Thursday, March 27, 2014

"I am the light of the world."

This Fourth Sunday of Lent’s Gospel is about the cure of a blind man—and about the blindness of those who think they can see. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Light and darkness

The drama of John 9, the Man Born Blind, is the story of a simple man open to God’s presence and arrogant men who cannot see the Christ standing right before them. But the blind man is going to be an instrument of God’s power. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. says this blind person has just as much a role to play as you or me or anyone.

It is simple, Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains. Jesus has given depth of sight to a man born blind. In this, the works of God have been made seeable. This is why the man was blind in the first place, Jesus tells us. Does the man accept this? “I do believe, Lord,” he says. His heart had been healed, in addition to his physical eyes. Through healing he comes into the light in two senses: literally, since his sight was restored; and spiritually, since he was given the gift of faith. Of course, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS points out, it is this gift of faith which concerns us most of all.

Like the blind man who refused to deny what he saw, what he experienced, we need to be passionate witnesses to Jesus Christ. And so this Sunday, Fr. Phil Bloom tells us, we ask Jesus for sight: to see those near us - their heart, not just their appearance - and above all to see the reality of who Jesus is.

The Greater Tragedy

The tragedy greater than all others is to be blind and to say that we can see. Father Cusick says there are so many areas where we are perilously blind to the ways in which our actions, words, thoughts and desires have jeopardized our eternal salvation. We can identify with Jesus, or with the beggar in this story. But Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. points out that most Christians would not think of identifying with those who refused to see the light and thus become hardened in their blindness.

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino observes that little has changed in the world. You go to work, to school, and the so-called intellectuals belittle you because you are a person of faith. We cannot allow others to put us down for our faith. We know what matters in life. We are reminded of the saying “seeing is believing.” College student Lauren Butler reminds us that in the case of God, not seeing but believing is what is important. That is faith.

Moving Through Lent

This marvelous Gospel story is really about seeing the face of Jesus, experiencing his healing powers, and acknowledging Him for whom He really is. And that according to Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB , is as the Lord and Savior who has come into the world. And that is why this long story is presented during Lent, the time of preparation. You and I will behold a still greater healing at Easter. And we need to start washing out our eyes to see it. Christ is risen, though we might not see him! We don't always notice spring. The miraculous doesn't force itself on us. It's there, there to be seen, explains Fr. Ron Rolheiser.

And so as Lent moves along, into our ears the Messiah whispers, "Do amaze me in the three weeks left in this Lent with your generosity to my poor. Do it without calling attention to yourself." Fr. James Gilhooley says the poor are not hard to find. The New York Times reports 20% of US children live in poverty and 47 million US workers lack a living wage.

Finally, Marcellino D'Ambrosio reflects on the actions Jesus performed upon the blind man. He spits in the dirt, makes a paste of mud, and smears it on the eyes of the poor man, commanding his disciples to wash off the paste in the Pool of Siloam. Why did Jesus choose to do it this way? Jesus' action is a sign of the whole sacramental economy of the Church He established. Physical symbols come to contain what they symbolize and transmit what they contain.

Laetare Sunday, Lent and Prayer

What Is Laetare Sunday? Laetare Sunday is the popular name for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Because the midpoint of Lent is the Thursday of the third week of Lent, Laetare (Latin for Rejoice) Sunday has traditionally been viewed as a day of celebration. So this Sunday, the austerity of Lent in our Catholic Church is briefly lessened.

Every year at the beginning of Lent, Taylor Marshall is encouraged and excited about fasting and penance. However after a few weeks, he starts to grow weary of them. So in order to remind himself of why we're keeping Lent, here are more reflections on what Bible teaches about fasting and self-denial. And if you're one of those who struggle with not knowing what to "do" when they pray. Msgr. Charles Pope recommends the Our Father as a prayer that gives us more than just words to say. It is one that gives us a structure for our prayer life, a basic plan for our spiritual life.

Doubt, Spirituality & Sacred Tradition

Three years ago, Japn went through the most devastating tsunami. Many look for the face of God after tragedies. We bring back  the message that Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said at the time: In this life, we will never know why our loving God permits catastrophes that cause such pain and suffering to the innocent. Over the centuries, this question has haunted our human imagination. And each time we struggle with doubt, Mark Shea tells us that "suggestion" is one of the great weapons that the devil uses against us. The devil has no actual truth on his side in making the case that God does not exist or is evil or uncaring, so he has to rely on illusion to sell that lie.

