Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Repent, and believe in the gospel."

In this Sunday's Readings, February 26, 2012, we hear the story of the flood and Noah’s ark. Also, the Lenten season begins, for Jesus, as He is driven out into the desert by the spirit. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Escaping the Flood

Fr. John J. Ludvik tells us that finding God in situations like Noah encountered is harder than trying to read the last line on a eye chart. Yet Noah, leaning over the deck railing of his ship persevered and came to see what his eyes were straining to behold: a distance shore and, with it, the hand of God guiding the Ark to the safety of dry land.

The rainbow—this most beautiful and transient of all things—is as we have heard, a reminder of God’s covenant. It is a sign of the close bond He established with us after the great flood. We may do enough things to provoke God’s anger, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS points out to us. But in this great covenant God says that he will be merciful to us. Although we have sinned he will hold back his anger; instead he will love us all the more.

Escaping to the Desert

In Sunday’s gospel account we find Jesus right after His baptism by John the Baptist in the river Jordan. But instead of immediately embarking on His public ministry, Jesus puts himself in a place where time doesn’t matter. He goes out into the desert for forty days and forty nights, there to come to terms with who He is and what His life is to be all about, and what sort of Messiah His Father has called Him to be. This was for Him, explains Fr. Charles Irvin, a time full of great significance. He was "driven out into the desert by the spirit."

Fr. Orlando, Sapuay, MS suggests that we also should retreat to our own desert as a "great escape." But unlike Jesus who was temopted by teh devil, ours wouldn't be a source of "temptation". It would be a place where we might have the opportunity to reflect on all the love in our life - a God who constantly takes us to his heart and cares so much for us. And God's loving presence embodied in family and friends who are ready to be there for us, but sometimes never given the opportunity to be so because of the "crazed madness".

And so, as we begin Lent and relate the forty days the Lord spent in the desert to the forty days of Lent, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino counsels that we also can relate tests that we have had or may still have in our lives.

A Focus on Baptism

The Readings also focus on Baptism. In the First Reading, By Fr. Phil Bloom reminds us that we remember the covenant God made with Noah – a covenant that God continues in the voice of conscience. And in the Second Reading, St. Paul tells us that Noah prefigures baptism because he and his family "were saved through water." During Lent we look forward to the baptism of our elect - and the renewal of our own baptism. Like our ancestors we often do not listen to that voice; we give in to temptations. Jesus has a concrete plan of repentance that includes prayer, fasting and financial sacrifice. Repent, and believe in the gospel.

And we challenge you with our burning question for the week: Why do Catholics baptize infants?

A Focus on Prayer

The life-implication of Mark's gospel is that we must pray as Jesus prayed if we hope to love God as he did with an undivided heart when our time of trial is upon us. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB reminds us that our task then is to sustain private prayer as a habit in our lives, even if we have neither the insight nor the courage to see and address all the double-standards and moral blind spots in our lives.

We need to pray regularly. Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that if we sustain genuine prayer in our lives, eventually sincerity will weed out insincerity, selflessness will weed out selfishness, and grace will weed out sin. 

And so, Fr. John Foley, S. J. suggests, what about letting each Lenten day partake of certain retreat practices? For instance, what about setting aside a little time daily to let your insides settle down for a while, to create space within you to welcome God. Maybe set up a special place in your house or elsewhere just to pray. And why not take some time to read in advance the Gospel from the upcoming Sunday Mass? Sit down, read it slowly, and let the scene described take place within your mind and heart.

Celebrating Lent

John Cardinal O’Connor gives us a Lenten homily on Scrupulosity. He explains that those of us caught up in scrupulosity honestly believe that forgiveness is impossible for us; God himself can not forgive us despite the crucifixion of his Son. Scrupulosity always involves fear: fear of dying without being able to get to confession, fear of not being forgiven by Almighty God, fear of going to hell. It's like having a little sharp stone in one's shoe. This - a sharp little stone - by the way is what the Latin word scrupulus really means.

