Adult Faith Formation Column for the Sunday Bulletin of St. Michael Parish, Livermore, California

This weekly column is a short meditation on the Bible readings of the Sunday Mass. The meditations are direct quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal encyclicals, writings of the Saints, and similar orthodox sources.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Taking Gehenna Seriously

   We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him.  But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves:  "He who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."  Our Lord warns us that we shell be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.  To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice.  This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell".

   Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna," of "the unquenchable fire"
reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.  Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather ... all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation:  "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

   The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny.  They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion:  "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few"....

                       -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                           paragraphs 1033, 1034, 1036

Open our hearts, O Lord,
and enlighten us
by the grace of the Holy Spirit
that we may seek
what is pleasing to your will
and so order our lives
according to your commandments
that we may be found worthy
to enter your unending joys
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
       -- Venerable Bede (673-735 AD)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Charity and the Peace of Christ

Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven."

Respect for and development of human life require peace. Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communica- tion among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Peace is "the tranquillity of or- der." Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity.

Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messi- anic "Prince of Peace." By the blood of his Cross, "in his own person he killed the hostility," he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. "He is our peace." He has declared: "Blessed are the peacemakers."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 2303-2305

He is the Life that I want to live. He is the Light that i want to radi- ate. He is the Love with which I want to love. He is the Joy that I want to share. He is the Peace that I want to sow Jesus is Every- thing to me. Without him, I can do nothing. -- Blessed Mother Teresa  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Suffering and The Work of Salvation

        In His messianic activity in the midst of Israel, Christ drew
increasingly closer to the world of human suffering.  "He went about
doing good," and His actions concerned primarily those who were
suffering and seeking help.  He healed the sick; consoled the
afflicted; fed the hungry; freed people from deafness, from blindness,
from leprosy, from the devil and from various physical disabilities;
three times He restored the dead to life.  He was sensitive to every
human suffering, whether of the body or of the soul.  And at the
same time He taught, and at the heart of His teaching there are
the eight beatitudes, which are addressed to people tried by
various sufferings in their temporal life....

        At any rate, Christ drew close above all to the world of human
suffering through the fact of having taken this suffering upon His
very self.  During His public activity, standing even on the part of
those closest to Him, but, more than anything, He became progressively
more and more isolated and encircled by hostility and the preparations
for putting Him to death.  Christ is aware of this, and often speaks to
His disciples of the suffering and death that await Him:  "Behold, we
are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to
the chief priests  and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death
and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit  upon
him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise."
Christ goes towards His passion and death with full awareness of the
mission that He has to fulfill precisely in this way.  Precisely by
means of this suffering He must bring it about "that man should not perish,
but have eternal life." Precisely by means of His cross He must accomplish
the work of salvation.  This work, in the plan of eternal Love, has a
redemptive character.
                                -- Blessed Pope John Paul II
                        "On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering", #16

Christ has no body now on earth, but yours,
    No hands but yours,
    No feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ
    must look out on the world.
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about
    doing good.
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless
    His people.
                                -- Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Jesus Loves the Sick

    Although God allows suffering to exist in the world, he does not enjoy it.  Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, loved the sick; he devoted a great part of his earthly ministry to healing the sick and comforting the afflicted.

    Our God is a God of compassion and consolation.  And he expects us to take the ordinary means to prevent, relieve and remove suffering and sickness.  Therefore we have preventive health-care programs; we have doctors, nurses, paramedicals and medical institutions of many kinds.  Medical science has made much progress.
We should take advantage of all this.

    But even after all these efforts, suffering and sickness still exist.  A Christian sees meaning in suffering.

    He bears such suffering with patience, love of God and generosity.
He offers it all to God, through Christ, especially during the Sacrifice of the Mass.  When the sick person receives Holy Communion he unites himself with Christ the Victim....

                    -- Blessed Pope John Paul II
                        13 February 1982

Night Prayer

Watch, Lord, with those who wake
or watch or weep tonight,
and give your angels charge
over those who sleep.
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ;
rest your weary ones;
bless your dying ones;
soothe your suffering ones;
pity your afflicted ones;
shield your joyous ones;
and all for your love's sake.   
        -- Saint Augustine (354-410 AD)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The MJoral Law

    The moral law is the work of divine Wisdom.  Its biblical meaning can be defined as fatherly instruction, God's pedagogy.  It prescribes for man the ways, the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude; it proscribes the ways of evil which turn him away from God and his love.  It is at once firm in its precepts and, in its promises, worthy of love.

    Law is a rule of conduct enacted by competent authority for the sake of the common good.  The moral law presupposes the rational order, established among creatures for their good and to serve their final end, by the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator.  All law finds its first and ultimate truth in the eternal law.   Law is declared and established by reason as a participation in the providence of the living God, Creator and Redeemer of all.  "Such an ordinance of reason is what one calls law."...

    There are different expressions of the moral law, all of them interrelated:  eternal law -- the source, in God, of all law; natural law; revealed law, comprising the Old Law and the New Law, or Law of the Gospel; finally, civil and ecclesiastical laws.

    The moral law finds its fullness and its unity in Christ.  Jesus Christ is in person the way of perfection.  He is the end of the law, for only he teaches and bestows the justice of God; "For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified."

                    -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                        paragraphs 1950-1953

    God of all goodness, grant us to desire ardently,
    to seek wisely, to know surely, to accomplish perfectly
    your holy will for the glory of your name.
                    -- Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Original Meaning of Marriage

    In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning the of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning:  permission given by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts.  The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble:  God himself has determined
it:  "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

    This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize.  However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy -- heavier than the Law of Moses.
By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God.  It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to "receive" the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.  This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life.

    This is what the Apostle Paul makes clear when he say:  "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her," adding at once: " 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.  This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church."

                    -- Catechism of the Catholic Church                           
                        paragraphs 1614-1616

            Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
                        (Psalm 34)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

St. John of God: Christ is Faithful and Provides All Things


"If we kept before us the mercy of God, we would never be deficient in doing good, while strength was in us. For, when we make over to the poor, out of the love of God, what he himself has given us, his promise is that we shall receive a hundredfold in eternal happiness.  That is indeed a fortunate and happy way of gaining a profit. Who will not give over whatever he has to this best of merchants! He administers our business himself, and begs us with outstretched arms to turn to him and weep for our sins, and become servants in love, first for ourselves, and then for our neighbor.

For just as water extinguishes a fire, just so does charity blot out our sins. So many people come here that I very often wonder how they can possibly be provided for.  But Jesus Christ provides all things and feeds everyone.

Many of the poor come into this house of God because the city of Granada is large and very cold, especially now in winter. There are now more than one hundred and ten people living in this house, including the sick, the healthy, the servants and pilgrims. 

Because the house is open to everyone, it takes in all manner of sick people. There are people with useless limbs, the maimed, the lepers, the dumb, the insane, paralytics, and some who are suffering from cancer. Others are afflicted with senility, and there are many children, as well as the innumerable travelers and pilgrims who arrive here, and whom we provide with fire, salt and water, as well as pots to cook their food. 

There is no charge made for all this, but Christ is our provider."

From a letter of Saint John of God (1495-1550)
(Cartas y Escritos 18-19)

Prayer to Our Mother of Divine Providence

O Mary, Mother of Divine Providence, you sit as Queen at the right hand of your Son. 

You aid the Church in her needs and, with maternal care, provide for the personal needs of us, her children, who were entrusted to you at the foot of the Cross by Jesus our Lord. 

I implore you to remove from us whatever is harmful, evil or destructive, and bestow on us only that which is helpful , holy and loving.

I ask this through Christ, our Lord.