Do you know the spiritual works of mercy?

In our Bible Study last Tuesday, we honed in on the main connection between this Sunday’s readings: “admonish the sinner.” This is one of the spiritual works of mercy that we are called to perform. In the first reading, the Lord says through the prophet Ezekiel, “speak out to dissuade the wicked.” And, in the Gospel, the Lord Jesus taught the Apostles, “go and tell (your brother who sins) his fault.” We know and live the corporal works of mercy well:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Ransom the captive
  • Bury the dead

But, how well do we know the spiritual works of mercy? The following write-up on them from usccb.org should help.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

More about Spiritual Works of Mercy

COUNSELING THE DOUBTFUL

Everyone has moments of doubt in their faith journey. Nevertheless, we should always remember that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and turn to him along our way.

  • Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may eventually become wise” (Prov 19:20)
  • The Cross of Christ “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25)
  • Has someone asked you for advice? Orient your response to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
  • Follow Christ with the witness of your life so that others may see God’s love revealed in your actions
  • Accompany a friend who is struggling with believing to join a parish group for service or faith formation, share a book you found useful in dealing with your friend’s faith concern, and worship at Sunday Mass

INSTRUCTING THE IGNORANT

Learn about our faith and be open to talking with others about our beliefs. There is always something more to discover about our faith.

  • Go on a service trip or short-term mission trip. No time? Donate to support someone on their service trip
  • Volunteer to help with religious education programs at your parish
  • Invite someone to go to mass with you this weekend
  • Know your faith! Read through the USCCA to find out more about the Catholic faith and how to live it

ADMONISHING THE SINNER

Do not judge, but be supportive in helping others find their way and correct their mistakes. Together we can learn to walk more closely with Christ.

  • In humility, we must strive to create a culture that does not accept sin, while realizing that we all fall at times
  • Don’t judge, but guide others towards the path of salvation (see Mt 7:1-2)
  • When you correct someone, don’t be arrogant. We are all in need of God’s loving correction.
  • We should journey together to a deeper understanding of our shared faith
  • “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5)

COMFORTING THE SORROWFUL

Be open to listening and comforting those who are dealing with grief. Even if we aren’t sure of the right words to say, our presence can make a big difference.

  • Lend a listening ear to those going through a tough time
  • Make a home cooked meal for a friend who is facing a difficult time
  • Write a letter or send a card to someone who is suffering
  • A few moments of your day may make a lifetime of difference to someone who is going through a difficult time

FORGIVING INJURIES

Forgiving others is difficult at times because we do not have God’s limitless mercy and compassion. But Jesus teaches us that we should forgive as God forgives, relying on him to help us show others the mercy of God.

  • Let go of grudges
  • Saying sorry is something we learn as kids, but how often do we really mean it? Forgiveness transforms hearts and lives
  • Participate in the Sacrament of Penance
  • Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet

BEARING WRONGS PATIENTLY

Do not be bitter about wrongs done against you. Place your hope in God so that you can endure the troubles of this world and face them with a compassionate spirit.

  • Frustrated with someone? Step away from the situation, take a few deep breaths, pray the Our Father, asking God for patience

PRAYING FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support others. Joining together in prayer for the living and the dead entrusts us all into God’s care.

  • Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who is going through a tough time
  • Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who has passed away
  • Keep your own book of prayer intentions, writing down the names of those who you are keeping in your prayers
  • Ask a friend or family member if there is anything you can pray for them about
  • Through prayer, entrust your cares and concerns for those around you to God

What the Bible says about slavery

In the midst of the tense national discussion about removing public statues of historical American figures vis-a-vis slavery, you might have received questions about the Bible regarding slavery. If not, there’s a good chance that those questions are coming. In fact, I would guess that the focus of the movement will turn its attention ultimately to remove the Bible from the public square. This is something that has been in the works for years from secularists and atheists for other reasons, as you know. You also know that many people think that the Bible does not condemn slavery and thus tacitly approves of it. The article below from catholic.com addresses this and other key points to know about the Bible with regards to slavery. I hope this helps us understand the Word of God better, and to teach others the truth. Please be at peace “in receiving the Word of God …not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God” (1 Thes 2:13).

