Last Sunday Jesus told us that we can enter heaven only by the narrow gate. This Sunday - September 1, 2013 - He offers us the key to that gate. And that key is Humility. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.
Humility - The Key to the Narrow Gate
Jesus is having dinner at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and people are observing him carefully. Noticing that the guests were choosing the places of honor at table, he tells a parable about the embarrassment suffered by a person who had chosen a place of honor and then was made to take the lowest place.
Jesus' theme is of course puffed-up pride, a vice much present in our society, as Fr. James Gilhooley explains. Father Cusick reflects further and notes how the Pharisees' pride blinded them to the truth which would open their hearts to salvation. "Pride of life" is as grave a sin as those of the flesh or of avarice. All are classed as forms of concupiscence.
Fr. Phil Bloom lays it all down: self-exaltation blocks the way to heaven. This Sunday Jesus offers us the key that opens the narrow gate. We enter the narrow gate of salvation - by humility. But, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio tells us, we need to be sure that we understand what humility and meekness really are. Humility does not mean looking down on oneself or thinking ill of oneself. It really means not thinking of oneself very much at all. And so remember that taking the low seat because one is humble is one thing, but taking the low seat as a way to move up is another! The raising up and exaltation belong to God. The act of humbling oneself is not something for its own sake, but for the sake either of Christ, as Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB points out.
Do you and I dare to be a human being? As Fr. Ron Rolheiser points out, the fault is that we are human. Nobody does it perfectly and accepting this can bring us to a healthy humility about it. But it should bring us to something more: prayer, especially the Eucharist. Deep within our own selves, in imitation of Jesus, we are capable of making room for love to live in us. If we gradually allow it to, Fr. John Foley, S. J. preaches, love-incarnate will come to life in us.
God's Door is Open to All
Another point to reflect upon this Sunday is that in the Kingdom of heaven there are no privileged guests. God is quite indiscriminate in his welcome. His door is open to all.
In the United States thousands, tens of thousands, have grown due to Cursillio, Marriage Encounter, Teams of Our Lady, Divine Mercy Cenicles, Franciscan Third Order Groups, and so many more. But, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino cautions that we need to exercise caution, for if we convey the message that doing this or that, belonging to this movement or that movement, will help others be as good as we are, then we are falling into pride. Pride is seeing ourselves as superior to others.
Yes we go to Mass each Sunday, we give our tithes and we help out at our local parish. But Fr. Alex McAllister SDS identifies the problem. It is the constant temptation to see these things in terms of payment, in terms of the brownie-point system of getting to heaven.The simple fact is we have heard the call of God and we have responded to it. Our reaction then is not to say how marvellous we are—no, we have simply done our duty.
Glue this prophet's advice on your bathroom mirror. "Knowing God makes us humble. Knowing ourselves keeps us humble."
Do You Invite the Poor?
Who are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind? And how are we treating them? This was the challenge Jesus gives us in the last part of the Readings. This week we bring you a piercing personal Burning Question that touches on this topic: Do you invite the poor to your banquet?
This week’s Gospel reminds college student Colleen Corcoran of something she says always forgets: if we receive reward for our good deeds on earth, then we are already “repaid”, and will not be “repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB says our generosity ought to be a characteristic of our personal freedom, not dependent on how people treat us. And besides, to attempt to determine who deserves our love implies a judgment of another person’s soul that only God can make. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains further that the freedom that comes with knowing we are loved and sustained by God is a freedom to give generously of ourselves and our resources, to give the best place to others without concern.
A Victory for the Devil: Stiffled Evangelization
You've heard it before. It's the unwritten rule in American life that you don’t talk about religion in “polite” conversation. Eric Sammons calls it a great victory for the devil because it was Christ himself who commanded His followers to evangelize all corners of the earth. And this American reticence to speak of religion today is a major barrier to that work. We Catholics need to learn to speak about our faith - even if that means breaking social conventions. Even Denver's Archbishop Chaput shares this sentiment. He called this week for resistance to intolerance of Christianity. We are being called today, he said, to defend the Church's own rights, and the rights of all people, against the “civil religion” of relativism.
Meanwhile, Russ Shaw talks about what happens "When lay Catholics neglect apostolate for ministry." He said a layman engaged in putting faith to work in the secular world—lay apostolate— really deserves to be recognized and appreciated. He laments its disastrous neglect by our parishes today and how limited parish resources for these purposes instead go almost exclusively to promoting lay ministries.
And in "Youth ministry, the early Church way," we look at a model of the early Church and compare our modern attempts at youth ministry to the early Fathers' work. Back then, they did not have special youth ministries, special trips or social events - but the youth were on fire! How did the Fathers do it? They made wild promises. They promised young people great things, like persecution, lower social status, and public ridicule. And it worked. Even the pagans noticed how well it worked.
Catholic Urban Legends & More
He calls them "Catholic Urban Legends." They are distortions or fabrications from history that are part of the common anti-Catholic baggage that is carried around by many, Catholics included. Robert P. Lockwood lists a few of them and explains the truth that evades these legends. Meanwhile, here's one that's not an urban legend. Did you know that at one time the Premier of China was a Catholic. And I'm not talking about the Island of Formosa either. I mean mainland China, before Mao Zedong took over. Here's the true story of a beautiful soul named Lou Tseng-Tsiang aka Dom Pierre Célestin. A man who went from being the Premier of China to being a Benedictine monk and priest.
We are commonly asked how a Catholic might start reading or praying with Sacred Scripture. Therefore, we thought we should introduce you to a range of different ways to read, study, and pray with the Bible. Here's "10 Ways to Study and Pray With The Bible." We hope you find it helpful.
From the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said "Man Is Made for Great Things." He explained that "man is often tempted to stop at the little things, those that give a 'cheap' satisfaction and pleasure, those things that instantly gratify, things that are as easy to obtain as they are ultimately illusory." He also recommended that everyone have devotion to a particular saint. He suggested, for example, a namesake so that the saint can offer closeness through intercession but also be a model to imitate.
Coincidences That Aren't & J.R. Tolkien
Sarah Reinhard talks about things that have made her go, "Hmmmmm..." What we think are coincidences are really not. Join her as she explains further.
And finally, we bring you Fr. Dwight Longenecker's deeper look into the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. For Catholic readers of this bestselling book, the test for Peter Jackson’s film trilogy of Tolkien’s masterpiece was not the excellence of the special effects, the acting, the directing or the storytelling, but whether Jackson would be faithful to Tolkien’s Catholic vision. The majority of Tolkien’s fans don’t even know he was Catholic, and have no idea that Catholic themes and a Catholic vision undergird the whole work. Learn about them here.
Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: Do you invite the poor to your banquet?
FEATURED BLOG: Youth ministry, the early Church way
VOCATION NEWS: Harvard Valedictorian Joins Convent
PASTORAL HISPANA: La humildad es el camino para encontrar a Dios
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