VATICAN CITY, MARCH 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is asking for the release of three kidnapped Red Cross workers in the Philippines as their captors threaten to behead one if the government doesn't give in to its demands.
The Vatican press office published a communiqué today noting that the Pontiff is concerned for the safety of the three, who were seized Jan. 15 by the Abu Sayyaf militant group, which has ties to al-Qaeda.Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba were abducted after they visited a water sanitation project in Sulu provincial jail.
The pontiff "wants to raise his voice and urge that humanitarian sensibility and reason prevail over violence and intimidation," the statement said. "The Holy Father, in the name of God, asks for their release and calls on the authorities to favor a peaceful outcome to the tragic situation."The captors threatened to behead one of the hostages unless police and militiamen withdraw from 15 villages on Jolo Island.
Addresses Immigrant Parish on Rome's Outskirts VATICAN CITY, MARCH 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI encouraged the community of a poor immigrant parish in Rome to have faith that even though God can't be seen, he is near to those in need."We know that the 'sun,' although hidden, exists, that God is near, that he helps us and accompanies us," the Pontiff said today upon addressing the small parish of The Holy Face of Jesus at Magliana, which is located on the outskirts of the city."So, in this sense we want to journey toward Easter knowing that there are suffering and difficulties in our life but with the awareness that behind it there is the sun of divine Goodness," he added.
Benedict XVI exhorted his listeners, many of whom gathered in the rain outside the small church, to put themselves in the service of their neighbor, especially those who have problems because of the economic crisis. He pointed to St. Maximilian Kolbe -- who sacrificed his life in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz to save the life of fellow prisoner who had a family -- as an example of charity to follow."In our time, marked by a general social and economic crisis, the effort that you are making above all through the parish Caritas and the Sant'Egidio group, to help the poorest and neediest as far as possible, is meritorious," he said.Many communities and congregations are active in the parish, which serves some 15,000, many of them poor.
Caritas, the Militia of the Immaculata (founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe), the Padre Pio Prayer Group, the Community of the Risen Jesus, the Neocatechumenal Way and the Community of Sant'Egidio are all active in the parish.The Congregation of the Poor Daughters of the Visitation run a local nursing home, and brought many of the elderly from the home to see the Pope.The church was named after St. Maximilian Kolbe in 1982, but changed its name to The Holy Face of Jesus in 2001.
Posted: 30 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT (Catholic Exchanged) Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or 13:41c-62 / Jn 8:1-11 As a father was putting his six-year-old to bed, he tapped the little boy’s chest, "Do you know what you have in there?" he asked. "My guts?" responded the child. "No," said the dad, "You have a piece of God in there. It’s God’s gift and it’s inside all of us." "Do you have a piece of God in your heart?" asked boy. "Yes, son." "What about mommy, does she have a piece of God?" "She does, too." Then dad reminded his son of Mildred, a truly rotten kid in his kindergarten class. "Even Mildred has a piece of God." This stunned the boy, "No, not Mildred!" When his father insisted, the boy said, "Daddy, I know her better than you do. She doesn’t have a piece of God!" But dad insisted, till finally the boy gave in, shaking his head, "Well, her piece must be all covered up with junk!" + + + All covered up with junk! That’s often the case. But Jesus could always see through the junk and find deep inside every heart a tiny reflection of His Father’s face. And that’s what He did in today’s gospel, when that young woman was caught in the act of adultery and was about to be stoned to death. He saw her sin — and this wasn’t her first time — but hidden underneath it He saw His Father’s face imprinted on her soul. (That mark said she was God’s child.) He saw her longing for happiness, for love, for a life. And He saw what she might yet become with a little help, with a second chance.
Then He looked at all those men, many of them old customers of hers, yet all with big stones in their hands, ready to erase her life without a second thought. Jesus saw past all that junk too, and there, engraved on their souls, too was His father’s face. They too were marked as God’s children. And in their souls were all the same hopes and longings, for life and happiness, for love and peace. And He saw what they too might become — with a second chance.
So He ignored their legal question and cut to the chase: "Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone!" He wasn’t attacking them. He was inviting them to stop wasting their time being angry about the bad or stupid things other people do, and instead to look inward, see the truth about themselves, see the junk that was covering up the face of God inside them, and then to get rid of that junk. He was offering them a second chance.
What happens when a second chance is accepted? A grateful heart happens, a heart that knows how lucky it is, that knows how to wait patiently and, at the right time, extend a hand to others in whose hearts the face of God is covered with junk too.
Jesus showed us how to do this and why we need to. Now it’s our turn to walk in His footsteps, to put down our big stones, extend our hands and help one another lift away the junk that burdens every soul, till at last God’s smile may shine bright on every face — on your face and mine.
Posted: 28 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT Jer 31:31-34 / Heb 5:7-9 / Jn 12:20-33 In the late 1800s, there was a wealthy English philanthropist named Jeremy Bentham. In his will, he left a fortune to a London hospital. But there was one odd condition to the bequest: The hospital could keep the money only so long as Bentham was present at every board meeting. So for over 100 years, the remains of Jeremy Bentham were wheeled into the board room every month and placed at the head of the table. And for over 100 years, the minutes of every board meeting included a line which read, “Mr. Jeremy Bentham, present but not voting.” + + + How many of us does that describe? Present, but not voting — just there. Every life worth living, every great work, has a price that has to be paid. And whatever that price is, it always involves letting go of something we value. That’s what Jesus is telling us with his parable about the seed. Every seed has a miracle locked up inside it: It has the capacity to become a noble tree or a gorgeous flower or a tasty meal for someone. But it can’t become any of those things if it stays on the shelf in its nice, dry little envelope. It has to let go of that comfortable spot and get down into the dirt where it’s dark and damp. It has to let go of being a little seed, if the miracle is to happen. Such is life for us all, even for Jesus. To complete his work, he had to let go of everything, even his very life.
Letting go takes different shapes for each of us. For the battered wife or the man who’s grown hopelessly stale in his job, it may mean letting go of security and status, and moving on. For the couple whose marriage is foundering, it may mean staying put but letting go of old habits and ideas that have got in the way. In every case, clinging to things as they are and refusing to let go will inevitably rob us of life and steal away our joy — all because we’re afraid of losing what we have, though it may be as tiny and insignificant as a seed.
Knowing when and what to let go is not easy. And finding the courage to do it is even harder. Only one thing makes it possible: Our connectedness to the Lord, who will help us see ourselves clearly through his eyes, and then help us act with his strength. God wants us to have life and joy to the full. And lest we miss the best parts of life, he is challenging us to ask ourselves a simple question: What am I clinging to that is robbing me of life? What am I afraid of letting go? There’s an important answer if we ask the question and then listen carefully. So ask the question now and don’t be afraid. He is standing right beside you.
What Words Will Your Life Speak in the End? Posted: 27 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT Wis 2:1, 12-22 / Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30 Who’s really “got” it? Who’s on the cutting edge? We wonder about that all the time. Am I being left behind? Am I just treading water in a tiny pond that’s already been passed by? Anxieties about our professional life, about our financial future, and about what we “bring to the table,” can torture us and make us want to die — or at least hide far, far away. In part, our questions are fair, for it’s true that at times the world is passing us by and we need to get going fast and make some course changes.
But as often as not, that is not the question. The question is deeper: What am I in myself? Can I trust in the goodness and integrity that God has helped me build? When there’s no one out there cheering me on, can I continue to press forward because I know that I have set a right course? Can I do that even in the face of ridicule or sneering silence?
Today’s reading from the Old Testament book of Wisdom reminds us that a good person’s life speaks for itself, no matter what the crowds say. It may be that, for a time, the roar of the crowd will overwhelm the quiet testimony of a good life. But if we wait till all the shouting is done, the good person’s life will speak its own words into the silence. May you be one whose life speaks great words of wisdom, truth, and love into the silence.
Today's Inspirational Quote: "People who ask our advice almost never take it. Yet we should never refuse to give it, upon request, for it often helps us to see our own way more clearly." -- Brendan Francis
Says He Was Impressed by Joy, Devotion VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The joy of the African peoples, combined with their spirit of recollection and sense of the sacred, were two aspects of the continent that impressed Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this Monday during his return flight from Angola, reported H20news.The Holy Father said he was impressed, on one hand, by "the almost exuberant cordiality, the joy of a festive Africa, which it seems to me saw in hope, lets say, the personification of the fact that we are the children and family of God." "This family exists and we, with all our limitations, are in that family and God is with us. So the Pope's presence has helped to feel this," he added. "On the other hand," continued the Holy Father, "I was very impressed by the spirit of recollection in the liturgies, the strong sense of the sacred: In the liturgies there is no group representation or personal leadership, but the presence of the sacred, of God himself. Their movements were also movements of respect and awareness of the divine presence."
