Monthly Archives: November 2012

‘Belonging to the Truth’ – What Did Jesus Mean?

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This Sunday, we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King. We’re also in the last week of the liturgical year, and so we are reminded of the last things; Jesus will come again in glory and power.

This Sunday’s Readings:

In the first reading, Daniel prophesies that One like a Son of man is coming and he will receive dominion and kingship which will last forever and all people and nations will serve him. The Book of Revelation speaks of Jesus Christ who freed us from our sins by his own blood and has made us into his kingdom. He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and is to come, the Almighty.”

In the Gospel we see Jesus, the King of Kings, being judged by Pilate. In his response to Pilate he says, “You say I am a king. For this was I born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” It isn’t included in this Gospel, but Pilate replies, “What is truth?”

“What is truth?” This is a question for time.

Do we really want to know the truth about how God wants us to live our lives on this earth? There is an objective truth based upon natural law and on the law of God given to us by way of His revelation and His Church. We live in a time when the majority of the people live as if there is no objective truth. They believe they can decide for themselves the truth which they chose to live by.

In the 1950s there was a television program called Truth or Consequences. It became so popular that a town in New Mexico was named after it. These words have much meaning. If we do not live by the truth as God has revealed it, there will be consequences – and we can see those consequences all around us. Is there anyone who does not believe there has been a moral decline in our country in the past fifty years? Fifty years ago, over 70% of the population in this country worshiped God every weekend; now it is closer to 25%. The largest religious denomination in this country is inactive Catholics. There are more Catholics who are inactive than those who are active; that is going to Mass every weekend and being involved in the life of their parish. Further, much of what is currently called music and entertainment is not only immoral, it is degrading to the dignity of humanity. It appears things will be getting worse before they get better.

In today’s Gospel Jesus said, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” To listen to Jesus is not only to hear the Gospel; it’s to belong to the Gospel, to the truth. To belong to the truth is to allow the truth of God’s revelation in the Scriptures and the Church to shape our lives. If our faith does not influence all of the important decisions we make, then we are not truly Christian.

Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. This is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. Jesus did not only come into the world at his birth in Bethlehem 2000 years ago which we celebrate each Christmas. He will come again in glory in a time unknown to us; for which he wants us to be prepared. The way to prepare is to invite him into our lives everyday, throughout the day, by opening up our hearts to him. He wants a personal relationship with us that we develop through a commitment to daily prayer, living the sacramental life, reading the Scriptures and being faithful to his revelation. In Mass, he comes to us in the Eucharist under the appearance of bread and wine. In this sacrament and the other sacraments of our Church – along with her teaching authority and the Scriptures – we have all we need to belong to the “Truth” which is Jesus Christ, Our King and Our Savior. The consequence of belonging to the “Truth” is to reach our potential for happiness now, and for all eternity.

What?? Christians living in Israel and Palestine?

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As we hear news on missiles hitting Gaza and Israel, mass media are telling us about who is shooting missiles and so on. Meanwhile, there are a group of people living in Gaza, in the West Bank, and in Israel, that are suffering; they are the Christians of the Holy Land.

Tom and I have traveled to the Holy Land 42 times since 1984, most of those times were leading groups of pilgrims. Through our experiences of presenting talks on the Holy Land to various church and school groups, we continue to discover the majority of Americans do not know there is a Christian presence in the Holy Land and that this Christian population has been living there since the beginning of Christianity. They are called the Mother Church, because from her Christianity spread throughout the world.

Celebrating Sunday Mass with Palestinian Catholics in Beit Jala, West Bank, Palestine

Who Are They?

For 2,000 years, Christian families have lived and worshiped in the land where Jesus lived, died and was resurrected. These Christians are not converts, immigrants or foreigners…they are the descendants of the first followers of Jesus as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2:11. The Christians in the Holy Land (Israel, Palestine, Jordan) are Arab Christians (their mother tongue is Arabic). They are not converts from Islam; Islam did not arrive in Jerusalem until 638 A.D. These Christians are Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Protestant. They are also called Palestinian Christians because they live in Palestine and have been living there before Israel became a state.

