Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 23, 2017

"For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all." -- Wisdom 12:16

“For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.” — Wisdom 12:16

July 23, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle A. Readings:

     1) Wisdom 12:13, 16-19

     Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16

     2) Romans 8:26-27

     Gospel: Matthew 13:24-33

 

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

I had a conversation with a group of colleagues who also happened to be parents of young children, and we were sharing stories of various parenting techniques that we observed. A couple of techniques and characteristics stood out as both exemplary and very effective. “The Look” was high on our list.

Having just observed “the Look” used by a young mother of four during Mass, I could describe it well: Whenever one of her brood became disruptive, she simply fixed her eyes on him or her with an expression that could have meant anything from “You know that there will be severe consequences for your behavior when we get home” to “I’ve taught you how to behave appropriately in church, and I’m really disappointed in you right now” to “I know you’re hungry/tired/need to go to the potty, but I’m sure you’re capable of lasting a while longer!”

Sometimes “the Look” was accompanied by a raised eyebrow, a gentle touch on the shoulder or a whispered word, but there was never any question about who was in charge.

Whatever unspoken family “code” had been established, there was an obvious, underlying assumption of parental authority that was calmly communicated, justly applied and gently enforced. It also indicated that Mom was fully aware of each child’s unique limitations and capabilities and was prepared to respond accordingly to each one’s age-appropriate need.

Although she must have had her moments of fatigue and frustration (she was human, after all), there was no drama, no flare of temper, no demonstrated resentment. From my vantage point in the pew behind them, I was duly impressed.

Today’s readings convey these same unmistakable messages of God’s just, yet gentle, treatment of all his children, regardless of our individual capabilities and deficiencies. God’s lenience is also God’s strength. God compensates for our inadequacies in prayer. When the seeds of goodness in our lives are contaminated by sin or evil influences, God doesn’t petulantly overreact or intervene prematurely, but he patiently entrusts us with the time and encouragement that we need to learn from our mistakes — albeit with the assurance of our eventual accountability.

It’s the constant, unwavering “Look” of love that gives us, God’s children, “good ground for hope.”

QUESTIONS:

In what specific way(s) has God dealt leniently with you? How has God’s example of kindness and justice taught you to treat others, especially those who are entrusted to your care?

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John C. Quinn tended to the ‘least of these’ in U.S. newsrooms

WASHINGTON (CNS) – I’m convinced that around the country, and perhaps the world, there are many letters similar to the one I received in the mail some 18 years ago. It was written by hand and it ended with a heart and an arrow through it.

I was stunned by the sender: John C. Quinn. I was a cub reporter at a small newspaper then, tending to nighttime fires, crimes and local community meetings that no veteran reporters wanted to cover. I couldn’t believe I was getting letters from someone who was a legend in my field.

A couple of years before, I’d been the recipient of a scholarship Mr. Quinn and his wife, Loie, had established in memory of their oldest son John “Chips” Quinn Jr., who took after his father, one of the founding editors of USA Today, and, less importantly, the sender of my letters. Chips worked as a newspaper editor in Poughkeepsie, New York. He died in 1990 and in the wake of his death following an automobile accident, the family established, not just a scholarship, but a program called the Chips Quinn Scholars to help minority journalists like me work and stay in newsrooms so we could tell an accurate story of disadvantaged communities throughout the U.S. that often was left out.

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Organizers told us at orientation that it marked the beginning, not just of a career in journalism, but the induction into a family. It should have been no surprise then that through the years, John Quinn, and those who ran the program, regularly kept tabs on us because they knew the road for minority journalists wasn’t — and still isn’t — an easy one.

They listened to our tales of isolation in newsrooms, lack of opportunities, struggles with editors, management, with other reporters, with family, but also of breakthroughs, breakups, promotions and personal celebrations. They didn’t just provide a friendly ear but also gave solutions, helping us with mentors, training, and continuing education so there wouldn’t be an excuse not to hire or promote us.

Mr. Quinn’s role was largely as a cheerleader. He celebrated our achievements as if they were his own or his children’s. To the Chips Quinn Scholars, he rarely mentioned his legendary role in journalism, which included president of Gannett News Service, vice president of news at Gannett, the largest newspaper chain the country, and the deputy chairman of the Freedom Forum, which later established Washington’s Newseum.

Instead, he listened and smiled, and he constantly reminded us that even on a bad day, “journalism is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” or told us in his best Latin not to “let the bastards get you down.” There were — and still are — many days, when those words help inside a newsroom. But now many of us will have to look for comfort elsewhere. That’s because John Quinn died July 11 after being ill for some time.

