Thursday, January 23, 2014

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

In the Gospel for Sunday (3A), January 26, 2014, we see how Jesus picks up where John the Baptist left off. We are told that He has come to fulfill the scriptures, that He will bring light to the people; we are introduced to Jesus’ inner group of disciples and see how they are called. And we are told about His ministry of healing among the crowds that flocked to hear Him. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Isaiah's Light

Both today's first reading from the Prophet Isaiah (Is 8:23-9:3) and the Gospel passage (Matthew 4:12-23) keep alive the memory of Christmas for us. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness– on them a light has shined."

Fr. Alex McAllister tells us that Jesus came to bring light to those who live in darkness. Those who are in the dark about what God plans for the world will be enlightened. They will, through Jesus’ preaching, discover that God loves them and brings them salvation in the very fullest sense.

But, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds us, we are not the people of darkness. We are people of light. We are not condemned to live as liars, cheats or users, or whatever. We have seen a great light. But Jesus’ light did not intrude upon every precious cranny of people’s lives, as a spotlight might do. Fr. John Foley, S. J points out that Jesus' light was a candle flame, the quiet flicker that hurricane winds tried and tried to put out, but could not.

Jesus is the indeed Light, the Redeemer, the One who died to save us and all of humanity. And even after all of this university student Anusia Dickow admits that she still gets nervous at what would happen if she actually did dedicate her life fully to following Jesus.

"Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand"

Forms of the word "repent" appear in the Bible 37 times. It is the most common theme found in the exhortations of the prophets, and its imperative is found in the book of Revelation six times. Scripture consistently reveals an intrinsic relationship between repentance and salvation. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. says it should surprise no one that it is the central message of the preaching of Jesus Christ.

Father Cusick tells us that these words of Jesus warn us against sleeping our lives away, against spiritual laziness. When we repent, we enter the kingdom of God. Personal responsibility leads to solidarity. To reject one's personal responsibility, results in isolation. That is, sin separates us not only from God, but from each other. Repentance and holiness, Fr. Phil Bloom explains, is what brings us together.

The Call to Follow

In our Gospel reading we hear about the call of the very first disciples right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry—first Simon Peter and Andrew then James and John.

Even though the call to follow Jesus was a privilege beyond imagination, there is no attempt to pretend the disciples were ideal people. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB opines that they were very real people -- contentious, weak at times, often baffled by Jesus. On the other hand, Fr. James Gilhooley also also points out that when these disciples accepted His invitation to sign on, they were bold men. They were trading in a middle-class living for a precarious one. They were, after all, commercial fishermen. They owned their own boats.

They were bold. But they were not perfect. They were inadequate in many ways. Fr. Ron Rolheiser talks about how we too struggle with our own inadequacies. He says when we are in touch with ourselves, we too can relate to these expressions of inadequacy. At the end of the day, we cannot measure up and cannot not disappoint others and ourselves because we are after all human. Our Burning Question this week offers an opportunity to reflect upon this topic: Can we who are sinful be part of Jesus’ mission?

But we are the Church, "called out" by Jesus individually to follow him. And as Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. points out, our ultimate happiness depends upon our response. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says “Church” does not simply mean attending mass once a week and subscribing to a list of dogmas. To respond to Christ’s call to the Church means to be in the world, but not of it. It means to “re-form your life.” To allow your thinking and your pattern of life to be completely reorganized around the truth of God’s word.

Reflections on Martin Luther King Day

Monday, January 21 was Martin Luther King Day. Fr. Robert Barron says it goes without saying that Dr. Martin Luther King was one of the most pivotal figures in American history. He adds that Martin Luther King was not a saint, and he's not advocating his canonization. But on this anniversary of his birth, he is proposing the good doctor as a powerful model for all those who want to light a fire on the earth.

Msgr. Charles Pope has spent a big part of his life ministering to parishes populated by African-American Catholics. He shares a few of the things he has learned over the years about the "The Gift of the African American Catholic Tradition." He focuses primarily on the liturgical experience. They may not be true of every African American Catholic, but collectively, as a community, he says these gifts are widely shared values.

Our Catholic Identity

It has been said that if we want to discover what we really value most we need to look honestly at what we spend our time and money on. Most Christians, if asked what they value most will answer, “God.” But that is the expected answer. The truest answer however, explains Msgr. Charles Pope, can be found by looking at our calendars and spending habits.

Lies, Conscience & Confession

One day last year, Jennifer Fulwiler was putting grocery bags in the car after an epic store trip. After grabbing the last bag something caught her eye in the back of the cart: an unpaid $3.75 package of pacifiers. There was, of course, no question in her mind that she would pay for them. But unwittingly, she never did. And then an interesting struggle with her conscience materialized during her next trip to the confessional booth.

