Author Archive

Mk 4:1-20 Teachers and Sowers

Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary

By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE
“’And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.’
He added, ‘Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.’”
No other parable or story catches the essence of teaching and instruction better than the Parable of the Sower. Day in, day out, teachers do their work of instructing students, young and old, to learn content or develop skills in reading, writing, and thinking. Often, students react much like the unsteady earth receiving these seeds of knowledge. Some students follow along quite well, but in their enthusiasm, quickly forget what they’ve learned because they have distractions at home that sap whatever learning they may have done at school. Other students refuse to listen, refuse to work, and remain quite ignorant in their stubbornness. The taskmasters of the world swoop down on these kids and set them to work with their hands—that is, if these kids ever find work at all. Perhaps the most tragic students are the ones that show promise and learn their lessons quite well only to mix with bad crowd (the weeds) and underachieve forever afterward.
Fortunately, a few students escape this fate and shine in the classroom and beyond. They not only come with talent, which helps, but they also enter the classroom with a positive attitude. They will see humor in the teacher’s little jokes. They will try to identify with the old abstruse writers they read, and naturally try to apply their arguments to their own time. They will take the time to practice a new math concept, to write out their lab report, to read their textbooks. And if they are truly good students, they accomplish these things not for a grade, but because it is good and they actually like it.
Good teachers distinguish themselves by their hope in reaching the student, regardless of their backgroundAs they sow their seeds of knowledge and wisdom, they understand the seeds may not always bear fruit, or that they may only bear fruit in a limited fashion. Nevertheless, they sow as if their whole field consisted of good soil. The faithful administrator—yes, they’re on our allegorical field as well—trusts his teachers to bear fruit, supporting them and letting them focus on their task by warding off the birds. Finally, the loving parent continues their work on the soil, breaking it up, nurturing it, letting those seeds take root and grow—they probably have the most difficult job, so love is absolutely key.
By contrast, the hopeless teachers, the faithless administrators, the loveless parents too often have the tendency to cut their losses and run away from the challenge. The hopeless teachers stop pushing their students; the faithless administrators stop trusting their teachers or students to do the right thing and hide their faces in data and new education gimmicks; and the loveless parents stop expecting anything from their kids. In such a school, and there are many, weeds fester, the ground stays barren, and the birds of corruption gather and defecate all over the place.
As St. Augustine observed the dysfunction and decline of education in his time which preceded the barbarian invasions into Rome by a few years, he came to realize that education was not the product of economic prosperity or political agenda: education was a moral activity, a product of the soul. In his major work, De Doctrina Christiana, he first imagined that school of hopeful teachers, faithful administrators, and loving parents. The school did not try to make fatuous cads copying the rhetoric of Cicero and buying into the bogus mystery cults and heresies of the day; it tried to create good men and women living out the truths of the Bible.
Although some scholars have criticized Augustine’s work—I know this because I wrote my graduate thesis on it—since Rome fell into decline shortly afterward, his educational theory obviously took hold in the saints in the centuries afterward. St. Isidore, St. Gregory, St. John Cassian, St. Martin of Tours, and Saint Leo the Great proved that great scholarship aligned with Christianity, not with Paganism or Aryanism. These saints did the work of preserving the Western intellectual tradition—Augustine’s plan wisely adopted and adapted the classics worth keeping—despite the massive assimilation of uneducated Goths in the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries, and the onslaught Muslim Arab invasions threatening Christendom for nine centuries afterward. Augustine’s idea of a spiritual education held strong, producing many saints and scholars (like St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast day is today), and eventually led to the birth of the modern world, proving the that the patience of the sower will eventually pay off if the seeds are truly good.
Along with illustrating the sowing aspect of teaching, Jesus’ parables also shed light on the other roles present in this process. Jesus will ask His apostles to sow, no doubt, but he also asks His audience, what will become His Church, to be good soil—“Whoever has ears ought to hear. They need to stop acting like weeds choking the progress of others, or like the shallow soil accepting the truth half-way and drying up before the seed matures, or like the hard soil leaving the Truth of the gospel exposed to the idiots and villains of the world hoping to steal it away and make nothing of it. Instead, they must soften their hearts, open their minds, and let the seed of Truth sink in and take root.
In practical terms, this means breaking down the soil with prayer, removing its pests with fasting, and enriching it with alms. The devout life aims to make us good soil that bears the fruit of Love and Truth. Nothing less will do.

