Saturday, December 04, 2010

Gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

From: Matthew 3:1-12

The Preaching of John the Baptist

[1] ln those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, [2] "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." [3] For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

[4] Now John wore a garment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. [5] Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, [6] and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

[7] But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] Bear fruit that befits repentance, [9] and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father' ; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.' [10] Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

[11] I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. [12] His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

1. The _expression "in those days" does not specify the exact time of the event in question. It is sometimes used merely as an opening phrase to mark the beginning of a new episode. In this case, in fact, it can be calculated that some twenty-five years have elapsed since the Holy Family's return from Egypt. This is only an estimate, because the exact date of their return has not been established.

On the date of the start of John the Baptist's preaching, see Luke 3:1-3.

The word "wilderness" has a wider meaning here than we give it today. It does not refer to a sandy or rocky desert, but rather to arid regions, low in vegetation.

2. "Repent": Christ's redeeming work ushers in a new era in the Kingdom of God. This brings such advance in salvation history, that what is required from now on is a radical change in man's behavior towards God. The coming of the Kingdom means that God has intervened in a special way to save mankind, but it also implies that we must be open to God's grace and reform our ways. Christ's life on earth compels people to take a stand--either for God or against him ("He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters": Lk 11:23).

Given man's sinful state after original sin, the newly-arrived Kingdom requires that all men repent of their past life. To put it another way, they have to stop going away from God and instead try to get closer to him. Since sin hinders this conversion, it is impossible to turn back to God without performing acts of penance. Conversion is not simply a question of making a good resolution to mend our ways; we have to fulfill that resolution, even if we find it difficult.

Penance grows only where there is humility--and everyone should admit sincerely that he is a sinner (cf. 1 Jn 1 :8-10). Obedience also goes hand in hand with penance; everyone ought to obey God and keep his commandments (cf. 1 Jn 2:3-6).

The literal translation of the Greek is "Repent". But precisely because the very essence o f conversion consists in doing penance, as we have said, the
New Vulgate has "paenitentiam agite" ("do penance"). This translation
conveys the deeper meaning of the text.

Man's whole life, in fact, consists in constantly correcting his behavior, and therefore implies a continual doing of penance. This turning back to God was preached continually by the prophets in the Old Testament. Now, however, with the coming of Christ, this penance and turning to God are absolutely essential. That Christ took on our sins and suffered for us does not excuse us from making a true conversion; on the contrary, it demands it of us (cf. Col 1:24).

"Kingdom of heaven": this expression is identical to "Kingdom of God". The former is the one most used by St Matthew, and is more in line with the Jewish turn of phrase. Out of reverence, the Jews avoided pronouncing the name of God and substituted other words for it, as in this case. "Kingdom of God" or "Kingdom of heaven" was a concept used already in the Old Testament and in religious circles at the time of Christ. But it occurs particularly frequently in Jesus' preaching.

The phrase "Kingdom of God" can refer in a general way to God's dominion over creatures; but normally, as in this text, it refers to God's sovereign and merciful involvement in the life of his people. Man's rebellion and sin broke the order originally established in creation. To re-establish it, God's intervention was needed again; this consisted in the redeeming work of Christ, Messiah and Son of God. It was preceded by a series of preliminary stages in salvation history throughout the Old Testament.

Consequently, the Kingdom of God, announced as imminent by John the Baptist, is brought into being by Jesus. However, this is an entirely spiritual one and does not have the nationalistic dimension expected by Jesus' contemporaries. He comes to save his people and all mankind from the slavery of sin, from death and from the devil, thereby opening up the way of salvation.

In the period between the first and second comings of Christ, this Kingdom of God (or Kingdom of heaven) is, in fact, the Church. The Church makes Christ (and therefore also God) present among all peoples and calls them to eternal salvation. The Kingdom of God will be brought to completion only at the end of this world, that is, when our Lord comes to judge the living and the dead at the end of time. Then God will reign over the blessed in a perfect way.

In the passage we are considering, John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, preaches the imminence of the Kingdom of God, ushered in by the coming of the Messiah.

3. By quoting Isaiah 40:3, St Matthew makes it clear that St John the Baptist has a mission as a prophet. This mission has two purposes--first, to prepare the people to receive the Kingdom of God; second, to testify before the people that Jesus is the Messiah who is bringing that Kingdom.

