Thursday, January 12, 2012

“What are you looking for?”

In this Sunday's Readings - Second Sunday In Ordinary Time (2B), January 15, 2012 - John the Baptist looks hard at Jesus and says, ‘Look there is the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples with him immediately follow Jesus. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Behold the Lamb of God

At the beginning of Advent we received a beautiful gift: the new English translation of the Roman Missal. One of the parts I particularly like is the invitation to Communion. The priest holds up the Host and says, "Behold the Lamb of God..." We hear these same words in Sunday's Gospel. John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims to Andrew, "Behold the Lamb of God."

When John called Jesus the Lamb of God, he was saying a lot. Jesus is gentle and like a lamb, submissive to the will of his Father. He would make a sacrifice so complete, Fr. Phil Bloom explains, that it would not need repitition. As the letter to the Hebrews says, it would be "once and for all."

“What are you looking for?”

Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines, once made a most significant intervention. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB relates how speaking about about the disposition of listening to God's Word that leads people to true life, the archbishop said: "Listening is a serious matter. The Church must form hearers of the Word. But listening is not transmitted only by teaching but more by a milieu of listening."

In the Gospel, Jesus is going to call two men to be disciples. He waits for them to notice him and get interested. They start to follow him. Jesus turns and says bluntly, “What are you looking for?”

The plain meaning of the question is, “Why are you following me?” But with an eye to the archbishop's statement above, what is the deeper meaning of our Lord's question? Fr. John Foley, S. J. says it is the same question from God that finally shook Samuel loose: “What is your hunger? Is there something about Me that answers the deep desire of your heart?” And just where will we find that which would satisfy our restless hearts? Fr. Ron Rolheiser says in purity of heart, in removing those things inside of us that block our connection to the author of all the persons, places, beauty, love, color, and energies for which we ache.

There is a call within the call. There is the call which brings us into the fold of the Church. But there is a  second call, the call within the call. And that, Fr. Alex McAllister, SDS points out to us, is to follow Jesus completely and to dedicate one’s entire life to following Him wholeheartedly. Father Cusick reminds us that the Church teaches that the faithful cannot be silenced, that the impulse to spread the Gospel, to proclaim Christ as Messiah, is not an option, but rather an obligation. The Church is not "catholic", not universal, if the Church is not also missionary.

Morality & Sexuality

As in most of the year, the Second Reading this Sunday does not follow the same theme of the First Reading and the Gospel Reading. They are about the call of the Lord. The second reading however from 1 Corinthians 6 is about morality, specifically sexual morality. Yes, we’re called to purity. But that’s not because God and the Catholic Church have some prudish disdain for the body and bodily pleasure, explains Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio.

Bo Sanchez relates how he once disturbed 6000+ people attending one of his Evangelization conferences with a simple question: "Are You Sexually Pure?" It is a topic we all often try to avoid because it hits too close to home. We all struggle with it, but then again, just like each one of us, we are all also human. In this week’s readings,  Samuel, Paul, and John give us the key to making sense of biblical morality.

To be in communion with Christ means to pray, always and everywhere. The Second Reading of today's Mass shows us that a disciple's personal union with Christ through His Spirit is the foundation of choices about moral behavior. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler talks about this in detail. Quoting Blessed Pope John Paul II's lectures in his about the Theology of the Body, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino also explains that human happiness depends on self giving, not self assertion. And that is the difference between love and lust. For us sexual morality is the mastery of the desire that allows us to give ourselves to another in a way that affirms the other. And married love is the human reality that best images the commitment.

Marriage, Single Parenthood & Life

As is tradition on the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, Benedict XVI baptized a group of infants on Sunday. In the service, the Pope told the parents that God knows their child better than they do and exhorted them to understand prayer as the first step in educating their children.

Lately, marriage has been getting a bad rap. It seems like many people these days feel marriage is some archaic arrangement that holds people back from realizing their full potential. Even if people aren’t particularly anti-marriage, they will avoid getting hitched for as long as they can. Here's an article addressed specifically to men - but it works just as well for women - that presents the many benefits to getting married. This ties in perfectly to the discussion by the new director of the Theology of the Body Institute and its work. Damon Owens talks about the difficulties facing those who promote Blessed John Paul's message on sexuality.

