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)