Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies"

In this Sunday's Readings for Mar. 25, 2012, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast say to Philip, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Jesus responds, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Jesus did many good things for us during his 3 year ministry – but to bear all the fruit he was destined to bear according to the Father’s plan, the seed of his life had to fall into the ground and die. This Sunday’s gospel tells us that He would not settle for less. The question, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio asks, is -- will you?

"Sir, we would like to see Jesus."

No other Gospel contains the story of the Greek travelers who approach the Apostle Philip asking to see Jesus. That is not surprising according to Fr. James Gilhooley. John's work was written to present Christ to the Greeks and Gentiles. His Jesus was designed for export.

Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB explains further that the incident of the Greeks asking to see Jesus marks a turning point in the fourth gospel. Before, as at the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus had always said that his "hour" had not yet come. Now through the symbolic presence of the Greeks, Jesus will be able to draw everyone to himself -- Gentiles as well as Jews, people today as well as people of the first century. We, too, would like to see Jesus.

And how do we know the Lord? Not only know about him, but actually know him? The Greeks in this Sunday's Gospel showed how it begins with this request, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." To see Jesus, that is the key to knowing God. To see Jesus, explains Fr. John Foley, is to enter the "new covenant."

The Crucial Hour

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino explains that through the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, His hour has become our hour, His death has become our life, our deaths have become His life, His love.

And why is all this necessary? Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that we will find the answer precisely when we ponder in the biblical sense, namely, when we stand helpless, muted, and frustrated, but listening, before a pain, an illness, or an injustice that so overwhelms us that we are unable to rely on any power -- save that of God. What is taught us there holds the key to everything.

The crucial "hour" when one must choose either to love one's life in this world above everything else, or to love one's life in God, of course, will come in the particular circumstances of one's own world. And that is why we are here. God believes in us enough to love us. Fr. Charles Irvin says God has given Himself to us in Jesus Christ. God offers Himself to us and then waits for our response. Is not that what receiving Him in Holy Communion is all about?

"Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies"

All food has to die first. The grain is plucked from the ground, dies, is crushed, mixed and baked to make bread. The fresh fruit and vegetables we eat were all yanked off their life support and are in the process of death when we eat them. In order for us to sustain life, we live off the dead and the dying.

Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. tells us that in order to follow Jesus, we need to be like a kernel of wheat and die. We have to die to self in order to bear much fruit. But, Father Cusick points out to us, we are not alone in our temptation to reject the crosses by which we are born into life if we will only bear them with patience and courage. Our sharing in baptism is the gift of grace so that we can desire a share in Christ's redemptive passion as the focus and purpose of our lives.

As we live through hard times, struggle with questions about faith, and as we love people we don’t like, God continues to call us closer. Fr. John Foley, S. J. assures us how Jesus continually to tell us, do not worry, child, trust me. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” Jesus tells us. And so may we have eyes to see and ears to hear what the God of love has in store for us.

The Assault on Religion Freedom

Today, March 23, more than 120 cities and towns across the U.S. will hear a demand to stop the Obama administration's contraception mandate and restore the freedom of religious institutions and believers. Click here to find a location near you and join the freedom rallies.

The political conversation from the left continue to try to paint this issue as an affront to women instead of the real assault on religious freedom that it really is. "Where are the women?" they ask mockingly as if women in the Catholic Church are oppressed minions of the heirarchy. Kathryn Jean Lopez replies for the majority of Catholic women when she says, "I am a woman and I’m offended." She adds, " I am offended that, once again, parties in positions of power have decided to pretend that all women are cut from the same political cloth. I am alarmed that religion is increasingly seen not as a vibrant good in our democracy but as a mere sideshow for nostalgic people or citizens in need of a crutch."

The discussion from the left also paints the Catholic Church as out of teach with reality. They say Catholics are weak-minded and brainwashed into their beliefs. So how can we claim that the Catholic explanation of reality is the true one? Anna Williams offers a great answer: because no other explanation suffices.

One of the favorite bats the anti-Catholics like to hit us with is the idea that Catholicism, because it is a dogmatic religion--must therefore stifle free thought and free speech. "How nice for you" the condescending Anglican will say to the convert, "Now you're a Catholic you won't have to think anymore." Or, "It must be nice to be a Catholic and have such 'certainty.'" This is said with a snuffling, cynical laugh because by 'certainty' they mean that you have become a mindless moron. Fr. Dwight Longenecker joins the discussion and offers a sweeping explanantion why dogma is so important in espousing free thought.

And remember Fr. Guarnizo from Washington, DC? He’s the one who withheld communion from a Buddhist lesbian activist. Judith Costello offers her take on this riveting story, drawing tangents on her own personal and family life to make her point. Paul Dion offers a very enlightening preface to this article.

Marriage, Adoption & Porn

Lent seems to be the ideal time to look at marriage. Fr. Jesus Richie Santos, SDB advises all married couples that this season is an ideal time for the renewal of their marriages. So, how does your Lent journey shape what you are called to do in marriage? The good priest offers sage words for married couples.

Brianna Heldt and her husband have three biological children. Then they adopted a child. And something she's regularly asked as an adoptive parent is, "How did you decide to adopt?" She offers ten great reasons that will make you take a second look on your own thoughts on adoption.

An unmarried sixteen year old explains how he somehow thought the “don’t commit adultery” commandment had little to do with him. Now he realizes he couldn’t have been more wrong. The truth is that this commandment isn’t only for married people. It’s violated by all ages – including teenagers – almost daily. Everything’s about sex. Check out this very enlightening article about Porn and The Sixth Commandment.

Born Again? Are You Saved?

Why don't Catholics go around saying ‘we are saved?’ In his parish's bulletin last Sunday, a San Francisco priest explains the age-old theological dispute over salvation. Catholicism holds that we are justified by grace and that grace is caused by faith and good works. Meanwhile Protestantism believes that we are justified by grace and that grace comes through faith alone. This article is one of the best explanations we've seen on this topic. I urge all Catholics, fallen-away Catholics and Protestants to read this and be enlightened.

Which brings us to our Burning Question this week: Do Catholics believe our salvation is a sure thing? Paul Dion, STL leads the discussion and he invites you to jump in.

Growing Your Parish & Tithing

What if your pastor stood up next Sunday and said he wanted to double the size of the parish within one year? That's exactly what happened at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic parish in Washington DC, a predominantly African-American parish. Monsignor Charles Pope made that bold challenge last September and then got to work. In a year he not only doubled the size of his parish, he also created a community of fervent faith and heightened spiriituality. Watch this video interview and see how you can do the same for your own parish.

Bo Sanchez tells us about this Old Testament verse that’s, uh, how should I put it… a bit bothersome. In this controversial verse, God said, “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings.” Bo pokes our hearts with this challenging question, "Why is not giving your tithe stealing from God?" Chew on that for a minute.

Finally, if you think your iPhone is something, wait until you see this. This video is simply amazing! It shows how glass will radically change our lives sooner rather than later. If you're ever wondering why HP and others are dropping desktops, the answers are in this video and the ideas are mind-boggling. Watch the clip and step into the near future -- "A Day Made of Glass... Made possible by Corning."

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 Catholics believe our salvation is a sure thing?
Featured Blog: Blogging, Preaching, and Doubling the Size of Your Parish
Pastoral Hispana: La hora de Jesus se acerca y podemos vivirla con El

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