Considering that most Catholics are under-Catechized, the Church is doing all they can to clear up the confusion. Mark Shea pitches in to help by answering an important question form one such confused reader. She asks, "If the Church relies on Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, both written and unwritten, what exactly does that Sacred Tradition look like?" Mark begins his answer with this: "Sacred Tradition is the common life, worship and teaching of the Catholic faith. You can read about the basics of what it is and how it relates to Scripture (which is the written aspect of the Tradition) by going down to paragraph 100 of the Catechism."

Bo Sanchez answers even more questions from readers: What’s the best way to bring your family and friends to God? What’s the best way to be spiritually contagious? He proposes three simple but powerful steps - Step 1: Friend Them. Step 2: Serve Them. Step 3: Guide Them.

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: Does the Church allow abortion if the mother's life is at risk?

Pastoral Hispana: El Señor tiene compasión de nosotros y nos otorga la Luz

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst"

The theme of thirsting and water continues in this Third Sunday of Lent's fascinating and evocative Gospel story of the woman of Samaria and her encounter with Jesus at high noon. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

The Samaritan Woman

Once again, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for a critical encounter. This time he meets not Satan, but a most unlikely angel. In the heat of the day, a woman joins him for a life-giving exchange. The Samaritan woman is the most carefully and intensely catechized person in John's Gospel.

Christ engaged this woman as an equal. He showered her with kindness and treated her as a princess. Fr. James Gilhooley says Christ saw in her not the evil things she had done in her life but rather the heroine she could become with His encouragement. Her story is a metaphor for our own lives -- often lived in deserts of alienation, sinfulness, despair. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB reminds us that Lent invites us to join the woman of Samaria in today's Gospel and the women of Samaria throughout the world and all those so desperately in need of life.

Father Cusick tells us we should all be like this simple woman, whose simplicity enables her to encounter, without prejudice, the revelation of Almighty God. Will each one of us accept God as He lovingly and wisely reveals Himself, or will we, tragically, reject Him because He does not appear according to our preconceived notions?

Thirsting for Living Water

Jesus speaks about Living Water and we interpret this as the Water of Baptism and we are not wrong. But we can think of all kinds of Living Water—the Living Water of the Scriptures, the Living Water of Prayer, the Living Water of Worship, the Living Water of our Christian Fellowship, the Living Water of the Cry of the Poor and so on.

We need to be fed, we need to have our thirst quenched. But often, explains Fr. John Foley, S. J., you and I use other worldly things to try and satisfy this great need: food, work, looks, accomplishment, other persons, sex, drink, and so on. We thirst for God. Sometimes we drink Him in. But, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino points out, often we ignore Jesus. Sometimes we downright reject Him. But He doesn’t give up on us.

As we enter into these more intense weeks of Lent, we recognize a longing in our hearts. Fr. Phil Bloom says it is a thirst that has its source in God's thirst for us. And it is only the words of Jesus spoken to us through the scriptures, explains Fr. Alex McAllister SDS, that can bring us real satisfaction and fulfilment.

God's Gift is for All His Children

When Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink, she is amazed that he seems so unaware of how things really are. Does he not know about the human conventions that have condemned her to social invisibility?

It is interesting to note in the gospels how the apostles, well-meaning of course, often tried to keep certain people - like the Samaritan woman - away from Jesus as if they weren’t worthy. Fr. Ron Rolheiser reminds us that things haven’t changed today. Always in the church, we, well-intentioned persons, for the same reasons as the apostles, keep trying to keep certain individuals and groups away from God’s mercy.

This gospel story, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. clarifies, is a witness to the gift of God for all His children. In the breaking down of barriers, Jesus shows us a new way to learn about one another and learn that we need one another. Today's gospel, explains Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B, invites us to dream about the possibility of a world where opportunity and hope replace the bondage of fear and despair.

So, do you think non-Catholics go to heaven? Our Burning Question challenges you to speak from the heart. If the Father can lovingly offer the Son for the very least, those who have turned away, then why can’t we offer a small portion of our time and energy to the most challenging people? College student Megan Diestelmeier poses the question.

This Lenten season, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio asks us to be like the Samaritan woman. Let us abandon our water jars and return to town to tell everyone about Jesus. Did she wait till she had a master’s degree in theology? No. She simply told people, with joy, confidence, and conviction, what Jesus had done for her. And she invited people to come and experience him for themselves. We should do the same.