Tragedy Benedict XVI expressed his profound sorrow over the death of two girls trampled by the crowd, which also left some 90 wounded, in the incident that took place outside Luanda's Coqueiros Stadium, where soon afterward the meeting with young Congolese was to be held. "I have prayed, and pray for them," said the Pontiff. The Holy Father also recalled the meeting Thursday with the sick in Yaoundé's Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger Center, a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities, founded in 1972 by the Canadian cardinal after whom it is named. "It touched my heart to see here the world of the many sufferings, of all suffering, the sadness, the poverty of human existence, but also to see how the state and Church collaborate to help those who suffer," commented the Pope. "And one sees, it seems to me, that when a man helps one who suffers he is more of a man, the world becomes more human: This is engraved in my memory," he added.
Benedict XVI traveled to Africa to personally present to the presidents of the 42 episcopal conferences on the continent the "instrumentum laboris" (working document) for the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, which will be held Oct. 4-25 in Rome.
Expresses Concern at Growing Secularist Policies GENEVA, Switzerland, MARCH 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See's representative to the United Nations is expressing concern at increased intolerance against Christians, not only in countries where the religion is a minority, but also a majority.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer at the U.N. offices in Geneva, said this in an address March 16 before the ordinary session of the Human Rights Council.He noted that in many parts of the world, "religious minorities, including Christian minorities, still face daily discrimination and prejudices.""The Holy See expresses its concern," said the representative, "on the increasing situations of religious intolerance and calls upon States to take all the necessary measures -- educational, legal and judicial -- intended to guarantee the respect of the right to freedom of religion and to protect religious minorities from discrimination."He referred to a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at the beginning of March in Vienna, Austria, on the topic of "Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians."
The emphasis of this meeting, he said, was that "the denial of the rights of Christian communities is not only an issue where they form a minority, but that discrimination and intolerance may also exist where Christians are a majority in society."The archbishop noted that many States are "increasingly siding with a new secularist policy that aims at reducing the role of religion in public life."He stated that "the Holy See calls upon these States to be inclusive and to recognize the important role religions can play within society." "Religions," the prelate added, "in fact, contribute to the promotion of moral and social values, which go beyond an individualistic concept of society and development, seeking the common good as well as the protection and the respect of human dignity."
He affirmed that the freedom of expression can best be protected by "the implementation of the universal principle of freedom of religion."He asked that each state "look into its own national legislation" and "consider how it can encourage a frank but respectful discussion between members of the same religion, between representatives of different religions and persons who have no religious belief."Archbishop Tomasi continued: "One should, however, at all times keep in mind that the right to religious freedom is intrinsically related to the right to freedom of expression."Where followers of religions have no right to express their opinion freely, the freedom of religion is not guaranteed."
Thank Pontiff for Letter Explaining Lefebvrite Situation BOGOTA, Colombia, MARCH 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Thirty bishops sent Benedict XVI a letter of solidarity, expressing support in response to the criticisms against him in recent weeks, and thanking him for his letter to worldwide prelates. The bishops, general secretaries of bishops' conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, sent the letter while meeting in Bogota.
They expressed gratitude for the Pope's March 12 letter sent to bishops worldwide, in which he explained the reasons and facts regarding the lifting of the excommunication of four bishops illegitimately ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The message of support to the Pontiff was signed by Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil, president of the Latin American episcopal council, and by Archbishop Victor Sánchez Espinosa of Puebla, Mexico, the council's secretary-general.
The letter stated: "What His Holiness wrote has moved us and reinforced our profound ecclesial communion.
"We have also regarded it as an example of a merciful and transparent spirit, motivated by the unforeseen echo of the events, but also trusting that what has occurred is moreover a positive design of the Lord for his Church at this moment of history." It continued: "Your letter traces a path for us of truth, love and unity necessary for each one of us, called to the apostolic succession for the ministerial service. "Your Holiness describes very well something that is not far from our own pastoral experience: in fact persons and groups that claim tolerance for themselves, can arbitrarily deny it to those who seek an approach in truth.
"Most Holy Father, as a representative group of our Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, with these lines we wish to add ourselves to the renewed expressions of affection, confidence and communion with Your Holiness in our prayers and service to the Churches entrusted to us, and in responsibility for the great universal Church that the Lord has commended to you."
Posted by admin (Malaysia Today) Saturday, 21 March 2009 15:41 (Morningstar) - Malaysia religious authorities have threatened to sue the country's top legal body for using the word "Allah" on its Web site, in another dispute over the issue in the multicultural country.
The Islamic religious council in central Selangor state said it would take action against the Malaysian Bar, which represents about 12,000 lawyers, for using the word as a translation for "God" in two online polls on its Web site. The council's remarks came amid a long-running battle between the government and a Roman Catholic newspaper, which has been threatened with closure for using the disputed word in its Malay-language edition.
The government has argued that the word should be used only by Muslims, who are the majority in Malaysia. Most are ethnic Malays. The Malaysian Bar's polls asked lawyers to vote on whether any particular race in Malaysia had an exclusive right to use "Allah" and whether non-Muslim religious publications should be allowed to use the word.
"The issue raised in the polls can threaten the sensitivity of Muslims," the head of the religious council, Mohamad Adzib Mohamad Isa, said in a statement. He said it was empowered under religious laws to lay charges against anyone misusing the word "Allah."
The Malaysian Bar said it would defend its use of the word. "I haven't received a (legal) notice yet. We are prepared to challenge it," its president, Ragunath Kesavan, said. Religion and language can sensitive issues in Malaysia, which experienced deadly race riots in 1969.
About 60% of the nation's 27 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims, who dominate the government. The rest of the population includes indigenous tribes, as well as ethnic Chinese and Indians - practicing Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism, among other faiths.
Posted: 21 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT (Catholic Exchanged) Chr 36:15-16, 19-23 / Eph 2:4-10 / Jn 3:14-21 There’s a law in physics that a pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it’s released. In fact, because of friction and gravity, it will fall just a little short of the release point. Each time it swings, the arc gets smaller and smaller till it finally comes to rest. A physics teacher had just taught this lesson when a student decided to get even for all his bad grades. “Teacher,” he asked “do you really believe that?” “Of course I do,” huffed the teacher. “I’ve been teaching it for twenty years!” “Well, then, let’s just put it to a little test.” And with that the student made a huge pendulum by suspending 300 pounds of weight-lifting disks from the ceiling. He brought the weights right up to the teacher’s nose. “Now, sir, if the law of the pendulum is true, when I release this mass of metal, it will swing across the room and then back, and stop just a little short of your nose. Sir, do you believe that?”
“Yes,” said the teacher, looking not at all certain. The boy released the pendulum. At the far end of its arc it paused just a moment and than swung faster and faster back toward the teacher — who had disappeared under the desk! He knew the law of pendulums, but when the crunch came, he wasn’t willing to bet his nose on it! + + +
In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me will not die, but will have eternal life.” He’s saying, in other words, that faith in God is a matter of life and death for us! So we’d better get very clear about what faith is. First of all, it’s a lot more than just knowing and signing off on the big dogmas: One God, three persons, died for our sins, and so on. They’re important and true, but signing off on them isn’t the essence of faith. Real faith in God is a relationship in which we entrust ourselves into God’s hands.
Now why would we entrust ourselves to someone we can’t even see? Because ever so quietly, God has been showing himself to us in thousands of different ways every day: In the majesty of a sunset, in a glistening dewdrop resting on a rose, in the forgiveness and understanding that come our way so often, in the round little faces of our children and the wrinkled faces of our dear old friends, and best of all in the face of our brother Jesus.
How much he wants the best for us. And so, when it finally sinks in, we whisper, I believe. I know you love me and I can trust you, Lord. So I give myself to you. If those words have deep roots, they will bear fruit in peaceful hearts and in confident hearts that know how to relax in the Lord. If those words have deep roots, they will bear fruit in hearts that know what matters and what does not, hearts that don’t falter or pull away when heavy weights bear down upon them, hearts that are ready for everything because they are connected to the Lord.
Those are the strong and peaceful hearts we want for ourselves and that God wants for us. So speak from deep inside the words he’s been waiting to hear: “Lord, I know you love me. So I give myself to you! I give it all and I’m holding nothing back.” Peace and strength will follow!