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I hope he’s not angry because I buried the lede, as we say in journalism when someone puts the most important part of the story late in the game. But, for me, the most important part of his story, is about the example he set as a Catholic.

One summer, he invited a group of us to his family homestead in a small village in Rhode Island called Carolina, on the grounds of what had been a derelict textile mill near where his Irish ancestors once had lived. After purchasing the property, the Quinn family gave it a makeover, keeping its historical integrity intact.

During the visit, some of us went to visit the grave of his late wife, Loie, a former nurse, who died in 2005, and then to the church where they worshipped. That’s when I found out we shared the same faith. Much of what he did and spoke to us about was rooted in the Gospel — except he used different words since those in the program came from a variety of religious traditions and some had none.

He spoke of helping those who needed it the most, not just in the communities we covered for our news organizations, but also in making sure that as we took a step forward professionally, we extend a hand to others. He told us to “care, care, care,” about our work and about others, quoting his son Chips, and not just talk about it but to show it. It was no surprise then that in what was then a cutthroat world of newspapers, Mr. Quinn often was referred to as the “conscience.”

I often think of him and his family during Mass, or when I have to write about a tough topic involving people that certain members of society try to cast out, or when I hear certain Scriptures about helping others. During a visit to Assisi, Italy, some years ago, I remembered Mr. Quinn during a lecture about St. Francis and the poor, and requested a Mass for his beloved Loie at the basilica where the saint is buried. I sent him a copy of the request by mail and later received yet another letter, this one written on an old typewriter, and I knew that he’d probably carefully place the Mass request in a type of shrine he made of the gifts received from his beloved “Chipsters,” as the scholars are known.

There are many struggling with his death at the moment. I’ve read many messages of sadness the last few days. But I also know that he left an example for me and others as a fellow Catholic. He was a Catholic by his actions, not his words, inclusive, and faithful to God in the way he loved and served, the way he sought justice and truth, the way he worked, and in his heroic efforts to level an unfair playing field for others.

Though he’s gone, many of us still have his letters where we still can find his wisdom, his example, his sense of humor and kindness, a mission that still is far from over, but most importantly his love. I’ve heard people say: “He cared about me when others didn’t.” Yes, he towered in journalism and corporate titles and honors, but he never let it go to his head. No matter how small and insignificant you felt, he made you feel as if you belonged with the best.

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Love was his biggest gift and accomplishment. I can still hear his voice supporting us during rough moments, gently  reminding us, “the least of these” in many newsrooms, of something his wife often said: “A hug is the perfect gift; one size fits all and no one minds if you exchange it.”

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Some cheese with your ‘whine’: Pope ‘establishes’ complaint-free zone

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A sign posted outside the door of Pope Francis’ office in the Domus Sanctae Marthae that reads “No whining” (Photo courtesy Vatican Insider/La Stampa)

By Junno Arocho Esteves
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis left a not-so-subtle message outside his office in the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence: anyone who is thinking of making a fuss, leave your whining at the door.

Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli published a photo on Vatican Insider of a sign posted on the pope’s door with the words, “No whining.”

The sign warns potential complainers that “offenders are subject to a victim mentality” that decreases one’s sense of humor and ability to solve problems.

“The penalty is doubled if the violation takes place in the presence of children. To get the best out of yourself, concentrate on your potential and not on your limitations. Stop complaining and take steps to improve your life,” the sign reads.

While it may seem like a serious request, the pope found the sign hilarious when it was given to him by Italian life coach and motivational speaker, Dr. Salvo Noe.

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Pope Francis laughs after receiving a sign that reads “No whining” from Dr. Salvo Noe after a June 14 general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (Photo courtesy of http://www.noecom.it)

On his official website, Noe posted pictures of his brief encounter with the pope after a June 14 general audience in St. Peter’s Square. One picture shows Pope Francis cracking up when presented with the sign.

 

“The expression (Pope Francis) made when presented with the ‘No whining’ sign was beautiful,” Noe wrote on his website.

The sign and a bracelet that reads “Stop complaining,” are part of promotional campaign for his new book of the same name.

According to Tornielli, the pope said he told Noe he “would put it outside my office door where I receive people.” True to his word, the pope reportedly showed an elderly priest who was visiting the sign’s humorous warning to bellyachers. The priest asked and received permission form the pope to share the picture.