Fr. Firas Arideh, a diocesan priest living in Palestine, says: “We are thinkers, we are theologians, we are philosophers, we are teachers, we are believers in the Bible and in Jesus Christ and we are rolling up our sleeves and are making a difference by shedding light in a bleak situation because nothing will stand between us and the Lord.”

Why is it Important to Be Aware of Mother Church?

They are active members of parishes in Jerusalem, Cana, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Gaza, and other villages throughout the Holy Land. These cities are biblical, and their very stones mark the holy sites of our Lord’s life – the Christians are the living stones!

  • They are part of a 2,000 year unbroken legacy of Christianity in the Holy Land.
  • They are the first to tell you they are the living church, helping sustain the holy sites through their presence, active participation in the Church and the community.
  • They receive pilgrims, own restaurants and religious souvenir shops and are proud to speak about their Land, the Land of the Lord! Their warm Middle-Eastern hospitality is always impressive and delightful!

In the last 60 years, the Christian population has gone from 18% of the population to less than 1.5% of the population. This is a serious concern for the Church. If the Christians continue to dwindle, the Churches built over the Holy Sites will be vacant and may become museums!

Why Such a Small Number Now?

  • According to sociological surveys, military occupation of the West Bank (Palestine) by Israel has caused a dramatic and steady decline of the Christian community to what is now an “endangered” population. Respondents made it clear that this decline is not due to Islam.
  • The Christians are a minority. As one Palestinian Catholic priest said: “We are rejected by the Israeli Jewish people and government because we are Arabs.”

What Can I Do For Them?

  •  Tell others what you have read.
  • Pray! Pray for the Mother Church of the Holy Land. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are united with us in the Christian solidarity of the mystical Body of Christ – the Church: “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members share its joy.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
  • Go to the Holy Land on pilgrimage! Join a Pilgrim Center of Hope pilgrimage during this Year of Faith. Experience the Land of the Bible and the “living stones!” Visit our website to see the various dates offered: www.pilgrimcenterofhope.org
  • Read! We strongly recommend a book written by a Palestinian Catholic priest, now an Archbishop in the Holy Land, Elias Chacour. The title is Blood Brothers. Chacour writes about his life growing up around the Sea of Galilee, the strong Christian community, and life in Israel today. Obtain a copy through our offices, or online.
  • Stay in touch with the Diocese of Jerusalem, called the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem: www.lpj.org
  • Host a presentation on the Holy Land for your organization or parish. Contact us to set a date.

Pope John Paul II, in his homily in Bethlehem in March 2000 during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, told the Christians: “Do not be afraid to preserve your Christian presence and heritage in the very land where the Savior was born.”

Why don’t we just give it ALL to God?

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“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” Ps. 130:1,2

When the bottom has fallen out of our life and we stand helpless to fix it or face it, then in our suffering and pain we instinctively cry out to God. It is in the depths, when we can no longer manage life on our own, that we rediscover that we were never meant to manage life on our own.  We are, by design, dependent on God. And it is in the depths that our need for God is most passionately felt and expressed.

Prior to my conversion experience in the fall of 2010 that lead me full throttle on the road to becoming Catholic, I was in a period of darkness.  Everything that had defined my life up to that moment came to a screeching halt.  Having neither the strength nor clarity to move forward, I became completely dependent on God.  Day by day, I learned what it means to turn it all over to God.  And the results were astonishing.  Never in my wildest imagination, could I have dreamed that within two years I would be moving from Houston to San Antonio, taking RCIA classes to become Catholic and working for a Catholic evangelization ministry.  I now have everything I didn’t even know I was looking for.