4. The Gospel gives a brief outline of the extremely austere life of St John the Baptist. His style of life is in line with that of certain Old Testament prophets and is particularly reminiscent of Elijah (cf. 2 Kings 1:8; 2:8-13ff.). The kind of food and dress described are of the most rudimentary for the region in question. The locust was a kind of grasshopper; the wild honey probably refers to substances excreted by certain local shrubs rather than to bees' honey.

In view of the imminent coming of the Messiah, John underlines, with his example, the attitude of penance preceding great religious festivals (similarly, in its Advent liturgy the Church puts John before us as a model and invites us to practise mortification and penance). In this way, the point made in the previous verse (concerning John's view of his mission as precursor of Christ) is fulfilled. A Christian's entire life is a preparation for his meeting with Christ. Consequently, mortification and penance play a significant part in his life.

6. John's baptism did not have the power to cleanse the soul from sin as Christian Baptism does. The latter is a sacrament, a sign, which produces the grace it signifies. Concerning the value of John's baptism, see the note on Mt 3:11.

7. St John reproaches the Pharisees and Sadducees for their attitude towards him. His preaching and baptism are not simply one more purification rite. Rather, they demand a true interior conversion of the soul, as a necessary predisposition to reach the grace of faith in Jesus. In the light of this explanation, we can understand why the prophetic words of St John the Baptist were so hard-hitting; as it turned out, most of these people did not accept Jesus as the Messiah.

"Pharisees": these constituted the most important religious group in Jesus' time. They kept the Law of Moses rigorously and also the oral traditions which had built up around it. They gave as much importance to these latter, indeed, as to the Law itself. They strongly opposed the influence of Greek paganism and totally rejected the homage paid to the Roman emperor. Among them there were men of great spiritual eminence and sincere piety; but there were many others who exaggerated pharisaical religiosity to the extreme of fanaticism, pride and hypocrisy. It was this perversion of the true Israelite religion that John the Baptist (and later our Lord) castigated.

"Sadducees": the Sadducees constituted a smaller religious group than the Pharisees, but they included many influential people, most of them from the main priestly families. They accepted the written Law, but, unlike the Pharisees, they rejected oral tradition. They also rejected certain important truths, such as the resurrection of the dead. On the political front, they went along easily with the terms dictated by the Romans, and they acquiesced in the introduction of pagan customs into the country .Their opposition to Christ was even more pronounced than that of the Pharisees.

9-10. St John the Baptist's listeners believe their salvation is assured because they are descendants of Abraham according to the flesh. But St John " warns them that to pass God's judgment it is not enough to belong to the chosen people; they must also yield the good fruit of a holy life. If they fail to do this, they will be thrown into the fire, that is, into hell, the eternal punishment, because they did not do penance for their sins. See the note on Mt 25:46.

11. St John the Baptist did not limit himself to preaching penance and repentance; he encouraged people to receive his baptism. This baptism was a way of interiorly preparing them and helping them to realize that the coming of Christ was imminent. By his words of encouragement and by their humblerecognition of their sins, they were prepared to receive Christ's grace through Baptism with fire and the Holy Spirit. To put it another way, John's baptism did not produce justification, whereas Christian Baptism is the sacrament of initiation which forgives sin and bestows sanctifying grace.

The effectiveness of the sacrament of Christian Baptism is expressed in Catholic teaching when it says that the sacrament gives grace "ex opere operato". This means that grace is given by virtue of Christ who acts through the sacrament, and not by virtue of the merits of either the minister or the recipient of the sacrament. "When Peter baptizes, it is Christ who baptizes [...]. When Judas baptizes, it is Christ who baptizes" (St Augustine, "ln loann. Evang.", 6).

The word "fire" points in a metaphorical way to the effectiveness of the Holy Spirit's action in totally wiping out sins. It also shows the life-giving power of grace in the person baptized.

Foremost among the personal qualities of St John the Baptist is his remarkable humility; he resolutely rejects the temptation of accepting the dignity of Messiah which the crowds apparently wanted to bestow on him. Carrying the sandals of one's master was a job for the lowest of servants.

12. Verses 10 and 12 refer to judgment by the Messiah. This judgment has two parts: the first occurs throughout each man's life and ends in the Particular Judgment immediately after death; the second occurs at the time of the Last Judgment. Christ is the judge in both instances. Let us remember the words of St Peter in Acts 10:42: "And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he [Jesus] is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead." The judgment will give to each person the reward or punishment merited by his good or bad actions.

