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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Corpus Christi: God Became Flesh in Order to Be Man's Eternal Food

On June 18, 2017, Catholics in the United States will celebrate Corpus Christi Sunday; but today, Thursday, June 15, we celebrate it here in Austria with Mass and Eucharistic Procession.

by Lawrence Fox 

It was Sunday morning in Centennial Colorado; late spring as I remember. It rained the night before and the air and soil were damp even though the sun was fully exposed. Nature was slurping the wet soil and bathing in sunlight. 

Sunday morning in the Fox household is one of hectic preparation so as to make Mass on time at St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church. Afterwards, we usually went to Sunday brunch, read or watched a movie. Sunday is a day of feasting.

While waiting for others to get ready, I glanced out the main large window in the front of the house. I noticed a flutter of movements in the branches and leaves of the white birch trees planted in our front yard. 

That morning the whiteness of the bark stood out vividly against the green leaves. I went outside to observe the commotion more closely. Swallows and wrens were frantically hopping from branch to branch in search of  nature’s generosity. It became apparent to me that the birch tree was functioning as a dynamic bird feeder. 

I moved several of the green leaves and there were -- to my chagrin -- tiny green aphids slowly digesting the underbelly of the tree’s tender leaves. Theirs was a short feast since  an army of lady bugs crawled up and down
thin branches onto the leaves where they ate the aphids. The small birds were aware of my presence but they were indifferent because they had mouths to feed. They were scooping up lady bugs, soaring away to their nests and bringing masticated groceries to their young.

I turned my focus to the ground and I saw how far the root system of the tree extended in all directions. I thought, “An integral part of nature is consumption.”

The tree was taking water from the soil, carbon dioxide from the air, and UV energy from the sun, converting it into cellulose and oxygen. The living tree was feeding upon the
non-living earth, and then offering its own life in return to little mobile sensing creatures, which were in return being consumed by other insects. These were being gobbled up by sensing birds able to move rapidly. 

The tree was not aware of these activities on any sensible level. The insects seemed oblivious of their own impending doom. The birds were aware of the insects and my presence. I was aware of the whole event both subjectively and objectively. 

I say subjectively since I was aware of my own emotions observing such consumption. And I was objectively aware that the various activities in the tree existed apart from me. With the help of my senses, I assembled images of what was taking place which were stored for later reflection. 

My momentary observation of the cosmos was interrupted by a voice in the house, “It is time to go!” 

The Roman Catholic Mass is ordered so that each person’s inner conversation moves from
Pope Francis offers Holy Mass 
external distractions towards the worship of God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- the Source of All Being.

The summit of Catholic worship, the celebration of the Mass, is a time of feasting on God’s Spoken and Incarnate Word. During the liturgy of the Eucharist, the Catholic communicant hears the priest say, “Body of Christ.” He responds “Amen,” meaning “I believe.” He receives the offered host. The communicant then hears “Blood of Christ,” and responds “Amen.” He drinks from
Lawrence Fox receives Communion
 in the Byzantine Rite Divine Liturgy, i.e. Mass
the chalice. 

When I heard those words that day, I recognized something about the humility of God and His great passion for created man, whom He made male and female. 

Created nature both feeds and consumes itself. God the Creator feeds nature and He is consumed Himself by a small part of that created nature. Man feeds upon created nature for physical life and feeds upon the Source of All Being for the sake of eternal life. 

God became flesh in order to be man’s eternal food. Both the cosmos and the Eucharist are instituted by God. In both, the essence of each thing is real and not symbolic.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Living in the Image of God Means Living in Communion

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 11, 2017 
Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana

The story is told of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo -- a great philosopher and theologian.  He wanted so much to understand the doctrine of the Holy Trinity -- one God in three Persons and to  explain it logically. 
St Augustine and the little child 
One day he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this matter. Suddenly, he saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with his little cup, filled his cup with sea water,  and emptied it into the hole he had made in the sand. Back and forth he went to the sea, filled his cup and poured it into the hole. Augustine said to him, “Little child, what are you doing?” He replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.”

“How do you think,” Augustine asked him, “that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole?” He answered, “And you, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?” With that the child disappeared.

The human man cannot comprehend fully the inner relationship of the Three Divine Persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each is fully and equally God, yet there is only One God. It is a great mystery.