Confession, Spiritual Fitness & Almsgiving

When's a good time to go to Confession? For New York's Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, it's on Saturday mornings. Three years ago,  the then archbishop would get a brisk hike in to one of the many city churches that offers the sacrament of Penance. He sneaks in, rarely recognized since he's in walking clothes, and stands in line with the others outside the confessional. In he goes, contrite, forgiven he leaves, gratefully he prays, and renewed he walks back home. What a great example he offered to those who struggle with this most difficult sacrament of all.

People recognize the importance of a regular physical workout. But, Judith Costello explains, there is another kind of “workout” that is far more important. Unfortunately, it gets no press. There is no “Biggest Losers” TV show about spiritual fitness. But there should be. Those who neglect their prayer life may very well be “the biggest losers.”

Spiritual fitness is a process of tuning into the silence of the heart in order to connect with God. It’s not easy. Msgr. Charles Pope says frequently the problem is one of the stubborn and unrepentant heart. The heart becomes obstinate, stubborn, incorrigible, and unrepentant. Increasingly, the heart becomes hardened and unlikely to change, even despite overwhelming evidence that the course one is on is destructive, and a source of pain.

Which brings us to an interesting question. Is Hell Crowded or Empty? Fr. Robert Barron shares his reflection on this topic from a Catholic perspective.

One of the ways we mark Lent is through almsgiving, which doesn't just mean writing checks but engaging in all the Works of Mercy recommended by the Church. John Zmirak challenges us to perform one specific work of mercy that that has never really appealed to him: "visiting the prisoner." Read more about his enlightening experience.

Mass Attendance, Teens & College Life

We usually think of the 1950s as an era when just about everyone went to Church. But even at that time there were already trends underway that indicated not all was perfect in paradise. It is a long and unfortunate trend that men have often left the spiritual upbringing of the Church to their wives and stayed home on Sundays. Msgr. Charles Pope sets the record straight. Mass attendance has indeed dropped. But it's not as much as we may think.

If you're about to start college, are currently enrolled, recently or not so recently graduated -- or even if you never attended at all -- don't put it on a pedestal. College student Elizabeth Hanna says today's college experience might be "fun," but you can't escape the consequences to your body, mind, and soul. The last three years of her life have been awesome, but not because of the number of Facebook pictures she has holding up a red Solo cup. Rather, in this time she's matured as a person and grown closer to God and others.

Which brings us to a major challenge our youth faces on a daily basis: supervising social
media. Tell me a teen who's not on Facebook. Danielle Bean offers soem really timely advise for teens and parents. She offers her "5 Rules for Teens on Facebook."

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: "Can non-Catholic people go to heaven?"
FEATURED BLOG: Is Hell Crowded or Empty? A Catholic Perspective
PASTORAL HISPANA: Solo Dios puede saciar plenamente la sed del ser humano

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

“This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

Last week we saw Jesus being tempted just like the rest of us. It was so human. This Second Sunday of Lent, March 16, 2014, we see Him transformed into dazzling light. Not so human. What is going on? Is He trying to teach us something? Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Abraham, Moses Elijah and Jesus

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us that the readings this Sunday are all about calling. We hear about the call of Abraham in the First Reading, the call of Jesus in the Gospel extract and in the Second Reading St Paul speaks about the call of each Christian. By God's call Abraham became our father in faith. Fr. Phil Bloom reminds us that as "sons of Abraham" we continue his struggle against child sacrifice and for the dignity of each human life.

Fr. James Gilhooley explains that the history of God’s relationship with a chosen people begins in the story of Abraham. But it takes a new turn in the person of Jesus, the “beloved Son” in whom every human person is able to find salvation. Abraham listened attentively to God's voice, God's commands and God's promptings. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB asks us if we know how to listen to God and his Son, Jesus Christ?

During the Transfiguration, the apostles were witnessing Moses and Elijah passing on the torch to their Leader. Fr. James Gilhooley says the Father was saying to Christ's followers, "You have been brought up to listen to Moses, Elijah, and their peers. Up to this point, they were my advance men. But now it is my Son you will listen to."

Sharing in His Transfiguration

Suffering and death are not foreign to Jesus, the Messiah. Fr. John Foley, S. J. supposes that the Transfiguration was one way for Jesus to reassure us that such things would not negate his divinity. In fact they would fulfill it.

