28February

Lent: A journey that leads us toward the Blood that purifies our consciences

Taken from The Catholic Servant, February 2014
By Professor Douglas Bushman

Lent: A journey that leads us toward the Blood that purifies our consciences

There is no better way to journey through Lent than by tending to one’s conscience. Why? Because Lent is a forty-day period of preparation for the solemn celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Everything points to and culminates in the sacraments and rites of the Triduum and the vigil Mass for Easter, when catechumens are baptized and the whole Church renews its baptismal faith, and conscience is at the heart of the theology of Baptism.

The apostolic Church understood Baptism as a cleansing of consciences. St. Peter instructs us that Baptism “is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 3:21) Baptism initiates us into the New Covenant, sealed by the blood of Christ, that is, by His merciful love. This blood, the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “purifies our consciences” from works of death, that is, from sin. (Heb. 9:14; see also Heb. 10:22)

The text of Hebrews 9:14 is significant because it asserts that the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah has been fulfilled by Christ’s sacrifice in which His blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, is poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Jeremiah previsioned a new and definitive covenant that would be written on people’s hearts, their transgressions would be forgiven, and God would no longer call their sins to mind. (Jer. 31:33–35) The Letter to the Hebrews quotes this passage in chapter eight, and chapters nine and ten show how He fulfills it by His sacrifice.

There is, however, a slight difference in vocabulary: whereas Jeremiah speaks of “hearts,” Hebrews speaks of “consciences.” God writes His law on hearts when Christ’s blood purifies consciences. His blood being a symbol of His love, this means that the cup of the new and everlasting covenant is God’s merciful love. It means that our consciences can again call good and evil by their true names by making their judgments about right and wrong in reference to the definitive revelation of God’s love on the Cross.

This is a crucial point. A conscience purified by Christ’s blood through Baptism genuflects before every truth that God has revealed in Christ. Using liturgical language to describe conscience’s submission to truth may seem exaggerated. In reality, it is an act of intellectual veneration of the truth, and through this veneration of the truth it is an act of adoration of God, the Source of truth. The purification of consciences by Christ’s blood makes us “true worshipers [who] will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (Jn. 4:23)

By coming to know and to believe in the love God has for us (I Jn. 4:16), we know that love is the motive for every commandment that Christ enjoins on us. This is why to transgress any one of His commands is to reject His love. It is to say, in effect: “I know better than You do what is best for me.” Of course, we don’t, and the result is that in every act of sin either evil is called good or good is called evil. The disobedience of any of God’s commandments is self-diminishment, the self-chosen forfeiture of our true good. A conscience purified by Christ’s blood abhors the thought of committing what could be called interior blasphemy by speaking falsely about what God has established as good and evil.

Another quality of a conscience purified by Christ’s blood is that it sees sin as a personal offense against God. Because the authority of Christ’s love stands behind each commandment, faith is a package deal, an all-or-nothing affair. St. James demonstrates this when he underscores that God’s personal authority is the origin of every commandment: “You see, anyone who keeps the whole of the Law but trips up on a single point, is still guilty of breaking it all. He Who said, ‘You must not commit adultery’ said also, ‘You must not kill.’ Now if you commit murder, you need not commit adultery as well to become a breaker of the Law.” (Jas. 2:10–11) Purified consciences are acutely aware of the profoundly personal dimension of faith, and their chief concern is to avoid offending the One Who loved them “to the end.” (Jn. 13:1)

The first duty of conscience is to seek the truth. A purified conscience is one that turns to Christ for the truth. He Who is the truth (Jn. 14:6) speaks only the truth that He has learned from His heavenly Father. (Jn. 7:16) The origin of His teaching, then, is Heaven, and by observing His instructions we fulfill the petition of the Our Father: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” The fulfillment of Christ’s teaching “is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” (I Tim. 1:5) If we are serious about praying, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” we must be people of conscience. We could say that in purified consciences earth opens up to Heaven and Heaven descends to earth. If we are made for Heaven and called to Heaven, this can only mean that we are made and called to be people of conscience. How does one become or advance in being a person of conscience? By listening to God’s voice. Where can one go to hear this voice? How does one turn to Christ? By turning to His Church. What Jesus said to the Apostles, “He who hears you hears Me” (Lk. 10:16), is true also of their successors, the pope and bishops. By reading the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the popes’ writings, and the lives of the saints, we hear God’s voice.