And so the Catholic blogger that goes by the name of The Anchoress proposes we start Lent by going back to the Sacrament of Confession. If it has been a long time since you’ve been to Confession, she presents an  an article that features two videos that can helpfully explain the process. And then Marcellino D'Ambrosio lists "40 Ways to Get the Most out of Lent." This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of Lenten ideas. But it’s a start!

Last year, at the Vatican, Pope Benedict celebrated Mass on Ash Wednesday at the Basilica of Santa Sabina, marking the start of Lent and the ancient tradition of the station churches in Rome. And following the station church tradition, the faithful this year also make their way to a different church each of the 40 days of Lent for Mass and the singing of the litany of the saints. The tradition started as early as the third century to honor the martyrs of Rome. Similar to the 15 meditations of the Stations of the Cross, the 40 designated station churches offer time for mediation on the lives of the martyrs and prayers of intercession to these Roman saints.

Yay! It's Lent!

Lent is a beautiful time the Church gives us every year to hope again in hard times and to turn our mourning into dancing. Fr. Peter deSousa explains. Mike Gormley agrees. he says Lent is the happiest of all seasons in the Church calendar and the most joyful of all times in life. Say what? Let's allow him to explain.

Meanwhile Msgr. Charles Pope tells us that on Lenten Sundays, rejoicing in the Lord must be our strength. Although Lent is a time of penance, ne reminds us that nevertheless Sunday remains a day of Joy. The Sundays of Lent are not numbered among the forty days of Lent. Between Ash Wednesday are 46 days. The extra six days are the Sundays of Lent.

Developing a Spiritual Wellness Program

Have you ever heard of something called a wellness program? Maurice Blumberg says the idea behind it is to develop a lifestyle that will keep you healthy and make you less vulnerable to illnesses that require a doctor’s attention. The same applies to our spiritual lives. Judith Costello explains that spiritual fitness is a process of tuning into the silence of the heart in order to connect with God. It’s not easy. But that step of finding some quiet time is only opening the door of the gym. It’s the very basic first step. Lots of people open the door, but seem to change their minds and shut it again!

And if you're among those who are suffering this Lenten season, Mark Henderson offers five simple things a day you can do to stay sane. Simple activities such as gardening or mending a bicycle can protect mental health and help people to lead more fulfilled and productive lives, a panel of scientists has found.

More on the Sin of Artificial Contraception

Jennifer Fulwiler reports that a couple of weeks ago, her parish priest gave a homily about contraception. There were over a thousand people packed into the building, and a slight but noticeable tension developed as he inched closer and closer to the subject. The question of how the people will react to a discussion about this most controversial Church teacing was unexpectedly answered when, as Fr. Jonathan returned to his chair at the side of the altar, the pews erupted in spontaneous, thunderous applause.

If there are priests out there wondering whether to take on this topic from the pulpit, consider that your congregation might already be telling you, "Father, We're Ready for that Homily on Contraception Now."

Candy, Lent & Elvis

We go to Hollywwod to close this week's edition. First we give you everyone's favorite Catholic comedian, Judy McDonald, who shares a few timely thoughts for this Lenten season. Dreaming of candy, she asks, what are you giving up for Lent?

And expect a real nun wearing a habit to strut across the stage at this year's Oscar Awards on Sunday, Feb. 26. Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., a former actress turned cloistered nun, will attend her first Academy Awards show since 1959 to show support for “God is the Bigger Elvis,” an Oscar-nominated documentary about her and her abbey. Mother Dolores, 73, was an award-winning actress who performed in two Elvis Presley movies. In 1963, she was about to sign a seven-figure contract and was engaged to a Los Angeles businessman when she decided to join the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn, where she is now prioress. Here's a related story we ran on her a few years back.

For years, i've been telling you all that Catholicism is becoming mainstream. With the positive support the Church is getting from all corners in response to the HHS mandate, this highly visible Catholic display on Oscars nighty should make for an interesting evening in Hollywood. Catch the show this Sunday.

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: Why do Catholics baptize babies?
FEATURED BLOG: Father, We're Ready for that Homily on Contraception Now
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus nos invita a ir al desierto con El

Post a comment.
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email

No comments:

Post a Comment