Thursday, June 14, 2012

"For we walk by faith, not by sight"

This Sunday Jesus teaches the meaning of the reign or kingdom of God by way of parables. He compares the reign of God to the smallest of all seeds - the mustard seed. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

And today, Friday, June 15th, is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Read St. Bonaventure’s tribute to the overflowing love of the Savior poured out for us on the cross and in the Sacraments.

Jesus, the Mustard Seed and His Parables

Jesus speaks to us in parables. Indeed it says in Sunday’s Gospel that Jesus wouldn’t speak to the ordinary people except in parables. However, we are told that He did explain everything to his disciples in private. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS asks, if Jesus had a message of real significance for the world then why did He not speak it in plain language for everyone to understand? Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. explains that through parables, Jesus uses images from our common experience whose truth is evident in order to give us some insight into a reality whose truth is not evident. He uses parables to make us aware that we are a living part of a deeper, real story.

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus uses this three verse parable of the minuscule mustard seed. Though its beginnings are modest, its final height is awesome. How does this apply to the Kingdom of God? We are small, Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains. The movements of the Spirit in us are so modest as to be nearly disregarded. Yet if we are patient, if we watch for growth within us, in winter and in spring rain, the Spirit gradually will surge up and will let us together yield much fruit. It is a miracle of growth in plants and trees, but even more in goodness and grace that is God’s kingdom in you.

The Growth of Our Faith

The story is told that upon his election Pope John XXIII was unable to sleep because the seemingly insurmountable problems facing the Church were pressing upon him. Then the personal meaning of the seed-parables dawned on him. He was able to pray: “Listen, Lord, this Church is yours not mine. I’m going to sleep.” Only in this trust was John XXIII liberated to take courageous actions that were to change the course of world history.

Jesus in the two seed-parables addresses this human tendency to believe that human fulfillment comes mostly through our plans and efforts. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says we are always trying to achieve something of significance, something that will stand out, something that will last. But most often, our lives do not seem to measure up. We feel ourselves small-town, ordinary, unimportant, and so our restlessness begins to eat us up. As a result, when things do not turn out as we have planned and worked to achieve, we become discouraged and lose hope.

The Nazarene is saying to us, "Develop where you are planted." He warns us to that often we quit growing because, as Fr. James Gilhooley says, we prefer groaning. The coming and growth of God’s reign is the work of God’s love. Its complete realization will be evident only when the Son of Man comes in glory. Our response to this truth about the reign of God is to pray for its coming on earth as it is in heaven. Further, it is to do our utmost to prepare for its coming in the particular circumstances of our lives.

When you prayed in public last, did you make the sign of the cross? And did you look around to see if anyone noticed? When you witness in action to the Gospel by prayer you become the fertile soil in which the Kingdom takes root. Your witness to the Kingdom will be undeniable. Such is of the Kingdom of God which all may see and so find shelter under its spreading branches. Father Cusick tells us that the seed is the Word of God. When the Word takes root, the Kingdom grows. We are called upon receiving the Word to meditate upon it in prayer so that it may take root in us and bear fruit in joy and virtue.

The Fight for Religious Liberty

This Sunday, however, we have a more modest task. Fr. Phil Bloom says that is to address the meaning of the mustard seed. To understand the mustard seed will help us appreciate the role of the Church - and lay a groundwork as we grapple with the issue of religious liberty. in light of this, the U.S. bishops have called for a Fortnight for Freedom to bring attention to their concerns about the diminishment of religious liberty in this country and particularly actions taken at the state and federal level that directly or indirectly lay punitive burdens on Catholic institutions for their beliefs.

Their fight with President Obama, they clarify, has nothing to do with party politics or contraception, and everything to do with what they see as a fundamental assault on religious liberty. Fr. John J. Ludvik points out this fortnight of prayer it is to start June 21, the eve of the feast day of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, two saints who were martyred for refusing to bow to the coercion of the crown over the rejection of papal authority by King Henry VIII.