If we expected today’s readings
 (Ex 34: 4 -6, 8-9; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18) to give us a clear and elaborate presentation of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, we have found out that they simply do not. The doctrine of three Persons in one God, equal in divinity yet distinct in personality, is not explicitly spelt out in the Bible. 

The very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Early Christians arrived at the doctrine when they applied their God-given reason to the revelation of Jesus Christ,  which they had received in faith. Jesus spoke about the Father who sent Him and about the Holy Spirit Whom He was going to send. He said that the Father had given Him all that He has and that He in turn gave to the Holy Spirit all that He received from the Father. In this we see the unity of purpose among the Three Persons in One God.

In the story of salvation, we usually attribute creation to the Father, redemption to the Son and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. Though they are distinct as Persons, neither the Father nor the Son nor the Holy Spirit ever acts in isolation from the other two Persons of the Godhead.

Like Augustine, we may not be able to understand the how of the Trinity but I think it is very important to understand the why. 

Why did God reveal to us this mystery regarding the very nature of the Supreme Being? The importance of this doctrine lies in this: we are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God the more we understand ourselves. Experts in religion tell us that people always try to be like the god they worship. People who worship a warrior god tend to be warmongering. People who worship a god of pleasure tend to be pleasure-seeking. People who worship a god of wrath tend to be vengeful. And people who worship a god of love tend to be loving. Like their god, so the worshippers. 
Therefore, we ask what does the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity tell us about the kind of God we worship and what does this say about the kind of people we should be?

God does not exist in solitary individualism but in a community of love and sharing. God is not a loner. This means that a Christian in search of godliness (Matthew 5:48) must shun every tendency to isolationism. The ideal Christian spirituality is not that of flight from the world. We are unlike Buddhists  who seek holiness by permanent withdrawal to the mountains away from people and society.

True love requires communion. You remember the old saying “Two is company, three is a crowd.” The Trinity shows us that three is community, three is love at its best; three is not a crowd. Take as an example the human condition. When a man loves a

woman, their love is most often fruitful in children. Father, mother and child — love  perfected becomes a community, the family.

We are made in God’s image and likeness. Just as God is God only in a trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only in a communion of persons. Marriage or religious life, both satisfy this requirement to live like God.   

Then we discover that the so-called “I-and-I” principle of unbridled individualism which is acceptable in modern society leaves much to be desired. The doctrine of the Blessed Trinity challenges us to adopt rather an I-and-God-and-neighbor principle. I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people. 
May the grace of the Holy Trinity help us to banish all traces of self-centeredness in our lives and to live in love of God and of neighbor. Amen.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost! Reversing the Curse of Babel

Happy Birthday to You, Catholic Church! 

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
Pentecost,  June 4, 2017
Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana

Today we reach the high point of our Easter celebration, the Feast of Pentecost. 
Today has a significant meaning in my life since it was on this Sunday that I celebrated my first Mass after I was ordained a priest on June 7, 2014. 

Pentecost -- meaning 50 days after the 
Passover — was the feast day in which the Jewish people celebrated the Giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. This is where the different tribes of Israel entered into covenant with God and with one another and so became the people of God. 

Being a people of God means relating to God and to one another in a way that God Himself has mapped out -- not in the way that we think is right. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that seems right to a people, but in the end it leads to death.” 

The beginning of wisdom therefore, is when we realize that as humans we are limited and shortsighted, and so we ask God to show us how to be the people of God that He has created us to be.

Whenever human beings try to take the initiative in our dealings with God, what follows is disaster. An example is the story of the Tower of Babel (
Genesis 11:1-9) where human beings decided to build a tower that would reach to heaven. In this way they hoped to manipulate God. But while they built the tower, God came and confused their languages. There was no more understanding among them, and they could no longer work together. 

Tomorrow (Pentecost Sunday), we will read (Acts 2:1-11) of the disciples of Jesus speaking in other languages.  But Pentecost is not a repeat of Babel, Pentecost is a reversal of Babel.

At Babel, human beings decided to build a tower to God by their own effort; at Pentecost it is now God who decides to build a bridge to
humans by sending the Holy Spirit. Babel was a human initiative, a human effort, Pentecost is a divine initiative, a divine activity through the Holy Spirit.