The pope has on several occasions warned about the more serious repercussions of complaining which can blind people’s view of Jesus’ presence in tough situations.

Celebrating morning Mass April 3 with staff members from the Domus Romana Sacerdotalis, a nearby residence and guesthouse for clergy, the pope said that “many times when difficult things happen, including when we are visited by the cross, we run the risk of closing ourselves off in complaints.”

Complaining and griping — about others and about things in one’s own life — are harmful, he said, “because it dashes hope. Don’t get into this game of a life of complaints.”

However, the pope has also said that “complaining to God” in moments of doubt and fear — like Abraham did– can be a form of prayer that requires the courage to hope beyond all hope.

“I won’t say that Abraham loses patience, but he complains to the Lord. This is what we learn from our father Abraham: complaining to the Lord is a form of prayer,” the pope said Dec. 28 during his weekly general audience.

“Sometimes I hear confessions where people say, ‘I complained to the Lord.’ But no. (Continue) to complain; he is a father and this is a form of prayer. Complain to the Lord, this is good.”

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 16, 2017

"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us." -- Romans 8:18

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” — Romans 8:18

 

July 16, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Isaiah 55:10-11

      Psalm 65:10-14

      2) Romans 8:18-23

      Gospel: Matthew 13:1-23

 

By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

It seems as though every time I turn on the news another horrible event has occurred. One day it is war in Afghanistan or elsewhere, another day it is one more EF5 tornado tearing through one or more states, another day it is mighty rivers cresting from an overabundance of rain or wild fires because of too little.

These are the big stories that make the national news. But daily, in much less-noticed corners of the world, there is bullying and peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, hunger and neglect, and drug and human trafficking.

Just when I am about to be overwhelmed, I read St. Paul’s message for us this week: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” I find it hard to take comfort in these words because I am afraid they somehow lessen the circumstances of all those suffering in today’s world. Yet, I know Paul is speaking from a firsthand knowledge of suffering while still holding out hope in faith.

Paul himself had been shipwrecked and imprisoned, and he lived in a time of extreme persecution of the church by the Romans, yet even in the face of such hardship and fear he found a reason to hope.

He was living the message Jesus gives us in the Gospel: “The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” He knew that the seed of faith had been planted in his willing heart and thus the fruit it was bearing and would continue to bear would outweigh his current sufferings.

The mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus tells us that whatever suffering comes our way is not the end of the journey; it is but a pathway to the glory of God. This does not diminish the suffering experienced, and it does not take the pain away, but it does give us a reason to hope, for while we groan here on earth, we await our redemption in eternity.

QUESTIONS:

As people of faith, how do we face times of extreme suffering and unexplainable tragedy? How have you navigated the hard times in your own life?

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 9, 2017

"Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest." -- Matthew 11:29

“Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest.” — Matthew 11:29

July 9, Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle A. Readings

      1) Zechariah 9:9-10

      Psalm 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14

      2) Romans 8:9, 11-13

      Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30

 

By Bozena Cloutier
Catholic News Service

When in England, I went to visit my nephew Dominic. He lives in a group home with several other mentally challenged young adults. Dominic, with severe Down syndrome, has no speech. On this visit it was clear that Dominic recognized me and even reached out to touch me, something he never had done before. I was deeply moved. Walking back to the subway my memory took me back to the time when he was born.

My sister had had a difficult pregnancy. This was her second child, and the birth of a boy was greeted with joy. However, shortly thereafter the doctors came bearing somber news: The baby had Down syndrome.

I remember the letter that my sister wrote to our mother soon after the birth. In it she gravely appraises mother of the facts and then goes on to reflect on the implications of the event. Unquestioningly she accepts this child as a gift from God especially entrusted to her.

That was 30 years ago, and my sister has died. Her life was marked by a single-minded commitment to Dominic’s welfare. Her marriage broke up under the strain, but she persisted in finding and promoting the very best for her special son. In the end she found an ideal placement for Dominic. At that point she seemed to relax, and the disease she had battled so successfully for so many years finally claimed her.

Why these memories? Because the Scriptures this weekend contain a familiar, but difficult text. “Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus says. “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Which one of us when carrying that yoke has not protested, perhaps silently, about the truth of those words? Was my sister’s yoke easy to bear? Definitely not. Was her burden light? No again. It was heavy, onerous, exhausting. Was the yoke made specially for her, did it fit her well? Here I have to say yes. And in bearing that yoke, she and Dominic became the best they could be.