It is w orth noting that the word "chaff' does not refer only to bad deeds; it refers also to useless ones, for example, lives lacking in service to God and men. God will judge us, therefore, for our omissions and our lost opportunities.

"Don't let your life be barren. Be useful. Make yourself felt. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love. With your apostolic life, wipe out the trail of filth and slime left by the unclean sowers of hatred. And set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you bear in your heart" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 1).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Bishop Robert J. Hermann Retires

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the retirement of Bishop Robert J. Hermann, who has served as auxiliary bishop of St. Louis since 2002. His retirement is effective Dec. 1, the same day as the appointment of Msgr. Edward M. Rice as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis...

A Mass of thanksgiving for his service will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. The Mass also marks the eighth anniversary of his episcopal ordination...
More here from the St Louis Review.

We wish Bishop Hermann well in his retirement and offer prayers of thanksgiving for his devotion to Christ and to Catholics of St Louis. I hope we will continue to be inspired by his wonderful articles in the St Louis Review.

Former BOD Chairman of St Stanislaus Sentenced to 1 Year

Brothers in tow company scandal get same sentence: 1 year, 1 day
From the Post Dispatch:
The brothers and owners of a towing and parking lot company each were sentenced to one year and one day in prison today for tax evasion.

A federal judge ordered William Bialczak to an additional two years of supervised release and a fine of $100,000....

The judge also ordered William Bialczak to make restitution of $370,185 to the Internal Revenue Service, although that money will be taken out of the $500,000 the government seized when it raided the towing company in August 2008.

...William Bialczak will serve his prison term first...
The Post-Dispatch article is here.

For previous posts regarding the excommunicated Bialczak, click here.

A special HT to Eugene B for the updates!

Msgr. Rice named Auxiliary Bishop by Pope Benedict XVI

On Dec. 1, Pope Benedict XVI named the director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Bishop-designate Rice, 50, will be ordained to the episcopacy during a 2 p.m. Mass Thursday, Jan. 13, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

Bishop-designate Rice was informed of the appointment Nov. 4 in a meeting with Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. The news, he said, came as a shock.

“At first I thought he was joking,” Bishop-designate Rice said with a bashful smile. “I had this immediate knot in my stomach. And I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, where did this come from?’ I was in a daze. It was hard to comprehend what it was all about.”...
More here from the St Louis Review.

Congratulations and prayers to Msgr. Rice!!!

Prayers & Reflections for December 4

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Chapter IV
Reflections on Prayer

We should never pray for anything without at the same time submitting to God's Will.

Petition is inseparable from resignation, since God is Good.

When our will is one with God's Will, then nothing can happen to us except what God wills, thus we will never be disappointed.

As they say in Ireland, when it rains and spoils a picnic: "Well,'tis a good day to save your soul."...

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Friday, December 03, 2010

Gospel for Saturday, 1st Week of Advent

From: Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8

The Need for Good Shepherds
[35] And Jesus went about all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity. [36] When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. [37] Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; [38] pray therefore the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

The Calling and First Mission of the Apostles
[1] And He called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.

[5a] These twelve Jesus sent out charging them, [6] "But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And preach as you go, saying, `The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.' [8] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay."

35. The Second Vatican Council uses this passage when teaching about the message of Christian charity which the Church should always be spreading: "Christian charity is extended to all without distinction of race, social condition or religion, and seeks neither gain nor gratitude. Just as God loves us with a gratuitous love, so too the faithful, in their charity, should be concerned for mankind, loving it with that same love with which God sought man. As Christ went about all the towns and villages healing every sickness and infirmity, as a sign that the Kingdom of God had come, so the Church, through its children, joins itself with men of every condition, but especially with the poor and afflicted, and willingly spends herself for them" ("Ad Gentes", 12).

36. "He had compassion for them": the Greek verb is very expressive; it means "He was deeply moved". Jesus was moved when He saw the people, because their pastors, instead of guiding them and tending them, led them astray, behaving more like wolves than genuine shepherds of their flock. Jesus sees the prophecy of Ezekiel 34 as now being fulfilled; in that passage God, through the prophet, upbraids the false shepherds of Israel and promises to send them the Messiah to be their new leader.