Mk 4:1-20 Belief + Desire + Action

Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

By JENNIFER BURGIN

 “Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
Today is the Feast Day of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Dominican priest and Doctor of the Church who is probably one of the most influential theologians in Catholic Church history. Many people are intimidated by Aquinas.  He can be a challenge to understand, but a basic introduction to his writings provides incredible wisdom and insight still applicable in modern day.   
I came across this brilliant quote by Thomas Aquinas which I like to reflect on in light of today’s familiar gospel reading from Mark 4:1-20 (Parable of the Seed Sower).
Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.
Believe     Can we honestly say we believe in God and his hand in creating the universe?  If God suddenly threw seeds of faith in our paths, would we pick them up and plant them in fertile soil?  Or, would we decide to toss our faith seeds onto a rocky pavement or in a weedy thorn bush, throwing them away as if a pile of garbage? 
We tend to have faith in things we see and in people or situations that feed our pride.  We are less likely to have “faith” in things annoying, stressful, or too abstract for our sensibilities.  When we do muster up faith in the unseen, naturally belief takes over.  
When we have faith and belief in God we will not toss aside the tiny seeds of faith.  We decide to preserve the seeds for generations to come.  Plant a seed in rich soil and watch it grow.  As it grows, we prune and manicure it, harvesting more seeds and cuttings so we can continue the plant’s heritage.  Suddenly, our garden of faith blossoms into attractive colors and aromas of all shapes and sizes.  
For our salvation, we believe in mercy of God; we believe God as the master creator; and we believe that Christ died for our eternal life.
Desire   Do we desire to imitate God in thought, word and deed?  Do we desire to grow in our spiritual faith?  Or do we allow the Devil to gather faith seeds for us, sowing his own wicked weeds instead?  
Naturally we desire the sensual, the beautiful and the pleasurable.  We wear fine clothes, drink fine wines, travel to fine destinations, and bed with fine looking people.  There’s nothing wrong with desiring attractive things; however, what we should desire #1 is Jesus Christ!  He is the finest man of all, and he provides us with spiritual pleasures beyond our physical senses.
For our salvation, we desire a greater intimacy with God; and we desire to learn more about our Catholic faith so that we can grow spiritually. 
Action  Do we engage in ways to promote our faith and belief?  Do we desire to fall in love with the Lord? Or do we take the seeds of faith and allow them to dry up from lack of shade and too much sunshine?
Our actions speak louder than words.  If we say we believe in God, but don’t practice our faith, we are hypocrites.  If we say we desire to evangelize good news, but remain inattentive to the needs of others, we fail to live up to Christ’s teaching.  In other words, if we truly believe and desire to follow the Christian life we must do work.  Faith without works is dead. (James 2:26)  Faithful action may mean volunteering, tithing, or simply praying for others.
For our salvation, we act in ways that are pleasing to the Lord; we act in ways that are charitable and loving; and we perform actions that benefit the glory of God’s Kingdom.
God provides us with so many choices in life.  He does this because he loves us!  Let us choose to sow the seeds of faith in rich, fertile soil! 
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Pray for Us!!
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican associated with Saint Albert the Great Dominican Priory in Irving Texas.  Please follow her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality

Mk 1:14-20 Fishers of Men

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By GABY HUNDZA

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John are so inspiring because of their willingness to drop everything that they have to follow Christ and proclaim the good news. They weren’t afraid to share the gospel with those who did not know or believe. They had confidence to walk with Christ!
God has called me in wonderful ways to share his message and preach to others, but it’s difficult for me to do this with confidence. I’m always afraid that people won’t understand what I’m saying or they won’t receive the message I’m trying to send. As hard as it is for me to  share, I’ve still accepted the opportunities God has given me to speak with him, such as the time I gave a witness talk at freshman retreat this past semester.

I was excited of the idea of doing this, but I was hesitant at first. I wrote multiple outlines to figure out what I wanted to say and what the best way to present it would be. Even as I began sharing what I have learned about myself through the Bible on stage, I still wasn’t sure if I was good enough for such an important task. Regardless of that fear, I accepted and let the Holy Spirit speak through me and fill the thoughts of the young girls. It’s crazy to imagine that those men confidently went out to speak to others with no hesitation!

