This Sunday, March 6, 2011- 9th sunday in Ordinary time - we come to the very end of the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. We are not surprised that the conclusion of this long sermon comes with an allusion to the Last Day. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.
Allow us to point out something in today’s gospel passage that can be easily overlooked and missed. It’s where Jesus said, "Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?’" Fr. Charles Irvin says that day is none other than the day we die and stand before God. It is likewise the great Judgment Day at the end of time.
A House Built on Rock
Jesus offers us two perspectives on houses and construction. To build one's house on the sand means to place our hope and our certainty on things that are unstable and fleeting. What are such things? Money, success, fame, and even health and prosperity are just some, explains Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB. To build one's house on rock means to base one's life and hope on things that are solid, enduring, things that will not be carried away with the winds of the times.
Jesus continues, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains that Jesus is heavily stressing that a choice must be made in life. Listening to and then acting on His words leads to eternal life. However, those who merely listen but do not act will find themselves outside the Kingdom.
The prayer of faith, explains Father Cusick, consists not only in saying "Lord, Lord," but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father. This, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, OSB tells us, is the wisdom that will allow us to build a house that can resist all possible storms. We need to open our hearts to the love of God so that we may be free enough to choose to love others.
Fine Words or Good Deeds
Fr. John Foley, S. J. noticed that Jesus was skeptical about good deeds at the end of his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” He warns that we may fool humans with our speech, but God cannot be deceived.
There is only one way in which a person’s sincerity can be proved. And Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains that it by one’s actions. Fine words can never replace good deeds. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino clarifies that even if we were to do great things in the name of the Lord, if we do them for our own selfish needs, such as for recognition by others, our actions would be hypocritical. Our character is revealed in the choices we make, especially when we must choose between what is true or false, and good or evil.
College student Colleen Corcoran points out that the Second Reading’s message seemed to speak to the supreme importance of faith (“For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law”), while the Gospel is more concerned with the importance of action (“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock”). As Christians we believe that what ultimately defines us and gives us our dignity is the image and likeness of God inside us. This, explains Fr. Ron Rolheiser, is our deepest identity. It is our real self.
Here's the bottom line, according to Fr. Phil Bloom: Salvation involves more than a one-time acceptance of Jesus. What counts is not so much what we do for Jesus or what we know about him. What matters is knowing Jesus and being known by him: a daily relationship with Jesus based on intimate prayer.
Lent is Almost Upon Us
Next week, on March 9, Lent begins with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. Catholics should try not to rub their ashes off after Ash Wednesday Mass, an English bishop has said. Bishop Kieran Conry urged Catholics to wear “the outward sign of our inward sorrow for our sins and for our commitment to Jesus as Our Lord and Saviour”.
Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio says some think of Lent is a time for fasting. He sees it as a time of feasting. And he lists the three inter-related fertilizers which help Roman Catholics and all Christians bear fruit - Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. From the Vatican, Sandro Magister reports that in the message for the forty days of preparation for Easter, Pope Benedict XVI calls all to conversion and new life.
Many Catholics observe Lent with a discipline of withdrawal, in whole or in part, from media: movies, television, Internet, radio, music, newspapers. This is an admirable discipline, and one Steven D. Greydanus recommends. For those inclined to consider this practice, here are six suggested movies to watch for the six weeks of Lent.
Lent is also an opportune time to avail of the Sacrament of Confession. However, many today express a rather deep impatience with the whole idea of confessing one’s sins to a priest. Why, some asked, do we require a mediator when seeking the divine forgiveness? Why can’t we “go directly to God?” Fr. Robert Barron offers a solid explanation tion on why we go to a priest fo Confession.
Thank God for the season of Lent. May we all use the days of this Lent to see the things that God wants us to see, hear the things He wants us to hear, and reform the way we live because we have really listened to His voice.
Unpleasant Truths, Unions and Catholic Identity
Being confronted by the truth can often be unpleasant. In New York City, one such ad has been generating some fierce reactions. The billboard that simply stated “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” This message was accompanied by a photograph of a young, African-American girl. Is that message unpleasant? Is it upsetting? Does it get our attention? Yes! Because the message is somberly true. So why has the billboard suddenly been taken down? Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York discusses the controversy.
In Wisconsin, another conrtroversy rages. The U.S. episcopal conference has underlined the moral element of the current national debate over unions and collective bargaining, noting that it's not simply "ideology or power" that's at stake, but also principles of justice. This statement supported the stance announced earlier by the Wisconsin bishops' conference
Last week, we celebrated the Blessed John Henry Newman's birthday. Applying some of Newman's ideas to the current situation of Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, one could postulate what Newman's proposals would be for the renewal of the Catholic identity of these institutions. Similarly from from Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput reminded us that all adult Catholics are teachers. That’s one of our mandates as believers. And in an age of confusion, the Church is our only reliable guide. Through her, it’s our job to form our children and ourselves in the truth that will make us genuinely free.
Jews, the Pope and his New Book
And from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI made a major new contribution to Catholic-Jewish relations with a gripping theological assessment of who was culpable for the death of Jesus Christ. The Pope exonerated the Jewish people from all blame for the Crucifixion and death of Jesus. His new book "Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week" is also set for worldwide release on March 10. Here is an excerpt from Benedict XVI's book. It comes from Chapter 7, Section 3, titled "Jesus Before Pilate." Ignatius Press is the publisher of the volume in English.
Facebook, Divorce & Missing Church
Why don’t people go to church? Deacon Greg Kandra discovered this gem on a Facebook post. One priest got tired of listening to excuses why people skip the Church, and has written this interesting list of reasons. The twist? He talks about washing oneself instead of going to Church. But the analogy is strikingly piercing.
Here's a shout-out to many of you out there: If you're married and on Facebook, read this! Patrick Madrid found this claim in an article he read. And it doesn’t surprise us a bit: “A survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that Facebook is cited as evidence in 66 percent of divorces in the United States. Also, more than 80 percent of divorce lawyers reported they “have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence” during the past few years.” Please read this story. it could save your marriage.
At the Movies: The Adjustment Bureau & Soul Surfer
Remember the young woman surfer whose arm was bit off by a shark attack? "Soul Surfer" is a movie about her life. But it met controversy when the producers airbrushed a bible from one of the scenes in the movie. The devotely Christian woman's family fought Hollywood to have the bible reinstated. And they won. This movie comes out April 2.
And finally, Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP looks at one of the highly propmoted movies this week: "The Adjustment Bureau." Is it good? It's got its merits. But when considered through the lens of theology, or any perspective, Sr. Rose says the movie needs a major course correction.
Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: Is it Better to Pray or To Study the Faith?
FEATURED BLOG: Who is the Holy Spirit?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Cristo es la roca sobre la cual construimos
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