What does it take to believe that something is real? We live in an age of computer technology complete with things like Photoshop and other programs that can enhance photographs, create realistic images, and mimic artistic renderings. When looking at a picture of something, we find ourselves wondering if what we are seeing is real or just the result of technological creativity. Early believers came to believe because of what they witnessed in these new communities of faith. They saw people authentically living out Jesus’ command to love and to show mercy. What do people witness when they see us in action?
3rd Sunday Advent
Speak the truth / light us on fire for the Lord
Here is your God
Elijah: words as a flaming furnace
Christ: hearts burning
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus asks the crowds, “why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Lk 12:56). How do we interpret the present time? Especially with a presidential election upon us, there are many different interpretations happening concurrently in our country. The explosion of social media has brought millions of commentators into the mix. One question that I like to ask people who offer interpretations of life, faith, or morals that are opposed to the Church’s is, ‘what is the authority of your position?’ I then explain that the Church’s teachings / interpretations are based on the authority of Jesus Christ.
Most people have never thought about the authority on which they base their beliefs or opinions. Their answer is normally parents, media, or friends. Hopefully, we faithful Catholics at Assumption get our interpretations about the present time from the Church which is guided by the Holy Spirit.
What Catholic resources address current issues in 2016? Writings and homilies of the Pope and bishops, especially Cardinal Wuerl, top the list. Bishop Robert Barron is extremely contemporary in his writings and videos for “Word on Fire”. The best Catholic newspaper, in my opinion, is National Catholic Register. On TV, EWTN continues its popular Catholic programming and now has nightly news. Online resources include catholic.com (Catholic Answers) and zenit.org (Catholic news from Rome).
Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City – St. Joseph wrote an article that interprets the present time. His main point is that evil is now seen and argued as good and uses two examples: 1) ISIS and 2) a speech about abortion at the Democratic National Convention:
They are examples of evil being called good. In the first instance, ISIS terrorists perversely attribute their violence as a manifestation of divine will, often shouting in Arabic, “God is great!” as they carry out the carnage. An error about God leads to further errors about humanity and our relationship with God and one another. In this world of deep error, evil becomes “good.”… In the second instance, evil becomes good because “I say so.” God is not involved at all… abortion has for the most part always been portrayed as a “necessary evil” by its staunchest advocates. Now, it seems, we are facing a new propaganda, that abortion really is “good” or, as the commentator put it, “normal, moral, respectable, and responsible.”
So, one way to interpret the present time is that now evil is called good and good is called evil. A priest friend of mine once wrote years ago that a woman walked up to him on the street and said, “you priests are evil.” I received evil looks from people on the street when I was stationed in downtown Washington. Those nasty glares intensified when I made news for saying that “marriage is between a man and a woman” in 2013. This taught me that good is now seen as evil by many people. Every priest is “alter Christus” – another Christ – in the world. We represent goodness in the flesh. If the world sees priests as evil, then it will see Christ, God, and the Church in the same way. This is unfathomable to us. In the not-too-distant future, priests will go to jail for preaching the Gospel, and lay Catholics will be hated for merely practicing their faith. Unfortunately, in our culture the new reality is that bad is good, good is bad, and truth is whatever you want it to be.
The Lord wants us to know how to interpret the present time so that we are clued into what is going on around us. Then, we will recognize good as good and choose it, and evil as evil and avoid it. The world and its values seem to change as quickly as the weather in Washington. But, Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” and his truth and love remain always.
May you know the peace of Christ,
Going off of last week’s column, here are some practical examples of how to live the spiritual works of mercy, particularly “admonish sinners” and “instruct the uninformed.” Many of you have asked me how to speak to your children and grandchildren about the faith. Having worked with young people for many years in ministry, these are the most common exchanges I have had with them about the basics of living the Catholic faith. Hopefully, these will be helpful and fruitful for you, your families, and our parish.
Mostly, these are initial responses that often lead to long conversations. It’s really just to give you some kind of answer to tough questions. I’m happy to expound on them if you would like. But, especially in this age of sound bites, it’s good to have a quick, one-line response when possible that is easy to remember. Some of these responses are biting, but effective. It’s important to present and defend the truth, but always to do it in love. Otherwise, the focus turns to the messenger and not the message.
Speak the truth in love.
If you are not asked these questions, then how do you start the conversation? First, pray that God provides an opportunity. If you can’t talk to them about God, talk to God about them! Second, be ready for the opportunity. Read what I have written here and ask me for more reading on the subjects. You might even send them a book, pamphlet, or article from the internet, and ask them what they think. Don’t be afraid to bring Christ to their world!
I’ll go to the next level of questions next week.
May you know the peace of Christ,
“Why do we have to go to Mass?”
- Because God says so!
a. “Keep holy the Sabbath” (3rd Commandment).
b. “Take this all of you and eat it”. (Last Supper).
2. To get to Heaven!
a. You need the Eucharist to get to Heaven. The main reason we go to Mass is to receive the Eucharist. Jesus said that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you” (Jn 6:53-54). Mass is where we can receive the Eucharist.
3. It’s not so much that we have to go, it’s that we GET to go. Holy Mass is a gift!
“But I don’t feel like going to Mass”
Jesus didn’t feel like getting on the Cross.
