Thursday, March 1, 2012

"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."

In our Readings for this Sunday, March 4, 2012 - the 2nd Sunday in Lent - we are presented with accounts of two extraordinary events. First we have the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac and, in the Gospel, the story of the Transfiguration. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

"This is my beloved Son."

The past week's Gospel readings from mark were questions about the identity of Jesus. In this Sunday’s readings, Mark provides the answer. Jesus is the ”Father’s Son, the Beloved."

Matthew in his account (17:1-13) tells us the apostles did what we would do. Fr. James Gilhooley relates to us how the apostles fell on their faces in fear. They experienced a thunderous power followed so quickly by the warmth and love of small light. Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains that the Transfiguration the apostles witnessed the true contrast between God’s transcendent greatness—too much for human eyes—and Jesus’ quiet love. He is our glimpse of the awe filled intensity of God-the-infinite through our tiny, finite eyes. Jesus is God as one of us.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser says there's a divine fire within each of us. If we link ourselves to it properly and connect it to the other world, it becomes godly energy, the source of all that's wonderful in life. Fr. Phil Bloom tells us the same thing. Each of us has within a glory, not an absolute glory, but the potential for glory. We can only realize that potential by taking two steps - first, following the commandments and second, facing that we need outside help. That only through the passion of Jesus can we realize our glorious potential - the resurrection.

As the apostles looked at Christ's majesty, they caught a glimpse at what their own future state would be - a condition we hopefully will share. There is much to look forward to after our death.

"Listen to Him."

Holiness is the best defense. Father Cusick reminds us that the strength of a holy life is possessing and living Christ's own life, the Resurrection and the Life which is victorious over every power.

When we realize that the words, "Listen to him," are directed to each one of us, we must take very seriously the implications of such a command from God. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says this surely must mean that we too are expected to "visit" this mountain of the Transfiguration, where we can be "illuminated" by the sure knowledge that, when all is said and done, the most important thing that we can do in this life is to "die," as Jesus did, because we love and care for others.

We come to church to worship God before whom the angels are advised to veil their faces. This is the same God at whose sight Peter and his fellow apostles broke out into a cold sweat. Unfortunately, too many of us bring a laid-back air to worship. Think of the chattering so many adults indulge in. It is we who teach children how to behave in church. Think too of the way we dress coming into the presence of the King of kings. Some of us resemble "unmade beds."

Lent and Abraham's Covenant of Faith

Everyone knows that Lent is about sacrifice. So it’s fitting that the first reading in the second Sunday of Lent recounts one of the most famous sacrifices of all time. Abraham manifested a living faith in God, a quality of faith that the world had never seen before. Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his own son. What a Sacrifice!

Isaac was a very special son to Abraham, and yet he was called upon by God to make a sacrifice of His son. Each of us has an Isaac in us. Fr. John J Ludvik says everyone has something or someone dear and precious, without which or whom life appears devoid of meaning, and joy is unattainable. God never asks of us anything that He’s not willing to do Himself. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio rightly reminds us that God also gave up His only Son for us.

We must always remember, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino points out, that that the covenant God made with Abraham he also makes with us if we, like Abraham, do everything we can to cultivate a living faith. This Sunday’s readings therefore allows us to get clearer on the connection between Abraham’s Sacrifice, God’s, and what we should give up for Lent.

And as Lent gets going, most of us start thinking of what we should give up. Chocolate? Starbucks? American Idol? It would be good to reflect on our personal sacrifices for God by trying Abraham's own sacrifice on for size.

Spiritual Exercises for Lent

Until Saturday, Benedict XVI and the members of the Roman Curia are gathering in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the apostolic palace to follow the three daily meditations offered by Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. And the central theme of the Lenten spiritual exercises under way in the Vatican is Communion with God. He said, "The Pope's appeal, to us, is profoundly real. When one is in Africa and one sees the poverty, the misery, the wars, all the chaos that exists, one cannot fail to think of this. That is why we accepted without doubt the Pope's Message: because it fits our reality."