Imagine this. Before Jesus ascends to heaven, He tells the disciples to spread the Good News from Jerusalem to all Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. But clearly the task is too much for them. 

How could these 12 uneducated fishermen from Galilee go out and address the learned world of Greek philosophers and Roman poets? Even their fellow Jews are hostile to them. So what do they do? They go wait and pray for God’s initiative. And as soon as God gives the sign of the Holy Spirit, they go out on the streets boldly and fearlessly proclaiming the Good News.

What God asks of us as believers always seems impossible. And it is impossible if we rely on our own will power alone. But if, like the disciples, commit ourselves to waiting daily on God in prayer, God will not be found wanting. At the opportune time God will send the flame of the Holy Spirit to invigorate us, and change us from lukewarm to zealous, fervent, enthusiastic believers.

Babel was a requiem of misunderstanding. Pentecost is a chorus of mutual understanding. The miracle of Pentecost is very different from the disaster of Babel. At Babel, the people came together with one 
language,understanding themselves.
After God’s intervention they dispersed no longer understanding each other. At Pentecost, on the other hand, people of different ethnic backgrounds (Persians, Asians, Romans, Egyptians, Libyans, Arabs) came together unable to communicate. But after the disciples spoke on Pentecost, they said, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear them, each of us in our own language?” (Acts 2:7-8).

When Peter spoke, people from all different language groups would hear Peter speaking in their own languages. The miracle of Pentecost was a miracle of mutual understanding, a restoration of that precious gift that humanity lost at Babel. 

Does such a language exist that everyone could understand it? Yes!  The name of that language is Love. Love is the language of the children of God, the only language we shall speak in heaven.

Babel resulted in the disintegration of the human family into different races and nationalities. Pentecost, on the other hand, brings all peoples together and reunifies them under one universal family, the Church.  “Catholic” means “universal”. On Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the Church. Today is, therefore, an opportunity to
rededicate ourselves to be active and faithful members of this family of God we call Church.

Fulton J. Sheen once said that even though we are God’s chosen people, we often behave more like God’s frozen people.
God's Frozen People
God’s frozen people indeed: frozen in our prayer life, frozen in the way we relate with one another, frozen in the way we celebrate our faith. We don’t seem to be happy to be in God’s house; we are always in a hurry to get it over and done with as soon as possible. Today is a great day to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle in us the spirit of new life and enthusiasm, the fire of God’s love. 

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
For the Greater Glory of God

Friday, May 12, 2017

Man Acts! The Moral Act Must Be Based on Truth

“Thus we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we will, by our decisions.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

by Susan Fox 

Last night, I studied a little beige spider. He was busy stringing a web over the space behind my clothes closet. He bounced and flew back and forth. He seemed very purposeful and energetic. 

Poor creature with eight eyes, he is almost blind. But when something touches his web he immediately responds, and prepares it for dinner.

His actions revealed his instinct for self-preservation. But the little creature was not aware of this.

However, the fact that I was aware of his actions, and at the same time aware of myself watching his actions revealed something about me as well. I am a man. Man acts. Only a man can purposely and deliberately act according to his free will.

“For man not only acts consciously, but he has the consciousness that he is acting and even that he is acting consciously,” said the future Pope Saint John Paul II in his book
The Acting Person published originally in Polish in 1969.

The future pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla said about this peculiar inner mirror — our consciousness — that it constitutes a specific and unique aspect in human action. It provides self knowledge — something a spider will never enjoy. This reflection on the Acting Person comes from a man who went to confession weekly.

Man is a creator of his own action. I made the decision to watch a spider. Such a decision will have a lasting effect on my inner life as did my parents’ decision to do the same. I come from a small community — known as a family. Growing up in this community, I stood and watched in awe all that moves and grows in the desert. 

“See Susie, look at that,” they said. “Ick,” I responded. We swept black widow spiders from our winter cabin, played with giant toads in our back yard in Los Angeles, marvelled at the beauty of flowers emerging from the spiky
Black widow spider
cactus in the Spring, watched jack rabbits leap across the desert, and dug out scorpions hibernating in the ground in the winter. On our way to the outhouse at night, we made a game of not stepping on the stink bugs. The tarantula? Well, we kept him in a cage in our apartment until one day, he got lose. Then we released him into our back yard. 