This reading helps me when I’m anxious about speaking to others, because the fishermen’s actions alone demonstrate the behavior and attitude we should have when working for God:
  • never be afraid to speak out

When God calls us to go out and spread his word, we should not be afraid to do so. He is choosing us to speak through – we are his messengers, and it’s impossible for others to hear and know the truth if we don’t share it with them. What should we fear when we have God to give us strength and knowledge? One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:31 – “If God is for us, who can be against us.” Whenever we are scared or afraid, we need to take a step back and remember that God is always on our side. He believes in us and our ability to be the best version of ourselves. God is always rooting for us, all he asks in return is that we follow his guidance and speak out through words and actions so that we can share his love with others.
  • be a light for others
We don’t realize how influential we actually are – there will always be someone that is either inspired by your words and actions or following your lead.
During the freshman retreat, my friend Sabrina gave a witness talk and spoke about her spiritual journey. As she was speaking, she mentioned me and how much I’ve impacted her through my compassion and positivity. It was an incredible feeling – I didn’t realize that my attitude towards God and the joy I shared with others could be so influential.
You never know how much of an impression you’ll make on someone. There are younger people all around you, looking up to you. Be a positive example to others so that you can show them how great it feels to be an example of God’s love.
  • have confidence walking with Christ in all situations
Christ is your strength and you can do anything through him. He is your best friend who always has your back. Sometimes we doubt ourselves when people around us are louder about their opinions than us. THere’s a girl in my class who broadcasts her opinions so loudly that I sometimes find myself questioning my own beliefs. I always have to stop and remind myself of the reasons that I believe what I do. Do not let yourself be persuaded by the noise of the world around you. God has provided you with your own voice so that you might find confidence to speak out when he calls you too.
Shine bright for all to see and speak loud for all to hear. Always spread joy and love to others, and let others see how you live with Christ. The influence we have on others may be much more significant than we realize, and what we have to share is important

2 Tm 1:1-8 Have Courage!

Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By Benedict Augustine
“For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.”
A couple of weeks ago, three million people assembled in Paris in solidarity with the murdered cartoonists of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. A few weeks before that, crowds gathered for Eric Garner, a man killed by a police officer in New York. A few weeks before crowds protested, and then rioted, after shooting of Michael Brown in Furgeson, Missouri. In the first case, the people rallied behind bawdy cartoonists who celebrated their freedom of expression with obscenities and blasphemy. In the second case, people were chanting to kill cops because a man selling cigarettes illegally died from the officer’s excessive use of force. In the third case, people vandalized a whole neighborhood for a thug who robbed a cigar store and resisted arrest. The principles animating the people to cry out may have been mixed, but the anger, the energy, was there.
If only the people showed so much vitriol and anger for the widespread massacring of Christians not only in the Middle East, but all over the world. If only people truly spoke out and acted against the repeated kidnapping, human trafficking, and regular ransacking of Boko Haram in Nigeria instead of putting up a feeble online campaign consisting of posting selfies with signs saying, “Save our girls.” If only the world could voice their support with brutally oppressed Tibetans and North Koreans who suffer at the hands of their own government by the thousands; rather, a stupid movie is produced—released only after so much hesitation and hand-wringing—and that is the West’s response to dictators.
As far as global problems go, it seems apparent that the clearer and worse the injustice, the more muddled and absurd is the call for action. People express their disapproval in the safety of numbers, the safety of internet anonymity, the safety of false narratives. In those decisive moments that demand real change, nothing happens: the evil doers continue doing their dirty work. No other word can describe this behavior except cowardice.
Terrorism, police brutality, and racial inequality deserve attention, as do wide-scale religious persecution, widespread criminality, and oppressive tyrannies. However, as Paul notes, not only do these issues of injustice demand attention, they demand a response of “power and love and self-control.” Protests with mixed intentions and false narratives lack love and self-control while those with good intentions frequently lack power. Christian courage requires a recognition of truth, dignified and coherent protest and counteraction, and a commitment to help those in need. Timothy and Titus, whose feast day is today, acted out this kind of courage in their preaching.
By its fallen nature, the world necessitates courage from Christians. Jesus’ exorcism of demons models what Christians should do today: call out Evil and remove it. The developed world today has the materials means to eliminate evil, but it does not have the spiritual means. In fact, the developed world would rather collude with the corrupted elements of impoverished areas than reform it in any significant way. In this situation, Christians need to stand apart. They need to give all they can to the heroes, the soldiers, the social workers, and the missionaries who combat these problems; in turn, they need to refuse as much as they can to the celebrities, politicians, and businessmen who profit from these problems; and at all times, they need to continue speaking out instead of shrugging off these things as necessary evils.
Besides supporting the heroes, which serves as a first step in courage, Christians need to become the heroes; they need to become saints. Saints distinguish themselves with their willingness to do the right thing in the worst circumstances. They speak out against abortion at their reception of the Nobel Peace Prize (Blessed Mother Theresa). They denounce tyranny and state-worship in a country caught its throes (St. John Paul II). They explain the clear menace of contraception in the chaos of social and cultural upheaval (Blessed Paul VI). They generously sacrifice themselves for their neighbor at the hands of cruel Fascists (St. Maximilian Kolbe). They dismantle and and identify decadence in a popular philosophy that has taken hold of the world’s intelligentsia (St. Pius X). These saints have courage, but they are relatively few; their foes, who still haunt today’s world and even today’s Church, have no courage, but they are many.
Fortunately, Jesus empowers his disciples to face these demons. The disciples just need to accept this power, this grace, to do this. Those who shy away from the task of confronting spiritual evil, who pretend it does not exist, do not receive this power. They become slaves to sin and add to the legions of Satan, possessed with indifference and mealymouthed equivocation. They risk committing the unforgivable sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit: they live and die refusing God’s salvation through Jesus Christ (see St. John Paul II’s encyclical, “Dominum et Vivificantum”). Many blaspheme this way because of temptation, but more do it out of fear.
Therefore, the Church must unite with the saints, and her members must join their ranks.“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand,” warns Jesus. Heedless of this warning, the spirit of evil divides its followers, giving an opportunity to Catholics to stymie its progress and restore sanity to the world. Jesus and His disciples started this work; Paul and his associates followed their example; and Catholics today must continue onward. It will require courage, but as in all things, the Lord will provide.

