Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Beautiful Catholic Church

When one looks closely at the world, they find it is full of evil. Because it is evil, there must be laws. Laws in themselves are not sufficient unless there are penalties attached and are enforced. Even then, that is not sufficient. Now, there are security alarm companies. Still, evil prevails in this world. In the midst of all the evil prevalent in this world, there is a jewel, a diamond.

That jewel is the Catholic Church. It is a perfect diamond. In all aspects that the world is evil, the Catholic Church is glorious because all its doctrines are perfect. It might be said, “But look at all the controversies, the bad things that have occurred in the Church.” Yes, there are evil people in the Church, but the Church itself is perfect, a perfect jewel nonetheless. Its doctrines are still true. Even if some people are not faithful to the Church, nevertheless the Church is still faithful because its Head is faithful.

The world can try to change marriage and allow same sex marriage, but it cannot change the true marriage that the Church will uphold. Many denominations are conceding to the world, accepting world views, but the Catholic Church stands tall, shining like a diamond. The world sees the Catholic Church, sees its holiness, and hates it because it loves its evil ways. Therefore it attacks the Church at every opportunity. Sometimes it may be a frontal attack; sometimes, it just tries to chip away, attempting to get the Church’s members to pressure the Church to change its doctrines, to take away its holiness, its glorious shine.

Our Lord told a parable about a merchant finding a precious pearl, burying the precious pearl in a field, and then sells everything he has in order to buy the field. Many believe that our Lord was referring to the gospel. I will not disagree with that because the gospel is precious, but let’s turn it around.

The merchant is Jesus Christ. The perfect pearl He finds is the Catholic Church. He hides it in the world, and goes and sells everything He has—His life—in order to purchase that precious pearl, the Catholic Church.

Even before I became a Catholic, even when I believed Catholics were in gross error, doomed, there was always a sense of encouragement, security, whenever I saw a priest or nun. There was always a mysterious pull whenever I saw an old-style Catholic Church.

The first contact that I had with the Catholic Church was watching a sitcom called “The Flying Nun.” The convent, the nuns, living life completely for God, was alluring. And then, years later, the wonderful woman whom I would marry would be Catholic. Unbeknownst to me, God, working slowly, in mysterious ways, was making me part of that precious jewel.

Look at the world; look at the Catholic Church. The contrast is glaring. The Catholic Church shines gloriously while the world looks like a pigsty. The other denominations cannot shine as gloriously as the Catholic Church because they think they can have Christ and the pigsty also. Martin Luther said Christians were dung covered with snow, Christ’s righteousness. Many Baptists believe once you’ve “accepted Christ as your personal savior” you are saved and can’t lose your salvation. It invites “having your cake and eating it, too.” Yet, the Catholic Church says nay, standing gloriously tall. The glorious Church asks, “Why do you desire dung when you can have Christ, be like Christ in all His radiance?”

I read somewhere: “The Church, which is called ‘that Jerusalem which is above’ and ‘our mother,’ is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless lamb. It is she whom Christ ‘loved and for whom he delivered himself that he might sanctify her.’ It is she whom he unites to himself by an unbreakable alliance, and whom he constantly ‘nourishes and cherishes’.”

Because we are in the world, we often fail to see its ugliness. We are so used to it, it does not bother us. Holy Scripture constantly calls us to rejoice, commands us to rejoice, yet we really do not. We do not, cannot, because we don’t see the contrast. We must ask, ask, ask, and keep asking until the Holy Spirit shows us the shining Catholic Church. We must ask Our Lady, our Mother, to intercede for us, that we may truly see the holy Catholic Church. We must ask our patron saints to intercede for us. We must desire this. When we receive Christ in the Eucharist, let us receive Him, urging Him that He allows to really see the Catholic Church, that we may love Him in the same way He loves the Father. Until He gives us sight, we will not abhor sin, never die to sin. In other words, we will not keep His commandments, will not love Him as He loves the Father.

Although He gives us sight progressively, He will give us sight if we desire it. The more sight He gives us, the more we will desire, yearn for more. We begin more and more to take our eyes off the things of the world and turn them to the Catholic Church, the perfect image of Jesus Christ, the Head, and His Mother. T.T.

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida:

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Special Calling

It’s the mid 1970’s and the women’s movement is gaining significant traction across the country. Ms. Randall teaches the kindergarten class at Oxhead Road Elementary School in Centereach, New York (part of Suffolk County in Long Island). Theresa Perez is a student in the class. During the week, Ms. Randall has impressed upon her students that they can accomplish anything they want in life and that no one should tell them that they can’t do anything if they set their minds to it. Although her message was for everyone in her class, she especially wanted to bring this message to the little girls. You see, some folks might describe Ms. Randall as a women’s libber.

