Aug 20th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Encountering Christ Through the Sacraments

by: Rich Byrne, D.Min. – Parishioner

As Catholics, we have been raised with and attune to the Seven Sacraments. They have a special meaning among us. Yet, why? What makes them so special in our broken world?

These Sacraments, instituted by Christ, are meant to strengthen and to encourage us on our spiritual journeys. The Church, as the People of God, has a God-given role in helping us realize that we are chosen, we are called, we are discipled.

As we move daily among our many challenges, the Sacraments manifest visible signs of God’s Invisible Love for us, for all people and for all creation.

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In order to heighten that incarnational dimension, the Church highlights the physical or tangible dimension of every Sacrament. In earlier times, prayerful theologians realized that there is an undeniable moment in every Sacramental action (ex opere operato) in which one can attest that God, the Holy Spirit, the Risen Christ is truly present and acting. In Baptism, it is the pouring of the water. In Confirmation, Ordination, Anointing, and Reconciliation, it relates to the moments of the use of hands. In Eucharist, it is the Consecration. In Marriage, it is the communion of life and love between husband and wife. We can see that the tangible expresses the spiritually nurturing love that is present in such graced moments.

As we participate in these sacred moments, heaven and earth merge. They are real moments for multi-faceted healing, for forgiving mercy, for real spiritual nourishment. They are invaluable aids to support us as we strive to follow the challenging teachings of Jesus and of His supportive Church.

A clear challenge for each of us as members of this parochial and the ecclesial community is to grow in such awareness, that God is really alive, loving and present among us and within us. God is acting in every moment, especially (whether we are aware or not) in these great Sacramental moments. These are the signs of God’s longing to communicate His Infinite Love. Yes, we are abundantly loved. Can we wake up to that? Can we experience in prayer and in the Sacraments that we are absolutely lovable?

God created us to love ourselves, to love Him and to love all beings. Using the Sacraments more intentionally in our lives (such as, Sunday Eucharist) helps us realize ever more deeply that we are unconditionally and absolutely LOVED.

Encountering Christ Through the Sacraments Offered by the Faith Alive! Team

Whether you have been a life-long Catholic, have just recently become Catholic, or would like to hear more about the Sacraments, you are invited to join our parish community for this enlightening series. We will meet in the church community room from 6:30-8pm. Come to one session or the entire series. All are welcome! Registration is requested. Please call the parish office or email, jennifer@johnxxiii.net

August 22nd – Overview of the Sacraments:
The Seven Sacraments are central to our Catholic Faith and are the visible signs of God’s Love. During this introductory evening, we will discuss how Christ is the Great Sacrament of our encountering the Presence of God. By more deeply appreciating the Risen Christ, we, the People of God, may experience more fully the many Graces of the Sacraments.

August 29th – Baptism and Confirmation:
We will look at the meaning of our Baptism not only as the first step in our faith life, but also as a continuing journey where we not only face the challenges of life but also encounter the presence of Christ along the way. Confirmation is living life fully in the Holy Spirit. This sacrament is called Confirmation because the faith given in Baptism is now confirmed and made strong with new hope, grace and understanding.

September 5th – The Most Holy Eucharist:
“Do this in memory of me” is the command of the Lord to the Apostles at the Last Supper after Jesus instituted the greatest Sacrament of our salvation. The Holy Eucharist is the center and pinnacle of the Catholic life because it is the sacrament of the real Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and is being celebrated every day.

September 12th – Sacraments of Healing:
By means of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, Christ willed His Church to continue His work of healing and salvation. Christ, the physician of our soul and body, instituted these Sacraments because the new life that He gives us can be weakened and even lost through sin.

September 19th – Sacraments of Vocations:
Matrimony and Holy Orders both involve a lifelong commitment, and their purpose is to bring the light of Christ into the world. This presentation will explore the graces and responsibilities of these sacraments.

Aug 6th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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What is Transfiguration Sunday?

About a week after Jesus plainly told His disciples that He would suffer, be killed, and be raised to life (Luke 9:22), He took Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. While praying, His personal appearance was changed into a glorified form, and His clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus about His death that would soon take place. Peter, not knowing what he was saying and being very fearful, offered to put up three shelters for them. This is undoubtedly a reference to the booths that were used to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Israelites dwelt in booths for 7 days (Lev. 23:34–42). Peter was expressing a wish to stay in that place. When a cloud enveloped them, a voice said, “This is My Son, whom I have chosen, whom I love; listen to Him!” The cloud lifted, Moses and Elijah had disappeared, and Jesus was alone with His disciples who were still very much afraid. Jesus warned them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after His resurrection. The three accounts of this event are found in Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36.

