Thursday, June 27, 2013

"No one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God"

In Sunday’s Gospel for June 30, 2013, Jesus is on the march and will not be turned back. He is fierce and sometimes the readings startle us. He “rebukes” the disciples. A man along the way wants to bury his father and then follow Jesus. But Jesus shouts, “Let the dead bury the dead.” He is moving fast, and his mood is intense. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Facing resolutely towards Jerusalem

Scholars call the first portion of Luke’s Gospel the “Galilean Ministry,” (Luke 3:1-9:50) which has been the subject of our scripture readings until this Sunday (except for the insertion of Lent and Easter). Now a new section of Luke begins, called the “Journey to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51-19:28).

In the opening words of today's Gospel, Luke clearly states where Jesus is headed. He is going up to Jerusalem where, as we heard predicted in last Sunday's Gospel, he will be put to death. Fr. Orly Sapuay, M.S. explains that going to Jerusalem for Jesus is, above all, the fulfillment of his mission as the one who brings peace to souls, beginning with his own.

"Follow Me"

Jesus calls to several people in the gospel story to follow Him. He is likewise calling us. At all costs, we must keep advancing. And, if we stumble and fall, we must like our Master pick ourselves up and move forward once again.

Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says the first lesson for those who would travel with Jesus is to put aside all initiatives prompted by anger and prejudice. Fr. James Gilhooley points out that Discipleship is a total commitment, and Jesus wants us to know from the beginning that following him will lead to the crucifixion. If we would truly follow Him, says Father Cusick, then we must embrace His humility, expressed outwardly in His humble earthly circumstances.

Without a doubt, explains Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, Jesus speaks forcefully to us about the call to discipleship, of following him. Let us not mourn the impossibility of going back to the past, but eagerly move on to wherever Christ calls us. It is a challenge to be sure, suggests Dan Finucane, a student at Saint Louis University.

When Jesus speaks about those who are "fit" and those who are "not fit" for the kingdom of the God, Fr. Phil Bloom explains that our Lord will accept the tiniest step. But He will not rest until we have given Him all. Half-hearted discipleship simply will not be acceptable. Jesus is saying that Christianity (and Catholicism) are challenges, not just warm blankets. Jesus values God more than safe sleep, more than family funerals, even more than courtesy to family and friends, as Fr. John Foley reminds us.

And so as you walk the road of your life each day, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS asks us to be prepared. He says be ready for that day when Christ on that same road comes walking by and addresses you with those simple but deeply challenging words: 'Follow me!'

Second Reading: Paul to the Galatians

In this Sunday’s second reading, St. Paul says that the Flesh and the Spirit are directly opposed. Does that mean that he is squeamish about the fact that we have bodies? Are we to reject the physical dimension and try to live like angels? Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio explains.

And as the Fourth of July weekend approaches, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino saw in Paul's letter a reflection on our country and how we Americans give great weight to the law.

Understanding our Catholic Faith

Fr. John Bartunek, LC tackles the concept of indulgences and offers a most basic clarification: Salvation Is Not a Math Problem. It's one of the many Catholic beliefs that Protestants have had issues with. And Sacred Traditions is another one. Delving into the Protestant mindset, Mark Shea says that one basic rule of thumb to understand in Catholic/Protestant conversations is that it is not the case that Catholics rely on Sacred Tradition and Protestants don’t. Rather, Catholics rely on Sacred Tradition and know they do, while Protestants rely on (parts) of Sacred Tradition and (usually) don’t know they do.

Bringing Back our Fallen-away Young Adults

We also look into the generations-long exodus of our Catholic young adults away from our faith and how we can bring them back. A dissertation we encountered points out that most young adults who were raised Catholic don't experience choosing to practice the faith as "coming back" to something inherited from their parents at all. They experience it as a pioneer or convert does, discovering a new and amazing land for the first time. We'd be smarter to call these younger seekers "discovering" Catholics rather than "returning" Catholics. Because it is a difference that makes all the difference in how they approach the faith and what they ask of us.

Sweet Surprises

Arwen Mosher lost her iPod Touch while we on vacation with her family. Then a sweet surprise came to her when she found it inside a FexEx box she received a few days later. A total stranger found it and returned it to her - even paying for the shipping. There's still a lot of good in our cynical world. The kindness of strangers prove it everyday.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Does God want you to be rich?
FEATURED STORY: "Discovering" or "Recovering" Catholics?
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

"But who do you say that I am?"

In this Sunday's Gospel story, June 23, 2013, Jesus asks a simple question. “Who do the crowds say that I Am?” All volunteer an answer, because describing other people’s opinions requires no personal commitment whatsoever. But then Jesus asks them a tougher question: “Who do YOU say that I am?” Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

This story is clearly divided into three sections: the first, where Peter answers the question, "Who do you say that I am?" with the reply "The Christ of God." The second section is a prediction of the passion, "The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously." And the third is the news that those who want to follow Christ must take up their own Cross. From this moment onward in the Gospel, Jesus is on his way to Golgotha and the cross.