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Many opponents of Christianity say the Bible condones slavery. Others say the fact that none of the inspired writers (indeed, not even Christ himself in the Gospel accounts) condemn slavery outright shows an implicit acceptance of it. But the fact is, the Bible promotes an ethic of equality and mercy to the downtrodden, including those who were enslaved in the ancient world.

A “slave religion”

In his letters to Christian communities, St. Paul described himself as a slave who belonged to Christ (see Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1), exhorted his listeners not to be slaves to sin (see Romans 6:15-23), and encouraged them to be slaves to one another

(see Galatians 5:13). Paul even said that Christ took on the nature of a slave and became poor for our sake (see 2 Corinthians 8:9, Philippians 2:7).

His audience knew what it meant to be a slave—not surprising, since Christianity’s compassion for the lowly earned it a reputation as a “slave religion.” The second-century pagan critic Celsus once described converts to the Church as “foolish and low individuals” like “slaves, and women, and children” (Origen, Against Celsus, 3.59).

However, this language of Paul’s does not mean he endorsed slavery or that he thought it should be a part of God’s kingdom. To understand why this is the case, let’s look at the specific exhortations Paul gives to slaves, starting with one passage critics of the Bible often cite:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free (Eph. 6:5-8).

Many critics of the Bible say these words are indefensible. And yet what advice should Paul have given Christian slaves in the Roman Empire? To rebel against their masters? A hundred years before, a slave named Spartacus had led a rebellion in southern France that scored a few victories but was defeated by the Roman general Marcus Crassus. Spartacus died in battle, and 6,000 of his comrades were crucified along the Appian Way. A similar fate would have awaited any Christian slave uprising.

Maybe instead of encouraging outright rebellion Paul could have said that slavery was wrong and encouraged slaves to simply revile their masters. But even that advice would have risked the persecution of the whole Church had the Roman authorities become aware of it.

Paul was more concerned about people being enslaved to sin than their being enslaved to other people (though, as we will see, Paul was also concerned about human slavery). This attitude parallels Jesus’ warning that sinners become “slaves to sin” (John 8:34), as well as his exhortation to fear the one who can kill the body and the soul in hell and not just the one who can kill the body (see Matthew 10:28).

Paul’s advice to slaves

Paul’s advice to Christian slaves was to endure their unjust condition by persevering in holiness. For example, Paul told Titus, “Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9-10).

A slave may not have had control over whether he would be enslaved in this life, but he could control whether he would be enslaved to Satan in the next. St. Peter also taught this when he told slaves, “Be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly” (1 Pet. 2:18-19).

Peter and the other apostles knew that slavery was wrong, but they also knew that it was better to conquer evil with good (see Romans 12:21) than to commit evil in order to achieve good. That’s why Peter asks what good it does for a slave to commit evil against his master and then be beaten in return. At least, when a slave is beaten for no good reason and does not respond with evil (in imitation of Christ, who endured similar abuses without retaliation), he will stand blameless before God (see 1 Peter 2:20).

Loyalty to a master was also a common way for slaves in the Roman Empire to earn their freedom. After serving a master faithfully, a slave would be released as a libertus who served his master in a new capacity as a freeman (we will see what that entailed shortly). Paul may even have exhorted slaves to acquire their freedom in this way:

Every one should remain in the state in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God (1 Cor. 7:20-24).

This passage shows that Paul didn’t think slavery was a good thing. In fact, he implicitly argued that men could not own other men because God owns all humans by virtue of having redeemed them on the cross (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 7:23). Being enslaved to men was an unjust part of this life that had no place in the kingdom of God.

In that kingdom, everyone, regardless of socioeconomic background, is a slave of Christ, our true Lord and Master. That’s why Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

This was a revolutionary idea, given that Roman intellectuals, while lamenting some aspects of slavery, generally held slaves to be of lesser worth than free men. One example of this is the philosopher Seneca who, although he discouraged merciless corporal punishment, compared slaves to valuable property like jewels one must constantly worry about.

