Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life"

This Sunday, June 22, 2014, is a capstone of all the celebrations since Holy Week. The Feast of Corpus Christi gives us the one very important matter that still needs to come before us: the sacrament of the Eucharist. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

The Church situates this Sunday's feast immediately after the celebration of last Sunday's Feast of the Trinity and the Pentecost the week before that. No matter how you approach these feasts, the Pentecost and the Trinity both honor an invisible God. Not so the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ! The Nazarene is eminently seeable and embraceable. When John records the words of Jesus that "the bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh," he is giving us his account of the institution of the Eucharist.

The Real Presence

The Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharist, the wafer and the wine really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Don't be surprised if you've met people who find this a bit hard to take. When Jesus spoke about eating his flesh and drinking his blood in John 6, the response was less than enthusiastic. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (V52). “This is a hard saying who can listen to it?” (V60).

Our evangelical brethren speak often of an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. But Marcellino D'Ambrosio asks, how much more personal and intimate than the Eucharist can you get? We receive the Lord’s body into our physical body that we may become him whom we receive. Even the Old Testament foreshadowed the Eucharist. Joe Heschmeyer points out for us the five different ways the Eucharist is prefigured in the Old Testament and what each of those things shows us about the Eucharist. Meanwhile Fr. Paul Gunter, OSB discusses the theology behind receiving Communion under both species - Body and Blood.

Among other things, the Eucharist is a memorial. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says it is a ritual re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself for us. The reason for what we will do this Sunday – celebrating with the monstrance, the music, the procession – isn’t to glorify an inanimate object, a bit of bread contained in glass. It is to remind the world that in that bread we have been given Christ. Not an idea, symbol or an abstract bit of arcane theology. Deacon Greg Kandra reminds us that when you look at that host -- you look at Christ. The Eucharist is the Gospel made Sacrament, adds Fr. James Gilhooley

Faithful Reception of the Eucharist

If the Eucharist is the true Body and Blood of Jesus, why do we take the Mass so casually? Fr. Phil Bloom observes that for many people it seems the Eucharist is no big deal. We don’t truly realize what is happening. Before receiving the Eucharist, we have the Sign of Peace, meant to express our desire for pardon and reconciliation before receiving Christ. Unfortunately, we have taken this ancient gesture and turned it into a social event. Also when the choir begins the Lamb of God, are we focusing our attention on Jesus, truly present in the Chalice and in the Bread, now broken on the altar? We must give the Mass due reverence and revise our understanding, our disposition and our attitudes, explains Fr. Alex McAllister SDS.

Receiving our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is a graced moment and requires us to be rightly disposed and not conscious of serious sin in our lives. In St. John's introduction to this Sunday's Gospel, he spells out in great detail the absolute necessity of faith for a fruitful reception of the Eucharist. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says this Sacrament is the way we join in the physical life of Christ. His body becomes one with our bodies in an intimate transformation. Therefore it is of utmost importance to remember  that when we receive Communion, we become the monstrance in which Our Lord tabernacles. And, Joe Heschmeyer points out, that is why we need the Sacrament of Confession.

We are the Body of Christ

What is supposed to happen at the Eucharist is that we, the congregation, by sacrificing the things that divide us, should become the body and blood of Christ. More so than the bread and wine, we, the people, are meant to be changed, to be transubstantiated. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says this is what it means to be a Catholic. We are people of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

When Jesus invites us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS says Jesus is inviting us to ingest God's Word, to feast on God's light, God's life, God's truth, God's love. Nourished by the divine life we receive, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains that we become the body and blood of Christ to the world. The real presence is not only to be found in church, but in each baptized Christian nourished by the Eucharist and becoming the real presence of Christ to the world.

You are challenged today by this one introspective question: What Do you really expect from Holy Communion?

Prayer, Sacred Heart, Eucharist & Social Doctrine

In observance of the Sacred Heart devotion that's being observed during the month of June, Fr. Richard Neilson says the Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament feeds the flame of our love for the Lord. Thus afire, we thirst for souls as He does, becoming His dedicated emissaries among the men and women of our day, so many of whom neither know Him nor love Him.

And Carl E. Olson shares some thoughts from Archbishop Fulton Sheen about comparing Christianity to other religions. He brings out from the late archbishop his thoughts on the four false assumptions that are often made in comparing religions.

And three years ago from Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose Gomez clarified that while there are “some non-negotiables in Catholic social teaching,” when it comes to the role of government in the economy, “sincere Catholics can have legitimate differences of opinion.” He added, "In our current fiscal crisis, the poor are threatened by proposed cutbacks in government spending and downsizing of assistance programs. But Catholic principles of solidarity also urge us to see unsustainable public deficits as having profound moral implications for justice and human dignity.”