Life — we watched it from our car, our walks, our homes. It was an act of man that we enjoyed in full consciousness by participation in the community of our family. We did it for the common good. It engendered in us a love of nature, God’s creation.

“Man is not only the agent of his action, he is the creator of it,” Cardinal Wojtyla wrote. Acting produces and maintains its own effect in the actor. “The essence of creativeness is to shape the created work. In a sense, acting is also a work created by man.” Its essence is that it produces and maintains a lasting effect
Desert in Bloom
. Morality is one of its properties. Morality has no existence outside human acting. My beige spider, I’m sorry to say, has no morals.

“It is man’s conscious acting that make of him what and who he actually is,” Wojtyla said. His conscious actions not only make something of him, but also make somebody of him. Decision by decision, we become who we are by acting. “Thus we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we will, by our decisions.” (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

The future pope also wrote about the transcendent aspect of man’s acts, which is not necessarily a spiritual thing. It is simply stepping outside of our normal boundaries. We can make a choice. We have self governance. “It is thus that every genuine ‘I 
will’ reveals the person’s transcendence in the action,” the future pope said. Spiders can’t step outside their normal boundaries. The spider will always build his web the same way his ancestors did 136 million years ago. Only the creature who has free will, genuine self-determination can be a person.

But consider the paralysed man lying by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years waiting to be healed. (John 5:1-14) Every so often an angel

came and stirred up the pool and the first one in was healed. Now here comes a man, Jesus, who asks the paralysed man, “Do you want to get well?” Out of habit, the man responds, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” In his inner consciousness, he probably thought the helpful stranger would stick around and assist him into the pool. But he didn’t realise the power that stirred the pool was standing before him.

Then Jesus said to him,
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8)

The man was cured. He cooperated in his transcendent will with Christ’s healing. He acted. He picked up his mat and walked. It was a simple decision. “I will obey this man. I will step out of the normal boundaries of my actions. I will stop laying around that pool.” He didn’t even know Who Jesus was. The Pharisees confronted him later because he was carrying his mat and walking. It was the Sabbath and all work was forbidden.
“The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”(John 5:11), he explained to the Pharisees, who immediately wanted to know who this man was. But the former paralytic had no idea who cured him for Jesus had slipped away in the crowd. But by his action of obedience, he became what he hadn’t been, a man who could walk. His conscious action made something of him, and somebody of him. It gave him freedom.

“It is man’s actions, the way he consciously acts, that make of him a good or bad man — good or bad in the moral sense” Wojtyla wrote. He explained that the root of man’s becoming good or bad by his actions is freedom. This freedom is visualised in the

sentence, “I may, but I need not.” The spider will never think, “There’s something on the web. I may eat it or I may not.” Bah. He will jump on it immediately without any self-awareness whatsoever. But I see a good dessert and I think, “I may, but I need not.”

Now what made the paralytic man decide to stand up? It was something really good. He wanted to be healed! He’d passionately wanted to be healed for 38 years. “The greater the good, the greater becomes its power to attract the will and also the person,” Wojtyla wrote. This is important. Man is attracted by what is perceived as good. “The critical factor in determining the maturity and the perfection of the person is his consent to be attracted by positive authentic values, his unreserved consent to be drawn in and absorbed by them.”

If one is ignorant of the truth or unable or unwilling to be attracted by the truth, his moral decisions will become incomprehensible.

Consider the case of Belinda and Shaun Stafford, a young couple, who wanted to have children, but couldn’t do so by normal means. They chose to create their children in a test tube using In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), a procedure condemned by the Catholic Church. They were able to give birth to

Lachlan, 4, and 21-month-old twins Charlotte and William. However, in these procedures, more children are created than can normally be absorbed by the family. After three children, the Staffords felt their family was large enough. But seven more “babies” were frozen waiting their turn to be born.

“After completing our family, we looked into the donation of our remaining embryos,” Mrs Stafford told Parenting, an online magazine. “I wanted to keep having more babies but the emotional toll, plus financially it was too much.”

“Donating our embryos wasn’t an option for us and I couldn’t justify the yearly storage fee. I’d heard others had planted them in the garden but we move a lot, so I couldn’t do this. I needed them with me.”

So in what one might regard as a macabre gesture, they turned to an Australian company, Baby Bee Hummingbirds, to turn their seven living children into keepsake jewellery.

