National Catholic Reporter
A lay Catholic weekly, bi-weekly during the summer, that contains global up-to-date coverage of news of interest to thinking Catholics.
Bread for the World
A national faith based organization founded to lobby Congress on behalf of the hungry throughout the world.
Road to Recovery, Inc
Road to Recovery, Inc is the initiative of advocates for victims of sexual abuse. Advocacy is two-fold: 1. To provide a path for the healing of victims; 2. To confront perpetrators and those who cover up the sexual assault of minors and vulnerable adult.
A timely Catholic weekly published by the Jesuits. American keeps us up to date on both news and opinion relevant to timely issues and events.
This link will keep 'parishioners-at-large' in touch with current creative liturgy sources and resources that respect a variety of 'traditions' within the Church.
Voice of the Faithful
A 'movement' of lay Catholics 'inspired' by the abuse scandal calling for greater accountability of bishops to 'Catholics in the Pew.'
Survivos' Network for those Abused by Priests or Religious
A National Network of self-help support groups for people abused by clergy or religious.
Vital information about the disclosure of sexual abuse and related issues affecting Catholics in the pew and the manner in which Bishops continue to exempt themselves from accountability
A 'lay' Catholic weekly publication with an accent on an intelligent analysis and commentary on curent issues, trends and concerns of interest to Catholics.
Bill Moyers and Company
A must link for all who desire to be kept informed of the truth about 'truths' communicated by the commercial media and the political pundists who hsve another agenda that makes truth a precious commodity.
+ First Week of Advent
“There’ll be some changes made, for sure.”
Readings: Isaiah 30:19-21m 23-26 Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 Matthew 9:35-38, 10:1, 5a-6-8
The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. [Isaiah 30:20]
At the sight of the crowds his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. [Matthew 9:36]
As a ‘pastor-at-large’ I have the opportunity to minister to a wide variety of people of different religious traditions and of no religious tradition. However, most of the folks who seek me out are Catholics, many of whom are on the margins – hanging in but suffering the pain of disillusionment with a Church that seems distant from them. Some have moved into a Diaspora or desert hoping that in time, they will be able to find a place at the table. Others ‘shop’ for a parish in which they may feel more “at home.” These folks are not bad people looking for an easy way to heaven. They are good people who identify strongly with their rich Christian heritage but whose experience with the ecclesiastical institution has become more and more legalistic and in some cases, antithetical to the message of the Gospel.
The well-known canonist and author, Father Ladislaus Orsy, SJ once wrote : “We live as long as we hope; we live as much as we hope. Loss of hope is a loss of life.”
Hope is not based on what we can see but on the utter conviction that the God Jesus has not and will not leave us orphans, wandering in the desert, lost at sea, as it were. The sun does not stop shining when clouds cover the earth.
The Vatican Council redefined the Church “the people of God” – a pilgrim people on a journey. When Jesus came upon people who felt excluded from the kingdom, he found a way to include them. Jesus insisted that everyone have a place at table. So must we.
Pope Francis has taken up this theme in his conversations and in his most recent eloquent papal exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel.” He proposes a Church that is not isolated from the mess of life; a Church that indeed that renders itself vulnerable to the mess and the message of welcome and inclusion; a Church that stretches beyond the convenient and safe dogmas and doctrines that are sometimes used to separate rather than to unify.
We are all partners with Christ in the work of creation that continues to evolve into the future with the hope that somehow, somewhere, unity may take place based not on my truth or your truth but on God’s truth.Daily Scripture Archive»
Simple or Simplistic Love?
The image of Abraham about to slaughter his son on the rock of sacrifice depicted in black and white in my third grade Bible history book left a permanent impression on my memory. The image still appears in a recent but traditional version of a children’s bible — in full color. In black and white or living color, it’s still surreal. It was bizarre and made no sense to me in third grade and makes no more sense to me today — not just the image but the very notion that the God of my mother and father would make that demand of Abraham or of anyone! Would you submit to such a command even if from God? I wouldn’t! And my image of God is not the New Age ‘feel-good’ God of warm fuzzies and soft music that has crept into some religious quarters. Not at all!
If this story is not of God, to whom do we assign its origin and meaning?
It’s a human story not so much about God but about the manner in which early monotheistic believers conceived of God in the face of the pagan gods of Canaan. It is a dramatic faith story, a human interpretation of the mind of the true God who would not uphold the barbaric sacrifice of human beings to appease or atone for human wrongdoing nor allow it to serve as an act of worship of any kind.
The moral of the story is the exact opposite of what appears to be God’s initial command to Abraham to slaughter his son Isaac.
“Stop. Do not lay a hand on that boy! It is not his life that I want but your heart! It is obedience that will justify you and your faith in the one true God that will save you and your posterity. Because of your faith, you shall be the father of a great nation and your descendents as numerous as the stars.”
It was because Abraham did the right thing before God that he was justified — neither by the sacrifice of his son nor even by the sacrifice of rams and goats.
