He Who Seeks the Lost

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“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”  The importance of this line for the Gospel cannot be emphasized enough.  Jesus stated many times that He came to earth not to seek out the righteous but to reach out to the sinners and redeem them and thank God for that!  We all recognize ourselves as sinners before God and we all realize that we are in need of redemption and healing.  It is such a comfort to know that God has provided very well for us in our brokenness.  The Church, the body of Christ, that was started by our Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit stands as our home of healing, forgiveness and comfort to all who are in need.  The Church provides us with the sacraments, which in turn, provides us with the loving touch of God in our lives.  Through the sacraments we receive the Holy Spirit, God dwelling within us and giving us the gifts that we require to live brave and true Christian lives.  The sacraments provide us with the graces that we require to weather the storms that we traverse in our daily lives.  The sacraments also provide us with the tender forgiveness of God which allows us to be free of the burden of our past sins and to live joy filled lives even in the face of dark times.               We do not have, like Zacchaeus, to go climbing trees in order to catch a glimpse of our Lord and Savior, we have Him in our everyday lives right here in our community, in the Eucharist, in our priests who stand “in persona Christi” in the sacraments and in the face and heart of our fellow man who reaches out to us in our need.  God has indeed provided richly for us lost ones and through His Church we have the means to respond to this great gift of salvation!

Your servant in Christ

Deacon Bill

What’s so Special about a Catholic Marriage?

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I was, initially, going to write an article on the ministry that I work in concerning the annulment of a Catholic Marriage.  After a discussion with my pastor and a few other ministry leaders I decided that it would be best to first write an article on what a sacramental marriage in the Church is and then follow up, at a later date, on what an annulment is.  So please bookmark this article so that you can refer back to it when the article on annulments is published, so with no further ado we proceed to;

WHAT CONSTITUTES A SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGE WITHIN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?

A Sacramental Marriage, in the Catholic Church is defined as follows, according to Canon Law:

Can. 1055 §1 The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life, and which of its own very nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children, has, between the baptized, been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.

  • 2 Consequently, a valid marriage contract cannot exist between baptized persons without its being by that very fact a sacrament.

Can. 1056 The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility; in christian marriage they acquire a distinctive firmness by reason of the sacrament.

Can. 1057 §1 A marriage is brought into being by the lawfully manifested consent of persons who are legally capable. This consent cannot be supplied by any human power.

  • 2 Matrimonial consent is an act of will by which a man and a woman by an irrevocable covenant mutually give and accept one another for the purpose of establishing a marriage.

In other words a Sacramental Marriage, in the Catholic Church, is a marriage between a baptized man and a baptized woman who are consenting to a marriage covenant that entails that they will be faithful to each other until the death of the spouse, that they will be fully open to the procreation of children and that they will live their lives for the good of the other “until death do they part.”

This means that a Sacramental Catholic Marriage exists for the good of the husband, the wife and the children.  So when we think about what the Catholic Church believes is the “ultimate good,” one would have to say ones eternal salvation.  It would naturally follow that the Sacrament of Marriage was instituted by Christ so that the husband and the wife can love each other and their children into heaven.  When one takes this approach and realizes how Christ offered Himself on the Cross to love us into heaven by giving His very life for our salvation, it places a mighty standard for us to imitate.  Though we, most likely, will not have to hang on a cross for our spouse, we often do have to bear the crosses of our everyday lives, and do so with a cheerful heart knowing that we are doing so for those who we love most in this world!

Your servant in Christ,

Deacon Bill

What is up With the Bad Steward

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Sometimes passages in the Bible are a bit confusing or hard to understand the reason for this is that they were written over 2000 years ago and the people of those times often speak or write differently than we do.  Throughout time there have been differing colloquialisms that say one thing but mean another.  Our term “it is raining cats and dogs” does not mean that God is bestowing pets for everyone, it simply means that it is raining very hard but someone reading that form another time or place may not understand the phrase or even miss-translate it.  Knowing about this we can turn to the scholars who study such things and learn from them about the difficult passages we may run into in the Bible.  After consulting a few such sources concerning the Gospel for this weekend Luke 16:1-13, I learned what Jesus was trying to teach about in the parable of the bad steward.  The message that Jesus was telling His audience and us by extension is that we should not live by the ideals of this world but live by the ideals of the world to come.  We should not behave so as to gain favor of those around ourselves, we should behave so as to gain the favor of God.  When I reread the Gospel for today in light of what I had learned it made so much more sense to me.  You can find good Catholic commentaries on the web if you ever run into passages that are difficult for you one such is the Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition at haydock1859.tripod.com.  You can also learn more about the types of literature and the meaning of different expressions in the Bible at Agape Bible Study www.agapebiblestudy.com, and may you be abundantly blessed in your study of Sacred Scripture!

Your servant in Christ,

Deacon Bill

Humbled or Exalted?