"If we were consistent with our faith when we looked around us and contemplated the world and its history, we would be unable to avoid feeling in our own hearts the same sentiments that filled the heart of our Lord" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 133). Reflection on the spiritual needs of the world should lead us to be tirelessly apostolic.

37-38. After contemplating the crowds neglected by their shepherds, Jesus uses the image of the harvest to show us that that same crowd is ready to receive the effects of Redemption: "I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see now the fields are already white for harvest" (John 4:35). The field of the Jewish people cultivated by the prophets--most recently by John the Baptist--is full of ripe wheat. In farmwork, the harvest is lost if the farmer does not reap at the right time; down the centuries the Church feels a similar need to be out harvesting because there is a big harvest ready to be won.

However, as in the time of Jesus, there is a shortage of laborers. Our Lord tells us how to deal with this: we should pray to God, the Lord of harvest, to send the necessary laborers. If a Christian prays hard, it is difficult to imagine his not feeling urged to play his part in this apostolate. In obeying this commandment to pray for laborers, we should pray especially for there to be no lack of shepherds, who will be able to equip others with the necessary means of sanctification needed to back up the apostolate.

In this connection Paul VI reminds us: "the responsibility for spreading the Gospel that saves belongs to everyone--to all who have received it! The missionary duty concerns the whole body of the Church; in different ways and to different degrees, it is true, but we must all of us be united in carrying out this duty. Now let the conscience of every believer ask himself: Have I carried out my missionary duty? Prayer for the Missions is the first way of fulfilling this duty" ("Angelus Address", 23 October 1977).

1-4. Jesus calls His twelve Apostles after recommending to them to pray to the Lord to send laborers into His harvest (cf. Matthew 9:38). Christians' apostolic action should always, then, be preceded and accompanied by a life of constant prayer: apostolate is a divine affair, not a merely human one. Our Lord starts His Church by calling twelve men to be, as it were, twelve patriarchs of the new people of God, the Church. This new people is established not by physical but by spiritual generation. The names of those Apostles are specifically mentioned here. They were not scholarly, powerful or important people: they were average, ordinary people who responded faithfully to the grace of their calling--all of them, that is, except Judas Iscariot. Even before His death and resurrection Jesus confers on them the power to cast out unclean spirits and cure illnesses--as an earnest of and as training for the saving mission which He will entrust to them.

The Church reveres these first Christians in a very special way and is proud to carry on their supernatural mission, and to be faithful to the witness they bore to the teaching of Christ. The true Church is absent unless there is uninterrupted apostolic succession and identification with the spirit which the Apostles made their own.

"Apostle": this word means "sent"; Jesus sent them out to preach His Kingdom and pass on His teaching.

The Second Vatican Council, in line with Vatican I, "confesses" and "declares" that the Church has a hierarchical structure: "The Lord Jesus, having prayed at length to the Father, called to Himself those whom He willed and appointed twelve to be with Him, whom He might send to preach the Kingdom of God (cf. Mark 3:13-19: Matthew 10:1-10). These Apostles (cf. Luke 6:13) He constituted in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which He placed Peter, chosen from among them (cf. John 21:15-17). He sent them first of all to the children of Israel and then to all peoples (cf. Romans 1:16), so that, sharing in His power, they might make all peoples His disciples and sanctify and govern them (cf. Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:45-48; John 20:21-23) and thus spread the Church and, administering it under the guidance of the Lord, shepherd it all days until the end of the world (cf. Matthew 28:28)" ("Lumen Gentium", 19).

1. In this chapter St. Matthew describes how Jesus, with a view to the spreading of the Kingdom of God which He inaugurates, decides to establish a Church, which He does by giving special powers and training to these twelve men who are its seed.

5-6. In His plan of salvation God gave certain promises (to Abraham and the Patriarchs), a Covenant and a Law (the Law of Moses), and sent the prophets. The Messiah would be born into this chosen people, which explains why the Messiah and the Kingdom of God were to be preached to the house of Israel first before being preached to the Gentiles. Therefore, in their early apprenticeship, Jesus restricts the Apostles' area of activity to the Jews, without this taking from the world-wide scope of the Church's mission. As we will see, much later on He charges them to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19; "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:16). The Apostles also, in the early days of the spread of the Church, usually sought out the Jewish community in any new city they entered, and preached first to them (cf. Acts 13:46).