Informing one’s conscience is certainly necessary, but it is also necessary to do so with a disposition of humility, a readiness to assent to the truth and to conform our thoughts, words, and actions to the truth whenever it penetrates our consciences. This requires that we cultivate a habit of interiority. In its teaching on conscience, the Catechism says: “It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection.” (n. 1779)

“Oh, that today you would hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts.” (Ps. 95:7–8) Lent is the time to heed the Lord’s plea! “Now is the day of salvation.” (II Cor. 6:2) Lent is the “today” of our salvation! His voice, our salvation: this is the meaning of every moment of conscience. As Vatican II teaches: “God, Who probes our hearts”—which, we have seen, are the same as our consciences—“awaits us there.” (Gaudium et spes, n. 14) The human heart and conscience: this is the only place in the universe where a personal encounter with God can take place.

The best way to prepare during Lent for Baptism and the renewal of baptismal faith is to become more fully a person of conscience. The devil certainly does not desire this, nor is it a value for the world. No, their work is to draw us outside of ourselves, to so preoccupy our attention with things of the world that we never visit that one place where God awaits us. Lent is a season for spiritual battle, and it is helpful to know the enemy’s strategy. In the contest over souls, Satan has home field advantage so long as we remain worldly, outside of ourselves, out of contact with our consciences. His tactic is to make sure that the necessary conditions for meeting God in the conscience—quiet, stillness of soul, attentiveness to God’s voice—never materialize. God has home-field advantage when we are men and women of conscience, when we turn inward to meet Him Who awaits us there.

St. Paul exhorts us: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col. 3:2) We do this every time we enter into the inner sanctuary of our own consciences, where we hear God’s voice and, by the power of Christ’s blood, God’s will is done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Douglas G. Bushman, S.T.L., is Professor of Theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado, where he holds the Blessed John Paul II the Great Chair of Theology for the New Evangelization.

28February

God Never Forgets Us

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

God Never Forgets Us

March 2

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 49:14-15

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030214.cfm

We like to doubt. Our first response to good news, especially great news, is often disbelief. Ancient Israel was no different. After the prophet Isaiah proclaims the coming of the servant of the Lord who will bring deliverance, joy and singing, Zion voices her doubt. This reading starts on a note of doubt: “Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me; my LORD has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). We look to Scripture for hope and inspiration, but this reading begins with a moment of commiseration—the doubt we feel, the struggle to believe was not absent in Israel. When we experience times of difficulty, mourning, hardship, we can listen to that doubt more closely or even give in to it.

Does God forget?

Zion’s doubt is framed in terms of forgetting. (Zion is a hill in Jerusalem, which is used in the Bible as a poetic symbol for the whole nation.) The prophet is announcing a time of restoration, but Zion’s claims that God has forgotten: He’s forgotten his people, their story, the relationship he has with them. If you think about it, remembering is how we even have a story to talk about. For God to forget would be the end of the story. Yet memory and the story it contains point to a future, either a future full of hope (which Isaiah proclaims) or to the despair of forgetfulness. God responds to Zion’s doubt by reassuring her that he does not forget.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
21February

Holiness Overcomes Hate

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Holiness Overcomes Hate

February 23, 2014

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022314.cfm

Leviticus! The Lectionary avoids Leviticus like the plague. This reading from Leviticus is one of only two in the whole 3-year lectionary cycle for Sundays. Most Bible readers avoid Leviticus too. Who wants to read about how ancient animal sacrifices were supposed to be conducted or how the Israelites dealt with lepers? Yet Leviticus has at its core a powerful focus on loving, covenant faithfulness, on clinging close to the Lord even in the most mundane of our daily tasks.

The passage chosen for today’s reading is actually two snippets from the same chapter. There’s a gap of about 15 verses between them. The first snippet starts Leviticus 19; it announces the Lord’s authority as revealed through Moses. It contains one of the two key teachings of the chapter: “Be holy as I am holy.” (St. Peter quotes this teaching in 1 Peter 1:15.) The point is that our lives should be patterned after God’s life. That our seeking after holiness finds its goal in God’s own holiness.

