Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

THE GOOD LIFE

by Monsignor Charles Murphy

The question of defining more accurately what the good life is has become especially acute. In her helpful book, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline in Leisure, Juliet Schor documents how American households find themselves locked into an insidious cycle of work and spend.

Households go into debt to buy products they do not need and then work longer than they want in order to keep up with the payments. She makes the telling observation that "shopping is the chief cultural activity in the United States."

In 2005 the University of California, Los Angeles, published the results of a four-year study on how the modern American family lives. It disclosed four disturbing trends: loss of frequent, significant contact among family members, less and less unstructured time, mounting clutter in the home and constant flux in daily activity.

Regarding the ever-increasing amounts of clutter, the study observed that the typical American family owns more than most Egyptian pharaohs in their heyday. The world has never seen consumption like this on such a scale.

The good life should allow people to work at things that are personally satisfying and expressive of themselves. In his encyclical on the subject, Laborum Exercens, Pope John Paul calls this the "subjective" value of work. The good life should include also a certain leisure for, as Josef Pieper wrote, leisure is the basis of human culture.

There should be opportunities to contribute to the common good as well as to pursue personal happiness. There should be time for family and friends, for worship and prayer. There also should be a certain asceticism to include a rediscovery of the benefits of fasting.

Fasting is part of the Gospel. It helps us to focus on the nourishment that can only come from God. It encourages good health and enhances our enjoyment of the good things of life, freeing us from a certain deadness in spirit.

A re-emphasis on fasting may not only put us in touch again with a gospel ideal but also increase our ecological awareness as we sparingly use scarce earthly resources. Fasting in the modern world can have a strong social justice meaning.

It is becoming increasingly clear that our obsession with the automobile and our over-dependence upon limited world oil resources is fostering great political and economic instabilities throughout the globe. Increased energy efficiency and less energy gluttony must become part of our public policy for global survival.

Thomas Merton in his Thoughts in Solitude raises the specter of the desertification of life on this planet. The desert, he writes, once was a privileged place for the encounter with God because there humanity could find nothing to exploit.

"Yet look at deserts today. What are they?" He says they have become testing grounds for bombs as well as the locations for glittering towns "through whose veins money runs like artificial blood." "The desert moves everywhere. Everywhere is desert," Merton concludes.

Pope Benedict XVI in the homily given at his Mass on inauguration as pope also raised the spectre of the deserts that are growing on the planet, deserts that are both spiritual and material.

The pope said that is cannot be a matter of unconcern that so many of our contemporaries are living in the desert. "There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment...

These external deserts are growing", he asserted, "because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth's treasures no longer serve to build God's garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction".

Monsignor Charles Murphy P.A., S.T.D., serves as director of the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Portland, Maine, Former rector of the North American College, Vatican City. He is the author of several books including At Home on Earth: Foundations for a Catholic Ethic of the Environment (New York: Crossroad, 1989).

Monday, June 5, 2017

CONFIRMATION


Confirmation means a transformation of the spirit

by Thomas Gumbleton

I'm sure sometimes people wonder, why do I do that? Because, after all, they have prepared over a period of time and they're dressed up in their confirmation robes and everybody's here to celebrate with them, and so why would I ask the question, "Do you want to be confirmed?" Well, the reason I do -- and this is important for the candidates especially, but for all of us because we can remember our own confirmation and what it means.

When you say, "Yes, I want to be confirmed," think about it: What are you saying yes to? You might think, Well, it's a ceremony, and we'll go through a ritual -- the ceremony -- and it'll be all over in 45 minutes or so. Then we leave and that's it. But that's not it, is it?

When you say, "I want to be confirmed," you're really saying yes, not to a ceremony, but to Jesus. You're saying, "I want to follow Jesus Christ. I want to be his disciple just like those first disciples who dropped everything and followed Jesus."

That's what you're saying, "I want to follow Jesus." That means you have to live in a certain way because Jesus taught us values that were very special to him -- very important in making us the best people we can be. When you say, "I want to follow Jesus," you mean, "I want to follow his teachings, I want to live according to his way, his values." That means something very important for all of us.

It means we have to be very serious about trying to listen to God's word -- when Jesus speaks to us -- watch how we act so we follow his example.

That's what it means to follow Jesus, to begin to accept the values and to live according to his way. Now if we listen to the Scriptures today, but not just today, I think it's important during the Easter season to remember the last couple of Sundays: Easter Sunday and last Sunday.

