Thursday, February 10, 2011

"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away."

This Sunday's Gospel is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew emphasizes the relation between Jewish Law and the teaching of Jesus. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

"Cut it off!"

This is some very difficult material in today's Gospel. 'If anyone kills he will answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: Anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court.' 'You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' 'If your right hand causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.'

Some of Jesus’ sayings above are downright shocking. Is he endorsing self-mutilation? If not, what can he possibly mean by this? Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains.

Introducing a New Thinking

Matthew reassures his readers that Jesus has not come to abolish the Law and the prophets but to bring them to completion. It is there, on that holy mountain in Galilee, after having declared the perpetual validity of the law and the duty to observe it that Jesus went on to affirm a new observance of the law. And Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says it is one animated by the new evangelical spirit of charity and sincerity.

For Jesus, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains, just to keep the Law externally is not enough. Such observance, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. reminds us, can easily co-exist with an interior attitude that is judgmental and unforgiving. The Scribes and the Pharisees kept the Law and the Commandments very carefully, explains Fr. Orlando Sapuay. M.S.. But Jesus would say that, though they observed the external requirements of the Law, they did not have the spirit which is the foundation of the Law: to love God and to love the neighbor as oneself.

Four times Jesus quotes a passage from the Hebrew Bible, what we call the Old Testament. After citing each of the Scripture verses, Jesus says, "But I say to you..." Fr. Phil Bloom says our Lord is making an amazing claim of authority and power. Jesus did not come to give a new law. He came to give us Himself.

True conversion is conversion of the heart

The Sermon on the Mount is not about does and don’ts. It is not about limitations, how little must I do to slip by St. Peter at the gates of heaven. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says the Sermon on the Mount is about being fully alive in Jesus Christ. It is about nourishing the eternal life within us.

In Christ is the fullness of God, perfectly revealed for us. Father Cusick points out that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Commandments. In Him, we can share in the glory of God, in his holiness and life. This we are advised by Fr. John Foley, S. J. to watch Jesus as we progress through life. The inside of the law is written in His heart. As you and I grow up, let it be written in us too.

Marriage & Divorce

Nowhere in the 5000 years of recorded history was marriage in worse shape than when Jesus came. Our own age, with its high divorce rate, would almost emerge as a golden age by comparison. So what did Jesus have in mind when He speaks in this Gospel passage about marriage? Fr. James Gilhooley says it was clearly to reinforce the sacredness of marital unity among the Jews of His time.

Then Jesus in this Gospel drops the bomb, "Everyone who divorces his wife forces her to commit adultery. The man who marries a divorced woman likewise commits adultery." When Jesus spoke them way back then, they struck the first audiences as off the wall. And even nowadays with a reported 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, these words continue to reverberate in our society.

Are you divorced or know someone who is? So now what? Can divorced people remarry? Can they receive Holy Communion? Is divorce a sin according to the Catholic Church? Let's try correcting some misunderstood Church teachings regarding Divorce.

When we discuss this topic, it's quite inevitable that we also talk about Catholic annulment. Contrary to what many might think, it is not Catholic divorce. Annulment is a thorny issue for many Catholics and widely misunderstood outside the Church. But it is a valid recourse for some failed marriages. Even Pope Benedict himself this week reinforced from the Vatican that people in doubt about their marriage status have a right to a speedy and simple process to determine nullity. Let's take a look at ten of the most commonly asked questions about annulment.

Prayer, the Bible & Youth Catechism

Taylor Marshall cautions Catholics to be very careful when they study the Scriptures because there are two dangerous pitfalls. The first is the error of reading Sacred Scripture apart from the Fathers and Popes of the Catholic Church. The second problem is that there are many terrible Bible translations out there. Just little shifts in language here and there can produce huge theological errors. To help the faithful, he offers some "Bible Study Helps for Catholics."

The Scriptures are gift for the ultimate purpose of leading us to heaven. St Bonaventure (1221-1274) the Seraphic Doctor of the Catholic Church explains that reading Sacred Scripture is not enough. One can only properly understand the Scriptures if he already has the truth of Faith in his heart.

Church teachings on the Scripture, of course, can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict this week recommended as "Extraordinary" the new catechism for young people being prepared in light of the upcoming World Youth Day.

