January 28, 2018

Some of us may not be aware that 183 nations have diplomatic ties with the Holy See, i.e. have an official representative who intersects for a variety of reasons with the Vatican City state. Once a year, usually shortly after the New Year, these diplomats are invited to come to the Vatican for a conversation with the Pope at which he gives a “State of the World” presentation based on what he sees as important events happening around the world and a commentary on their importance mainly from a Christian perspective. This year that gathering took place on Monday, January 8, 2018. I would like to quote a few passages from the Pope’s message for your reflection. If you would like to read the entire presentation, you may go to www.whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com.

 

“This year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War, a conflict that reconfigured the face of Europe and the entire world with the emergence of new states in place of ancient empires. From the ashes of the Great War, we can learn two lessons that, sad to say, humanity did not immediately grasp, leading within the space of twenty years to a new and even more devastating conflict. The first lesson is that victory never means humiliating a defeated foe. Peace is not built by vaunting the power of the victor over the vanquished. Future acts of aggression are not deterred by the law of fear, but rather by the power of calm reason that encourages dialogue and mutual understanding as a means of resolving differences.

 

“This leads to a second lesson: peace is consolidated when nations can discuss matters on equal terms. This was grasped a hundred years ago—on this very date—by the then President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, who proposed the establishment of a general league of nations with the aim of promoting for all states, great and small alike, mutual guarantees of independence and territorial integrity. This laid the theoretical basis for multilateral diplomacy, which has gradually acquired over time an increased role and influence in the international community as a whole.

 

“Relations between nations, like all human relationships, must likewise be harmonized in accordance with the dictates of truth, justice, willing cooperation, and freedom. This entails the principle that all states are by nature equal in dignity, as well as the acknowledgement of one another’s rights and the fulfillment of their respective duties. The basic premise of this approach is the recognition of the dignity of the human person, since disregard and contempt for that dignity resulted in barbarous acts that have outraged the conscience of mankind. Indeed, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms, ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’….

 

“Defending the right to life also entails actively striving for peace, universally recognized as one of the supreme values to be sought and defended. Yet serious local conflicts continue to flare up in various parts of the world. The collective efforts of the international community, the humanitarian activities of international organizations and the constant pleas for peace arising from lands rent by violence seem to be less and less effective in the face of war’s perverse logic. This scenario cannot be allowed to diminish our desire and our efforts for peace. For without peace, integral human development becomes unsustainable.

 

“Integral disarmament and integral development are intertwined. Indeed, the quest for peace as a precondition for development requires battling injustice and eliminating, in a non-violent way, the causes of discord that lead to wars. The proliferation of weapons clearly aggravates situations of conflict and entails enormous human and material costs that undermine development and the search for lasting peace. The historic result achieved last year with the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference for negotiating a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear arms, shows how lively the desire for peace continues to be. The promotion of a culture of peace for integral development calls for unremitting efforts in favor of disarmament and the reduction of recourse to the use of armed force in the handling of international affairs. I would therefore like to encourage a serene and wide-ranging debate on the subject, one that avoids polarizing the international community on such a sensitive issue. Every effort in this direction, however modest, represents an important step for mankind….

 

“The Holy See therefore reiterates the firm conviction ‘that any disputes which may arise between nations must be resolved by negotiation and agreement, not by recourse to arms.’ The constant production of ever more advanced and ‘refined’ weaponry, and dragging on of numerous conflicts—what I have referred to as ‘a third world war fought piecemeal’—lead us to reaffirm Pope John’s statement that ‘in this age which boasts of its atomic power, it no longer makes sense to maintain that war is a fit instrument with which to repair the violation of justice. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that, by establishing contact with one another and by a policy of negotiation, nations will come to a better recognition of the natural ties that bind them together as men. We are hopeful, too, that they will come to a fairer realization of one of the cardinal duties deriving from our common nature: namely, that love, not fear, must dominate the relationships between individuals and between nations. It is principally characteristic of love that it draws men together in all sorts of ways, sincerely united in the bonds of mind and matter; and this is a union from which countless blessings can flow.’

 

“In this regard, it is of paramount importance to support every effort at dialogue on the Korean peninsula, in order to find new ways of overcoming the current disputes, increasing mutual trust and ensuring a peaceful future for the Korean people and the entire world.”

 

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

Today’s readings speak to us about why God chose to come to us in human form in the person of Jesus. The First Reading is part of a very long speech presented as if given by Moses before the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land after their Exodus from slavery and their long journey. In the verses we hear today, the author is describing the role of the prophets in the land of Israel. They will be the mediators between God and the people at the appropriate time, and they will speak God’s Word to the people. Thus the prophet is given to humans as an accommodation, since the people cannot endure regular, direct encounters with God like the ones they experienced during the Exodus. Christians later reinterpreted this idea of a “prophet like Moses” as fulfilled in Jesus, the prophet par excellence.

 

In today’s Gospel, we hear of Jesus’ first miracle as told in Mark’s Gospel—the story of Jesus driving an unclean spirit out of a man. Ancients believed that certain diseases were caused by unclean spirits inhabiting the person. Mark shapes the meaning of this story by giving it a rather lengthy introduction and conclusion. “What is this? A new teaching with authority?” The story prompts us to ask about the source of Jesus’ authority both in speech and in action. Notice the irony—that the unclean spirit is the one who reveals Jesus’ true identity! Why is that?

