Sunday, January 22, 2017

For your Reading Enjoyment

From Catholic Exchange a great article I thought I would share.

Called and Chosen

Flick on the television, turn to the news, and notice how hopeless it all looks.  Terrorists kill hundreds and intimidate millions.  Government debt in the US and Europe balloons out of control and whole countries need to be bailed out.
Things did not appear much better in first century Galilee.  The king was an irreligious adulterer and a lackey of the hated Romans.  Traitorous tax collectors took a big cut of the little money people managed to earn.  The Sea of Galilee was really only a moderate sized lake and competition to catch its few fish was stiff.  Only two things were (and still are) inevitable: death and taxes.
Into this gloom steps someone whose face radiates hope, whose words penetrate to the heart.  To the people who live in the hellish kingdom of Herod, he announces that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
He walks the lakeshore alone.  But his mission is not to remain alone.  He has come to call people out of the darkness into the light.
This, by the way, is what the word “Church” really means.  The word “ek-klesia” in Greek means those who are “called out.”  To be a Christian means to belong to a group of people who leave behind a community of darkness with its tired way of life, to join a new community dedicated to a new, fresh way of living and an entirely different vision.  This does not mean necessarily withdrawing from family and friends, moving to the mountains, and waiting for the second coming.  That’s “cult,” not “Church.”
But neither does “Church” mean simply to attend mass once a week and subscribe to a list of dogmas.  To respond to Christ’s call to the Church means to be in the world, but not of it.  Not to be manipulated by the media.  Not to be motivated by the love of money, pleasure, power.  It means to “re-form your life.”  To allow your thinking and your pattern of life to be completely reorganized around the truth of God’s word.
Belonging to the Church does not just mean that you accept Jesus as Savior.  It means accepting Him also as Lord.  It does not mean welcoming Christ as part of your life.  It means making him the center of your life.
To respond to the call means to hand over the reins to Christ, trusting that he knows you better than you know yourself, and loves you more than you love yourself.  It means willing to change anything that He wants changed–from behavior, to ideas, to friends, to career.
Peter and Andrew were small businessmen, running a family fishing business.  Jesus had a different plan for their lives.  For them, the call meant leaving behind their career.  The same was true for James and John.  The four of them had the courage to respond, despite the cost, and the Church, the community of those “called out,” grew.
The Church has been growing ever since.  But the Lord’s call, also known as “vocation,” is different for each person.  When it came to me as a teen, it meant leaving behind my bass guitar and rock band to embrace the discipline of theological study.  It also mean turning off the TV to develop a life of prayer.  In my twenties, it meant surrendering the independence of single life to open my life to another in marriage, and to lovingly accept the gift of five children from God, with all the accompanying responsibilities, joys, and challenges.
The point is that a vocation is not just something that apostles, priests and religious have.  God has a unique and marvelous plan for each one of our lives that involves sacrifice and joys beyond our imaginings.  And this plan leads all of us to a realm far beyond the reach of death and taxes.  But to experience the adventure of the journey, and arrive at the destination, we have to accept the call.  And that always means being ready to re-form our lives.

The Homily

As we enter the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are reminded that when "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom" [Mt. 4:23] "the people saw a great light." [Is. 9:2]

Approximately 750 years before the birth of our Lord Jesus, the prophet Isaiah foretold that in "Galilee of the nations, the people will see a great light." [Is. 9:1] The people who heard the prophecy in those days perceived it to mean that the ideal Davidic king would come to Galilee, opening a new era of peace and justice.

Who would be the ideal Davidic king? In two chapters prior to today's reading in the Book of Isaiah, it is stated, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." [Is. 7:14] Speaking of the birth of Jesus as the Messiah, this same verse is echoed in the Gospel of Matthew. "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." [Mt. 1:23] Consequently, we can logically conclude that the promised ideal Davidic King that Isaiah referred to was our Lord Jesus.