Says They Can't Be Considered Remedy Against AIDS MOSCOW, MARCH 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Russian Orthodox Church is supporting Benedict XVI's position that condoms are not an acceptable solution to AIDS.A message on the French official Web site of the Church stated, "The Patriarchate of Moscow is in solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI's position on the means in the fight against AIDS, and on the fact that condoms cannot be considered as a remedy against this sickness." This statement came as a response to the Pope's words to journalists on his flight to Africa, in which he affirmed: "This problem of
AIDS cannot be overcome only with publicity slogans."If there is not the soul, if the Africans are not helped, the scourge cannot be resolved with the distribution of condoms: on the contrary, there is a risk of increasing the problem." Today the deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, said "It is incorrect to see condoms as a panacea for AIDS." He noted that AIDS can be prevented not by contraceptives but by education and a righteous life, as the Orthodox Church also teaches. "The spread of AIDS will only be halted with the ethical education of the affected peoples, and not with recourse to condoms," states the Church's communiqué.
The Russian agency Interfax reported Friday that Father Tchapline took part in a round table in Moscow on the subject. He pointed out that at present certain organizations attempt to simultaneously emphasize the idea of sexual freedom and the fight against AIDS, but that it is impossible to reconcile both of these.
Clarifies Media's Misrepresentation of Papal Words on Condoms YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon, MARCH 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican spokesman commented on Benedict XVI's words regarding the fight against AIDS, clarifying that the Church's priority is education, research and human and spiritual assistance, not condom distribution. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, clarified this in a communiqué published Wednesday from Yaoundé. He responded to interpretations by the media and by government representatives, of the Pope's words to journalists during his flight from Rome to Cameroon.
A front-page editorial by Giovanni Maria Vian, director of L'Osservatore Romano, stated that some of the media reduced the Pontiff's message on AIDS "to just one aspect -- moreover, taken out of context and in a controversial vein -- namely, that of the methods to confront the spread of AIDS." He noted that, based on a partial version of the Pope's words in his reference to AIDS and condoms reported by the media on Tuesday, government representatives and institutions responded with harsh criticism.
For example, Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is quoted on French radio and other sources as expressing his "profound indignation" and asking the Pope to retract his statements, considering them "unacceptable," as they represent "a denial of the epidemic." Representatives of the governments of Spain, France and Belgium also attacked the Holy Father.
Church's position Father Lombardi stated that the Pontiff, in his address, "confirmed the positions of the Catholic Church and the essential lines of her commitment to combat the terrible scourge of AIDS."The first step, he explained, is "education in the responsibility of persons in the use of sexuality and with the reaffirmation of the essential role of marriage and the family."Second, the spokesman said, the epidemic must be fought "with research and the implementation of effective treatments for AIDS, making them available to the greatest number of patients through many health initiatives and institutions."Thirdly, he noted, the response must include "human and spiritual assistance to AIDS patients, as well as to all those who suffer, who have always been in the heart of the Church.
"Father Lombardi underlined the Church's commitment to fight AIDS in these ways, noting that "to seek essentially a greater diffusion of condoms, is not in reality the best way, the broadest view or the most effective way to address the scourge of AIDS and to safeguard human life."
Posted: 20 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT Hos 14:2-10 / Mk 12:28-34 So much of our lives we run on ‘radar,’ the daily routines of getting up and going off to wherever we go off to, the routines in the household, at the office, in the supermarket, on the freeway. Our ‘radar’ works very well and keeps us moving at a remarkable and efficient pace. But ‘radar’ makes itself felt at other levels as well, in our relationships, in our patterns of thinking, even in our choices of political candidates.
We pretend to think and pretend to reason, and then we make our blind leap and defend our ‘decisions’ and ‘choices’ to the death. For too much of life, we just go through the motions, with all the action on the outside and nothing on the inside, which is where the choices are supposed to come from.
Jesus is challenging us to do more than just go through the motions, and instead to live from the inside out. To live wholeheartedly from the inside is Jesus’ formula for success and for joy: Love the Lord with your whole heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. As a way of life, there’s no doubt that it costs the most, but it always pays off. And that makes it life’s best bargain!
Posted: 19 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT 2 Sm 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16 / Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22 / Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a or Lk 2:41-51a Joseph, being a descendant of David, SOMEWHERE down the line, had the right to ascend to the throne. Did he think it anywhere near a possibility for him? Probably not. Yet, as he lived with Mary and Jesus, he had to have some idea that this is what God intended. Can you imagine the feeling inside of him? He was establishing the new line of the Kingdom of David. Who could he share that with? How can he go to the corner and say to his friends, “Hey guys, guess what?”
To have to hold in the truth of what the angel had revealed to him and Mary must have been one of Joseph’s greatest burdens. Imagine: Your son, the King! I have no doubt Joseph would have turned his thoughts to the statements of Nathan to David that we hear from the first reading today. Now Joseph is in the same kind of position, but who can he tell?
Many times Joseph must have recited the psalm that we have in our responsorial today. He would have known and had been waiting for the new covenant to break into the world. Now here, this Son that he had adopted was the One who was going to bring that to us all. What kind of joy and sweet pain he must have had, knowing what he knew about Who this young child was. Yet, in silence he protected Mary and Jesus until the time that he was called to give that up for the sake of the Kingdom of God. How hard would it have been for him to leave when God called him out of this world into the next, before all that had been promised had come to pass.
How many parents today wish they could stay around to see the success — and the trials — of their own children? It’s a natural thing to want to see your children succeed. Yet the witness of Joseph is to put all that in the hands of God: to proclaim the psalm as David did knowing that Solomon was to become the King and he would have the job of building the temple; to proclaim the psalm as Joseph did, knowing that Jesus would become the King, but Joseph would not see it, just as David did not see Solomon succeed.
Joseph had to wait for the redemption that Jesus was to bring. And I believe it was probably the most painful waiting of his life. Since we believe that Joseph died before Jesus, what would that reunion have been like? There, in Sheol, father and Son embrace, and all the dreams of a lifetime are fulfilled!
We can only imagine that moment of joy, but how sweet it must have been. Today, on this feast of Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I urge all of you parents, especially you fathers, to ask, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, for the good of your children: for their success — that they will hold to the faith — and that they will reveal the glory of God to a world that does not understand His glory.
Then, in the Kingdom of God, you too can embrace your children and rejoice in the glory of God that they helped to bring to the earth. Today, give thanks to the Lord that He has been faithful and that He has filled your children, and you, with a faith in Him.
Highlights Work of Church in Fighting AIDS ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, MARCH 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- In the midst of the financial crisis, which might put a stop to programs for Africa's development, Benedict XVI says he hopes to promote the Church's social doctrine during his trip to the continent, in particular solidarity.The Pope said this in a press conference with journalists Tuesday while flying to Cameroon for his 11th international apostolic journey, and his first to the African continent. During the next days he will also visit Angola.In particular, he addressed the impact of the economic crisis on poor countries and the importance of ethics for the world economic order, an argument he will develop in the next encyclical. "We were about to publish it," he explained, "when this crisis was unleashed and we took the text up again to respond more adequately, in the ambit of our competence, in the ambit of the social doctrine of the Church, but with reference to the real elements of the present crisis."Hence I hope that the encyclical will also be an element, a force to overcome the present difficult situation."Benedict XVI said the cause of the recession is above all of an ethical nature: "We all know that an essential element of the crisis is, in fact, a lack of ethics in economic structures."
For this reason, during his trip to Cameroon and Angola the Pontiff will speak of God and of the great values of Christian life, thus offering a contribution to the analysis and understanding of the economic crisis. Benedict XVI said he would appeal to the international community to be in solidarity with Africa, especially Catholics: "The Church is catholic, that is, universal, open to all cultures, to all continents."It is present in all political systems and so solidarity is a fundamentally internal principle for Catholicism. "Naturally, I would like to appeal first of all to Catholic solidarity itself, extending it however also to the solidarity of all those who see their responsibility in the human society of today."CorruptionIn Africa there are new governments and a new willingness to fight corruption, which is one of the great problems that must be defeated, he added.
The Bishop of Rome expressed his satisfaction at being able finally to visit this continent, a project he has hoped to realize since the beginning of his pontificate: "I love Africa, I have so many African friends from the time I was a professor up to today; I love the joy of the faith, the joyful faith that is found in Africa." The Holy Father acknowledged that in Africa, as in other places, the Church is not a "perfect society." For this reason he will promote an "interior purification" of the Church, which is not a purification of the structures, but of the heart and the conscience, as structures are the result of what the heart is.