Sandro Magister also repoosrt from Rome the the instructions of Benedict XVI for traversing the desert of the world and overcoming the temptations of power and success. He said the Pope offers a message, a catechesis, a twofold "lectio divina." The Lent of the Church according to teh pope is either supremacy or the Cross. The question is will he be heeded?

From New York, we bring you a pice about Timothy Cardinal Dolan. The new cardinal of New York gave a stemwinder of a homily Saturday night and it’s just too good not to share. In the homily, the good cardinal says, "I asked Jesus to help me fight the same temptations he did.” Looking for something to kickstart your Lent? Take 20 minutes and watch one of the greatest preachers in the American church.

Just Pray

The Transfiguration has often been considered a parable of prayer. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us that prayer is a response to the invitation of God to come up the mountain to be with him for a while, in other words to leave our ordinary cares and concerns in order to spend time alone with him. Our response is to place ourselves quietly in the presence of God so that we can spend time apart with him.

I hate to tell you this, but you’re going to have to pray today. Simcha Fisher says any Lenten penance you’re doing—any fasting, any sacrifice, any alsmgiving, any good works —these are all very well. But if you’re not praying regularly, it’s like calling someone your best friend and then—well, not talking to him. And we share a littel prayer that's one of the favorites of a Canossian sister who calls herself Sister Lisa. It's the one prayer that her fellow Sisters around the world pray each morning, asking for the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows. Chekc it out. It could become your favotite as well.

Bible, Returning Catholics & More

Do you realize that if it had not been for the Catholics of the 1500s, there would be no King James Bible? A new Vatican exhibit explains the Church connection to the 400-year-old book of Scripture. Many of the original Bibles that formed the basis of the King James Bible came from Catholic priests. Very few changes were made. The ancient writings that the King James writers actually mimicked and copied were by Catholic priests. The Vatican exhibition hopes to show that all Christians can share the King James Bible in common.

We also share this report that the Church’s catechism for young people has is now the top selling Catholic book in the world. The latest figures show that Youcat has sold 1.7 million copies worldwide. It’s been a great success in nearly every country where it has been published.

Meanwhile Msgr. Charles Pope looks at how the Catholic faith sets down deep roots that, for many never go away, even if they leave for many years. There’s just something about being a Catholic. Saying wood already touched by fire is not hard to light, he notes many do return. And even for those who have yet to return, they still surface from time to time and their Catholic roots stir within them.

Life Lessons

Dr. Scott Hahn had a recent ordeal with emergency surgery. And it taught him a few things. It was the first time he'd ever heard his death spoken of as being potentially imminent. And soon he would experience a string of other “firsts” including his first reception of the Anointing of the Sick.

As an enlisted member of the Army, and now an Officer, Mike Inscho has gone through what was essentially two separate stints at basic training. He said during the training, it was difficult to see the lifelong lessons being drilled into you. Now, however, years after finishing, it’s easier to put a finger on those lessons and apply them to everyday life. He shares them with us - 4 Basic Life Lessons from Basic Training.

While Simcha Fisher reflects on her latest, and most difficult, pregnancy. In the process she figured out a thing or two about life in general. Maybe other people don’t have to be pregnant to figure these things out, but she did! Here’s what she learned: Eight Lessons of Pregnancy that Everyone—Yes, Everyone!—Can Use.

Ponder this, if Jesus was on Facebook would you add Him as your friend? Msgr. Charles Pope lamenst that with all the communicating we do today, how likely is it that God can get a message through? It led him to ponder, what if the Lord WERE on Facebook? If you're on Facebook, you must read this.

Finally, check out this list of five things you buy that don’t actually work the way you think. We've learned to be skeptical of product packaging and not always trust the claims it makes, but our hopefulness sometimes gets the best of us. Here are five products you've likely used, or maybe even purchase regularly, that don't yield the results you may expect.

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: Is Jesus truly present at Holy Eucharist?
FEATURED BLOG: Church Works of Mercy and Federal Funding
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus en la transfiguracion nos invita a escuchar a Dios

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