October 22, 2017
October has been designated Respect Life Month for many years by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the past I have tried to offer several different perspectives for our consideration in the October bulletins, but this year we have had too many other important things to bring to your attention up until now. This week, however, I offer you a reflection on “How to Build a Culture of Life” which is excerpted from a brochure of the same title with the permission of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Watching the news and reading the headlines, we may feel helpless seeing the heartbreaking lack of respect for human life. How do we respond when our efforts seem small in the face of the culture of death?
Our Christian Identity
To understand more fully how to defend and protect human life, we must first consider who we are, at the deepest level. God creates us in his image and likeness, which means we are made to be in loving relationship with him. The essence of our identity and worth, the source of our dignity, is that we are loved by God: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”
We are called to divine intimacy, true communion with God, and we can grow in this closeness with him through daily prayer, reading the Scriptures, and frequent participation in the sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist.
Our Mission as Christians
The knowledge and realization of how deeply we are loved by God elicits a response of love that simultaneously draws us closer to God and, at the same time, impels us to share his love with others.
Embracing a relationship with God means following in his footsteps, wherever he may call. Just as Jesus invited St. Peter and St. Andrew to become his disciples, he invites us to do the same: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
Being a disciple of Jesus naturally includes sharing the Gospel with others and inviting them into a deeper relationship with God. As Christians, our identity and our mission are two sides of the same coin; like the apostles, we are called to be missionary disciples.
This doesn’t necessarily mean quitting our jobs or moving to foreign countries. For most of us, our mission field is daily life: “Christ teaches us how to evangelize, how to invite people into communion with him, and how to create a culture of witness: namely, through love. A Christian life lived with charity and faith is the most effective form of evangelization.”
The first step towards living this life is allowing Jesus to meet and transform us daily. If we respond to his grace, our lives will show we have something beyond what the world offers: we follow a person whose love changes our lives, so we want others to also experience his transforming love.
When we live in union with God, open to his prompting, we’re more able to see the opportunities for witness and his guidance in responding to these opportunities. We may fear doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing, but we do not need to be afraid. Jesus promised his disciples, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
As a society and as individuals, we often measure ourselves by false standards: by what and how much we do, our successes or failures, how others treat us, the degree of our pleasure or independence, etc. And when these changeable substitutes prove to be insufficient, or when we are faced with challenges and suffering, we may feel helpless, alone, or abandoned; we may be tempted to feel as though our lives have decreased value or worth.
But God’s love—individual, real, unchanging—is the true source of our worth, identity, and dignity. It really is not a question of who we are, but rather whose we are. Because his love will never change, nothing can reduce our God-given dignity, and nothing can diminish the immeasurable worth of our lives.
When someone is facing great trials, we need to meet them where they are, walk with them on their journey, intercede for them, and be open to sharing Christ’s love however he directs.
When a woman becomes pregnant, and her boyfriend threatens to leave if she continues the pregnancy, we need to lovingly walk with her. When family members or friends become seriously ill, we need to assure them that God still offers them something in this life, and they still have purpose. We need to constantly be with them every step of the way.
Sometimes our actions speak for themselves; other times, words are needed. Whatever the situation, Jesus knows how to speak to each person’s heart; we simply need to follow where he leads.
A Culture of Life
This is how we answer our missionary call. This is how we build a culture of life, a culture that joyfully proclaims the truth of God’s love, purpose, and plan for each person. Changing the culture is a process of conversion that begins in our own hearts and includes a willingness to be instructed and a desire to be close to Jesus—the source of joy and love.
When we encounter Christ, experience his love, and deepen our relationship with him, we become more aware of our own worth and that of others. His love for each person is cause for great joy, and growing understanding of this priceless treasure motivates us to share his love with others. Our lives are often changed by the witness of others; so, too, others’ lives may be changed by our witness and authentic friendship with them.
Let us go, therefore, and not be afraid. God is always with us.
TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Today’s readings remind us that God can work through the most unlikely avenues and agents to produce a good outcome, provided we are willing to trust in God’s power.
In the First Reading from the Book of Isaiah, we hear about Cyrus, king of Persia, whom the prophet calls the “anointed’ (or messiah) of God. Although Cyrus was not an Israelite and did not even know the name of God, we are told that God grasps his right hand (a sign God approves the king’s enthronement) and calls him to release Israel and Judah from their bondage. Thus, after the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BC, the Jewish people, through Cyrus, experience a new exodus to their homeland.