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Undoubtedly, the purpose of the transfiguration of Christ into at least a part of His heavenly glory was so that the “inner circle” of His disciples could gain a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Christ underwent a dramatic change in appearance in order that the disciples could behold Him in His glory. The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ, though they could not fully comprehend it. That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of His coming death.

Symbolically, the appearance of Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets. But God’s voice from heaven – “Listen to Him!” – clearly showed that the Law and the Prophets must give way to Jesus. The One who is the new and living way is replacing the old – He is the fulfillment of the Law and the countless prophecies in the Old Testament. Also, in His glorified form they saw a preview of His coming glorification and enthronement as King of kings and Lord of lords.

The disciples never forgot what happened that day on the mountain and no doubt this was intended. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only” (John 1:14). Peter also wrote of it, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18). Those who witnessed the transfiguration bore witness to it to the other disciples and to countless millions down through the centuries.

July 30th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Health bill must protect poor, unborn and conscience rights, bishop says

By Julie Asher of Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — U.S. senators must reject any bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act unless such a measure “protects poor and vulnerable people, including immigrants, safeguards the unborn and supports conscience rights,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on the Senate to fix problems with the ACA in a more narrow way, rather than repeal it without an adequate replacement.

“Both the American Health Care Act legislation from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Better Care Reconciliation Act from the Senate were seriously flawed, and would have harmed those most in need in unacceptable ways,” Bishop Dewane said.

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The House passed its bill to repeal and replace the ACA health care law May 4 with a close vote of 217 to 213. The Senate’s version collapsed July 17 after four Republican senators said they couldn’t support it, leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, short of the 50 votes needed to bring the bill to the floor for a debate.

“In the face of difficulties passing these proposals, the appropriate response is not to create greater uncertainty, especially for those who can bear it least, by repealing the ACA without a replacement,” he said.

Bishop Dewane made the comments in a July 20 letter to U.S. senators released July 21.

President Donald Trump had lunch with the GOP senators at the White House July 19 in an effort to get them to commit to moving forward a repeal and replace measure. A new Senate draft of a bill was released July 20, and McConnell is expected to hold a vote to begin debate July 25.

Bishop Dewane referred back to a Jan. 18 letter in which the U.S. bishops “encouraged Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to protect vulnerable Americans and preserve important gains in health care coverage and access.”

That letter reiterated principles he said the bishops laid out when the ACA was being debated in early 2010. “All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born,” the bishops said at the time. “The bishops’ conference believes health care should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable.”

“Before any legislation had been proposed, the bishops were clear” in their Jan. 18 letter to lawmakers, Bishop Dewane said, “that a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their well-being.

“To end coverage for those who struggle every day without an adequate alternative in place would be devastating,” he said. “Nothing has changed this analysis.”

At the same time, “reform is still needed to address the ACA’s moral deficiencies and challenges with long-term sustainability,” Bishop Dewane said.

“Problems with the ACA can be fixed with more narrow reforms, and in a bipartisan way,” he said, “Congress can extend full Hyde Amendment protections to the ACA, enact laws that protect the conscience rights of all stakeholders in health care, protect religious freedom, and pass legislation that begins to remove current and impending barriers to access and affordability, particularly for those most in need.”

In an analysis issued late July 20, the Congressional Budget office said the new version would still increase the current number of uninsured Americans by 22 million by 2026. In 2016, 28 million people were uninsured last year; in 2010, just over 48 million were uninsured in 2010, the year the ACA was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

It would reduce average premiums in the ACA exchanges by 25 percent in 2026, end the individual and employer mandates, and rescind the Medicaid expansion under the current law. Taxes on investment income and payroll taxes affecting higher-income Americans would remain.

July 23rd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Cardinal Schonborn: Church doing best to strengthen families of all types

By Sarah Mac Donald of Catholic News Service

LIMERICK, Ireland (CNS) — The Catholic Church is doing whatever it can to strengthen the family, including families often considered nontraditional, said Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, the theologian who reviewed Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family.

“Favoring the family does not mean disfavoring other forms of life — even those living in a same-sex partnership need their families,” the cardinal said during a visit to Ireland, which next year hosts the World Meeting of Families.