Unfortunately, it is often only at our weakest moments that we truly let go and let God.  Rather than dividing our life into: (1) That which we think we can handle by ourselves and (2) That which God can handle – why don’t we just give it ALL to God?  What ARE we waiting for? Life is full of choices, but none as fundamental as the choice to put God first and at the center of our lives!

Simple and Complicated: Thoughts on Pope John Paul II and the Walking Dead

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G. K. Chesterton, English writer, thinker and Catholic convert wrote many books and essays on the nature of man, God and life. On his deathbed he summed it up in one sentence: “It is between light and darkness, and everyone must choose his side.”

A friend of mine once spoke of how complicated our Catholic faith is. I have come to realize that both Chesterton and my friend are correct. The Catholic faith is both complicated and simple.

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Jesus gave us the eight beatitudes and two commandments, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We Catholics turned these commandments and beatitudes into the Catechism of the Catholic Church and libraries full of documents, writings and studies on our faith. Our Catholic faith is both complicated and simple because humanity is complicated and God is simple. In fact, God can even reduce His twelve commandments and eight beatitudes into one word: Love

God is Love.

So what is our response to this love? This is where we like to complicate things.

After watching Witness to Hope, a film about the life of Pope John Paul, II, I became intrigued with this man of God who has given the world, Theology of the Body – teachings on how the human body is created to respond to God. As someone who always hated her body; his teachings have turned my Catholic faith inside-out, upside-down and set it on fire.

A few weeks ago I bought the book Witness to Hope written by George Weigel so I can learn by reading what I should have learned by living through.

This book is not light reading. It is thick with facts, but the gems of wisdom are so precious they compel me to painstakingly read every word for fear I will miss one.

A few weeks ago, I am huddled in my corner chair reading the book while my sons and husband watch their favorite show, The Walking Dead. This show set amidst a zombie apocalypse pits a small rag-tag group of survivors against a majority population of walkers; dead people who somehow are still able to walk and eat.

As I’m reading, I find one of the gems of wisdom: Person and Act, a study by JPII. George Weigel writes about it (emphasis is mine):

Our personhood, he argues, is constituted by the fact of our freedom, which we come to know through truly “human acts.” In choosing one act (to pay a debt I have freely contracted) rather than another (to cheat on my debt), I am not simply responding to external conditions (fear of jail) or internal pressure (guilt). I am freely choosing what is good. In that free choosing, I am also binding myself to what I know is good and true. In this free choice of the good and true, Wojtyla suggests, we can discern the transcendence of the human person. I go beyond myself, I grow as a person, by realizing my freedom and confirming to the good and the true. Through my freedom, I narrow the gap between the person-I-am and the person-I-ought to be.

I sit back contemplating this, when I realize it is being played out on the TV:

The leader of the survivors, Rick, has to deal with a situation: A member of his group has been bitten by a zombie walker, but not killed. Fellow group members are yelling at Rick to kill the man before the inevitable occurs. He looks around and sees his wife, son and the others with terror-stricken faces. Rick knows this man will eventually become a flesh-eating zombie, but for now he is still a man and member of their group.

He turns to the bitten man trying desperately to decide what the correct response is. A scuffle begins as some of the others attempt to take matters into their own hands. Rick makes his choice and shuts it all down with the words, “We don’t kill the living.”

In a complicated situation, Rick chooses a simple good.

Our Catholic faith teaches various way to obey God’s simple command to love. It is why our faith is often described as a web because no matter where you land, you can take intricate strands back and forth, up and down but they all eventually reach the middle…God is love.

I have been making a conscious effort to decide how I “should” respond in the decisions and choices I make every day. To know the simple good, I have to know my faith. Because of God’s simple love for us, He provides it in as many complicated ways as we humans need, by way of Scripture and the Catechism.

Though I will never have to encounter zombie life or death, I may face issues in my family of unwanted pregnancy or removing life support. It’s comforting to know that our Lord will provide the simple answer to these complicated decisions. I trust my Catholic faith to narrow that gap between the woman-I-am and the woman-I-ought to be, and show me how to simply choose the good.