Mom 3:22-30 Calling All Christians

Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By KATIE GROSS


Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided,
he cannot stand;
that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder his house.
Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies
that people utter will be forgiven them.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”
For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

There is a popular sentiment out there today that we can be ‘spiritual’ but not ‘religious.’ Church-going Christians are mocked on television. A spoken word video titled “Why I hate religion but love Jesus” has twenty-nine million hits on Youtube. Young people are overwhelmingly choosing to not attend Mass when they leave for college– the list goes on. Sure, it can be a tempting trap to fall into. After all, if we want to stay home instead of going to Mass in the freezing cold weather, why do we still have to go to Mass? We can decide for ourselves if the Cowboys game is more aligned to our good feelings, right?  Jesus says overwhelmingly in this Gospel reading that the answer is no. Even in the twenty first century, the Church is still a necessity.

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Excuse me if I take these words out of context, but I think they make a great point. In school, we recently read an essay titled “Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Among many other things that Emerson disliked was organized religion—in particular, Christianity. He poses the following question: “For every Stoic was a Stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian?” Even though it fried my nerves a little to read his essay, Emerson raised a good point. In our Christian nation, the United States, where are the Christians? It’s not that we’ve gone missing, it’s just that we’ve gone a little, well—lukewarm. We bring our families to Church on Sunday but remain relatively unchanged by what we hear. We conform to the culture.
Imagine you aren’t a Christian, but are seeking the truth. Then someone comes up to you wearing a crucifix, cursing and complaining about something, or bragging about a wild party they went to last night. Would you align Christianity with the truth, or would you call it a façade employed by an otherwise apathetic group of people? Probably the latter. We are dividing the Church against itself by professing one faith and living by an entirely different one. When we do this, we cause the Church to fall. After all, our sin never just affects us—sin affects the entire community, the entire Church.

But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Another reason why we may not understand the need for organized religion is that we have lost our sense of evil and sin. This reminds me of a quote that I read once: “You say you don’t believe in Satan? Satan believes in you.” Evil is alive and well in the world—it’s just masked beneath all of the things we have accepted in our modern culture. I equate it to feeding a dog a pill in a spoonful of peanut butter; the dog is so convinced that the spoonful of peanut butter is good and normal that he forgets what he is swallowing. Satan is still alive and attacking us as God’s children. We are still all too ready to give in and let ourselves be tied up. We are weak! This is one of the major reasons why we can’t go at our faith alone—we aren’t just deciding what is good and bad according to our own constitution when we think about our faith. We are waging war against a real enemy who lurks around every corner.

