Thursday, July 14, 2011

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed"

Once again in this week's Gospel passage for July 17, 2011, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, images of growing trees, shrubs and plants provide us with powerful insights into the quiet and slow ways that God's Kingdom grows among us and within us. This Sunday we have three parables set before us. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

Students of Matthews Gospel sometimes call Chapter Thirteen the Day of Parables because the whole chapter actually contains seven different parables all given presumably from the boat referred to in the very first verse from that chapter where it says, ‘such crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people stood on the beach and he told them many things in parables.’

Let Them Grow Together


Central to today's parable of the wheat and the weeds is the preciousness of the wheat. The landowner refused to lose any of it in order to get rid of the weeds. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains how Jesus did not weed out Judas from the twelve, nor Peter from the twelve, even though God knew about his upcoming denials. Nor did He weed out the disciples who all eventually ran away. This parable was a warning to the disciples not to attempt to anticipate the final judgment of God by a definitive exclusion of sinners from the Kingdom. In its present stage, the Kingdom is composed of the good and the bad. The judgment of God alone will eliminate the sinful. Until then, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB remiunds us, there must be patience and the preaching of repentance.

We can learn much from God's patience as we see him allow both the good and the evil to grow together. Even in your own hearts, God steadily forgives your weeds. It would be better if the weeds were not there, but he loves everything about you and wants you preserved. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says this is a radical idea because we often think that we have to be sinless in order to be loved.

And this brings up an objection that has caused heated debate in recent years. If the Church is meant to be inclusive as the parable of the wheat and tares suggests, then why do we still have the penalty of excommunication on the books? Why do some clamor that Catholic, abortion-rights politicians should be denied holy communion? Isn’t this just a mean-spirited sort of Puritanism? Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains.

Starting Small Like the Mustard Seed


The short parables about the mustard seed and the leaven are used to illustrate the surprising growth of the church in spite of small and unpromising beginnings.The point is that God can work through small and ordinary agents (like ourselves) to achieve surprising and significant results. That is how the Church of God began - in a very small way with only twelve Apostles, and not the brightest of the bunch. Yet today the Church spreads throughout the world and Catholics today number over 1.2 billion.

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us that we can say the same for the Kingdom of God growing within our own hearts. Its start is small and insignificant but with the proper nurturing grows and grows until we turn our whole lives over to the Lord. We should find this truth encouraging and allow it to free us from a sense of helplessness. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. tells us that with God we can do more than we could ever imagine.

Jesus wants a few dynamic people. Fr. James Gilhooley points out from the parable that just as a little yeast plays a changing power in flour, so too should small pockets of Catholics transform society. Many Christians have done that. And now you are doing the same, explains Fr. Joseph Pellegrino, when you teach the ABC's of religion to your children. You have faith that the Kingdom of God will spread through them. Don't allow yourself to think that maybe nothing is happening for your children. Say prayers with your children. Allow God to turn the tiny mustard seed into a great plant.

The Eternal Effect of Our Choices

This week Christ teaches about the eternal effect of our choices. The farmer lets the weeds and the wheat grow together until harvest, "then at harvest time I will order the harvesters, First collect the weeds and bundle them up to burn, then gather the wheat into my barn." Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap.reminds us that God’s love is not something anyone can buy. It’s a free gift. But it comes with consequences.

Fr. Phil Bloom tells us that we are in the midst of conflict - from outside and from within. Illness, fear and temptations attack us. Weeds threaten to choke the good seed. All the more reason to turn to Jesus. But it's not that simple, Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains. To be born again, to be reborn from above, is not something that we can do, at least not fully, in one instant or in one dramatic, religious gesture, no matter how deep our sincerity. There is more involved than falling at the feet of some evangelist or of answering an altar call, albeit these can be an important beginning.

Father Cusick tells us what we must do. In authentic charity we must speak to others and teach them about the great responsibility they have to choose either Life or Death. We must keep the commandments of the Lord if we are to enter into life eternal.

Sin, Confession and Cohabitation

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf speaks of a “social” dimension, as it were in how we can sin. We can sin not only be our own direct actions, but indirectly through participation in the sins directly committed by others. How does one participate in the sin of another person? The good father explains nine different ways we sin through another person’s actions - starting with Consent and Counsel.