The future Pope John Paul II said it’s very important to examine the “moment of truth” in any human act. “Not all of the particular choices or decisions of the human will are correct. Too often man seeks and chooses what is not good for him. Such a choice or

Pope Saint John Paul II
decision is not just an error, because errors stem from the mind and not from the will. Choices and decisions, which take as their object what is not a real good— especially when contrary to what has been recognised as a real good— lead to the experience of guilt or sin.”

But the reality of guilt — of moral evil — demonstrates the fact that truth is rooted in the human will. If human acts are performed without reference to truth, “moral conduct most characteristic for the man-person would become incomprehensible.” the future pope concluded.

We have sunk into such times where it indeed appears that man’s actions are totally incomprehensible. We can certainly sympathise with the anguish Belinda and Shaun Stafford must have gone through when they realised they had seven more children than they needed. They wanted to give life to children. Instead, they ended up killing seven people. The moment of truth passed by and they didn’t see it. The keepsake jewellery embryos sort of put an exclamation mark on what they had done. But the real mistake was using In Vitro Fertilisation in the first place since it always ends in the death of some of the children conceived in that fashion.

The same incomprehensibility afflicted the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, when it decided to legalise same sex “marriage.” The
“justices” created a terrible injustice to the reality of true marriage, believing Christians, and the children created and raised by same sex couples, who would never know their true father or mother. Same Sex Marriage: Another Chapter in Grimm's Fairy Tales. 

I walk to my car with a grocery list in hand, and I get in. I know I am going shopping and afterwards, I will be able to cook dinner and feed my family. Perhaps my actions resemble those of the spider, but in my case, completing this action will bring a sense of fulfilment. My conscience tells me I am doing my duty, living according to my state of life. Oh, perhaps I want to use the time to write poetry. That also is a good action, but when it comes to dinnertime, “I will” not “I want” — I make the choice to prepare to feed myself and my family. This is a good choice. I am fulfilled.

“Human freedom is not accomplished nor exercised in bypassing truth, but on the contrary by the person’s realisation and

surrender to truth. Truth is the key to what is good and what is evil,” Cardinal Wojtyla wrote. “When a man acts, he at once fulfils himself in the action, for as a human being, as a person, he becomes either good or evil.” Freedom itself is the surrender to the truth. When the person choses not to surrender to the truth, unfortunately, he is not fulfilled.

Doing evil leaves us empty. Jesus explained the same thing to the Jews who believed in Him: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Unfortunately in the case of the legalisation of same sex “marriage,” the U.S. “moralists” on the Supreme Court perceived freedom as somehow in opposition to biological nature. Man lost his personhood. They made man a self-defining, “personal life project.” He was reduced to his own freedom, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote in Veritatis Splendour.

Then the rich young man came to Jesus and said, “Good Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus told him to keep the commandments. “Which ones?” the young man asked. “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” The young man admitted he had been keeping the commandments from his youth. So Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:16-21)

In his 1993 papal encyclical, Veritatis Splendour, Pope John Paul II takes up some of the themes he began in The Acting Person. In the rich young man, we can recognise every person, the pope says, who consciously or not approaches Christ and questions Him about morality. The rich young man was not just looking for rules but the full meaning of life, which is “the aspiration at the heart of every human decision and action, the quiet searching and interior prompting which sets freedom in motion.”

It is the Absolute Good that beckons us. “It is the echo of a call from God who is the origin and goal of man’s life.” the pope said. This absolute tug draws man to try to learn, “What is the truth?” And in finding the truth, we try to make it our goal in acting. When we act in truth, we realise that it is in the truth by which we are able to win our freedom. It is the truth that allows us to create ourselves as a good and fulfilled person. “Far from abolishing freedom (as was feared in the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision), truth liberates it,” Cardinal Wojtyla wrote.

“Without truthfulness (or while out of touch with it), the conscience — or more broadly speaking the whole specific system of the moral function and order — cannot be properly grasped and correctly interpreted.” Cardinal Wojtyla wrote, adding, “The conscience is no lawmaker; it does not itself create norms; rather it discovers them in the objective order of morality or law.”

Self-fulfilment in right moral actions is happiness itself, the future pope discloses, calling it “felicity.” Truth goes hand in hand with freedom. “I may, but I need not.” This reality makes man happy.

