Thursday, July 25, 2013

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive" 17C

In this Sunday's Gospel for July 28, 2013, we find Jesus praying. This provokes the curiosity of the disciples who then ask him to teach them to pray. Jesus instructs them in the basic elements of the prayer we know today as the Our Father. This is followed up with some instruction on importance perseverance in prayer and the overwhelming generosity of God. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Prayer is a vitally important aspect of the life of any Christian. One could say that prayer is the life-blood of faith, the vital force that gives us energy and moves our faith forward.

"Teach us How to pray, Lord"

The disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us how to pray.” They came to the Lord. And like them we also come to the Lord, asking the same. This was the longing of their souls then, it is the longing of ours today. We want to be with God.

Jesus is the master of prayer, for as the God-man He prayed perfectly. And He does so still. What is wonderful for us, Father Cusick explains, is that our Lord invites us to enter ourselves into His life of perfect prayer and communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit of God. And in teaching the apostles how to pray, our Lord Jesus gave them - and us - the Lord’s Prayer. And, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino adds, Jesus also gave us the Eucharist. Today He invites us and challenges us to enter into deep prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every time we receive communion.

The Lord's Prayer

Of all prayers, the Our Father is the best known. This is good but it also bespeaks a challenge. For when something is so well known we can say it mindlessly and miss its message. Msgr. Charles Pope tells us that the Our Father gives us more than words to say. It also gives us a structure for our prayer life, a basic plan for our spiritual life. Thus, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. thinks we might best call it "The Disciple's Prayer" for it is a model prayer. It tells us what we are to pray for, and it gives us the order of the requests.

In explaining the meaning of the Lord's Prayer, Marcellino D'Ambrosio, points out how Christianity is absolutely unique. That the supreme Being is not just “King of the Universe” or “Master” but “Father,” and that he desires a close, familiar relationship with Him. This you don’t find anywhere outside the teaching of Jesus. Furthermore, explains Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, this prayer is an apostolic prayer because it is said in the plural and takes for granted one's awareness of a people, of co-responsibility, of solidarity. The Our Father links each of us to the other.

The Lord's Prayer is so central to our Christian experience that when asked how to be a true ontemplative, St. Teresa of Avila is supposed to have said, "You must simply say the Lord's Prayer. But you must say it very, very slowly!" The implication, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says, is that we will never exhaust the wisdom found in this wonderful prayer which is so special because it was given to us by Jesus himself.

Have you ever wondered what if while praying the Our Father, God really answered and initiated a conversation with you? You should read this and see what it just might be like.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

We are often told not to spend too much time in intercessory prayer; they tell us that we should not constantly ask God for this or that. They imply that this is just another kind of selfishness. But this is not what Jesus teaches. Fr. James Gilhooley quotes a prayer leader who once advised his listeners to adopt the A-P-U Program when they pray. When predictably they asked what the acronym meant, he said with a smile, "Be aggressive. Be persistent. Be unreasonable."

‘Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.’ Have no hesitation in asking God for whatever we might need whenever we might need it. Be obstinant, says Fr. John Foley, S. J. Keep knocking and it will be opened to you. And do not doubt the Father’s love and truest desire for you, adds Msgr. Charles Pope. Fr. Phil Bloom sums it up best: Ask, seek, knock. Try God.

But why, Fr. Ron Rolheiser asks, why doesn’t prayer always work? Sometimes we pray for something, pray for it in Jesus’ name, and our request isn’t granted. This likewise presents us with another with an interesting conundrum. Does God respond to our requests by intervening in the world? College student Rachel Blanton points out that God is on God’s time. And it is human to find it difficult to trust God’s time — difficult to be patient, to be persistent.

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains that it is not that we pray for what we want. It is that the Holy Spirit prays in us and gives expression to our deepest desires which, because we are disciples of Christ, are in harmony with God’s What we are being told here is that God’s greatest gift to us is Himself. The person, who experiences grace or healing as a result of prayer, is not moved so much by the grace as by the new awareness of God in his or her life.

Bible, Eucharist, Liturgy & Prayer

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. As the new Missal is is set to be implemented, the topic of “What does active participation mean?” takes on a prominent place for discussion. He rightly says that because the Holy Mass is at the center of the whole Church, it is the center of the Liturgy. For this reason, to talk about liturgical formation is to talk about Eucharistic formation.

