Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"You cannot serve God and mammon."

The Gospel set before us this Sunday (8A), March 2, 2014, continues Christ's teaching as given in the Sermon on the Mount. The extract is all about Divine Providence. Jesus does not deny the reality of human needs, but forbids making them the object of anxious care and, in effect, becoming their slave. In our modern consumerist society, it is a teaching that is frequently neglected - even by devout Christians.  Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

"You cannot serve God and mammon."

Jesus lays it on the line. Mammon means more than simply money. The word comes from a Hebrew root that means "to entrust" - like today we speak about credit, trust funds and bonds. Mammon came to mean "that in which a man places his trust." It became a substitute for God, an idol, a false god. Fr. Charles Irvin says we must not love the things of this world to the exclusion of the love of God.

But as followers of Jesus, we recognize that we do have legitimate concerns for material goods. But if those concerns are filled with insecurities and cause new forms of enslavement to wealth, they will inevitably lead people into slavery to two separate masters. Maybe we are spending our lives on what is of small value: what we will eat, what we will wear, how long we will live. Fr. John Foley, S. J. reminds us that these things do not last. They are too far down the scale of values.

Set your values on what is most valuable and you will find peace. We are called to serve God and God alone in the deepest sense in order to experience authentic freedom, explains Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB. And Fr. Alex McAllister SDS says Jesus is helping us understand that our faith should be in God alone. God will provide for those who depend on Him.

Putting our Trust in God

Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. points out the one thing Jesus identifies as a sign we are clinging to a false god. A person devoted to an idol becomes consumed with worry. Our hearts are restless because we worry about tomorrow, we fear what might happen or we think that only in some future time we will be happy.

The bottom line is that we are to trust in God to provide. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us we should not base our trust on our money. He says this Gospel teaching is an accurate demonstration of the faith we must nurture: "Don't worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself. Seek first God's kingdom over you and his way of holiness, and all will be given you." Fr. Phil Bloom says Jesus invites us to trust in God, to serve him now. "Only in God is my soul at rest..."

College student reflects that maybe we don’t have to worry so much about the little details and fear for the worst. I mean, if the birds don’t worry why should I? God provides. Fr. Ron Rolheiser reminds us that Christ promised that we will not be orphaned. And we can take that at face value.

This Sunday we can pray for a deeper commitment to God for ourselves and for others. Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB says we can ask for a trust that sustains us every day and a commitment that is clearly choosing God. Even if we do not receive those gifts immediately, praying for them is on the way of peace.

Pride, Prayer and Babel

So what are you building in your lfe? Msgr. Charles Pope offers a meditation on the story of the Tower of Babel. The lessons to be learned can mirror those of our Sunday Gospel's. It is a memorable story for most. And yet he points out that it has a strange angularity to it.

Paul Dion, STL shares in his reflection that making mistakes and being wrong is not always a bad thing. This is not anathema as he repeats the story of Thomas Edison who, after failing to make a working light bulb for what is reported as being hundreds of times always referred to his ineffective attempts as "lessons of how not to do it the next time."

Jennifer Fulwiler shares a section from St. Frances de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life where he offers four practical tips for putting yourself in God’s presence. With Lent approaching, I thought this might be a good section to cover since many of us are thinking about how we can improve our prayer lives.

For non-Catholics who are considering crossing the Tiber, sensing and answering the call to convert to Catholicism is a tremendous decision on many levels. Chris Findley, a convert himself, discusses the challenges and graces of conversion and offers valuable advise in the form of 10 things you should expect as a new convert. While Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio offers a homily from the 5th century given by Pope St. Leo the Great, one of the early Church Fathers on a topic that's a stumbling block for many Protestants: St. Peter and the Keys.

Eucharistic Adoration & New Age Gnosticism

We look back to Archbishop Thomas Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami who tackled a most important topic today: New Age Gnosticism. One can go to almost any commercial bookstore and discover whole sections devoted to the theme. Unfortunately, he says, most of what sells as “spiritual reading,” usually classified under the heading of “New Age,” does not demand any more faith or belief than going to the movies. Not all that is marketed under the rubric “spirituality” is “chicken soup” for the Christian soul.

We contrast this trend to New Age spirituality with the story of how one dismal parish became a church on fire. Their secret? Eucharistic Adoration! They were facing tough times. The congregation was dwindling, and Mass attendance was at an all-time low. The empty confessional was collecting dust, and donations were dismal. But today, it is one of the most vibrant parishes in their diocese with standing-room only Masses, confessional lines, and an abundance of freewill donations that will make them debt-free by April.

Saying Yes, Styling and the Oscar Weekend

Jenifer Fulwiler reflects on a fantastic blog post she read which suggests that the secret to an extraordinary life is simply saying YES. It got her to thinking about other people she admires who said yes when they could ahve said no.

Judith Costello's Mysteries of Parenting blogs about how children (and adults) sometimes wear name brand clothing as a badge of honor. Her daughter was nine, when she came home comparing her clothes to those of a friend at school. Her daughter Brigit felt discouraged because there were no flashy labels on her clothes. But the truth is many of Brigit's favorite clothes come from the thrift store or yard sales, the kind of places some children are taught that only "lower class people enter." I will let her tell you how this story ended. It's most appropriate to the lessons of the Gospel for this Sunday.