The family is “the survival network of the future” and “will remain forever the basis of every society,” Cardinal Schonborn told journalists July 13 ahead of addressing a conference, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.”

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The cardinal told the conference at Mary Immaculate College that people should not be discouraged about the future of the family, despite the many social and economic threats and policies that disregard it.

“Today, everybody can get married,” he said, but acknowledged “so many choose not to get married.” He suggested that the number of so-called irregular situations has increased enormously because the “framework of society has changed so much.”

“But let us not forget that marriage, as we have it today, is a privilege that was fairly rare in previous centuries, (when at most) a third of the population were able to get married.”

He said his great-grandmother, a wealthy widow who lived in what today is the Czech Republic but then was part of the Austrian empire, had six servants who remained unmarried because of laws against marriage for people of their status. “Marriage was a privilege,” he said.

The cardinal, a former student of retired Pope Benedict XVI, also noted that his German professor’s grandmother was the “illegitimate daughter of a maiden, who was not permitted to marry.”

He said if he had to sum it up for Twitter, he would say, “‘Amoris Laetitia’ tells you marriage and family are possible today.” “Amoris Laetitia” is Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation after two synods of bishops on the family.

Asked about the reception of “Amoris Laetitia” within the church and the “dubia” — a series of questions raised by four cardinals to clear up confusion — Cardinal Schonborn said the “process of reception is a long process” and needs negotiation and discussion.

But he also criticized the cardinals over the manner in which they raised their concerns. “That cardinals, who should be the closest collaborators of the pope, try to force him and put pressure on him to give a public response to their publicized letter is absolutely inconvenient behavior,” he said.

He told journalists, “I fear those who have rapid, clear answers in politics and economy and also in religion. Rigorists and laxists have clear and rapid answers, but they fail to look at life. The rigorist avoids the effort of discernment, of looking closely at reality. The laxist lets everything possible go, and there is no discernment. They are the same but opposite.”

“St. Gregory the Great said the art of the pastoral accompaniment is the art of discernment. It is an art and it needs training,” he added.

During the conference, Cardinal Schonborn, whose own parents divorced, described Chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia” as the section that has been “most hotly debated.”

“Most often the topic is reduced to one question — ‘May they (remarried divorcees who did not receive an annulment) receive Communion? Yes or no!’ Pope Francis has said, ‘This is a trap!’ By narrowing this to one question the main purpose of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ is forgotten: Look closely and discern,” the cardinal said.

Commending the importance of pastoral discernment, the cardinal said that, in view of the immense variety of situations that can arise for couples encountering difficulties, “It is understandable that neither the synod nor this exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases.”

July 16th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Convocation delegates urged to take Gospel to struggling people everywhere

By Dennis Sadowski | Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) — Being Christian is more than accepting Jesus as savior, but requires the faithful to go to the peripheries of society where people are struggling materially and spiritually, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.”

“Jesus calls us to follow him. That is an action, a decision that implies a way of life,” Archbishop Gomez said during a plenary session July 3, the third day of the convocation.

He said Pope Francis has focused the mission of the church on going to people on the sidelines of society, he said, calling it a responsibility not just for bishops, clergy and church professionals, but for the entire church.

The pope, the archbishop explained, sees the peripheries as both a physical place and existential. They are places that reflect a society that has determined that some people can be pushed aside or discarded.

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“They are places on a map, places where people live. The peripheries are parts of our cities and the rural areas that we never visit. The other side of the tracks. They are where the poor live. They are the prisons and the tent cities in our public spaces. The peripheries are the bitter fruits of neglect, exploitation and injustice. They are all the places our society is ashamed of and would rather forget about,” he said.

“But for Pope Francis, the peripheries are more than a physical location or a social category. They are places where poverty is not only material but also spiritual,” he said.

The archbishop called such locations places where people “are wounded and feel their life has no meaning and makes no difference,” trapping themselves in sin, addiction, slavery and self-deception.

“The pope is saying these peripheries are growing in the modern world and these peripheries are new mission territory,” he explained.

Archbishop Gomez, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, admitted some of these places are “where the church does not like to go, where we do not like to go.” Yet, he reminded the 3,500 delegates, Jesus is at the margins, and that as people of faith, they are invited to go where Jesus exists.

“The church has always been present in the peripheries, through our schools, our parishes and our ministries. Sometimes we are the only ones serving these communities. But we can do better, we are called to do more. That is our challenge,” Archbishop Gomez said.

