Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Child, your sins are forgiven."

In last Sunday’s Gospel reading we had the story of the healing of the leper and we reflected on the fact that, in its consequences, sin is a sort of leprosy. In the Gospel story set before us this Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, we see something similar. Here sin is clearly compared to paralysis. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Four friends who are believers, carry a sick companion up onto a tiled roof, make a hole, and lower with arduously gentle movements his hammock to the floor below, the place where Jesus is. Jesus forgives teh paralytic's sins and then heals him of his illness.

The Scribe's Narrow View of Religion

The scribes are shocked and scandalized to hear Jesus proclaim forgiveness of sins. Instead of rejoicing to hear that this wonderful power is now available, they chose to cling to their own narrow interpretation of religion. Human knowledge alone is ultimately pessimistic. Fr. Phil Bloom sees this example in the way many "Catholics" today are handling the contraception mandate. He points out that what we are witnessing is an agressive attempt to deny sin.

And now more than ever with this approaching season of Lent, we need a personal meeting with Jesus who is God, the only one who can forgive sin. Jesus and the Church urge you and me, us little bystanders, to go into action and to render true forgiveness to people who hurt us. Fr. John Foley, S. J. reminds us that sometimes we think that only God (and God in Jesus) could forgive sins. Wouldn’t we be blaspheming and making ourselves equal to God if we tried this? The Scribes might think so. But the reason you and I are able to forgive, using God’s own love, is clear: because Christ’s Holy Spirit dwells within us.

A God of Punishment or Forgiveness?

For hundreds of years, Fr. Orlando, Sapuay, M.S. explains, the people of Israel had been incorrectly taught about the nature of God. They had been taught that, due to Israel’s sinfulness, God remained remote and distant -- more interested in punishment than in forgiveness.

How can an all-good God send someone to hell for all eternity? It's a question about God's goodness as old as religion itself. How can God be all-merciful and all-loving if there is eternal punishment? It's a false question, says Fr. Ron Rolheiser. God doesn't send anyone to hell and God doesn't deal out eternal punishment. God offers us life and the choice is ours as to whether we accept that or not.

But our God is a God of Forgiveness. And Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us that the reason for our optimism is explained by St. Paul in the Second Reading: “Jesus Christ, whom Silvanus, Timothy and I preached to you is not alternatively ‘yes’ and ‘no’. He is never anything but ‘yes’” With these words from 2 Corinthians 1:18-22, we come to a fuller understanding of Christian optimism. When we pray the Mass, we give our struggles over to the Lord. We let God transform our difficulties into occasions of prayer. We need to trust God. He is not alternatively yes and no. He is always yes.

A Community of Faith

As always with the Gospels there are some interesting points to note. In this Gospel story, the obvious point made was how it was the man’s friends who brought him to Jesus and surmounted great obstacles - bringing the sick man through the roof - on his behalf. Jesus himself recognises their faith and the implication by Mark is that it is not because of the paralytic’s faith but because of the faith of his friends that Jesus heals him.

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains that what we see here is the communal aspect of faith. Whatever people say, he adds, faith can never be an entirely personal matter. We are a community of faith and in our common faith we support and nourish each other. Like the paralytic in this story, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. explains further to us, we too need to count on friends who are usually more than willing to help us to meet Jesus

The Eucharist and Confession

What are you thinking, my brothers and sisters, Fr. Richard Lifrak SSCC asks. Do you sometimes feel guilty for the illnesses you have, for your misfortunes, for your bad mistakes, and for your weaknesses. It is for that reason, the good father adds, that we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But alas, laments Father Cusick, today many people have no problem believing that they can forgive their own sins. And they do so. Any Catholic who goes for years without benefit of the sacrament of Confession, he opines, must believe so, for as John teaches, "he who says he is without sin is a liar."

Here's one example of a person who loves Confession. "I try to go to confession every two weeks. I need it. I love it." That's New York NY Archbishop and USCCB President Tim Dolan who shares his thoughts from Rome where he is going to be confered Cardinal by the Pope this week. In a previous story we also shared how he travels incognito on weekends to random parishes in New York, and stands in line unrecognized, waiting his turn to go to Confession. If the good Cardinal-elect, can do it, so can we.

