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My People

Vol. 30, Issue 4, April 2017

"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." — 2 Chronicles 7:14

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Risen Christ

Risen Christ by Joseph Fisher

All Christians Are Missionaries

The World Day of Prayer For Vocations will be on May 7, the 4th Sunday of Easter. This year's theme is "Led by the Spirit for Mission." Pope Francis' message for the day, dated 11/27/16, the 1st Sunday of Advent, follows:

"... In the last few years, we have considered two aspects of the Christian vocation: the summons to 'go out from ourselves' to hear the Lord's voice, and the importance of the ecclesial community as the privileged place where God's call is born, nourished, and expressed.

"Now, on this 54th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I would like to reflect on the missionary dimension of our Christian calling. Those who drawn by God's voice and determined to follow Jesus soon discover within themselves an irrepressible desire to bring the Good News to their brothers and sisters through proclamation and the service of charity. All Christians are called to be missionaries of the Gospel! As disciples, we do not receive the gift of God's love for our personal consolation, nor are we called to promote ourselves, or a business concern. We are simply men and women touched and transformed by the joy of God's love, who cannot keep this experience just to ourselves. For 'the Gospel joy which enlivens the community of disciples is a missionary joy' (Evangelii Gaudium, 21).

"Commitment to mission is not something added on to the Christian life as a kind of decoration, but is instead an essential element of faith itself. A relationship with the Lord entails being sent out into the world as prophets of His word and witnesses of His love.

"Even if at times we are conscious of our weaknesses and tempted to discouragement, we need to turn with God with confidence. We must overcome a sense of our own inadequacy and not yield to pessimism, which merely turns us into passive spectators of a dreary and monotonous life. There is no room for fear! God Himself comes to cleanse our 'unclean lips' and equip us for the mission: 'Your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out. Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I, send me" ' (Is 6:6-8).

"In the depths of their heart, all missionary disciples hear this divine voice bidding them to 'go about,' as Jesus did, 'doing good and healing all' (cf. Acts 10:38). I have mentioned that, by virtue of baptism, every Christian is a 'Christopher,' a bearer of Christ, to his brothers and sisters (cf. Catechesis, January 30, 2016). This is particularly the case with those called to a life of special consecration and with priests, who have generously responded, 'Here I am, Lord, send me!' With renewed missionary enthusiasm, priests are called to go forth from the sacred precincts of the temple and to let God's tender love overflow for the sake of humanity (cf. Homily at the Chrism Mass, March 24, 2016). The Church needs such priests: serenely confident because they have discovered the true treasure, anxious to go out and joyfully to make it known to all (cf. Mt 13:44).

"Certainly many questions arise when we speak of the Christian mission. What does it mean to be a missionary of the Gospel? Who gives us the strength and courage to preach? What is the evangelical basis and inspiration of mission? We can respond to these questions by meditating on three scenes from the Gospels: the inauguration of Jesus' mission in the synagogue at Nazareth (cf. Lk 4:16-30); the journey that, after His resurrection, He makes in the company of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35) and, finally, the parable of the sower and the seed (cf. Mt 4:26-27).

"Jesus is anointed by the Spirit and sent. To be a missionary disciple means to share actively in the mission of Christ. Jesus Himself described that mission in the synagogue of Nazareth in these words: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor' (Lk 4:18-19). This is also our mission: to be anointed by the Spirit, and to go out to our brothers and sisters in order to proclaim the word and to be for them a means of salvation.

"Jesus is at our side every step of the way. The questions lurking in human hearts and the real challenges of life can make us feel bewildered, inadequate, and hopeless. The Christian mission might appear to be mere utopian illusion or at least something beyond our reach. Yet if we contemplate the risen Jesus walking alongside the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-15), we can be filled with new confidence. In that Gospel scene, we have a true 'liturgy of the street,' preceding that of the word and the breaking of the bread. We see that, at every step of the way, Jesus is at our side! The two disciples, overwhelmed by the scandal of the cross, return home on the path of defeat. Their hearts are broken, their hopes dashed, and their dreams shattered. The joy of the Gospel has yielded to sadness. What does Jesus do? He does not judge them, but walks with them. Instead of raising a wall, He opens a breach. Gradually He transforms their discouragement. He makes their hearts burn within them, and He opens their eyes by proclaiming the word and breaking the bread. In the same way, a Christian does not bear the burden of mission alone, but realizes, even amid weariness and misunderstanding, that 'Jesus walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him. He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise' (Evangelii Gaudium, 266).