The consequences for the human person, when he chooses to ignore the truth can be catastrophic. The future pope called it disintegration. Sadly human disintegration occurs when man loses self-governance according to the truth of the good. “While self-determination means that man can govern himself …disintegration signifies … a deep-seated inability to govern oneself.” One becomes literally a slave to sin. Cardinal Wojtyla called it the collapse of the backbone. The end result is that man is not happy.

The fruit of such disintegration can be explicitly seen in pornography. Michelangelo’s great work of art in the Sistine Chapel is covered with naked human beings, but one
Naked Images in the Sistine Chapel, Rome
hardly notices their nakedness looking at the beautiful figures. They evoke a sense of both the physical and interior beauty of man. The human figures all have very small genitals. The focus is not on their sexuality.

However, pornographic pictures usually enlarge and exaggerate the genitals, or make the sexual act itself front and centre. In the picture, the human person himself is entirely lost. The person is reduced totally to his sexual aspect. And the people who force these pictures on everyone else on the internet have a very disordered interior life.  They cannot relate to anyone without thrusting their perverted interest on them. It reveals a brokenness in their acts originating from an exodus from the truth. They are not living in reality.

Chastity in the Catholic Catechism is defined as the “successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” This sexuality becomes “personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman. The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.” 

Outside marriage, there is no opportunity for happiness in the sexual act. It is ironic that in all kinds of sexual sin, what is pursued is the happiness of the sexual act, but none is forthcoming, only repetitive pleasure, which leaves one feeling empty and drained.

Chastity begins like all virtues in an “apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. It is long and exacting work.” (Catechism 2339) When temperance becomes a habit, the passions and sensual appetites are permeated with reason. The human person in his consciousness tries to reach for the true good in all his appetites and difficulties.

Take baby steps. Let your own voluntary decisions mother and father you through life toward happiness. St Peter calls us “living stones… being built into a spiritual house.”

In the foundation, we can begin to see occasional acts of kindness, restraint from curiosity especially in puerile things, patience in trial, moderation in speech -- a multitude of little choices. These in turn will strengthen the foundation, and allow a person to build himself into a good man or a good woman. It is his choices that accomplish this. Every good decision reinforces the foundation. Eventually finishing the attic of this spiritual house, you will notice you are putting the finishing touches on those powerful theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”and,
“A stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1Peter 2:4-9)

The message is simple. Seek to base your choices on the truth. Do not stumble because of Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Fr. Spindelböck
Susan Fox is working on a master's degree in Marriage and Family at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria. This is a paper she did for Fr. Rev. Prof. Dr. habil. Josef Spindelböck, a moral theologian faithful to the Catholic Magisterium. These are his comments: "I read your paper now, and is a very fresh essay with a good use of sources and literature!" Thank you for having done this wonderful work." Fr. Spindelböck. Follow Fr. Spindelböck on Twitter at @sepptirol or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/josef.spindelboeck

Interested in studying at the International Theological Institute? You can apply here.
Each student at ITI is only charged 6,000 Euros a year in tuition, but the actual cost of the education is 20,000 Euros. Donate here

Or to donate contact: Dipl. Ing. Alexander Pachta-Reyhofen, Director of Development (Europe), International Theological Institute, Email: a.pachtareyhofen@iti.ac.at

Wojtyla, Cardinal Karol. The Acting Person. Boston: D.Reidel Publishing Company, 1979.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994.

Mayoh, Lisa. “Couples are turning extra IVF embryos into jewellery.” Parenting.(http://www.kidspot.com.au/parenting/real-life/in-the-news/couples-are-turning-extra-ivf-embryos-into-jewellery)

Fox, Susan. “Same Sex Marriage: Another Chapter in Grimm’s Fairy Tales.” Christ’s Faithful Witness, June 28, 2015. (https://christsfaithfulwitness.blogspot.co.at/2015/06/same-sex-marriage-another-chapter-in.html#.WRHWClJ7HFx)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Journey on the Road to Emmaus with the Risen Christ

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Third Sunday of Easter, April 30, 2017
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

As we come together again,  let us allow Our Lord Jesus to open our minds and hearts
to the mystery of His resurrection.
On this Third Sunday of Easter, our Church gives us the Gospel of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-35) This is one of the most intriguing manifestations of our resurrected Lord.
Two disciples of Our Lord left Jerusalem late on Sunday and walked to a town seven miles away called Emmaus. We do not know  where this town is located or why they were leaving Jerusalem.

