Thursday, July 24, 2014

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field"

This Sunday, July 27, 2014, the Gospel's passage contains the last three of the set of seven parables that Matthew placed in the center of his gospel. The first two about the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price tell us about the inestimable value of the Kingdom. The third one about the dragnet tells us about the great diversity of its make up. 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.

Three aspects of God's kingdom are highlighted in these parables: the necessity of recognizing its ultimate value, the necessity of responding with total commitment upon recognition of its presence, and the possibility of rejecting the gift of eternal life that it brings. Father Cusick explains that this discourse is a continuation of our meditation upon the four "last things": death, judgment, heaven and hell.

The Value of God's Kingdom's

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field or a pearl of great price. When its great value is recognized, one gladly does all that is necessary to obtain it. The kingdom of heaven is also like a net that collects all sorts of fish. Just as the useless fish are eventually thrown away, at the end of the age the wicked will be rejected. The last parable is a sober reminder that even though Jesus is the presence of divine wisdom, many take offense at him, and because of their lack of faith are lost.

These parables, Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains, teach us that the kingdom is so desirable and precious that a person must sacrifice everything in order to obtain it. And this most desirable hidden treasure, Fr. Phil Bloom points out, is Jesus Himself. He is the Kingdom of God. Heaven is nothing more - and nothing less - than a relationship with Jesus. And to discern what fits with the Kingdom, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says we need to know what that Kingdom is all about.

And perhaps, as Fr. John Foley, S. J. indicates, the deepest wisdom this Sunday can be found in the Second Reading. You or I have undoubtedly quoted the words, not remembering where they came from, “All things work for the good [of] those who love God.”

The Gift of Free Will

Sunday's Readings drive us to the dogmatic theology books. The First Reading from 1 Kings speaks about wisdom. The second from Romans speaks about predestination, the Gospel from Matthew speaks about the Christian life. The invitation is placed before us and it is entirely up to us whether we accept it. We are invited to believe in all that Jesus told us and to embrace the Gospel as our way of life, but Fr. Alex McAllister tells us, the choice rests with us.

However, Fr. Ron Rolheiser clarifies, every choice is a renunciation. Thomas Aquinas said that and it helps explain why we struggle so painfully to make clear choices. We want the right things, but we want other things too. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us that we have to take responsibility for our own actions. Even if something negative happens to us beyond our control, like sickness, we have the ability to use this situation to closer image the Lord. If we choose what is true and good, then we are allowing God's predestination to take its effect among us.

The good news for us, according to Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B., is that the Risen Lord is present in our celebration of the Eucharist not only to instruct us about the kingdom of heaven, but also to give us his Spirit. In the Spirit, through faith, we receive sight to recognize the presence of the kingdom in our world, and we receive courage to commit ourselves totally to God's reign with single-minded desire.

Responding with Total Commitment

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB isolates for us the fact that Jesus started his ministry with the proclamation of the Gospel: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." But his disciples, then and now, keep on asking: "When is the kingdom coming? How will we recognize it?" And it is this Sunday's parables that describes the different ways people can find the kingdom: by chance; by diligent search and by careful discernment.

No matter which way, two things are needed: first, the wisdom to recognize the surpassing worth of the kingdom when it appears and secondly the boldness to stake all on the kingdom. Here are some helpful hints from Fr. James Gilhooley on how to establish the Kingdom of God around you. "Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody."

Sacraments, Catholic Guilt, and Life Issues

Have you ever experienced speaking to someone, to tell them the hope you have in the Lord Jesus, and it seems you are speaking to a brick wall with no signs evident that they're getting it’? When we speak the Word of God to others is it ever really wasted? Sr. Lisa Marie Doty offers her reflections.

Gary Zimak is a Cradle Catholic. Jennifer Fulwiler is a convert who admits that now that she's Catholic, she spends a lot more time feeling guilty than he used to. So it’s been interesting, then, to find that she feels Catholic guilt is one of the best things that’s ever happened to her. Gary, on the other hand, offers the big mistakes he has discovered over his life time. In order to spare you some agony, he presents his list of the five biggest mistakes Catholics make and how to avoid them.

And with Obamacare and its contracepton mandate still in the news today, we bring you back a statement the U.S. bishops issued three years ago during the height of the Obamacare debate. Saying, “Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible,” they “strongly opposed” a proposal to mandate coverage of surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved birth control in private health insurance plans nationwide.

And here's an interesting Catechetical topic: Why can't young children receive Anointing of the Sick? The answer is simple. Children who do not yet have the use of reason cannot receive Anointing of the Sick – since they have not committed any actual sin (and are, therefore, not spiritually sick), they have no need of the spiritual healing. Reading this article will certainly help you undertand our faith better.

Priesthood & Parishes

It's interestng to read this report about the shifting demographics of the U.S. Catholic Church. "The Changing Face of U.S. Catholic Parishes" also shows that while there are more U.S. Catholics, they are attending Masses at fewer parishes staffed by a rapidly declining corps of priests. That is why this great story from Delaware is so timely. Trading in a badge and gun for the cross, here's the story of a New York cop was ordained a priest for Wilmington.

Want to know the secret to a vibrant parish? New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan searched for the secret behind a parish renowned for its high rate of Sunday Mass attendance; first-rate school; excellent religious education for kids, teenagers, young adults, and adults; remarkably effective stewardship; and successful initiatives of social justice, pro-life efforts, evangelization, and neighborhood presence. It was divinely simple: Eucharistic Adoration.

From Dorm Rooms to Senior Homes

In "Detoxing the Dorm," Kathryn Jean Lopez offers a corrective to the current college campus hookup culture: Single-sex dorms. A 2009 study in The Journal of American College Health found that students in co-ed dorms have more sex and more partners — and are “more than twice as likely as students in gender-specific housing to indicate that they had had 3 or more sexual partners in the last year.”

From dorm rooms to senior retirement homes. And you gotta love this. Residents of a retirement community in Michigan get into the swing of things with a little Michael Buble action. In the middle of a hot hot summer, this is the coolest of cool. Enjoy "Forever young: the world’s first senior citizen lip-dub."

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: Is Gambling a Sin?
FEATURED BLOG: The secret to a vibrant parish?
PASTORAL HISPANA: El Reino de los Cielos tiene un precio

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