But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” The Pharisees were so convinced that Jesus did not conform to their laws that they couldn’t bring themselves to acknowledge His goodness, even when it was obvious. I feel like this is another major reason that our culture rejects organized religion: we have it ingrained in our heads that every institution is bureaucratic and corrupt. Even when the Church fosters figures such as Mother Teresa and Maximilian Kolbe, many still refuse to recognize her goodness simply because she is an institution. We can’t be so skeptical. Sometimes the truth is right before our eyes—we just have to be open to it.

Let’s pray that we will have greater faith in our Church and have the courage to hold true to her, even when everything around us tells us not to.

Mk 3:20-21 Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

By JENNIFER BURGIN

Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

 I’m sure at one time or another someone labeled you as “crazy” for something you did, said, or believed in.  Oftentimes we embarrass our friends and family. We go about doingour own thing clueless how our words and actions affect others.
My mother reminds me of my own childhood craziness.  I threw terrible temper tantrums as a little girl, especially in the grocery store.  When I didn’t get candy I wanted, I screamed my little blonde head off.  I dropped to the floor and threw a hissy fit with arms, legs, and pigtails flailing about.  My mom “scolded” by walking away in silence. With my mom out of sight, I didn’t feel the need to cry anymore.  I immediately lost focus on that candy bar:  Poof, out of mind!
Jesus Christ’s own relatives thought he was “out of his mind” for preaching to large crowds and hanging out with lowly sinners.  Hard to believe but true! Christ could have easily shooed away the crowds, eating with his disciples in peace; but, he decided against it.  His ministry took precedence over any personal comforts.

At first glance, it appears like the relatives set out to seize Jesus for their own selfish reasons; however, most likely they wanted to protect Our Lord.  They were concerned about his safety and well-being.  Maybe if he was taken out of sight then the crowds will go away, and the chief Scribes and Pharisees will keep Jesus out of mind.  If Christ pushed his luck with so-called blasphemy, certain death loomed.
Thomas a Kempis wrote:  ”Out of sight, out of mind.  The absent are always in the wrong.”  When we fail to pay attention to our environment, and the people around us, we make false assumptions.  We label someone as a “little off the rocker” when we haven’t taken the time to get to know the person.  We may even go so far as dump a whole group of people into “the loony bin” because their ideas and beliefs are so different from our own. We block out what we don’t want to see or hear.
If we wish to be better Christians, we must remain in sight and mind.  Be on the lookoutfor ways to help others instead of condemn.  Don’t discount those who may have strange ideas and perceptions.  We may learn something new which will enhance our spiritual lives.
Pay attention!  Keep eyes open and minds sharp as Disciples of Christ!  
Today is the Feast Day of Saint Francis de Sales who is one of my favorite Doctors of the Church.  Here are a few quotes to reflect on this coming week:
“The bee collects honey from the flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.
“Always be as gentle as you can, and remember that more flies are caught with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar.”
“We are not drawn to God by iron chains, but by sweet attractions and holy inspirations.”
St. Francis de Sales, Pray for Us! 
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please follow her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality

Hebrews 8:6-13 Sins and Toys R’ Us

Friday if the Second Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By GABY HUNDZA