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The practice of humility that Jesus talks about in the Gospel today has far greater connotations than what appears on the surface.  The “wedding banquet” that Jesus refers to is that of the Heavenly kingdom and the “guests” are the ones who earn the eternal reward of Heaven.  Jesus is instructing us in a counter cultural manner as He often does in the Gospels.  The worldly opinion of how people should behave is that of being prideful and putting those who are beneath them in their place.  The way of life that Christ is directing His followers toward, is a life of humility and becoming a servant to all, especially those who are in the greatest of need, the poor, the sick and the lonely.  Jesus makes it clear that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” The words from the first reading, today, from the Book of Sirach point us to the proper direction for gaining the humility that is needed for a Christian life; “Humble yourselves the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”  Amen.

Where is the Message?

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The words that Moses speaks to the people in the first reading today are ones of great eloquence.  The way that Moses goes about describing the location of the message that needed to be carried out, I find simply brilliant.  It is not a message in the sky or a message from across sea that someone had to retrieve and then explain so they could understand and then put it into action.  The message that they needed to “hear” was already in their mouths and in their hearts and all that they had to do is “carry it out.”  Moses is telling the people that God has already placed His law inside them and that they already know it because He has written it into their hearts and placed it upon their lips, the thing that they must do is to carry out that law.

In our Gospel we have a similar situation as the Old Testament reading, the scholar knew the answer to the question that he was trying to trap Jesus with, it is Jesus who turned the tables and had the scholar answer his own question.  When the man answered rightly Jesus told him that what he needed to do now is to actually live out the law in order to have life.

We also know “the law,” we have been taught time and time again throughout our lives the things that we need to do to have eternal life and it was already written in our hearts from the time that we were created.  The problem is that we get so distracted living our ordinary, oh so busy, lives that we forget the things that we need to do to have life eternal.  So as we go about our days let us keep our “eternal eyesight” open and look for the times that we run across, those in need, those victims who we run across in our daily lives, to take the time, demonstrate our love and help them the best that we can.  Then we will be living out that law that we already know, that which is written within our hearts.

Your Servant in Christ,

Deacon Bill

A Thorn in the Flesh

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13th Sunday Ordinary Time

In the second reading today Paul speaks of a “thorn in the flesh” that has been given to him, some malady or mental anguish that seems to distress him greatly.  He further testifies that even after praying to God three times for it to be removed from him the answer that God gave him was “My grace is sufficient for you.”  There has been much speculation about what this “thorn” really was, some think that it was a physical ailment or handicap, others think that it was temptations of some sort and then there were those who that think that it was some person who harassed Paul and tried to cause trouble in the Church at Corinth.  Whatever the issue that was causing Paul to be troubled, it is interesting that God would not relieve him of it even though he prayed, as Christ did in the garden, three times to be delivered of it.  The answer that Paul received, that the grace that God gives to him should be enough to get him through should give us hope as well.  The hope that we gain from the situation that we see Paul in comes directly from the Sacraments, the wellspring from which the graces of the Church flow so abundantly.  In any situation that we may find ourselves, whatever “thorn in the flesh” that we encounter can be endured with the graces that we receive from the Eucharist, Reconciliation and prayer.  God always provides His faithful with the means and the faculties to grow in His love even in our worst of times.  So let us take the example of Paul and carry out our God given mission to share our faith, through action and word, to all of our brothers and sisters, even, and especially, when we are under duress.  Amen.

Your servant in Christ,

Deacon Bill

The Orlando Tragedy

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The following is an article from our parish bulletin for this weekend.

A TRAGEDY THAT ONLY LOVE CAN OVERCOME. THE ORLANDO MASSACRE.
What is the Christian response to unspeakable evil and senseless killing? When we reflect upon the terrorist massacre that killed 50 innocent people and left at least 53 other people seriously wounded, we must look to Jesus as our model. As Christians, following His example, we believe in the value and dignity of each human person as a beloved child of God. We condemn any form of hatred for others based upon gender, race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. We need to work hard to end prejudice and discrimination in our own lives and in the culture of our families.

It is particularly odious to defend terrorist acts as being required by a religion or a political ideology. It is, furthermore, a distorted understanding of Islam to use it as an excuse for the perpetration of evil. We know that when Jesus was confronted with the killing of the innocent, He called out for justice, prayer and the practice of non-violence. He proposed unconditional love and mercy as the Christian way of life in this troubled and struggling world. When on the cross as He forgave His own murderers, He modeled the ideal for all Christians to strive after and imitate. We know that only love, mercy, forgiveness and understanding can move us forward in this time of numbing tragedy. Let us fervently pray for all of the Orlando victims, their loved ones and families. Let us also re-commit ourselves to a life of Christian action and virtuous living that squarely stands in the face of evil and transforms it through love.
Msgr. Michael D. McGraw