What is holiness?

Since Vatican II, the Church has repeatedly emphasized the “universal call to holiness,” that all Christians, whether priests, religious, or laity, are called to union with God in Christ. We are all called by Jesus to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48 – in the Gospel reading for today). The holiness we are talking about is not a selfish religiosity, but an entering into the love and life of God. It is freedom from our selfishness, our sinfulness, and freedom for a loving union with God. This kind of spiritual perfection, personal holiness, cannot be restricted to mere obedience to a moral law code. Rather, it should be defined in terms of relationship. Holiness is about deeper and deeper union with God, about a more intimate experience of God’s love and a more complete giving of oneself to him. What might begin with humble obedience finds its destination in the radical freedom of love.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
21February

What Every Catholic Should Know

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. Christopher Blum

What Every Catholic Should Know


















We are an unsteady people. Even an hour of watching the Olympics on NBC suffices to show it. Is it sacrifice and teamwork to which we aspire, or the satisfaction of our animal desires? Do we hold perseverance and moderation to be virtues, or cleverness and bold self-presentation? Is it owning that BMW that we so long for, or to be part of a community of which we can be proud? The confusion that characterizes our age is also inside of us. Could our society be so evidently adrift if we Catholics were not ourselves to a degree unmoored?

For those who are looking for help in navigating the troubled waters of our age, Professor Steven Jensen has provided a trustworthy map and compass. His Living the Good Life: A Beginner’s Thomistic Ethics is a most admirable and usable tool to help find the way to smooth waters and a friendly harbor. It is as easy and pleasant to read as a chapter of Jane Austen, and as patiently and carefully reasoned as a Euclidean proposition. Here is perennial wisdom brought to bear on the daily transactions of our lives.

Jensen begins where he finds us: awash in the conflict between our feelings and reason. His assessment is in harmony with that of the sociologist Christian Smith, who has recently identified the common moral stance of young Americans today as a witch’s brew of “G. E. Moore’s antinaturalistic moral emotivism and Richard Rorty’s relativistic moral pragmatism.” In other words, we Americans tend to think—when we think at all—that reason is a less-illuminating beacon than the impulses of our passions. The low-grade hedonism that characterizes our culture in turn shapes our minds. Even good Catholics find it a challenge to believe—much less to articulate—the truth that Jensen affirms with admirable brevity: “Much of the moral life will involve resisting the emotions with their tempting presentation of apparent goods.”

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
19February

A Liberationist Pope

Taken from Homiletic and Pastoral Review
by Dr. Michel Therrien

A Liberationist Pope













Read carefully: We should see in this critique (by Pope Francis), not an embrace of socialism, or a condemnation of the market economy, but a call to adopt a different ethic for the marketplace.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit, a prelate from the southern hemisphere and, of course, we all know what that means: he is, almost by default, opposed to the market, business, and entrepreneurship. He is, no doubt, an advocate of some species of socialism. In fact, a conservative’s worst fears are now vindicated by the Pope’s recent critique of “trickle-down” economics, “the absolute autonomy of the market and financial speculation,” and the “idolatry of money” amidst a “globalization of indifference,” which is guided by an “invisible hand” we can “no longer trust.” Clearly, we are experiencing a shift in Rome’s stance toward capitalism; something is taking shape that looks analogous to the liberation theology the previous two pontiffs have exiled. With such strong sympathies toward the poor, and a striking condemnation of the market economy, will there be a place in the Church, during this pontificate, for the businessman or the wealthy?

Such have been the reactions of some to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. Of particular concern has been what some perceive as a failure to distinguish between the U.S. experience of the market economy, and that of his native Argentina. Despite the legitimate reservations this pope elicits among those, such as myself, who appreciate the more nuanced teachings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, his remarks invite a serious and thoughtful consideration. Before I proceed any further, however, I would like to preface this essay by acknowledging that what Francis says in regard to the economic order needs future clarification.

In what follows, I would like to unpack the Pope’s remarks on the market economy in Evangelii Gaudium, and analyze them within the context of the New Evangelization to which the document is dedicated. I will argue for three points: that we can best understand the Pope’s remarks within the context of his stated purpose for the document; that he is not departing substantively from previous social teaching on the market economy, but offering a radical critique of certain moral failures prevalent in the global economy; and that he is not recommending a socialist solution to the problem of poverty.