Later in Jewish history Micah the prophet would ask the Lord, “With what shall I come before the Lord…? Shall I come with holocausts, with calves a year old? … With thousands of rams…? With myriad streams of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for the sin of my soul?” To which God responded: “This is what is required of you: only to do the right, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6:8]
Still later the prophet Isaiah spoke similar words to the Jewish people and it appears in the weekday lectionary for Lent. Not for your sacrifices and empty rituals do I rebuke you…. This is what I desire: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless. Indeed “if you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted. Then shall light rise for you in the darkness and the gloom … He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden.” This is a more developed notion of God and a more challenging one.
In the Old Testament, there was a clear progression in the understanding of God — the God of Adam and Eve, the God of Isaac and Jacob; the God of all humanity. Over and over again it was stated that the God of Israel is not like the pagan bloodthirsty gods who thirst for human sacrifice. The true God asked for their hearts, not for human or animal sacrifices because God knew what was in the heart would inevitably appear in words and deeds.
It is in the measure that God has given, we are to give in return. God desires our faithfulness and faithfulness is rooted in the heart but the evidence of faith is found in the love of God and neighbor.
This progression in the understanding of God and revelation continues in the New Testament and in the living tradition of the Church despite the failures of the institution in our present age and in every age.
The transfiguration story appears right after the description of Jesus’ dialogue with Peter. “’Peter, who do people say that I am?’ Peter responded, ‘some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah or one of the prophets.’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Peter, who do you say I am?’ ‘ You are the Christ, son of the living God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘blessed are you Peter for not by human intelligence to you come to this conclusion but by faith.’”
But the faith of Peter and the other disciples was still weak. They could not comprehend what ‘Messiah’ meant. When Jesus said to them, let us go up to Jerusalem where the Son of Man will be handed over, Peter began to object saying, “Master, that will never happen to you!” as if to suggest that Peter and the others wouldn’t let it happen. Jesus rebuked him saying, “Get behind me you Satan! You still don’t understand what I am about.” Of course he didn’t and he would prove that by his threefold denial on the night before Christ died.
I can relate to Peter’s blindness and his struggle with the implications of Jesus’ mission. My faith is fragile and I am often lacking in courage. I often prefer to give up candy than to give my heart to Jesus — surely not my life.
The transfiguration story is Mark’s way of preparing the disciples and us for what was to come.
In the same way that God did not will that Abraham sacrifice the life of his freeborn son, Isaac, so God did not will the sacrificial death of Jesus. Our God is not a sadist and Jesus was not a masochist! God willed that Jesus live — faithfully even if it cost him his life. Divine love is not a warm fuzzie; true love is sacrificial. Jesus’ life was redemptive not because he wished to die but because he promised to live for God fully and faithfully even in the face of death—death on a cross.
The mission of Christ was to give witness to the indiscriminate love of God for all humanity. Jesus distanced himself from the legalisms and territoriality of the religious leadership. Not only did he ignore geographic boundaries but cultural and religious as well. Divine love and the will of the Father rather than the protocol of politics or the law of economics ruled his life. Though it took a long time for them to understand the message, he expected no less from his disciples. He was firm but patient with them. He challenged them but never hassled them. He knew that in time they would get it right.
I can relate to Peter’s blindness can’t you? I’m often afraid of the implications of the Gospel and discipleship with Christ. I’d rather follow the protocol of politics as usual and the prevailing law of ease or economics rather than the rule of divine love. For one thing, it’s safer. However, in my heart I know that faith must be the pillar of my strength; truth and justice must guide my every act.
In the quagmire of a world that seems bent on ideological conflict and warfare, how should a Christian respond?
I have come to the sincere conviction that we have reached a point in human history at which war must be declared obsolete. No, I am not a pacifist and I do not think that orthodox Catholic moral teaching forbids our taking up arms in defense against an unprovoked attack. However, throwing bate at our enemies and ratcheting up rhetoric that amounts to distortions of truth and entrapment in speech such as “I dare you to strike…” literally or figuratively are not helpful in promoting the ‘kindom’ that God willed to establish in Christ. While defending ourselves we need to pave a road to dialogue.
And there is no room for combative language in the Church no matter what our differences. The Scriptures state clearly enough that God does not will the death of the sinners but that they be converted and live. We do not convert sinners by the sword but by the power of divine love woven into every speech and sown into every word and deed.
Thomas Merton said, “The peace which Christ brings is not a formula for individual escape, nor for egotistical self-fulfillment. There can be no peace in the heart of the [anyone] who seeks peace for [oneself] alone. To find true peace, peace in Christ, we must desire others to have peace as well as ourselves, and we must be willing to sacrifice something of our own peace and happiness in order that others may have peace, and that others may be happy.”
Jesus remains the paradigm for the true believers. God never asks more of us than that of which we are capable and there is no one among us that is not capable of love because that same God who loved us into being in the first place has instilled it in us. We were wired at baptism for the pursuit of love.
It may take some doing to activate it on many occasions but that’s why we keep coming back to the font of life at this table.
“_Give us, O God, the power to go on, to carry our share of thy burden through to the end, to live all the years of our life faithful to the highest we have seen, with no pandering to the second best, no leniency to our own lower selves; no looking backward, no cowardice. Give us he power to give ourselves, to break the bread of our lives into starving humanity; in humble self-subjection to serve others, as you, O God, do serve the world_.” [J.S. Hoyland, The Complete Book of Christian Prayer, Continuum Press, NY, 1995]