Ash Wednesday and Lent Are Upon Us

Lent starts next week on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. It's the one day of the year when the churches are most packed. Once can't help but marvel at how many people pack into Church to get ashes on their forehead. Even sadder, many of them don’t seem to want communion as much. In fact significant numbers walk out the door after ashes are given and do not stay for communion.

Do you and I intend these things as we go forth or is it just a ritual, something to do because it’s “sorta neat.” What, really do ashes signify? Msgr. Charles Pope thinks that perhaps a brief tour of Scripture is in order. Fr. James Martin, S.J. also reflects on Ash Wednesday, calling it "A Sorrowful Joy."

And Ash Wednesay, of course starts the season of Lent. It also begins the time of repentance. And very year at the beginning of Lent, Taylor Marshall says he's encouraged and excited about it. However after a few weeks, like all of us, he starts growing weary of the fasting and penance. So in order to remind us of why we're keeping Lent, he offers reflections on what Bible teaches about fasting and self-denial.

Fr. John Bartunek, LC likewise shares his thoughts on how to stay strong spiritually during Lent. He says, in general, three things tend to make our Lenten resolutions less transforming than we would like them to be. He share them with us. Paul Dion, STL looks at Lent in the 21st Century and offers his own thoughts on how we should all prepare for the season of fasting, praying and giving.

But what if this was your last Lent. Seriously, give that some thought. How would you react if you were told that this was your last Lent before facing God’s judgment? Would you take a closer look at your life and search more thoroughly for areas needing improvement? This link let's you share your personal thoughts on the topic.

More on Contraception, the HHS Mandate, Etc.

The controversy shows no sign of abating. But it is my opinion that the whole thing offers a bright silver lining. We are openly and publicly discussing the topic of contraception from a Catholic point of view. And our children are hearing it. I bet many of them do not even know that contraception is a sin. But now, they're bring Catechized properly. And we have the Obama administration - albeit unintended - to thank for that. 

Despite what some commentators and politicians think, Church teaching on abortion and contraception has remained unchanged. Fr. Mitch Pacwa says Catholics do well to know this history of moral teaching on contraception and abortion to back up our position against the mandate, as well as to know better how to live the Catholic faith. We present some of the texts from the patristic (early Christian) sources to demonstrate how early was the Christian rejection of these practices, known widely in the Greco-Roman world.

And just prior to 1930, all Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox held that contraception was sinful and contrary to God's will. But today, the only people defending the traditional view universally against contraception are Catholics. We're riding solo and it's a tough battle.

In the discussions regarding American health care and the HHS debate, many folks (even some Catholics) are confused as to why Catholics are so concerned about contraception. "Everybody is doing it," so it can't be wrong...right? Dr. Taylor Marshall examine six reasons why contraception is sinful and contrary to God's will.

And since we're on the topic of sexuality, here's a definitive Catholic guide to sex and dating. "How Far Can We Go?" Mrs. Darwin pulls no punches in this one.

Mardi Gras, Pancakes, Easter Eggs & other Catholic Traditions

Before Ash Wednesday comes Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras and the traditional King's cake or pancakes. Although the drinking, revelry and debauchery associated with the festival of Mardi Gras may not seem to have any association with religion, the truth is that without one of the holiest of Catholic holidays, this highly festive celebration would not exist at all. Danielle Rose explains the story behind Mardi Gras. We also did a little research and came away with some very interesting and cool facts about this aspect of our Catholic faith concerning Fat Tuesday, Lent, Easter Eggs, and much more.

Finally, with official unemployment at just under 9% (the real percentage is probably much higher), it is likely that we all know friends and family affected by this tough economy. It may be difficult to admit, but at some point we run out of helpful advice. We may even start to avoid these wonderful people who need our assistance because we feel embarrassed that we don’t know what to do or how to help. What is the solution? Randy Hain offers "Four Meaningful Ways We Can Help Job Seekers."

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: Should you Confess before Communion?
FEATURED BLOG: A Catholic guide to sex and dating
PASTORAL HISPANA: Nos sana por medio de la comunidad

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