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, January 29, 2012

Sunday 5 February 2012: Christ the Physician

    Christ's compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that "God has visited his people" and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand.  Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins; he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of.  His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them:  "I was sick and you visited me."  His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul.  It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them.

    Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.  He makes use of signs to heal:  spittle and the laying on of hands, mud and washing.  The sick try to touch him, "for power came forth from him and healed them all." And so in the sacraments Christ continues to "touch" us in order to heal us.

    Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own:  "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases."  But he did not heal all the sick. 

His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God.  They announced a more radical healing:  the victory over sin and death through his Passover.  On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the "sin of the world," of which illness is only a consequence.  By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering:  it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.

                        -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                            paragraphs 1503-1505

        Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.
                            -- Psalm 147

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sunday 29 January 2012

"I Will Raise Up For Them A Prophet"

    The word "Christ" comes from the Greek translation of the
Hebrew Messiah, which means "anointed."  It became the name
proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine
mission that "Christ" signifies.  In effect, in Israel those consecrated
to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name.  This
was the case for kings, for priests, and, in rare instances, for 

This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God
would send to inaugurate his kingdom definitively.  It was necessary
that he Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king
and priest, and also as prophet.  Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of
Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet, and king....

    Jesus' messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, "for the
name 'Christ' implies 'he who anointed,' 'he who was anointed' and 'the
very anointing with which he was anointed.'  He one who anointed is
the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed
with the Spirit who is the anointing."  His eternal messianic 
consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life at the moment of his 
baptism by John, when "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and
with power," "that he might be revealed to Israel" as its Messiah.  His
works and words will manifest him as "the Holy One of God."

    Jesus is the Father's Emissary.  From the beginning of his ministry,
he "called to him those whom he desired; .... And he appointed twelve,
whom also he named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to 
preach."  From then on, they would also be his emissaries (Greek apostoloi).  In 
them, Christ continues his own mission: "As the Father has sent me, even so I 
send you."  The apostles' ministry is the continuation of his mission; Jesus 
said to the Twelve: "he who receives you receives me."

                        -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                            paragraphs 436, 438, 858

                    If today you hear his voice,
                        harden not your hearts.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday 22 January 2012

Repent, and Believe in the Gospel

O Mary,
bright dawn of the new world,
Mother of the living,
to you do we entrust the cause of life:
Look down, O Mother,
upon the vast numbers
of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women
who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and sick killed
by indifference or out of misguided mercy.
Grant that all who believe in your Son
may proclaim the Gospel of life
with honesty and love
to the people of our time.
Obtain for them the grace
to accept that Gospel
as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude
throughout their lives
and the courage to bear witness to it
resolutely, in order to build,
together with all people of good will,
the civilization of truth and love,
to the praise and glory of God,
the Creator and lover of life.

                -- Blessed John Paul II
                The Gospel of Life, #105
                25 March 1995

Today marks the 39th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court
decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion in our
country.  Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The
Gospel of Life) from which this prayer comes, addresses the life
issues.  It can be read in full  at

In all the Dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or 
January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a 
particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal 
guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the 
dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday 15 January 2012

Here I Am. You Called Me.

    It is essential for us to understand that Jesus has a specific task in life for each and every one of us.  Each one of us is handpicked, called by name -- by Jesus!  There is no one among us who does not have a divine vocation!  Now this is what Saint Paul wrote in  his letter to the Ephesians:  "each one of us has received God's favor in the measure in which Christ bestows it ....  It is he who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ" (Eph 4:11-12).

    First and foremost, God has called us into existence.  He has called us to be!  He has called us, through his Son Jesus Christ, to a knowledge of himself as our Loving Father.  He has called us to be his children!  He has called us to fulfill his eternal plan in our individual lives, with Jesus as our guide.  He has called us to be co-heirs with Jesus of his heavenly Kingdom!  What God our Father is offering us through his Son is a new life as his real children, with Jesus our brother; a pressing call to live, to love, to labor for the coming of his Kingdom.