When we listen to Scriptures, I think we find what it means to follow Jesus. In today's Gospel -- we'll start there -- I think probably the most important words were right near the beginning.

You have to get the context -- two disciples had been walking away from Jerusalem toward a town called Emmaus. They were very discouraged. You may remember this story because it's quite well-known. As they were walking along, somebody comes and walks with them.

They begin talking about what had happened in Jerusalem two days or three days before. This person doesn't seem to know anything about it and they say, "Don't you know about Jesus?"

Then this person begins to instruct them in the Scriptures. They're about to end their walk and as they come to the end, Jesus (this person) looks like he's going to go away. They say, "Join us for supper," and so he does.

Now, in today's Gospel, they come back to Jerusalem, where the rest of the disciples are still afraid, they're hiding; this is Easter Sunday night. They say, "Look what happened! We were walking along the way, and Jesus joined us, and we knew it!" In the breaking of the bread -- that's how they knew it was Jesus -- the breaking of the bread.

They're talking about the Eucharist. Most of the time, we talk about the Eucharist as Jesus being in the bread, Jesus being in the wine, but they said the breaking of the bread.

That's how the early Christians talked about the Eucharist, what we celebrate as Mass -- the breaking of the bread -- because that, for them, was the real message of the Eucharist, that Jesus, as he said at the Last Supper, taking the bread, "This is my body, given for you, broken for you." Jesus was ready to give himself totally for all of us. His body is broken in the suffering, the crucifixion. It's his gift of love for all of us. That's how they recognized him -- in the breaking of the bread. That tells us about what has to happen in our lives.
We have to be like Jesus, willing to give of ourselves. St. Paul wrote about Jesus when writing to the church at Philippi. He said, "Jesus, though he was God, did not think his divinity something to be clung to, but emptied himself -- emptied himself -- became human, even to the point of becoming a slave for all of us." He gave himself over to death even, the ignominious death of the cross.

That's what Jesus did for us. He gives himself, so this breaking of the bread is a sign of how we have to begin to live our lives.

Then we're ready to let go of some of our bad habits and our tendency to get angry, or maybe our tendency to be selfish, or maybe our tendency to gossip about other people, or whatever. We have to begin to change, to be broken, if you will, to be like Jesus who totally gave himself for us. There are a couple of things from the last two weeks. We're just beginning today the third week of Easter.

The last two weeks in the Scriptures -- if you go to John's Gospel that we heard last Sunday, the second Sunday -- the Gospel tells about how the disciples in that upper room are afraid. Just like in today's Gospel, Jesus suddenly is in their midst. The first thing he says to them is, "Peace be with you." He's giving peace to them.

Then John tells us, "He breathed on them," breathed on them. The word that he used in the Gospel is the same word. The only other place it's used in Scripture is in the book of Genesis, where in the story of creation, God is described as forming a human creature out of the dust of the earth, and then God breathed on that creature and it becomes alive.

The spirit of God begins to live in this human form, and that's creation. Now what is happening on Easter Sunday night, Jesus is saying, "This is a new creation."

You have to change yourself totally -- be transformed -- become a new creation, be different from what you were before. When you receive the Holy Spirit, if you're really open, God will change you dramatically so that you become more like Jesus.

What's the next thing he says to his disciples that night after he says, "Peace be with you," and he breathes on them? He talks about forgiveness: "Whose sins you forgive, they'll be forgiven; the evil you restrain, it will be restrained." He wants us to be reconciling people like he was, ready to forgive as he forgives all of us all the time. We have to begin to forgive one another.

That's not always easy is it? To forgive and to be the first to reach out if there's been some kind of a breakdown in our relationship, be the one to go back and say, "I'm sorry. Let's reconcile. Let's come together again." It can happen in our families, it can happen in our neighborhood, whatever or wherever, but we have to be that kind of people.

This is what it means to begin to follow Jesus. I'll just give you one more thing. This was last Sunday, in the first lesson. St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles describes how that first community of disciples of Jesus understood the transformation that they had to make, and they began to do it. You may not remember this, but it's an extraordinary thing.

Luke says about the community at Jerusalem that no one was in need among them. No one was in need. There were poor people, but no one was in need, and why? Because they shared with one another. They shared what they had so that no one was in need. Behind that is a very profound understanding of the goods of the earth and the goods that we have, whatever material things we've accumulated.