According to Joshel, “Seneca sees slaves as inferiors who can never rise above the level of humble friends” (Slavery in the Roman World, 127). In contrast, slaves in the early Church were not stigmatized. In fact, some—like Pius I (A.D. 140-155) and Callixtus I (218-223)—even held the office of pope.

So, however one considers the deeply troubling history of slavery in the U.S., even of slaveholders who deemed themselves Christians, one cannot appeal to Christianity to justify this ancient and immoral practice.

 

The 10 Commandments of Sacred Liturgy

Overall, parishioners and guests at Assumption do a beautiful job of worshiping and respecting God during liturgy. But, it’s good for all of us to get a reminder about etiquette at Holy Mass. We might call these the “Ten Commandments of Sacred Liturgy” at Assumption:

1. Prepare for Mass. Prepare like you are coming to the banquet at the castle of a king. As you know, we come to the house of the King of kings. So, continue to wear your Sunday best! And, fast from food and drink (unless it’s water or medication) for at least an hour before Mass.

Get to Mass early! Genuflect (or bow if you can’t genuflect) to the Lord in the tabernacle, and pray silently in the pew before Mass begins. Pray for a few moments and get yourself recollected before Mass begins. Please be mindful of others – respect their prayer, make room for them in the pew, and don’t be a distraction.

2. What to do if you come late: wait for the ushers to seat you. Do NOT come in during the readings, especially the Gospel. And, please take a seat in the rear pews so that you won’t distract everyone coming up front. Remember, too, that if you arrive at Mass after the Gospel has been proclaimed, you need to attend another Mass to fulfill your Sunday obligation. Attending Mass includes being present for the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

3. Fully participate in Mass. Listen to the prayers and Word, say the responses and Creed, and SING! The goal is to sing loud enough that you don’t hear my singing voice. Oh, and I truly hope that Sunday Mass is not the first time you’re hearing the readings for that day. You should be praying over and thinking about them during the week.

4. NO TEXT MESSAGES OR CONVERSATIONS DURING MASS. Can you imagine going to dinner with Jesus and texting or talking to others while He is speaking to you?

5. Prepare your offering before Mass. Please avoid distracting others while you go through your purse or wallet during Mass.

6. Be respectful of the Eucharist. This is the biggest one for me. If you are conscious of grave sin, you need to go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion. It is a mortal sin to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. Please remain in the pew to make a spiritual communion or come forward and cross your arms for a blessing. Please, please, please don’t be among those about whom St. Paul writes in 1 Cor 11:25-27: “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord”.

7. Bow before receiving the Eucharist and then say “Amen” when the priest says, “the Body of Christ”. Don’t grab or take the Host from him; let the Host be placed on your hand or on your tongue. Consume the Host immediately.

8. Don’t be like Judas who left the first Mass early. You should wait for the priest to process out before you leave. We follow the priest as we follow Christ. Really, though, we should all stay for a moment and give thanks to God for all that we just received at Mass.

9. Hold your applause. Please. We’re not at a concert. The ministers and choir appreciate your support, but they are just leading us in worship. We don’t want to lose our focus on praising God by praising them.

10. Keep holy the Sabbath. EVERY SABBATH. Skipping Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin. Bigger than that is our need for the Eucharist. Jesus basically teaches that a week without the Eucharist is a week with no life (cf. Jn 6:53-54).

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Part II: 12 Things to Know and Share about the Assumption of Mary

Here is part two of “The Assumption of Mary: 12 Things to Know and Share” from ncregister.com. May this coincide with Bishop Campbell’s homily last Sunday to deepen our understanding of and belief in Mary’s Assumption. And thus, may we more fully honor her.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

___________________________________________________________________

7) How did the recognition of Mary’s Assumption develop in the East?

John Paul II noted:

There was a long period of growing reflection on Mary’s destiny in the next world.

This gradually led the faithful to believe in the glorious raising of the Mother of Jesus, in body and soul, and to the institution in the East of the liturgical feasts of the Dormition [“falling asleep”—i.e., death] and Assumption of Mary.