But, Rhode Island's Bishop Thomas J. Tobin points out, as Catholics we have the tendency to take for granted God’s most precious gift of the Holy Eucharist and all that it means for us. Although we typically pay lip service to the importance of the Eucharist, he wonders if we really appreciate its significance in our lives.

And although it jumps out of the pages of the Bible with just a cursory reading, the Eucharist is one of several Catholic beliefs that Protestants or ‘Bible Christians’ reject. Eric Sammons offers several others in the “Biggest biblical blind spots of Bible Christians." Plus a recent Catholic convert talks about one of the challenges of Christian parenthood: How can parents help children stay strong in their faith?

We also tackle an interesting question on bio-etics and the latest Church teaching about couples seeking a Catholic marriage: When one or both of the spouses are impeded from having children by a tubal ligation and/or vasectomy, can they marry?

261 Ways to Save Money

Yes, you read it right. This humungous money-saving roundup includes healthy foods that cost under $1 a pound, retirement myths, websites for free TV viewing, most annoying things about grocery stores, stuff marketed to kids that kids simply don't need, and more. It's all here - all 261 ways we found to help you save money.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Should we hold hands during the Our Father? FEATURED BLOG: Never take the Eucharist for granted PASTORAL HISPANA: Dios contesta nuestras peticiones cuando oramos
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"There is need of only one thing."

Last week, the Parable of the Good Samaritan said more than "It's good to help people in need." This Sunday, July 21, 2012, Jesus continues to push the message with the story of Mary and Martha of Bethany, sisters of Lazarus, that teaches us about hospitality, Christian service, prayer, action and contemplation, and distraction. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Hospitality to God

I am sure by now you are all aware that in the scheme of readings presented to us in the Lectionary, the first reading and the Gospel are usually connected or linked in their content. This is nowhere clearer than this Sunday where the common theme is that of hospitality. Two stories about hospitality this week. Hospitality to God.

We see two sisters - Martha and Mary. They represent two different approaches to Jesus. You could say a lot about each of the sisters, but Fr. Phil Bloom expresses the difference this way: Martha wanted Jesus to listen to her, while Mary wanted to listen to Jesus.

Every Guest is Christ

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB calls it the Art of Biblical Hospitality. It's the one necessity in welcoming others into one's home or community is being present to them -- listening to what they have to say, as Mary does in Sunday's Gospel. So the question we have to ask, says Fr. Alex McAllister SDS, is whether we are the sort of person who makes the stranger welcome. This is a challenge we are presented with each day of our lives because each stranger could be Christ himself.

We are to find God in all things, in all the people we know and/or help. And, Fr. John Foley, S. J. tells us, no matter how busy we might be, we must relate to them because God is within them, deep in their souls. Touch them, hear them. Prepare meals for them without forgetting them. We will be giving hospitality to God himself. In other words, Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB suggests, our love must become incarnate in whatever we do to meet the needs of others. Thus, our good work--whether cooking a meal or voting for a bill in congress--becomes a sacrament or an effective sign of our self-giving love.

The Heresy of Good Works

Fr. Orlando, Sapuay, M.S. points out perfectly that the question is not what we can give or offer but how can we be for God and each other. But, the trap, Fr. James Gilhooley explains, it to be seduced to what is called the heresy of good works. In our eagerness to do what we think is God's work, we neglect Jesus' company. Our prayer life grinds to a screeching halt and goes off the boards.

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains that Jesus really cannot be merely a part of one’s life, but must be the center of one’s life. It does not mean that our life can’t be full of activities. Like Martha, Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us, we long for many things and are both buoyed up and fatigued by our own insatiable energies. But unless we preserve some quiet time each day to sit at his feet as did Mary, our action will become distraction and we’ll be as snappy and unhappy as Martha.

University student Rachel Dratnol admits to the reality that while she is willing to elp herself, there is only so much she can do on her own. There is something – someone – much more important. And that someone is God. And in a reflection on the second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino points out that Paul speaks about a mystery, “a mystery that has been hidden for ages is now manifested to God’s Holy Ones. The mystery is this: Christ is in you.”