"Jesus makes the seed grow. Finally, it is important to let the Gospel teach us the way of proclamation. At times, even with the best intentions, we can indulge in a certain hunger for power, proselytism, or intolerant fanaticism. Yet the Gospel tells us to reject the idolatry of power and success, undue concern for structures, and a kind of anxiety that has more to do with the spirit of conquest than that of service. The seed of the Kingdom, however tiny, unseen and at times insignificant, silently continues to grow, thanks to God's tireless activity. 'The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep or rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how' (Mk 4:26-27). This is our first reason for confidence: God surpasses all our expectations and constantly surprises us by his generosity. He makes our efforts bear fruit beyond all human calculation.

"With this confidence born of the Gospel, we become open to the silent working of the Spirit, which is the basis of mission. There can be no promotion of vocations or Christian mission apart from constant contemplative prayer. The Christian life needs to be nourished by attentive listening to God's word and, above all, by the cultivation of a personal relationship with the Lord in Eucharistic adoration, the privileged 'place' for our encounter with God.

"I wish heartily to encourage this kind of profound friendship with the Lord, above all for the sake of imploring from on high new vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. The People of God need to be guided by pastors whose lives are spent in service to the Gospel. I ask parish communities, associations, and the many prayer groups present in the Church, not to yield to discouragement but to continue praying that the Lord will send workers to His harvest. May He give us priests enamored of the Gospel, close to all their brothers and sisters, living signs of God's merciful love.

"Dear brothers and sisters, today too, we can regain fervor in preaching the Gospel and we can encourage young people in particular to take up the path of Christian discipleship. Despite a widespread sense that the faith is listless or reduced to mere 'duties to discharge,' our young people desire to discover the perennial attraction of Jesus, to be challenged by His words and actions, and to cherish the ideal that He holds out of a life that is fully human, happy to spend itself in love.

"Mary Most Holy, the Mother of our Savior, had the courage to embrace this ideal, placing her youth and her enthusiasm in God's hands. Through her intercession, may we be granted that same openness of heart, that same readiness to respond, 'Here I am,' to the Lord's call, and that same joy in setting out (cf. Lk 1:39), like her, to proclaim Him to the whole world."

Pope Urges Business To Aid Families

Pope Francis spoke against a financial system which destroys millions of families in a February 4 audience in Vatican City. He was addressing participants in a meeting on the economy of communion sponsored by the Focolare Movement. His remarks follow:

"... I am pleased to welcome you as representatives of a project in which I have been genuinely interested for some time...

"Economy and communion. These are two words that contemporary culture keeps separate and often considers opposites. Two words that you have instead joined, accepting the invitation that Chiara Lubich offered you 25 years ago in Brazil, when, in the face of the scandal of inequality in the city of Sao Paulo, she asked entrepreneurs to become agents of communion. She invited you to be creative, skilful, but not only this. You see the entrepreneur as an agent of communion. By introducing into the economy the good seed of communion, you have begun a profound change in the way of seeing and living business. Business is not only incapable of destroying communion among people, but can edify it; it can promote it. With your life you demonstrate that economy and communion become more beautiful when they are beside each other. Certainly the economy is more beautiful, but communion is also more beautiful, because the spiritual communion of hearts is even fuller when it becomes the communion of goods, of talents, of profits.

"In considering your task, I would like to say three things to you today.

"The first concerns money. It is very important that at the center of the economy of communion there be the communion of your profits. The economy of communion is also the communion of profits, an expression of the communion of life. Many times I have spoken about money as an idol. The Bible tells us this in various ways. Not by chance, Jesus' first public act, in the Gospel of John, is the expulsion of the merchants from the temple (cf. 2:13-21). We cannot understand the new Kingdom offered by Jesus if we do not free ourselves of idols, of which money is one of the most powerful. Therefore, how is it possible to be merchants that Jesus does not expel? Money is important, especially when there is none, and food, school, and the children's future depend on it. But it becomes an idol when it becomes the aim. Greed, which by no coincidence is a capital sin, is the sin of idolatry because the accumulation of money per se becomes the aim of one's own actions. It was precisely Jesus who defined money as "lord": 'No one can serve two lords, two masters.' There are two: God and money, the anti-God, the idol. Jesus said this. At the same level of choice. Think about this.

