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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sunday 27 November 2011

The Grace of the Coming

    Christian expectation:  Perseverance in faith and in struggle.

    Advent makes us see that salvation has been given to us through the grace of the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Let us open our hearts afresh so that the grace of this year's Advent may work in us with the fullness of its riches and depth.

    Advent is the period of waiting:  of Christian waiting and perseverance in faith and in struggle, by virtue of Christ's grace in us..  Advent opens a new chapter every year in that book of salvation which God writes in the Church through the story of man.

    It is necessary to be humble to receive the divine teachings; there is need to be humble so that divine grace may operate in us, transform our lives and bring out the fruits of goodness.

    Elevation of the soul is accomplished through knowledge of the Lord and His ways:  Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me..." (Ps 25: 4-5).

    As you see, it is not a matter of abstract knowledge but of knowledge having influence upon life.  "Teach me your paths" means teach me to live in conformity with God's will

    In this internal effort it is given to us to discover once again and convince ourselves that "the Lord is good."

                        -- Blessed John Paul II
                            28 November 1982

                Rouse your power,
                    and come to save us.
                        (Psalm 80)

Sunday 20 November 2011

When Everything Is Subjected To Him

    Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love, and peace.  According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by "distress" and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days.  It is a time of waiting and watching.

    Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment on the Last Day in his preaching.  Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.  Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God's grace as nothing be condemned.  Our attitude about our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.  On the last day Jesus will say:  "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

    Christ is Lord of eternal life.  Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world.  He "acquired" this right by his cross.  The Father has given "all judgment to the Son."  Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.  By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.

     -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
        paragraphs 672, 678-679

Prayer of Repentance

    I am the lost sheep wandering in the desert.  Search for me, Good Shepherd, and bring me home again to your fold.  Do with me what you want so that I may live with you all the days of my life and praise you for all eternity with those who are with you in heaven.

     -- Saint Jerome (342-420 AD)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sunday 13 November 2011

Blessed are Those Who Fear the Lord

    Sacred Scripture affirms that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning
of wisdom (Ps 110 [111]: 10; Prov 1:7).  However, what kind of fear does
it mean?  It certainly is not that "fear of God" which causes people to
flee from every thought and memory of him, as something or someone who
disturbs and upsets.  This was the state of mind which, according to the
Bible, made our first parents, after their sin, hide "themselves from
the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Gen 3:8).  This was also the
sentiment of that unfaithful and wicked servant of the gospel parable
who hid in the earth the talent that he received (cf. Mt 25: 28, 26).

    However, this type of fear is not the true concept of the fear which is
the gift of the Spirit.  Here it is a matter of something much more
noble and lofty; it is a sincere and reverential feeling that a person
experiences before the tremendous majesty of God, especially when he reflects
upon his own infidelity and the danger of being "found wanting" (Dan 5:27) at the
eternal judgment which no one can escape.  The believer goes and places himself
before God with a "contrite spirit" and a "humbled heart" (cf. Ps 50
[51]: 19), knowing well that he must await his own salvation "with fear and
trembling" (Phil 2:12).  Nonetheless, that does not mean an irrational fear, but a
sense of responsibility and fidelity to the law.

    All this is what the Holy Spirit takes up and elevates with the gift of
Fear of the Lord.  It certainly does not exclude the trepidation that
arises from an awareness of the faults committed and the prospect of divine
chastisement, but mitigates it with faith in the divine mercy and with
the certitude of the fatherly concern of God who wills the eternal
salvation of each one.  With this gift, however, the Holy Spirit instills in the
soul most of all a filial love which is a sentiment rooted in love of God.  The
soul is now concerned not to displease God, whom he loves as a Father, not to
offend him in anything, to "abide in him" and grow in charity (cf. Jn
15: 4-7).

                        -- Blessed John Paul II
                            Angelus, 11 June 1989

            Blessed are you who fear the Lord,
                who walk in his ways!
            For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
                blessed shall you be, and favored.
                        -- Psalm 128

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday 6 November 2011

Rising from the Dead

... In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human
body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion
with its glorified body.  God, in his almighty power, will definitively
grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls,
through the power of Jesus' Resurrection.

... All the dead will rise, "those who have done good, to the
resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection
of judgment.

Christ will raise us up "on the last day"; but it is also true that,
in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ.  For, by virtue of the
Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the
death and Resurrection of Christ:

        And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you
        were also raised with him through faith in the working of
        God, who raised him from the dead ....If then you have
        been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,
        where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in
the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains "hidden
with Christ in God."  The Father has already "raised us up with him, and
made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."  Nourished with
his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ.  We we rise
on the last day we "also will appear with him in glory."

                    -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                        paragraphs 997- 998, 1002-1003

Prayer of Saint Gertrude

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son,
Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the
holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal
church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen