Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Gift of Salvation

A colleague at work is actively involved with his parish. We. at times, trade news of our ministries. He recently gave me a copy of an article he wrote and I finally had a chance to read it last night. I found it to be quite good. So I thought I would share it.

The Gift of Salvation
In 1989, a devastating earthquake struck the region of the former Soviet Union known as Armenia. Thirty thousand people were killed within minutes. However, a remarkable story of courage and love came out of this tragic event. Amidst the panic and chaos, a distraught father ran to the school that his son attended. He thought about how he had promised his son, "No matter what happens, Armand, I'll always be there!" When he reached the site where the school had been he saw only a pile of rubble. He stood there briefly in dismay, but then climbed through the debris toward the corner where he knew his son's classroom had been. With his bare hands, he began to dig, desperately pulling up bricks and pieces of wall plaster. A few bewildered onlookers told him that there was no hope, but he replied, "You can grumble or you can help me lift these bricks." A few pitched in, but most of them soon gave up as their muscles began to ache. Nevertheless, the man persisted. Thirty-eight hours later, he heard a muffled groan from under a piece of wallboard. He pulled the board back and shouted, "Armand!" A faint voice responded, "Papa!?" Other weak voices began calling out and much to the shock and delight of the few remaining onlookers, fourteen of the thirty-three children were rescued alive. Later, Armand told his friends, "See, I told you my father wouldn't forget us." An incredible story of a father's love, yet only a shadow of the love that our heavenly Father has for each of us: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life". (John 3: 16)
The topics of God's love, which Joanne spoke about last week, and salvation are very closely related. They aren't necessarily complicated topics. In fact, sometimes what we really need most is the heart of a child to accept God's love and plan of salvation at face value. We get caught up with a whole range of questions and issues in the Church today and while I wouldn't say that they're not important, we can't afford to lose sight of the person of Jesus, Who Scripture calls "the author and perfecter of our faith". (Hebrews 12:2) I love to relate the story told by Father Rick Simon about a famous theologian who came to the prestigious University of Chicago to give a lecture. Afterward, he opened the floor for questions. An eager student asked the first question, "Professor, in all your years of study, what do you consider to be the greatest theological truth that you have come to know and believe in?" Without the slightest hesitation, the sophisticated and learned scholar responded, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so". And so it is within the context of God's incredible love for us that we'll look at the gift of salvation.
As I'll soon elaborate upon, both the Cross and the Resurrection are essential to understand God's gift of salvation. However, before going any further, let's go back to the Gospel of John for a moment and allow Jesus' very own words to set the tone. In John 14, Jesus had promised His disciples that He would prepare a place for them in His Father's house where there are many dwelling places. Then Thomas asked, "Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?" Jesus responded, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but though Me".
Jesus' words only make sense in light of the Cross. The Cross points to our absolute need for a savior, but many people fail to recognize that need. The cares of the world, technology, entertainment, and a host of other things can blind us to the deeper needs of the human heart and soul. Sobering realities such as war and famine in many countries, the widespread acceptance of legalized abortion even among Catholics, devastating diseases like AIDS, or the threat of terrorism distract and discourage us. Meanwhile, even some Christian leaders seem reluctant to talk about our need for Jesus for fear of 'offending' others. It's little wonder that John Paul II has referred to much of what we see in contemporary society as a "culture of death". There certainly is sin in the world and whether we're talking about our own personal sin or the sins of others, we are all greatly affected by it. Nevertheless, our fundamental attitude of rebellion toward God and His ways causes many to look elsewhere rather than to God for answers. That's pretty heavy. It sounds awfully negative, but as a friend once told me, God would actually love us less if He didn't allow us to realize what we're up against.
But the Good News, the best news that has ever been given and that you and I have been privileged to hear is that Jesus died on the Cross so that all of this could be overcome. I'm probably not telling you anything new, but maybe we need to get in touch with the depth of God's sacrificial love and mercy for us. We need these words of St. Paul to remind us: "For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves His love for us in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us". (Romans 5:6-8)
Perhaps we even needed Mel Gibson's movie to remind us. So let's not buy into the world's way of thinking that there are many equally valid ways to God, that it doesn't really matter whether you believe in Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Krishna, mind power, or some other New Age philosophy ... as long as you're sincere about it. I'm not here to belittle non-Christian religions, but Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7: 13-14 that the road that leads destruction is broad and wide and many choose to travel that way while the road to life is narrow and those who find it are few. Sometimes, we even hear it said that since Vatican II, the Catholic Church believes that most people will be saved. From what I understand, that is not a completely accurate interpretation of Vatican II. True, we do not believe as some Christians do, that a person must explicitly accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior to have any hope of being saved. Instead while clearly affirming that Jesus is the only Savior, Vatican II states that God desires to save everyone and that people who are ignorant of the Gospel through no fault of their own, but who follow God to the best of their understanding and ability may possibly be saved. Only God truly knows whether many people or just a few fit into that criteria. In any case, as Catholics we do not believe that all paths to God are really the same. So let's not deceive ourselves. Jesus is more than just an acceptable alternative or even a preferential option. He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. Is it conceivable that He would have undergone such an excruciating and torturous death if it wasn't necessary to do so for our sake? Shortly after Pentecost, Peter preached these words, "He is the stone which the builders rejected which has become the very cornerstone and there is no salvation in anyone else for there is no other name under heaven which has been given to men by which we can be saved". (Acts 4:12)
In addition to the Cross, the Resurrection is also essential to a full understanding of God's gift of salvation. It is the Resurrection that reminds us that Jesus is alive and in our midst, that the kingdom of God is at hand, that salvation is not only a hope and promise yet to be fulfilled, but it's also something that God desires to unfold in our lives today. Five or six years ago I heard Ralph Martin, a well-known layperson in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, share his experience of being in Rome on Pentecost Sunday for an audience with the Pope. Thousands of Catholics from all over the world, representing a variety of groups and movements within the Church, were also there. Martin shared these words that John Paul II addressed to this gathering: "The church's self-awareness is based on the certainty that Jesus is alive, is working in the present, changing lives".
In other words, our identity as Christians, the very basis of our faith and hope is that Jesus is risen. Yet even today, many people deny the certainty of Jesus' Resurrection. Don't fall for such arguments! Since Jesus is alive today, everyone of us can have a personal relationship with Him through prayer. We don't have to be worthy. We can't earn it. It's a pure gift. When I was in grade school, I recall reading and re-reading a children's book about different saints that I had received as a First Communion gift. Their closeness to Jesus impressed me even more than their remarkable deeds. At times, I felt very close to Jesus as a child. Even as a teenager, I remember being deeply moved by what was shared at a retreat while attending Immaculate Conception High School in Elmhurst. And so when two guys came to my dorm room during my freshman year of college and shared about their personal relationship with Jesus, it rang true to me even though some of the lingo they used such as being "born-again" wasn't familiar to me then. They helped me to rediscover the closeness to Jesus that I had felt at a younger age. Time and time again, my experiences have reinforced that to speak of a personal relationship with Jesus is thoroughly Catholic. All that we do and believe as Catholics is intended to help strengthen that relationship. God's plan of salvation in each of our lives began at Baptism (when He chose us first), but it doesn't really begin to blossom until we accept the gift, until we make that individual choice to invite Jesus into our heart and life more fully, when we open wide the doors of our hearts to Him in response to His initiative in loving us.
It's important to realize that the Catholic Church has reaffirmed the need for a personal response to Jesus throughout the ages. Little known saints, more famous ones like St. Teresa and St. Francis, and even various Popes have witnessed to this reality. For example, the writings of Pope St. Leo the Great which have been preserved from the fifth century include this statement: "Unless a man believes in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, and accepts Him as his own savior, the salvation that is offered to the whole of mankind will be of no avail to him".
Or consider the words of John Paul II shortly after becoming Pope: "Note it well. Does not Jesus say in the Gospel that He is 'the way, the truth, and the life'? He defines Himself as the Way, that is the highway, the route that is at once obligatory and sage for those who wish to go the Father and thus reach salvation. It is certainly an image similar to the one that presents Jesus as Light or as the Door. These images are based on a substantially identical teaching: it is necessary to walk following the way marked out by Jesus, illuminated by Jesus, or more simply it is necessary to follow Jesus".
Each of us comes to the point of recognizing our need for Jesus with our own unique past and circumstances. Whether that requires a dramatic conversion experience or not isn't what matters, but what does matter is that we come to Him as we are and draw closer to Him through prayer. Then, we will begin to discover more and more of the Risen Christ, alive, working in the present, and changing our lives.
Jesus gave us a good idea of how wide-reaching His. saving power was intended to be at the very beginning of His public ministry. In His first hometown sermon in Nazareth, He quoted these words of the prophet Isaiah:
"The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim the liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord". (Isaiah 61 :1-3) Then He said to the crowd, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing".
Many of our brothers and sisters in the church (and perhaps some us as well) are poor (spiritually or emotionally, if not materially), or captive (particularly to sinful habits that we just can't seem to shake), or blind (whether it be to the love of God or to the love of others). Therefore, we need to know that because Jesus is risen and alive today, the words of the prophet Isaiah are still being fulfilled in our sight and in our hearing. Through the Cross, he offered us the forgiveness of our sins, but because He is risen and alive today, He also frees us from the effects of sin, even the sins of others that have damaged us. Furthermore, He desires to free us from a weakened will, from disoriented emotions, and even from physical sickness. In short, Jesus wants to remove anything that destroys or degrades the human personality (those negative consequences that we've traditionally called original sin).
We'll never fully grasp the depth and richness of God's mercy towards us. The author of the Old Testament book of Lamentations expressed it this way: "The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, His mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, says my soul, therefore will I hope in Him". (Lamentations 3:22-24)
I'd like to close with a story that will hopefully encourage each of you to respond more fully to Jesus today:
There's a famous painting at Oxford University which is entitled, 'The Light of the World'. You may have seen a replica of it in a Christian bookstore. Jesus is standing before a great oak door dressed in flowing white robes, holding a lantern in His left hand and knocking at the door with His right. His head is tilted as if waiting for an answer. So perfect was the artist's technique that the critics raved, "Touching! Magnificent!". However, they suggested the artist would have to correct one detail. He had actually forgotten to put a handle on the door! But the artist responded: "I did not forget. No handle will ever go on that door. This picture represents Christ knocking at the door of the human heart. And the human heart only opens from the inside".
So as this Life in the Spirit Seminar continues, I want to encourage you to open your heart and say "Yes" to Jesus.
BT, May 4, 2004 

