Thursday, September 12, 2013

"He was lost and has been found."

The parable of the Prodigal Son and the drama of Israel's worship of the Golden Calf in this Sunday's Readings are some of the best known of all Bible stories. So what do the two stories have in common? Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

The Prodigal & the Golden Calf

While the two stories might at first glance seem a random match, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio points out that they actually tell the very same story about the deceptiveness of sin and answer other questions we often wonder about, like the difference between new and old covenants, and the interplay free will and God’s grace.

The found sheep, the found coin and the found son

Chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel is often referred to as the "lost and found" collection of the New Testament. Fr. Orly Sapuay, M.S. suggests that these parables would be better named the found sheep, the found coin and the found son. He adds that the point of the parables is that God’s love and mercy is always after us, looking for us, searching for us because we are His joy and happiness. There could be no deeper source of awareness of our worth, Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. adds, than to trust Jesus and to believe that we human beings are truly precious in the eyes of God.

The Story of the Prodigal "Us"

The parable of "the prodigal son" or "the prodigal father" or the "indignant elder brother" can cause much grief for us, as we see ourselves and our motives exposed for what they really are. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB reminds us that at different times in our lives, most of us have played each of the roles in this story. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says sometimes when we think we are defending virtue we are really defending our inhibitions and fears, and sometimes when we think we are speaking for God’s healthy concern for the world, we are - like the older brother of the prodigal son - really speaking of our own hidden jealousy.

Fr. Alex McAllister says the problem is that we are partial, subjective and blind to our own faults. And the only remedy for this is to look to the example of Jesus. By examining how He behaved then we ought to be able to see how we should behave.

God's Perspective

Fr. John Foley, S. J. goes to the point. He says God does not want to keep us from the things we are attracted to. He wants us to value them but in due proportion. Love God above all things. Then you can love everything and everyone else as they deserve. But Fr. Phil Bloom cautions us that if we have only a human perspective on salvation, we can easily fall into despair. Fortunately, this Sunday Jesus gives us God's viewpoint. He tells us that God is like a shepherd who devotes his energy to finding the one lost sheep. Or like the woman who spends all day scouring the house, looking for a single small coin.

We fail, of course, like the prodigal and like the ancient Israelites did. Father Cusick rightly reminds us that it is in every confessional, in the person of every priest-confessor, where the Father awaits us, rich in mercy, to welcome us back into His house, and to reclothe us again in the magnificent garment of our baptismal graces.

Christianity, Frog Boiling and Internet Catholics

Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20). Pretty clear, right? And yet it is possible for the Church, a parish or a Catholic to push Job One down the list. Pray, sure, attend Mass, OK, tithe, I’ll try. Evangelize? Oops, I’m a little busy and rather shy too, you understand. Msgr. Charles Pope says it's time to obey Christ and His command. He lists the concrete steps his parish used to push Evangelization back to the top of its priorities.

Fr. Longenecker talks about how time and again in dealing with non-Catholics they will smile and say, "You know it really doesn't matter what denomination you are. All that really matters is how much you love Jesus!" He says it's the Protestant principle run riot. And he cautions about the watering down of Christianity that this mindset offers. And Msgr. Charles Pope discusses how Catholics are often unaware just how biblical the Sacred Liturgy is. So he goes on to explain the "The Biblical and Heavenly Roots of the Sacred Liturgy."

If you have been involved with Internet Catholic discussions and apologetics for a very long time like Eric Sammons, you have at some time seen how un-Christlike some of the discussions can be. Over the years, he has developed some rguidelines for Internet apostolate that might be helpful for others. He call it the "Ten Rules of Engagement For Catholics On The Internet." And with it he reminds us all to never forget that our salvation is more important than our involvement on the Internet.

Promoting Marriage and Family

Danielle Bean laments that the pain of Divorce is raw and real. Divorce–and I say this with all my being–sucks. It is a ripping of the fiber of a family. A renting of the one thing that should never be rent. A betrayal to everyone involved.

It is true that it's not easy for couples to live out the demands of the Gospel in a society that pressures them to take the easy road. However, explains the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, God is generous with those who continually strive to answer his call. Fidelity is not easy, but it is worth it.

The 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae" is about much more than a prohibition of artificial contraception, says a Polish priest and expert on family issues who addressed today a conference in Omaha. Rather, it is a document about the dignity of woman. To this end, Pope Benedict said this week that the Church of our time needs "holy and courageous women" who value the gifts God has given them and make a valuable and specific contribution to spiritual growth.

It's Back to College Time

Many of our young people are back at college. The experiences of young adults show that although it can be tough to maintain one’s faith while transitioning from high school to college,it isn’t impossible. And playing a key role are the many Newman Centers in our college campuses across the country.

But who exactly is this person that all these college Catholic churches are named after? The dossier for Cardinal John Henry Newman's beatification does not list Catholic university centers that bear his name among the miracles the soon-to-be-blessed gained through his intercession. And yet, Newman Centers could be considered one of the cardinal's first works from heaven. Check out his story.

Pain and Finding God

In "God will find you," Fr. John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class. Tommy was an atheist who was a pain in his side for the entire semester. Find out how the good professor saw when Tommy's faith life made a complete turn-around.

Meanwhile Catholic blogger Bo Sanchez talks about how we can use our pain to achieve great success. He begins by defining three sources of inner pain. The first pain comes from Grief. The second pain comes from Greed. And the third pain comes from Giving.

Finally, here's more proof that bigger isn't always better: Several recent studies show that sometimes the smallest changes (like how you brew your tea or when you schedule a medical exam) can have a huge payoff when it comes to improving your health. Whether it's timing, technique, or the type of food you eat, here's how to fine-tune your behavior to get the best results. Here are some strange-sounding but effective tips for healthy living and clear thinking.

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: "Ask something of me and I will give it to you."
FEATURED BLOG: Rules of Engagement For Catholics On The Internet
PASTORAL HISPANA: Encontremos la misericordia de Dios

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