At one point after much discussion about career opportunities, the children were asked to draw a picture of what they would want to become when they grew up. Students got busy drawing pictures of an astronaut, fire fighter, police officer, doctor, judge etc. It was a fun day and the kids rightfully felt good about what they had drawn.

That night, Theresa’s Mom, Mrs. Perez went to work in her nursing job covering the 11pm – 7am night shift. Arriving home the following day after her shift, she soon received a call from Ms. Randall. “Mrs. Perez, I need you to come in for a conference. It’s about Theresa”. This didn’t seem to be very good news so Mrs. Perez quickly went over for this meeting. She wondered what kind of problems that Theresa could be having in school.

When she arrived, Ms. Randall explained to Mrs. Perez about the message that she had conveyed to each student throughout the week, particularly the girls. And she told her of the assignment. You know, to dream big and draw a picture of what they wanted to become in life. It was then that Mrs. Randall said, “Mrs. Perez, I need you to see the picture that Theresa drew. She turned in this!”Mrs. Perez looked down and saw a picture of a young woman with a protruding stomach. Ms. Randall then said, “Mrs. Perez, I have no plans to ever have children…..but if I did, I would want YOU to take care of them. “

Ms. Randall went on to explain that she had questioned Theresa about what she had drawn. Did Theresa mean that a woman couldn’t become a judge, police officer, doctor etc.?   Theresa said, “No, I know we can do these things. It’s just that I want to be just like my Mom. She has always taken care of me and is my very best friend. “

Now almost 40 years later, Theresa is Mom to two beautiful little girls of her own.  With her husband Aaron, she lives in Raleigh, North Carolina and is employed there as a Senior Financial Analyst. Theresa’s Mom is a member of St. Paul’s parish. Among her many volunteer hours, she assists at the Alpha Center which provides free services to anyone with a problem stemming from pregnancy.

When reflecting on Motherhood as a special calling, let’s bring our thoughts and prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary. God once called upon her to fulfill a mission that was far beyond any career that we could ever imagine. Mary became blessed among women, carried and nurtured a child named Jesus who became the Savior of all mankind. In her response to Our Lord, she was strong in protecting her child yet meek (gentle) to a baby who needed so much love and attention. Mary became the physical mother to the Messiah and the spiritual mother to us all.

For all mothers and grandmothers who have inspired us to fulfill our purpose in life which includes oneness with God, Best Wishes for a Very Happy Mother’s Day!  J.G.

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

I wonder what my purpose is in life.

Sometimes I wonder what my purpose is in life. Let’s face it: I am extremely insignificant. Aside from my wife and children, I am non-existent to the world. Why this body is laid down in this lifetime, the world will not mourn.

It will rush to have my name removed from everything. I will soon be forgotten by all. Even those who remember me, what good does it do, unless they are praying for my soul in purgatory? Therefore, why am I even here?

In short, there is a beautiful answer: I was created—born—because I am loved by God, that I might live and never die. Being insignificant to the world does not mean that I am insignificant to God. “For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to the flesh, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no flesh might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor 1.26-29).

If I were President, king of a country, governor of a State, of what benefit would it be to me? No, I shall be content being insignificant, a nobody to the world yet a child of God. There is such peace just being in the Presence of our God (if you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father). Oh, that He even allows me to be in His presence without striking me dead.  T.T.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

It’s not about us…good, bad, indifferent…

Reflection on Mk 16: 9-15

It was Easter morning…the first Easter. The end, or at least what surely seemed like the end, had come so rapidly…and so brutally. And the brutality was infectious. Judas, having betrayed Jesus for those 30 pieces of silver was so desperate when he realized…too late…what he had done, that he took his own life. Peter had denied Jesus three times, and when he heard the cock crow, he was so devastated that he ran away and wept bitter tears. Jesus’ mother was pierced through the heart with grief. The rest had scattered in fear for their own lives, and in disbelief.

Among those remaining at the foot of the cross, Mark mentions Mary Magdalene by name, and here now on that first Easter morning, Jesus appears first to her. Jesus had cast seven demons out of her…not one, or two…but seven. Can we even imagine how possessed she must have been? And yet she is the first to experience the risen Lord.

She went and told the apostles, who were behind locked doors overcome with grief, that he was alive, and that she had seen him…and they did not believe her. Healed by Jesus of seven demons…with him when he died…on her way to anoint what she thought would be his lifeless body…and they did not believe her. How much better a witness could we have asked for?

Two disciples experience the risen Jesus in another form. We know from Luke, that these were the disciples on the way to Emmaus. Jesus illuminated the scriptures and the prophets for them….and they recognized the Lord in the breaking of the bread. This is the first Easter Sunday…who knew anything about the breaking of the bread except those closest to Jesus?

But when they returned with their witness, the eleven just couldn’t bring themselves to believe them either. So Jesus then appears to the eleven. He rebukes them for their unbelief and hardness of heart…after all, had he not sent the most believable of first-hand witnesses? And then…immediately…he sends these wounded and broken men out into the world with the most precious of gifts…his salvation, his forgiveness, his infinite love, his body and blood…and so those most precious of gifts come even to us…here…now.