"Who do you say I am?"

Jesus' question had as much relevancy down the centuries as it did when it was first asked in the northeast corner of Palestine. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains how the replies of the disciples are varied, as are those of each of us today when Jesus, through someone else's lips, asks us the same question, and with increasing frequency and intensity.

In fact, each Christian of every age must give an answer. As Fr. James Gilhooley suggests, we must decide whether we are His disciples or just His fans. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino agrees that it is indeed serious business being a Christian. The enemy is the egocentricity of a world that thinks it does not need God. We must determine who Jesus is for us is, This, according to Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS, is the question and the work of a lifetime. It is the only question that matters.

"The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously."

Notice that this statement echoes the First Reading for Sunday, written five hundred years before Christ. It describes a day of mourning because of “him whom they have pierced.” Fr. John Foley, S. J. says this text portrays Jesus’ divinity perfectly, one who would descend straight into our suffering and would stay with us all the way, not turning back, not forgetting to love us. Jesus tells us he must suffer and die - he must give his blood for us. Today it is in the celebration of the Mass, Fr. Phil Bloom reminds us, that we enter that mystery and receive the remedy for our sins.

As this gospel story ends, Jesus throws the disciples a curve ball. He strictly forbade them to tell this to anyone.” Why? Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains in "The Messianic Secret and the Cross."

We must take up our own Cross

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS points out that many regard Christ as the only person who ever lived who is really worth following - that is except for this teaching on suffering and the Cross. Unfortunately the Cross is not only part of the central message of Christianity. Accepting the Cross is its central requirement.

The litmus-test for Christian orthodoxy, Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us, is not the Creed. Can you take in bitterness, curses, hatred, and murder itself, and give back graciousness, blessing, love, understanding, and forgiveness? That is the root invitation inside of Christianity. Being Christian doesn’t cause our human differences to disappear and vanish. Fr. Charles Irvin says it is the sharing in all of Christ’s Sacraments that makes our differences irrelevant when it comes to living together in the life of God given us in Jesus Christ.

The Church now proclaims the good news that the Risen Son of Man and Messiah is present among us to create us anew in His own image. We learn what that means in the unique circumstances of our lives through the life and teaching of Jesus. By doing so, Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. preaches, we will be able to help fix the corruption and lawlessness that fills the earth, rather than adding to it. It is the very same message that Bretton DeLaria, a Junior at Saint Louis University, saw in the Readings. He was thirsting for Him, for that spiritual food that would reach the depths of his soul and fill that thirst for Christ Jesus.

Fathers Day was June 16

Sunday, June 16, was Fathers Day. And it invited us to ask a very important spiritual question – what does it mean to call God “Father?” Also, please do take a moment to share this special video message with the Godly Dads in your life as a reminder of what a blessing they are to us.

In another video, country music singer Kenny Rogers has a song called “Water and Bridges,” which highlights a father's pain after losing a child to abortion. Rogers said the song is not about him, but is "really about choices you make when you're young that you pay for when you're old." Plus, Fr. John Flynn, LC reflects on the growing number of children today are in the dark about the identity of their biological father. A recent report looked into Anonymous Parenthood - The Consequences of Sperm Donation.

This celebration of FAthers Day was quite timely specially when you read this report from a Catholic group that says popular primetime television shows engage audiences daily for an hour. This is longer than the average child gets to spend with his parents. On average, parents spend only 49 minutes with their children every day.

Bo Sanchez reflects fondly on his relationship with his father. "Hug Someone Today While There's Still Time" is his story and it is very timely for all of us today. And finally, we bring back "I Can Only Imagine," one of those truly remarkable stories. Make sure you watch the video at the end. This gripping story of love will remain in your consciousness for a very long time.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. A blessed and happy Fathers Day to all dads.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Is Jesus & God the same?
FEATURED BLOG: Awesome Dad Cheat Sheet
PASTORAL HISPANA: Quien dice la gente que soy yo? 
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

In this Sunday's Gospel story, June 16, 2013, Luke draws a sharp contrast between the smug and self-righteous Pharisee who keeps all the rules but does not have the sensitivity to perform the basic acts of kindness toward a guest and the woman who has a reputation for sinfulness but who receives Jesus with loving service. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

The Gospel of Forgiveness

Sunday’s Gospel passage comes to us from St. Luke’s gospel. None of the Evangelists speaks as frequently as he does about the forgiving spirit that motivates the Nazarene. That is why Fr. James Gilhooley call Luke's Gospel the Gospel of Forgiveness. It was by no accident that St. Luke in his gospel included Sunday’s episode about Jesus, the Pharisee, and the sinful woman with her tender affection.