Stories of Hope

Bo Sanchez is back this week with an anlaogy story that he admits  isn’t an original idea. Here are the five things that are common between you and a pencil. Msgr. Charles Pope travels the Lifestyle road with his contribution this week. It's about an article he saw that lists the Nine Things That will Disappear in Our Lifetime. He admitts that he becomes less convinced as the list goes on. But here it is anyway.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed Feast of Corpus Christi to all.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QESTION: Do you really believe in the True Presence at Communion?
FEATURED BLOG: What Do you Expect From Holy Communion?
PASTORAL HISPANA: El sacramento donde Cristo se queda por amor a nosotros

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son"

This Sunday, June 18, 2015, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity. The Triune nature of God is the principal mystery of the Catholic faith. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

The Very Mystery of God

What we know about God is not made up, not a fable invented by our ancestors. What we know about God is revealed by God himself. The Triune nature of God is the principal mystery of the Catholic faith. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says it is the first and last horizon of the universe and of history: the Love of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is not solitude, but perfect communion. All three in a great dynamic of love, are so close that they are One God, explains Fr. John Foley, S. J..

Of course, we can only ever know God partially because to know him fully would be beyond our capacity as human beings in this life. The reality of God is too rich to ever be captured, even half adequately, in imagination, thought, and word. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says the idea of God needs to stretch, not shrink, the human imagination. But in order for us to get to know God we need to to root out sin and to cultivate the qualities that bring us closer to him. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS tells us that these qualities are the virtues of faith, hope, charity and all the rest.

If Christianity were simply a religion of keeping the law, the inner life of the lawgiver would not matter. But if Christianity is about personal relationship with God, Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio explains, then who God really is matters totally. Further, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us that God possesses us, and we possess Him, not for ourselves, but to continue His Presence in the world. Thus every Sunday's liturgy helps unfold the mystery of divine life. In each gospel Jesus makes the Father's truth and love present in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. We open each Liturgy invoking the Trinity, Fr. James Gilhooley highlights for us, and we also close it by calling upon those same Persons.

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world.”
- us. The truth of that statement is so simple and yet it boggles the mind. Its so easy to say and so hard to wrap our minds and hearts around. And yet, explains Fr. Orlando, Sapuay, MS. the truth remains. God loves us. No matter what our sins or our attitude towards God. Whether we accept the truth of His love or not - He does love you.

And the "world" which God loves so much as to give it his only Son? We are that world -- human beings tragically alienated from God, alienated from each other, alienated from our own deepest personal identity as children of God. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. says this is the world described in the first chapters of Genesis, in every evening's TV news, in our own experience of life. And yet, points out college student Emily Clark, that thing that an earthly father would never be willing to do—sacrifice his child—is just the thing God chose to do . . . for us.

The Communion of Saints

Every Sunday's Eucharist is the prayer of the church in living communion with the Risen Lord praising the Father through the power of the Spirit. Father Cusick points out to us that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit live eternally, love eternally and pour out divine love and life in the world through the Body of Christ, the Church.

We pray to the Father through Jesus his Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. And this unity of the Holy Spirit, according to Fr. Phil Bloom,  is the Communion of Saints. Our origin is family, the Trinity, and our goal is family, the Communion of Saints for ever united to the Persons of the Trinity.

Prayer, Worship & the Sacraments

Joe Heschmeyer urges us all to prepare ourselves to become tabernacles for the Lord. When we receive Communion, our very bodies and souls become the receptacles for the Second Person of the Trinity. And that's why we need the Sacrament of Confession. Because otherwise, when we receive the Eucharist, we're placing God in the pit of filth inside of us.

This is also the time of year when Bishops celebrate Confirmation. It is certainly a wonderful moment for all you recipients of the sacrament, as you receive the same Holy Spirit bestowed upon the Church at Pentecost, which we celebrated last Sunday. But now that you've been confirmed. Now what? Archbishop Richard W. Smith from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada has the answers for you.

Family Matters

Then Archbishop now Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York lamented the media and its rush to push the states to re-invent the very definition of an undeniable truth – one man, one woman, united in lifelong love and fidelity, hoping for children – that has served as the very cornerstone of civilization and culture from the start. Our beliefs, he argued should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people. This is not about denying rights. It is about upholding a truth about the human condition.