8) How did Pius XII prepare for the definition of the Assumption?

John Paul II noted:

In May 1946, with the Encyclical Deiparae Virginis Mariae, Pius XII called for a broad consultation, inquiring among the Bishops and, through them, among the clergy and the People of God as to the possibility and opportuneness of defining the bodily assumption of Mary as a dogma of faith.

The result was extremely positive: only six answers out of 1,181 showed any reservations about the revealed character of this truth.

9) What Scriptural basis is there for the teaching?

John Paul II noted:

Although the New Testament does not explicitly affirm Mary’s Assumption, it offers a basis for it because it strongly emphasized the Blessed Virgin’s perfect union with Jesus’ destiny.

This union, which is manifested, from the time of the Savior’s miraculous conception, in the Mother’s participation in her Son’s mission and especially in her association with his redemptive sacrifice, cannot fail to require a continuation after death.

Perfectly united with the life and saving work of Jesus, Mary shares his heavenly destiny in body and soul.

There are, thus, passages in Scripture that resonate with the Assumption, even though they do not spell it out.

10) What are some specific Old Testament passages?

Pope Pius XII pointed to several passages that have been legitimately used in a “rather free” manner to explain belief in the Assumption (meaning: these passages resonate with it in various ways, but they don’t provide explicit proof):

Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers, have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption.

Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist:

“Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified” (Ps. 131:8);

and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord’s temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven.

Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer (Ps. 44:10-14ff).

Likewise, they mention the Spouse of the Canticles “that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense” to be crowned (Song 3:6; cf. also 4:8, 6:9).

These are proposed as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of heaven with the divine Bridegroom [Munificentissimus Deus 26].

11) What are some specific New Testament passages?

Pius XII continued:

Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos (Rev. 12:1ff).

Similarly, they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women”(Luke 1:28), since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve [Munificentissimus Deus 27].

12) How can we apply this teaching to our everyday lives?

According to Pope Benedict XVI:

By contemplating Mary in heavenly glory, we understand that the earth is not the definitive homeland for us either, and that if we live with our gaze fixed on eternal goods we will one-day share in this same glory and the earth will become more beautiful.

Consequently, we must not lose our serenity and peace even amid the thousands of daily difficulties. The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon.

We may be sure of it: from on high, Mary follows our footsteps with gentle concern, dispels the gloom in moments of darkness and distress, reassures us with her motherly hand.

Supported by awareness of this, let us continue confidently on our path of Christian commitment wherever Providence may lead us. Let us forge ahead in our lives under Mary’s guidance [General Audience, August 16, 2006].

FAQs About the Assumption of Mary

I have another list from ncregister.com to help us celebrate the feast of the patroness this Tuesday, August 15. After last week’s “Ten things…about the Transfiguration”, below is the part one of “The Assumption of Mary: 12 Things to Know and Share”. Next week will be part two. May each of us more fully honor our Lady by deepening our understanding of and belief in her Assumption.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

————————————————

1) What is the Assumption of Mary?

The Assumption of Mary is the teaching that:

The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory [Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus 44].

2) What level of authority does this teaching have?

This teaching was infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950 in the bull Munificentissimus Deus (Latin, “Most Bountiful God”).

As Pius XII explained, this is “a divinely revealed dogma” (ibid.).

This means that it is a dogma in the proper sense. It is thus a matter of faith that has been divinely revealed by God and that has been infallibly proposed by the Magisterium of the Church as such.

3) Does that mean it is an “ex cathedra” statement and that we have to believe it?

Yes. Since it is a dogma defined by the pope (rather than by an ecumenical council, for example), it is also an “ex cathedra” statement (one delivered “from the chair” of Peter).

Because it is infallibly defined, it calls for the definitive assent of the faithful.

Pope John Paul II explained:

The definition of the dogma, in conformity with the universal faith of the People of God, definitively excludes every doubt and calls for the express assent of all Christians [General Audience, July 2, 1997].

Note that all infallibly defined teachings are things we are obliged to believe, even if they aren’t defined “ex cathedra” (by the pope acting on his own).

The bishops of the world teaching in union with the pope (either in an ecumenical council or otherwise) can also infallibly define matters, but these aren’t called “ex cathedra” since that term refers specifically to the exercise of the pope’s authority as the successor of St. Peter. (It’s Peter’s cathedra or “chair” that symbolizes the pope’s authority.)

4) Does the dogma require us to believe that Mary died?

It is the common teaching that Mary did die. In his work, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ludwig Ott lists this teaching as sententia communior (Latin, “the more common opinion”).

Although it is the common understanding of that Mary did die, and although her death is referred to in some of the sources Pius XII cited in Munificentissimus Deus, he deliberately refrained from defining this as a truth of the faith.

John Paul II noted:

On 1 November 1950, in defining the dogma of the Assumption, Pius XII avoided using the term “resurrection” and did not take a position on the question of the Blessed Virgin’s death as a truth of faith.

The Bull Munificentissimus Deus limits itself to affirming the elevation of Mary’s body to heavenly glory, declaring this truth a “divinely revealed dogma.”

5) Why should Mary die if she was free from Original Sin and its stain?

Being free of Original Sin and its stain is not the same thing as being in a glorified, deathless condition.

Jesus was also free of Original Sin and its stain, but he could—and did—die.

Expressing a common view among theologians, Ludwig Ott writes:

For Mary, death, in consequence of her freedom from original sin and from personal sin, was not a consequence of punishment of sin.

However, it seems fitting that Mary’s body, which was by nature mortal, should be, in conformity with that of her Divine Son, subject to the general law of death.

6) What are the earliest surviving references to Mary’s Assumption?

John Paul II noted:

The first trace of belief in the Virgin’s Assumption can be found in the apocryphal accounts entitled Transitus Mariae [Latin, “The Crossing Over of Mary”], whose origin dates to the second and third centuries.

These are popular and sometimes romanticized depictions, which in this case, however, pick up an intuition of faith on the part of God’s People.

10 things you need to know about Jesus’ Transfiguration

“10 things you need to know about Jesus’ Transfiguration” is a handy online piece below from National Catholic Register as we celebrate this great today. While the author focuses on St. Luke’s account of this glorious event, today’s Gospel is from St. Matthew. One point about Matthew’s depiction of the Transfiguration is that Jesus is mainly presented as the new Moses. Also, #2 below focuses on this as an experience of the Kingdom which coincides with all of the parables of recent weeks about the Kingdom. I hope and pray that like Peter, James, and John, we all have a glimpse of the glory of Christ which will help our faith in tough times.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

——————————————-

1. What does the word “transfiguration” mean?

The word “transfiguration” comes from the Latin roots trans– (“across”) and figura (“form, shape”). It thus signifies a change of form or appearance. This is what happened to Jesus in the event known as the Transfiguration: His appearance changed and became glorious.

2. What happened right before the Transfiguration?

In Luke 9:27, at the end of a speech to the twelve apostles, Jesus adds, enigmatically: “There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” This has often been taken as a prophecy that the end of the world would occur

before the first generation of Christians died out. The phrase “kingdom of God” can also refer to other things, though, including the Church–the outward expression of God’s invisible kingdom. The kingdom is embodied in Christ himself and thus might be “seen” if Christ were to manifest it in an unusual way, even in his own earthly life.

3. Did such a manifestation occur?

Yes, and it is the very next thing that Luke relates: The Transfiguration. Some—that is to say, the three disciples who accompany Jesus up the mountain—are promised that they will personally witness the coming of the Kingdom of God ‘in power.’ On the mountain, the three of them see the glory of God’s Kingdom shining out of Jesus…We thus may have the key to understanding Jesus’ mysterious statement just before the Transfiguration. He wasn’t talking about the end of the world. He was talking about this.

4. Who witnessed the Transfiguration?

The three who are privileged to witness the event are Peter, James, and John, the three core disciples. (Andrew was not there or not included.)…

5. Where did the Transfiguration take place?

Luke states that Jesus took the three “on the mountain to pray.” This mountain is often thought to be Mt. Tabor in Israel, but none of the gospels identify it precisely…

6. Why did the Transfiguration take place?

The Catechism explains it this way:

Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the ‘high mountain’ prepares for the ascent to Calvary.

Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: ‘the hope of glory’ [CCC 568].

7. What does Luke–in particular–tell us about this event?

Luke mentions several details about the event that the other evangelists do not:

  • • He notes that this happened while Jesus was praying.
  • He mentions that Peter and his companions “were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.”
  • He mentions that Peter made his suggestion to put up booths as Moses and Elijah were departing.

8. Why do Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain?

Moses and Elijah represent the two principal components of the Old Testament: the Law and the Prophets. Moses was the giver of the Law, and Elijah was considered the greatest of the prophets. The fact that these two figures “spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” illustrates that the Law and the Prophets point forward to the Messiah and his sufferings. This foreshadows Jesus’ own explanation, on the road to Emmaus, of the Scriptures pointing to himself (cf. Lk. 24:27, 32).

9. Why was Peter’s suggestion misguided?

The fact that Peter’s suggestion occurs when Moses and Elijah are preparing to depart reveals a desire to prolong the experience of glory. This means Peter is focusing on the wrong thing. The experience of the Transfiguration is meant to point forward to the sufferings Jesus is about to experience. It is meant to strengthen the disciple’s faith, revealing to them in a powerful way the divine hand that is at work in the events Jesus will undergo. This is why Moses and Elijah have been speaking “about his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Peter misses the point and wants to stay on the mountain, contrary to the message the two heavenly visitors have been expounding…

10. What can we learn from this event?

The Transfiguration was a special event in which God allowed certain apostles to have a privileged spiritual experience that was meant to strengthen their faith for the challenges they would later endure. But it was only a temporary event. It was not meant to be permanent. In the same way, at certain times in this life, God may give certain members of the faithful (not all of the faithful, all the time), special experiences of his grace that strengthen their faith…

Sell All That You Have

I’ve been meeting with a young man who desperately wants to experience the presence of God. He was raised as a Protestant, so he has had Christ in his life from the beginning. He converted to Catholicism in college, but has struggled with signs from the Lord. For his relatives, faith seems to come more easily and naturally (supernaturally?) than it does for him.

He and I talked months ago when he was going through a bit of a “dark night.” This means that his spiritual life was in darkness, and that God seemed hidden. He was still not seeing any signs. Then, we met about a month ago, and God had revealed Himself in dramatic ways to this young man. He was so happy!

So, when we got together for dinner last Tuesday, the first thing he said was that he was fasting. I asked why, and he said it was to help overcome his doubts about God and Heaven. Our waiter was not too happy!

Last Tuesday was a feast day in the Church: the feast of St. James the Apostle. Catholics don’t fast on feast days. It’s like when Jesus says, “as long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast” (Mk 2:19). We apply this to the feast days of certain saints who had the bridegroom with them in extraordinary and major ways. So, feast days are celebrations of God’s grace through particular persons.

I waited for a moment to tell this to the young man so as not to jump all over him for fasting. I figured he didn’t know about feast days. But, then again, he was telling me about how he had been going to pray at a Catholic church during his lunch break each day (he really wants to experience God), so maybe he had some “church” in him. I told him about the feast day and the meaning of it, and he responded very well. The next thing he said was, “Waiter, I will order after all.”

We reviewed the past month, and it turns out that he had received some signs from God. So, why had he returned to doubting God and Heaven again? Because he had been reading a book each day by a “humanist” (i.e., atheist). He is an avid reader and thinker, and he didn’t even realize the effect the book was having on him. It was about the time that he started the book that his doubts began. This led to many sleepless nights, and a lack of peace. And yet, God kept showing him signs, the biggest of which happened last Monday (the night before our dinner).