They don't really belong to us. This is the truth that Luke is getting across and the disciples understood. God made the world for all, not for a few. All of the goods of the earth are so that everyone can have a full human life and not a few of us accumulating a lot for ourselves. We have to share because they don't belong to us.

God gave the world for all, not for a few. That's a very deep truth and it underlines the values of Jesus who was ready to give himself totally for others. We have to begin to have that spirit. Now that isn't very easy in the culture in which we live. We live in a culture that talks about "my right to private wealth -- it's mine; nobody can take it from me." If you follow Jesus, you understand it's not really yours, it's God's. What is God's belongs to all.

We have to begin to be people like those. Imagine what it would be like if every community of Christians, disciples of Jesus like this community, if we really looked around and said, "How can we share what we have so that nobody among us is in need?" That would be a miracle, really, but that's what God calls us to begin, to make such a miracle happen.

The first Christian community did it. They didn't do it perfectly and it didn't last on into the indefinite future. They had their shortcomings, too, but at least that was their spirit: Share whatever you have so that no one is in need. How quickly our world could be changed starting in our own local communities, then the larger community, and the whole world community, if we really caught the message of Jesus.

So today, we're celebrating the sacrament of confirmation. The Holy Spirit is going to come upon this church in a very powerful way if we open ourselves, especially on these young people being confirmed, but on the rest of us, too, because the spirit of God is being poured forth all the time if we open ourselves.

As we go on with the sacrament of confirmation, I hope that every one of us, these young candidates especially, but all of us, will pray that our hearts will be opened so that we will be deeply touched by the spirit of Jesus, and so that as we leave the church today, we'll be transformed, at least a little bit further in our transformation, to become a real disciple of Jesus, who follows his way.

We'll go back out into our world. We'll be ready to be witnesses to the love and goodness of Jesus. This message of Jesus now will begin to spread even more because all of us open ourselves to the spirit of Jesus, and we leave this church to be witnesses to Jesus for the rest of our lives.

Full text of the readings

[Homily given at a Mass where confirmation took place at St. Donald Parish, Roseville, Mich. The transcripts of Bishop Gumbleton's homilies are posted weekly to NCRonline.org. Sign up here to receive an email alert when the latest homily is posted.]

Thursday, June 1, 2017

THE DEAD

There are many Protestants who believe that it is forbidden to pray to the Saints in heaven. They confuse our Catholic prayers to them, asking for their intercession, as being divination of the saints, which is strictly forbidden by the Bible. So what does the Bible really say about the "dead"?

Is being dead in the body = to being dead in the spirit? Is it forbidden to talk to the dead? If Jesus talked to the dead while He was alive on earth, did He violate his own command to not divine them up?

The answers are below, and categorized for you. The dead in Christ are much more alive than they ever were here on earth, because they are not constrained by their bodies, they are one with Christ, and they share in his glory. And by asking for the prayers of the saints, they do not somehow stand "between" us and Jesus, but rather, alongside of us in our prayers.

James 5:16 says that the prayers of a holy person are very powerful, and who is more holy than someone who is already in heaven sharing in Christ's glory? Paul says that intercessory prayer is a good thing, in 1 Timothy 2:1. And since saints in heaven never sleep, they can pray for us around the clock, even while we are asleep, at work, or at play.

And what about the poor souls in purgatory? We can pray, fast, and suffer for them too. If purgatory wasn't real, then the verses below that talk about praying, fasting, and suffering for the dead would be meaningless.

The “Dead” in Christ are Not Dead, but ALIVE!

Matthew 22: 31-32: And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, `I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living." Hebrews 12:1:Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us

(**NOTE - Witnesses have to be alive in order to witness for us, to our Judge, Jesus Christ)

The State of Those Who Die in Christ

Luke 20:35-36:but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

Death is Not a Barrier that Separates us From Our Loved Ones in Christ

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The “Dead” in Christ Share in Christ’s Divinity and Glory

1 Corinthians 6:17: But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

1 Peter 5:1: So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed.

2 Peter 1:4: by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.

Divination of the Dead (forbidden by Deuteronomy 18:10)

1 Samuel 28: 8-16: So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments, and went, he and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, "Divine for me by a spirit, and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you." The woman said to him, "Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the wizards from the land. Why then are you laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?"

But Saul swore to her by the LORD, "As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing." Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" He said, "Bring up Samuel for me." When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul."