And many of us can relate to this humbling dissertation by Matthew Archbold : 7 Reasons I Stink at Praying. He carries the burden for all of us by admitting that he's the worst prayer in the world. But the good news is that it doesn’t stop him - and us - from trying.

Walking in the Wide Catholic Church

The Church is wide, explains Msgr. Charles Pope. And he thinks of the Christian journey as a trip up the King’s Highway. Now on this road there are a good number of lanes. There's room for all - conservatives, liberal, rich, poor, Republicans, Democrats, etc.The Church permits us to drive in any or all the lanes. But she sets up guard rails beyond which we must not go. It's a great read on Church unity. And in the end we're all one. Even in places where God is denied, the world today is nostalgic for God. Benedict XVI declared it this week from the Vatican.

Now here's an inquiring question from a reader: After what point of lateness can I no longer receive Communion or fulfill obligation? Fr. John Zuhlsdorf offers kind pastoral advise we can all learn from.

Catholics in Media (CIMA) 2011 Awards Feb. 20, 2011

The Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) 18th Annual Mass and Awards Brunch on Sunday, February 20th, 2011 will honor Fox Searchlight Films’ “Conviction” and CBS Television’s “Blue Bloods.” The CBS daytime drama “The Bold and The Beautiful” will receive the CIMA 2011 Humanitarian Award. The event at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA, will begin with a Mass at 10:00 AM with a brunch and awards ceremony to follow. Click here to purchase tickets for the awards brunch.

Finally, let's talk about napping. It's often frowned upon in our workaholic American culture. But in reality, the nap stigma is incredibly misplaced. Naps can be one of the most powerful tools for self-improvement; they can increase not only our health and well-being but our intelligence and productivity as well. Allow us to show you its immense benefits.

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

BURNING QUESTION: Is Divorce a sin according to the Catholic Church?
FEATURED BLOG: 7 Reasons I Stink at Praying
PASTORAL HISPANA: No he venido a abolir la Ley y los profetas

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

"You are the light of the world."

In the Gospels of the last four Sundays we've been following the story of Jesus’ early career. First he went to be baptized. Then he moved to Capernaum when John the Baptist was killed, and he chose his apostles. Last Sunday we heard part of his “inaugural address,” the beatitudes. In this Sunday's Readings for Feb. 6, 2011 Jesus begins to instruct the disciples about how to be his followers. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

To Be Salt and Light

"You are the salt of the earth." Often quoted, seldom understood. Father Cusick asks us, do we understand what it means for our relationship with Christ? Check that the Nazarene did not say we should become the salt of the earth, but that we are the salt of the earth. Fr. James Gilhooley said Jesus wasn't giving us a locker room pep talk. He was telling us the way He wanted to find us daily.

"You are the light of the world." We are people who have been enlightened by Christ. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. points out that we are not the light. It is God’s light shining through us. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. explains further that it is only because we - through the gift of the Spirit - become one with Christ that we can be the light of the world, never by our own light alone.

We are called today to reveal the true wisdom of the Lord to the world. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us that this wisdom is not based on great intellects, but on the power of God.

The Description of a True Disciple

Now Jesus moves on to the description of a true disciple. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us that Jesus is less worried about the details of what we do but much more about who we are. Jesus goes to the root motivations of our behaviour. With Jesus it is not doing, it is being that counts. He is most interested in character not just in mere actions.

The good works of the open-handed shine forth, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains, so that people might praise the Father for the holiness they glimpse in His creatures. And when Jesus speaks about "good deeds," Fr. Phil Bloom says the word is "kalos" - a goodness that is beautiful. Jesus is saying that when people see our good deeds they should give glory to God.

Jesus, in effect, says be what you are. Fr. John Foley, S. J. clarifies that this means if you are salt then don’t lose your flavor of salt. If you are a lamp then don’t put a basket over yourself so no one can see your light. Give light. Give savor. To hide our light serves no one. When God gives us a gift, God expects a certain return. To hide our talents, Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us, is perilous to self and not very pleasing to the one who gave those gifts.

This is not to say that one must be an extrovert, entertainer, or brilliant lecturer to be a successful Christian. It’s not about personality. It’s about heart. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. says it’s about approaching your Christian life with passion rather than with a yawn.