Her story is a good epilogue for this reflection on conscience by Francis Cardinal George, OMI. He says Moral conscience is a judgment of practical reason about the moral quality of a human action. Many times people will assert that they have a right to believe what their “conscience” tells them. But faith is an assent to a truth revealed by God. Judging what to believe involves deciding whether or not something is true.

Cold Nights, Patron Saints & The Rite

"One Cold, Dark Night," Judith Costello's furnace died in her family was 5 degrees below zero outside and the wind chill was driving the temperature even lower. In an entry on her blog "Mysteries of Parenting," she talks about how the problem it became an opportunity for her family to huddle together and focus on the warmth that comes from faith, family and love.

Taylor Marshall talks about patron saints, those who have suffered through various evils, not despairing, but offering their maladies to God for an increase of sanctity. He says it is natural then to consult those who have suffered in ways similar to us. Thus, we ask these saints to pray for us. Here is his list of "16 common problems" and the saints usually identified with each.

In November 2010, the head of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ committee on canonical affairs and church governance, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, presided over a two-day session in Baltimore ithat drew more than 100 bishops and priests who examined the church’s exorcism rite, which dates back to the early 17th century. And it seems that even with a topic as gruesome as exorcism, the devil — and other demons — is in the details. It is notable however that he did say, "The Sacrament of Penance is a more powerful tool than exorcism."

Another eventful day in our Catholic world. Have a great and blessed new week.
Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

Burning Question: Can we who are sinful be part of Jesus’ mission?
FEATURED BLOG: Telling the Truth by Time and Money
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus sigue iluminando nuestras vidas

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

This weekend is the first Sunday of Ordinary Time. We inaugurate Ordinary Time by celebrating the Baptism of Our Lord. Before beginning his public ministry, Jesus was baptized. He considered Baptism so important that - even though he had no personal sins - he nevertheless submitted to the baptism of John. Our Discussion Questions for January 9, 2011 will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Homiletics for Sunday

This week, our editorial staff is taking a much-anticipated few days off. Nevertheless, they have still prepared for you a wonderful compilation of homilies and articles specifically related the the Baptism of our Lord - and to Catholic baptism in general.

In this week's email edition, you will not find our usual narrative that strings together the dirfferent homilies and related articles for the week. Instead, we will be giving you several links where you can find them. We will back with our usual narrative summary next week when we get back from vacation.

If your parish is one of those serviced by our ministry, you will find the homilies for Sunday by going to the "Knowing our Faith" section of your own parish website.

If your parish is not one of those being serviced by the ParishWorld ministry, please click here to view the homilies for Sunday.

The Catholic Sacrament of Baptism

Christians are born through the Sacrament of Baptism, that is, through baptism we are born as "other Christs." Christ has no body now but the baptized. The baptized are the body of Christ, the people of God, the Church. Here are some links that can help you better understand this very important sacrament:

Baptism: Initiation, Call and Commissioning
Why do Catholics baptize infants? 
What is the Old Testament root of the Sacrament of Baptism?
Rediscovering Our Baptism
Baptism: the door to the Church and the gateway to salvation
Godparents and Sponsors: What Is Expected of Them Today?

A Blessed 2014 to All

The past year we saw a most eventful 2013 in our Catholic world. May we all look forward to a prayerful  2014. The ParishWorld staff wish you all a most happy and blessed new year.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Why do Catholics baptize their infants?
FEATURED BLOG: 12 Things I Wish I Knew at 25
PASTORAL HISPANA: El Bautismo de Jesus lo anima a iniciar su vida publica

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?"

We continue the celebration of Christmas with the celebration of the Solemnity of the Epiphany on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 (EpiphanyA). And on the past Wednesday's New Year's Day Mass, we celebrated several themes: It is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God and World Day of Prayer for Peace. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Liturgically, January 1 is the Octave of Christmas - the "eighth day" after his birth when he shed a first drop of blood in the rite of circumsion. As part of that rite, he received his Holy Name - Jesus.

Jan. 1, Feast of Mary the Mother of God

Quickly after acclaiming the birth of the Messiah we turn with equal wonder in contemplation of his mother, immaculate and therefore "full of grace", who does not know man because she has vowed herself to perpetual virginity and whom all generations have called "blessed": the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino clarifies, we certainly do not believe that Mary was a goddess. That’s polytheism and paganism. She posseses, as Father Cusick points out the highest, the rarest, the choicest prerogative of all. It is that she was without sin.

The understanding of today’s feast flows from and understanding of whom Jesus is. We believe that Jesus Christ is one person, with two natures, human and divine. And this paradoxical phrase - Mary the Mother of God - strikes at the very heart of Christmas. We extol the babe of Bethlehem as Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is so with us that after Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin of Nazareth, the Divine Word can never again be divided from our humanity.