"When capitalism makes the seeking of profit its only purpose, it runs the risk of becoming an idolatrous framework, a form of worship. The 'goddess of fortune' is increasingly the new divinity of a certain finance and of the whole system of gambling which is destroying millions of the world's families, and which you rightly oppose. This idolatrous worship is a surrogate for eternal life. Individual products (cars, telephones ...) get old and wear out, but if I have money or credit I can immediately buy others, deluding myself of conquering death.

"Thus, one understands the ethical and spiritual value of your choice to pool profits. The best and most practical way to avoid making an idol of money is to share it, share it with others, above all with the poor, or to enable young people to study and work, overcoming the idolatrous temptation with communion. When you share and donate your profits, you are performing an act of lofty spirituality, saying to money through deeds: 'you are not God, you are not lord, you are not master!' And do not forget that other philosophy and that other theology that led our grandmothers to say: 'The devil enters through the pockets.' Do not forget this!

"The second thing I would like to say to you concerns poverty, a central theme of your movement.

"Today, many initiatives, public and private, are being carried out to combat poverty. All this, on the one hand, is a growth in humanity. In the Bible, the poor, orphans, widows, those 'discarded' by the society of those times, were aided by tithing and the gleaning of grain. But most of the people remained poor; that aid was not sufficient to feed and care for everyone. There were many 'discarded' by society. Today we have invented other ways to care for, to feed, to teach the poor, and some of the seeds of the Bible have blossomed into more effective institutions than those of the past. The rationale for taxes also lies in this solidarity, which is negated by tax avoidance and evasion which, over and above being illegal acts, are acts which deny the basic law of life: mutual care.

"But - and this can never be said enough - capitalism continues to produce discarded people whom it would then like to care for. The principal ethical dilemma of this capitalism is the creation of discarded people, then trying to hide them or make sure they are no longer seen. A serious form of poverty in a civilization is when it is no longer able to see its poor, who are first discarded and then hidden.

"Aircraft pollute the atmosphere, but, with a small part of the cost of the ticket, they will plant trees to compensate for part of the damage created. Gambling companies finance campaigns to care for the pathological gamblers that they create. And the day that the weapons industry finances hospitals to care for the children mutilated by their bombs, the system will have reached its pinnacle. This is hypocrisy!

"The economy of communion, if it wants to be faithful to its charism, must not only care for the victims, but build a system where there are ever fewer victims, where, possibly, there may no longer be any. As long as the economy still produces one victim and there is still a single discarded person, communion has not yet been realized; the celebration of universal fraternity is not full.

"Therefore, we must work toward changing the rules of the game of the socio-economic system. Imitating the Good Samaritan of the Gospel is not enough. Of course, when an entrepreneur or any person happens upon a victim, he or she is called to take care of the victim and, perhaps like the Good Samaritan, also to enlist the fraternal action of the market (the innkeeper). I know that you have sought to do so for 25 years. But it is important to act above all before the man comes across the robbers, by battling the frameworks of sin that produce robbers and victims. An entrepreneur who is only a Good Samaritan does half of his duty: he takes care of today's victims, but does not curtail those of tomorrow. For communion, one must imitate the merciful Father of the parable of the Prodigal Son and wait at home for the children, workers, and co-workers who have done wrong, and there embrace them and celebrate with and for them - and not be impeded by the meritocracy invoked by the elder son and by many who deny mercy in the name of merit. An entrepreneur of communion is called to do everything possible so that even those who do wrong and leave home can hope for work and for dignified earnings, and not wind up eating with the swine. No son, no man, not even the most rebellious, deserves acorns.

"Lastly, the third thing concerns the future. These 25 years of your history say that communion and business can exist and grow together. An experience which for now is limited to a small number of businesses - extremely small if compared to the world's great capital. But the changes in the order of the spirit and therefore of life are not linked to big numbers. The small flock, the lamp, a coin, a lamb, a pearl, salt, leaven: these are the images of the Kingdom that we encounter in the Gospels. And the prophets have announced to us the new age of salvation by indicating to us the sign of a child, Emmanuel, and speaking to us of a faithful 'remnant', a small group.