Continuing with today's First Reading, [Is. 9:1-4] it was said, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined." [Is. 9:2] Similar words are found in the Gospel of John where it is stated, "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him." [Jn. 1:6- 11]

Speaking to His followers, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." [Jn. 8:12]

In the First Letter of John, we find a summary of the mission of the Lord Jesus as the Light of the world. "This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." [1 Jn. 1:5-7]

"Whoever says, 'I am in the Light,' while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the Light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling." [1 Jn. 2:9-10]

Today's Second Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians [1 Cor. 1:10-13, 17-18] reveals to us that walking in the Light means to be united in Christ. In this particular letter, St. Paul appealed to the Corinthians to be in agreement with each other, that there be no divisions among them. In the Catholic faith community where Christ is present, there should be perfect harmony among the believers because of their fellowship and unity with Christ.

As we have heard earlier, Chloe's people had reported to Paul that there "were quarrels among the brothers and sisters" [1 Cor. 1:11] in Corinth. This resulted from other missionaries and Jewish Christians coming to Corinth after Paul had left. Representing different movements, they agitated the Church. Now, instead of belonging to Christ, some believers claimed to belong to Paul, some to Apollos (the Alexandrian Jew converted to Christ at Ephesus by Aquila and Priscilla, [Acts 18;24-28] and others to Cephas. As you can imagine, the quarrels were leading to recrimination and sharp language.

It is no different today. There are still some who create division in the Church. There are some who claim that "there are Catholics and there are Catholics," they being the true Catholics because of their beliefs. Some believe that they no longer need Jesus Christ as their Saviour. As followers of the "God the Father" movement, they believe that they only have to call the word "Father" once in their lifetime and they will be saved. God the Father has become their Saviour. They no longer need the Sacraments of the Church!

There are others who believe that "they will be the new apostles for the renewal of the whole Church." [To The Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons, # 158] Unless one belongs to a Cenacle, he is a lost soul.

There are those who continue to organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje in complete disobedience to the local Bishop and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of faith, both having stated that no pilgrimages should be organizes to Medjugorje where unproven claims of apparitions have been made. Why do they continue to disobey the Church authorities? Because it is profitable for them to organize pilgrimages. It is profitable for them to sell books. It is profitable for them to sell religious objects.

Yesteryears, the believers claimed to belong to Paul, to Apollos, to Cephas, etc... Today, they claim to belong to John Leary, Sadie Jaramillo, Sandra Cummings, Vassula Ryden, Verinoca Lueken, etc... As sad as it is to say, when applicable, these believers ignore the proclamation of local Bishops who have condemned certain seers and their alleged apparition or locutions. These faithful have refused to believe, stating that the Bishops are in error because only the Pope is infallible. They will only believe when the Pope speaks on the subject.

As you can appreciate, there continues to be division in the Catholic Church. St. Paul said, "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose." [1 Cor. 1:10]

This is a serious appeal for unity based on the Christian profession of faith in the Lord Jesus. To be of the same mind and the same purpose, we must be in perfect agreement. No "if's" and "but's." We must be united in our thinking. We must fix our eyes on Christ. And we must accept the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies us through the Church Sacraments for the glory of the Heavenly Father. These are sound Catholic teachings that have been, are today, and shall be until the end of time. Such Divine teachings surpass the trends that come and go, the whims of those who are in the darkness.

Paul asked, "Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" [1 Cor. 1:13] I ask, "Was John Leary, Sadie Jaramillo, Sandra Cummings, Vassula Ryden, Verinoca Lueken or even Father Gobbi crucified for you? Were you baptized in their names or in the Most Holy Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?"

My brothers and sisters in Christ, there is only one Saviour, Jesus Christ who died on the cross for each and everyone of us. Through faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, we were incorporated into the one Body of Christ, not this one's movement or that one's movement. There is one Body of Catholics, not two. Those who believe that there are Catholics and then there are Catholics, are so full of pride that they have been blinded by their sin. First came pride which was followed by disobedience. Then came a hardening of the heart so that no truth could any longer be heard. Finally, criticizing the local Bishops or Church authorities became the common practice. I ask you, "Is this of God?" "Is this the Light of Christ?" "Is this the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit?"

As St. Paul said, "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." [1 Cor. 1:18] On this subject, St. Thomas Aquinas commented that men are accustomed to regard as foolishness whatever surpasses their understanding. Is this what is happening when one prefers sensations versus hearing the Word of God that is being preached? The grace of God does not flow through sensations. But it does flow through the preaching of the Holy Scriptures.

Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God is of utmost importance. For how can someone believe in Jesus if they have never heard of Him? And how can they hear if no one proclaims Him? [Rom. 10:14-5]

Today's Gospel Reading [Mt. 4:12-23] made us realize that what was prophesied by Isaiah was fulfilled through Jesus. After John the Baptist had been imprisoned by Herod Antipas, as prophesied, Jesus withdrew "to Galilee" [Is. 9:1; Mt. 4:12] and began His own proclamation.

Why did Jesus make His home in the larger city of Capernaum? Most likely it is because in the days of the New Testament, the western shore of the sea was occupied by many small but prosperous cities and towns. This provided Jesus with the opportunity of ministering to a large number of souls within a reasonable walking distance.

Many came to hear the message of Jesus, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." [Mt. 4:17] They followed Jesus wherever He went. When Jesus preached, they sat and listened carefully to every word that He said. By the Word of God, they were lifted out of the shadow of death, the Light of God having dawned on them.

Some may have noticed that in the Gospel of Matthew, it is stated that Jesus proclaimed the "Kingdom of Heaven." In the Gospel of Mark, it is stated that Jesus proclaimed the "Kingdom of God." Why the difference? The reason for this is because when Jewish people spoke, they avoided using the Name of God or any Divine titles. At the same time, in both Gospels, the proper translation of the word "kingdom" would yield the word "reign." Both, the "reign of God" or the "reign of Heaven" render the same message.

Today's Gospel Reading concluded by telling us that Jesus recruited Simon, who is called Peter, his brother Andrew, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. When each and everyone of them were called, they immediately left their fishing nets, and followed Jesus. They even left their families to become disciples of Christ.

From then on, "Jesus travelled throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people." [Mt. 4:23] Equally today, the Word of God, the promoting of the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven, heals all kinds of ills. The Word of God transforms the hearts so victims may forgive their transgressors, those who have physically abused them, those who have sexually abused them and those who have psychologically abuse them.

When we received the Sacrament of Confirmation, we were sent forward to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and to defend the Catholic faith. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus to give us the strength and perseverance to answer His calling so we may faithfully serve the Lord according to His Divine Will.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1IS 8:23—9:3

First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun
and the land of Naphtali;
but in the end he has glorified the seaward road,
the land west of the Jordan,
the District of the Gentiles.

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:
for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom 
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

Responsorial PsalmPS 27:1, 4, 13-14

R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life's refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD. 
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Reading 21 COR 1:10-13, 17

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that all of you agree in what you say,
and that there be no divisions among you,
but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.
For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters,
by Chloe's people, that there are rivalries among you.
I mean that each of you is saying,
"I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," 
or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ."
Is Christ divided?
Was Paul crucified for you?
Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel,
and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,
so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

AlleluiaMT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMT 4:12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death 
light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
"Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men."
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.
He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people.

Prayers to Start the Day

Lord Jesus, your ways are life and light! Let your word penetrate my heart and transform my mind that I may see your power and glory. Help me to choose your ways and to do what is pleasing to you.

Jesus, what a beautiful day in the life of your disciples:  you walked along the shore and called them! I wish to respond to your gentle call in the same way they did. I know that you will never lead me astray; rather, you will protect me and lead me home to heaven. Here I am Lord, at your service.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Homily for Today

"To those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..." [1 Cor. 1:2] This passage of the Holy Bible prepares us next week that will begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us that the mission of the Church embraces a requirement of its catholicity. "The Church's mission stimulates efforts towards Christian unity. [RMiss 50] Indeed, 'divisions among Christians prevent the Church from realizing in practice the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her sons who, though joined to her by Baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her. Furthermore, the Church herself finds it more difficult to express in actual life her full catholicity in all its aspects.'" [UR 4 # 8] (C.C.C. # 855)

During today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah, [Is. 49:3, 5-6] the chapter opened with the second of the Suffering Servant Songs, this one being addressed to the Gentile nations. The Lord expressed His love for Israel, indicating that through that nation, He the Lord would be glorified. [Is. 49:3] Through Israel, the grace of God would shine forth worldwide.

