Pope Francis made a brief but extremely important pastoral visit to the United Arab Emirates from February 3-5, 2019. It was the first time a Roman Pontiff had visited this country where only 10 percent of the populace is Catholic and, for the most part, everyone else is Muslim. At this time when so much of the world thinks only negatively of Islam and Muslims, Pope Francis has emphasized that the issues of religious freedom, cooperation among peoples of differing religious traditions, a desire for peace, and respect for all people regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs.. He came to this land as a pilgrim, he prayed with the people, and he offered hope and good faith in the messages he brought. He also celebrated Eucharist with the 130,000 Catholics—mainly foreign-born families who live there for work-related reasons.
While he was there, he spoke to the Global Conference on Human Fraternity being held in Abu Dhabi. In his speech, Pope Francis emphasized that “no violence can be justified in the name of religion,” and he referred to the long-ago meeting of a Saint and a Sultan. “With a heart grateful to the Lord, in this eighth centenary of the meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al Kamil, I have welcomed the opportunity to come here as a believer thirsting for peace, as a brother seeking peace with the brethren. We are here to desire peace, to promote peace, to be instruments of peace.”
The Holy Father drew a distinction between “fraternity” and “individualism,” which can encourage a desire to put “oneself and one’s group above others.” “True religious piety consists in loving God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbor as oneself,” the Pope explained. “Religious behavior, therefore, needs continually to be purified from the recurrent temptation to judge others as enemies and adversaries. Each belief system is called to overcome the divide between friends and enemies in order to take up the perspective of heaven, which embraces persons without privilege or discrimination.”
Freedom of religion goes beyond “freedom of worship” and involves seeing others truly as brothers and sisters. “There is no alternative: we will either build the future together, or there will not be a future. Religions, in particular, cannot renounce the urgent task of building bridges between persons and cultures. The time has come when religions should more actively exert themselves, with courage and audacity, and without pretence, to help the human family deepen the capacity for reconciliation, the vision of hope, and the concrete paths of peace.”
The Holy Father concluded with an appeal to ending war, which he said should be returned to its “miserable crudeness.” In particular, he cited the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Libya.
Lastly, both Pope Francis and the Grand Iman of Al-Azhar Ahamad al-Tayyib signed the Document entitled “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” which lay out the following principles to live by for the future:
--The firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace.
--Freedom is a right of every person.
--Justice based on mercy is the path to follow in order to achieve a dignified life to which every human being has a right.
--Dialogue, understanding, and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others, and of living together peacefully would contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity.
--Dialogue among believers means coming together in the vast space of spiritual, human, and shared social values and, from here, transmitting the highest moral virtues that religions aim for; it also means avoiding unproductive discussions.
--The protection of places of worship—synagogues, churches and mosques—is a duty guaranteed by religions, human values, laws, and international agreements. Every attempt to attack places of worship or threaten them by violent assaults, burnings or destruction is a deviation from the teachings of religions as well as a clear violation of international law.
--Terrorism is deplorable and threatens the security of people, be they in East or West, the North or the South, and disseminates panic, terror and pessimism, but this is not due to religion, even when terrorists instrumentalize it.
--The concept of citizenship is based on the equality of rights and duties, under which all enjoy justice.
--Good relations between East and West are indisputably necessary for both.
--It is an essential requirement to recognize the right of women to education and employment and to recognize their freedom to exercise their own political rights.
--The protection of the fundamental rights of children to grow up in a family environment, to receive nutrition, education, and support are duties of the family and society.
--The protection of the rights of the elderly, the weak, the disabled, and the oppressed is a religious and social obligation that must be guaranteed and defended through strict legislation and the implementation of the relevant international agreements.
Some individuals and organizations have criticized Pope Francis for going to the United Arab Emarites, and especially for co-signing the above document with the Moslem leader. However, when one reads exactly what the document contains and asks for among all nations and world religions, it is difficult to understand how these principles are not founded on Christian values and would lead to much better relationships between parties.
SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Many consider mercy to be the same as pity and that being merciful can make one feel superior to the offender. Today’s Scripture readings, though, invite us to a more nuanced understanding of mercy that we must aspire to, if our lives are to be holy.
In the First Reading, we hear a story about King Saul, who with his army was seeking to kill David because Saul was jealous of David’s popularity among the people. In a strange turn of events, Saul and his commanders make camp very near where David and his troops are hiding. Thus, David and Abishai enter Saul’s camp and even his tent in the middle of the night. Abishai suggests that they should kill Saul on the spot, but they choose not to do so because, as David says, Saul is God’s anointed. Only God can raise a hand against him.
Today’s Gospel, which is part of Luke’s sermon on the plain, is a teaching on loving one’s enemies. From a practical point of view, we are told that we should treat others as we would want to be treated. More importantly, from a God-centered point of view, we are told to be merciful like our heavenly Father, who is kind to everyone, even the ungrateful and the wicked. The Greek word translated as “kind” is chrestos, meaning “useful” or “kindly.” Ironically, it was a common name for slaves in the ancient world.
