Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Strive to enter through the narrow gate"

In Sunday’s Gospel for August 25, 2013, Jesus speaks about the narrow gate.The question posed by a villager to Him was: "Will only a few be saved?" Jesus answers by saying that the invitation is open but the way into t he kingdom is narrow and demands more than casual interest. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Who will be saved?

Father Cusick says every manner of person - Catholic or not, Christian or not - all want to know: Does life go on after this world? If it does, is there a heaven and a hell? If God is love and the Church is atholic or “Universal,” doesn’t that mean everybody is going to heaven? Not according to this Sunday’s gospel. If you’ve ever wondered how a loving God could send people to hell, and then stumbled trying to explain it, Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. says the answers are here this Sunday.

It brings up the one matter that is more important than life or death. And that, Fr. Phil Bloom says, is the possibility of being lost - eternally. So, while the question of the villager - Who will be saved? - is as relevant today as when it was first posed, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS says there is the other important question we should ask behind the original question: Will I be saved?

Dare we hope that all will be saved? Fr. Orly Sapuay, M.S. quotes Hans Urs von Balthazar, one of the greatest 20th century theologians, who answered this question briefly, “We not only dare to hope, but we are obliged to hope that all be saved.

The narrow door is the way of Christ Jesus

Those who think that they have the heavenly seating chart arranged, are in for quite a shock. The fact that you were baptized Catholic is no guarantee that you are now on the inside. Neither is the fact that you once accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. At the narrow door, Jesus may not recognize everyone who bears the name "Christian." But, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains, God will recognize immediately all those whose lives bear the stamp of "Christian."

Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says, we are warned this Sunday about the terrible disappointment in store for those who have not taken God's teaching seriously. God keeps the door open long beyond when we would expect, all the way to the end. But, Fr. John Foley, S. J. adds, if we are too busy partying and dancing, there is nothing our Lord can do. He has to accept our decision to stay outside.

So why are we in the Church? Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says the answer is far deeper than just “to go to Mass.” We are here because we need to be with our Loving Lord. And we need to be with Him always, not just one hour a week in a Church, but throughout our lives, wherever He can be found. The goal of our lives “to be with Jesus, at all times and for all eternity.

However, Fr. James Gilhooley advises, we should not grow discouraged as we attempt often with little success to put on Christ. "The only way to fail," says St Teresa of Avila, "is to stop." And, Fr. Ron Rolheiser adds, we should know that God sends angels to strengthen us precisely when God finds us lying prostrate, sweating the blood of duty - like Jesus in Gethsemane.

More on Mother Mary's Assumption

We bring you more reflections on last week's feast of the Assumption, starting with Pope Benedict's homily last Sunday. He reminded the world that the truth that awaits Christians, prefigured with Mary's assumption into heaven, should fill us with joy. While from Spain, Bishop Ignacio Munilla of San Sebastian, Spain, discussed the declaration of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary 60 years ago. He affirmed that the teaching points out that the ultimate goal is the resurrection of body and soul and therefore is an antidote to beliefs in reincarnation.

Meanwhile Msgr. Charles Pope reflects on his deep Marian devotion. He said it all began one day when he took Mary’s hand and let her lead him to Christ. And hasn’t that always been her role?

Our Greying Church & 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity

The Catholic Church now is realizing that the greater challenge is in its own back yard – and, it’s on a new mission. Three years ago the Boston Archdiocese signed on to the “Catholics Come Home” campaign, which calls on wayward and inactive Catholics to return to the family – and not just to warm the pews. And as Western demographics these days show, majority of these will come from a generational surge in greying baby boomers. They come with a deeper-seated faith in God than the young. And they bring millions of hours of potential stewardship work for the Church's many ministries. John L. Allen Jr. says Catholics will either have to rethink the current bias to cater to the young and/or lose out on this critical greying demographics.

A previous study determined that 70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly. These trend shows that if the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that "Wannabe Cool Christianity" is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. To the leaders in our Catholic youth programs who feel the evangelicals have a better "hook" than our Church, we ask you to think again. It is the steak that sells, not the sizzle. And evangelical numbers are showing it.