The fact is, the majority of couples who present themselves for marriage in the Catholic Church are co-habiting. Furthermore, they don't see any problem with it, and seem rather surprised when the priest challenges them on their living situation. Father Longenecker shares several good priestly comments, mighty strong eye-openers to use when presented with cohabiting couples who want to be married in church.

And to wrap us this section on sin, the USCCB put out this post on their blog. Penance, aka confession, is the sacrament of the forgiveness of sin. Confession has benefits. Here are ten.

New Missal, YouCat and WYD

Later this year during the first Sunday of Advent, the new Roman Missal will be implemented in US parishes. Among the many changes it brings is a dramatic change in the rubics for liturgical music. In the current Missal, it often seems that when it comes to music at Mass that, well, anything goes. Jeffrey A. Tucker reports that now the legislative ground has just shifted, and dramatically so. The new translation of the General Instruction removes the discretion from the music team to sing pretty much whatever it wants.

World Youth Day 2011 will be held Aug. 16-21, in Madrid. More than 440,000 young people are preregistered to attend the event. A press release issued this week by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that, for the first time ever, individuals have the opportunity to make a virtual pilgrimage and participate in the youth day from the comfort of their very own homes.

And just in time for WYD, Catholic youth now have a new tool they can use to help explain their faith. A group of European bishops released YouCat — short for “Youth Catechism” — a local catechism published primarily for youth. Unlike previous catechisms, this one has a unique delivery system and a television program based around it. Organizers will also include a copy of YouCat in each backpack received by the WYD pilgrims.

Organ Donors, Same-sex Marriage & Abortion

Donating one's body to science? A reader from Ontario, Canada, has written to say: "I have allowed my body at death to be given to science. Is this permissible?" The short answer is "Yes," explains William E. May, if specific conditions are met.

From the Vatican, Cardinal Arinze, the retired president of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, decried the word games being played in the abortion debate. "Is it not highly illogical for some people to talk of some whales, and the chimpanzees, and trees as 'endangered species' which must be preserved -- and if you torture a dog in some countries you will be brought to court for your cruelty to animals -- while the killing of unborn babies is labeled 'pro-choice' instead of what it is: murder? Call a spade a spade."

And from New York, Archbishop Tim Dolan has something left to say on same-sex marriage after it was signed into law two weeks ago. He first noted that New York passed the legislation, "hauntingly, on the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist, whom King Herod would behead because the saint dared to defend the God-given truth about marriage." Then the good archbishop offered a 7-Point Response to Same-Sex Legislation.

Cancer, Birthdays & Online Civility


This past Sunday Msgr. Charles Pope celebrated his 50th Birthday and of all the gifts he received, he says the best one came from the Lord who delivered it in a “strange package.” Check it out.

“So, are you just going to cut it all off first?” This was the suggestion Denys Powlett-Jones offered to his wife after she was diagnosed with cancer and faced with a coming regimen of harsh chemotherapy. But she refused. And offered him a sobering a view which was more honest and more Christ-like at once: This is not a cup that can be avoided, outrun, outgunned, or shaved off. It is to be accepted and drunk, with trust that the Father who has given it knows that good will come from it.

A while back Jennifer Fulwiler and her husband were at a dinner party where most of the other people in attendance were not religious. When the food was served, they faced an awkward moment: Should they say their usual prayer? Find out how they handled the situation. And ask yourself this question: Do You Pray in Public?

Free Apps, Free Music, Free Calling, Free Everything. They're called Freemium -- a conflation of free and premium. But the concept isn't new. Gillette hit on the concept decades ago: Give away razors for next to nothing, and then charge again and again for the replacement blades. Freemium is a variation on this theme. Get your customers hooked on the free stuff and they'll come back and pay for a better, “premium” version. Today, countless popular tech companies employ a version of freemium, ranging from Pandora to Dropbox, Evernote to Zynga. But how can they last? This is quite an interesting read.

Finally, Brett & Kate McKay discuss the foibles of internet networking. And indeed it is possible - albeit necessary - to be gentlemen and ladies in the Age of the Intenet. They share their "6 Ways to Bring Civility Online."

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: What is Faith?
FEATURED BLOG: Participation in the sins of others
PASTORAL HISPANA: Dios siempre tiene paciencia con nosotros

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