The king said to her, "Have no fear; what do you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I see a god coming up out of the earth."

He said to her, "What is his appearance?" And she said, "An old man is coming up; and he is wrapped in a robe." And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance. Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?"

Saul answered, "I am in great distress; for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams; therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do." And Samuel said, "Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy?

The People Who Die in the State of Grace Appear Alive on Earth

Matthew 27: 50-53: And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Matthew 17 1-3: And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

THE POPE MEETS TRUMP

The Three Crucial Issues at the Pope-Trump Meeting

By John Horvat II

The upcoming meeting in Rome between Pope Francis and President Trump is fast approaching. It is an opportune occasion to share some thoughts and concerns about the future.

The two figures could not be more different. The Pope is the head of the greatest spiritual power on Earth. The President is the elected leader of the world’s only superpower.

They will speak about a world in turmoil. From a purely human perspective, the situation looks dire. Thus, there is so much that could be discussed at this meeting since they both have vast resources at their disposal.

The Church has Her moral teachings, and wisdom garnered over the ages that is essential to any debate about the future. Completely different in nature, America has vast material resources that have often been channeled to help humanity.

Conflict or Cooperation?

Progressives are rooting that this meeting turns into a conflict. Liberal media will do everything possible to accentuate the differences between the Pope and the President.

They will try to fit their meeting into a false and exaggerated narrative that would have one defending the poor and the other representing those who supposedly oppress them through their wealth and lifestyles.

There is no doubt that Pope Francis and President Trump are indeed different and disagree on many things. However, inside the realm of Catholic social doctrine, there is much about which they might and should agree.

Both the Pope and the President are known for their outspokenness. Thus, they need to speak out and denounce the world’s true evils. Both have broken conventions. They must now break the typical agendas put before them. In light of the centennial year of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, they urgently need to address the core problems that have caused men to go awry.
For this reason, it would be helpful if Pope and President were to talk about three things upon which they might agree and which few can deny.

Addressing the Causes, Not the Effects

We pray that, with God’s help, they would focus on the causes of the present crisis. It is easy to see that they might disagree on the means to deal with the dangerous effects of the world crisis. Let them at least agree on its causes.

Without addressing causes, it is impossible to solve problems. No amount of money can fill the void when problems perpetuate themselves and grow ever larger due to causes that are allowed to fester. Yet this outlook is typically absent from today’s postmodern world that prefers to deal with the sensational and immediate symptoms.

Thus, when discussing the problem of countless refugees that seek asylum in the West, for example, the two should explore and denounce the causes that induce the refugees to flee.

It should be easy to agree that immigrants will cease to migrate if they no longer want to leave their home country.

The goal should not be to settle people in foreign lands but to give priority to restoring conditions for them to live in their native lands, whether this be Syria, Venezuela, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya or Cuba, which these immigrants love and where they desire to live in peace.

Friday, May 12, 2017

DEFENDING DIGNITY

Josh McDowell on Strengthening the Church Against Pornography

“You have to start preparing you children for being exposed to pornography at age five,” said Josh McDowell at an event at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation for DC-area faith leaders.

The event was focused on equipping leaders of local churches, and other religiously affiliated organizations, with the tools to address the harms of pornography.

The presentation drew nearly fifty area leaders.

McDowell spoke about the neurological harms of pornography, giving an analogy that the chemicals reacting in the brain when someone watches pornography are akin to tattooing the images on your brain.
Attendees included Rep. Linda Smith from Shared Hope International and Donna Hughes from Enough is Enough. He told a heart-wrenching story of an eight-year-old boy who was accidently exposed to pornography at a neighbor’s house.

His mother found him several days later crying in his room. When she asked him what was wrong, the boy replied that he couldn’t get the pornographic images out of his head.

McDowell emphasized the need for parents to begin preparing their children at early ages because it is impossible for any parent to adequately protect their child from being exposed to the explicit content.

According to research conducted by Barna Group, and commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministry, roughly half of teenagers, and nearly three-quarters of young adults see pornography on at least a monthly basis.

How should churches respond?

In an interview with NCOSE’s “Sexploitation?” podcast, McDowell stated that “Every church should have a recovery group…” His advice to pastors, and individuals, regarding pornography, is “don’t go it alone.”

McDowell referenced the positive efforts put forth by the Catholic church, the LDS church, and other religious communities as well.