Transfiguration Sunday reminds us that evangelization requires that we listen to the Lord and allow Him to transform our lives and then be instruments of proclaiming His glory. When God's voice said, "Listen to him," we are being told - Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. explains - that Jesus is now ready to teach the ultimate divine wisdom of salvation through loving and self-giving.

The marvelous reality of our Christian life, Father Cusick explains, is that we share more and more in Christ's glory until, one day, we see Him face to face. We have been called to follow Christ in every aspect of our lives, until our part in the Plan is complete. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds us that anything less is insufficient, inadequate, incomplete. Like the growth of a vine, college student Jimmy Starke writes, so too must we allow the grace of Christ to direct us along the lattice, nurturing some parts of our lives into flowers while letting go of others.

Preparing for the Sacrament of Confession

This is Lent. And Judith Costello reminds us that it's time for a tougher look at how cancer grows in the soul. She says we should be able to diagnose this “sickness” just like we diagnose the physical stages of a spreading cancer. One such sin is the mortal sin of masturbation. Mark P. Shea discusses how for some reason we remain oddly reluctant to discuss this one peculiar form of disordered appetite. But it is a mortal sin nevertheless.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York agrees with Judith and Mark. He tells all Christians to experience liberation from sin. In a past pastoral letter on the Sacrament of Penance, he urged: Keep those confessionals busy! Fr. Philip Neri Powell's "Ten Commandments for a Good Lenten Confession" is a great tool to help us prepare.

Lent, Prayer & Choosing a Bible

OK, we do penance for forty days because Jesus fasted forty days in the wilderness. But did you ever wonder why he was out there for forty days rather than seven or ten or fifty?  Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio provides the answers.

Arwen Mosher discusses the Stations of the Cross, a lovely devotion that can be difficult to attend with children. Trying also to concentrate on the prayers becomes nearly impossible. She suggests that, with young children, praying the stations at home can be an excellent alternative. While Dr. Peter Kreeft offers "Lesson One in Prayer." He says the single most important piece of advice he knows about prayer is also the simplest: Just do it!

Need a bible? Walk into any bookstore and you’ll see entire shelves of Bibles. How can you tell which one is right for you? The Diocese of San Jose offers tips to Catholics on how to select a Bible.

St. Patrick's Day & Rel. Ed. Weekend

On Monday, we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. In America, we celebrate not only a great saint, but a put-upon people who immigrated to a new world, took the meanest jobs, endured prejudice and exclusion, and rose to prominence. Pat McNamara says this holiday is not just for the Irish, after all.

And this week, a good bit of American Catholicism's attention turns West as the largest fold on these shores hosts another edition of its marquee event: the Religious Education Congress. Starting yesterday with the traditional Youth Day, the weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center -- a stone's throw from Disneyland -- brings together over 40,000 catechists, clerics and kibbitzers from all corners for talks, liturgies, receptions and an all-around B12 shot for the work ahead.

Celebrate Catholic Sisters Week

March 8 through March 15th is Catholic Sisters Week. Cheryl Dickow reports that Catholic Sisters Week is the enterprise of St. Catherine University out of St. Paul, MN and is backed by over three million dollars from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. It is a vast undertaking and, according to Andrea Lee, IHM, president of St. Catherine University, it will essentially be “Fostering meaningful relationships between college-age women and accomplished American women religious will be a powerful inspiration for some to consider religious life.”

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 believe Jesus is Truly Present at Communion?
FEATURED BLOG: A Reflection on How the Lord is Restoring His Church
PASTORAL HISPANA: Transfigurarnos es convertirnos

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

"You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."

In this Sunday’s Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent, March 9, 2014, the devil tempts Jesus to trade His oneness with God for selfish attention to created things. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

The Scripture readings for this first Sunday of Lent immerse us into the depths of this penitential season. The readings and Psalm 51 sound overtures of the great themes that we will hear and live over the next six weeks. And Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB starts with the Adam & Eve story of the First Reading. Genesis 2-3 suggests that knowledge, a necessity for human life, is something that is acquired painfully. He points out that when human beings finally understand what it means to be fully human, then the realities of life come into full relief in all of their complexity and difficulty.

