Jesus said to me; 'How many times would you have abandoned Me, my son, if I had not crucified you. Beneath the cross, one learns love, and I do not give this to everyone, but only to those souls who are dearest to Me."
enough in families people can feel they are taken for granted. They do so much,
and others don’t seem to notice, or even care, much less help. The
same sort of thing happens sometimes in parishes. When volunteers are needed,
people think, “so-and-so will do it.” Always the same persons are expected to
comes a time when so-and-so can’t do it any more—or won’t—and either of two
things happens. The activity in question simply dies, or someone else responds
to the need, only to become the new “so-and-so” that gets tapped for
one likes being taken for granted. It’s
clear from today’s Gospel that Jesus doesn’t either. To avoid taking him for
granted, there are two very important things all Christians need to do.
really believe in Jesus. This is not
simply admiration for his goodness, or a general acceptance of his teaching.
That might seem to some to be “good enough” but it is not. Rather, it believing
in Jesus calls for a deep, strong, personal relationship with him, a solid
reliance on him, what our Evangelical brethren refer to as “claiming the Lord
Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.”
really follow Jesus. This is not some
vague membership, like a fan club, in which paying of dues, for example, might
be good enough. Today’s reading from Hebrews speaks five times about discipline.
The author exhorts his readers not to get discouraged, not to give up. These
times of testing will bring “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” We might
say, paraphrasing slightly the first reading, that this constitutes a kind of
cleansing, enabling us to “bring our offering to the house of the Lord in clean
cannot, may not, must not take Jesus for granted.
friend of mine recently met a former acquaintance, and addressed her by name.
The name was right, but the other woman didn’t remember her at all. The
encounter wasconfusing and mildly
embarrassing, but ultimately of no importance. It just goes to show that we
can’t simply take for granted that people remember us.
Gospel scene, on the other hand, is of vital importance. None of us wants to
come before the Lord only to hear him say, “Who are you that I should remember
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When women require excellence in relationships, men should step up to a challenge. Sleeping in the same bed before marriage is a disordered way to express your love for each other in a relationship that is not permanent. Marriage is the free, faithful, total and fruitful exchange of vows between a man and a woman. The more wholesome the dating and courtship period, the greater the chances of a happy and successful marriage. If a man is not ready to commit to a woman, he should not have access to her sexual emotions.
When a couple sleeps in the same bed, it points towards the marital act. To wait for marriage is to avoid this occasion of sin. Those who are married will have all their lives to fall asleep looking at their partner.
Cohabitation seems a good way to ‘test drive’ our marriage before making the full commitment. Since marriage is just a piece of paper, then surely it’s no big deal?
John Paul II said that freedom without responsibility is the opposite of love. The greater the sense of responsibility, the more a person is willing to give of themselves. Many studies show the damaging consequences of cohabitation. (footnote). The more often and longer a man and woman cohabit, the more likely they will divorce later. More than half of these unions dissolve within 5 years, according to a study by the Vanier Institute of the family. Cohabitants are more likely to be unfaithful and suffer from depression than married people. Children born to cohabitants are far more likely to experience disruptions in family life with possible mental and psychological upheavals.
Those that think that marriage is just a legal contract will be far more willing when difficulties arise to bail out and remember the conditionality of the contract. Cohabitation sets a bad precedent. In reality, it dissolves the traditional boundaries surrounding marriage.
Living together erodes the important time of discernment and preparation before marriage, helping couples decide if it is healthy and good for them to live together for the rest of their lives. A marriage cannot be test driven because it can only be entered in good faith and hope. There is no dress rehearsal, because a true marriage in the eyes of God cannot be undone. Engagement is the time to set solid foundation to help the strength of marriage, building up trust, co-operation, fidelity and companionship. Cohabitation undermines this trust because both partners are aware that it is perfectly possible for them to bail out at any point. This does not help in building up the virtues. It is an exercise of convenience rather than purity and true love.
JD Unwin, an anthropologist of the 1930s discovered that sexual license is always “the immediate cause of cultural decline.” He found that “In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on premarital and extramarital continence.” In every verifiable case, he found once a group became sexually permissive, “the energy of the society...decreased and finally disappeared.” Essentially- what is at stake over the culture wars over marriage and family is the healthy continuation of our society. He found that societies would collapse if they became too sexually permissive, because fewer and fewer citizens were concerned with the building up of the next generation and the righteousness of society.
Pope Francis will host a meeting of cardinals on September 30 to formally approve the canonization of Blesseds John Paul II and John XXIII; the date for the canonization will be announced at that time, said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says he came to
bring not peace but division, and he gives a short catalogue of family
conflicts. If this makes you uncomfortable, you are in good company. No one
likes this passage. After all, at every Mass we hear: “Lord
Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give
you.” In that context, today’s Gospel doesn’t make sense, some may even find it
offensive. Where’s the reconciliation we so often read about in the New
Testament? Matthew’s version of this saying is even
stronger:“Brother will hand over
brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against
parents and have them put to death.” This is not about dysfunctional
families, but about family crisis—caused by choice. It seems the stuff of
advice columns. But it’s not just any choice. Jeremiah
had enemies because he was saying what God told him to say, “Those
who remain in this city shall die by means of the sword, starvation, and
disease; but those who go out to the Chaldeans [i.e., surrender and go into
exile] shall live. Their lives shall be spared them as spoils of war that they
may live. Thus says the Lord: This city shall certainly be
handed over to the army of the king of Babylon; he shall capture it.” Jeremiah
was accused of demoralizing the soldiers. That is not surprising. It is the normal
reaction of leadership when any group protests against a war. Jesus
goes well beyond that. Here again Matthew is stronger: “You will be hated by
all because of my name... One’s enemies will be those of his household.” The choice is about Jesus. The name is that of Christian. Does this
mean you aren’t a good Christian unless someone hates you, unless you have
conflict? Clearly not. This text reflects situations in which some
acknowledged Jesus as Messiah and Savior and others did not. Historically, in
both Jewish and Gentile families, faith in Jesus commonly led to conflict and
persecution. In the twenty-first century, the main
source of conflict for Christians comes in the area of morality. Along with
many Christian Churches, the Catholic Church takes unpopular stands on major
moral issues. Her adversaries accuse her of meddling in politics, interfering
in peoples private lives, oppressing various groups, etc. It seems at times that anything negative
said about the Church will be simply accepted without question. This creates a
dizzying array of charges. The Church is both “inconsistent” and “legalistic;”
“contaminated by worldly values” and “too removed from the world;” she has too
much “sackcloth and ashes” and too much “pomp and ritualism.” No accusation is
off-limits. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in 1908: “Any stick [is] good enough to
beat Christianity with.” Well, as the saying goes, “It ain’t
easy. When Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I
give to you,” he added: “Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let
your hearts be troubled or afraid.” It is in that spirit that we can live
out the exhortation of today’s reading from Hebrews, to “persevere in running
the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader
and perfecter of faith.”
I have found a new way to go crazy in four
1. In the New Testament look up every
reference to the word “Faith” (depending on the translation, about 245, not
counting the word “believe”).
2. Do the same for “Hope” (about 60).
3. Find the passages in which “Faith”
and “Hope” appear in the same verse (7).
4. Try to figure out the real difference
between faith and hope.
Today’s second reading begins, “Faith is
the realization of what is hoped for,” which seems to indicate that hope comes
In the first reading, faith is described
in terms of knowledge based on oaths, then courage and waiting. But isn’t that
It gets worse. The first verse in the second goes on to say
that faith is “Evidence” —“of things not seen!” Isn’t that an oxymoron?
Over 450 years ago, a famous theologian
wrote: “The question occurs to us; What difference is there between faith and
hope? We find it difficult to see any difference.”
That didn’t stop him, of course, from
trying to figure it out. That’s what theologians do. He came up with the
following explanation, the best I have found.
Faith teaches, describes, directs. Hope
exhorts us to be strong and courageous.
Faith concentrates on the truth. Hope
looks to the goodness of God.
(Parenthesis: In the light of today’s
Gospel and the phrase of the Creed, “he shall come to judge the living and the
dead,” this distinction becomes clear. We believe that the judgment involves
punishment for some, but we certainly don’t hope for punishment for ourselves!)
Faith is a judge. It judges errors. Hope
is a soldier. It fights against tribulations and waits for better things to
come in the midst of evil.
Faith is the beginning of Christian life
before tribulation. Hope comes later and is born of tribulation.
Well, yes and no. It’s clear and
logical, but can’t be applied in any absolute way to every single New Testament
passage about Faith and Hope. The theologian, by the way, was Martin Luther.
The parenthesis was from St. Augustine,
who lived over 1100 years before Luther. Augustine includes love in the
equation. He writes, “There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and
neither love nor hope without faith.”
The purpose of this inquiry—and of
today’s gospel—is to remind us to live faith, live hope, live love.
So, what’s the difference? Here’s a clue
to the final answer, in the form of another question. Which came first—the
chicken or the egg?
Which comes first: faith, hope, or love?
Just live them all, and you’ll never need to ask.
I think Ecclesiastes had a favorite song. It was the ancient Hebrew
equivalent of “I’m forever blowing bubbles.” The refrain was: “Vanity of
vanities, and all is vanity!”
Is life worth living? Of course it is. Then what makes it worth living?
All we are really told in today’s readings is what doesn’tmake life worth
living. It is clearly not the accumulation of things. Greed is mentioned twice
in today’s readings as the opposite of what we should seek in life. Jesus suggests that there are other ways, good ways of being rich,
“Rich in what matters to God.” We can intuit what that might mean. St. Paul,
with another one of his lists, helps us to understand, again in a negative way,
what Jesus does not mean. But earlier
in the same text he writes, “Seek what is above.” And later he says we have “put
on a new self.” In the Old Testament, “rich” is often a synonym for “wicked, selfish,
cruel.” It is clear there is nothing wrong with having possessions. True, some
saints adopted a severe life style of extreme poverty; this was their response
(the only one possible for them) to the universal call to holiness. The Scriptures often reflect a society of haves and have-nots. We read,
for example, in Isaiah 58:5-8: “Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of
keeping a day of penance: that a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in
sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This,
rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the
thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing
your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing
the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your
light shall break forth like the dawn....” There is no one way to respond to the challenge of today’s readings.
But there has to be a way. There is surely a way for each of us, though it may not
be the way we might prefer. Suppose we lived in a society where no one was ever in need. The
challenge would still be there, wouldn’t it? To become rich in what matters to
God, instead of blowing pretty bubbles.