7-8. Previously, the prophets, when speaking of the messianic times, had used imagery suited to the people's spiritual immaturity. Now, Jesus, in sending His Apostles to proclaim that the promised Kingdom of God is imminent, lays stress on its spiritual dimension. The power mentioned in verse 8 are the very sign of the Kingdom of God or the reign of the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets. At first (Chapters 8 and 9) it is Jesus who exercises these messianic powers; now He gives them to His disciples as proof that His mission is divine (Isaiah 35:5-6; 40:9; 52:7; 61:1).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Prayers & Reflections for December 3

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Chapter IV
Reflections on Prayer

God, the loving Father, often denies us those things which in the end would prove harmful to us. Every boy wants a revvolver at four, and no father yet has ever granted that request. Why should we think God is less wise? Some day we will thank God not only for what He gave us, but also for that which He refused...

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

News Updates, 12/3

Jury awards priest abuse victim $30 million
Catholic parish liable for damages due to negligence

World churches' leader to meet Pope in Rome
'It is important that we speak honestly in this meeting'

Church defends re-employment of tarnished principal
Sacked for failing to report sexual abuse allegations

Church blasts 'vending machine' births
Tycoon sparks investigation over unethical surrogacy

Trenton diocese's new bishop welcomes challenge
Former president of Catholic University of America

Bishop Steinbock remains in critical condition
California Catholic leader being treated for lung cancer

Chaplains reveal divergent views on gay ban
Strong opinions merited special attention in report

Pope reflects on Advent experience of expectation
'Man is alive so long as hope remains alive his heart'

Original model for Michelangelo's Pieta 'found'
About 12 inches tall and dates from the late 1400s

Why are so many of the professional jobs in the Church held by dissidents?
Writing in the pages of the Catholic Register this week, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza makes a very interesting observation and commentary on one of the reflections of the Pope in the new book "Light of the World." Speaking of the governing institutions in the Church, Pope Benedict said "The bureaucracy is spent and tired ... It is sad that there are what you might call professional Catholics who make a living on their Catholicism, but in whom the spring of faith flows only faintly, in a few scattered drops."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Gospel for Dec 3, Memorial: St Francis Xavier, Priest

Friday, 1st Week of Advent

From: Matthew 9:27-31

The Curing of Two Blind Men. The Dumb Devil
[27] And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, "Have mercy on us, Son of David." [28] When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." [29] Then he touched their eyes, saying, " According to your faith be it done to you." [30] And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly charged them, "See that no one knows it." [31] But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

27-34. The evangelist shows people's different reactions to miracles. Everyone admits that God is at work in these events--everyone, that is, except the Pharisees who attribute them to the power of the devil. A pharisaical attitude so hardens a person's heart that he becomes closed to any possibility of salvation. The fact that the blind men recognize Jesus as the Messiah (they call him "Son of David": v. 27) may have exasperated the Pharisees. Despite Jesus' sublime teaching, despite his miracles, they remain entrenched in their opposition.

In the light of this episode it is easy enough to see that the paradox is true: there are blind people who in fact see God and seers who see no trace of him.

30. Why did our Lord not want them to publicize the miracle? Because his plan was to gradually manifest himself as the Messiah, the Son of God. He did not want to anticipate events which would occur in their own good time; nor did he want the crowd to start hailing him as Messiah King, because their notion of messiah was a nationalistic, not a spiritual one. However, the crowd did in fact proclaim him when he worked the miracles of the loaves and the fish (Jn 6:14-15): "When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, 'This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!' Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew, again to the hills by himself."

31. St Jerome (cf. "Comm. on Matth.", 9, 31) says that the blind men spread the news of their cure, not out of disobedience to Jesus, but because it was the only way they could find to express their gratitude.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Prayers & Reflections for December 2

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Chapter IV
Reflections on Prayer

You cannot always depend on prayers to be answered the way you want them answered, but you can always depend on God....