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: Do you adore "Bling?" more than God?
FEATURED BLOG: One Parish That's On Fire & How They Did It
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesús nos invita a poner nuestra confianza en el Padre Celestial

Post a comment below.
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"But I say to you, love your enemies"


The Gospel text for this Sunday continues with Jesus and His Sermon on the Mount. Christ is not finished. This Sunday He says His people must think not of their rights but of their duties as His followers. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

"Love your Enemies"

There is something within us that believes that real justice is in the law of talons: an eye for an eye. In reality, we would rather live in an Old Testament world - a world without Christ - than live in a world where we are expected to sacrifice our desire for vengeance to the Lord's command to love our enemies.

Perhaps that is why the most difficult words we pray today and every day, explains Fr. Joseph Pellegrino, are those words found in the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been tried and found difficult. Christianity is a radical way of life. Father Cusick tells us that only the Christian, through the demands of his faith, forgives and prays for his enemies, which Christ teaches in today's Gospel.

But, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio asks, does Jesus want really us to be doormats, suckers who allow ourselves to be taken advantage of by every bully, dictator and gangster that comes down the pike? Not quite, explains Fr. John Foley, S. J. He says Jesus offers us instead a deep insight into the human heart and into the laws that govern it.

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS elaborates further that Jesus is not saying that we ought to allow ourselves to be abused. We should retain the moral high ground and rise above the fray. This, therefore, is not so much about inviting further injury as refraining from retaliation, not perpetuating a disagreement. Turning the other cheek, college student Stephen Chanderbhan points out, can truly help bring people towards God.

Love: Unconditional, Uncompromising, Unlimited, Indiscriminate

Jesus practiced what He preached. He both forgave people who crucified Him and made excuses for them. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." But, Fr. James Gilhooley explains, Christ is not finished. This Sunday Jesus preaches that His people must think not of their rights but of their duties as His followers. They must be concerned not with benefits but responsibilities. He demands love based wholly upon the nature of God who loves without limits. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. says this means loving in the way the heavenly Father loves – unconditionally, uncompromisingly, unlimitedly, indiscriminately.

In the end, Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains, the acid-test for Christian orthodoxy is something more demanding, something that lies closer to the heart of what is most unique and novel within Jesus. It is His call to love our enemies, to not give back in kind, to wish good and do good to those who are unkind to us.

“Be Holy, For I, the Lord, Your God, Am Holy”

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains that the Scripture readings for Sunday issue three calls to us to be holy as the Lord our God is holy; to not deceive ourselves with the wisdom of this age; and to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Each person who hears this Gospel must decide whether or not to trust Jesus when he says that an apparently foolish act of love is stronger than any act of evil.

Jesus' way of non-resistance to the evil man is not dreamy idealism. Fr. Phil Bloom says it is part of His call to a complete love - a perfect love that includes even our enemies. We cannot achieve that love on our own power, but only by his grace. If we live in the wisdom of Jesus, says Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B., we can be certain that we are children of the heavenly Father because love is the nature of divine life.

Prayer, Faith & Apps

Dr. Peter Kreeft says the three most precious ideas he has ever discovered all concern the love of God. Check out his list. It could spell a discovery in your life as well. And it is just such a rebirth that one Afghani Christian is willing to die for in this story three years ago about awesome faith. He is Christian and father of six, is imprisoned and scheduled to die. His crime? He believes Christ is his Savior. And he is scheduled to die because of it. No defense lawyer will take his case for fear of retribution. And he has been told that if he renounces Christ things, would go easier. But he doesn’t.

Now here's an important question. Is it a sin not to pray every day? Fr. John Zuhlsdorf received this question from a reader who found this tidbit in the iPhone Catholic confession app. And the good father agreed with the app that it is indeed a sin against the first commandment. Read more about it here.Speaking of the iPhone, Fr. Jack McLain asserts that there are truly plenty of Catholic-centric uses for such devices. When his Jesuit confrere asked him to prove it, he combed through Apple’s App Store and found the best Catholic apps he could. Here's his list.

Bible, Genesis & the Eucharist

Rev. Robert Barron says he's continually amazed how often the “problem” of Genesis comes up in his work of evangelization and apologetics. People struggle with the seemingly bad science that is on display in the opening chapters of the first book of the Bible. How can anyone believe that God made the visible universe in six days, etc? He offers ideas on the proper way to read the Bible so it all makes sense.

As a young man, author Brant Pitre had difficulties explaining the Holy Eucharist to his Protestant friends. Now a professor of sacred scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, he released a new book called Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. He discusses a few of the startling and fascinating aspects of Judaism in the first century, and how directly they speak to and enhance our experience of Holy Communion.

Parenting Love and Dentyne Gum

Judith Costello wrote that we parents need to find a balance between supporting our children as they try out new things, and keeping them safe. Children need both the boundaries and the options. And they need our prayers for those times when we can’t be present. This is a must read for all parents.

And then Jake Frost writes "Collision With a Dentyne Truck - Love Lessons in Gum." Imagine the scene. A businessman heading home to his wife and chilkdren strides briskly through an airport. Coming upon one of those airport convenience stores with piratical prices, he stops, turns inside, and purchases a dozen packs of Dentyne gum. You'll have to read the rest of it to see what he does after.

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

Post a comment. 
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email