Through Isaiah, the Lord prophesied that He would bring Jacob back to Him, uniting it with Israel in order that both people may be united as one. This prophecy would be fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the Servant of God, who would be formed in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. [Is. 49:3] As biblical history tells us and our recent celebration of Christmas, by the birth of the Lord Jesus within the Jewish people, its tribes were united as one people.

In His infinite Wisdom, the Heavenly Father saw that it was "too small a thing that Jesus should be His Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel." [Is. 49:6] Not only would Jesus be given as a light to the Jewish people, but also to all the nations, that His salvation may reach to the end of the earth. [Is. 49:6] This objective of the Heavenly Father, an act of grace, love and mercy, set in motion the progressive Divine Plan that would implement the ministry of salvation to all mankind.

Today's Second Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians [1 Cor. 1:1-3] affirms that it is the Divine Will of God that His people be united. Through St. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, [1 Cor. 1:1] the Church of Corinth was urged to be united. While thouching on the subject of St. Paul, it should be noted that while he was not one of the twelve apostles, he was an authentic apostle by virtue of His Divine Calling.

St. Paul emphasized that by virtue of their Baptism into Christ Whom God had made our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, [1 Cor. 1:30, 6:11] the faithful are called to be saints with those of every place. By their admission into the Body of Christ through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism, the faithful are "a priestly kingdom and a holy nation" [Exo. 19:6] just as Israel was a holy nation by Divine election. In Christ, the faithful compose the Israel of God, forming a sacred assembly, the community of the Lord.

This truth is further affirmed by the words of Paul where he states, "together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours." [1 Cor. 1:2] To call on the name of the Lord as seen in the Old Testament is an expression of faithful unity in adoration. [Ps. 99:6; Joel 2:32]

Speaking to the Church of Corinth, St. Paul emphasized to the local faith community that it must be united together with all those in every place, those of the universal Church. This was stressed because of the division that existed in the Christian community of Corinth. The believers were called to be united with both their Lord and the Lord of the others, this meaning that both, the God of the universal Church and the God of the local Church of Corinth was the One and same God. Furthermore, the unity of the faithful was identified by their common adoration of Christ.

The Second reading concludes with the statement, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." [1 Cor. 1:3] As some of you may be aware, the standard salutation in many of the letters of St. Paul expresses a desire of grace and peace upon the believers. The expression of grace echoes the gracious goodness of God. Peace is the fruit of the salvation that God gave us through Christ. It includes the forgiveness of sins and our reconciliation with God as well as harmony with others for the successful unity of the Body of Christ. While we strive for peace, it must be realized that perfect peace will only be realized when the redemptive work of Christ is completed, at His final coming.

After the Last Supper, Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father of you and I. He said, "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. I ask not only on behalf of these (the Apostles) but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one. As You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, may they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. The glory that You have given Me I have given them, so that they may be one, as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me." [Jn. 17:19-23]

Because of the perfect unity of the Father and the Son, this including the obedience of the Son to the Father, at the Baptism of Jesus, the Heavenly Father said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." [Mt. 3:17] God is pleased with those who obey the teachings of the Lord Jesus, those who are of one mind.

When we speak of Christian unity, we speak of two things. We speak of (1) unity within the Holy Catholic Church and of (2) unity of the Christians of different denominations.

Unity within the Church can only be achieved when the faithful are obedient to their pastors, their Bishops and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. To be in unity with the Church means to accept and defend all the teachings of the Church without exception. It does not mean to take what one likes and to reject what one dislikes. Rejection leads to division and disharmony, such being the fruit of Satan who seeks to destroy the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that was instituted by Christ on earth.

Since Vatican II, in the spirit of Ecumenism, much human effort has been placed towards reuniting our separated brothers and sisters from different denominations so we may all be one in Christ. Were these efforts the fruits of Ecumenism?