And, lest, bewildered at what we must do, we hesitate, Jesus offers to be himself our guide and says:  "Come after me." (Lk 9:59).

                        -- Blessed John Paul II
                            1 June 1982

Good Lord, we are the sinners
you came to call to yourself.
We are burdened with the number of our sins.
We are tired because of our wickedness.
Say to us, therefore, Lord:  'Come to me'
and immediately we come.
We humble ourselves and bow down
before the throne of your mercy.
Our only hope is in you.
Remember, Lord, the promise you made
to every sorrowful sinner coming to you
that you would not turn them away
but would refresh them.
We come, therefore, to you, good Lord;
do not turn us away but refresh us
with your grace and your mercy.
        -- Saint John Fisher

Sunday 8 January 2012, The Epiphany of the Lord

What Are We To Bring You?

    Our picture of Christmas includes yet another element,
namely, the giving of gifts.  The Christmas plays our children stage
in school show in great detail how the shepherds ponder what
gifts they can offer the newborn king -- and the ideas they come up
with are drawn directly from the daily lives of people in our own
society today.

    A liturgical hymn of the Eastern Church explores the same
theme but gives it greater depth:  "What can we offer you, O Christ,
for having been born for us on earth as a Man?  Each creature, the
work of your hands, offers you a sign of gratitude:  the angels, their
hymn; the heavens, the star; the Magi, their gifts; the shepherds,
their admiration; the earth, the cave; the desert, the manger; and
all mankind, we offer you a virgin mother."

    Mary is the gift of mankind to Christ.  And this in turn means
that the Lord does not want some thing from man, but man himself.
God does not want a certain percentage of us.  He wants our heart;
indeed, he wants our whole being.  He wants our faith and the life
that is based on faith.  And from this life, he wants those gifts of 
which he will speak at the Last Judgment:  food and clothing for the poor,
compassion and mutual love, a word that gives consolation, and a
presence that brings comfort to the persecuted, the imprisoned,
the abandoned, and the lost.

    What can we offer you, O Christ?  We certainly offer him too
little if all we do is to exchange costly presents with one another,
gifts that are not the expression of our own selves and of a gratitude
that otherwise remains silent.  Let us try to offer him our faith and 
our own selves, even if only in the form of the prayer: "I believe, Lord,
help my unbelief!"  And on this day, let us not forget the many in whom
he suffers on earth.

                    -- Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger)
                        The Blessing of Christmas

        Lord, every nation on earth will adore You!
                            -- Psalm 72

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sunday 1 January 2012, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Hail Mary, Mother of God!

    Mary's motherhood ... is like a final message from the
Octave of the Nativity of the Lord.

    Birth always speaks of the Mother, of Her who gives
life.... The first day of the New Year is the day of the Mother.
There is no image ... of the mystery of the birth of the Lord
simpler than the image of the Mother with Jesus in her arms.

    Is not this image the source of our singular confidence?

    But there is another image of the Mother with the Son in
her arms:  the "Pieta," Mary holding Jesus taken down from the
cross.  With Jesus, who expired before her eyes ... and, after
death, He returned to those arms in which at Bethlehem He was
offered as Savior of the world.

    I would therefore join our prayer for peace with this twofold
image:  "Mother, you who know what it is to hold the corpse of
Your son in your arms, ... spare all mothers the death of their sons,
torments, slavery, the destructions of war, persecutions, concentration
camps, prisons!  Preserve the joy of birth to them, of nourishment,
of development of man and of his life.

    In the name ... of the birth of the Lord, implore peace together
with us, with all the beauty and majesty of Your motherhood, which
the Church exalts and the world admires.  We beg you:  be with us
at every moment!  Make this New Year a year of peace by virtue of
the birth and death of Your Son!  Amen.

                        -- Blessed John Paul II
                            1 January 1979

                The Lord bless you and keep you!