Lost & found after 80 years

A remarkable odyssey has finally come to a close. In the annals of people who returned to their childhood faith after a time of alienation, few have had a longer sojourn than James O'Bryan. The Louisville native has reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church after being away from it for more than 80 years. Check out his story.

And you will absolutely love this moving story of hope. Unlike Carl Lewis, Derek Redmond is not a name that conjures up memories of Olympic gold medals. Redmond arrived at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona determined to win a medal in the 400. The color of the medal was meaningless; he just wanted to win one. Just one. Down the backstretch, only 175 meters away from finishing, Redmond is a shoo-in to make the finals. Suddenly, he hears a pop. In his right hamstring. He pulls up lame, as if he had been shot. And the rest is a testament to the essence of the human spirit. Make sure you watch the video that comes with it.

Finally, here's one for Life. To a world that often denigrates the large family, Steve Mosher offers 10 great reasons to cherish children and have more! "Ten Great Reasons To Have Another Child" will open your eyes to God's beautiful world among us.

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: Lukewarm Catholic or on-fire Protestant?
FEATURED BLOG: The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity
PASTORAL HISPANA: La salvacion es para todos, pero requiere sacrificio
Post a comment below.
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"You also must be prepared"

Most people in the US say they “believe in” God. Our Sunday Readings (19C) for Aug. 11, 2013 invite us to get a better handle on the true nature of Christian faith, which entails much more than just believing that God exists. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

What is Faith?

This Sunday’s Readings begins with a wonderful definition of faith by St. Paul in his Letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is the confident assurance concerning what we hope for and the conviction about the things we do not see.” He was not just talking about dogma or definitions of various items in our belief system. He was talking about lifestyle. The lives of people of faith reflect their whole value system, their whole system of life.

But it simply not enough that we believe. We need to have faith. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains that while belief in God is rather widespread - over 90% of Americans “believe in God” - belief and faith are not quite the same thing. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB chimes in with a recollection of the important words of Cardinal John Henry Newman in one of his homilies on this text from Hebrews: "It is one thing, then, to have faith, another thing to receive the promise through faith. Faith does not involve in itself the receipt of the promise."

With these in mind, we invite you to reflect upon our Burning Question this week: What is Faith? Please share your deepest thoughts with us.

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino adds to the discussion with his exhortation that we have to believe. We cannot give up. It is so easy for us to choose actions that do not reflect our faith and then claim that God really is not concerned with what we have done. When we do this we are denying that we have a personal relationship with God. We have to stay faithful even if the entire world gives in to greed and disregard for others. Remember God’s trust in you. Remember love. Give your trust in return. And this, Fr. John Foley, S. J. points out is one of the most difficult problems for many of us today. Can you risk it?

And when God withholds consolations, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains, He is purifying us of the subtle attachment to our feelings, so that our faith can grow and mature. To become mature Christians, therefore, we must learn more and more to “walk by faith, not by sight.”

This was one message that struck close to home for me and my family when tragedy struck in my home city of Moreno Valley, CA last week. Our collective faith was put to the test when one of our own, seventeen year old Norma Lopez , was abducted and killed while walking home from our local high school. Paul Dion reflects on the tragedy and points out how this incident has brought out our community together and shows how faith and love can triumph over hate and tragedy. Meanwhile St. Louis University student David Haughney tells how he found faith abounding while spending a week with Habitat for Humanity in Georgetown, South Carolina. Through faith and service, he said, we should all try to live up to the expectations of our blessings.

Hour Least Expected

Be prepared. Fr. Phil Bloom tells us that this is the other message we are to take away from the Sunday Readings. Do not be lulled into thinking there is no hurry. The time of reckoning will come when you least expect it.

Fr. Charles Irvin says it also brings out the big questions we face today and in all of the days of our lives. What awaits us when we die? Is what’s in front of us determined by what we did or didn’t do in this life? And Fr. Ron Rolheiser raises even more questions. How do we live so that death does not catch us unaware? What do we do so that we don’t leave this world with too much unfinished business? He says we prepare to die by pushing ourselves to love less narrowly. In that sense, readying ourselves for death is really an ever-widening entry into life.