Lauren Butler, a Junior at St. Louis University, talks about the many aspects of forgiveness that she finds revealed and spoken about in this Sunday’s readings. Love did not motivate the Pharisee. But it was love that motivated this sinful woman in the Gospel. Fr. Charles Irvin says it is so important for us to ask ourselves if we can capture some of the woman’s fervor, some of her love. If we think of the Pharisee’s house as representing the world around us as we find it in our day, can we see ourselves and see our Church as this womansinful and in need of healing and forgiveness?

Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. points out how Religion brings out the best and the worst in people. This is very clear to us nowadays. Many religious people are not worshipping God but themselves. He says there is no ego quite so poisonous as the religious one. It is indeed laudable to attend Mass and to take seriously all the rules of good Christian conduct. But, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, OSB. reminds us, all of this careful observance can be spoiled if it is not accompanied by a genuine spirit of love and forgiveness.

Treasuring Forgiveness

These lessons of forgiveness are also repeated in the story of King David in the First Reading. He had committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, then had her husband killed so he could marry her. The prophet Nathan confronted David who had to face the consequences of his sins. But that is not the main point. David received a further word. Nathan said to him: "The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin; you shall not die."

Fr. Phil Bloom tells us that like David - and like the penitent woman in the Gospel - we also must acknowledge our wrongs and turn to the One who even forgives sins. Jesus forgave the sinful woman immediately, no matter how bad she had been. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says our Lord does the same for us. He does the same for those who have hurt us, and He does the same for those whom, in our arrogance, we would rather avoid.

But usually you and I have it backwards. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says we think we have to get rid of all our sins and turn into perfectly loving people in order for God to love us. But in reality we are already loved to perfection by the good Lord, and we begin to change as we slowly let that love in. Jesus makes clear that great love springs from a heart forgiven and cleansed. The reconciliation, peace and forgiveness that God wants are based on truth, justice and love, explains Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB.

Pondering the Great Reversal

Growing up, as part of their family prayer, Fr. Ron Rolheiser said they used to pray for a happy death - cradled in the loving arms of family, friends, and church, fully at peace with God and everyone around you. But not everyone gets to die that way. Too often we die with unfinished business, too much of it. As the old confiteor says: we need forgiveness for what we’ve done and left undone.

Msgr. Charles Pope adds that one of the strong traditions of Scripture is of the great reversal that will one day come for many. He ponders this great reversal with this thought: "Many Who are Last, Will Be First." This is the story being lived today by a dying Catholic businessman from San Diego, CA. "Life on earth is a test” for Shane FitzMaurice who is preparing for eternity as he battles the fatal Lou Gehrig's disease.

What Do you Expect From Holy Communion?

Msgr. Charles Pope tells of his observation that some people put more faith in Tylenol than they do in Holy Communion. That’s because when they take Tylenol they expect something to happen. But many people don’t really expect anything to happen when they receive Holy Communion.

He also talks about the consternation that more stress is not placed by many on receiving Holy Communion worthily. This issue needs to be approached carefully because two important goods are at stake that must be kept in balance. First, frequent reception of Holy Communion which is a great and necessary food for us as Jesus insists in John 6:50-55. And secondly, worthy reception which the Holy Spirit through Paul warns is also necessary in 1 Cor 11:27ff. He asks us to look at these texts briefly.

Prayer & Our Technological World

Like many Christians, we often struggle to discern God’s will in our lives. Faced with crucial decisions or worrying circumstances, we sometimes find the right relationship between action and trust, not merely difficult to attain but downright impossible to determine. When does resignation to God’s will become an excuse for laziness and passivity? At what point does careful planning morph into an anxiety-driven need to control outcomes and usurp God? Marion Fernandez-Cueto offers some answers in "Praying hard and trusting harder."

Our prayer life is even more challenging now with today's Internet, e-mail, and other digital innovations. Our increasing reliance on them is not just changing the way we relate to our families and friends, Rev. James Martin, S.J. says. It is even rewiring our relationship to God. In "Does E-Mail Make It Harder to Pray?" he explores how the Digital Age is changing our spiritual lives.

Even priests are not exempted from the challenges posed by technology. Fr. Robert Barron s one of the leading Catholic evangelical priests today and he uses technology to its fullest extent to bring God's word to the world. He offers words of wisdom and support to those struggling to understand the role of the priest amidst today's hardship and controversy.

Finally to round up this section on technology, we offer you "Five Tips to Purify Your Home From Inappropriate Content." Learn how you can protect your family from impure images, movies, and even predators.

Stories of Hope

And just what do you think the world would have been like without Andrea Bocelli, Italian pop, opera, and classical singer? With millions of infants having been victim to abortion, the blind international music sensation has revealed that he too could have been one more abortion statistic.

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: What commandments require restitution?
FEATURED BLOG: Seeking a Sign
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