"It is not necessary to be in a large group to change our life: suffice it that the salt and leaven do not deteriorate. The great work to be performed is trying not to lose the 'active ingredient' which enlivens them: salt does not do its job by increasing in quantity - instead, too much salt makes the meal salty - but by saving its 'spirit', namely, its quality. Every time people, peoples, and even the Church have thought of saving the world in numbers, they have produced power structures, forgetting the poor. We save our economy by being simply salt and leaven: a difficult job, because everything deteriorates with the passing of time. What do we do so as not to lose the active ingredient, the 'enzyme' of communion?

"When there were no refrigerators, to preserve the mother dough of the bread, they gave a small amount of their own leavened dough to a neighbor, and when they needed to make bread again they received a handful of leavened dough from that woman or from another who had received it in her turn. It is reciprocity. Communion is not only the sharing but also the multiplying of goods, the creation of new bread, of new goods, of new Good with a capital 'G'. The living principle of the Gospel remains active only if we give it, because it is love, and love is active when we love, not when we write novels or when we watch telenovels. If instead we possessively keep it all and only for ourselves, it goes moldy and dies. The Gospel can grow moldy. The economy of communion will have a future if you give it to everyone and it does not remain only inside your 'house'. Give it to everyone, firstly to the poor and the young, who are those who need it most and know how to make the gift received bear fruit! To have life in abundance one must learn to give: not only the profits of businesses, but of yourselves. The first gift of the entrepreneur is of his or her own person: your money, although important, is too little. Money does not save if it is not accompanied by the gift of the person. Today's economy, the poor, the young, need first of all your spirit, your respectful and humble fraternity, your will to live and, only then, your money.

"Capitalism knows philanthropy, not communion. It is simple to give a part of the profits, without embracing and touching the people who receive those 'crumbs'. Instead, even just five loaves and two fishes can feed the multitude if they are the sharing of all our life. In the logic of the Gospel, if one does not give all of himself, he never gives enough of himself.

"You already do these things. But you can share more profits in order to combat idolatry, change the structures in order to prevent the creation of victims and discarded people, give more of your leaven so as to leaven the bread of many. May the 'no' to an economy that kills become a 'yes' to an economy that lets live, because it shares, includes the poor, uses profits to create communion.

"I hope you continue on your path, with courage, humility, and joy. 'God loves a cheerful giver' (2 Cor 9:7). God loves your joyfully given profits and talents. You already do this; you can do so even more. I hope you continue to be the seed, salt, and leaven of another economy: the economy of the Kingdom, where the rich know how to share their wealth, and the poor are called 'blessed'. Thank you."

Famine Threatens South Sudan

(Editor's note: This report was provided by Caritas Internationalis.)

Pope Francis has urgently appealed for food aid to help millions of South Sudanese "condemned to death by hunger." His plea followed the United Nation's declaration of famine in the stricken country, with 275,000 children severely malnourished and more than 5 million people urgently in need of food and agricultural assistance.

The pope has called on all involved to send food aid to South Sudan: "where a fratricidal conflict compounded by a severe food crisis condemns to death by starvation millions of people, including many children."

"Caritas Internationalis is deeply concerned," said Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis. "This famine is a direct consequence of a protracted conflict and almost four years of indescribable violence and abuses committed against the population."

The brutal combination of civil war, a collapsing economy and drought have brought communities already living on the brink to their knees. Many were unable to harvest last August and September due to food insecurity, and the second planting season due in April is now threatened.

South Sudan faces famine with 275,000 children severely malnourished and more than 5 million people urgently in need of food aid. Credit: Caritas South Sudan

"Our worst fears have come to pass," said Fergus Conmee of UK Caritas agency CAFOD, reporting to the British TV channel ITV from Yirol in South Sudan. "Hunger is evident in the thinness of children and the way clothes hang from the bodies of people already suffering."

The next crops are not due for six months, and then only if there is rain, and, as Fergus Conmee warns, "unless they get food now, the women who are usually responsible for tilling the land … will be too weak to do so."