Fasting & Temptation in the Desert

The desert, as we know, is the place where, stripped of all that normally nourishes and supports us, we are exposed to chaos, raw fear, and demons of every kind. When we are helpless we are open. That is why, according to Fr. Ron Rolheiser, the desert is both the place of chaos and the place of God’s closeness. Scripture assures us that it is there that God can send angels to minister to us.

Jesus went to the desert to spend time in prayer and fasting —to be with his Father. College student Caroline Seroka tells us how Jesus gets it right. Every time He is tempted, Jesus refers back to God. He refuses to sin and cites God as the reason because he knows that sin is not simply an act performed by one person, but against another.

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains how besides being divine, Jesus is also fully human. In the desert He experiences temptation - just as we do. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. says this message is reinforced in the Second Reading's Letter to the Hebrews which helps us discover a crucial life implication of this gospel: Jesus is truly one of us. Jesus was tempted like us and he overcame not by his own human strength but by the grace and trength which his Father gave to Him.

Fr. James Gilhooley writes that the three Gospel temptations govern human history and underline the contradictions in us. The temptation of the bread speaks of the desire of our bodies to be pampered. The leap from the temple suggests we are anxious to forget our human condition. The temptation to call the world one's own speaks to our urge to dominate those who are weaker.

Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to effect a change in the world. He did battle with the devil and the world to save us. Fr. Phil Bloom says God allows the devil to tempt us so we can gain humility, trust and strength. We spend the 40 days of Lent, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds us, to join Jesus in saving others, for the One whose life dwells within each of us has intimately involved us in the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God.

With the Help of the Holy Spirit

How can we overcome sin and oppression in our personal lives? Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. tells us that just as the Holy Spirit led Jesus in the desert, the Lord gives us the same Holy Spirit to be our strength, guide and consoler in temptation and testing.

Reflect this Lent that there is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan. While Satan is out of style, he is not out of business. If we are trying to be like Jesus this Lent, Fr. John Foley, S.J. challenges us, let us re-balance our priorities. Every human being will satisfy their hunger for God only by seeking satisfaction in God. That is why, Father Cusick tells us, we must keep coming back to Jesus Christ, that bread that is truly present among us: the Bread of Life.

Lent, Penitence & Penance

Attending Mass on Ash Wednesday isn’t a law in the world or in the Church. And yet Catholics come in droves anyway. Why? Jeffrey Tucker says we've been coming across the generations because we adore those features of the faith that underscore features of the physical world that make our very lives sacramentals. Our faith is not just abstract. It is real. And as Rachel Balducci points out, these traditions among family are a rich part of what we have in our Catholic tradition.

Lent starts this week and that means we will be greeted by now-annual tradition from some quarters that “Lent isn’t really about giving things up – it’s about being nice”. But as Eric Sammons explains, by detaching ourselves from the things of this world, we are empowered to become more kind to others.

Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D puts a different spin on Lent. While some think Lent is a time for fasting. God., he sees it as a time of feasting. He says the goal is to save our appetite so that we can feast on other things such as the Word of God, For example, when was the last time you sat down and read an entire book of the bible, from start to finish? And the Pope agrees. Benedict XVI began Lent this week with the reflection: "He does not really fast who does not know how to nourish himself on the Word of God."

Taylor Marshall talks about Penance. And despite the objection of Protestants since Martin Luther, he rightly asserts this: Just as faith without works is dead, rso also epentance without penance is dead. For Lent, therefore he lists his "Top 10 Bible Verses on Penance." And we believe may of you will find that our burning question for you this week is one that will dig deep into your soul: Should you Confess before you receive Communion?

Modern Christianity & Fat Tuesday

Three years ago from Paris, France Archbishop Charles Chaput offered a challenging set of remarks . “The main crisis of modern Christianity is not one of resources, or personnel, or marketing,” Archbishop Chaput asserted. “It is a crisis of faith. Millions of people claim to be Christian, but they don't really believe. They don't study Scripture, they don't love the Church as a mother and teacher. And they settle for an inoffensive, vanilla Christianity that amounts to a system of decent social ethics.”

Finally, if you every wondered how Fat Tuesday, Pancakes, and those Easter Eggs came to be, we did a little research on Fat Tuesday and came away with some very interesting and cool facts about this aspect of our faith . Here's Seven Fun Catholic Facts.

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: Should you Confess before you receive Communion?
FEATURED BLOG: Christianity the reason for West's success, say the Chinese
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus vence el mal por medio de la Oracion

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