We discussed what happened that day – the sign that he received – and how he slept well Monday night. He vowed to put down the atheist’s book, and start reading Bishop Robert Barron or C.S. Lewis again. Smart move! Then, with the whole feast day thing – which really is evidence of God and Heaven – he walked away from our dinner totally at peace.

Do you and I long for the Kingdom of Heaven like this young man? Do we desire Christ so much that we will make chapel visits or fast in order to see or hear Him? These questions apply to today’s Gospel parables of the buried treasure and the pearl of great price.

Notice the desire of the person who finds the buried treasure and the merchant who finds the pearl: each of them “sells all that he has”. These two images represent the Kingdom of God, and specifically Jesus Christ. When we find Christ and His Kingdom, we desire Him above all things. We are so filled with joy – like the person and the merchant – that we will sell all that we have for Him.

My friend was like the merchant “searching for fine pearls.” He has been searching for Christ. He gave up his lunch break and some food in order to find Him and the treasure of heaven.

What are we willing to sell in order to receive the riches of the Kingdom? Do we have the joy of people who have found the pearl of great price which is Christ?

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Our Faith Grows as a Mustard Seed

Last week, I focused on “growing and sowing” with the parable of the sower and the seed. This week, our Lord speaks of a seed in another parable: the mustard seed. Once again, each of us can individually reflect on how our journey of faith has grown like a mustard seed. Our faith was so small at our Baptisms; but with the nourishment and watering of God’s grace – especially in the Eucharist – it has grown to be good sized. We can also look back on our parish history to see how it has been like a mustard seed growing over the past 100 years.

But, we can also reflect on our sowing. Our evangelization attempts are like planting mustard seeds around us in our neighborhood and in our families. No matter how small the sowing might seem to us, God can make it grow into something huge! Bishop Robert Barron provides some examples from the history of our Church to show how Christ has grown the mustard seed of faith in spectacular ways in a brief commentary on chicagopriest.com. May this happen in our parish and in our families!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

———————————————————————-

Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants…so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (Matthew 13:31).

The first Christians understood Jesus to be speaking of his Church, the mystical body that began in the smallest way, but has come in time to be home to the nations of the world. The mustard seed of the Church began with a thirty-year-old man, dying on an instrument of torture, his disciples having fled, and his enemies mocking him. But it grew into the Body of Christ composed of billions of people in every country on the planet, and many more in heaven.

Watch this pattern repeated up and down the centuries. Francis of Assisi was something of a drifter, a young man who had repudiated the way of his father and was following the prompting of the Lord. Most people saw him as crazy, dangerous, and deranged. Soon, he attracted followers, and their number grew into the hundreds. The first

Franciscan missionaries were stoned, chased away, or killed. But within a hundred years of Francis’s death, they were a world-wide organization—a mustard seed, indeed.

Mother Teresa left the relative comfort of her convent behind high walls in Calcutta and walked out into the streets of the worst slum in the world. Anyone seeing her with ordinary eyes would have written her off. But soon enough, she attracted followers who established her order in Calcutta, then around India, then in Venezuela, Rome, New

York, London, and around the world. Another mustard seed.

(At this time) what mustard seed can you plant that might grow into a great tree where the birds of the air make their nests?

Our Job is to Get Busy Sowing

In preparing some thoughts on the parable that our Lord uses in today’s Gospel, “the sower and the seed”, I came across a fruitful (pun intended) article from Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio at crossroadsinitiative.com. It’s excellent because of the content, and that it is brand new (dated 7/10/17)! The insights and stats are current which are extremely valuable given that our culture changes so rapidly.

It is my hope that the seed (Word of God) brings much sowing and growing in our lives!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

————————————————

“To respond to this parable adequately, we must view it from two different angles. The first is to look at the story as if we are the seed.

Many who hear the gospel never seem to “get it.” The message is stolen before it ever takes root. Then there are the 50% of Catholic kids who receive the sacraments but disappear somewhere between age 18 and 25. Shallow roots fail to equip them to take the heat of our pagan culture. Then there are the 89% of lifelong, regular churchgoers who, according to George Gallup, have values and lifestyles identical to those of their pagan neighbors. Their faith has been neutralized by bad theology and worldliness. They may look like wheat plants, but their religion is fruitless.