Continue reading at Homiletic and Pastoral Review
18February

Anger, Vice & Virtue

Taken from To Keep and to Ponder
by Dr. Edward Sri

Anger, Vice & Virtue

For some readers of the Gospels, Jesus might appear to be offering two contradictory messages about anger.

On one hand, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares the punishment for anger with the judgment facing murderers: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Matt. 6:21-22).

Yet in Jerusalem, He himself seems quite angry at the Pharisees as he pronounces a series of woes on them, even calling them children of hell: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matt 23:15).

What are we to make of these apparently conflicting passages about anger?

Crime and Punishment

Anger is a desire to punish. As a passion, anger itself is neither good nor evil (see CCC, 1767). Anger can be noble if it is directed toward maintaining justice and correcting vice (CCC, 2303). In this case, it is not so much about getting even with the person who hurt us, but about seeking the good of the community and even the good of the person being punished.

This seems to be the kind of anger Jesus has in his confrontation with the Pharisees in Jerusalem. It is his last showdown with his chief opponents who have rejected him as messiah and are about to bring him to his death. In order to show very clearly how dire their situation is, Jesus—out of great love for the Pharisees—sternly warns them of the deadly path they are pursuing. If they persist in their rejection of the Son of God, they will be closing themselves out of the very kingdom Jesus wants to offer to them, and they will lead many of their followers with them. If Jesus did not truly love the Pharisees, he would not warn them of the eternal punishment toward which they are heading. Jesus’ anger, thus, is rooted in love—in desiring what is best for them—as he hopes this clear warning might lead some of them to repent.

Being angry about the right things and in the right way is virtuous. But avoiding anger at all times may be a sign of weakness. St. Thomas Aquinas notes how it is a vice not get angry over things one should. He calls it “unreasonable patience.” A failure to seek punishment of the unjust encourages the wicked to persist in their evil deeds, since there are no reprimands for their actions. It also causes confusion in the community over what is truly right and wrong, and thus may lead even good people to do evil.

Continue reading at To Keep and to Ponder
18February

Archbishop Chaput’s Laity Expertise Is Set to Go Global

Taken from the National Catholic Register

Archbishop Chaput’s Laity Expertise Is Set to Go Global
Pope Francis has called the Philadelphia archbishop to bring his best efforts to a key Vatican office that is responsible for encouraging the Pope’s vision of the laity as ‘missionary disciples.’

PHILADELPHIA — Pope Francis has tapped Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput to join his council for the laity, the Vatican office responsible not only for the Church’s World Youth Day celebration, but also for promoting lay movements.

Church observers familiar with the archbishop’s legacy say Pope Francis is calling upon a bishop with a second to none reputation when it comes to putting the laity on the front lines of the Church.

Now, Archbishop Chaput will have the opportunity to bring his expertise to a global level.

Pope Francis named the archbishop to the Pontifical Council for the Laity on Feb. 6, making him part of a team that will advise Pope Francis on how the lay faithful can more effectively contribute to the life and mission of the Church.

Archbishop Chaput explained to the Register that getting laymen and women — who are the “overwhelming majority of Catholics” — actively engaged as leaders in the Church’s evangelistic effort is a priority he shares with Pope Francis.

“One of the passions of Pope Francis is evangelization,” he said. “In today’s world, that requires a committed, faithful laity. So I think I share his concern in encouraging laymen and women to see themselves in a new way: not as passive consumers of the Gospel, but as active agents and disciples.”

Pope Francis laid out his evangelism agenda for the Church in his recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), which draws heavily from the writings of Benedict XVI, Blessed John Paul II and the Second Vatican Council, to make the case for all the baptized faithful to take on the work of being “missionary disciples” in the modern world.

Archbishop Chaput said the Church is “a family of vocations that depend on each other’s service,” but added that the Church “can’t afford to overlook the skills of laypeople and their experience of the world in pursuing the Church’s mission.”

“We need a new spirit of energy and mutual support in the Church,” he added. “I hope the council, in a small way, can help promote that.”