This media push to erode our long-set values has to be met with a re-education process. And that is where the new evangelization comes in. Cardinal Odilo Scherer, archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil  says it needs to be as ordinary as daily life -- because it has to happen in our homes. "The peoples to evangelize are in our own house," he asserted. "The Gospel is not a good that constitutes our privilege [as Catholics], but a good for the world."

And Jennifer Fulwiler discusses how the digital revolution is impacting everything from prayer to marriages to the Church as a whole. But one of the areas that she finds most interesting is how it has impacted the fight for the dignity of human life. She says the internet will make the world more Pro-Life. And I agree with her.

Celebrating All Fathers

This Sunday is Fathers Day. Did you know that according to surveys, if a father made a decision to become a Christian, the rest of the family followed his example 93 percent of the time? No one wants to minimize the importance of faithful mothers, Terry Mattingly explains. But it's clear that fathers play a unique and special role in helping their children develop a living faith — especially their sons. There's no way to deny that.

And to inspire all you fathers out there, here's a story of a father's unelievable love for his disabled son. We all try to be good fathers, but compared to Dick Hoyt, we all suck. Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in Marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day. "I Can Only Imagine" is the story and the video will move you.

Conan, Chaste Dating & Graduations

And as we close, let's talk about our graduates and the new world that awaits them after school. Conan O’ Brien took center stage three years ago this week when he gave the commencement address at Dartmouth college. We have the video for you. It is longer than usual, but stick with it for the sheer entertainment value. At about the 18 minute mark, O’Brien gets serious and personal, and the speech goes from enjoyable to sublime. He offers some serious life nuggets to graduates everywhere.

And for those high school graduate who are off to college, allow us to share with you some Dating Rules as oyu navigate the tricky roads of college life. Here's Ten Ways to Chaste Dating for the over-21 Crowd and for those who live Outside the Home.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A Happy and blessed Fathers Day to all dads!

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Why do you make the sign of the Cross?
FEATURED BLOG: Lot's Wife Syndrome
PASTORAL HISPANA: La Solemnidad de la Santisima Trinidad

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

“Receive the Holy Spirit."

This Sunday, June 8, 2014, we celebrate Pentecost, the 50th day that signals the start of the universal mission of the Church -- a mission that overcomes human obstacles and has the Spirit as its driving force. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

"Receive the Holy Spirit."

Pentecost is not just another Sunday. Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains that it is a feast equal to Christmas and Easter themselves. The Feast of Pentecost, originally the Jewish Feast of weeks commemorating the gift of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai 50 days after the Exodus, was the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out in the Upper Room upon the apostles and other disciples in the form of tongues of fire and a strong wind, fifty days after Easter Sunday, the day marking the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

In the Gospel we are told that the apostles, imprisoned and bound by fear of the Jews after Jesus' death, have locked themselves into the upper room. Then Jesus came and stood before them. He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." And immediately, the apostle's fears vanished. But what changed the disciples from fearful hiding behind locked doors to fearless witnesses in the world? Fr. James Gilhooley says the Holy Spirit is the master of surprises who makes the impossible possible. He is the one who reminds us that it does not require great people to do great things - just unselfish ones.

So who exactly is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the animating principle of the Christian life, the Soul of the Christian soul, explains Dr. Anthony Lilles. Despite this knowledge, many people today still want to know where the Church “came up with” the Holy Spirit. Mark Shea attempts to answer the question for them.

Fr. Phil Bloom explains that the Holy Spirit - Jesus' first gift - is His greatest gift to us. And this is because this gift contains God Himself, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. But the Holy Spirit is not just a person inside the Trinity, hopelessly abstract and beyond our conception, Fr. Ron Rolheiser reminds us. He points out that Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit is also very concrete, conceivable, and tangible inside of charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, longsuffering, fidelity, gentleness, and chastity.

Pentecost Marks the Birth of the Church

Pentecost is considered to be the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit was poured out into the apostles on Pentecost. The First Reading from tells the story of how - upon receiving the Holy Spirit - the apostles began to speak in different tongues and proclaimed the Good News of Jesus death and resurrection to people of all nationalities in Jerusalem.

Today's Church also speaks in the tongues of all men and women of every race, culture, and nationality. She speaks with a common language because she utters God's only and unitary Word. Fr. Charles Irvin explains that of all the diversities in humanity, the Church makes one inter-dependent unity. All of us together are formed by the Holy Spirit in the one Body of Christ. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino advises us that in our own parishes today, we have to get away from the thought that someone or some group is rather an exception than a norm in the Church. As Catholics we don't just put up with each other's differences, we value each other's differences as a unique manifestation of the Holy Spirit without which our faith body would be incomplete.

