Thursday, February 9, 2012

"If you wish, you can make me clean."

Christians often are confused about suffering. Is it ever good for us? Is it always good for us? Should we feel guilty about wanting to be rid of it? In the Sunday Gospel for Feb. 12, 2012, the story of Jesus and the leper, we find answers to these questions. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Dealing with Suffering

Jewish law was harsh to lepers. They had to live outside towns. If they came upon a clean person, they had to ring a bell and shout, "Leper, leper." The historian Josephus wrote they "were, in effect, dead men." They suffered physical pain, as well as psychological and spiritual pain. Society taught them to believe that they were God's abandoned.

To the many who suffer today, there are lessons to be learned from this story. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio offers two of them. It’s OK to seek relief from suffering. And should we encounter it in others, we must do all we can to relieve it. While Fr. Ron Rolheiser offers a deeper reflection. He says God's seeming indifference to suffering is not so much a mystery that leaves the mind befuddled as a mystery that makes sense only if you give yourself over in a certain level of trust. Forgiveness and faith work the same. You have to roll the dice in trust. Nothing else can give you an answer.

A Lesson in Prayer

The leper approached Jesus and while kneeling cried, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Fr. Phil Bloom says this plea contained a simple, powerful prayer. His prayer needed only eight words. The cured man has taught us how to pray. Fr. James Gilhooley reminds us how Jesus showed a fondness for short prayers. Check Matthew 6:7, "In your prayers do not use a lot of meaningless words..." While Fr. John Foley, S. J. looks at the leper's plea as a confession of faith. His spiritual life had already begun. As Jesus answers, “I do want to.”

From the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI urges all to learn from the dying Jesus to pray for the needs of others. He says that Jesus' prayer on the cross -- "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" -- is a reminder that in prayer, we must also move beyond our own problems and present to God the needs and sufferings of others.

The Compassion of Jesus

This gospel story gives us a beautiful picture of the way Jesus responds to us, when we come to him, admitting our own inadequacies, acknowledging that he alone can make us clean, and throwing ourselves on his mercy.

Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. reminds us that we are all like this leper. We have all been marred and disfigured by sin. But, Fr. John J. Ludvik explains, no outer blemish, no embarrassing failure no sinful mistake no feeling of guilt or shame is going to keep Christ from reaching out to you and touching you. Nothing will keep him from forgiving you and restoring you to the community, your family and those you love.

Doubt sometimes tempts us, but there is one thing we cannot doubt: Jesus' compassion. When we sin, be it a lie or any sin, we complicate out lives. That is why, adds Fr. Joseph Pellegrino, the Bible equates sin with chaos. God brings order in chaos. He replaces complication with peace. Filled with divine compassion, Jesus responds to the temporal needs of people for healing and for food; but ultimately he wants to give the gift of eternal life with God

After the leper was healed, Jesus told him, "Go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded." (Mark 1, 44) Some say that priesthood is a creation of the Church and that Christ did not intend to make a priesthood. Father Cusick points out that here in this verse Jesus acknowledges the Levitical priesthood, which He raised up and made perfect by His own sacrifice, creating an eternal priesthood which shall not pass away.

Celebrating Mass

As a Catholic, it is hard to travel much—attending Masses celebrated by priests you have never seen or heard, in churches you can’t find without GPS—before eventually facing the question: What makes one Mass better than another? But then, Webster Bull adds, there comes another question on its heels: Is that first question even a question a Catholic should ask?

Dorothy Pilarski expresses the feeling that she might getting old because she notices that people don’t seem to know how to behave at Mass anymore. So she offers a good list of 10 Tips on How to Behave at Mass.

Marriage, Contraception and More

As the Catholic furor over the Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate rages, Red Cardigan says she is a little peeved of that 98% thing. She's getting tired of hearing that "98% of American Catholics use contraception." In the first place, she explains, it's such a silly fake statistic.

From Washinton DC, Msgr. Charles Pope rebuts a moving Washington Post story about a dying man who give his Catholic wife the go-signal to marry another man. The wife in return pledges to take care of the husband until his eventual death. The Post article played on people's heartstrings, evoking the essence of the marital vows. But the good monsignor says the story does in fact demonstrate the exact anti-thesis of what that vow truly means.

We also explore the sad end of King Solomon. He was Israel’s third King, known as Jedidiah (beloved of the Lord). His forty year reign was an age of prosperity and national unity. But in the end, his reign ended disastrously, he began to oppress the people, multiplied wives and introduced pagan worship. He died smothered in wealth, sex and power. A man whose heart turned from God. There is a moral lesson for us all to be learned from this.

And Carlos Urbina explores "The Domestic Church" - the Catholic home. The Father is the head, the Mother is the beloved spouse, and the children are brought up learning to love and serve the Blessed Trinity. The true head of the Catholic home is Christ. He offers "7 Steps to a Proper Catholic Home."

And this week Paul Dion, STL comes back to grace us with "Sola Sciptura - Through the Bible Alone." Many of you will recognize a lot of the common expressions he lists. The challenge that hurls at us is to match the expression of everyday English with the Scripture source that gave it to us in the first place. He takes us on a great bible discovery tour.

Winners, Forks, Movies and Downsizing

Winners are planners. Bo Sanchez is sure of it. He says failures don’t plan to fail; they just fail to plan. Think about it, he challenges us. Have you ever met anyone who planned to fail? It's another winning article from this very inspiring evangelist.

Meanwhile, we ran across this story circling the internet about a terminally ill young woman who had three months to live. So, as she was getting her things "in order", she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes."This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand." You have to read this. It will change the way you look at life.

From Hollywood, a recenlt released new study done over a decade surprised many entertainment insiders. Wanna make money in Hollywood? Release patriotic movies that promote conservative values and do not denigrate Christianity. Conservative movies make more money than liberal movies. That's a pleasant surprise.

And finally, what if the server at your favorite fast food joint asked if you wanted to downsize instead of supersizing your order? That’s a strategy that might make some patrons happier – and a lot thinner, a new study suggests. When people were asked if they wanted to downsize portions of their side dishes at a fast food restaurant, as many as a third opted for the smaller – and thus lower calorie - option. Would you?

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: Can we who are sinful be part of Jesus’ mission?
FEATURED BLOG: Are Some Masses Better than Others?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus Tiene Compasion del Leproso

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