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?
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."
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.
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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