Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you."

This Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 (26A), we read the Parable of the Two Sons. It is unique to the Gospel of Matthew is probably one of the most easily understandable of all the parables of Jesus. It describes a situation we can all identify with and one that we surely all have experienced. Some call this four verse parable the Better of Two Bad Sons. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

The parable was one of three parables Christ spoke in His last days. They are known in history as the Parables of Rejection. This day's Gospel was the first and shortest of the melancholy three. This Sunday we are also treated to one of the most beautiful passages about Jesus in the entire Bible. It is found in the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians.

Obedience and Disobedience

The two sons in the parable this weekend have some promise. Their father has a vineyard of his own, something for them to inherit. The vineyard needs some work, and the father tells both to go and do it. One says no, but then eventually goes. The other says he'll go work, but never shows up. Number one son, who said no to his father but who went and did what his father wanted, is a type for sinners. Number two son, who says yes to the father but does not deliver, is a stand-in for the religious authorities of the day who were long on words but short on deeds.

Father Cusick explains to us that Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law, and commanded the people to do as the Pharisees taught according to the law. But he also warned against following their example. We should be like the first son and say "yes" just as he did, but we must also be as the second son who obeyed the father, though at first he refused. Talk is cheap, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio tells us. It’s easy to make a promise. But keeping a promise is an entirely different matter, as this Sunday’s gospel makes abundantly clear.

It is about obedience and disobedience, says Fr. Alex McAllister SDS. It is about compliance and rebellion, about changing one’s mind in a positive way and changing one’s mind in a negative way. It is fundamentally about the choices we make in life. And it is about conversion and repentance, as Fr. John J. Ludvik explains.

A Warning Against Self-deception

Certainly in the parable, the father wants the best for both his sons. But the one never does the will of the father. Jesus uses the parable to describe human relations with God. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says it offers a lesson for those who claim to be Christian, but do not worship as Christians or live the Christian life; compared to those who come to Christ later but never claimed to be righteous.

It is clearly a warning against self-deception. Fr. Orly Sapuay, M.S. reminds us how easy it is for the spiritual person to build up for themselves over the years the firm belief that they are doing God's will. They have an interior sense of this due to their prayer life, their personal spiritual activities, spiritual readings and so forth. Yet Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says all these become problematic when one's relationship with God is reduced primarily to observing rituals and keeping rules. It is a problem when we fail to see that we haven't changed the way we deal with our fellow men. When we remain judgmental, merciless, impatient gossips who look down on others as less than ourselves.

A Call To Work the Vineyard

We are called to work in the Father's vineyard. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says the vineyard is your house and my house. The vineyard is your life and my life. The vineyard is that place where others are reaching out to us, seeking the love of Christ in us. And if we want motivation, as well as encouragement, solace in love, participation in the Spirit, compassion, and mercy, St. Paul says to look at what Christ did (Second Reading). Then you will not act out of selfishness, but will serve others humbly, as he did. Fr. John Foley, S. J.  says this is the ultimate motivation in Christianity.

In the final roundup, Fr. James Gilhooley points out that it is only by deeds that we prove what we are. It is only by actions that we establish whether we are genuine or faux. Fr. Phil Bloom says what counts is not the image that others perceive. What counts is our final state before God. So we turn to Sunday's Psalm for hope that we may grow in the true faith that Jesus speaks about in the Gospel because, as James Starke concludes, God remembers us not for our sins but in kindness.

Mass, Prayer, Sin & Guilt

A reader asks a very serious question from a reader: "What's the point of going to Mass if we’re in the state of sin?" And Fr. John Zuhlsdorf offers a great pastoral response you all must see. Meanwhile, related to this, Msgr. Charles Pope tries to navigate one of the trickier terrains in the moral world - the experience of guilt. It is understood here as a kind of sorrow for sin. On the one hand there is an appropriate sorrow for sin we ought to experience. Yet there are also types of guilt that can set up, either from our flesh or from the devil which are self destructive and inauthentic. Which bring us to the sin of Gossip. Here's a reflection on one of the more under-rated categories of sin: the sins of speech.

The Carmelite sisters are known as the Navy SEALs of spiritual warfare. Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D. offers tips for improving your prayer experiences. And she starts by suggesting we not use the expression “prayer experiences” at all. Hit the delete button on that one. Prayer isn’t just “an experience.” It is so much more. The good sister explains in more detail.

Why Virginity Matters

Jennifer Fulwiler was glancing at a list of saints’ feast days that fall during this week, when she this listed for September 23: St. Thecla, Virgin and Martyr. As she reflected on virginity and what it means in today's world, she began to realize that it is possible to live a fulfilling life without having sex. She also deduced that denying this fact alone is responsible for some of the worst scourges that plague the modern world: abortion, contraception, even homosexual acts. 

And speaking of the topic of homosexuality, Bishop James D. Conley introduces Courage, an apostolate that was founded in 1980 in New York and is now serving the Church in about 100 U.S. dioceses and in many countries overseas. “Speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15) about homosexuality is the work of Courage. And it begins by acknowledging that the truth of human sexuality can be known and lived. It trusts that the Church, which assures us that Christ has risen from the dead, also guides us in understanding the complex and controversial question of homosexuality.

Meanwhile, Kevin Lowry tackles Catholicism in the workplace and how tough it can be at times. However, with hardship always comes opportunity. He offers "3 Ways to Shock Your Co-Workers" using stealth workplace evangelization. They won't even know what hit them.

Life, Married Love and Becoming a Dad

Breast cancer survivor Pat Gohn touches on the exquisite and excruciating Life of Married Love. She notes how loving someone until death is as hard as it is beautiful. It is sacrifice, but also a well of deep, refreshing joy.

Matthew Archbold talks about how miserable men can be when their wives are pregnant because present for the conception, they're then faced with nine months of absolutely no specific responsibility. And then it happens. He describes the experience in "How I Became a Dad."

Someone’s out to get your teens — and Barbara Curtis say they mean business. A special PBS Frontline report named them “The Merchants of Cool” in their in-depth look at the aggressive marketing used to control how American teens spend their money. We look at how to "Consumer-proof your kids."

Finally, here's something for those who have lost their jobs. It's "10 things to do if you have just lost your job."

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.
Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: Why Don't you Read the Bible?
FEATURED BLOG: A Reflection on the Sin of Gossip
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus nos habla de poner en practica su Palabra

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Are you envious because I am generous?"

It's September 21, 2014 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (25A)- and this Sunday's Gospel parable of the workers in the vineyard serves as a corrective to false notions of entitlement and merit. The story reflects the socio-economic background of Palestine at the time of Jesus. The parable is offensive to us and it challenges our sense of justice. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

This may be the most puzzling of the forty parables of Jesus. It is found only in Matthew. Perhaps Mark, Luke, and John were afraid to touch it. This parable is clearly about serving the Master, or working in the kingdom, but the twist here is that many of those who worked in the vineyard did not think that the wages were fairly paid.

Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. says the story could be divided into three parts for the organized study: the basic story of the hiring agreement, the twist in the story when the workers were all paid the same thing, and the landowner’s explanation of what he was doing.

Sometimes life just isn't fair

“But that’s not fair!” Most parents have heard this phrase umpteen times. The notion of fairness also known as justice, is built into us. It makes us aware that each of us has certain rights that need to be respected. Sometimes that's just the way life is, which is in part the point of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.

God’s economy of grace is not the same as the natural order people expect. And that, Fr. John J. Ludvik explains, is why this story from Jesus is so difficult to understand. God’s lavish love and forgiveness go out equally to those have worked hard and to those who haven’t. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says this amazing grace is the same for those who have been faithful for a long time and to those who jumped on-board at the last minute, to those who did their duty and to those who lived selfishly.

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino points out that His standards are clearly not like ours. God gives His Grace according to how He perceives the work that is done, according to His standards, not according to ours. God sees the individual effort and rewards this effort generously, Fr. James Gilhooley explains. And as God himself clearly indicates in the First Readings from Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts; my ways not your ways." 

God's Infinite Generosity

Obviously the wages as distributed in the parable are not a strict remuneration for hours worked. they are more like a gift from a fond heart. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says Jesus told this parable to show how God’s caring heart works, how he gives a depth of love to each person in this world, especially to ones who suffer and are left behind.

Each person receives his or her own share. We have unequal physical talents, Marcellino D'Ambrosio reminds us. They vary a lot from person to person. But what they all have in common is that they come as free gifts from God who didn’t have to create any of us. What is being revealed to us, according to Fr. Alex McAllister SDS, is one of the great promises of God that he will reward with eternal life all those who follow him, all those who respond to his call.

God's choice of a person or people, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB reminds us, should not be a cause of pride in those chosen, or rejection of those not chosen. It is not for us to determine who qualifies to enter the Kingdom. Our task is not to be constantly looking over our shoulder but rather to rejoice in the task that we have been given to proclaim his love to the world and to live a life worthy of his name.

The Lord's Call to All

Father Cusick goes straight to the point - the calling of all mankind, the vocation of all, is to holiness. God's kingdom is meant to be the new order of grace. His is a gift that is never earned in the way that a wage is earned, and expected. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. asks us to reflect on this: isn't there always something unexpected and wonderful about a gift of love, even a kind word?

We can put it this way, explains Fr. Phil Bloom. The devil wants us to compare ourselves to others and to stew about how unfair things are. But God wants Stewardship. Whatever we have, God wants us to recognize it as a free gift that we must invest for His glory and the good of others. The Lord calls all those who have received Him in word and sacrament to share generously with all men what they themselves have received.

All share equally in the task, whether called early or late in the day, to build up the kingdom of God in this world. What matters is that when the Lord returns, you and I are working in the vineyard.

Exaltation of the Cross

Last Sunday  we celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.  Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP reflected on the feast and tells us that this feast comes down on the side of salvation. She reminds us that Jesus’ self-emptying in the Incarnation and later on the cross is His supreme act of love for the Father, who sent him to save the world.

Father Longenecker relates this to the celebration of the Mass. He reminds us all that the primary understanding of the Mass is now, and always has been, a re-presentation of the cross of Christ. The once for all sacrifice of Calvary is brought into the present moment through the action of the Mass and applied to our needs here and now. This is why he sounds off his irritation when people refer to Mass as primarily a fellowship meal. Clearly, it is not, he concludes.

Families, Scripture & Youth

From Jennifer Fulwiler we deliver "6 Tips for Surviving the First Years of Parenthood." She explains that while becoming a parent is a natural part of life for some people, many newlyweds are utterly unprepared for for the months and years that lay ahead. She hopes that her insight helps.

Ever wondered why teens today are so obsessed with reading Harry Potter and Twilight? Katie Peterson posits that If we examine some possible reasons for their massive success among the youthful generation, then we are reminded of how we can show young people that Scripture can give them all the thrills and intrigue that they receive from these novels—well, actually…much more. She offers her "Six Tips for More Effectively Teaching Scripture to Youth." And more for the youth, specifically our college-aged young people. John Zmirak teaches you "How Not to Waste Your 4 Years of College."

“Conscience” in a Culture without Truths?

In our national debates the critical issue of protection for claims of “conscience” have increasingly been raised, most deeply, of course, on the matter of abortion and same-sex marriage. But behind the arguments over claims of “conscience,” Hadley Arkes argues that there is an eerie truth that dare not speak its name: The understanding of “conscience” has been deflated in our current law, along with the understanding of “religion.”

What Is Spiritual Desolation and how do we get out of it? Christine Watkins says it is characterized by our relationship with God. God feels far away. Prayer is dry, difficult, and unappealing, and we can feel tempted to abandon or lessen our faith practices. She offers four ways to get out of spiritual desolation.

And finally, here's one about actors Emilio Estevez and his dad Martin Sheen talking about faith. Estevez and his dad Sheen sat down for an interview a few years back about their film, "The Way." Sheen recalled that fateful day in 1981 he came back to the arms of the Catholic Church, "I went to confession with the priest and wept. I came back to a Church that was very different. I left a Church of fear and returned to a Church of love."

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

FEATURED BLOG: “Conscience” in a Culture without Truths?
BQ: Can Catholics marry non-Catholics in Catholic ceremonies?
PASTORAL HISPANA: La justicia de Dios es distinta a la nuestra 

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

"If your brother sins against you..."

Our Gospel this Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014 (23A) is taken from a section of St Matthew’s Gospel in which he considers forgiveness in the community and how to deal with sinners. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

A Brother Who Has Sinned

Matthew adapts sayings of the historical Jesus to address the new situation of an established local church in need of due process to handle difficult problems. He compels us to consider the essential elements in the process of forgiveness among members of the Church community.

In Catholic tradition, one of the spiritual works of mercy is “Admonish the sinner.” "Admonish" comes from the Latin verb monere, which means "to warn." Admonishing sinners involves -- with utmost gentleness and kindness -- calling people out of their sin to a new life in friendship with Christ.

Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. tells us that we are to "warn" others in appropriate ways that serious sin can lead to greater sins - without coming off as being condemning or judgmental. We owe a debt of love to our brothers and sisters (Rom 13:8-10). And love, according to Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, always does its best to dissuade a person from walking over a cliff. It's not easy, but that's the balance we must maintain as Christians.

When Christians are “all too human” and hurt each other, it is not a matter of who broke the rules. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says to genuinely forgive means that we refuse to allow the hurt to prevent us from growing and moving forward. And all the rules, Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains, are summed up in a single saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” To which college student Danielle Stewart rightly adds, "Love is the fulfillment of the Law.”

But if the relationship cannot be healed between the parties involved, Fr. John J. Ludvik reminds us that we need to reach out to friends - particularly friends in the church - as Christ suggests. But the most important place we will turn is to God, for it is from our relationship with God, not with another human being, that we draw our strength and our identity.

The Church: Binding and Loosing

The first reading from Ezekiel, explains Fr. Joseph Pellegino, speaks about the responsibility that we have to each other and to the Body of Christ - the Church. Fr. Phil Bloom elaborates further. You and I - by the way we live - are called to be watchmen: to help others turn from destruction and turn toward the one source of hope, Jesus the Savior of humanity.

In this Gospel text, we hear again that the Church has been given Christ's power to bind or loose, to forgive or not forgive sins. All of the Church's faithful enjoy Christ's presence, through the Holy Spirit, while assembled to praise and worship him and to pray in His name. Unfortunately, however, many are unaware that an encounter with Christ happens each time the liturgy is offered. Father Cusick says many allow themselves to become bored, are put off by the obligation to attend Mass, and many fall away.

Where two or more are gathered

As we come to the end of the text you might wonder about the last sentence in which Christ says, “If two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you… for where two or three met in my name I shall be there with them.”

Fr. Alex McAllister, SDS explains that these words are clearly about prayer. We need to realize that whatever the Christian community does is rooted in prayer. After all, our whole aim is to discern the will of the Father and we know that above everything else His will is that everyone on earth should be reconciled to Him. And at times, Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.reminds us, it may be that Christ's healing truth will touch someone in need only through one of us.

Many Things Catholic

Most of us who are Catholics eventually get asked by our Protestant firends, “Why do you Catholics worship Mary?" Msgr. Charles Pope offers a new approach instead of a direct defense of our Blessed Mother. He suggests instead that we question the questioner with, "And why do you not honor Mary in accordance with Scripture?" And really start a bible conversation.

But we have to admit that mastery of the Holy Bible can be very difficult to achieve. It takes prayer, study, and constant reading and re-reading - not to mention an intimate familiarity the teachings of the Church Fathers. However, Taylor Marshall poits out that one can quickly acquire an "outline" of salvation history by learning the basic covenants of Scripture. The covenants provide the structure for the unfolding of God's plan. And ultimately all things are fulfilled in Christ in the New Covenant.

From the nation's capital we bring back an article with some pleasantly surprising news. The Washington Post - yes, the Washington Post - published a revealing article that takes a close look at Perpetual Adoration. They went to the St. John Neumann parish and found a perpetual procession of prayer. God really does work in mysterious ways.

Discernment — How can I learn God’s Will for me? Does God have one right choice for me in each decision I make? Dr. Peter Kreeft offers five general principles of discernment of God's will. While Bo Sanchez returns with a conversation he had with the female CEO of a leading European corporation. A cancer survivor, she attracts blessings—and Bo says you can too! He give us his "6 Strategies On How To Be Positive In A Negative World."

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.
Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

FEATURED BLOG: Life, Reproductive Health and Conscience
BURNING QUESTION: What are the four marks of the True Church?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus nos muestra como vivir en comunidad

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