Morality & Technology

The threats are numerous when we use technology, yet so many people are not even aware there is any threat present. As Catholics we need to be wary of using any technology and understand that while most tech is morally neutral it can be used for good or bad. We need to tread the Moral Minefield of Technology carefully.

Bishop Gabino Zavala, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Communications Committee, added to the technology discussion last month when he spoke at the annual Catholic Media Association convention. He expressed particular concerns about Catholic blogs that engage in attacks and hurtful, judgmental language. He said, "We are very troubled by blogs and other elements of media that assume the role of Magisterium and judge others in the Church. Such actions shatter the communion of the Church that we hold so precious.”

Catholic blogger Eric Sammons points out the dangers of a rising trend in Evangelical churches these days: pastors preaching to multiple congregations through hi-def technology. He points out two real problems: (1) it encourages a cult of personality around the pastor, and (2) it diminishes the sacramental nature of Christianity. While this technology practice has not aggressively landed inside our Catholic circles, these two problems he raised are already starting to become real concerns within some of our own Catholic parishes.

Catholic Marriage, Encyclicals, Clericalism & More

In "Father Knows Best?" The underlying problem with clericalism is dicussed by Fr. Longenecker from a different angle - the psychological. What exactly is going on in a parish when the dog collar rules? What is happening when excessive clericalism takes root? This story offers a very insightful look at spiritual maturity. And in an effort o help clarify what the Catholic Church teaches, Gary Zimak has compiled a list of 10 important facts that every Catholic should know - but don't! More than simply Catholic trivia, these are important concepts that can help us to better understand and defend our beliefs.

From Rhode Island, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin talks about "Godparents: Helpers on the Road of Faith." Supporting parents in the practice of the faith is the particular responsibility of the godparents of the child being baptized. Sometimes however, he laments, it seems that the role of godparents is not properly understood, even by practicing Catholics. And from San Marcos, CA, a theology professor used Pope Benedict's latest encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate" to challenge his high seniors to understand that "Encyclicals Aren't Just for Theologians." And they exceeded his expectations!

Is A Lack Of Love Causing You To Get Sick?

Bo Sanchez asks, "Do you know why so many people are sick?" He said it's because their relationships are poisoning them. So many people are starving for love. But all they get is poison. He offers sage Christian living advice.

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 Superstition a sin? FEATURED BLOG: Hi-def Technology vs. Sacramental Theology
PASTORAL HISPANA: Encontrar a Dios en la Oracion y en la Accion
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to view any of our previous weeks' issues
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"And who is my neighbor?"

The Parable of the Good Samaritan this Sunday, July 14, 2013, says more than "It's good to help people in need." The parable is also about excuses, about self-justification, about letting oneself off the hook. If we listen carefully to this story and the other two Readings this Sunday, we will hear the whole Christian, Catholic life very gently stated. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

The Commission of the Good Samaritan

Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D. explains how this parable reflects a curious phenomenon observable in every age. Good, religious people, who you’d figure to be most likely to help, are often the very ones who use piety and family obligations to excuse themselves from the responsibility of charity. “Someone else will have to do it – I don’t have time.” “I’d like to help, but my budget is already maxed out.” On the other hand, it is often those you’d least expect who actually go out of their way to lend a helping hand.

"What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

The lawyer in today’s Gospel asks a perfectly reasonable question: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Fr. Alex McAllister SDS says it is a question we all want the answer to. Thus it is good to remember that Jesus keeps working us, trying to get us to see the simple answer inside us. Go help those in need, because God has given you an open heart. Fr. John Foley, S. J. laments that if only we would let our heart receive God's love and then pass it on to his other beloved people.

Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains that the question from Jesus is not so much “who is my neighbor?”, rather ”How can I be a neighbor?” Certainly, there is no written law detailing what to do if we come across someone in dire need of our help. But, as Fr. Joseph Pellegrino aptly reminds us, we know in our hearts what we need to be doing and what we need to be avoiding. Christianity is not a spectator sport.

Christ is saying to us, "Stop talking. Just do it." And still we can be silent spectators, explains Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, afraid to involve ourselves and dirty our hands. Compassion demands that we get our hands and even our reputations dirty. Indifference is worse than hostility. But if we work according to the plan of Jesus, Fr. James Gilhooley tells us, we will change our priorities. We will become participants with people in trouble and cease being merely onlookers.

