 was born outside the United States. They also cited that the vast majority (92 percent) of men being ordained to the priesthood report some kind of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. Three in five (60 percent) ordinands completed college before pursuing the priesthood. Their median age of is 33 and 11 men are being ordained at the age of 65 or older.

And here's an unusual blessing to the Church. A Long Island woman fulfilled her dream of becoming a nun recently. Nothing too exceptional about that, except the fact that she is 92 years old! Read her story.

More Catholic Stories

From the Vatican, the pope reflected that "Christ Wants Us in Heaven." Benedict XVI says Christ's will for his followers to be with him and behold his glory is like a type of strong and gentle embrace that leads man to eternal life. To the Youth in Malta this week, he said "God Rejects No One." Benedict XVI assured them that God and the Church reject no one, and that they should be proud of their country's Catholic heritage.

Here's some soothing advice. And from an unlikely source. Sam Miller is a prominent Jewish businessman. He is not Catholic. And yet he offers some sage advice to Catholics in a recent column. Be proud, he tells us. Even in the face of injustice in the media, scandals in the Church, and a less than favorable popular public opinion of our priests and leaders: Be proud to be Catholic.

And if you've ever wondered about "The Morality of Tattoos and Body Piercing," Fr. Peter Joseph answers the most basic question about it, "Does this really glorify God?"

Handling Failure, Bunnies and Computer Kids

Bo Sanchez says eagles are amazing parents. He uses lessons he observed from them to tell us that "Failure Isn’t God’s Rejection But God’s Redirection." Pretty powerful stuff from this straight-talking young preacher. Check it out.

Sherry Antonetti, a mother of several young children, shares how she summons her father’s technique of keeping her car relatively fight free by making her children engage in a decade of the Rosary. Each child gets to give a petition before each prayer. No editorials are allowed, but you do get requests that sound largely like hints to the driver. Driving home from school one day, her four-year-old son raised his hand first, “I have one. Bunnies." And the mother's story takes a challenging turn from there.

Finally, if you have young kids at home, "Beware the Lure of the Screen." While the internet is part of daily living today, it does offer its challenges specuially for your very young ones. Dr. Ray Guarendi offers tips on "How to Control Computer Kids."

Another eventful day 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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