In defining Ecumenism, the Catholic Church states, "Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time." [UR 4 # 3.] Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: "That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us,... so that the world may know that you have sent me." [Jn 17:21; Heb 7:25.] The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit. [Cf. UR 1.]" (C.C.C. # 820)

To effectively help to bring about Christian unity, we are called to personally commit ourselves to walk in harmony with the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church.

We are called to live holier lives according to the teachings of the Gospel.

We are called to have a change of heart through an openness of mind so we may pray in private and together for the unity of Christians as Jesus intended it to be.

We are called to learn about each other so we may have an true understanding of each other, where we are coming from, what we believe, and what we hope for.

We are called to ensure that our priests, our shepherds, have a full understanding of the ecumenical goal of the Church so they may lead the faithful accordingly.

We are encouraged to meet the Christians of different Churches and communities for the purpose of knowing and understanding one another. Our theologians are encouraged to meet with the different Churches and communities to know and understand the teachings of one another in the hope of determining if we are saying the same time but in different ways. If we are not saying the same thing, may both parties seek to understand what the other one is saying so the truth may be understood in the unity of the Spirit of Christ.

And finally, where services are provided to mankind, be it in teaching, nursing, helping the poor, we are called to work with one another.

In simple words, we are called to truly shine in the love of Jesus by acting as civilized human beings towards one another. The days of declaring war between Catholics and non-Catholics are finished. The days of refusing to talk to someone because he was a non-Catholic are finished. With such behaviours, there never was and never will be any hope of unity. By communicating with one another as true Christians and by educating ourselves regarding the beliefs of other Churches, we are opening the door for the Spirit of Christ to truly unite us in one mind according to His Divine Plan.

According to number 821 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Certain things are required in order to respond adequately to this call. There must be:

(1) "a permanent renewal of the Church in greater fidelity to her vocation; such renewal is the driving-force of the movement toward unity; [Cf. UR 6.]"

(2) "a conversion of heart as the faithful 'try to live holier lives according to the Gospel'; [UR 7 # 3.] for it is the unfaithfulness of the members to Christ's gift which causes divisions;"

(3) "prayer in common, because 'change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name 'spiritual ecumenism;'' [UR 8 # 1.]"

In accordance with the Canon Law, prayer in common excludes Catholics from partaking in the communion of non-Catholic faiths and vice-versa. Because non-Catholic faiths do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, they are to be excluded this Sacrament. And Catholics cannot receive communion in any non-Catholic faiths because they do not believe in the Real Presence. To do so, it would mean that the Catholic is denying his faith and he approves of the non-Catholic belief.

(4) "a fraternal knowledge of each other; [Cf. UR 9.]"

(5) "an ecumenical formation of the faithful and especially of priests; [Cf. UR 10.]"

(6) "dialogue among theologians and meetings among Christians of the different churches and communities; [Cf. UR 4; 9; 11.]"

(7) "collaboration among Christians in various areas of service to mankind. [Cf. UR 12.]"

Once all these guidelines have been obeyed, the question remains, "Can we really become united one day when we consider the fact that our interpretations of the Gospel are so far apart?"

The Catholic Church realizes that the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ transcends all human powers and gifts. This can only be miraculously achieved by the grace of the heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus. For the unity of the Churches to be fulfilled, as individuals and Churches, in the love of Jesus, we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit to allow Him to manifest His transforming power.

"Concern for achieving unity 'involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike.' [UR 5.] But we must realize 'that this holy objective - the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ - transcends human powers and gifts.' That is why we place all our hope 'in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.' [UR 24 # 2.]" (C.C.C. # 822)

In the spirit of Ecumenism, are we to accept the beliefs of our separated brothers and sisters on equal terms as we accept the teachings of the Catholic Church? No, not all Churches are equal! The Second Vatican Council decreed that the fullness of the means of salvation can only be obtained in the Holy Catholic Church.

"The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Saviour, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. [LG 8 # 2.]" (C.C.C. # 816)

The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: "For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God. [UR 3 # 5.]" This truth was reaffirmed on September 5, 2000 when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the document "Dominus Jesus."