Here’s a test for you. Answer honestly. Are you excited about prayer, or is it a chore? When you have extra time and money, how much of it do you ever invest it in spiritual growth or apostolic service? Are you “too busy” to get to confession regularly, attend a parish mission, or get involved in serving the needy? And finally, if it were a crime to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

About Confession

The reality in our parish life is that there are many among our parishioners who come to our churches each Sunday - but have not been to Confession in years! Fr. John Zuhlsdorf answers two letters from a couple of readers. One says: "I haven’t been to confession for 10 years! I don’t know what to do!" The other is a convert from Protestantism who asks: "How to confess well? I worry I am not doing a good enough job of it." The good father offers worthwhile pastoral guidance to both inquirers.

And here's where prayer meets technology. A new Confession application for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch is encouraging sacramental life through technology. Bishop Kevin Rhodes gave the first known imprimatur for this type of resource. The program, "Confession: A Roman Catholic App," was developed as an aid "for those who frequent the sacrament and those who wish to return."

Catholic Life

As an Evangelical Protestant, Steve Ray thought he could ignore the creeds and councils of our Mother, the Church. He was sadly mistaken. He now understands that Jesus requires us to listen to His Church, the Church to which he gave the authority to bind and to loose (Mt 16:19; 18:17)—the Catholic Church, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). This week, Steve offers a historical explanation of the word "Catholic."

And here's another interesting scenario. When having a conversation with someone who is ignorant or hostile to Catholic teaching, what's the best way to deal with them? A reasoned, gentle defense is most effective. Here's a great article that explains how Catholics can plant the seeds of faith with strangers.

And now this. Imagine a Catholic and a Protestant were planning to marry. And the Protestant decides to convert! When one partner converts, it brings the faith back home for the longtime Catholic spouse. That’s what Jackie San Nicolas discovered when her longtime boyfriend Matt Covington decided to become a Catholic before their wedding. Lots of great insight - and from the Catholic partner's point of view!

Kneeling, Liturgical Aberrations & Superstition

Now here's one question that's long been begging for an answer: "Am I forbidden to kneel after the Agnus Dei?" If the parish priest instructs the faithful to remain standing, would it be wrong to kneel and disobey the priests? With an eye on the GIRM (the Church's General Instruction on the Roman Missal), Fr. John Zuhlsdorf offers some measured and straight-forward advice.

And some food for thought about how to approach priests concerning liturgical aberrations. Do keep these in mind. Priests are people too, and so are prone not only to sin, but to weakness, forgetfulness, mistakes, and even fatigue. Catholics are urged to give the priest the benefit of the doubt in many situations - specially at Mass - where something out of character happens. Mistakes happen.

Finally, a word about Superstition and the Supernatural. Fr. Longenecker explores the thin line that often separates Catholic devotion and superstition. He explains that the devotions of the Church provide a way to draw closer to Christ. But what he is opposed to is their unthinking practice, and the tendency for them to drift into superstition--the tendency to use the devotions of the Church not to conform ourselves to the Divine Will, but to get God to do what we want.

Prayer & Silence in the Heart

Judith Costello was reading an old text that recommends “silence in the heart.” Saint Diadochus of Photice, a bishop of the fifth century, said our mind should be like still waters. Then we can see the pollutants (temptations) and recognize “the fish” (grace). It sounds wonderful. Such great advice. But it seems impossible to achieve in this modern era, especially in busy houses with children. How is this possible? Judith offers her thoughts from her blog "Mysteries of Parenting."

And from the Vatican, the pope seems to chime in with Judith. Pope Benedict XVI said this week that prayer is essential for grasping life’s meaning. People don’t really know who they are or what their life’s purpose is unless they pray regularly, he added.

Super Bowl Sunday

If the Super Bowl is anything like the National Football Conference championship game, Norbertine Father Jim Baraniak said he expected an overflow crowd. However, the Packers' Catholic chaplain wasn't referring to the attendance at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. But rather to the Mass to be celebrated before the big game on Feb. 6. He expects a record Super Bowl Mass crowd.

To cap this week off, how would you like to turn your cheap $10 flashlight into a $95 flashlight in a few short steps? This was too good for us to pass up. DIY guru Kip Kay shows you how to turn a cheap plastic flashlight into an incredibly bright flashlight, using only a power drill and a new bulb and batteries. We'll just let the video tell the story.

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: What commandments require restitution?
FEATURED BLOG: Superstition and the Supernatural
VOCATION NEWS: Joy in one's vocation
PASTORAL HISPANA: Somos sal de la tierra y luz del mundo

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