What we do know, however, is that these two men were shaken up by what had occurred in Jerusalem -- Jesus Christ had been crucified and died. They had heard that He had risen from the dead. 

They are discussing these things when Our Lord Jesus suddenly appears beside them. They do not recognise Him because they didn't believe that He had risen from the dead. They think He is a stranger, so they begin a conversation with Him. Slowly, Our Lord opens their eyes and hearts to the reality of Who was in front of them and that in fact He had risen from the dead.

In fact, these witnesses of the Risen Christ make a 180-degree turn! They immediately return to Jerusalem to speak about what they had seen and heard on the Road to Emmaus.

My brothers and sisters, let us allow Our Lord to open our eyes and hearts to the message of today’s Gospel. As Christians, each one of us is on a journey -- not to any town or city, but to heaven. Today’s Gospel calls us to  
recognize the greater meaning of our faith through the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Church is a mystical Church. Many seem to focus on social justice, and lose sight of the fact that the end is not temporal nor earthly, but heavenly and eternal. In fact, Cardinal Robert Sarah, who was appointed as prefect for the 
Congregation for Divine Worship  by Pope Francis in 2014, recently gave us a reminder of the importance of our Church’s mission as the mystical body of Christ. 

“If the Church, with the obsession she has today with the values of justice, social rights and the struggle against poverty, ends up as a result by forgetting her contemplative soul, she will fail in her mission and she will be abandoned by a great many of her faithful, owing to the fact that they will no longer recognize in her what constitutes her specific mission,” Cardinal Sarah said. So he reminds us of our ultimate end, eternal life.

The two ways we come to a deeper understanding of the revelation of the risen Christ is through the Word of God and the Holy Eucharist. As Our Lord Jesus opened the minds of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus with what had been said about Him
They recognised Him in the breaking of the bread
in all the Scriptures, so Our Lord has given us His Church to understand what is said of Christ in Sacred Scripture. We have the magisterium and we have the Catechism of the Catholic Church to help us come to a better understanding of the Word of God.

As Catholics, we believe in the True Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This sacred gift is not simply bread and wine. No, this gift is the literal Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In fact, many saints have lived for years on nothing but the Holy Eucharist because this food is not earthly food but eternal food. For example, we just celebrated the feast of Saint Catherine of Sienna who lived in the 14th century. For the seven-year period before her death, Saint Catherine took no food into her body other than the Eucharist. Although Catherine ate nothing but the Holy Eucharist, this did not cause her to lose energy. No, the Holy Eucharist instead became a source of extraordinary strength.

My brothers and sisters, as we reflect on the revelation of Our Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel passage, let us allow our Lord to open our eyes and hearts to the gift that comes
Fr. John Paul Shea
before us as Catholics! Our Lord Jesus has come into our world to give eternal salvation to those who believe in Him! Our Lord indeed suffered and has risen from the dead.  And Our Lord has given us His Church with His Word of Truth and the Holy Eucharist to guide us and to strengthen us until He comes again!

In this time in which we live today when many are living in sin and when many souls are in jeopardy of perishing for eternal life, let us therefore recognize the manifestation of the
risen Lord by living in His Word and receiving Him worthily in the Holy Eucharist.

For, the reality is that this world of the flesh is ending, and a new world is coming. Our Lord is coming again, and those who live in spirit and truth will live in the new world to come and will see the fullness of Our Lord face to face. 

Let us therefore come to recognize this great gift that waits. Let us give our entire lives, body, mind, and soul to Our Lord Jesus Christ so that we can be found worthy to live in the mystical grace of His Father’s Kingdom forever. Amen.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Many Thanks to Our Catholic Priests!

by Edwin Rodrigues of Chandigarh, India
who can be found at @EdwinEd1667 on Twitter

In God’s perfect plan, nothing happens by
Pope Francis blessing the people
chance. Very often we talk of co-incidences but in recent times, I have come to believe that they really are God-incidences. 

The Ordination of a Priest is a mystery that even a priest cannot fully comprehend. Thank you Lord, for blessing us with Rev. Fr. Stephen Fernandes and Rev. Fr. Freddie Achan, my parish priests at Christ The King Cathedral, Chandigarh. 