“Go and Do Likewise”

When it comes to imitating the Good Samaritan, we all have a long way to go. University junior Adrienne Edson tells those who seek something more to know that the word of God is in your heart. In what you say and do, you need only to carry out his law. As Fr. Phil Bloom wisely highlights, this Sunday we hear Jesus' encouraging words, "Go and do likewise."

Fr. Ron Rolheiser highlights another quote for this Sunday's Readings: “Be in the world, but not of the world!” Great advice, but not easy to follow. The world needs mature Christians who, like Jesus, have the strength to walk inside the world, right inside the chaos of sin itself, without sinning themselves.

And finally, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. clarifies that such Christian behavior does not mean that we should become doormats or must cater to obsessive-dependants. It does mean, however, that we should be sensitive to the often-hidden needs of others and ready to help in any way we can. Real love will know how to do this wisely and effectively.

Pride, Hope & Magic Sacraments

Msgr. Charles Pope takes on the topic of fruitful reception of the Sacraments. And he emphasizes that the Sacraments are not Magic. How fruitfully a person receives them is quite dependent on the openness and disposition of the recipient. The Sacraments are not magic as though they zap us and change us independently of our disposition. Read more about it here.

Blogger Webster Bull explains another reason why he is Catholic: Because Living in Hope Beats Living in Fear. Why does he experience hope instead of fear? Because he really, ruly believes that the Lord will provide. Give us this day our daily bread, we ask, and He does.

We also discuss One-ups and Put-downs. They are hilarious — when you’re a stand-up comic. But even then, I bet even they don't find it funny when they're the target. Who would? It’s a full-face slap to your pride. Susie Lloyd discusses "The Pains of Pride" and offers an answer: “Offer it up. It’s a gift!” Ego stings can and should be offered up to God. Very sound advice specially for husbands and wives, specially when you consider the latest reasearch findings - Divorce is contagious for family and friends. Researchers say break-ups within friendship groups could cause couples to question their own relationships.

Last week, we brought you the "Top 50 Most Popular Phrases From The Bible." This week, we bring you the "Top 15 Phrases Not Found in the Bible." These quotes are either frequently misquoted from the Bible or not there at all. Here's a teaser: "Money is the root of all evil." Now go ahead and check out the rest on the list.

An Australian Angel & Noah's Ark 
Here's a story about an Australian 'angel' who saves lives at a suicide spot in that country. For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia’s most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called The Gap. And in that time, the man widely regarded as a guardian angel has shepherded countless people away from the edge. Read about him here.

Plus a Bible Lesson that will put a smile on your face. In "That woodpecker will have to go!" an anonymous writer explains that everything he needs to know about life, he learned from Noah's Ark. Here's some samplers: One : Don't miss the boat. Two : Remember that we are all in the same boat. Three : Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark. Keep reading, This is one list you will be forwarding to your email list.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a safe and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Is it better to help in secular or Church work?
FEATURED BLOG: Divorce is contagious for family and friends
PASTORAL HISPANA: Amar a Dios y al projimo es la base de nuestro Cristianismo
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to view any of our previous weeks' issues
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few"

This Sunday, July 7, 2013, both Isaiah's Reading and the Gospel speak of the rejoicing that characterizes the return of exiled Israel to Jerusalem and the return of the disciples after a successful mission. In Luke's Gospel, Jesus, like Israel, is also journeying toward Jerusalem. It is in the holy city of Jerusalem that Jesus will inaugurate the new kingdom of God by his passion and death. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Vocations and Priesthood

When we read this Gospel about Jesus sending out the seventy-two disciples, our thoughts naturally turn to vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Make no mistake about it, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us, God is calling people to the priesthood and to the religious life. But He is calling them through the words and actions of you and me. So let us join Father Cusick who asks us to pray that young people are encouraged to pursue vocations to the priesthood. And let us work hard to create the kind of atmosphere most conducive to the answering of that great call.