Continue reading at National Catholic Register.
17February

Were You Made for Greatness or for God?

Taken from The Catholic Bible Student
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Were You Made for Greatness or for God?

One of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s most often quoted lines is this:

“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” (Sources: 1 2 3)

It’s a good line, but did he ever really say it? Well, I’ve been doing some digging to try and track down this line (Others have tried too). To me, it looks like he never actually said it. However, he said a couple things that were close. In a visit with German pilgrims in the first month of his pontificate, back in April, 2005, Benedict said:

“Christ did not promise an easy life. Those who desire comforts have dialed the wrong number. Rather, he shows us the way to great things, the good, towards an authentic human life.” Source

The original German reads,

“Wer Bequemlichkeit will, der ist bei ihm allerdings an der falschen Adresse. Aber er zeigt uns den Weg zum Großen, zum Guten, zum richtigen Menschenleben.”

The main difference here is that Benedict is saying that he’s saying that Jesus is showing the way to great things, away from the false temptations of comfort. Here the focus is on Him, not on us.

Continue reading at The Catholic Bible Student.
17February

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part II

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Chris Padgett

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part II

In Part One of Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage, I spoke of the importance of making sacrifices for your spouse. In Part Two, I will address the importance of making acts of service for one another. Again, I think it is very natural when we first fall in love to serve one another effortlessly. We willingly bring the other a drink when asked, pop the popcorn without complaint, or grab the keys that were left in the house as you both sit in the car realizing someone has to go back in to get them. These acts of service can be even greater when our spouse is sick or hurting. We may bring them a drink when fevered, change the linens when they are sick, or serve them by handling all of the daily tasks for your children, and the like. These are done willingly because we know that loving our spouse is expressed in these little or great acts of service. But as marriages grow over time, there can be a tendency to want to be served instead of being the one who serves. We must stay prepared and stand against this urge. Why? Because Jesus shows us that true love is not about having others serve you; rather, He says that to be great you must be the least.

Jesus Wants Us to Serve One Another

This willingness to sacrifice and serve for our spouse certainly is a countercultural mentality, but it is a Christological certainty. In other words, Jesus wants us to serve one another in marriage because that is the example He gave to us, His bride. Jesus sacrificed everything so that the Church could be born, and His example of giving everything—showing us how to love—is meant to show us how to treat our spouse in marriage. To serve is not based on obligation, but on a willing heart. To lovingly serve our spouse demonstrates our recognition of how much value and worth they have. Even if our spouse does not notice our acts of service, this should not be a surprise, or keep us from serving; Jesus’ love for His bride often goes unnoticed too.

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
14February

There’s No Hall Pass for Sin

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

There’s No Hall Pass for Sin

February 16

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Sirach 15:15-20

We humans love to escape responsibility. When Mom runs to the room where sounds of a fight are coming from, she finds brothers pointing fingers at each other. When confronted with our trespasses, it is easy to blame someone else. Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. But one roundabout way of denying responsibility is to claim that we did not have freedom in the first place, that our hand was forced, that we couldn’t help but do what we did. This moral argument comes in many forms: that a person’s upbringing was so bad that he wasn’t really free, that all of human life is physical material and so our moral outcomes are dictated by our DNA and our environment, not by our choices.

“God made me do it”

In this Sunday’s first reading, a novel version of this argument is being confronted: the idea that God forced me into a situation where evil was my only choice, that my sin is God’s fault. In Sirach 15:11, just before our reading’s selection, the false idea is quoted as “It was God’s doing that I fell away,” and in v. 12, “He himself has led me astray” (NABRE). Sirach responds that God does not do what he hates and that he doesn’t need the wicked. While the idea that God would lead one into sin might seem silly at first, think about friends who have lost their faith in a time of trial and suffering. Sometimes the harshness of life can tempt people to reject God, as if he was the cause of all their ills. This rejection does not follow strict logic, but it expresses deep pain in the human heart. We must reach out in loving care to those who grieve so deeply, but ultimately not let our grief overwhelm our faith.