In its first official famine declaration since the crisis in Somalia in 2011, when 250,000 people died, the UN has joined the South Sudanese government to announce famine in Unity State. This follows a warning issued last week by the World Food Program that 20 million people across Africa may be facing famine over the next six months.

Irish Caritas agency Trocaire's Head of International Division Sean Farrell has just returned from the region. As he reports, with their stocks of grain long gone, people are being reduced to foraging for wild leaves in the forest. Even these are fast disappearing.

"Food supplies are practically gone," he told Ireland's RTE Radio 1 "and families are really, really struggling. If there is not a large international effort, then people will die. It is a pretty abysmal situation."

Caritas South Sudan reports that "access to basic services such as food, water, shelter, and protection remains dire and there is a lack of good sanitation." Caritas and local churches are responding to immediate disaster needs of their local communities as well as the displaced people who arrive daily.

"Now is not the time for the international community to walk away from South Sudan", says Gabriel Yai of Caritas South Sudan. "Together we must do all that we can to save lives."

Across the dioceses of Yei, Torit, Wau, and Juba, nearly 22,000 vulnerable people including children have been sheltered from fighting in church compounds. Caritas South Sudan is working in committees with local people to provide and coordinate assistance focused on food, water, sanitation, and shelter.

Caritas is also working with refugees fleeing hunger and conflict in South Sudan. Credit: Tommy Trenchard/Caritas

Caritas is also supporting people with the wider issues thrown up by the insecurity, overcrowding, and hunger, such as the large number of lone children, women affected by or at risk of gender-based violence, and an entire population psychologically affected by trauma. Peace-building efforts continue.

The almost constant fighting in South Sudan since 2013 has caused human suffering on a dreadful scale. Accounts of atrocities are widespread, as rival militias roam the fledgling state shooting, looting, and burning. Delivering aid is fraught with difficulty, with humanitarian supplies being looted by militias and aid workers threatened by the conflict.

"Caritas Internationalis calls on all parties to the conflict to stop the fighting and immediately allow unimpeded and safe access to humanitarian actors to reach the affected populations with food and essential humanitarian assistance," says Secretary General Michel Roy

The UN estimates that over 3.4 million people, nearly a third of the population, have been forced from their homes since the conflict began. Nearly 2 million are displaced - still in the country but without their homes and farms - while the rest are refugees in neighboring countries.

The Caritas network is active in assisting refugees from South Sudan.

Caritas Uganda raised appeal funds to deliver emergency assistance at Bidi Bidi refugee camp which has sprung up in the last seven months in northern Uganda, and is now the second biggest refugee camp in the world, with upwards of 270,000 South Sudanese who have fled for their lives.

Muslims Find Christianity Is Religion Of Freedom

by Michael Halm

Fr. Felix Goldinger, a Catholic priest in Speyer, Germany, says many of the refugees he has baptized come from Iran and Afghanistan, as well as from Syria or Eritrea.

"A lot of [the Moslem refugees] come to Germany and think, 'Here I can choose my religion and I want to choose a religion of freedom,' " says Pastor Matthais Linke of the Evangelical-Freikirchlichen Gemeinde in Berlin. "For many Iranians that I've baptized, Christianity is the religion of freedom."

Adel, a 25-year-old Iraqi refugee, said he did not feel free. He feared the reaction of other Muslim refugees and said his own brother attempted to prevent him from contacting Christian friends. Converting to Christianity in Spandau he says was the "happiest day of my life."

Former Muslims United is a program of the American Freedom Defense Initiative formed in 2009 by a group of leading infidels who have left Islam. Nonie Darwish, Mohammed Asghar, Amil Imani, Wafa Sultan, and Ibn Warraq seek to educate the American public and policymakers about the threat to the religious freedom and safety of former Muslims. Many are telling their stories.

Director Nonie Darwish puts it simply, "If you convert you die. Most Americans are subjected to much of the same misinformation with regard to Islam that I grew up with inside the Muslim world. Thus Americans are in the dark attempting to formulate their strategy to defend themselves against the threat of terror, domestic jihad and Sharia. While they get ridiculed for being 'Islamophobes,' the Muslim world itself is undergoing a huge and painful awakening.