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Another great article found in Our Sunday Visitor (OSV). I hope you have the time to read it. It starts:

A while back I heard a homilist quote a cardinal who heads a major American archdiocese: “I will die in my bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”
The homilist didn’t leave it at that. “The persecution of the Church in America isn’t coming,” he told the congregation grimly, “it’s already here.”
This is a man not much given to flamboyant rhetoric. His text was from St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, with its exhortation to Christians to “bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2 Tm 1:8).
Bearing hardship for the Gospel is central to fortitude. American Catholics soon may be called to practice fortitude by bearing more of it than many suppose. 

Please go here to read the entire article.

These are trying times for Catholics. We must have the fortitude, will, and strength to defend our faith. There are times to be silent, there are times to turn the other cheek, and there are times, like now, to speak out and defend our faith. We cannot bury our heads in the sand.

What can you do? A lot. Speak up. If nothing else, contact your local, state and federal representatives. Get to know what is happening. Do not rely on the media – they are in the secularist/socialist camp. Join political action groups. Know the facts, so you can speak of the issues with you family, neighbors and friends.

Remember Cardinal George’s words: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” This may happen sooner than Cardinal George see it.

Sadly, there are many of us who decided to vote what we think would fatten our pocket books instead of our faith. Now we need to deal with the consequences. We cannot now stand idly by.

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

Thursday, April 18, 2013



When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300 degrees.

The Russians used a pencil.

Enjoy paying your taxes, they're due again!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Take A look at "Your Social Security check" 2013

I received this in an email and thought I would share it, so everyone can have a reality check.


Have you noticed, the Social Security check is now referred to as a "Federal  Benefit  Payment"?

I'll be part of the one percent to forward this. I am forwarding it because it touches a nerve in me, and I hope it will in you. Please keep passing it on until everyone in our country has read it.

The government is now referring to our Social Security checks as a Federal Benefit Payment. This isn't a benefit, it is earned income! Not only did we all contribute to Social Security but our employers did too.

It totaled 15% of our income before taxes. If you averaged $30K per year over your working life, that's close to $180,000 invested in Social Security.

If you calculate the future value of your monthly investment in social security ($375/month, including both you and your employers contributions) at a meager 1% interest rate compounded monthly, after 40 years of working you'd have more than $1.3+ million dollars saved!

This is your personal investment. Upon retirement, if you took out only 3% per year, you'd receive $39,318 per year, or $3,277 per month.

That's almost three times more than todays average Social Security benefit of $1,230 per month, according to the Social Security Administration (Google it - its a fact).

And your retirement fund would last more than 33 years (until you're 98 if you retire at age 65)! I can only imagine how much better most average-income people could live in retirement if our government had
just invested our money in low-risk interest-earning accounts.

Instead, the folks in Washington pulled off a bigger Ponzi scheme than Bernie Madoff ever did. They took our money and used it elsewhere. They forgot that it was OUR money they were taking. They didn't have a referendum to ask us if we wanted to lend the money to them. And they didn't pay interest on the debt they assumed. And recently, they've told us that the money won't support us for very much longer. But is it our fault they misused our investments?

And now, to add insult to injury, they're calling it a benefit, as if we never worked to earn every penny of it.  Just because they borrowed the money, doesn't mean that our investments were a charity!

Lets take a stand. We have earned our right to Social Security and Medicare. Demand that our legislators bring some sense into our government. Find a way to keep Social Security and Medicare going, for the sake of that 92% of our population who need it.

* Then call it what it is: Our Earned Retirement Income. *

Friday, April 12, 2013


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sometimes there seems to be so much to keep up with, and sometimes things fall through the cracks. I just learned that there is an official Proper for Blessed John Paul II and his feast day is October 22 as promulgated by the Congregation for Divine Worship.

For Morning and Evening prayer only the Collect is Proper. All the rest comes from the Common of Pastors, For a Pope. And if you do the Office of Readings there is a Reading.

It can be found on the USCCB site, but to save you some effort I’ve copied it below.

Common of Pastors: For a Pope.

O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns.


Charles Joseph Wotjtyła was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of Krakow and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich Magisterium and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully in the Lord.

Common of Pastors: For a Pope.

Office of readings

Second reading

From the Homily of Blessed John Paul II, Pope, for the Inauguration of his Pontificate
(22 October 1978: AAS 70 [1978], 945-947)

Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.
Peter came to Rome! What else but obedience to the inspiration received from the Lord could have guided him and brought him to this city, the heart of the Empire? Perhaps the fisherman of Galilee did not want to come here. Perhaps he would have preferred to stay there, on the shores of Lake of Genesareth, with his boat and his nets. Yet guided by the Lord, obedient to his inspiration, he came here!

According to an ancient tradition, Peter tried to leave Rome during Nero’s persecution. However, the Lord intervened and came to meet him. Peter spoke to him and asked. “Quo vadis, Domine?” — “Where are you going, Lord?” And the Lord answered him at once: “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Peter went back to Rome and stayed here until his crucifixion.

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us, to gaze on the Lord and to immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.

He who was born of the Virgin Mary, the carpenter’s Son (as he was thought to be), the Son of the living God (as confessed by Peter), came to make us all “a kingdom of priests”.

The Second Vatican Council has reminded us of the mystery of this power and of the fact that Christ’s mission as Priest, Prophet-Teacher and King continues in the Church. Everyone, the whole People of God, shares in this threefold mission. Perhaps in the past the tiara, that triple crown, was placed on the Pope’s head in order to signify by that symbol the Lord’s plan for his Church, namely that all the hierarchical order of Christ’s Church, all “sacred power” exercised in the Church, is nothing other than service, service with a single purpose: to ensure that the whole People of God shares in this threefold mission of Christ and always remains under the power of the Lord; a power that has its source not in the powers of this world, but instead in the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection.

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk. Make me a servant: indeed, the servant of your servants.
Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.
Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “that which is in man”. He alone knows it.

So often today, man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.

R/. Do not be afraid. The Redeemer of mankind has revealed the power of the Cross and has given his life for us. * Open, open wide the doors for Christ.
V/. In the Church we are called to partake of his power. * Open, open wide the doors for Christ.

O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind. Who lives and reigns.