Lead us not into Temptation

When Jesus teaches us how to pray, he too responds to the false accusation of God. He teaches us to say, “Lead us not into temptation…” If we sit down to think about it, we can come to see that God doesn’t ever lead us into temptation, but we need the reaffirmation of this reality in our speaking to God. If God did lead us into temptation, some of us would be pre-destined to Hell. But the Church has explicitly condemned the idea that anyone is predestined to Hell (Catechism, 1037). God does not desire our destruction, but our life. He does not force us to wicked behavior, but helps us to act righteously.

A Matter of Life and Death

Sirach paints the constant choice before us in the starkest of colors: life and death, good and evil, fire and water. The choice is ours. God does not force our hand. Keeping the commandments leads to God’s blessings and life, but breaking the commandments leads to curse and death. This depiction of the “two ways” is repeated in many fashions in the Bible: the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy, the two paths of Psalm 1, the narrow vs. broad way in the Gospels. While not every moment in our lives is as dramatic as fire and water, every decision we make draws us closer to God or pushes us away from him.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange.
13February

A Life Hidden in God

Recorded by Dr. Christopher Blum

A Life Hidden in God

Listen to an audio recording of a sample chapter from Bossuet's Meditations for Lent (Sophia Institute Press), newly edited and translated by Augustine Institute Dean Christopher Blum. The meditation is entitled "A Life Hidden in God."

13February

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part I

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Chris Padgett

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part I

I recently returned from England. While there, I spoke with a woman who, after forty years of marriage, feels that she is in a constant uphill battle with her spouse. He doesn’t think they need marital healing or growth. While he doesn’t oppose her going to counseling, he doesn’t think he needs it. She is exasperated, wanting more from her marriage, but is unable to initiate change for them both because he doesn’t see any reason for it. She wants her marriage to thrive, not just survive; but at the rate they are going things seem to be heading downhill. I told her to think about St. Monica. After all, she can easily relate to her situation, because she also had a difficult husband. She responded with, “Yes, but St. Monica’s husband had the good sense to die, didn’t he?” Yeah, um, so the suggestions I will be offering will not include hoping your spouse kicks the bucket.

Sacrifice for One Another

The first thing needed for a strong and healthy marriage is the ability to sacrifice for one another. Jesus Christ demonstrates His love for us at Calvary—our Lord willingly and freely gave Himself to the Father, in the love of the Spirit, so that we could be in union with Him, others, and ourselves. This healing love of Christ covers a multitude of sins when we sacrifice in our marriages. Jesus’ selfless act upon the Cross changes our lives, forgives our sins, and casts them as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). When we sacrifice for our spouse, we are in fact loving them as Christ did on the Cross. Freely giving ourselves physically and emotionally are ways that don’t just idealize love, but it in fact actualize love.

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
13February

Did the Wave Offering Make the Sign of the Cross?

Taken from Catholic Bible Student
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Did the Wave Offering Make the Sign of the Cross?

Wave offerings are prescribed in the Old Testament several times–mainly in Leviticus and Numbers. Normally, the OT sacrificial system leads people to tears of boredom, but something caught my eye in reading about this in Allen P. Ross’s book, Holiness to the Lord. He describes the wave offering ritual thusly:

The wave offering (tenupa) was placed in the offerer’s hands, and then the priest placed his hands beneath those of the offerer, moving them upward and downward, forward and backward, thereby symbolizing the consecration of the gift of God in the sight of all. (p. 192)

Sounds interesting, but what is even more amazing is what he suggests in a footnote:


[R.K.] Harrison ([Leviticus: Introduction and Commentary, IVP 1980] 83) observes the description and interpretation of this ritual and notes that the motion was in the shape of a cross. If this is right, then it is a symbolic foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ.

Interestingly, there is no description of the ritual in the biblical text and some commentators, like Jacob Milgrom, have rejected the wave offering as a “fiction.” Harrison’s description is rooted in later Jewish rabbinic sources. So this may remain a mystery, but if the description of the ritual is accurate, it reminds me of a Catholic priest making the sign of the cross over the gifts on the altar before the sacrifice of the Mass is made. Perhaps this act is foreshadowed by the ancient Israelite wave offering.