The Catholic Church, the communio founded by Christ

In the sending of the seventy-two, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says Jesus confirms that through his disciples - and those who would come to believe in him through their word - His peace and the news that "the kingdom of God has come near to you" would be proclaimed to the world.

Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB preaches that the kingdom of God has indeed come upon us if God reigns in our hearts, if God's will is done in us, if God acts through us. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.says it takes guts to preach this kingdom of God. It is where the hungry are fed and the wounded are healed. Where humanity chooses to become the image of a creative God rather than a selfish force for greed and destruction.

And while it is the Catholic Church where one finds the embodiment of this Kingdom, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains that to some, being Catholic means simply giving up chocolate for Lent. For those however who explore their Catholic heritage, they discover thousands of years of meaning, insight, and life-giving resources.

The Call to Discipleship

Have you noticed how we at our parishes expend so much enthusiasm on cake sales, carnivals, etc that we have little strength left to get His message out to people. His life is called the greatest story ever told. But we have no time to tell it.

And, if anybody is anxious to take a guilt trip, it is estimated that two million Seven Day Adventists give more money to their church - plus two years of their individual lives - for the missions than 800 million Catholics around the globe.

Thus, Fr. John Foley, S. J.says, it is just fitting this Sunday that we concentrate on the duty we all have to go out and spread the good news of the kingdom. Not a flat duty imposed by guilt or command, but by gratitude for the great goodness of God to each of us and all of us. It is this joy that St. Paul speaks about in Sunday’s second reading. It is a joy that can be found only in the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not merely a memory of an event that took place two thousand years ago, that is too simple, too convenient. Our joy is in our sharing the Cross of the Lord.

We are afflicted with the result of following Jesus Christ. Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that Jesus wants imitation - not admiration. Christian discipleship invites us, like Jesus, to become a purifier that helps take tension out of our families, communities, friendship circles, churches, and work-places by holding and transforming it - rather than simply give it back in kind.

"Carry no purse, no backpacks, no sandals." Many people like to think that Jesus was endorsing poverty for His missionaries. Fr. James Gilhooley explains that is not the case at all. Rather, He is telling them that those among whom they labor will supply them with purses, backpacks, and sandals. In a word, He was encouraging His followers to be generous to those working among them.

The "Five Disciplines of Discipleship" by Msgr. Charles Pope - a carryover from last Sunday's Gospel - effectively rounds up this chapter on Discipleship. Jesus is serious about the call and He sets forth sober principles that He expects to be followed.

The Bible, Rosary, Values & More

Well, it seems that more Catholic men are finding spiritual sustenance in praying the rosary. There's no way to know whether the number of men praying the rosary is increasing, but nearly 9,000 people have indicated they like the "Real Men Pray the Rosary" on the group's Facebook page. Check them out. Plus we bring you the "Top 50 Most Popular Phrases From The Bible." These are the most commonly used phrases in our modern culture and most of us didn't even know their origin.

Now here's more food for thought. Msgr. Charles Pope challenges us to think about "What Do We REALLY Value?" Often times we answer the question the way it should be answered rather than the actual and truthful answer. Ask a believer who is most important in their life and they will usually answer, “God.” Others who are unbelievers will often say, “My spouse” or “My children” and so forth. That is the expected answer but is it really the truest answer?

Happy Fourth of July!

Independence Day was yesterday. University student Amy Winkler reflects on the Sunday's Readings and the National Holiday that they accompany this year. She was drawn to think about independence and dependence. Check it out.

This year, like all others, we celebrated the 4th of July in the United States with the usual parades, ceremonies and display of our American flag. However it dawns on me that part of the celebration for Catholics should be the participation in the Mass. "Red, White, Blue and Catholic too!" explains how Catholics have been involved in the creation of American history from the very beginning. Peggy Noonan also offers us a reminder of what it means to be an American. And it involves a story about Brooklyn and a Catholic priest. She calls this Fourth of July reflection "The way it goes in America."

Fourth of July weekend is as good a time as any to think about what it means to be an American -- even if there are those who insist you're not qualified for the job. So, as the Immigration Debate rages in our communities, we thought it timely to share this article titled "Why I'm an American, a Spanish-surnamed Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed Fourth of July weekend.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Who is the Church?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Toda la Iglesia es misionera
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to view any of our previous weeks' issues
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email