In Today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his listeners how to be his followers when he says, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that our words and actions say who we are and that we exhibit the quality of our reverence for human dignity (#1700) in these basic ways: preserving and cherishing the family as the original cell of social life (#2207); protecting human life (#2258); maintaining integrity in the powers of life and love planted in us (#2338); respecting and protecting creation (#2415), and living in truth and purity (##2465,2517, 2535).
For Your Reflection: When have you shown mercy when it may have seemed undeserved? Do you think of yourself as bearing the image of God? “For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” Who does that statement demand that you love?
2019 ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL
“Come, Follow Me…and Share the Word”
This weekend, our parish will be conducting the Annual Catholic Appeal in-pew Commitment Weekend. Please remember that the Annual Catholic Appeal is much different than a one-time special collection. It is a pledge campaign where you can make a gift payable in installments.
The Annual Catholic Appeal theme, “Come, Follow Me…and Share the Word,” was selected to remind us to continue to answer Jesus’ call to follow him in thought, word and deed by providing the necessary contribution to fund ministries and services to share God’s love with many others in our parish and our Archdiocese.
Each pledge makes a difference! All parish communities participate in the campaign, and the gifts of many enable our parishes, schools, and ministries to deliver needed services. Thank you for your prayerful consideration and generous response.
ORDINARY LIVES, EXTRAORDINARY MISSION
An excerpt from the above book by John R. Wood
“How we approach God is important. God isn’t a machine or a lifeless list of laws. It is important to think of him as a friend, a father, a mentor, and a coach. Evangelical Christians have seemed to coin the phrase ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ.’ As Catholics, we need to learn from their zeal and desire for a relationship with God. In the Catholic Church, we have all the tools, sacraments, ceremonies, ‘smells and bells,’ sights, sounds, and beautiful traditions. All provide us more opportunities to experience the collision of heaven and earth, to not just learn about God, but to physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually experience God.
“Yet every Sunday we may just go through the motions like robots, with no zeal and no passion. That takes the greatest story in the history of the world and makes it boring. We so often take the form of religion but deny the power of it. God can only change us if we approach him as if he is a trusted friend and loving father. We must stop falling for the lies of the serpent who tries to convince us that God does not love us. A relationship is a two-way street, involving speaking and listening, spending time together, revealing ourselves, and sharing our hopes, dreams, fears, joy, struggles, and desires” (p. 141).
ADORATION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
Things really can get hectic at this time of the year—too much to do and too little time to accomplish them. Why not stop into St. Peter’s once or twice this week during the afternoon between 1:45 and 4:45 to spend ten to fifteen minutes before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar? You don’t have to say all kinds of prayers; in fact, I would highly recommend that you don’t say any specific prayers during your visit. Just come in, leave the chaos on the streets and sidewalks, quiet down in the peacefulness, and then allow the Lord to touch your heart in the way He sees fit. You’ll be glad you did, and you will find that this Advent hiatus goes a long way to preparing you for the true meaning of Christmas!
SAINT PETER’S MEN’S GROUP
You may not be aware that every Monday evening at 5:00 P.M. we have a meeting down in the auditorium called “Saint Peter’s Men’s Group.” You will find it listed every week in the bulletin in the Activities section. This group has been meeting for many years and has played a great part in the lives of many men who have been coming together for support and assistance as they grow and mature. The primary reason for the group’s existence is for men who are dealing with some aspect of sexual addiction: it could be pornography, masturbation, marital infidelity, visiting adult book stores, seeking massage for something other than relief of sore muscles, feeling sexual temptations to be too much to handle, etc.
At a meeting you will find you are not alone in what you are dealing with; others have been struggling with the same problems. You will also find individuals who can testify that there is hope because they are now free of their subjection to addiction. There will also be persons who are willing to be your sponsor, and you will find all this done in an atmosphere of confidentiality, spirituality and Christian love of neighbor. We invite anyone to try this Men’s Group who wants to get better. That’s Mondays at 5:00 P.M. in the St. Clare Auditorium. Spending this hour a week could very well save your life and save your marriage.
A CHUCKLE TO PREPARE FOR LENT
Two little boys, ages 8 and 10, were excessively mischievous. They were always getting into trouble, and their parents knew if any mischief occurred in their town, their two boys were probably involved.
The boys’ mother heard that a preacher in town had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her boys. The preacher agreed, but he asked to see them individually.
The mother sent the 8-year-old in the morning, and the older boy was to see the preacher in the afternoon. The preacher, a huge man with a deep booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, “Do you know where God is, son?”
The boy made no response, sitting there wide-eyed with his mouth hanging open. So the preacher repeated the question in an even sterner tone, “Where is God?” Again, the boy made no attempt to answer. The preacher than shook his finger in the boy’s face and bellowed, “WHERE is GOD?”
The boy screamed, bolted from the room, ran directly home, and dove into his closet, slamming the door behind him. When his older brother found him in the closet, he asked, “What happened?”
The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied, “We are in BIG trouble this time! GOD is missing, and they think WE did it!”