But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming , declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after the time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
I’d really like to spend my time with this meditation focusing on verse 12: For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. God will always forgive our sins. It doesn’t matter what we do, He is understanding and compassionate.
Think of sin like toy blocks: if you stacked all of your sin up, you could easily see how you compare to everyone else. No one’s stack is the same height from our point of view – we either take pride in the fact that our own sin stack is not too tall, or we are shameful because it is taller than the others. The problem here is that we either see this as an accomplishment for not having the tallest stack or we worry too much because we believe our stack is too tall – we feel inferior or superior to others depending on how they compare to us. Now, if we look at it from God’s perspective, he watches over us from above, so the stacks that all seem so different to us are exactly the same in his eyes: we all have sinned, but no sinner is greater than another. We are all equal.
The reason I decided to try and explain that little metaphor is because we often are ashamed of the things we have done and it seems like we will be judged by God for how tall our stack is, but first of all, God will never judge us harshly for the sins we commit – he loves us and hopes that we will go to him when we mess up. Second of all, God can’t judge us or compare us to others like we so often do when we all have the same stacks in his eyes. We are his children and he wants us to come to him when we have done wrong, because he has the power to forgive and can release the weight of the sin from our souls. We should never turn away from God when we are fearful of what he will think of our sin, because we are not strong enough to hold on to our own sin – Christ died on the cross for us for this very reason.
It’s important to understand this, because at times we turn away from the Lord to help us with our struggles: we are ashamed. When we feel shame for this, we are choosing to walk away and hide from God. The more you hold on to these feelings, the heavier the sin will feel (spoiler alert: no matter how long you hold on to this sin or how bad it may seem, God will always forgive you!!). God tells the people “I will forgive their wickedness” – I don’t know how else to say it, but he is literally telling them that he will forgive all for their bad deeds. God is an all-powerful and compassionate father – he cares deeply for each and every one of us, and he wants to be the one we go to when we have done something bad; he’s the only one that can bear the weight of our sin.
He does not get angry when we commit a sin, but he rejoices when we come to him for forgiveness and guidance in these situations. Take time to talk to him about the struggles and weaknesses you have, because the only thing that will ever last is his love for us, and he desires to help us grow and help us conquer the pain and weakness that is holding us down. Choosing to hide from God when we are ashamed of our sin is like letting the sin control us. Don’t let the sin and shame take over when we have a wonderful God who always forgives and will always be with us through the hard times!
We can never do anything that will cause God to love us any less – he will always forgive us, always love us, and always care for us.

A Witness To Life

By SOPHIE DRUFFNER

Today is the forty-second anniversary of Roe versus Wade. Today, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was legal through the first three months of a pregnancy, and with the accompanying case of Doe v. Bolton, nine months.

But I don’t want to talk about abortion. I want to talk about time and hope. I want to take you back to a time where organized killing of a certain group of people was legal, a time which is now left to history books, empty concentration camps, and acertain Diary of a Young Girl.

The lie was cast in iron, invincible, unchanged since the seventy years past when those who entered the camp saw it for the first time—“Arbeit macht frei.” But it was not the lie which was so shocking, for I had seen it written in accounts and stories. Instead, it was the bigness, the largesse, the endless space of the area which we were standing it. The camp was millions of meters of light gray gravel, extending into eternity. I wondered how many thousands or millions of feet had marched here, had been wounded here, had died here. I looked around and saw the barbed wire, separated from the gravel by several feet of blooming green grass. The grass was so green, so lively, against the grayness of the area and the sadness of the bright day. Then the tour guide told our orchestral group that people had run across that short feet of grass into the electric fence, wishing to end their pain once and for all. And then I saw to my right a horrid portrayal of corpses in the fence, also in blackened iron, two stories tall, and even the grass lost its allure. The stick figures were twisted and writhing, at once part of the fence but also apart from it. Although the figures had no faces, I could picture their screams.
Then there were the Blocks which the people of Dachau had burned after the Nazis had left. The townspeople wished to burn the evidence of their hate so that the world would wear blinkers. They wished to eradicate the memories of the corpses, built up in graves, because the coal supply had run out at the crematorium. They wished to take away the memories of the American soldiers’ liberation, and the subsequent forced march of the German people of Dachau into the camp—Look at what you have done, look at what your indifference has wrought. Look what happened when you were warm in your beds, when you complained about having to go with less because of the war. Look and see.
I looked and I saw too but I survived. I looked at my sin, and my friends’ sin, and the sin of all who look and refuse to see. For it was not just the Germans who did this to the hapless political prisoners, homosexuals, Jews, and other lost ones in the camp. It was the time that I and my smirking sixth-grade friend wrote ten things that we hated about a boy in my class, and then showed it to him. It was the time that I had gossiped about how a girl a grade above me talked so properly, so fake, without knowing that she had undergone years of speech pathology because of a defect in her upper lip. It was all the times that my immaturity and indifference had caused some to laugh at the expense of others.

I looked again and saw the altar just outside of the crematoriums on which people of all faiths had celebrated Easter Mass together on the day of liberation of the Dachau camp—Easter Sunday. It was right outside of the gas chamber, directly in front of the ovens. It was small and white and had words written in all languages on it, words of joy and hope. For these people too were resurrected from the dirt and death; they had become new through the life of liberation.

This is our hope, our future. Outside of the gas chambers, outside of the instruments of torture and killing, stood the place the prisoners had forgiven their captors. Here, the prisoners forgave the thieves in the night, the Reich which had stolen their family, friends, and homes.  