Pentecost invites us once again to walk with the Church, breathe with the Church, hope with the Church, feel with the Church. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. says Easter therefore is not just coming to a wonderful, inspiring worship service. It is about being sent back into the hostile world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to the identity of God as revealed in Jesus. Just as Jesus was sent by the Father, so also he sends the community.

Therefore, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS points out, for Christians everyday is a Pentecost Day.

"Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them"

In the Gospel Jesus says, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The power of the Spirit not only authorizes, but also empowers the apostles to forgive and to retain sins. Father Cusick explains further that the Apostles Creed links "the forgiveness of sins" with its profession of faith in the Holy Spirit, for the risen Christ entrusted to the apostles the power to forgive sins when he gave them the Holy Spirit. With this act, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB adds, Jesus formally sends out to the world His apostles, just as He had been sent to the world by the Father.

But many today ask aloud  why go to a priest to confess our sins? Could God also forgive outside of the rituals of the Catholic Church? Of course. Fr. Robert Barron explains that God is held bound by nothing. But the stubbornly incarnational God, Catholics believe, has desired to convey his forgiveness through the body of the church. As the priest administers the sacraments, the priest is operating, not in his own person, but in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). His voice, his gesture, and his embodied presence are a sacramental representation, a bodying forth, of Christ’s embodied presence.

And to this discussion we add this wonderful resource for all: 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession.

Gifts and Charisms of the Holy Spirit

If you ask Catholics and Pentecostals about the number of gifts of the Holy Spirit, and what those gifts are, you'll likely get two different answers. Pentecostals, and some other Protestants, believe that there are nine spiritual gifts. In contrast, Catholics believe that there are seven spiritual gifts and we receive them all in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

These are powerful gifts, freely given to all. So what if you, just like Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, did not quite “get it” when you were confirmed? I’ve got good news for you. You actually did get the Spirit and his gifts. Thus, Deacon Greg Kandra explains, we need to know that what we are undertaking in the Sacrament of Confirmation, is not just a thing of joy, but something more vast and more intimidating than anything we've ever encountered. To be in church, to receive the sacraments, is to stand before the presence of God. The good deacon tells us that we need to be awestruck. While Pope Benedict said the Holy Spirit will make us "fearless witnesses of Christ."

Pentecost Novena, Prayer, & Being Catholic

The Pentecost novena in honor of the Holy Spirit is the oldest of all novenas. It is still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church. This novena is supposed to begin last bweek on the day after the Solemnity of the Ascension. To those who did not participate in the novena, it's never too late to start it today.

And are you familiar with Theology on Tap? It started with an idea in 1981 that parishes should do something to make young adult Catholics feel more welcome and more connected to their faith. Now, over 30 years later, the program has blossomed, reaching into parishes and dioceses across the United States and some countries overseas. Plus Fr. Anthony Lusvardi, SJ notes that there are still plenty of things to love about being Catholic. Here's his not very scientific list of the small pleasures of our ever-new, ever-ancient faith. Its his Top 10 Small Pleasures of being Catholic.

Judith Costello shares a blog post she composed after sitting in the bleachers watching her son’s basketball practice. During the game, a man started ranting about how Catholic don't care about the poor. She penned a response to the man's assertion that all the poverty in the world would end if the Church would only sell all their artwork and statues and gold and give it to help the poor.

Graduation 2014, Spelling Bee & More

High schools and colleges all over the US are celebrating graduations this week. Rev. James V. Schall, S.J. asks what college graduates actually learn before they graduate? Depending on the student and the faculty, the answer ranges from “not much” to “an amazing amount.” While a commencement speaker at one high school graduation ceremony opened the eyes and minds of his young audience by talking about the true and hidden lessons we learned in high school.

Meantime, Marc Hack reflects on how today is a perfect day to make lasting memories – the kind you may someday share with your grandchildren. He offers his list of "20 Ways To Make Today Unforgettable."

And we bring you back a story from the 2011 Scripps Spelling Bee contest that concluded last week, we share with you the "Last 10 Words of the 2011 Spelling Bee." Cymotrichous, Periscii, Sorites. They're just some of the tounge-twisting, strange words the finalists actually faced. If those were a piece of cake for you, maybe you’re ready to see if you could actually make the cut. Check out the rest of the list and give it a shot.

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 Confess before you receive Communion?
FEATURED BLOG: Smacking You into Sainthood
PASTORAL HISPANA: Pentecostes es la fiesta del nacimiento de la Iglesia

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