But, as Father Cusick advises us, we need never live in fear. Delightful and consoling words are communicated to us in the Gospel. Do not live in fear, little flock. The Lord desires that we be preserved from the fear that threatens to separate us from Him and His salvation. We simply need to be vigilant. And that means keeping Jesus and his teaching constantly before our eyes.

While Jesus warned His disciples to "watch and pray" in Gathsemane, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. points out, He could just as easily have said, "Watch, that is, pray." For it is only our prayerful remembrance of God's presence among us and of the promise of the kingdom that will protect us from the fateful distractions that lead us to live by the world's standards and to be found unprepared when the Lord comes for us.

Protestants, Atheists & Catholic Evangelization

Joe Carter, a former Protestant, offers an interesting look the evangelization practices of our Protestant brothers and sisters. He says Evangelism isn’t a form of Multi-Level Marketing and the “Good News” isn’t an Amway product. He finds it odd that so much evangelism appears to be about selling Jesus and hoping that you can convince the unsaved heathen to buy into salvation. Good news doesn’t have to be sold, he asserts. Bad news has to be sold, but not good news. And Fr. Longenecker relates that when a Protestant who is considering the Catholic Church calls him for advice, the conversation handily goes back to some recurring difficulties. So he shares here a list of the commandments he developed for converts. It's quite an interesting list.

From Protestants to Atheists, Fr. John Flynn, LC relates that to many of the new atheists who have vociferously attacked God and religion in the last few years, Religion is not only mad, but also bad, a propagator of division, hate and violence. He points out however that it is the Judeo-Christian tradition that has been the West's most effective curb on the dangerous tendencies in human nature that can propitiate violence.

For the Vacationers and the Job-hunters

Pastors from all religions are some of the most stressed people in the work force. Public health experts caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy. But there is one simple remedy that has long been a touchy subject with many clerics - taking more time off. And in this regard, it seems Catholic priests are ahead of the stress curve. In his reflection, Then Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan now Cardinal says vacations can be occassions of grace. He recommends that Jesus be part of our vacation, too. Thinking of Him, listening to Him, speaking to Him — all in prayer — would be a great vacation resolution.

And as the relentless squeezing of the middle class persists, any one of us can suddenly find ourselves out of work affecting both ego and spirit. But we can always find recourse and hope in prayer. Prayer has power. When everything is falling apart, prayer holds. If you are looking for work, we ask you to use this prayer tool: A Rosary Reflection for the Job-seeker. Once again, we find that the Mysteries of the Rosary help us to identify with Christ, and join our sufferings to His, that all may be One.

Last Tuesday, August 6, we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration celebrated in the Church. August 6 is also an important date in world history: the fateful day on which the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan. But in the midst of this terrible carnage, something quite remarkable happened: the remarkable survival of a small community of priests living well within the radius of total devastation. The story of the Jesuit Fathers in Hiroshima has echoes in the Bible and in the story of Fatima.

One Unbelieving Sheriff & the Best Family Films

Meet Jesse Romero, a Deputy for the Lord. Just over a decade ago, an injury forced him to retire early from his job as a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy, a career he loved. It freed him up, however, for full-time work as a lay Catholic evangelist, a career in which he has found even greater rewards. While young mother Arwen Mosher talks about how pretty easy it feels for her to be a good mother to baby infants because they have simple needs. They don’t disobey, and you can build the parent-child relationship just by holding them on your lap. Older kids, on the other hand, are complicated. How do you love them as they grow? Will she continue to love her children more and more? Will the top of her head actually fly off one of these days?

And just what are the greatest family film of all time? Respondents polled for a recent Radio Times magazine survey ranked Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial as the best, with The Wizard of Oz in the runner-up spot. Blogger Steven D. Greydanus, however took a different approach to picking his list. Rather than quibble about the ranking of films in the Radio times survey, he took issue with the inclusion of movies he thinks doesn’t deserve to be on such a list at all—and talks about movies he would rather see there instead.

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

FEATURED BLOGS: Selling Jesus like a Chevy
PASTORAL HISPANA: No Teman. Tengan Fe. Esten Vigilantes
Post a comment.  
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email