In the spirit of Ecumenism, can we now attend the Breaking of the Bread at the services of our separated brothers and sisters and can they now participate in our celebrations of the Holy Mass by receiving the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist? No. In the spirit of Ecumenism, our Catholic faith cannot be compromised. If a non-Catholic was to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist without having been properly prepared through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Confession, and if his belief rejects the continued and true Divine Presence of Jesus Christ in the Consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, then the reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist by a non-Catholic always has been and always shall be a Sacrilege.

In similarity, if a Catholic partakes in the breaking of the bread at the service of a non-Catholic Church while knowing that his separated brothers and sisters do not believe in the continued and true Divine Presence of Jesus during the Consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, by embracing their belief through participation, he is renouncing his Catholic belief.

The truth cannot be compromised! Either one's Catholic belief is the truth or the belief of the other Church is the truth. The faithful Catholic must accept one (their faith) and reject the other (non-Catholic beliefs). Many Catholics fail to perceive this limitation that exists in Ecumenism. In seeking to bring about a man-made unity, they compromise their faith and permit all forms of liturgical scandals to take place. They personally take it upon themselves to change the face of sound Catholic doctrines to accommodate and please their separated brothers and sisters in Christ.

In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul states, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examines yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves." [1 Cor. 11:27-9]

To receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we must be in a state of grace. To be in a state of grace, we must receive the Sacrament of Confession. If our separated brothers and sisters do not believe in the Sacrament of Confession, how can they receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in a state of grace? They cannot! Therefore, to approach the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in a state of sin, possibly even mortal sin, it is a sacrilege.

The spirit of Ecumenism, as explained above, does not include, and the Catholic Church forbids, the abandoning of one's Catholic faith. The unity that is longed for shall never be achieved by man's control or influence! As previously said, Christian unity transcends human powers and gifts. It can only be achieved through the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit. The obligation of the Christian community is to open the door for the Holy Spirit to move. This can only be achieved through a sincere commitment to peace towards one another, through an openness to communication, knowledge and understanding of each other, and through a willingness to work alongside one another in the love of Jesus Christ.

Does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say anything else about ecumenism or Christian unity? Yes. Numbers 817 to 819 (of the C.C.C.) should be read to gain a greater understanding of how the Catholic Church views the status of our separated brothers and sisters. They are not to be blamed for the sin of their forefathers that led to divisions, schisms, heresies and disputes. Some of the separated Churches possess many elements of sanctification and truth (the Holy Bible, life of grace, gifts of the Holy Spirit.) that find their origin in the Roman Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit uses the elements of sanctification and truth to lead the believers towards the fullness of grace and salvation that are found in the Holy Catholic Church.

"In fact, 'in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame.'[UR 3 # 1] The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism [Cf. CIC, can. 751.] - do not occur without human sin:" "Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers. [Origen, Hom. in Ezech. 9, 1: PG 13, 732.]" (C.C.C. # 817)

"However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers... All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church. [UR 3 # 1.]" (C.C.C. # 818)

"Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth" [LG 8 # 2.] are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: 'the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.' [UR 3 # 2; cf. LG 15.] Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, [Cf. UR 3.] and are in themselves calls to 'Catholic unity.' [Cf. LG 8.]" (C.C.C. # 819)

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this week, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will bless us with a true understanding of Christian Unity and Ecumenism so we may prepare ourselves for the week of Christian Unity that will begin next Sunday.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Is 49:3, 5-6

The LORD said to me: You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

R. (8a and 9a) Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, "Behold I come."
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
"In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!"
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Reading 2 1 Cor 1:1-3

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and Sosthenes our brother,
to the church of God that is in Corinth,
to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy,
with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Alleluia Jn 1:14a, 12a

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
To those who accepted him,
he gave power to become children of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
'A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.'
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel."
John testified further, saying,
"I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."

Prayer forToday

Jesus, thank you for this opportunity to be with you, my Lord and my God. You always seek me first. Even my desire to encounter you is a fruit of your love for me, of the action of your grace in my heart. I trust that this day will be filled with the graces I need to respond generously to your call to holiness and to be your apostle.

 Thank you for always coming toward me, Lord. Thank you for your love for me. At times I don’t know what you see in me, Lord, but even in my weakness and sinfulness I want to return love with love. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, help my love for you to be bold and ardent.