Thursday, January 23, 2014

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

In the Gospel for Sunday (3A), January 26, 2014, we see how Jesus picks up where John the Baptist left off. We are told that He has come to fulfill the scriptures, that He will bring light to the people; we are introduced to Jesus’ inner group of disciples and see how they are called. And we are told about His ministry of healing among the crowds that flocked to hear Him. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Isaiah's Light

Both today's first reading from the Prophet Isaiah (Is 8:23-9:3) and the Gospel passage (Matthew 4:12-23) keep alive the memory of Christmas for us. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness– on them a light has shined."

Fr. Alex McAllister tells us that Jesus came to bring light to those who live in darkness. Those who are in the dark about what God plans for the world will be enlightened. They will, through Jesus’ preaching, discover that God loves them and brings them salvation in the very fullest sense.

But, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds us, we are not the people of darkness. We are people of light. We are not condemned to live as liars, cheats or users, or whatever. We have seen a great light. But Jesus’ light did not intrude upon every precious cranny of people’s lives, as a spotlight might do. Fr. John Foley, S. J points out that Jesus' light was a candle flame, the quiet flicker that hurricane winds tried and tried to put out, but could not.

Jesus is the indeed Light, the Redeemer, the One who died to save us and all of humanity. And even after all of this university student Anusia Dickow admits that she still gets nervous at what would happen if she actually did dedicate her life fully to following Jesus.

"Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand"

Forms of the word "repent" appear in the Bible 37 times. It is the most common theme found in the exhortations of the prophets, and its imperative is found in the book of Revelation six times. Scripture consistently reveals an intrinsic relationship between repentance and salvation. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. says it should surprise no one that it is the central message of the preaching of Jesus Christ.

Father Cusick tells us that these words of Jesus warn us against sleeping our lives away, against spiritual laziness. When we repent, we enter the kingdom of God. Personal responsibility leads to solidarity. To reject one's personal responsibility, results in isolation. That is, sin separates us not only from God, but from each other. Repentance and holiness, Fr. Phil Bloom explains, is what brings us together.

The Call to Follow

In our Gospel reading we hear about the call of the very first disciples right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry—first Simon Peter and Andrew then James and John.

Even though the call to follow Jesus was a privilege beyond imagination, there is no attempt to pretend the disciples were ideal people. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB opines that they were very real people -- contentious, weak at times, often baffled by Jesus. On the other hand, Fr. James Gilhooley also also points out that when these disciples accepted His invitation to sign on, they were bold men. They were trading in a middle-class living for a precarious one. They were, after all, commercial fishermen. They owned their own boats.

They were bold. But they were not perfect. They were inadequate in many ways. Fr. Ron Rolheiser talks about how we too struggle with our own inadequacies. He says when we are in touch with ourselves, we too can relate to these expressions of inadequacy. At the end of the day, we cannot measure up and cannot not disappoint others and ourselves because we are after all human. Our Burning Question this week offers an opportunity to reflect upon this topic: Can we who are sinful be part of Jesus’ mission?

But we are the Church, "called out" by Jesus individually to follow him. And as Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. points out, our ultimate happiness depends upon our response. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says “Church” does not simply mean attending mass once a week and subscribing to a list of dogmas. To respond to Christ’s call to the Church means to be in the world, but not of it. It means to “re-form your life.” To allow your thinking and your pattern of life to be completely reorganized around the truth of God’s word.

Reflections on Martin Luther King Day

Monday, January 21 was Martin Luther King Day. Fr. Robert Barron says it goes without saying that Dr. Martin Luther King was one of the most pivotal figures in American history. He adds that Martin Luther King was not a saint, and he's not advocating his canonization. But on this anniversary of his birth, he is proposing the good doctor as a powerful model for all those who want to light a fire on the earth.

Msgr. Charles Pope has spent a big part of his life ministering to parishes populated by African-American Catholics. He shares a few of the things he has learned over the years about the "The Gift of the African American Catholic Tradition." He focuses primarily on the liturgical experience. They may not be true of every African American Catholic, but collectively, as a community, he says these gifts are widely shared values.

Our Catholic Identity

It has been said that if we want to discover what we really value most we need to look honestly at what we spend our time and money on. Most Christians, if asked what they value most will answer, “God.” But that is the expected answer. The truest answer however, explains Msgr. Charles Pope, can be found by looking at our calendars and spending habits.

Lies, Conscience & Confession

One day last year, Jennifer Fulwiler was putting grocery bags in the car after an epic store trip. After grabbing the last bag something caught her eye in the back of the cart: an unpaid $3.75 package of pacifiers. There was, of course, no question in her mind that she would pay for them. But unwittingly, she never did. And then an interesting struggle with her conscience materialized during her next trip to the confessional booth.

Her story is a good epilogue for this reflection on conscience by Francis Cardinal George, OMI. He says Moral conscience is a judgment of practical reason about the moral quality of a human action. Many times people will assert that they have a right to believe what their “conscience” tells them. But faith is an assent to a truth revealed by God. Judging what to believe involves deciding whether or not something is true.

Cold Nights, Patron Saints & The Rite

"One Cold, Dark Night," Judith Costello's furnace died in her family was 5 degrees below zero outside and the wind chill was driving the temperature even lower. In an entry on her blog "Mysteries of Parenting," she talks about how the problem it became an opportunity for her family to huddle together and focus on the warmth that comes from faith, family and love.

Taylor Marshall talks about patron saints, those who have suffered through various evils, not despairing, but offering their maladies to God for an increase of sanctity. He says it is natural then to consult those who have suffered in ways similar to us. Thus, we ask these saints to pray for us. Here is his list of "16 common problems" and the saints usually identified with each.

In November 2010, the head of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ committee on canonical affairs and church governance, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, presided over a two-day session in Baltimore ithat drew more than 100 bishops and priests who examined the church’s exorcism rite, which dates back to the early 17th century. And it seems that even with a topic as gruesome as exorcism, the devil — and other demons — is in the details. It is notable however that he did say, "The Sacrament of Penance is a more powerful tool than exorcism."

Another eventful day in our Catholic world. Have a great and blessed new week.
Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

Burning Question: Can we who are sinful be part of Jesus’ mission?
FEATURED BLOG: Telling the Truth by Time and Money
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus sigue iluminando nuestras vidas

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