Then there are those who stay out of serious sin, manage to do some good for some people, but all in all produce a mediocre harvest.

Finally come the few who are not satisfied with just getting by. They sink their roots deep into Scripture, Tradition, prayer and the sacraments, and produce a bumper crop. We call these people saints.

Addressing us as seed, Jesus is saying: “be careful. If you don’t make the effort to get thoroughly rooted in your faith, you just might not make it. If you do manage to survive,

you might produce absolutely nothing. But you are called to grow and bear much fruit (John 15), to yield 100 fold, to be a saint, to leave a mark on the lives of many that will last forever. Don’t settle for anything less!”

On the other hand, we can look at the parable as if we were the farmer.

Vatican II and all the Popes since have stated unequivocally that each of us is called to be an evangelizer, to tell others that Jesus Christ changes lives eternally and that the place to encounter him most fully and grow most rapidly is within the Catholic Church.

“But,” you may protest, “I tried it a few times and got nowhere. I just don’t have the personality, don’t have the gift”

Jesus, the Son of God, indisputably had both the personality and the gift. Yet when he sowed seed, much of it still ended up as bird food. Consider the thousands he fed with loaves and fishes, the multitude that heard his sermon on the mount, the throngs that welcomed him on Palm Sunday. Yet on the day of Pentecost, there were only 120 left in the Upper Room, awaiting the Holy Spirit.

Notice, though, that the fruit borne by these 120 plants eventually filled the whole world!

To get the few that bear fruit, lots of seed must be sown by lots of people. So regardless of whether or not we think we have green thumbs, we farmers are being commanded through this parable to get the seed out there, sowing it everywhere we go, undeterred by the birds, the weeds, and the scorching sun.

So the parable of the sower has a twofold message: as seed, our job is to get busy growing. As farmers, our job is to get busy sowing.”

Come to Him for Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”
-Mt 11:28

This popular saying of our Lord in today’s Gospel is one of our favorites! We love, love, love hearing about rest from Christ. Yes, we are tired from all the good work we try to do. Yes, we have many burdens from the stresses of life. But, just the idea of rest…true rest…ahhhh.

The best opportunity for receiving the rest that can only come from Christ is in prayer. Prayer brings rest to our souls, spirits, and even bodies. If you are a prayer, then you know what I mean and have experienced this. Prayer calms us, and gives us a sense of the presence of the Lord. It is that presence that we experience when we come to Jesus. So, how can we come to Jesus to receive His rest?

In the world, daily prayer takes us to Christ. It can be hard to find a quiet, peaceful place to enter into the presence of Christ. Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say it took the first twenty minutes of his daily holy hour to just calm down, be rid of the noise of the world, and be quiet with God. Daily Mass is the best opportunity for us to come to Christ and encounter His Real Presence in the Eucharist. Catholic devotions like the rosary help us to raise our hearts and minds to the things of Heaven which inherently bring (eternal) rest. Retreats are very effective in bringing rest to those who take a break from the labors and burdens of the world. In a way, daily prayer is like a mini-retreat every day. This has been my experience with my daily Holy Hour.

Here are some verses from the Psalms which speak of the Lord’s rest. Also, following the Psalms is a Christian poem about the true rest of Christ. When I write each week that I wish you to know the peace of Christ, I also wish that you know the rest of Christ. May you know the peace and rest of Christ this week.

Fr Greg

“ In the Lord I take refuge”.
Psalm 11

“Fear and trembling overwhelm me;
Shuddering sweeps over me.
I say, ‘If only I had wings like a dove
That I might fly away and find rest”.

Psalm 55

“ Return, my soul, to your rest;
The Lord has been good to you.
For my soul has been freed from death.
My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling”.
Psalm 116

“Happy those whom you guide, Lord,
Whom you teach by your instruction.
You give them rest from evil days,
While a pit is being dug for the wicked”.
Psalm 94