Friday, April 28, 2017

“Today, people are inclined to think that the sincerity and fervency of one's beliefs are more important than the content. As long as we believe something honestly and strongly, we are told, then that is all that really matters. Reality is basically indifferent to how sincerely we believe something.”

There is also something sinister which stems from the fact that freedom and tolerance are so often separated from truth. This is fueled by the notion, widely held today, that there are no absolute truths to guide our lives. – Pope Benedict XVI: (born 16 April 1927 was Pope of the Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013)

Scripture Text: (ACTS 5:34-42)
A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
and said to the Sanhedrin, "Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men.
Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
and all those who were loyal to him
were disbanded and came to nothing.
After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
He also drew people after him,
but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God."
They were persuaded by him.
After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes,
they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.

In the first reading from Mass, the apostles are in some trouble for proclaiming the good news. The Sanhedrin want to shut this down:  Stop them from talking about Jesus, stop the whole production. But a Pharisee tells a story about some other prophets who were thought to be important, but when they died the movement died with them. Without the prophet there was nothing left. The followers disappeared when there was no one left to follow. If there’s nothing to this, he said, it should die down like the others. The movement will disappear of its own accord like the others did, if Jesus was like the others.

But if there really is something to this, if Jesus really is God, then nothing on earth can stop it. Not the Sanhedrin. Not torturing and killing the followers. No laws or penalties can stop the force of God. If this is really real, then it will surely continue no matter what they try to do to stop it, and they will be fighting against God himself. The logical thing to do is to wait it out and see what happens. If there’s nothing to it, it will die out on its own. If there’s something to it, they should not be on the wrong side.

The false prophets of Jesus’s day and today have no real backing. They were not God. Their “ministries” die with them. No one today has heard of Theudas. Everyone has heard of Jesus. The signs and miracles were real and palpable. This is the real thing. And despite the attempts from the Sanhedrin and others from the time of the crucifixion through today to destroy the movement, it’s still going strong. Nothing can stop it. The false prophets are less than footnotes in history. There was nothing to them, and their stories died out. But Jesus performed real miracles and really rose from the dead. Two thousand years later we continue to tell his story and live his words. There is something to this, and it won’t die, and we should not be on the wrong side.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”

When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities. - Ezra Taft Benson: (1899 –1994: was an American farmer, government official, and religious leader who served as the 15th United States Secretary of Agriculture)

Gospel Text: (JN 3:31-36)
The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus explains that there’s a difference between the type of person who speaks of earthly things, and the type of person who speaks of God. Peter himself, the first visible head of the Church, says ultimately the same thing in Acts (Acts 5:27-33). In front of Jewish officials, Peter offers an explanation for the apostles disobeying the officials: “We must obey God rather than men!”

The most important priority of our lives should be the nurturing of our communion with God. Do you care enough about your personal spiritual development that you'll work hard for it? Daily?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

“We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.”

From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all. - Ralph Waldo Emerson: (1803 –1882: was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet)

Gospel Text: (JN 3:16-21)
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Mankind needs Christ. We would be incomplete without Christ. We love the world and because we love the world we want to bring Christ to the world because we know the world needs Christ. The Father loved the world and gave his only Son. We love the world and want to bring Christ to the world because we know the world will not find happiness or peace any other way. Even though the world does not know it, Christ is the One whom the world seeks.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

“The problem with the prosperity gospel is that it makes prosperity the Gospel. God's word is flawless, however if your interpretation of the word is wrong, your application will be wrong also.”

“A man who first tried to guess 'what the public wants,' and then preached that as Christianity because the public wants it, would be a pretty mixture of fool and knave” ― C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Gospel Text: (MK 16:15-20)
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
"Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus missions his friends: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” And they did that. They went to lands far and near and shared the Good News with people rich and poor, thin and fat, fair and dark skinned. For over two millennia, good people — in the kitchen, at home, in the fields, at the office, in schools, in factories, or in other workplaces — have spread Jesus’ message and not always used words. They have “clothed themselves with humility” as the first reading from Mass recommends. Their actions and attitudes have shown that they love because they have experienced great love in their personal lives.

Monday, April 24, 2017

No one can begin a new life, unless he repent of the old.

Just as a man cannot live in the flesh unless he is born in the flesh, even so a man cannot have the spiritual life of grace unless he is born again spiritually. This regeneration is effected by Baptism: "Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (Jn 3:5)  - St. Thomas Aquinas: (1225 – 1274: was an Italian Dominican friar, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church)

Gospel Text: (JN 3:1-8)
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at night and said to him,
"Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God,
for no one can do these signs that you are doing
unless God is with him."
Jesus answered and said to him,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."
Nicodemus said to him,
"How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?"
Jesus answered,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
'You must be born from above.'
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

The first sacrament in the Church is baptism, the sacrament of initiation. In baptism we are freed from the sin of Adam, receive God's gift of grace and become members of his Church; we receive the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life. Without baptism we cannot receive the other sacraments.

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells Nicodemus that "no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." Baptism is a re-birth into God's grace and life, through its cleansing waters. Baptism is also seen as dying to sin and death and rising to new life with and in Christ.

Let us thank God for his sharing of his divine life with us when we were baptized: "Given a new birth [in baptism] by water and the Holy Spirit, may we live always as members of his body, sharing everlasting life."