In the Second Reading, Paul praises the Christian community in Thessalonica because their “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope” confirms their identity as God’s chosen. Especially in the face of persecution, one would not expect them to live their faith so robustly, except that the Holy Spirit inspires them to bring forth good work.
The Gospel depicts a potentially explosive scene in which some Pharisees, scholars of the Law, and people from the party of Herod Antipas try to entrap Jesus. But Jesus deftly turns the question of his opponents, declaring that they ought to pay to the emperor what is his due and pay to God what they owe God. Thus they unwittingly become the agents of Jesus’ proclamation that we must acknowledge God’s sovereignty by doing God’s work. Clearly, Jesus’ opponents were doing neither.
Having been made in the image and likeness of God, humankind belongs completely to God. The coin that bears the image of the leader should go back to that leader, Jesus posits in the Gospel. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSDC) draws a distinction between the power of earthly and heavenly kingdoms—between what is temporal and what belongs to God. The CSDC states: “Jesus refuses the oppressive and despotic power wielded by the rulers of the nations. In his pronouncement on the paying of taxes to Caesar, he affirms that we must give to God what is God’s, implicitly condemning every attempt at making temporal power divine or absolute. God alone can demand everything from man” (#379).
For Your Reflection: Do you keep in prayer those who minister in your parish? How can these ministers become part of your prayer life? How does the liturgy help you praise and honor God? Do you think of yourself as belonging entirely to God.
WORLD MISSION SUNDAY
Every year on the next-to-last Sunday of October—October 22nd this year—the Church reflects its deepest identity as MISSION. As we pray and respond on World Mission Sunday, we share in those celebrations taking place in every parish, seminary, school and convent all over the world. Together with our brothers and sisters in the Missions, we offer our prayers and sacrifices so that others may come to know Jesus…and to experience His mercy as we express our merciful concern for those in greatest need. This day provides an opportunity to support the life-giving presence of the Church among the poor and marginalized in more than 1,111 mission dioceses.
In early 19th century France, a young laywoman, Pauline Jaricot, became inspired by news from the missions of her day. She began gathering together small groups, mostly workers in her family’s silk factory. She asked each member of the group to offer daily prayer and a weekly sacrifice of a sou (the equivalent of a penny at that time), insisting that her efforts be for all the Church’s missions. From Pauline’s vision came the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The first collection in 1822 supported the vast diocese of Louisiana, and the missions of Kentucky and China. Your prayers and generous support directly benefit the mission Church today, places where the young church is growing, filled with zeal for the faith but lacking resources for its outreach to families and those in need.
From Pope Francis’ Message for World Mission Day 2017: “The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the Church, Christ continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere. Thank God, many significant experiences continue to testify to the transformative power of the Gospel. I think of the gesture of the Dinka student who, at the cost of his own life, protected a student from the enemy Nuer tribe who was about to be killed. I think of that Eucharistic celebration in Kitgum, in northern Uganda, where, after brutal massacres by a rebel group, a missionary made the people repeat the words of Jesus on the cross: : ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ as an expression of the desperate cry of the brothers and sisters of the crucified Lord. For the people, that celebration was an immense source of consolation and courage. We can think too of countless testimonies to how the Gospel helps to overcome narrowness, conflict, racism, tribalism, and to provide everywhere, and among all, reconciliation, fraternity, and sharing.”
We will take up a second collection this weekend for the vast missionary endeavors of the Church throughout the world. Please be as generous as possible to assist this worthy cause.
BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE
Once again this year we will have a Book of Remembrance so that you may write in relatives and good friends who have died. This book will be in the rear of church from now until All Souls Day on November 2, when it will be brought up in procession to the St. Joseph Altar during Solemn Vespers on that day. The book will remain there during the entire month of November, and those who are written in the book will be remembered in the Masses celebrated at the main altar throughout November. Please be judicious in deciding the number of names you place in the book so that there will be room for others to also take advantage of this opportunity.
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 FOR THE FALL SEASON
The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Italians drink lots of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like. It’s speaking English that kills you!