See more at the Catholic Bible Student.
07February

The Hypocrisy Trap

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

The Hypocrisy Trap

February 9

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 58:7-10

It is so easy to fall into hypocrisy. External, commitment-free religious practices can feel consoling, but they can also become a serious trap. In Isaiah 58, the Lord warns his people against empty worship. Their temptation was to pray, fast, and discuss religious things without backing them up with practical moral action. The prophet’s words make clear that God despises hypocritical, insincere religion.

The Hypocrisy Trap

Hypocrisy is a sin like any other. It is tempting because it is easy. It is easier to say a couple prayers than it is to write a check. It is easier to skip a meal than to reach out and feed the truly hungry. The ancient Israelites were tempted in the same ways that we are. Earlier in Isaiah 58, they ask the Lord, “Why do we fast, but you do not see it?” (58:3 NABRE). He responds that they might fast, but when they fast they oppress their workers and fight with each other (58:4). The Lord announces that he does not want people to skip meals while sinning, but he wants his people to humble themselves, repent of sin, “to bow one’s head like a reed, and lie upon sackcloth and ashes” (58:5 NABRE). The point is that fasting, or any religious devotion, should promote a change of heart that leads to humility and righteous action. Devotional practices cannot be done for their own sake. Rather, they ought to change us from the inside out.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Pope Francis has given us a great example of “putting your money where your mouth is” in this regard. He appointed Archbishop Krajewski as Papal Almoner, to be his hands and feet, to go out and give alms to the poor in a very personal way. Apparently, Pope Francis told him, “You can sell your desk.” What a great image for us! It is tempting to confine ourselves to our corner of the universe, our daily commitments, and never reach out beyond our immediate sphere to help someone in need. We can even confine ourselves to prayerful, devotional practices and not allow God to break us out of our comfort zone.

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06February

It’s All Relative: Understanding Right vs. Wrong

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Chris Stefanick

It’s All Relative: Understanding Right vs. Wrong

Right and wrong. True and false. Thanks to relativism, young people use these words when talking about things like math and science—but not faith and morals. You might be thinking, “Relatiwhatism?” If philosophical discussions aren’t your forte, stay with me! Relativism isn’t a philosophy you can afford to overlook, because it’s at the very heart of how virtually every teenager thinks about the most important things in life!

What is Relativism?

Relativism is the philosophy that there is no objective reality, but that truth is relative to what each person thinks. We’ve all encountered relativism in statements like, “Jesus is God for me, while Vishnu is God for someone else,” “You have your truth, and I have mine,” or, in regard to issues like the abortion debate, “You can’t impose your morality on another person.”

This “agree never to disagree” philosophy is considered necessary to guarantee peace, tolerance, and equality in a pluralistic world. Conversely, people who think we can know the truth in moral or religious issues are considered intolerant, bigoted, and sometimes even downright dangerous.

That caricature of us “absolutists” is reinforced at every level of society, not just among your teens’ peers. According to Justice Scalia, when it comes to the marriage debate, the Supreme Court has bypassed intelligent debate and labeled those who want to protect “traditional” marriage as “enemies of the human race.” Of course, we fail to live up to that label. In the 2,000-year history of the Church, you won’t find a single bishop on record calling for physical violence against gays.

Facts aside, perception is reality. And the reality is that people perceive those who believe in spiritual and moral absolutes as bigots. Perhaps that’s why, according to one study, 93% of teens said they do not believe in absolute truth. No one wants to be a jerk, right?!

Does believing in moral absolutes lead to hate?

If we want young people to receive the Faith as something more than “a belief system that works for me,” but rather “as something real that I’m called to conform my life to,” we need to show them that moral and spiritual absolutes don’t lead to hatred. In fact, history shows us that some of the most intolerant people in history were not real believers, but relativists!

Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy, is one clear-cut example. Early in his political career, he wrote:

Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism. —Mussolini’s “Diuturna”

Since Mussolini didn’t recognize any objective reality—moral or religious—to which he should conform, he invented his own moral code and enforced it on everyone he could. If truth is really relative, why not?!

And while it might seem that if we could just “imagine there’s no heaven … no hell below us … no religion, too,” then we could “live life in peace.” The 20th century proved John Lennon’s dream wrong time and again. People in the 20th century who imagined that there was no “objective immortal truth”—no heaven, hell, and no religion—made many of the crimes committed in the name of faith look like child’s play.

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