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

News Updates, Dec 2

Atheists, Christians have duelling signs
Catholic League launches 'counterpunch' in New York

Catholic AIDS workers: Pope echoing us on condoms
Priest keeps stash of 600 condoms at parish church

Seattle welcomes fifth Catholic archbishop
Peter Sartain becomes youngest archbishop in the US

Protesters criticize new Archbishop of Seattle
SNAP objects to Sartain's ordination of molester

Smithsonian pulls plug on 'anty-Christ' video
AIDS patient designed ants-crawling-on-crucifix art

Pope Benedict asks all Catholics to pray for China
Nation 'is going through particularly difficult moments'

Vatican has not endorsed genetically modified food
Pontifical Academy of Sciences was not consulted

Vatican calls for end to anti-Christian persecution
Difficulties faced by over 200 million in the world

India leader: Christianity is 'cultural AIDS' virus
Says poor, ignorant fall pray to 'religious terrorism

Smithsonian Pulls Piece from LGBT Exhibit
Four-minute video depicted ants crawling over Jesus, symbolizing the pain suffered by AIDS victims.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gospel for Thursday, 1st Week in Advent

From: Matthew 7:21, 24-27

Doing the Will of God
(Jesus said to His disciples,) [21] "Not every one who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven.

Building on Rock
[24] "Every one then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; [25] and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. [26]And every one who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; [27] and the rain fell, and the floods came, and winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it."
21-23. To be genuine, prayer must be accompanied by a persevering effort to do God's will. Similarly, in order to do His will it is not enough to speak about the things of God: there must be consistency between what one preaches--what one says--and what one does: "The Kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power" (1 Corinthians 4:20); "Be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22).

Christians, "holding loyally to the Gospel, enriched by its resources, and joining forces with all who love and practise justice, have shouldered a weighty task on earth and they must render an account of it to Him who will judge all men on the last day. Not every one who says `Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but those who do the will of the Father, and who manfully put their hands to the work" (Vatican II, "Gaudium Et Spes", 93).

To enter the Kingdom of Heaven, to be holy, it is not enough, then, to speak eloquently about holiness. One has to practise what one preaches, to produce fruit which accords with one's words. Fray Luis de Leon puts it very graphically: "Notice that to be a good Christian it is not enough just to pray and fast and hear Mass; God must find you faithful, like another Job or Abraham, in times of tribulation" ("Guide for Sinners", Book 1, Part 2, Chapter 21).

Even if a person exercises an ecclesiastical ministry that does not assure his holiness; he needs to practice the virtues he preaches. Besides, we know from experience that any Christian (clerical, religious or lay) who does not strive to act in accordance with the demands of the faith he professes, begins to weaken in his faith and eventually parts company also with the teaching of the Church. Anyone who does not live in accordance with what he says, ends up saying things which are contrary to faith.

The authority with which Jesus speaks in these verses reveals Him as sovereign Judge of the living and the dead. No Old Testament prophet ever spoke with this authority.

22. "That day": a technical formula in biblical language meaning the day of the Judgment of the Lord or the Last Judgment.

23. This passage refers to the Judgment where Jesus will be the Judge. The sacred text uses a verb which means the public proclamation of a truth. Since in this case Jesus Christ is the Judge who makes the declaration, it takes the form of a judicial sentence.

24-27. These verses constitute the positive side of the previous passage. A person who tries to put Christ's teaching into practice, even if he experiences personal difficulties or lives during times of upheaval in the life of the Church or is surrounded by error, will stay firm in the faith, like the wise man who builds his house on rock.

Also, if we are to stay strong in times of difficulty, we need, when things are calm and peaceful, to accept little contradictions with a good grace, to be very refined in our relationship with God and with others, and to perform the duties of our state in life in a spirit of loyalty and abnegation. By acting in this way we are laying down a good foundation, maintaining the edifice of our spiritual life and repairing any cracks which make their appearance.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Prayers & Reflections for December 1

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Chapter IV
Reflections on Prayer

Do not make all your prayers, prayers of petition. What would a young man think of a young lady who suffered from give-me-itis, who did nothing but ask favors?

Where there is love we seek rather to give than receive. Such is the test of a real love of God.

When God does answer your prayers of petition, do you ever thank Him for His gift?

"And it came to pass, as he was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off and lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. Whom when he saw, he said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean, and one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God. And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks, and this was a Samaritan, and Jesus answering, said: Were not ten made clean? and where are the nine? There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger. And he said to him: Arise, go thy way, for thy faith hath made thee whole. (Luke 17: 11-19)....