“Mass is so boring”
Do you know what happens at Mass? It’s amazing! The bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. The same flesh and blood that were on the Cross. Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross becomes truly present to us, and we are like witnesses to Calvary. Was anyone at the Crucifixion on Good Friday saying, “this is so boring?”
“I am spiritual but not religious”
That is like saying, “I love my wife but I don’t spend any time with her.”
“I’m too busy for church or prayer”
- I know that you are busy, and that you work very hard. But you still find time to be with your friends, watch TV, go on Facebook, and attend social events. Jesus was a busy guy, and he found time to pray every day!
- Prayer is like a habit that we make time for every day. Just like you make time for eating, sleeping, showering, and brushing your teeth every day when you’re busy, you can make time for prayer every day.
God’s timing couldn’t be better with today’s first reading. Zechariah 12:10-11 describes vast and deep mourning of a nation. That is where we are as Americans given the tragedies in Florida last week. We are mourning not only the horrific deaths of 50 people at a nightclub and a 2-year-old boy at Disney World, but also grieving sin and its effects. Mother Angelica used to say that the beatitude “blessed are those who mourn” had nothing to do with funerals. What she meant was that true Christian mourning encompasses all of the effects of sin, not just death. With that understanding in mind, several of you have come to me this week in mourning. You have asked me, “what is going on?” and “what can I do?”. Cardinal Sarah of Guinea presented some cogent answers to both questions when he spoke at last month’s National Prayer Breakfast in DC. It’s a pretty amazing speech! He’s as spot-on and sharp as can be, and not afraid to speak the truth in love. Below are some excerpts. I am available to any of you who have concerns or questions about what is going on in our world. May you know the peace of Christ, Fr Greg
With that understanding in mind, several of you have come to me this week in mourning. You have asked me, “what is going on?” and “what can I do?” Cardinal Sarah of Guinea presented some cogent answers to both questions when he spoke at last month’s National Prayer Breakfast in DC. It’s a pretty amazing speech! He’s as spot-on and sharp as can be, and not afraid to speak the truth in love. Below are some excerpts. I am available to any of you who have concerns or questions about what is going on in our world. May you know the peace of Christ, Fr Greg
May you know the peace of Christ
Today we are witnessing the next stage – and the consummation – of the efforts to build a utopian paradise on earth without God. It is the stage of denying sin and the fall altogether. But the death of God results in the burial of good, beauty, love and truth. Good becomes evil, beauty is ugly, love becomes the satisfaction of sexual primal instincts, and truths are all relative…
Every human being, like the persons of the Trinity, has the capacity to be united with other persons in communion through the vinculum caritatis – the bond of charity – of the Holy Spirit. The family is a natural preparation and anticipation of the communion that is possible when we are united with God. The family, as it were, is a natural praeparatio evangelica – written into our nature.
This is why the devil is so intent on destroying the family. If the family is destroyed, we lose our God-given, anthropological foundations and so find it more difficult to welcome the saving Good News of Jesus Christ: self-giving, fruitful love…
Advanced societies, including – I regret – this nation have done and continue to do everything possible to legalize such situations. But this can never be a truthful solution. It is like putting bandages on an infected wound. It will continue to poison the body until antibiotics are taken.
Sadly, the advent of artificial reproductive technologies, surrogacy, so-called homosexual “marriage,” and other evils of gender ideology, will inflict even more wounds in the midst of the generations we live with.
Do we not see signs of this insidious war in this great nation of the United States? In the name of “tolerance,” the Church’s teachings on marriage, sexuality and the human person are dismantled. The legalization of same-sex marriage, the obligation to accept contraception within health care programs, and even “bathroom bills” that allow men to use the women’s restrooms and locker rooms. Should not a biological man use the men’s restroom? How simpler can that concept be?
How low we are sinking for a nation built on a set of moral claims about God, the human person, the meaning of life, and the purpose of society, given by America’s first settlers and founders! God is named in your founding documents as “Creator” and “Supreme Judge” over individuals and government. The human person endowed with God-given and therefore inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” George Washington wrote that “the establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the motive that induced me to the field of battle.”
Today, we find ourselves before the battle of a sickness that has pervaded our world. I repeat: the battle of a sickness. That is what we face. I call this sickness “the liquidation, the eclipse of God.” Pope Francis describes the causes of this “sickness.” I quote:
“Religious liberty is not only that of thought or private worship. It is freedom to live according to ethical principles consequent upon the truth found, be it privately or publicly. This is a great challenge in the globalized world, where weak thought – which is like a sickness – also lowers the general ethical level, and in the name of a false concept of tolerance ends up by persecuting those who defend the truth about man and the ethical consequences.”
What are the remedies to this sickness? What should we do to protect the family, religious freedom, and marriage – as revealed to us by God?
Before such a distinguished gathering, I offer three humble suggestions.
1. Be prophetic… Discern carefully – in your lives, your homes, your workplaces how, in your nation, God is being eroded, eclipsed, liquidated.
2. Be faithful… In the words of Saint Catherine of Siena: “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”
3. Pray… Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est encourages us : “People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone.”
34th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov 22, 2015
Christ the King – “Truth versus Feelings”
Gospel / feast
Kingdom in this world?
Mission of Christ
Truth of kingdom
Truth vs feelings
Kingdom of God v Kingdom of world
Fr. Greg Shaffer
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