At the moment of his conception in the womb of Mary, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains, God the Son united himself with a human nature forever. Humanity and divinity were so closely bound together in Jesus, son of Mary, that they could never be separated again. That is why we celebrate this day as a holy day of obligation.

Mary was a peasant to the last and yet Harvard historian Henry Adams calls her "the most powerful religious symbol in fifteen hundred years of Western history." Fr. James Gilhooley tell us that Helen of Troy may have launched a thousand ships, but the woman from Nazareth has launched a million artists.

Feast of the Epiphany

The Feast of the Epiphany is the oldest in the Liturgical Calendar after Easter and Pentecost and Epiphany was celebrated long before even Christmas itself came to be regarded as a feast.

Fr. James Gilhooley oints out to us that Tradition has us speak of the magi as three. Yet Matthew does not use a number. We say three since he speaks of three gifts. Happily Matthew specifies the gifts for us. In the 8th century, Venerable Bede gave us the traditional interpretation of their symbolism. The gold paid homage to the Child's royal line. The incense saluted His divinity. The myrrh forewarned of the passion. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio likewise notes the fact that Matthew gives them no names. They may be kings, but in this story they are merely supporting actors. They follow the true Star, the King of Kings. Only His name is important. Epiphany is not about the Magi–it’s all about Jesus.

Here in this story of the coming of the Wise Men we see clearly a very important element of Christ’s Mission coming in right from the start, namely, his mission to the Gentiles. Fr. Alex McAllister tells us that the rejection of Christ by Israel becomes the opportunity for Christ to be revealed to all the nations and so ultimately to us today.

The Wise Men offer gifts to Jesus because - Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B explains - they recognize that the humble wisdom of Jesus eclipses all forms of merely human wisdom. Jesus Christ was displayed before the world at His birth, during His baptism and through His public life, beginning with the wedding feast of Cana. Paul Dion, STL likewise notes that by giving gifts, they came to better know His reason for being. Pauls' intuition tells him that this is a way that God has of revealing Himself to us.

Thus, we need to show Christ's Presence to others in the very way we live our live, Fr. Joseph
Pellegrino reminds us. Catholic Christians would do well to seek last place and try to be servant of all. Especially, Fr. John Foley, S. J. notes, if we would like to know why, on this Epiphany, a tiny baby is light to all nations.

Finally, Fr. Ron Rolheiser shares the words from one of his retreat directors from several years ago: “I’m going to try to teach you how to pray so that sometime in prayer, you will open yourself up in such a way that you can hear God say to you - I love you! - because unless that happens you will always be dissatisfied and searching for something to give you a completeness you don’t feel. Nothing will ever be quite right. But once you hear God say those words, you won’t need to do that restless search anymore.”

Ushering in the New Year

The beginning of a new calendar year invites us to reflect on the past and focus on the future.

Most New Year's resolutions end up as failed endeavors. While Paul Dion, STL shares an important tip on how to fix your New year's resolutions. But when you ring in the New Year tonight and decide in your excitement to make some resolutions there is one you shouldn’t include: Finding a new job. Experts say you must be deliberate in deciding what you want and how to achieve it, or don't bother at all.

Now here's something worth staying up late to ponder: the Yom Yahweh, the Day of the Lord, in which every tear will be wiped away and all things will be made new; the day when the Father brings to completion, in the Supper of the Lamb, the work of salvation first announced in the call of Abraham; the day which begins that endless day called the Kingdom come in its fullness; the day on which that often-hollow phrase “the international community” takes on real meaning. Compared to that, Times Square on New Year’s Eve is pretty small beer.

Glad Tidings & Mark Wahlberg

Judith Costello shares another article from her blog, Mysteries of Parenting. Her writing projects are on hold. And today, she is not a Working Writer. Instead, she is a Nurse, Nag and Comforter. These kind of days remind us that we are not in charge. God is in charge of this world and my life. He holds the bigger vision. He knows what can be learned from these days set apart from the usual routine. He can truly heal all of us.

And here's one truly inspiring story. In the modern world, we are told, religion is being pushed to the side. Church-going is down, cynicism is up, and old-fashioned Christianity is not so slowly going the way of the penny-farthing bicycle. And nowhere, we are told, is this more apparent than in Hollywood, land of the superficial, the catch-a-passing-trend, the every-man-for-himself. And then there is Mark Wahlberg. Gabrielle Donnelly speaks to the Hollywood superstar about his family, his Catholic faith, and being sent to jail as a teenager.

“Being a Catholic is the most important aspect of my life,” Wahlberg says, "the first thing I do each day is pray." Now that is truly inspiring.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. Happy New Year to you all!

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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BURNING QUESTION: Why do we pray the Rosary at Catholic Funerals?
FEATURED BLOG: How to fix your New year's resolutions

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