"Sharia states that the killers of apostates and adulterers are not to be punished as murderers. That is why, for Islam to achieve 400% compliance to Sharia enforcement, Muslim individuals were told they must be Allah's enforcers of Sharia on earth if the government fails to do so. That is the reason honor killing and killing of apostates happen in the West."

When prominent Egyptian lawyer and women's rights activist Nagla Al Imam announced her conversion to Christianity in Cairo, Egypt, she was lured by a TV station 'Al Mihwar' with the pretext of an interview. Upon arrival to the studio she was told the show had been cancelled. She was then held against her will for hours assaulted, threatened, and insulted by several people. She was able to escape and told her story on her internet chat room.

Now Christians, respected evangelical scholars, and theologians, the Caner brothers, Ergun and Emil, have updated Unveiling Islam: An Insiders Look at Muslim Life and Beliefs. It offers a both sympathetic and realistic analysis of Islam's practices, ethics, and beliefs, and outlines the principle differences between Islam and Christianity.

When Nonie Darwish was a girl of eight, her father died a "shahid," a martyr for jihad. Today Darwish thrives as an American citizen, a Christian, a conservative Republican, and the author of Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounce Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.

In converting from Islam to Christianity, Abdual Saleeb spent many years studying both. With Dr. R. C. Sproul he focuses in the Dark Side of Islam on four basic areas in which Islam rejects the very foundations of Christianity.

After writing Why I Am Not a Muslim, Ibn Warraq wrote about other converts in the introduction of his book, Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out. "No quick portrait of the typical apostate is likely to appear - some are young (students in their teens), some are middle-aged with children; some are scientists, while others are economists, business people, or journalists; some are from Bangladesh, others are from Pakistan, India, Morocco, Egypt, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, or Iran. Our witnesses, nonetheless, do have certain moral and intellectual qualities in common: for instance, they are all comparatively well educated, computer literate with access to the Internet, and rational, with the ability to think for themselves. However, what is most striking is their fearlessness, their moral courage, and their moral commitment to telling the truth."

Susan Crimp and Joel Richardson have also colleted together many personal testimonies in Why We Left Islam: Former Muslims Speak Out.

Thank A Priest

by Leiann Spontaneo

When was the last time you ever thanked a priest?

Catholic clergy can accept most gifts. Priests enjoy music, movies, books, and good food just as much as lay people!

Give him a gift of volunteering, which means you speak to the priest's heart. I will be honest with you. I cannot give monetarily to the church. So, I write for My People as my contribution to the church.

Make a donation to the church. This shows the priest that you not only care about him, but you care about the things he cares about.

Give a gasoline or car tune-up gift card. Many priests are often the pastor of more than one parish. I am sure the ability to keep their vehicles safe and running would be appreciated.

An invitation to have lunch or dinner at your house. Maybe he would like to actually sit at the kitchen table and have a real home-cooked meal.

Give good coffee, tea, or wine. Go for the good stuff that he would never buy himself.

Give him cash! He may need practical things to buy for himself.

Pray for him. We ask our priests to pray for us, but they need our prayers also.

Give an Amazon gift card as a little "retail therapy." He could shop for basically anything at his own convenience.

These are just a few ideas on how to thank a priest. We are always told to do good to others or to bless others. Don't forget to include your priest.

Media Asked To Convey Faith And Hope

The 51st World Communications Day will be observed on May 28. The theme of the Day is: " 'Fear not, for I am with you' (Is 43:5): Communicating Hope and Trust in our time."

The message for this Day is traditionally dated January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron of the Catholic press. Pope Francis message follows:

"Access to the media - thanks to technological progress - makes it possible for countless people to share news instantly and spread it widely. That news may be good or bad, true or false. The early Christians compared the human mind to a constantly grinding millstone; it is up to the miller to determine what it will grind: good wheat or worthless weeds. Our minds are always 'grinding', but it is up to us to choose what to feed them (cf. SAINT JOHN CASSIAN, Epistle to Leontius).

"I wish to address this message to all those who, whether in their professional work or personal relationships, are like that mill, daily 'grinding out' information with the aim of providing rich fare for those with whom they communicate. I would like to encourage everyone to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice towards others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all of us to view the world around us with realism and trust.

"I am convinced that we have to break the vicious circle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear resulting from a constant focus on 'bad news' (wars, terrorism, scandals, and all sorts of human failure). This has nothing to do with spreading misinformation that would ignore the tragedy of human suffering, nor is it about a naive optimism blind to the scandal of evil. Rather, I propose that all of us work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent and resignation that can at times generate apathy, fear, or the idea that evil has no limits. Moreover, in a communications industry which thinks that good news does not sell, and where the tragedy of human suffering and the mystery of evil easily turn into entertainment, there is always the temptation that our consciences can be dulled or slip into pessimism.

"I would like, then, to contribute to the search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamourize evil but instead to concentrate on solutions and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients. I ask everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart 'good news.'

Good news

"Life is not simply a bare succession of events, but a history, a story waiting to be told through the choice of an interpretative lens that can select and gather the most relevant data. In and of itself, reality has no one clear meaning. Everything depends on the way we look at things, on the lens we use to view them. If we change that lens, reality itself appears different. So how can we begin to 'read' reality through the right lens?

"For us Christians, that lens can only be the good news, beginning with the Good News par excellence: 'the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God' (Mk 1:1). With these words, Saint Mark opens his Gospel not by relating 'good news' about Jesus, but rather the good news that is Jesus Himself. Indeed, reading the pages of His Gospel, we learn that its title corresponds to its content and, above all else, this content is the very person of Jesus.

"This good news - Jesus Himself - is not good because it has nothing to do with suffering, but rather because suffering itself becomes part of a bigger picture. It is seen as an integral part of Jesus' love for the Father and for all mankind. In Christ, God has shown His solidarity with every human situation. He has told us that we are not alone, for we have a Father who is constantly mindful of His children. 'Fear not, for I am with you' (Is 43:5): these are the comforting words of a God who is immersed in the history of His people. In His beloved Son, this divine promise - 'I am with you' - embraces all our weakness, even to dying our death. In Christ, even darkness and death become a point of encounter with Light and Life. Hope is born, a hope accessible to everyone, at the very crossroads where life meets the bitterness of failure. That hope does not disappoint, because God's love has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5) and makes new life blossom, like a shoot that springs up from the fallen seed. Seen in this light, every new tragedy that occurs in the world's history can also become a setting for good news, inasmuch as love can find a way to draw near and to raise up sympathetic hearts, resolute faces, and hands ready to build anew.

Confidence in the seed of the Kingdom

"To introduce His disciples and the crowds to this Gospel mindset and to give them the right 'lens' needed to see and embrace the love that dies and rises, Jesus uses parables. He frequently compares the Kingdom of God to a seed that releases its potential for life precisely when it falls to the earth and dies (cf. Mk 4:1-34). This use of images and metaphors to convey the quiet power of the Kingdom does not detract from its importance and urgency; rather, it is a merciful way of making space for the listener to freely accept and appropriate that power. It is also a most effective way to express the immense dignity of the Paschal mystery, leaving it to images, rather than concepts, to communicate the paradoxical beauty of new life in Christ. In that life, hardship and the cross do not obstruct, but bring about God's salvation; weakness proves stronger than any human power; and failure can be the prelude to the fulfilment of all things in love. This is how hope in the Kingdom of God matures and deepens: it is 'as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow' (Mk 4:26-27).

"The Kingdom of God is already present in our midst, like a seed that is easily overlooked, yet silently takes root. Those to whom the Holy Spirit grants keen vision can see it blossoming. They do not let themselves be robbed of the joy of the Kingdom by the weeds that spring up all about.

The horizons of the Spirit

"Our hope based on the good news which is Jesus Himself makes us lift up our eyes to contemplate the Lord in the liturgical celebration of the Ascension. Even though the Lord may now appear more distant, the horizons of hope expand all the more. In Christ, who brings our human nature to heaven, every man and woman can now freely 'enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh' (Heb 10:19-20). By 'the power of the Holy Spirit' we can be witnesses and 'communicators' of a new and redeemed humanity 'even to the ends of the earth' (Acts 1:7-8).

"Confidence in the seed of God's Kingdom and in the mystery of Easter should also shape the way we communicate. This confidence enables us to carry out our work - in all the different ways that communication takes place nowadays - with the conviction that it is possible to recognize and highlight the good news present in every story and in the face of each person.

"Those who, in faith, entrust themselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit come to realize how God is present and at work in every moment of our lives and history, patiently bringing to pass a history of salvation. Hope is the thread with which this sacred history is woven, and its weaver is none other than the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Hope is the humblest of virtues, for it remains hidden in the recesses of life; yet it is like the yeast that leavens all the dough. We nurture it by reading ever anew the Gospel, 'reprinted' in so many editions in the lives of the saints who became icons of God's love in this world. Today too, the Spirit continues to sow in us a desire for the Kingdom, thanks to all those who, drawing inspiration from the Good News amid the dramatic events of our time, shine like beacons in the darkness of this world, shedding light along the way and opening ever new paths of confidence and hope."

Light to the Nations

(A Christian Perspective on World News)

morals must guide health care

WASHINGTON-As Congress prepares to discuss possible changes to the Affordable Care Act, the chairmen of four United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committees called on lawmakers to consider important moral criteria, especially pertaining to the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn and those experiencing deep poverty. The Bishops of the United States have consistently advocated for a health care system in which-as the late Cardinal Francis George used to say-everyone should be cared for and no one should be deliberately killed.

In a letter from March 8, 2017, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, urged Congress: to respect life by preventing the use of federal funds to facilitate abortion or purchase health care plans that provide abortion; to honor conscience rights; and to ensure access for all people to comprehensive, quality health care that is truly affordable.

The Bishops called on Congress to ensure coverage for those who now rely upon it after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and expressed concern about any structural changes to the social safety net that could impact access to health care for millions. Noting that the Catholic Church "provides health care, purchases health care, and helps to pick up the pieces for those who fall through the cracks of the health care system when it fails," the bishops urged "a new spirit of cooperation for the sake of the common good" on this vital concern during the debates ahead.

The full letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/Joint-Letter-to-Congress-ACA-Principles-03-07-2017.pdf.

(Source: USCCB press release)

innocent lives still at risk

WASHINGTON-The Most Reverend Joe S. Vasquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, says that President Trump's latest Executive Order still puts vulnerable populations around the world at risk. In a statement issued after the announcement of March 6 travel suspension, Bishop Vasquez says that while we seek to maintain our values and safety, we must also exercise compassion in assisting and continuing to welcome the stranger.

Bishop Vazquez's full statement follows:

"We remain deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban. While we note the Administration's efforts to modify the Executive Order in light of various legal concerns, the revised Order still leaves many innocent lives at risk.

The removal of one of the original seven predominantly Muslim countries temporarily barred from entering the United States is welcome, but we are disappointed that the revised order maintains the temporary shutdown of the U.S. refugee admissions program, continues the more than 60 percent reduction in the number of refugees who can be resettled into the United States this year, and still temporarily bars nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal.

However, based on the knowledge that refugees are already subjected to the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States, there is no merit to pausing the refugee resettle-ment program while considering further improve-ment to that vetting process.

The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion, including Christians, Muslims, and all others. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith and "welcoming the stranger" as Jesus has challenged us to do.

Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops reaffirm their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in defense of vulnerable persons. Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation. We have the ability to continue to assist the most vulnerable among us without sacrificing our values as Americans or the safety and security of our nation."

(Source: USCCB press release)

Edge To Edge

Edge to Edge

Pray The News

Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.

  • We pray for an end to hunger and starvation and that we will share our rsources with those in need.
  • We pray that each person will discover and live their vocation and will share their faith.
  • We pray for the media to be beacons of truth, faith, and love.
  • We pray for President Trump and his administration as well as all elected and appointed leaders to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
  • We pray for healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation in our land.
  • We pray that we will be on fire with love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
  • We pray for the whole Church to follow Jesus more closely this Easter Season.
  • We pray for repentant hearts and willingness to seek and give God's Mercy.
  • We pray that we will share God's love and mercy with others.
  • We pray for businessmen to be filled with the Holy Spirit and have the Heart of Jesus for those in need.

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Copyright © 2017 Presentation Ministries
3230 McHenry Ave.
Cincinnati, OH 45211
Phone: (513) 662-5378
www.presentationministries.com

Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com

 

 

 
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