God willed them to be here ...nourishing us with the Bread of Life, forgiving our sins, healing the sick, teaching  the faith, marrying our daughters and sons, burying our parents. 

It was ordained by God that these two ministers of His Word would carry out specific tasks which only they could perform. Without a priest, there is no Eucharist.

No priest, no Eucharist
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Fr. Stephen since 1977, when I was a young boy in St John's school Chandigarh. He has been blessed with a friendly demeanour and down-to-earth humility, which he uses to disguise his dignified office as priest. I can safely say on behalf of most of my class-mates that he made it very easy for us to go to confession. Every first Friday, he came to our school, absolved us of our sins, counselled us and offered Holy Mass.

Fr. Freddie, the first priestly vocation originating in Chandigarh, was also mentored by Fr. Stephen.  Earlier this year,  Fr Freddie shared his vivid memory of his own first confession with Fr. Stephen in 1980. He felt completely at ease. 

Fr Stephen is a gardener. He has a great love for the beauty of nature. It appears that Fr. Freddie's vocation -- nourished by his first
absolution --  is the fruit of Fr. Stephen's 
loving pastoral care.   The seed was planted by God Himself from all eternity but the germination, nourishment and blossoming of the  tree of priesthood occurred under Fr. Stephen's watchful eye. 

Pope Saint John Paul II also nurtured the tree of priesthood. Fr Freddie, who was sent to Rome for further studies, had the privilege of meeting and being in the presence of the great pope on numerous occasions. Fr. Freddie personally witnessed how devoted and eager Pope John Paul II was at encountering Jesus in the Sacrament of Mercy. If such a saintly pope could go for confession daily, how much more does a sinner like me stand in need of doing the same!

Fr Stephen’s posting at Chandigarh accounts for more than half the span of his life and it’ll be difficult for him to take up his cross (of a transfer) and follow Jesus. But when Jesus calls, there’s no power that can totally foil His plan. There can be stumbling blocks permitted by God but He gives sufficient grace to convert them into stepping stones for greater things. 

Fr Stephen will be a fisher of men at St. Joseph's Seminary at Kauli in Punjab. For the harvest in His Vineyard is plenty but the labourers are few! Jesus has called Fr. Freddie to Bhurewala, Haryana in the mission station he occupied in his earlier days as a priest. Both priests have carried out their duties here in Chandigarh zealously in season and out of season, whether convenient or inconvenient. Their work will bear much fruit in God’s own time even if we fail to recognize it. 

Most of the good things that priests do go unnoticed and we take them for granted. Do we really pray for them? Do we pray often
Pope Francis kisses a baby
and make sacrifices for them, who through their hands offer the One Sacrifice of Jesus Himself in every Holy Mass? 

If we don’t, we need to begin now. It’s the least we can do in return for the gift of our salvation nourished by the sacraments. Offering the Holy Rosary for all priests is a sure way of obtaining God’s protection. We pray for the intercession of Mother Mary, who leads us to her Son. He in turn shows us the Way to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Even Mother Mary and the Angels cannot
take bread and wine and turn them into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Only a Catholic Priest can do that. 

Most of us come to Mass and go home without really appreciating the fact that what has taken place on the Altar is a re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary. He died and rose once and for all, to restore our broken relationship with the Father, with Jesus Himself and the Holy Spirit. 

There is one important distinction: The sacrifice on the cross was bloody, while the sacrifice of the altar is an unbloody sacrifice.
Bottom line:  because of priests, we can have a foretaste of heaven right here on earth wherever a priest offers the Mass.

“Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is.” (St John Marie Vianney)

The job of every Priest is a thankless one. In the words of St. John Chrysostom: “All men are ready to pass judgment on the priest as if he was not being clothed with flesh, or one who inherited a human nature.” 

“O Priest, who are you?
You are not from yourself, because you are from nothing.
You are not directed to yourself, because you are a mediator for men.
You are not wed to yourself, because you are the spouse of The Church.
You are not your own, because you are the servant of all.
You are not yourself, because you are “God” [when playing the role of Jesus in the Sacraments].
Thus, you are nothing and yet everything.”
(St. Norbert)

27th June 2010.