He also blamed “elites” for undertaking an “aggressive ‘de-Christianization’ of our society” to cause people to “‘un-remember’ our Christian roots and deconstruct everything that was built on these roots.”

“With the loss of God, we are witnessing the loss of the human person,” he said.

Archbishop Gomez pointed to American society as a prime example of where the need to minister on the margins is vital, especially because families are breaking down and communities are experiencing instability.

“This is one of the lessons from the last election, wasn’t it? America is pulling apart. We are a people divided along lines of money and race, education and family backgrounds. People are afraid of the future. They feel powerless and excluded,” he told the convocation.

The archbishop urged that such concerns be addressed by the church and the faithful, through being a presence to those in need to help bridge the widening gaps between people.

The answer to such concerns rests with imitating Jesus and meeting people at the “places of pain and injustice, to the places where people forgotten and along.”

“Siempre adelante,” he said in Spanish. “Always forward.”

Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, in an address opening the plenary session, suggested to the delegates that if they “go deep enough into the peripheries, we will see the boundaries between us disappear.”

He said Pope Francis and his predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II, have urged action for society’s forgotten communities. He suggested marginalized people can be as close as the person next door.

Pope Francis asks the church to reach out “in joy in a permanent state of mission,” Anderson said. “This great task is for each of us.”

A panel discussion during the same session addressed several examples of the church working in the peripheries of the world including ministry with African-American Catholics; the work of Catholic Relief Services in more than 160 countries; care for immigrants along the border in the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas; ministry to people with same-sex attraction; and the use of social media as a tool to reach youth and young adults.

July 9th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Why Is the Sacred Heart Burning?

By Stephen Beale

Images of the Sacred Heart meticulously recount key details of the crucifixion. The wounded heart itself, the crown of thorns, and the cross itself all appear. Some depictions even include the lance that pierced the side of Christ penetrating His heart.

But there’s one detail that seems out of place. There was no fire at the crucifixion, yet the Sacred Heart is often shown with flames. Why?

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A burnt offering. Recall that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was mean to recapitulate and supersede all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. What was a common feature of these sacrifices? Fire. Think of the fire that devoured the sacrifices offered by Elijah and the fire that Abraham would have set had an angel not intervened (see 1 Kings 18 and Genesis 22). In ancient Israel, a burnt offering was the supreme form of sacrifice, it symbolized a total commitment to God—particularly the death of the victim animal and the all-consuming nature of the fire. (Key sources here, here, and here.) The burning Sacred Heart reminds us that this sacrifice too was incorporated into Christ’s supreme offering of Himself on the cross.

Symbol of divinity. Of course, fire is also a familiar Old Testament symbol of God. We encounter God’s fiery presence at Sinai and in the account of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 1). This symbolism carries over into the Old Testament, where the Holy Spirit descends upon the heads of the apostles as tongues of fire. Perhaps it’s especially fitting that the Sacred Heart is burning given that from it poured water and blood, symbols of the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharistic wine, both the work of the Holy Spirit.

Symbol of the divine Incarnate. The fire burns, but the Sacred Heart is not consumed. Does this sound familiar? It recalls Moses’ first encounter with God, in a bush that burned but was not consumed. This foreshadowed the Incarnation, in which God assumed human nature, without his divinity extinguishing the humanity that had been assumed: Christ was fully man and fully God. It is fitting that at this climactic moment of the Incarnation that its deepest reality is reaffirmed in such an acute way.

Jesus’ passion for us. In the context of the gospels, the Passion refers to the suffering of Christ. But, in our society, we usually use the word passion to refer to something or someone that drives our enthusiasm, interest, desires, and commitments. Is this meaning still valid for the Sacred Heart? I think so. There is evidence in the gospels that a burning heart signified intense emotions. One clear example of this is the two disciples who encountered Christ on the road to Emmaus and afterwards remarked that their hearts had been burning. (See Luke 24; my source for this interpretation is here.) So yes, the flames on the Sacred Heart are a true reminder of God’s burning love for us.

Light of the World. Fire does two things. First, it consumes that which it burns. Second, it gives off light. This second aspect is certainly relevant to the symbolism of the Sacred Heart, given that Christ is the true light of the world. Remember that during the crucifixion, darkness descended upon the land (see Mark 15:33). In the darkest hour, the Sacred Heart burned bright with hope.

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints.