"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
"We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world."
-St. Francis of Assisi
Every year, believers are challenged to spiritual growth and sincere conversion during Lent. Ash Wednesday falls on March 1 this year. "The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift" is the theme of the Pope's 2017 Lenten Message. This Message, dated October 18, the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, follows:
"... Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ's victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God 'with all their hearts' (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us. Even when we sin, He patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, He shows us His readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, January 8, 2016).
"Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to sincere conversion.
"The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds (cf. vv. 20-21). The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.
"The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means God helps. This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast (cf. Homily, January 8, 2016).
"Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect, and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.
"The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man (cf. v. 19). Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called 'a rich man.' His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (cf. Jer 10:9) and kings (cf. Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: 'He feasted sumptuously every day' (v. 19). In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity, and pride (cf. Homily, September 20, 2013).
"The Apostle Paul tells us that 'the love of money is the root of all evils' (1 Tim 6:10). It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife, and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.
"The parable then shows that the rich man's greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence (cf. ibid., 62).
"The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.
"Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: 'No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money' (Mt 6:24).
"The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to an experience quite similar to that of the rich man. When the priest imposes the ashes on our heads, he repeats the words: 'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.' As it turned out, the rich man and the poor man both died, and the greater part of the parable takes place in the afterlife. The two characters suddenly discover that 'we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it' (1 Tim 6:7).
"We too see what happens in the afterlife. There the rich man speaks at length with Abraham, whom he calls 'father' (Lk 16:24.27), as a sign that he belongs to God's people. This detail makes his life appear all the more contradictory, for until this moment there had been no mention of his relation to God. In fact, there was no place for God in his life. His only god was himself.
"The rich man recognizes Lazarus only amid the torments of the afterlife. He wants the poor man to alleviate his suffering with a drop of water. What he asks of Lazarus is similar to what he could have done but never did. Abraham tells him: 'During your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus had his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony' (v. 25). In the afterlife, a kind of fairness is restored and life's evils are balanced by good.
"The parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive. But Abraham answers: 'They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them' (v. 29). Countering the rich man's objections, he adds: 'If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead' (v. 31).
"The rich man's real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God's word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God's word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.
"Dear friends, Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in His word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God's word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten Campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favor the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter."
Pope Francis reached out to youth in a January 13 letter on the occasion of the upcoming 2018 Synod of Bishops.
Pope Francis stated:"... I am pleased to announce that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: 'Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.' I wanted you to be the center of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the Preparatory Document is being presented, a document which I am also entrusting to you as your 'compass' on this synodal journey.
"I am reminded of the words which God spoke to Abraham: 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.' (Gen 12.1). These words are now also addressed to you. They are words of a Father who invites you to 'go,' to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfilment, a future towards which He Himself accompanies you. I invite you to hear God's voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit.
"When God said to Abram, 'Go!,' what did he want to say? He certainly did not say to distance himself from his family or withdraw from the world. Abram received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this 'new land' for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?
"But unfortunately, today, 'Go!' also has a different meaning, namely, that of abuse of power, injustice, and war. Many among you are subjected to the real threat of violence and forced to flee their native land. Their cry goes up to God, like that of Israel, when the people were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh (cf. Ex 2:23).
"I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: 'Teacher [...] where are you staying?' He replied, 'Come and see' (Jn 1:38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God's plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend his hand to pick you up.
"In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: 'Can we change things?' And you shouted: 'Yes!' That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a 'throw-away culture' nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: 'Do not be afraid, [...], because I am with you to deliver you' (Jer 1:8).
"A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities, and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult, even the young, before any important decision, because 'the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.' (Rule of St. Benedict, III, 3).
"Such is the case, even in the journey of this Synod. My brother bishops and I want even more to 'work with you for your joy' (2 Cor 1:24). I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God's call with the words: 'Here I am' (cf. Lk 1:38)..."
Pope Francis spoke to members of the Roman Rota on January 21 in Vatican City. The Pope focused on "formation" and "accompaniment" in considering ways to improve marriage preparation. His address follows:
"... Today I would like to turn to the theme of the relationship between faith and matrimony, especially from the prospective of faith inherent in the human and cultural context, in which the nuptial intention is formed. Saint John Paul II focused on it, and based his teaching on Sacred Scripture, which 'indicates with remarkably clear cues how deeply related are the knowledge conferred by faith and the knowledge conferred by reason ... What is distinctive in the biblical text is the conviction that there is a profound and indissoluble unity between the knowledge of reason and the knowledge of faith' (Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, n. 16). Therefore, the more distant he or she is from the perspective of faith, the more 'the human being runs the risk of failure and ends up in the condition of "the fool." For the Bible, in this foolishness there lies a threat to life. The fool thinks that he knows many things, but really he is incapable of fixing his gaze on the things that truly matter. Therefore he can neither order his mind (cf. Prov 1:7) nor assume a correct attitude to himself or to the world around him. And so when he claims that "God does not exist" (cf. Ps 14:1), he shows with absolute clarity just how deficient his knowledge is and just how far he is from the full truth of things, their origin and their destiny' (ibid., n. 18).
"For his part, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Final Address to you, recalled that 'it is only in opening oneself to God's truth ... that it is possible to understand and achieve in the concrete reality of both conjugal and family life the truth of men and women as his children, regenerated by Baptism ... The rejection of the divine proposal, in fact, leads to a profound imbalance in all human relations ..., including matrimonial relations' (January 26, 2013, n. 2). It is ever more necessary to deepen the relationship between love and truth. 'Love requires truth. Only to the extent that love is grounded in truth can it endure over time, can it transcend the passing moment and be sufficiently solid to sustain a shared journey. If love is not bound to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life. Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit' (Encyclical Lumen Fidei, n. 27).
"We cannot ignore the fact that a widespread mentality seeks to obscure access to eternal truths. A mentality which affects, often in vast and detailed ways, the attitudes and behavior patterns of Christians themselves (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 64), whose faith weakens and loses its originality of interpretive and operative criteria for personal, family, and social existence. This context, lacking in religious values and faith, cannot but influence matrimonial consensus too. The experiences of faith of those requesting Christian marriage are very different. Some actively participate in the life of the parish; others come for the first time. Some even have a strong prayer life; others, instead, are guided by a more generic religious sentiment. At times they are people far from the faith, or who lack faith.
"Faced with this situation, we need to find valid remedies. A first remedy is one I recommend in the formation of young people, through an appropriate preparation which is aimed at rediscovering marriage and family according to God's plan. It is about helping future spouses to understand and savor the grace, beauty, and joy of true love, saved and redeemed by Jesus. The Christian community to which engaged couples turn is called to warmly proclaim the Gospel to them, in order that their experience of love may become a sacrament, an efficacious sign of salvation. In this situation, the redeeming mission of Jesus reaches men and women in the realization of their life of love. This moment becomes for the entire community an extraordinary occasion for mission. Today more than ever, this preparation is presented as a true and proper occasion for the evangelization of adults and, often, of the so-called distant. There are, indeed, numerous young people for whom the approach of the wedding is an opportunity to encounter once again the faith which has long been relegated to the margins of their lives; moreover, they experience a unique moment, often characterized by a readiness to re-examine and change the direction of their life. It can be, therefore, an advantageous time for renewing their encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, with the message of the Gospel, and with the teaching of the Church.
"It is therefore necessary that workers and organizations charged with the pastoral care of the family be motivated by a strong concern for making the preparatory programs for the sacrament of marriage ever more effective, not only for human growth, but above all for the faith of the engaged couple. The fundamental objective of the encounters is to help engaged couples realize a progressive integration into the mystery of Christ, in the Church and with the Church. This carries a progressive maturation in the faith, through the proclamation of the Word of God, adhesion to and generously following Christ. The finality of this preparation consists, namely, in helping engaged couples to know and live the reality of marriage which they intend to celebrate, in order that they may be able to do so not only validly and lawfully, but also fruitfully, and that they may be willing to make this celebration a stage on their journey of faith. In order to achieve this, there is a need for people with specific abilities and appropriate preparation in this service, wherein there is a favorable synergy between priests and married couples.
"In this spirit, I would like to stress the need for a 'new catechumenate' for marriage preparation. Welcoming the support of the Fathers of the last Ordinary Synod, it is urgent to effectively implement what has already been proposed in Familiaris Consortio (n. 66). Namely, just as the catechumenate is part of the sacramental process for the baptism of adults, so too may the preparation for marriage form an integral part of the whole sacramental procedure of marriage, as an antidote to prevent the increase of invalid or inconsistent marriage celebrations.
"A second remedy is that of helping the newlyweds to follow up their journey in the faith and in the Church, also after the marriage celebration. It is necessary to identify, with courage and creativity, a formation plan for young married couples, with initiatives aimed at increasing their awareness of the sacrament they have received. It is about encouraging them to consider the various aspects of their daily life as a couple, which is the sign and instrument of God's love, incarnate in the history of men and women. I will give two examples. First of all, the love which a new family lives has its roots and fundamental source in the mystery of the Trinity, of which it bears the seal despite the hardship and poverty which they must confront in their daily lives. Another example: the history of the love of the Christian couple is part of sacred history, because it is inhabited by God, and because God never fails to honor the commitment he has assumed with the married couple on the day of their wedding; he is indeed a God who 'remains faithful - for he cannot deny himself' (2 Tim 2:13).
"The Christian community is called to welcome, accompany, and help young couples, by offering them opportunities and appropriate tools - apart from participating in Sunday Mass - to look after the spiritual life both in family life, in the pastoral programs of the parish, or both. Often, young married couples are left to their own devices, perhaps for the simple fact that they are seen less often in the parish; this happens especially with the birth of children. However, it is exactly these first moments of family life that need to be guaranteed greater closeness and stronger spiritual support, including in the work of educating children, toward those who are the first witnesses and bearers of the gift of faith. On the journey of the human and spiritual growth of young married couples, it would be beneficial that there be competent groups with whom they can undertake permanent formation: through listening to the Word, and the discussion of topics which pertain to family life, prayer, fraternal sharing.
"These two remedies which I have suggested are aimed at fostering an appropriate context of faith in which to celebrate and live marriage. An aspect that is so crucial for determining the robustness and truth of the marriage sacrament. It reminds parish priests to be ever more aware of the delicate task entrusted to them in overseeing the sacramental marriage journey of the future spouses, making the synergy between foedus and fides intelligible and real to them. Thus, it is about passing from a purely juridical and formal vision of the future spouses' marriage preparation, to an ab initio sacramental formation, namely, to a journey towards the fullness of their foedus-consensus which Christ raised to the status of a sacrament. This will require the generous contribution of adult Christians, men and women, who support the priest in the pastoral care of the family to build the 'masterpiece of society,' which 'is the family: a man and a woman who love each other' (Catechesis, April 29, 2015) according 'to God's luminous plan' (Words to the Extraordinary Consistory, February 20, 2014).
"The Holy Spirit, who always and in all things guides the holy People of God, helps and supports those, priests and laity, who are committed and engaged in this field, in order that they may never lose the momentum and courage to work towards the beauty of the Christian family, despite the devastating hidden dangers of the dominant culture of the ephemeral and the temporary.
"As I have said on other occasions, it takes a great deal of courage to get married in the age we are living in. And those who have the strength and joy to accomplish this important step should feel the concrete affection and closeness of the Church beside them. With this hope, I renew my best wishes for the new year that the Lord gives us. I assure you of my prayers, and likewise I count on yours, as I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing."
The annual World Day of Consecrated Life was held on February 2. Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Vatican City. A major portion of his homily follows:
"When the parents of Jesus brought the Child in fulfilment of the prescriptions of the law, Simeon, 'guided by the Spirit' (Lk 2:27), took the Child in his arms and broke out in a hymn of blessing and praise. 'My eyes,' he said, 'have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel' (Lk 2:30-32). Simeon not only saw, but was privileged to hold in his arms the long-awaited hope, which filled him with exultation. His heart rejoiced because God had come to dwell among his people; he felt his presence in the flesh...
"We have inherited this hymn of hope from our elders. They made us part of this process. In their faces, in their lives, in their daily sacrifice we were able to see how this praise was embodied. We are heirs to the dreams of our elders, heirs to the hope that did not disappoint our founding mothers and fathers, our older brothers and sisters. We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had the courage to dream. Like them, we too want to sing, 'God does not deceive; hope in Him does not disappoint.' God comes to meet His people. And we want to sing by taking up the prophecy of Joel and making it our own: 'I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions' (2:28).
"We do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day and once more encounter what originally set our hearts afire. Dreams and prophecies together. The remembrance of how our elders, our fathers and mothers, dreamed, and the courage prophetically to carry on those dreams.
"This attitude will make our consecrated life more fruitful. Most importantly, it will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival. An evil that can gradually take root within us and within our communities. The mentality of survival makes us reactionaries, fearful, slowly, and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own preconceived notions. It makes us look back, to the glory days - days that are past - and rather than rekindling the prophetic creativity born of our founders' dreams, it looks for shortcuts in order to evade the challenges knocking on our doors today. A survival mentality robs our charisms of power, because it leads us to 'domesticate' them, to make them 'user-friendly,' robbing them of their original creative force. It makes us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than to encourage new initiatives. The temptation of survival makes us forget grace; it turns us into professionals of the sacred but not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of that hope to which we are called to bear prophetic witness. An environment of survival withers the hearts of our elderly, taking away their ability to dream. In this way, it cripples the prophecy that our young are called to proclaim and work to achieve. In a word, the temptation of survival turns what the Lord presents as an opportunity for mission into something dangerous, threatening, potentially disastrous. This attitude is not limited to the consecrated life, but we in particular are urged not to fall into it.
"Let us go back to the Gospel passage and once more contemplate that scene. Surely, the song of Simeon and Anna was not the fruit of self-absorption or an analysis and review of their personal situation. It did not ring out because they were caught up in themselves and were worried that something bad might happen to them. Their song was born of hope, the hope that sustained them in their old age. That hope was rewarded when they encountered Jesus. When Mary let Simeon take the Son of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing - celebrating a true 'liturgy' - he sings his dreams. Whenever she puts Jesus in the midst of His people, they encounter joy. For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will save us from living in a survival mentality. Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where He belongs, in the midst of His people.
"All of us are aware of the multicultural transformation we are experiencing; no one doubts this. Hence, it is all the more important for consecrated men and women to be one with Jesus, in their lives and in the midst of these great changes. Our mission - in accordance with each particular charism - reminds us that we are called to be a leaven in this dough. Perhaps there are better brands of flour, but the Lord has called us to be leaven here and now, with the challenges we face. Not on the defensive or motivated by fear, but with our hands on the plough, helping the wheat to grow, even though it has frequently been sown among weeds. Putting Jesus in the midst of His people means having a contemplative heart, one capable of discerning how God is walking through the streets of our cities, our towns, and our neighborhoods. Putting Jesus in the midst of His people means taking up and carrying the crosses of our brothers and sisters. It means wanting to touch the wounds of Jesus in the wounds of a world in pain, which longs and cries out for healing.
"To put ourselves with Jesus in the midst of His people! Not as religious 'activists,' but as men and women who are constantly forgiven, men and women anointed in baptism and sent to share that anointing and the consolation of God with everyone.
"To put ourselves with Jesus in the midst of His people. For this reason, 'we sense the challenge of finding and sharing a "mystique" of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can [with the Lord] become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage... If we were able to take this route, it would be so good, so soothing, so liberating and hope-filled! To go out of ourselves and to join others' (Evangelii Gaudium, 87) is not only good for us; it also turns our lives and hopes into a hymn of praise. But we will only be able to do this if we take up the dreams of our elders and turn them into prophecy.
"Let us accompany Jesus as He goes forth to meet His people, to be in the midst of His people. Let us go forth, not with the complaining or anxiety of those who have forgotten how to prophesy because they failed to take up the dreams of their elders, but with serenity and songs of praise. Not with apprehension but with the patience of those who trust in the Spirit, the Lord of dreams and prophecy. In this way, let us share what is truly our own: the hymn that is born of hope."
Are your resolutions forgotten because you do not think you are worth it? Do you feel that taking care of yourself is selfish? Well, taking care of yourself is not selfish! It is a duty we owe God.
Everyday renew your Spirit. The following are ways we may do this.
We might have to walk through a desert to get there first though. Pray for God's help and guidance every step. Make a plan with pen and paper, app, or fitness tracker. Prepare for the moments when you will want to quit. Keep tabs with a friend or on-line for accountability.
I found the following Dieter's Prayer on the webpage http://www.probiotics-for-heal
On a more serious note, Rick Warren is stated as saying:
God created it.
Jesus died for it.
The Spirit lives in it.
I'd better take care of it.
There are many free weight loss Bible studies available and are listed on the webpage: http://barbraveling.com/weight
I hope this helps you on your journey of love of self and God.
Sources and Citations
Pope Francis closed the Jubilee for the 800th anniversary of the confirmation of the Order of Preachers with a Mass on January 21 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The Pope shared lessons St. Dominic taught by his life and work. His homily follows:
"The Word of God today offers us two opposing human scenarios: on the one hand the 'carnival' of worldly curiosity, and on the other the glorification of the Father through good works. Our life always moves between these two scenarios. Indeed, they are of every age, as shown by the words Saint Paul addressed to Timothy (cf. 2 Tim 4:1-5). Saint Dominic with his first brothers, 800 years ago, moved between these two scenarios.
"Paul advises Timothy that he will have to proclaim the Gospel in a context where the people always seek new 'teachers,' 'myths,' different doctrines, ideologies... 'Having itching ears' (2 Tim 4:3). It is the 'carnival' of worldly curiosity, of seduction. For this reason the Apostle instructs his disciple also by using powerful verbs: such as 'be urgent,' 'convince,' 'rebuke,' 'exhort,' and then 'be steady,' 'endure suffering' (vv. 2, 5).
"It is interesting to see that already then, 2,000 years ago, the Apostles of the Gospel faced this scenario, that up to our days it has really evolved and globalized due to the seduction of subjective relativism. The tendency of human beings to seek their own newness finds the ideal environment in the society of appearances, in consumption, in which old things are often recycled, but the important thing is to make them seem new, attractive, captivating. Even the truth is disguised. We move within the so-called 'liquid society,' without fixed points, demolished, lacking sound, and steady references; in the ephemeral culture of the disposable.
"In the face of this worldly 'carnival' the opposite scenario clearly stands out. We find it in the words of Jesus which we just heard: 'give glory to your Father who is in heaven' (Mt 5:16). How does this passage happen, from pseudo-celebratory superficiality to glorification, which is true celebration? It happens thanks to the good works of those who, becoming disciples of Jesus, became 'salt' and 'light.' 'Let your light so shine before men' - Jesus says - 'that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven' (Mt 5:16).
"In the midst of the 'carnival' of yesterday and today, this is the response of Jesus and of the Church; this is the sound support in the midst of the 'liquid' environment: the good works that we are able to do thanks to Christ and to His Holy Spirit, and which make grow in our heart thanksgiving to God the Father, praise, or at least wonder and the question: 'why?,' 'why does that person behave in this way?' That is the restlessness of the world before the testimony of the Gospel.
"But for this 'shaking up' to happen, salt must not lose its taste and light must not be hidden (cf. Mt 5:13-15). Jesus says it very clearly: if salt loses its taste it is no longer good for anything. Woe to salt that loses its taste! Woe to a Church that loses its taste! Woe to a priest, a consecrated person, a congregation that loses its taste!
"Today we give glory to the Father for the work that Saint Dominic, full of the light and salt of Christ, carried out 800 years ago: a work in service to the Gospel, preached with his words and with his life; a work that, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, allowed many men and women to be helped so as not to be lost in the midst of the 'carnival' of worldly curiosity, but rather to have tasted the flavor of healthy doctrine, the taste of the Gospel, and to have become, in their turn, light and salt, artisans of good works ... and true brothers and sisters who glorify God and teach others to glorify God with the good works of life."
(A Christian Perspective on World News)
WASHINGTON - Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB, have issued the following joint statement (January 30) regarding the recent executive order on the new refugee policy announced by President Trump this past Friday. President Trump's executive order suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days. The order also indefinitely stops the admission of Syrian refugees and for 90 days, bars individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Full joint statement as follows:
Over the past several days, many brother bishops have spoken out in defense of God's people. We are grateful for their witness. Now, we call upon all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.
The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice. The Second Vatican Council in Nostra Aetate urged us to sincerely work toward a mutual understanding that would "promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom." The Church will not waver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors.
The refugees fleeing from ISIS and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom. Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors. They stand firm in their faith. Many are families, no different from yours or mine, seeking safety and security for their children. Our nation should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil. We must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm, but we must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends.
The Lord Jesus fled the tyranny of Herod, was falsely accused, and then deserted by His friends. He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk. 9:58). Welcoming the stranger and those in flight is not one option among many in the Christian life. It is the very form of Christianity itself. Our actions must remind people of Jesus. The actions of our government must remind people of basic humanity. Where our brothers and sisters suffer rejection and abandonment we will lift our voice on their behalf. We will welcome them and receive them. They are Jesus and the Church will not turn away from Him.
Our desire is not to enter the political arena, but rather to proclaim Christ alive in the world today. In the very moment a family abandons their home under threat of death, Jesus is present. And He says to each of us, "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of Mine, you did for Me" (MT 25:40).
(Source: USCCB press release)
Bishops oppose all acts of violence, Israeli settlement expansion, confiscation of Palestinian lands, and relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Joint communique by bishops from Europe, Canada, South Africa, and the United States calls for diplomatic solution that respects the human dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Bishops echo Pope Francis that 'two-state solution must become a reality and not merely a dream.'
WASHINGTON - In a letter issued February 1 congratulating Secretary Rex Tillerson on his confirmation as Secretary of State, Bishop Oscar Cantu, chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), called on the Secretary to work for peace in Israel and Palestine.
Bishop Cantu, who recently participated in a solidarity visit to Israel and Palestine, enclosed a joint communique by bishops from Europe, Canada, South Africa, and the United States. The bishop notes that "2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of a crippling occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, crippling for both peoples." Quoting the joint communique of the bishops, he goes on to state that "[t]he occupation violates 'the human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis.' Settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian lands undermines a two-state solution, destroying the homes and the livelihoods of Palestinians as well as the long-term security and future of Israelis."
Decrying "egregious injustices and random acts of violence," Bishop Cantu expressed the opposition of U.S. and international bishops to Israeli settlement expansion and confiscation of Palestinian lands. In addition, he implored the Secretary to maintain the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. He wrote, "Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would erode the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution, and is a threat to pursuing peace and ending conflict. Its impact would incite and destabilize the area, compromising U.S. security. As Pope Francis declares, 'the two-state solution must become a reality and not merely a dream.' "
Bishop Cantu called on Secretary Tillerson to work "to end fifty years of occupation and build a brighter future for both Israelis and Palestinians." He concluded, "[T]he United States has always provided leadership and support to the peace process. We continue to profess hope for a diplomatic solution that respects the human dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians and advances justice and peace for all."
The full text of the bishops' joint communique and Bishop Cantu's letter to Secretary Rex Tillerson are available online at www.usccb.org/issues-and-actio
(Source: USCCB press release)
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