QUESTIONS:

Recall some of the yokes you have had to carry. Did you ever reflect on Jesus’ words “my yoke is easy”? Were they true for you? In retrospect, how do you evaluate those experiences? Were they for your growth?

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 2, 2017

"And I promise you that whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these lowly ones because he is a disciple will not want for his reward." -- Matthew 10:42

“And I promise you that whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these lowly ones because he is a disciple will not want for his reward.” — Matthew 10:42

July 2, Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a

      Psalm 89:2-3, 16-19

      2) Romans 6:3-4, 8-11

      Gospel: Matthew 10:37-42

 

By Beverly Corzine
Catholic News Service

One winter morning I awoke to the sound of wind rattling loose windows and making a sorrowful sound that can only be experienced on the windswept Colorado prairie. I was an only and often lonely child in a world of adults, watching the light, sifting snow accumulate in the interior corners of my windowsill. As this particular day progressed, I realized that the storm I was observing was unlike any I had witnessed in my young life.

My mother and grandfather carried in load after load of snow-covered firewood, coal and canned goods from the cellar. “God only knows when I’ll be able to get out to the barn to feed again,” said my grandfather, closing the kitchen door behind him. I remember scraping frost from the windowpane and trying to catch a glimpse of him fighting his way through swirling snow on his way to the barn and henhouse. After what seemed hours to me, he burst through the kitchen door, cursing all snowstorms present and past while at the same time thanking God for being able to find the house in the blizzard that now raged against every living thing in its path.

After supper that evening we sat close to the gigantic brown heating stove. My mother had just begun the next chapter of the book she was reading to us when above the shrieking storm we heard a muffled knocking. I watched my mother and grandfather exchange perplexed looks. My mother resumed her reading. Then the knocking started again, this time at our front door.

I peered around his long legs as my grandfather opened the door. “In the name of God,” he shouted over the wind, “come in here and get warm!” Outside our front door in the sea of snow huddled a clump of people that turned out to be two snowbound couples and their exhausted, hungry children and young baby. I could not believe my good fortune. Children my own age had arrived and a baby besides. I would have playmates for more than a week until the thaw began. Life was good indeed.

Years later I understood that my grandfather really was welcoming our guests in the name of God. He and my mother would have extended the same life-saving hospitality to people in need on a warm spring day as they had during the winter of the deadly blizzard.

QUESTIONS:

Have you remembered to welcome others as one would welcome Christ? How has the hospitality of others been a sign of Christ’s love to you?

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 25, 2017

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." -- Matthew 10:28

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” — Matthew 10:28

June 25, Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

      Cycle A. Readings

      1) Jeremiah 20:10-13

      Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35

      2) Romans 5:12-15

      Gospel: Matthew 10:26-33

 

By Beverly Corzine
Catholic News Service

By mid-June, school vacation days have begun across most of the country. Breakneck schedules for families subside. During this blessed time, travel is usually on the agenda. Those of us who live where it is hot long to go to some place cool. On the other hand, those who have endured months of living in a deep freeze often plan trips to sunny realms.

No matter what direction the compass may lead us, the summer itinerary of most vacationers will include a visit to at least one historical site. Walking the same ground where our fellow human beings have been put to the test often mesmerizes us. Their past becomes part of our past, and their stories become part of our own.

I never will forget my first visit to the lush Pennsylvania farmland where fields rich with sweet corn create towering green roadside walls. My destination that day had once been simply part of the rolling landscape — an open field that stretches to a patch of trees in the distance. I was one of millions of people to have visited this quiet place where the echoes of birdsong and muffled voices fill the air. One of history’s great ironies lay before me. The green grass now covers ground that once was soaked with blood. In the peace of a summer day the thunder of war raged — men and animals alike were trapped in the great pandemonium of suffering.

As I walked around the field, I thought of Abraham Lincoln, tormented by loneliness and the anguish of leadership, waiting for the horrific battlefield reports telegraphed from Gettysburg in July. Biographers tell us he was a man of great prayer, a man chosen by history whose only constant was God.

The first reading for this Sunday comes from the prophet Jeremiah. When we hear this ancient voice, it is helpful to know something of the man. God called Jeremiah to preach a message of repentance to God’s people who had strayed far away from their faith. In times of doubt, Jeremiah thinks that perhaps God has made a fool of him. In today’s passage from this great prophet we have a window into his suffering. However, we also have a palpable example of his sustaining faith.

QUESTIONS:

What people in your life have been models of courage sustained through their reliance on God? When has your trust in God strengthened your ability to stand against the work of evil?

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