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.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday 30 October 2011

The Word of God

   Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:

       You recall that one and the same Word of God
       extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and
       the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths
       of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the
       beginning God with God has no need of separate
       syllables; for he is not subject to time. (St. Augustine)

   For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body.  She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body.

   In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, "but as what it really is, the word of God."  "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children and talks with them."

   Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book."  Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, "not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living."  If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures."

                       -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                           paragraphs 102-104, 108

           In the beginning was the Word,
               and the Word was with God,
                    and the Word was God.
                           -- John 1: 1

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday 23 October 2011

The Commandment of Love

    The Gospel passage on which we are focusing makes clear that being disciples of Christ means practicing his teachings, which can be summarized in the first and greatest commandment of the divine law, the commandment of love.  Even the First Reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, insists on the duty of love; a love witnessed concretely in relationships between persons, which must be relationships of respect, collaboration, generous help.

    The neighbor to be loved is the stranger, the orphan, the widow and the needy, in other words, those citizens who have no "defender".  The holy author goes into details, as in the case of the object pawned by one of these poor persons (cf. Ex 22: 25-26).  In this case God himself is the one to vouch for the neighbor's position.

    In the Second Reading, we can find a concrete application of the supreme commandment of love in one of the first Christian communities.  St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, leading them to understand that, while having known them for such a short time, he appreciates them and holds them dear in his heart.

    Because of this, he pinpoints them as "a model for all the believers of Macedonia and Achaia" (1 Thes 1: 7).  Weaknesses and difficulties are not lacking in this recently founded community, but it is love that surpasses all, renews all, conquers all:  the love of those who, knowing their own limits, docilely follow the words of Christ, the divine Teacher, passed down through one of his faithful disciples.

    "You, in turn, became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word despite great trials, with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit", the Apostle wrote.

    The lesson that we can draw from the Thessalonians' experience, and experience that is truly common in every authentic Christian community, is that neighborly love is born from docile listening to the divine Word.  It is a love that will even withstand difficult trials for the truth of the divine Word, and in this way true love grows and truth shines in all its splendor.  How important it is to listen to the Word and incarnate it in personal and community life!

                            -- Pope Benedict XVI
                                Homily, 26 October 2008

Act of Charity

    O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all love.  I love my neighbor as myself for love of you.  I forgive all who have injured me and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday 16 October 2011

Giving to God What Belongs to God

    "All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what
concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it
as they come to know it."  This duty derives from "the very dignity
of the human person."  It does not contradict a "sincere respect"
for different religions which frequently "reflect a ray of that truth
which enlightens all men," nor the requirement of charity, which
urges Christians "to treat with love, prudence and patience those
who are in error or ignorance with regard to the faith."

    The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both
individually and socially.  This is "the traditional Catholic teaching
on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion
and the one Church of Christ." By constantly evangelizing men, the
Church works toward enabling them "to infuse the Christian spirit
into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities
in which [they] live."  The social duty of Christians is to respect and
awaken in each man the love of the true and the good.  It requires
them to make known the worship of the one true religion which
subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church.  Christians are called
to be the light of the world.  Thus, the Church shows forth the
kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human

    "Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is
anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience
in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association
with others, within due limits."  This right is based on the very nature
of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the
divine truth which transcends the temporal order.  For this reason it
"continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation
of seeking the truth and adhering to it."

      -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
         paragraphs 2104 - 2106

    "I die the King's good servant and God's first"

      -- Saint Thomas More,
         on the scaffold, July 6, 1535

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday 9 October 2011

"My God Will Fully Supply Whatever You Need"

    God is the sovereign master of his plan.  But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' cooperation.  This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness.  For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan.

    To human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of "subduing" the earth and having dominion over it.  God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors.  Though often unconscious collaborators with God's will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers, and their sufferings.  They then fully become "God's fellow workers" and co-workers for his kingdom.

    The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator.  God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes:  "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."  Far from diminishing the creature's dignity, this truth enhances it.  Drawn from nothingness by God's power, wisdom, and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for "without a Creator the creature vanishes."  Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God's grace.

    -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
       paragraphs 306-308

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)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Symbols of the Church

        In Scripture, we find a host of interrelated images and figures
through which Revelation speaks of the inexhaustible mystery of the
Church.  The images taken from the Old Testament are variations on
a profound theme:  the People of God.  In the New Testament, all these
images find a new center because Christ has become the head of this
people , which henceforth is his Body.....

        "The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God.  On that land
the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in
which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about
and will be brought about again.  That land, like a choice vineyard, has
been planted by the heavenly cultivator.  Yet the true vine is Christ
who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who
through the Church remain in Christ,, without whom we can do nothing.

        "Often, too, the Church is called the building of God.  The Lord
compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was
made into the corner-stone.  On this foundation the Church is built by
the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity.  This
edifice has many names to describe the house of God in which his family dwells;
the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling-place of God among men;
and, especially, the holy temple.  This temple, symbolized in places of
worship built out of stone, is praised by the Fathers and, not without
reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.  As
living stones we here on earth are built into it.  It is this holy city that
is seen by John as it comes down out of heaven from God when the world is made
anew, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

       -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
          paragraphs 753, 755, 756

October 2nd is traditionally celebrated at the Feast of the Guardian
Angels (when it doesn't fall on Sunday) and so we pray:

       Angel of God, my guardian dear,
       To whom God's love commits me here,
       Ever this day be at my side,
       To light and guard, to rule and guide.  Amen.