The Pope also spoke about AIDS and the Christian perspective on love and sexuality, as well as the effective commitment of so many Catholic institutions in favor of the sick. "I would say that this problem of AIDS can't be overcome only with publicity slogans," he said. "If there is not the soul, if the Africans are not helped, the scourge can't be resolved with the distribution of condoms: on the contrary, there is a risk of increasing the problem."The solution can only be found in a double commitment: first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual and human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; and second, a true friendship, also and above all for those who suffer, the willingness -- even with sacrifice and self-denial -- to be with the suffering. And these are the factors that help and that lead to visible progress.
Lonely? Asked about the image of a Pontiff who is "alone," isolated, published by the media recently following the controversies over the case of Bishop Richard Williamson and the lifting of the excommunication of three other prelates, followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Benedict XVI answered smiling: "To tell the truth, I must say that this myth of my loneliness makes me feel like smiling: In no way do I feel alone. Every day I receive, on the list of visits, my closest collaborators, starting with the secretary of state." "I am really surrounded by friends in a wonderful collaboration with bishops, with collaborators, with laymen and I am grateful for this."
The Holy Father also spoke about religious sects, a widespread phenomenon in Africa, pointing out that the Christian proclamation is serene, as it proposes a God who is close to the human being and creates a great network of solidarity. In fact, he said, traditional religions are opening themselves to the Gospel, as they are beginning to see that the God of Catholics is not a distant God. The Pope confirmed his confidence in interreligious dialogue. Referring to relations with Muslims, he said that mutual respect is growing in the common ethical responsibility.
Today's Inspirational Quote: "Everyone is shy --- it is the inborn modesty that makes usable to live in harmony with other creatures and our fellows. Achievement comes not by denying shyness but, occasionally, by setting it aside and letting pride and perspiration comefirst." -- Kirkpatrick Sale
Posted: 18 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT Dt 4:1, 5-9 / Mt 5:17-19 One of the most common complaints between husbands and wives is that they take each other for granted. And how predictable that is! Two people live in the same house, share the same life, follow the same daily routines, doing what needs to be done, keeping things afloat. It takes conscious effort not to settle into seeing one another’s goodness and caring as no more than one’s right and no great gift. What an illusion that is and what an extraordinary presumption. If we do that to one another, what surprise is there that we regularly do the same to the Lord. We take for granted His wonderful gifts, and we so easily call them our own. And some of us persist in that illusion until the very moment when we’re called to give them back. What a stark and dreadful awakening that can be.
Thankfulness for life and for all of God’s gifts is the starting point for anyone who seeks to be truly wise. But it’s no burden. To see the truth of how undeservedly beloved we are is to find some sense of how valuable and important we tiny, mortal creatures are to the Creator of this grand universe.
“Tell it to your children,” says today’s Old Testament reading. And so we must. But tell it to yourself first, over and over again: The dear Lord Who made me loves me with an everlasting love, and He will never let me go, never let me perish. Thank you, dear Lord!
Posted: 17 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT Dn 3:25,34-43 / Mt 18:21-35 One of the key things that children learn as they grow up is the value of fairness, the importance of playing by the rules and making sure that each person gets his fair share and nobody gets cheated. How often on the playground or the classroom or at home, we hear the outraged cry of one of our children saying, “That’s not fair.” A deep-seated sense of fairness is crucial both to lasting relationships and to a decent society, but it’s not enough. Nevertheless, too many of us get stuck at the justice and fairness stage, and never move up to the next step. In confronting one another’s faults, we find ourselves too often thinking more like accountants than friends: “Pay what you owe,” we say, as if we ourselves were able to pay all we owe! But, of course, we cannot.
Every last one of us is dependent upon the Lord and upon our friends being willing not to address us with an accountant’s ledger in hand, but to look at us with the same understanding that a good parent looks at a child who’s just learning how to do the simplest things.
Jesus is very clear about this: Throw away your ledgers and your accountant’s hat, and think like a parent who never gives up loving and hoping for the child. It’s the only way to live, and a much happier way to live. And it will get your own heart wide open to receive all the forgiveness and understanding that you need.
Today's Inspirational Quote: "One thing young people have to always keep in mind when deciding what they want to do with their lives is, is it fun?Is it something that I'm interested in? Is it something I enjoy?" -- Bob Schieffer
Will Travel This Week to Cameroon and Angola VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- When Benedict XVI travels to Cameroon and Angola this week, he will bring with him Christ and the Good News. The Pope said this today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square, days before he will depart for Africa on his first apostolic journey to the continent.The Pontiff will arrive in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on Tuesday, March 17, and return to Rome on Monday, March 23. During his trip the Holy Father will deliver the “instrumentum laboris” (guidelines) for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in October in the Vatican.
Benedict XVI will also visit Luanda, Angola, a country he said today that "after a long civil war, has found peace again and is now called to rebuild itself in justice.""With this visit," the Holy Father said, "I intend to embrace the whole African continent: its thousands of differences and profound religious soul; its ancient cultures and its toilsome road to development and reconciliation; its grave problems, its painful wounds and its enormous possibilities and hopes."He continued: "I intend to confirm the African Catholics in faith, to encourage the Christians in their ecumenical commitment, and bring to all the announcement of peace that the Lord has entrusted to his Church."
The Pontiff said he leaves for the continent knowing he had "nothing else to propose and give to those whom I will meet if not Christ and the Good News of his cross, mystery of supreme love, of divine love that defeats all human resistance and in the end makes forgiveness and love of enemies possible.""This is the grace of the Gospel that is capable of transforming the world; this is the grace that can renew Africa, because it generates an irresistible power of peace and of deep and radical reconciliation," he added."The Church does not pursue economic, social and political objectives," the Pope said.
"The Church proclaims Christ, certain that the Gospel can touch the hearts of all and transform them, renewing persons and society from within."Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger, noted that during the trip he will celebrate the feast of his patron St. Joseph, who is also the patron of the universal Church."To the heavenly intercession of this great saint I entrust this upcoming pilgrimage and the peoples of all of Africa, with the challenges that face them and the hopes that animate them," he said. "I think especially of the victims of hunger, disease, injustices, of the fratricidal conflicts and of every form of violence that, unfortunately, continues to strike adults and children, without sparing missionaries, priests, religious, and volunteers."
Today's Inspirational Quote: "Here's what I tell anybody and this is what I believe. The greatest gift we have is the gift of life. We understand that. That comes from our Creator. We're given a body. Now you maynot like it, but you can maximize that body the best it can be maximized." -- Mike Ditka
Says It Merits "Great Attention" VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican spokesman says that Benedict XVI's letter released today regarding the Society of St. Pius X is an "unusual document worthy of great attention."This was the estimation offered by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi in an explanatory note accompanying the Pope's March 10 letter to bishops of the world, according to the Vatican Information Service."Never before in his pontificate has Benedict XVI expressed himself so personally and intensely on a matter of public debate," Father Lombardi said.
"The Pope experienced the [...] remission of the excommunication and the consequent reactions with evident concern and suffering," and felt the obligation "to intervene in order to contribute to peace in the Church."Father Lombardi added: "With his habitual lucidity and humility he recognizes the limitations and errors that had a negative influence on the affair, and with great nobility he does not seek to attribute the responsibility for them to others, but expresses solidarity with his collaborators. He speaks of inadequate information in the Williamson case and of insufficient clarity in explaining the procedure and significance of remitting excommunication."The spokesman also noted how the Holy Father was able to "recall with satisfaction" that moves toward reconciliation with Jews, "beginning with Vatican Council II, is something his own 'work as a theologian had sought from the beginning to take part in and support.'"
Love as priority Above all, however, Father Lombardi said the Pontiff wishes "to clarify the nature, significance and aims of the remission of excommunication.""Benedict XVI is profoundly aware of his responsibility as pastor of the universal Church and feels the need to give his brothers in the episcopate unambiguous clarification [...] of the priorities and spirit with which he is undertaking his service," the Jesuit affirmed. "The Pope continues his considerations," he said, "by inviting his interlocutors to serious reflection, at both the personal and the ecclesial level.
The paradoxical fact that a gesture that aimed to be merciful and conciliatory actually created a situation of acute tension, means we must ask questions to discern what spiritual attitudes where [...] at work in this case."Father Lombardi also noted the Holy Father's "critical realism," which brought him to note "the grave defects of many of the traditionalists' statements" as well as the "members of the Church and society who meet all efforts of reconciliation, or even of the recognition of positive elements in others, with rigid intransigence."The Pope's letter concludes, the spokesman said, "by reiterating an impassioned appeal for love as the absolute priority for Christians, and by expressing a hope for peace in the community of the Church."
Posted: 13 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT Gen 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 / Mt 21:33-43,45-46 Gather any group of people at a party and then look around the room. It’s amazing the diversity of talent and skill that is collected in a single space — so much history, so much insight, so much possibility. There doesn’t have to be a single genius in the room to justify our saying that, just the ability to see what is truly there.
God has blessed each of us in ways that we’ve probably only partially seen or noticed. He has planted good seed of all sorts inside every one of us, and He’s given us wide spaces to roam in and broad fields to make choices in. But there does come a time at which the bottom line has to be drawn and the question has to be asked: What is there for God to see as a return for what He’s invested in us? Where’s the harvest? What have we done with our gifts? What good story do we have to share with our dear Father when we get home?
Your story isn’t done yet, so think hard about what you want to tell the Lord face to face. You’ll know what you need to do next. Do it while there’s still time.
Posted: 12 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT Jer 17:5-10 / Lk 16:19-31 An older couple were driving along when they passed a very young couple who were snuggled closely as they drove along. The older woman said to her husband, “Remember when we used to sit close like that. I wonder what happened.” Her husband replied, “I didn’t move.”
In today’s gospel, the rich man finds himself isolated and alone on the other side of a great abyss where no one can reach him and no one can bring even so much as a cup of water. Meanwhile, far away on the other side is the poor beggar named Lazarus, whom the rich man scorned during his life, and who now is resting snugly in the bosom of Abraham.
Where did that abyss come from, and how did that rich man happen to be so completely cut off from where he wanted to be and ought to be? The answer is both sad and a dire warning to us all: God didn’t do it. The rich man dug that abyss a shovelful at a time, across a whole lifetime. Turned inward upon himself and consumed by his own needs and desires, he lost all thought or connection to anyone outside himself. His lonely, self-created eternity was simply an extension of his earthly life, and no one had to intervene to condemn him to it.
What kind of eternity are you building for yourself? Is it full of people who have known your faithful and generous love and who love you in return? Or is it, perhaps, filled with the groaning of people you’ve hurt, or ignored, or simply cut out of your life? At this very moment, you are building the house that you will live in forever. Make sure you’re building wisely and well.
Says They Are Responsible for Economic Crisis ROME, MARCH 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- An American cardinal is appealing to bankers to assume responsibility for causing the current global economic downturn, and to apologize for causing it.American Cardinal James Francis Stafford, the major penitentiary, said this today on Vatican Radio during an interview on the Internal Forum, an annual course on matters of conscience, organized by the Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary. "Our world is complex," he said. "Let us think of the economic world, which is now called global: The sins in this economic and global world are different in their complexity and depth from those in the past." "For example, this economic crisis is rooted in the lack of respect, on the part of the world's leaders, for other people.
Bankers must assume moral responsibilities and ask God for forgiveness for these complex sins," he added. According to Cardinal Stafford, "it is important to discover the theological and pastoral dimension of sin," which "is not an offense against the law but, above all, is an offense against a person, a Divine Person, against the Triune God and against human persons.""It is important for us, ordained ministers, to rediscover the faith when it points out that Jesus Christ is the Savior, the Redeemer of our sins," he added.
The Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary was created in the 12th century with the essential task of receiving the confession of sins that can only be forgiven directly by the Pope given their gravity, and of granting dispensations and graces reserved to the Supreme Pontiff. The apostolic constitution "Pastor Bonus" confirms that the competence of the Apostolic Penitentiary is concerned with those matters that pertain to the internal forum (questions of conscience), as well as everything that pertains to the granting and use of indulgences.
Posted: 11 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT Jer 18:18-20 / Mt 20:17-28 When people get really angry about something, they are almost always revealing something about themselves and about their needs, and quite often they neither know nor intend to reveal it! And so it is with today’s Old Testament reading. The prophet Jeremiah was not just another eccentric outsider. He was the ultimate insider in the government of the kingdom of Judah. He was a nobleman and a leader in the government, and he had been telling the truth to his colleagues and to the people for a long time.
But they just didn’t want to hear the truth, because it called for a painful re-thinking of their country’s destiny and of their own personal careers. Those in power were not about to give up their privileged status so easily, so in their fury they threw Jeremiah in prison to shut him up. But the truth that Jeremiah had spoken couldn’t be silenced, and the nation collapsed as he had predicted.
Many things can move us to ignore or deny the truth, but fear and ego are the prime culprits. We can never grow whole, we can never grow into our best selves, until we face the truth and embrace the whole of it, whatever it may be. But there’s no way that we can face the truth alone — ego and fear are too powerful. Fortunate for us, we don’t have to face it alone. The Lord will walk us through the fire and out the other side, step by step.
Trust that and you’ll know what they mean when they say, “The truth will set you free.”
Posted by admin Wednesday, 11 March 2009 00:02 By Frankie D’Cruz, The Malay Mail
ONCE, it was just another tree at a junction of a road with no name leading to the Perak State Secretariat in Ipoh. Today, the road is still nameless, while the tree has quickly been named “Tree of Democracy” by Pakatan Rakyat.On the other hand, the State government considers it a symbol of treason and contempt for royalty.Poor raintree. But what do you expect, given that Perak is now trapped in a cesspit of anger and political fury The most famous tree in the nation that stood quietly for years has suddenly sprouted “branches” of love and hate.
Love comes in the form of curious locals posing for photographs beneath the tree. Hate evolves from disloyalty and disdain for the monarchy.It is not alone. Five other raintree saplings which were planted around it yesterday share the same fate. The five, named “Justice”, “Integrity ” , “Welfare” , “ Transparency ” and “Trustworthiness ” wereplanted to commemorate the emergency sitting under the “Tree House” on March 3 and the first anniversary of Pakatan’s rule in the State.
However, the five may not last long as they were planted on road reserve. Meanwhile, the mother tree has become a tourist attraction, not so much for its aesthetic worth, but for the stories ringing around it. Yesterday, curious crowds were seen gathering and taking photographs under the tree, where a plaque has also been erected. Given this love for a history marker, it would be landmark imbecility to even think of harming the six trees.
Posted: 10 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT Is 1:10,16-20 / Mt 23:1-12 Have you ever noticed how much of our supposedly rational decision-making is really nothing more than our preferences or prejudices in search of an excuse? We can spin some fancy tales and conjure some eloquent arguments, but in the end most of them amount to very little. And much the same is true of so many of our plans, prayers, and promises. Lots of talk and little more. Worst of all we can get in the habit of believing our own “press releases,” believing all that baloney to be true.
Moving from cheap talk to real deeds is at the heart of what Lent is about. It starts with repenting, that is, re-thinking what’s truly important and where we ought to be investing our main energies, if we want to call ourselves followers of Jesus. That kind of re-thinking inevitably calls us to re-forming and re-shaping parts of our lives into a clearer likeness of Jesus. And that in turn requires that we get to know Jesus better — from the inside.
God has given each one of us unique gifts for which there is a specific need in our piece of the world. Get to know Jesus better — on the inside — and He’ll show you how to carry your gifts where they’re needed. Your deeds will be ever so much better than any words. And your heart will know the delight of being a real follower of Jesus.
Calls Communities a "Spiritual Lung" ROME, MARCH 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Contemplative communities are called to be a type of "spiritual lung" for the world, so that spiritual "respiration" is not strangled by the bustle of cities, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this today when he visited the Oblate Sisters of Santa Francesca Romana. He stopped at the convent after having visited the headquarters of Rome's civil authorities, where he addressed the mayor and other civil leaders. Today is the feast day of St. Francesca (1384-1440), whom the Holy Father referred to as "the most Roman of saints."
After spending some time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and in veneration of the saint's body, the Pope addressed the sisters and students that reside at the center. Referring to his spiritual exercises last week with the members of the Curia, the Holy Father said "he had felt once again how indispensable silence and prayer are." He noted how the convent is located at the heart of the city, saying, "How can we not see in it the symbol of the need to return the spiritual dimension to the center of civil coexistence, to give full meaning to the multiple activities of the human being?"
The Bishop of Rome told the nuns: "Your community, together with the other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a sort of 'spiritual lung' of society, so that the performance, the activism of a city, is not devoid of spiritual 'respiration,' the reference to God and his plan of salvation. [...] "A singular balance is lived here between religious and secular life, between the life of the world and outside of the world. A model that was not born in a laboratory, but in the concrete experience of a young Roman woman: written -- it could be said -- by God himself in Francesca's extraordinary existence.
"It is no accident that the walls of this environment are decorated with images of her life, demonstrating that the real building that God wishes to construct is the life of the saints." In this context, the Pope stressed that also today "Rome needs women who are all for God and for their neighbor; women able to recollect themselves and give generous and discreet service; women who are able to obey their pastors, but also able to support and motivate them with their suggestions."
This vocation "is the gift of a maternity that is made one with religious oblation, modeled after Mary," the Pontiff reflected. "Mary's heart is the cloister where the Word continues to speak in silence, and at the same time is the furnace of a charity that leads to courageous gestures, and also to a persevering and hidden generosity."
Posted: 09 Mar 2009 12:00 AM PDT Dn 9:4-10 / Lk 6:36-38 As any priest could affirm from years of hearing confessions, most of us don’t see ourselves all that clearly. In assessing our progress as followers of Jesus, we tend to focus on peripheral matters and miss so much of the core. How many times has our examination of conscience sounded something like this? “I was late for mass. I had distractions in my prayers. I forgot and ate meat on Ash Wednesday. And twice I had a little too much to drink. I’m sorry for these and all my sins.” Fine, so far as it goes, but there’s usually more, if we have the eyes to see.
Lent is a good time to look through a wide-angle lense and examine our lives in larger terms, for example, in terms of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Following Jesus means more than just staying out of trouble. It means holding ourselves responsible for living according to his big vision.
Honestly facing our shortcomings according to Jesus’ criteria of a good human life will lead us to a wholesome humility which will in turn beget a generous compassion for others. Seeing ourselves as God sees us is a quick solvent for any temptation to judge others or to cherish grievances, for it underscores poignantly our own urgent need for understanding and forgiveness.
If your heart has owned the truth about yourself, forgiving others will come naturally, and that forgiveness will come back to you in abundance. It never fails, and it’s the rock on which all family and all friendship is built.
"We Must Walk With Jesus" VATICAN CITY, MARCH 8, 2009 (Zenit.org). - Here is a translation of the comments made by Benedict XVI at the conclusion of the retreat on the theme "The Priest Meets Jesus and Follows Him," given to the Roman curia by Cardinal Francis Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. * * * Your Eminence, My Dear Venerable Brothers, Saying "thank you" is one of the wonderful tasks of the Pope. At this time I would like, in the name of all of us and all of you, to say thank you, Eminence, from the heart, for these meditations which you have given us. You have led, enlightened, helped and renewed us in our priesthood. Yours has not been a theological acrobatic act. You have not given us theological acrobatics, but you have given us sound doctrine, the good bread of our faith.
Listening to your words, there came to my mind a prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel, on which St. Augustine comments. In the Book of Ezekiel the Lord, God the Shepherd, says to the people: I will lead my sheep upon the hills of Israel, to green pastures. And St. Augustine asks: Where are these hills of Israel? What are these green pastures? And he answers: the hills of Israel, the green pastures are the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God that gives us true nourishment.
Your preaching has been permeated with Sacred Scripture, with a great familiarity with the Word of God read in the context of the living Church, from the Fathers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, always contextualized in the reading, in the liturgy. Precisely in this way Scripture has been presented in its complete relevance. Your theology, as you told us, was not an abstract theology but one marked by healthy realism. I admired and enjoyed this concrete experience of your 50 years in the priesthood that you spoke to us about and in the light of which you helped us concretize our faith.
What you said to us was sound, concrete for our life, for our comportment as priests. I hope that many will read these words and take them to heart. You first began with this always fascinating and beautiful account of the first disciples who followed Jesus. Still a little uncertain and timid they ask: Master, where do you live? And the answer, which you commented on, is: "Come and see." To see we must come, we must walk with Jesus, who always precedes us. Only in walking with and following Jesus can we see. You have showed us where Jesus lives, where his dwelling is: in the Church, in his Word, in the most holy Eucharist.
Thank you, Your Eminence, for this guidance. With a new spirit and new joy we will set out on the way to Easter. I wish everyone a good Lent and a good Easter.
Posted: 06 Mar 2009 11:00 PM PST (Catholic Exchanged) Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 / Rom 8:31-34 / Mk 9:2-10 I have a riddle for you. A woman has two sons, both born at the same hour, on same day, in same year. But they’re not twins. Explain how this can be. The answer is: They’re part of a set of triplets! + + +
Plain as day, but most of us didn’t see it. That’s because we stop thinking too soon. So often we stop before we see everything that’s there — before we see all the possibilities. We have a perfect example of this in Sunday’s Gospel. The apostles have been with Jesus for a long time, but they haven’t really seen him. So he takes them to the top of that mountain and shows them who he is on the inside, and they’re dazzled — rightly so. But they stop with that: “This is great!” says Peter. “Let’s build a shrine for Jesus and we can just stay right here.” The apostles don’t see the next step, which is their own transformation: Jesus is showing them himself so they’ll know where they’re headed and what they are supposed to become — and that is people so good and so big on the inside that their spirits glow.
They don’t see that next step yet, so Jesus takes them by the hand and leads them back down the mountain. Down there where the real work of life is done very slowly, he’ll help them to understand that growing into full-fledged brothers and sisters of Jesus is the work of a lifetime and there are no shortcuts. It takes faithful commitment that doesn’t stop or turn away when, as so often happens, weariness and sadness begin to take their toll.
It’s an awesome task, this business of staying faithful and not stopping till we’re really done. At every step along the way, we face the temptation to give up and retreat to our own little hilltop. So we need to hear again and again what Paul said to us in Sunday’s epistle: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The fact is, God IS for us. So hold to course and don’t stop till you’re really done. He will walk with you all the way home!
Posted by admin, Malaysia -Today.net An Islamic court in Malaysia ruled Friday (6 March) that a man given an Islamic name at birth was a Christian, a rare victory for religious minorities in this Muslim-majority nation. The man _ whose original identity card listed his name as "Mohammad Shah alias Gilbert Freeman" _ brought his case to the Shariah court in southern Negeri Sembilan state after the National Registration Department refused to accept he was a Christian and allow him to drop his Islamic name when he applied for a new identity card.
Lawyer Hanif Hassan said his client, who is 61, was raised as a Christian by his mother, and his Islamic name came from his Muslim father, who left the family when he was only 2-months-old. Freeman is married according to Christian rites and has three children who are Christians. "The Shariah court ruled that he is not a Muslim. He is not practicing Islam, and he hasn't applied to be a Muslim," Hanif told The Associated Press. He said his client was happy with the Shariah court's decision.
"This is a rare case but it shows that the Shariah courts are not rigid and are able to help resolve inter-religious disputes," he said.
Malaysia has a dual court system. Muslims are governed by the Islamic Shariah courts while civil courts have jurisdiction over non-Muslims. But inter-religious disputes usually end up in Shariah courts, and end in favor of Muslims.
Religious issues are extremely sensitive in Malaysia, where about 60% of the 27 million people are Muslims. Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities have accepted Islam's dominance but in recent years voiced fears that courts are unfairly asserting the supremacy of Islam, which is Malaysia's official religion. Freeman sought the court's help because he said he was getting old and he didn't want any confusion over whether he should receive a Christian burial after, Hanif said. There have been several cases of Islamic authorities claiming the bodies of people they say converted secretly to Islam. (By EILEEN NG/ AP)
Posted: 05 Mar 2009 11:00 PM PST(Catholic Exchanged) Ez 18:21-28 / Mt 5:20-26 On any given day almost all of us cross paths with a surprising number of people. Many of those encounters are brief and casual, in the supermarket, on the road, at the gas station, in church, on the sidewalk. Far more complex are the interchanges that occur at home, in the neighborhood, or at work. But wherever we go through the day, each of us carries our own baggage with us, our wounds, our prejudices, and our grievances. And inevitably that makes for trouble. Mistakes will be made, hurts will be inflicted, injustices will be done, today, tomorrow, and always, till the end of time. So what are we to do? Despair? Flee to a remote island? Minimize the hurts by minimizing the contacts?
That’s not Jesus’ answer. His alternative is to become a reconciler, become a person who takes the initiative in healing hurts, correcting mistakes, and righting wrongs, no matter whether he was the victim or the culprit. Take the initiative. Name the sin, claim it, feel it, and fix it. And do it without delay.
Our church is ancient and very wise. And never is that more clear than in the Mass, which every day of the year begins with a rite of reconciliation, and which every day of the year is needed. Being perfect and sinless is not an option in this life — we are so flawed. But being a humble and gracious reconciler is a noble and realistic option for us all. What better way to continue the work of building God’s people into a true family!
Papal Message for Youth Day '09" Jesus Also Wants to Encounter Each One of You "VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's message for World Youth Day 2009, to be celebrated at the diocesan level this Palm Sunday.
"We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10) My dear friends, Next Palm Sunday we shall celebrate the twenty-fourth World Youth Day at the diocesan level. As we prepare for this annual event, I recall with deep gratitude to the Lord the meeting held in Sydney in July last year. It was a most memorable encounter, during which the Holy Spirit renewed the lives of countless young people who had come together from all over the world. The joy of celebration and spiritual enthusiasm experienced during those few days was an eloquent sign of the presence of the Spirit of Christ. Now we are journeying towards the international gathering due to take place in Madrid in 2011, which will have as its theme the words of the Apostle Paul: "Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith" (cf. Col 2:7). As we look forward to that global youth meeting, let us undertake a path of preparation together. We take as our text for the year 2009 a saying of Saint Paul: "We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10), while in 2010 we will reflect on the question put to Jesus by the rich young man: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mk 10:17)
Youth, a time of hope In Sydney, our attention was focussed upon what the Holy Spirit is saying to believers today, and in particular to you, my dear young people. During the closing Mass, I urged you to let yourselves be shaped by him in order to be messengers of divine love, capable of building a future of hope for all humanity. The question of hope is truly central to our lives as human beings and our mission as Christians, especially in these times. We are all aware of the need for hope, not just any kind of hope, but a firm and reliable hope, as I wanted to emphasize in the Encyclical Spe Salvi. Youth is a special time of hope because it looks to the future with a whole range of expectations. When we are young we cherish ideals, dreams and plans. Youth is the time when decisive choices concerning the rest of our lives come to fruition. Perhaps this is why it is the time of life when fundamental questions assert themselves strongly: Why am I here on earth? What is the meaning of life? What will my life be like? And again: How can I attain happiness? Why is there suffering, illness and death? What lies beyond death? These are questions that become insistent when we are faced with obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable: difficulties with studies, unemployment, family arguments, crises in friendships or in building good loving relationships, illness or disability, lack of adequate resources as a result of the present widespread economic and social crisis. We then ask ourselves: where can I obtain and how can I keep alive the flame of hope burning in my heart?
In search of "the great hope" Experience shows that personal qualities and material goods are not enough to guarantee the hope which the human spirit is constantly seeking. As I wrote in the Encyclical Spe Salvi, politics, science, technology, economics and all other material resources are not of themselves sufficient to provide the great hope to which we all aspire. This hope "can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain" (no. 31). This is why one of the main consequences of ignoring God is the evident loss of direction that marks our societies, resulting in loneliness and violence, discontent and loss of confidence that can often lead to despair. The word of God issues a warning that is loud and clear: "Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes" (Jer 17:5-6).
The crisis of hope is more likely to affect the younger generations. In socio-cultural environments with few certainties, values or firm points of reference, they find themselves facing difficulties that seem beyond their strength. My dear young friends, I have in mind so many of your contemporaries who have been wounded by life. They often suffer from personal immaturity caused by dysfunctional family situations, by permissive and libertarian elements in their education, and by difficult and traumatic experience. For some - unfortunately a significant number - the almost unavoidable way out involves an alienating escape into dangerous and violent behaviour, dependence on drugs and alcohol, and many other such traps for the unwary. Yet, even for those who find themselves in difficult situations, having been led astray by bad role models, the desire for true love and authentic happiness is not extinguished. But how can we speak of this hope to those young people? We know that it is in God alone that a human person finds true fulfilment.
The main task for us all is that of a new evangelization aimed at helping younger generations to rediscover the true face of God, who is Love. To you young people, who are in search of a firm hope, I address the very words that Saint Paul wrote to the persecuted Christians in Rome at that time: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:13). During this Jubilee Year dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles on the occasion of the two thousandth anniversary of his birth, let us learn from him how to become credible witnesses of Christian hope.
Saint Paul, witness of hope When Paul found himself immersed in difficulties and trials of various kinds, he wrote to his faithful disciple Timothy: "We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10). How did this hope take root in him? In order to answer that question we must go back to his encounter with the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. At that time, Saul was a young person like you in his early twenties, a follower of the Law of Moses and determined to fight with every means, and even to kill those he regarded as God's enemies (cf. Acts 9:1). While on his way to Damascus to arrest the followers of Christ, he was blinded by a mysterious light and he heard himself called by name: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He fell to the ground, and asked: "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:3-5). After that encounter, Paul's life changed radically. He received Baptism and became an Apostle of the Gospel. On the road to Damascus, he was inwardly transformed by the Divine Love he had met in the person of Jesus Christ. He would later write: "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). From being a persecutor, he became a witness and a missionary. He founded Christian communities in Asia Minor and Greece, and travelled thousands of miles amid all kinds of perils, culminating in his martyrdom in Rome. All this for love of Christ.
The great hope is in Christ For Paul, hope is not simply an ideal or sentiment, but a living person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Profoundly imbued with this certainty, he could write to Timothy: "We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10). The "living God" is the Risen Christ present in our world. He is the true hope: the Christ who lives with us and in us and who calls us to share in his eternal life. If we are not alone, if he is with us, even more, if he is our present and our future, why be afraid? A Christian's hope is therefore to desire "the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817).
The way towards the great hope Just as he once encountered the young Paul, Jesus also wants to encounter each one of you, my dear young people. Indeed, even before we desire it, such an encounter is ardently desired by Jesus Christ. But perhaps some of you might ask me: How can I meet him today? Or rather, in what way does he approach me? The Church teaches us that the desire to encounter the Lord is already a fruit of his grace. When we express our faith in prayer, we find him even in times of darkness because he offers himself to us. Persevering prayer opens the heart to receive him, as Saint Augustine explains: "Our Lord and God ... wants our desire to be exercised in prayer, thus enabling us to grasp what he is preparing to give" (Letter 130:8,17). Prayer is the gift of the Spirit that makes us men and women of hope, and our prayer keeps the world open to God (cf. Spe Salvi, 34).
Make space for prayer in your lives! To pray alone is good, although it is even more beautiful and fruitful to pray together, because the Lord assured us he would be present wherever two or three are gathered in his name (cf. Mt 18:20). There are many ways to become acquainted with him. There are experiences, groups and movements, encounters and courses in which to learn to pray and thus grow in the experience of faith. Take part in your parish liturgies and be abundantly nourished by the word of God and your active participation in the Sacraments. As you know, the summit and centre of the life and mission of every believer and every Christian community is the Eucharist, the sacrament of salvation in which Christ becomes present and gives his Body and Blood as spiritual food for eternal life. A truly ineffable mystery! It is around the Eucharist that the Church comes to birth and grows - that great family of Christians which we enter through Baptism, and in which we are constantly renewed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The baptised, through Confirmation, are then confirmed in the Holy Spirit so as to live as authentic friends and witnesses of Christ. The Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony enable them to accomplish their apostolic duties in the Church and in the world. Finally, the Sacrament of the Sick grants us an experience of divine consolation in illness and suffering.
Acting in accordance with Christian hope If you find your sustenance in Christ, my dear young people, and if you live profoundly in him as did the Apostle Paul, you will not be able to resist speaking about him and making him known and loved by many of your friends and contemporaries. Be his faithful disciples, and in that way you will be able to help form Christian communities that are filled with love, like those described in the Acts of the Apostles. The Church depends on you for this demanding mission. Do not be discouraged by the difficulties and trials you encounter. Be patient and persevering so as to overcome the natural youthful tendency to rush ahead and to want everything immediately. My dear friends, follow the example of Paul and be witnesses to the Risen Christ! Make Christ known, among your own age group and beyond, to those who are in search of "the great hope" that would give meaning to their lives. If Jesus has become your hope, communicate this to others with your joy and your spiritual, apostolic and social engagement. Let Christ dwell within you, and having placed all your faith and trust in him, spread this hope around you. Make choices that demonstrate your faith. Show that you understand the risks of idolizing money, material goods, career and success, and do not allow yourselves to be attracted by these false illusions. Do not yield to the rationale of selfish interests.
Cultivate love of neighbour and try to put yourselves and your human talents and professional abilities at the service of the common good and of truth, always prepared to "make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). True Christians are never sad, even if they have to face trials of various kinds, because the presence of Jesus is the secret of their joy and peace.
Mary, Mother of hope May Saint Paul be your example on this path of apostolic life. He nourished his life of constant faith and hope by looking to Abraham, of whom he wrote in the Letter to the Romans: "Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become the father of many nations" (Rom 4:18). Following in the footsteps of the people of hope - composed of prophets and saints of every age - we continue to advance towards the fulfilment of the Kingdom, and on this spiritual path we are accompanied by the Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope. She who incarnated the hope of Israel, who gave the world its Saviour, and who remained at the foot of the Cross with steadfast hope, is our model and our support. Most of all, Mary intercedes for us and leads us through the darkness of our trials to the radiant dawn of an encounter with the Risen Christ. I would like to conclude this message, my dear young friends, with a beautiful and well-known prayer by Saint Bernard that was inspired by one of Mary's titles, Stella Maris, Star of the Sea: "You who amid the constant upheavals of this life find yourself more often tossed about by storms than standing on firm ground, do not turn your eyes from the brightness of this Star, if you would not be overwhelmed by boisterous waves. If the winds of temptations rise, if you fall among the rocks of tribulations, look up at the Star, call on Mary ... In dangers, in distress, in perplexities, think on Mary, call on Mary ... Following her, you will never go astray; when you implore her aid, you will never yield to despair; thinking on her, you will not err; under her patronage you will never wander; beneath her protection you will not fear; she being your guide, you will not weary; with her assistance, you will arrive safely in the port" (Homilies in Praise of the Virgin Mother, 2:17). Mary, Star of the Sea, we ask you to guide the young people of the whole world to an encounter with your Divine Son Jesus. Be the celestial guardian of their fidelity to the Gospel and of their hope.
Dear young friends, be assured that I remember all of you every day in my prayers. I give my heartfelt blessing to you and to all who are dear to you. From the Vatican, 22 February 2009
Posted: 04 Mar 2009 11:00 PM PST Est 12:14-16,23-25 / Mt 7:7-12 No matter who or where we are, we are sometimes tempted to look across the fence at our neighbors and wish we could trade lives. It’s not just that we’d like to be a little richer — or maybe a lot. There are all kinds of ways that other folks’ lives can seem so much more carefree and easy than our own.
But don’t be fooled! Troubles come in many shapes and sizes, some of them hidden deep and endured in silence. And no one, absolutely no one, is immune. So don’t waste any more time looking across the fence. When a dark day comes, listen instead to what Jesus is telling us in today’s gospel. “Ask, and you shall receive. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened to you.” God wants us to have what we need, and he’ll give it to us if we ask with trusting hearts. And what exactly are we supposed to be trusting? That God loves us even more than we love ourselves, and that he will give us what we need if our hearts are open to receive it.
Sometimes, of course, what we ask for is not what we need. In that case, our heart has to be so trusting that it’s ready and willing to be changed and redirected to see as God sees and to want what God knows is best for us. The prayer of an open, trusting heart is always answered. Sometimes it takes quite a while to start seeing what God sees and wanting what God wants. Take the time, sooner rather than later. Your heart will thank you.
Posted: 03 Mar 2009 11:00 PM PST(Catholic Exchanged) Jon 3:1-10 / Lk 11:29-32 It’s fascinating to look at how we actually spend our days. For the most part the patterns, whatever they are, are remarkably stable and unvarying. We rise at a certain time, and wander through our morning rituals with barely a thought about them. And so goes the day.
In many ways our rituals and habits are a good thing: they let us accomplish all sorts of routine but necessary tasks without demanding anything of our brains, which thus can be free for far more interesting things. But the key phrase there is ‘can be free,’ for all too often nothing is going on in our brains and all we have are our routines — mind-numbing ruts of repetition. Complacency and stagnation are perpetual hazards for every human being. They can deprive us of life’s richness, and they can leave us blind victims of the unhealthy and destructive patterns that may be emerging in our daily living.
In today’s Old Testament reading, Jonah threatens the Ninevites with destruction from the heavens if they don’t repent and change their ways. In fact, we don’t have to wait for fire and brimstone from the heavens, for the destruction comes from within when we have chosen wrong paths and have sinned. What we ought to fear is being so brain dead that we don’t even notice what’s happening as we proceed in our self-destruction.
Now is the time to open our eyes, turn on our brains, and look closely at the patterns in our lives. Re-pent means re-think, and there’s no better time for that than Lent.
Posted: 02 Mar 2009 11:00 PM PST Is 55:10-11 / Mt 6:7-15 If someone were to ask us what God is like, most of us would speak in terms of a very dear Father who loved us so much that He sent His son to die for us. And we’d be right. But if that same person were to listen to our prayers, he might wonder if we were talking to the same God.
Many of us pray as if God had been absent for quite awhile and needed to be brought up to date. Many of us also pray as if God were a miser or a hard-nosed policeman, who doesn’t much like us, who doesn’t really want to forgive us, and who certainly doesn’t want to give us what we need. So, as Jesus says in the gospel, we rattle on, we beg, plead, and implore, and we even resort to bribery: “Lord, if you’ll let me win this game, I’ll go to Mass every day for a month,” and so on. We project our own smallness and neediness on God, we shrink God down to our size, and then we try to manipulate Him! What an illusion and what waste of time!
God already wants what’s best for us, and He’s long since promised to give us what we need — not necessarily what we want, but what we need! Our task in prayer is to trust that basic fact and to open our minds and hearts to God’s way of seeing things. God’s mind doesn’t need changing. Our minds and hearts do. They need to be reshaped into God’s likeness.
So relax in the Lord. Trust His love for you, and let Him reshape your heart. Real contentment will be your reward.
Posted: 01 Mar 2009 11:00 PM PST(Catholic Exchanged) Lv 19:1-2, 11-18 / Mt 25:31-46 Scanning a history book, reading a newspaper, or watching the news on television make very concrete the vast contradictions to be found in this human race of ours. That monsters like Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosevic and saints like Mother Theresa and good Pope John could inhabit the same planet and the same century is astonishing. Yet it is Christian belief that God made every one of us in his own image and likeness, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in every heart — without exception.
There is the challenge that each of us must face all our lives long: To see in every one of our brothers and sisters the likeness of God, no matter how damaged and distorted they may have become. Jesus speaks the challenge boldly in today’s gospel: “Whatever you did for the least of my brethren, you did it for me… And whatever you neglected to do for the least of my brethren, you neglected to do it for me.”
God loves each one of us, not because we’ve earned it, but because we are his. Our vocation, in turn, is to learn how to love all our brothers and sisters, not because they earned it, but because they are the Lord’s. That kind of open-ended loving changes hearts and, as scripture says, covers a multitude of sins. So let us love, not just in word but in deed.
Pope, Curia Begin Spiritual Exercises VATICAN CITY, MARCH 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's annual retreat began this evening in the Vatican, with Cardinal Francis Arinze offering the meditations. The traditional Lenten retreat for the Pope and the Roman Curia will conclude Saturday. In the mean time, the Holy Father's public audiences will be suspended.
Cardinal Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is preaching on the theme of "The Priest Meets Jesus and Follows Him." The prelate has recently published a book on that topic, titled "Riflessioni Sul Sacerdozio, Lettera a un Giovane Sacerdote" (Reflections on the Priesthood: Letters to a Young Priest).
"It is a programmatic title," Cardinal Arinze told Vatican Radio. "The first day the priest follows Jesus to encounter God, who must have first place in our life. The second day the priest believes in Jesus in the Eucharist, in sacred Scripture." "The third day," he continued, "he believes in Jesus in the Church, he encounters him in the Church and in the other people who are part of the Church, as also in missionary work. The fourth day the priest meets Jesus in prayer: in personal prayer, community prayer, in the liturgy. And then the last day, he meets Jesus who has compassion for those who are sick, those who hunger for truth."
Following Jesus every day "is demanding, of course," the cardinal said. "Jesus does not let us take a vacation, but he does permit us a life that has meaning." "We are not building castles in the air," Cardinal Arinze continued. "We know Jesus, we follow him, and so, looking back, we do not feel like we have wasted our time or our life, but we can be renewed every day -- and we will never come to the end of following him."
The 76-year-old cardinal, who served as a priest and bishop in Nigeria for 25 years and who worked for 25 years in the Roman Curia, said that he wanted to draw on his personal experience: "The more you share the experiences you have had, the more authentic is the testimony."
"We are not always able to concentrate so much," the prelate reflected. "And so here are six days of concentration in which we will not worry about our everyday duties but, with Jesus at the center, before him -- [with] listening, meditation, praying, singing -- we will try understand better what he wishes."