To Be Most Like God

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross.  On the liturgical calendar, this feast of September 14th [and its readings] trump the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  (For those of you non-Catholics who read my write-up each week, don’t worry. . . Even practicing Catholics have a hard time figuring out the hierarchy of feasts and our set of Biblical readings called the “Lectionary.”)  The gospel reading we would normally hear this Sunday is a continuation of Matthew 18, a follow-up to the gospel we heard last Sunday on how to reprimand another for his or her sin — the art of “fraternal correction.”  Matthew 18:21-35 is about forgiveness and showing mercy.  Christ our Lord says to St. Peter that we are not only to forgive seven times, but seventy times seven — a number denoting limitless forgiveness and mercy.  To demonstrate the profundity of this teaching, Jesus gives the “Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.”  A king (symbolizing God the Father) forgives a 10,000 talent debt, that is, 20 years worth of wages, when his servant asks for mercy.  That servant represents each and every one of us [sinners].  But Jesus shows how ungrateful this servant is (and how we all can be) when the servant refuses to forgive someone in debt to him — just 100 denarii, that is, 100 days worth of wages — a much smaller debt than what the king had forgiven.  Jesus tells us we will be punished severely if we … Continue reading

The Disciplining Discipline of Discipleship

Dicipleship

Matt. 28:19  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”   The Great Commission, The Great Command….we all have heard it and we all can quote it; but are we all doing it? What does it mean to give a command and be commissioned?  A command and a commission are two-part activities; there is the word of direction and there is an expectation of fulfillment.  We all are pretty familiar with the first aspect of a command – to give a forceful order.  Quite often we tend to miss the second part with easy disregard – with expectation of fulfillment.  It is not uncommon to deny the importance of that second part whether it is with parents, government, coaches, the Church or regretfully, Jesus.  The Evangelist, Matthew, places the Great Commission at the end of his Gospel message to us.  These were the very last words our Savoir spoke before He ascended into Heaven.  Give some thought to the very last words you may speak before you were leaving someone you loved, perhaps due to vacation, college or deployment to a faraway place in the military, what would you say?  I am thinking your words would be pretty similar to mine….”I love you”.  We would strive to say something that was of supreme importance to us, something we would not want our spouse, children, family or friends to forget.  The importance and immediacy … Continue reading

Don’t Miss Out…

Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t need to go to church to be a good Christian. I can worship God at home on Sundays.”  Probably you have heard this more than a few times.  It tends to be the most common excuse that non-practicing Christians use to justify their inactivity.  While it is true that one can and should worship God even at home, it is not true that one can be a good Christian and not go to church.  Jesus says in today’s gospel, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).  On one level, a person misses out on Jesus’ presence unless that person convenes with others in prayer.  Generally, most Christians agree on this.  What we Christians often do not agree on is how God is present in worship. Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (called Sacrosanctum Concilium in Latin) reiterated what the Church has always taught about Christ’s presence in the Mass.  The document teaches that Christ is present four ways in Mass (see SC, 7): (1) He is present in you, the People of God, when you gather in the church — in your praying and in your singing; (2) He is present in me, the priest, as I offer His holy Sacrifice (not a repeat of what happened at Calvary, but the same Sacrifice made present here in mystery); (3) He is present in the proclamation of Sacred Scripture, particularly the Gospel, because it is He Himself who … Continue reading

Save Us from Sour-Faced Saints

“May God save me from sour-faced saints!” St. Teresa of Avila I’ve been told that baptism classes should be a tool for evangelisation. I get that. I teach baptism classes for parents and sponsors (godparents). Besides the normal questions about why they want the child baptized and what it means, I ask these parents a question that I hope will stay with them: What do you want for your child? What is the most important thing you hope to give them through your parenting? I get many different answers: education, a sense of virtue, security, etc. All these answers lie on the surface of what we really want for our children and hopefully for ourselves. We want to be happy. We want our children to be happy. Not simply a momentary, “I found $20 on the ground!” happiness. We desire a true and lasting happiness; better defined as “joy”. All the attempts to provide for ourselves and our children are ultimately attempts at finding this joy. The hard part begins as we come to understand that most of our attempts are on the surface, and therefore never last. We find happiness but not joy. Happiness is fleeting. Joy is a state of being. St. Thomas identified four major areas that steal our joy. Rather, four areas that tempt us into a false and fleeting happiness while robbing us of true joy. The areas lie in our desires. The desires for Wealth, Pleasure, Power, and Status or Vainglory*. We desire these … Continue reading

What is Papal Infallibility?

When you look at the Vatican flag, you will notice that the two symbols of the papacy are clearly evident in front of the white background.   On top is the papal tiara.  It was never used for liturgy but was worn in civic ceremonies by the pope.  It is shaped like a beehive and contains three crowns symbolizing the authority of Christ the Priest, Prophet, and King.  (Pope Paul VI retired the papal tiara after Vatican II.)  Below the papal tiara is the more prominent image: the two keys.  One is gold to represent the pope’s authority that comes from heaven, and one is silver to represent the pope’s authority over the faithful on earth.  While the “keys” are certainly metaphors for spiritual and ecclesiastical authority, they are not something the Catholic Church invented to justify having a human leader.  On the contrary, the keys are given by Christ Himself — and not to all the apostles, but to Simon Peter alone (Mt 16:19).  Just as the Church is to exist until the end of time, St. Peter’s primacy was not to end at his death but rather to extend to all his successors until the glorious return of Christ.  This is the basis of the Church’s teaching of Papal Infallibility. There are a lot of misunderstandings about Papal Infallibility.  A common misunderstanding about Papal Infallibility is that it means a pope is unable to sin, that is, that the pope is impeccable.  Well, all you need to do is look … Continue reading