We, too, need to forgive. It is easy to look upon those who advocate to destroy young lives with hate. But that is not what Jesus called us to do. Jesus, the ultimate Innocent, was killed on the cross, and yet he and his disciples forgave us, we who killed him with very time we chose not to love God, self, or neighbor. One day the fight against abortion will be won, but today, we need to forgive those who fight against us; they know not what they do.

Mk 3:7:12 March for Life 2015

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)By JENNIFER BURGINJesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large nu…

Mk 3:1-6 The Psychology of Legalism

Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
By Benedict Augustine
“He stretched it out and his hand was restored.
The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel
with the Herodians against him to put him to death.”
The Pharisees pick an odd time to plot a murder:they decide on this immediately after Jesus heals a man’s withered hand. He does not announce his intention to overturn social order or lead his fellow Jews away from God, nor does He threaten the Pharisees themselves; instead, He heals a man’s of a particularly debilitating injury. This act of love obviously clashes with the preconceptions of the Pharisees. Their God did not afflict people in vain, but punished them for some good reason, for some kind of sin. That Jesus, Who claimed God as His father, reversed that condition, on the Sabbath no less, could only mean one thing: Jesus was the Evil One.
This ironic conclusion of the conspirators clearly demonstrates that intelligence and learning in a person do not count for much if his heart has “hardened.” They break numerous commandments in order to correct Jesus’ possible violation of the Sabbath. They would rather imagine God as a cruel deity taking pleasure in the suffering of His childrenthan as a compassionate creator hoping to redeem His creation. Filled with such righteous indignation, they stand there dumb as Jesus asks them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” They see nothing evil in letting this man suffer, but they do sense something deeply wrong in healing him. The Law, as they understand it, does not seem to make provisions for healing on the Sabbath, but it does declare the Sabbath as a day of rest. Therefore, they do not see Jesus healing a man, but Jesus breaking a law.  
Although to outsiders, this obsessively legalistic perspective seems to have little appeal to any person in their right minds, this reverence of the law made perfect sense to the Jews. In their collective history up to that point—and afterward, for that matter—people had failed them time and again. Their kings failed them; most of their prophets seemed to fail them; the priests failed them; even the people failed themselves. History taught the Jews one thing: human beings were bound to fail. By contrast, God’s Law remained, uncorrupted, unchanged since its recording by Moses over a millennium ago. The Law, not man, could redeem Israel. Should the Messiah arrive, He would most certainly agree with this assessment and tout the Law as the Pharisees did and as their predecessors,the Maccabees, did. He would not violate the Law, and he would dare not supersede the Law in his own person. Unfortunately, Jesus does exactly that.
The Pharisees feel that they would lose what little gains they had made with such innovations while Jesus knew that Law promised something much greater than befuddling an insecure people. Jesus also understood that the Law in itself has no life, confers no life, and if idolized, actually destroys life.Thus, Jesus makes the point that God instituted Sabbath, and the Law as a whole, to restore men, not confine them. A day of rest, a day of love, a day of prayer should heal men, not paralyze or wither them.
In their zeal, the Pharisees fall into the same trap as any group that despairs of men and seeks stabilityfrom the law: they believe that the Law is bigger than men. This thinking easily transitions into the State being bigger than men; hence, both the Pharisees and Herodians imagined a political messiah, not a spiritual one. In modern centuries,thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and Karl Marx championed a slavish devotion to the state and its laws as though the sheer political power of the state made its laws sacrosanct—“might makes right.” In this warped mentality, eliminating men for the sake of the law, for the sake of state, makes perfect sense.
Even Americans today cling to the idea that the laws of the government can make things right and absolve the sins of the people. Tomorrow will mark the 41stanniversary of the disastrous decision of Roe v. Wadethat made abortion legal in the United States. Millions of babies have died since then. In minds of so many reluctant mothers and fathers, the logic of the law had more weight than life of their children. Like the Pharisees seeing the Sabbath as an excuse to let the sick suffer, so many in America see freedom as an excuse to let infanticide run rampant. Those who support abortion see their opponents as the Pharisees saw Jesus: a threat to their conscience and their conception of the good.
Abortion proves that legalism is alive and well even today. The hissing and seething of the pro-choice movement prove that the vindictive spirit of the Pharisees lives on. Following the lead of Jesus, Christians should continue confront this logic of death, grieve over it, and proceed to heal those in need.

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