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds us that we are members of the Kingdom of God. We are members of the Church. Therefore, when you are confronted with media attacks upon religion, a media, which by the way, does not represent the basic perspective of the people but tries to formulate a perspective based on its own preconceived agenda, remember that the Church is forever. For the Lord, not people, gives the growth.

As St. Paul tells the Corinthians in Sunday's second reading: we walk by faith, not by sight. May we always stay united to Church so God might work the miracle of His growth through us.

Reflecting on the The Role of Fathers

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 17. Relative to this anniversary, it's interesting to note some eye-opening church statistics. Church attendance among men fell to 43 percent in 1992. Then that number crashed to 28 percent in 1996. No one involved in national men's ministries believes that those stats have improved. So what happens if the father had little or no faith? If the father was semi-active and the mother was a faithful worshipper, only 3 percent of their children became active church members!

The relationship between fathers and their children is one of the most important and influential of all human connections. Children want to be like their fathers, or their complete opposites. They can feel protected, smothered, or abandoned by their dads. Barbara Curtis is one who used to think there wasn’t much to celebrate on Father’s Day. Like many American kids, she never really had anyone to buy a card for. Her father left when she was 5 — fulfilling his own dreams while turning four others into a nightmare. She's not looking for sympathy — just trying to make a point about how necessary fathers are to the family, and how disadvantaged children are without them.

Dads can wonder if they’re doing fatherhood right, struggle to express their love to their children, or regret the things they didn’t say or do. But according to Joseph Sinasac, for men, fatherhood is about as close to playing God as they are going to get in their brief lives. Anyone who has ever been through the birthing room experience as their wives brought forth their child knows the exhilaration, exaltation and sheer joy that arises, even in circumstances that, for the mother in particular, are painful and exhausting.

God as Father? Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio talks about how the Fatherhood of God has come under fire with the rise of feminism. If we know that God is pure spirit who transcends male and female, masculine and feminine, why preserve what some believe to be the antiquated, patriarchal practice of referring to the divinity as "Father"? This article uses the occasion of the American observance of Father's Day to address this issue. And Kathryn Lopez summarizes the qualities of fatherhood that Jesus reveals to us from God in the father in the following ten points from the Bible.

Godly Dads

Any way you slice it, the father/child relationship can stir up a lot of emotions, so it’s no wonder these emotions have sometimes been channeled by musicians into songwriting gold. Fatherhood doesn’t get as many songs penned about it as romantic love to be sure, but there have definitely been some dad-themed gems put out over the decades. In honor of Father’s Day this Sunday, here are 10 Great Songs About Dads.

We also ask you to take a moment to watch this special video message and share with the Godly Dads in your life as a reminder of what a blessing they are to us.

And once again we bring back a ParishWorld Fathers Day tradition - the story of a father's unelievable love for his disabled son. We try to be good fathers. But compared with Dick Hoyt, I together with most other fathers suck. Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day. Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. On a bike. Makes Taking your son bowling look a little lame, right? This is one of those truly remarkable stories. Read his story here. But make sure you watch the video.

So this coming Fathers Day, let’s give fathers their due, even if it is a just a hug. They don’t ask for much, but they are needed more than ever. Here are a few ways to celebrate "father" on father's day rather than just by giving more stuff.

He Walked "The Way"

Most of those who have seen "The Way," the 2011 film starring Martin Sheen, have in their minds lived this pilgrimage vicariously. Webster Bull is one who, after being inspired by the movie, recently spent 25 days actually walking the road to Santiago. He notes among other things that there are precious few American Catholics on the Camino de Santiago this spring. But is the film even accurate? Or are all these "Way" watchers living a dream? He says the answer is both yes and no.

Let's see what Emilio Estevez's film—about a father (Sheen) who walks the Way after his son (Estevez) dies here—gets right and gets wrong.

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: Must we believe the Church 100% to be Catholic?
FEATURED BLOG: What "The Way" Gets Right and Wrong
PASTORAL HISPANA: Una Semilla de la Esperanza

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