To single parents, a Catholic blogger named Crescat, has this message for you: "Being a single parent isn’t so bad. There are worse things." Of course she isn't advocating single parent households over the traditional model of family, which she knows to be superior. But she does want women who may find themselves debating abortion because they have no support from the father to know that being a single mother is not the worst thing out there.

Liturgy, Bad Homilies & More

The New Mass Translation has been in place since Advent. And Fr. Robert Barron notes in this video (and I agree) that it deliberately uses a more courtly language. A reader argues that this is not a good thing. Mark Shea frames a proper response supporting Fr. Barron's comments.

We also note that the second Gospel, that written by St. Mark, will be the primary Gospel used in the Church’s Liturgy this year. Fr. Ryan Erlenbush explains that all the Gospels are founded upon the authority of one or other of the apostles: Sts. Matthew and John were themselves among the Twelve, while St. Luke wrote with the authority of St. Paul. St. Mark, then, not an apostle himself, writes what he heard preached by St. Peter. The Gospel according to St. Mark is therefore very much the Gospel of St. Peter.

Which brings us to Homilies. Like most things, sometimes, they get to you and sometimes they don't. If your pastor delivers a homerun of a homily and moves your spirit, are you one who is inclined to give him a round of applause? Do you clap after the homily? If you do, can you share your reasons in our Burning Question for the week? But every once in a while, you get a real clunker, one that isn’t just theologically weak, but turns what should be a feast into over microwaved junk. What is the proper response to a bad homily? Fr. John Zuhlsdorf says get down on your knees and pray for the priest who gave it.

Intelligent Catholicism & the Symphony of Truth

There are as many reasons for “converting” as there are converts. And throughout history, prominent intellectuals and thinkers have been among the many Catholic converts. George Weigel points out a common thread running through these diverse conversions -- that men and women of intellect, culture and accomplishment have found in Catholicism what Blessed John Paul II called the “symphony of truth.”

And there is much truth in his words. As Fr. Robert Barron also famously said in this video commentary, "If faith forces you to sacrifice intelligence, than that is not true faith." The Catholic Church mandates the faithful to speak the truth. And sometimes when we the faithful do, we become not conciliatory. Dr. Jeff Mirus tells us how we’ve come to expect a low level of social discourse in political discussion, led by political advertising and the verbal maneuvering of televised debates. But there is something wrong—something spiritually wrong—when the same problem afflicts religious discussions.

And what about those who lose heart in the Church? Like this college student who writes: "I just started college, and slowly I am turning away from the Church. I know I shouldn't and I try to still live a holy life, but my heart isn't into it. Can you offer any advice that can help me get my heart in the right place?" Fr. J. of took this question to task and offers great advice.

And if you're one of those who are also looking for that one spark you need to get your spiritual life back on track, we suggest some quiet time. Judy McDonald says, "Turn off your phone and talk to God."

Support our 2012 Help-A-Parish Charity Appeal

Please help us provide 100 free Catholic Websites for needy Catholic parishes nationwide. In 2011 every single parish we've spoken with tell us of the struggle they face with dwindling weekly collections and rising overhead costs. So for 2012, we initiated the ParishWorld HELP-A-PARISH Charity Drive to assist them. We will give away - at no charge - ParishWorld Catholic websites to needy parishes who otherwise could not afford one. Please help us out with a small contribution. Click here to see the details and to help out. If your parish would like to receive a free Catholic website, please email us at

Finally, here are some home truths about high blood pressure. Four years ago, Mark Honigsbaum was told he had high blood pressure. He isn't overweight, doesn't smoke and eats healthily – so what brought it on? He explores the facts and figures surrounding one of the western world's biggest killers.

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: Do you applaud after the homily?
FEATURED BLOG: My heart isn't into Church anymore. What now?

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