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

News Updates, Dec 1

Calgary Anglican parish to become Catholic
First in Canada to accept offer from the Vatican

Pope reaffirms 'no authority' to ordain women
Says Church isn't a regime based on arbitrary rule

Pentagon 'backs allowing gays to serve openly'
Would carry only a low risk to fighting ability

Smithsonian 'Anty Christ' exhibit creates furor
Includes video of ants crawling on a crucified Christ

Bishops to Congress: Condemn Iraq persecutions
...and insist on better protection for Christians

Christmas can wait, Utah's new bishop says
Catholics should remain faithful to Advent

'Deathly' silence fails to bury Tolstoy centenary
Russian Orthodox Church refuses to rehabilitate him

Pope: Christian unity must be based on shared faith
Urges Catholics, Orthodox to look to apostles

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gospel for Wednesday, 1st Week in Advent

From: Matthew 15:29-37

The Canaanite Woman (Continuation)
[29] And Jesus went on from there and passed along the Sea of Galilee. And He went up into the hills, and sat down there. [30] And great crowds came to Him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, and many others, and they put them at His feet, and He healed them, [31] so that the throng wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Second Miracle of the Loaves
[32] Then Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, "I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with Me now three days, and having nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way." [33] And the disciples said to Him, "Where are we to get bread enough in the desert to feed so great a crowd?" [34] And Jesus said to them, "How many loaves have you?" They said, "Seven, and a few small fish." [35] And commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, [36] He took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. [37] And they all ate and were satisfied; and they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
29-31. Here St. Matthew summarizes Jesus' activity in this border area where Jews and pagans were living side by side. As usual He teaches and heals the sick; the Gospel account clearly echoes the prophecy of Isaiah which Christ Himself used to prove that He was the Messiah (Luke 7:22): "the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped..." (Isaiah 35:5).

"They glorified the God of Israel": this clearly refers to the Gentiles, who thought that God could give the power to work miracles to Jews only. Once again the Gentiles are seen to have more faith than the Jews.

32. The Gospels speak of our Lord's mercy and compassion towards people's needs: here He is concerned about the crowds who are following Him and who have no food. He always has a word of consolation, encouragement and forgiveness: He is never indifferent. However, what hurts Him most are sinners who go through life without experiencing light and truth: He waits for them in the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance.

33-38. As in the case of the first multiplication (14:13-20), the Apostles provide our Lord with the loaves and the fish. It was all they had. He also avails of the Apostles to distribute the food--the result of the miracle--to the people. In distributing the graces of salvation God chooses to rely on the faithfulness and generosity of men. "Many great things depend--don't forget--on whether you and I live our lives as God wants" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 755).

It is interesting to note that in both miracles of multiplication of loaves and fish Jesus provides food in abundance but does not allow anything to go to waste. All Jesus' miracles, in addition to being concrete historical events, are also symbols of supernatural realities. Here abundance of material food also signifies abundance of divine gifts on the level of grace and glory: it refers to spiritual resources and eternal rewards; God gives people more graces than are strictly necessary. This is borne out by Christian experience throughout history. St. Paul tells us that "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20); he speaks of "the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us" (Ephesians 1:8) and tells his disciple Timothy that "the grace of our Lord overflowed for me and with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 1:14).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Prayers & Reflections for November 30

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Chapter IV
Reflections on Prayer

Some men act towards God as they act towards their country. They seek to avoid paying taxes, to escape public burdens, but when their property rights are attacked, they call on their country most vociferously.

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." The more we love our business, the more we talk about it; the more we love God, the more we pray....

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

News Updates, 11/30

Illinois could legalize same-sex civil unions
Cardinal George: It's 'gay marriage by another name'

Twelve arrested over deadly Baghdad church siege
More than 50 Christians killed by al-Qaeda terrorists

Oregon mosque hit by arson after bomb plot
Fire dept: 'We do have evidence that it was arson'

Pope: Catholic newspapers have 'irreplaceable' role forming Christian consciences

Scottish Church spokesman rips anti-Catholic bigotry
'Deep and wide' strain still flourishes in country

Wikileaks reveals how US reacted to Pope election
Ratzinger's papal election came as a total surprise

Pope Benedict XVI urges respect for human embryos
Says they 'aren't just biological material'

Christmas is winning the 'war on Christmas'
No more 'Happy holidays' for many retailers

Atheist billboard campaign: Christmas is a myth
'If the religious right wants a war on Christmas...'