Peter denied him three times, and Jesus makes him the head of the Church. Mary Magdalene had been possessed by seven demons, and she is the first one he shows himself to after his glorious resurrection. The eleven closest to him did not believe that he had risen from the dead, and they are the bearers of the good news of salvation to all of the world.

Don’t you see? Don’t you see? It’s not about us…good, bad, indifferent…it’s just not about us. It’s about him, and his father, and their spirit; it’s about all that he said, and did for us; it’s about all that he gave us, and all that he took away.

He became one of us, he bore our guilt, our sins; he suffered and died, was buried, and rose from the dead. And even though it’s not about us, it is up to us. It’s up to us to surrender, to say “yes”, to believe, and to accept his incomprehensible love. W.W.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Don't you see it? Reflections on Jn 6:60-69

I was standing there in the mall, staring intently at a piece of cardboard about a foot and a half from top to bottom, and maybe three feet wide. There were blobs of very nice colors in some of my favorite hues…but there was no pattern that I could find.

This guy comes up and asks me excitedly “Do you see it? I obviously didn’t, so I ask innocently “See what?” He blurts out “It’s the United Nations building in New York!!”

For a minute or so I look back at the cardboard, and then at my new friend…a few times…really trying hard. I finally have to ask “Where?” By now he’s so excited he’s really talking fast…and he’s pointing…and he’s outlining…and he’s telling me about the flagpoles and the shrubbery. What he was telling me was hard…and I just couldn’t accept it.

He finally tells me “you have to look beyond it…focus behind it.” Now, I came through the sixties, so I was kind of used to situations like this…so I believed him, and after a few minutes trying to figure out how to do what he told me to do…it clicked…and there it was…complete with flagpoles and shrubbery…the UN building in New York City.

I believed what he said, and after I was able to see, I was convinced that he was telling me the truth.

Today’s Gospel reading takes place just after Jesus tells the disciples that “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” He tells them “It is the Spirit that gives life…the words I have spoken to you are Spirit and Life.” And they struggled with it…and some of them went away; we struggle with it today, and some of us have gone away.

Faith is a gift from the Father that allows us to see; it allows us to focus beyond mere logical reality… beyond mere flesh that is of no avail. Faith infuses the Spirit into our ability to understand. It allows us to accept what is hard. Faith opens our hearts to the Spirit, and allows our reason to be convinced.

Jesus’ words are Spirit and life…they infuse us with the gift of belief, and they bring us to life. Peter is the one who says it the best…”We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

If only the rest of us…disciples both then and now…will open our hearts and our heads at the same time so we can see; so that we can believe and understand the Truth…even when it’s hard. W.W.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Hope You Dance

Several years ago, a noted Southeastern Conference football coach was a little bit frustrated with his team. It seems that they had a lot of talent but it just wasn’t showing in practice or on the field. Were they just not interested? Did they care? So, he sat them down and had them listen to a country music song by Lee Ann Womack in hope that it would inspire them. Here are a few of the verses of her song, “I hope you dance”.
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance

Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

As parishioners of St. Paul’s Parish, we have many opportunities to “dance”. We can do this by
becoming involved in stewardship via one of the 58 current ministries instead of sitting on the sidelines.   These ministries give us plenty of opportunities to share our time, talent and treasure. Even so, while many of us are actively involved in parish ministries, some choose not to do so. Why? Here are some classic excuses and why they just don’t hold up in the light of day.

·        They have enough people already. Well, that’s not always the case and in scripture it says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.” (1 Peter 4:10).
·        I’m not holy enough.  Again, it is written, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) And no matter the stage of life you're in or what your past has been, God wants to use you now!
·        I don’t have the time. What could be more important than time given in service to your Lord and Savior?    In (Luke 16:13) it says "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other….”
·        I don’t have any special talent. Not true.  "Just as each of us has one body with many parts, and these parts perform different functions, so in Christ we, who are many, become one body, each member belonging to all the others in order to function as a whole. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." (Romans 12:4-6a).
·        I’m not into self- edification. Good because that’s not what God expects of you either. Following his example, our Lord expects you to be a Servant Leader. He made it very clear to his disciples when He found them arguing among themselves. “Whomever wishes to be first, shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 10:35)

 Those who serve in a ministry often say that they feel truly blessed and that they “receive much more from serving others, than what they feel they give”. So, with that in mind, my prayer for all parishioners on the sidelines is that you “dance” and keep these verses from another song uppermost in your mind.

I danced for the Scribes and the Pharisees
They wouldn't dance, they wouldn't follow me
I danced for the fishermen James and John
They came with me so the dance went on
Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance, said He
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said He.

'Lord of the Dance' by Sidney Carter 
Post by J.G.