 

Jesus speaks with “authority.” God has sent people into our lives who also speak with authority. Sometimes, it is tempting to discount those who have responsibility to guide, counsel, and lead us in the ways of God. Care must be taken not to outright dismiss authority because another way seems advantageous. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Fourth Commandment directs that we honor our father and mother and all who receive authority from God for the good of society. Those in authority also have certain duties (##2197-2257).

 

For Your Reflection: How does Christ’s coming into the world affect your prayer life? In the midst of your daily distractions, how do you make room for God? Why do you believe in God, even if you have not been witness to a miracle?

 

FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD

Friday, February 2, 2018

 

According to the Jewish law, the firstborn male child belonged to God, and the parents had to “buy him back” on the 40th day after his birth by offering a sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Lk 2:24) in the Temple (thus the presentation of the child). On that same day, the mother would be ritually purified (thus the purification). Mary and Joseph kept the Law even though, since Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus, she would not have had to go through ritual purification.

 

When Christ was presented in the Temple, there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple, Simeon embraced the Child and prayed the Canticle of Simeon: “Now you may dismiss your servant, Lord, according to your word in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel (Lk 2:29-32).

 

Pope John Paul II also proclaimed February 2, the Feast of the Presentation, as a special day to remember those who had dedicated themselves as consecrated persons—religious priests, brothers, sisters, consecrated virgins and hermits. Just as Jesus was dedicated to his role through the ceremony in the Temple, so too men and women who live a vowed life dedicate themselves to the Lord and to the Church.

 

We invite you to join us this Friday, February 2, for a Solemn Mass at 11:40 A.M. Please note that there will be no 12:15 Mass on this Thursday since the Solemn Mass will still be taking place. We also will be having Solemn Vespers in church at 5:40 P.M. on this feast. Once again I encourage everyone who comes to St. Peter’s to continue praying for all consecrated persons, especially the Franciscan Friars who staff St. Peter’s,  and for many more vocations to this way of life in the Church.

 

FEAST OF ST. BLASÉ (Blaise)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

 

We know more about the devotion to St. Blasé by Christians around the world than we know about the saint himself. We know that Bishop Blasé was martyred in the Episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, in 316. The legendary Acts of St. Blasé were written 400 years later. According to them, Blasé was born into a rich and noble family who raised him as a Christian. He was a good bishop, working hard to encourage the spiritual and physical health of his people. Although the Edict of Toleration (311), granting freedom of worship in the Roman Empire, was already five years old, persecution still raged in Armenia. Blasé was apparently forced to flee to the back country. There he lived as a hermit in solitude and prayer, but he made friends with the wild animals and supposedly could walk among them unafraid, curing their illnesses.

 

One day a group of hunters seeking wild animals for the amphitheater stumbled upon Blasé’s cave. They were first surprised and then frightened. The bishop was kneeling in prayer surrounded by patiently waiting wolves, lions and bears. As the hunters hauled Blasé off to prison, the legend has it that a mother came with her young son who had a fish bone lodged in his throat. At Blasé’s command the child was able to cough up the bone.

 

Agricolaus, governor of Cappadocia, tried to persuade Blasé to sacrifice to pagan idols. The first time Blasé refused, he was beaten. The next time he was suspended from a tree and his flesh torn with iron combs or rakes. (English wool combers, who used similar iron combs, took Blasé as their patron. They could easily appreciate the agony the saint underwent.) Finally Blasé was beheaded.

 

Since this year the Feast of St. Blasé occurs on a Saturday, here at St. Peter’s we will offer the St. Blasé Blessing after each of the weekday Masses on Monday, February 5. If you cannot make it to one of the Masses, you may receive the blessing at the front office during the regularly scheduled hours on Monday.

 

2018 ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL

“Come, Follow Me”

 

Please spend some time this week reflecting on the Annual Catholic Appeal brochure you picked up at church. 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 for 2018 is “Come, Follow Me.” Each pledge makes a difference because all parishes participate in the campaign and the gifts of many enable our Archdiocese to deliver needed ministries and services to answer Jesus’ call to “Come, Follow Me.”

 

After our parish goal of $13,582 is reached in cash, 100% of any additional funds come back to our parish to help fund our needs. If you received your pledge form in the mail, please complete it and mail it back or bring it to Mass next weekend. For those of you who did not receive a mailing or have not had the time to respond to it, we will conduct our in-pew pledge process at all Masses next weekend.

 

Thank you for your prayerful consideration and generous response.

 

A CHUCKLE TO MAKE YOU SMILE

 

A man went to his lawyer and asked him, “My neighbor owes me $500 and he won’t pay up. What should I do?”

 

“Do you have any proof he owes you the money?” asked the lawyer.

 

“Nope,” replied the man.

 

“Okay, then, write him a letter asking him for the $5,000 he owes you,” said the lawyer.

 

“But it’s only $500,” replied the man.

 

“Precisely. That’s what he will reply, and then you have your proof!”