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gospel for Nov 30, Feast: St. Andrew, Apostle

From: Matthew 4:18-22

The First Disciples Called
[18] As He (Jesus) walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. [19] And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." [20] Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. [21] And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. [22] Immediately, they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

18-22. These four disciples had already met our Lord (John 1:35-42), and their brief meeting with Him seems to have had a powerful effect on their souls. In this way Christ prepared their vocation, a fully effective vocation which moved them to leave everything behind so as to follow Him and be His disciples. Standing out above their human defects (which the Gospels never conceal), we can see the exemplary generosity and promptness of the Apostles in answering God's call.

The thoughtful reader cannot fail to be struck by the delightful simplicity with which the evangelists describe the calling of these men in the midst of their daily work.

"God draws us from the shadows of our ignorance, our groping through history, and, no matter what our occupation in the world, He calls us in a loud voice, as He once called Peter and Andrew" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By," 45).

"This divine and human dialogue completely changed the lives of John and Andrew, and Peter and James and so many others. It prepared their hearts to listen to the authoritative teaching which Jesus gave them beside the Sea of Galilee" ("ibid"., 108).

We should notice the words of Sacred Scripture used to describe the alacrity with which the Apostles follow our Lord. Peter and Andrew "immediately" left their nets and followed Him. Similarly, James and John "immediately" left the boats and their father and followed Him. God passes by and calls us. If we do not answer Him "immediately", He may continue on His way and we could lose sight of Him. When God passes by, He may do so rapidly; it would be sad if we were to fall behind because we wanted to follow Him while still carrying many things that are only a dead weight and a nuisance.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Prayers & Reflections for November 29

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Chapter IV
Reflections on Prayer

The perfect prayer is not one in which we tell God what we wish from Him, but rather one in which we ask God what He wishes from us.

Do not pray to God only in an emergency. The plea of strangers is never as effective as the plea of friends.

Do not think of God only when you are in distress or danger. Heaven is not a firehouse, and God does not put out all the fires...

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

News Updates, 11/29

Dutch Catholic order admits abuse case hush money
Denied one of its bishops was involved in the case

Former UK PM defends role of religion in politics
Tony Blair debates atheist scion Christopher Hitchens

Scottish referee fired for anti-Catholic email
Crude pedophile slur linked Pope with sexual abuse

China's newest bishop faces excommunication
Pope calls ordination 'grave violation of Church laws

Pope: Vatican acted slowly, late in Legion scandal
Calls for investigation into who covered up for Maciel

Vatican: new guidelines to combat abuse scandal
Rome to offer 'a coordinated and efficacious program'

Pope accepts Brazilian bishop's resignation
Prelate backed pro-abortion presidential candidate

Pope: Hiroshima anniversary a reminder to disarm
Benedict praised Japan for setting an example

Priest's challenges Church on women's ordination
Australian's future ministry hangs in balance

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gospel for Monday, 1st Week of Advent

From: Matthew 8:5-11

The Centurion's Faith
[5] As He (Jesus) entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, beseeching Him [6] and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress." [7] And He said to him, "I will come and heal him." [8] But the centurion answered Him, "Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. [9] For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,' and he goes, and to another, `Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,' and he does it." [10] When Jesus heard him, He marvelled, and said to those who followed Him, "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. [11] I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven."

5-11. "Centurion": an officer of the Roman army in control of one hundred men. This man's faith is still an example to us. At the solemn moment when a Christian is about to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the Church's liturgy places on his lips and in his heart these words of the centurion, to enliven his faith: Lord, I am not worthy...".

The Jews of this time regarded any Jew who entered a Gentile's house as contracting legal impurity (cf. John 19:28; Acts 11:2-3). This centurion has the deference not to place Jesus in an embarrassing position in the eyes of His fellow Israelites. He shows that he is convinced that Jesus has the power over disease and illness; he suggests that if Jesus just says the word, He will do what is needed without having actually to visit the house; he is reasoning, in a simple, logical way, on the basis of his own professional experience. Jesus avails of this meeting with a Gentile believer to make a solemn prophecy to the effect that His Gospel is addressed to the world at large; all men, of every nation and race, of every age and condition, are called to follow Christ.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Prayers & Reflections for November 28

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Chapter IV
Reflections on Prayer

We do not pray in order that we may change God's Will; we pray rather to change our own.

We do not pray that we may have good things; we pray rather that we may be good...

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons