Fr Bob Writes – March 29, 2015

Recently (March 19th) we celebrated the feast of St Joseph. On his recent visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis spoke about St Joseph and reflected on his role as protector of the Holy Family. He said:

“Just as the gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to St Joseph, so the gift of the family and its place in God’s plan is entrusted to us. In our time, God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm. Let us be on guard against colonization by new ideologies. There are forms of ideological colonization that are out to destroy the family. They are not born of dreams, of prayers, of closeness to God or the mission which God has given us, the mission of the family…in our families we need to be very wise, very shrewd, very strong, in order to say “no” to all attempts at an ideological colonization of our families. We need to ask St Joseph to send us the inspiration to know when we can say “yes”, and when we have to say “no.”

The pressures on family life today are many…While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles that are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality. These are forms of ideological colonization. The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemera , by a lack of openness to life…”

Many of you will know by now of the attempts of our Ontario government to bring in a new sex-education curriculum which contain elements flat out opposed to our Catholic Christian ethic. This program is being imposed without adequate consultation of parents. The new sex-education program contains controversial and misleading information and age-inappropriate sex information. It will display explicit material to children of young ages. There is a building wave of parent protests against this program. I would urge you, especially parents, to write or phone your local MPP to protest the attempt to impose these changes on all schools in Ontario, even the Christian ones. For more information, you can go onto the PAFE website (Parents as First Educators).

Pope Francis concluded his speech by saying “The future of humanity, as St John Paul II often said, passes through the family. The future passes through the family. So protect your families! Protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments. Be living examples of love, forgiveness, and care. Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death. What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation.” 

‘JUBILEE OF MERCY’ – AN EXTRAORDINARY HOLY YEAR IS ANNOUNCED!

Pope Francis announced on March 13 the celebration of an “extraordinary Holy Year”. This “Jubilee of Mercy” will commence with the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015, and will conclude on November 20, 2016 with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The theme for this year has been taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, “God who is rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4). During the Jubilee, the Sunday readings for Ordinary Time will be taken from the Gospel of Luke, the one referred to as “the evangelist of mercy”. The papal Bull will be made public on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 12. With the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis focuses attention upon the merciful God who invites all men and women to return to Him. The encounter with God inspires in one the virtue of mercy.

Fr Bob Writes – March 22, 2015

The following is from a commentary by Fr Denny Dempsey:

Our second reading this Sunday from the book of Hebrews presents a number of problematical points. How can the author say Jesus’ supplications were heard when he ended up being crucified? If Jesus “learned obedience,” doesn’t that imply that he wasn’t obedient before? And what can it mean that Jesus “was made perfect?” Jesus was the Son of God. In what way could he be considered “imperfect?”

I tend to think of obedience as an action, “being obedient” or doing what one is told to do, but that’s not the core meaning of the word. “Obedience” is a combination of two Latin words: “ob” meaning “under” (here not in reference to location but being “under” another’s authority) + “audire,” meaning “to hear” (think of “audio”). The word in the Greek text, “hupakoen,” has the exact same meaning (“hupo” = under, “akuos” = to hear …”acoustics”). Obedience begins with attentive listening. Through his prayer Jesus learned to listen attentively to the voice of God the Father, to discern the will of God and then carry it out.

As to Jesus being “made perfect”, the Greek word refers not to perfection in contrast with imperfection, but rather to being finished as compared to being unfinished with some tasks still to be accomplished. Jesus’ mission was not complete until his saving death and resurrection through which he became the source of eternal salvation.

In what sense did God hear Jesus’ supplications? God didn’t save Jesus from dying, but he did save him from death. Jesus’ ultimate prayer was that the will of God be done, and he was heard. God used his Son’s earthly life to show the world the depth of his love for us…and the victory over death in which we, too, will have a share.

Teach me, Lord, to listen intently to you in prayer, that I might accomplish all that you desire of me, bearing the crosses along the path you have prepared for me. When the day comes that, like Jesus, I must bear the ultimate cross of dying, let me share in his victory over death and share in his resurrection for all eternity.”

Fr Bob Writes – March 15, 2015

“For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. This is not the result of works” (Ephesians 2:8). 

For centuries, the Christian Church has been split over a mis-perception- namely, that Catholics believe we are saved by our “works,” and Protestants believe we are saved by our “faith.” In fact, this has never been the position of the Catholic Church, but you will still find lots of Protestants who believe it to be the truth. The Catholic faith has never been about “either-or”, but about “both-and.” So, for Catholics, it is not a case of either faith or works, but faith and works. (Just as it has never been a case of either Scripture or Tradition, but Scripture and Tradition. Nor has it ever been a case of either Grace or Sacraments but Grace and Sacraments).

Since 1999, that perceived feud has been overcome by a Joint Declaration on Justification between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church, in which both Churches agreed that we are not saved primarily by faith or works, but by grace. “By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God.” (Joint Declaration, 15).  The word “grace ” from the Latin “gratia” shares a common root with the words “gratis” (free) and “gratuity” (free gift or tip). So grace is a freely given gift by God, by which we share in the life and blessings of God. “Grace is a participation in the life of God” (Catechism, no.1997).

That grace has to be appropriated by us by “faith.” Recent popes, as well as the Catholic Catechism have emphasized that faith here does not mean merely an intellectual adherence to some doctrinal propositions, but a commitment of one’s whole self to the Person of Jesus Christ. “Evangelization will always contain – as the foundation, center and at the same time summit of its dynamism- a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy” (Pope Paul VI, On Evangelization, 1976, art 27).

What becomes of our works, then? Works are still necessary for salvation, but they are not the works of the Jewish Law, which St Paul was attacking in his letters, but the “good works, which God has prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:10). Have you ever asked God what are the works he has specifically assigned to you so you can “work out your salvation” (Philippians 2:13)?

God will not save us on His own; we cannot save ourselves on our own. God calls us to respond and co-operate with his saving work in Christ Jesus, first by receiving his offer of salvation as a free gift, that we could never possibly earn, appropriating it by an act of commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, and then by living out that faith relationship in a life of good deeds.