Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 31, 2016

"Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God." -- Luke 12:21

“Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” — Luke 12:21

 

July 31, Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23

      Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17

      2) Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11

      Gospel: Luke 12:13-21

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

“All things are vanity!” we read in Ecclesiastes this week as our Scriptures warn us of the spiritual dangers of greed, possessions and worldly pleasures.

Ecclesiastes, with its exclamation points, decries “things” as selfish desires that suck dry our time and energy and leave us with nothing of lasting value.

Jesus’ teaching in Luke’s Gospel is more direct: “One’s life does not consist of possessions,” he says, then tells a parable about a rich man spending his time eating, drinking, being merry and storing up earthly treasure. But Jesus emphasizes there’s no guarantee that treasure will be maintained after one dies.

Strangely, “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” has become a popular catchphrase used to encourage people to avoid worrying about life beyond here and now. But it carries a significantly different message for those who believe in a deeper existence in relationship with God.

My friend Susan is one such believer whose radical rejection of material concerns showed me the greater joy that comes of a commitment to the things of God.

A single mother with a successful career as a professional editor, Susan had built a comfortable life for herself and her daughter. She owned a nice home on several acres of property.

I met her at a crucial time in her life. We were together on her first ever mission trip among the poor. I could see Susan following God’s urging as she daily searched for the meaning of this experience in her life.

A few years later, she joyfully told me her daughter was expecting a baby. Then everything changed for Susan.

Her grandchild had multiple disabilities that brought enormous challenges to the young family.

Susan didn’t think twice as she took early retirement so she could help care for her granddaughter. She managed the consequent financial pinch by selling her home and most of her furniture and accumulated possessions.

She misses none of them, because Susan was changed years earlier among the poor when she discovered the deeper, lasting things of God’s life.

Now she relishes the abiding pleasures of being an essential part of her daughter’s family and watching her granddaughter progress and thrive every day.

QUESTIONS:

What worldly possessions or selfish concerns take your time and energy away from your relationship with God? What things of eternal value are missing from your life?

Replay: Today’s papal visit to Auschwitz

Since many Americans were sleeping when Pope Francis visited the Auschwitz concentration camp earlier today, here is an easy-to-skim look at how the event unfolded via Twitter:




 




 

[Read our full story here:]

 

[Video:]

Poles can’t help comparing Pope Francis to their favorite son

Pope Francis prays in the chapel of the Black Madonna at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Grzegorz Galazka, pool)

Pope Francis prays in the chapel of the Black Madonna at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Grzegorz Galazka, pool)

By Jonathan Luxmoore

CZESTOCHOWA, Poland — Jurek Najgebauer attended Pope Francis’ Mass at the Jasna Gora national monastery. Although police said about 200,000 people attended the Mass, Najgebauer said there were far fewer than when St. John Paul II was there, when there was “no spare place anywhere.”

He said Poles would appreciate Pope Francis’ appeal to humility and simplicity, and against being “attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances.” However, he also said that some might be offended that the Argentine pope had chosen to stand, rather than kneel, before the fabled Black Madonna icon in Jasna Gora’s Lady Chapel July 28.

“We respect Pope Francis, but he’ll always be a guest here, and there can be no comparison with John Paul II, who was Polish in blood and bone and had a divine gift, as head of the church, in being able to speak directly to each of us.”

Grazyna Swierczewska, a Catholic from Warsaw, said she also believed Pope Francis was being well received in Poland and had chosen his words well “at a time when there’s so much division and aggressiveness, lack of love and faith.”

However, she added that reactions to the pope were a lot less enthusiastic than under his Polish predecessor, who had been able to “speak directly to the nation.”

Pope John Paul II prays in front of the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland in this 1999 photo. (CNS photo courtesy Pope John Paul II Cultural Center)

Pope John Paul II prays in front of the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland in this 1999 photo. (CNS photo courtesy Pope John Paul II Cultural Center)

“Of course, we’re listening and considering what he says in our own way — but when John Paul II preached, he caught us with every word,” said Swierczewska, who left the Polish capital at 4 a.m. to reach Jasna Gora.

“We’re still here, in this special place for Poles. But the atmosphere is clearly quite different now.”

A Catholic priest from Belarus, who was in Czestochowa during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit in May 2006, said he also thought the pontiff’s homily had been well received.

“The pope understands people here because he understands the church,” said Father Pawel Wikary, who came with a large group of Belarusian Catholics. “People in our region know what it means to be considered small and humble alongside the world’s big powers. So his carefully appeal to unity and identity will suit people well.”

However, recently retired Auxiliary Bishop Antoni Dlugosz of Czestochowa said he believed Francis had a “deep understanding of popular feelings,” as a Jesuit and former parish priest.

He added that prayers recited at the Mass for Poland, on the 1050th anniversary of its Christian conversion, had been “well expressed and welcomed.”

“Coming from Buenos Aires, he knows about wealth and poverty and is fearless in asserting the need for divine mercy, whatever the media may say,” Bishop Dlugosz said. “The pope’s words were concrete and challenging, and I think he’s been well prepared when it come to the situation in Poland and the rest of Europe.”

Why a poor rural Texas town captured the pope’s attention

penitas

Catholic youth from towns near Peñitas, Texas cheer while kicking off World Youth Day July 26, 2016. Even though the pope is in Poland, he sent a video message specifically to the group gathered in Texas, even though many from the impoverished area can’t travel. (CNS photo by Amber Donaldson)

By Brenda Nettles Riojas

MISSION, Texas — As World Youth Day kicked off in Poland today, a group of Catholic youth in Texas, some without the money to travel to Poland and others without the legal papers to travel there, got the next best thing: Pope Francis came to them via video, with a message tailored for the community there.

Why did the rural area known as Pueblo de Palmas, near Peñitas get such an honor? Why would the Holy Father send a message to the people of a rural area that some consider “insignificant”?

Three missionary sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who have been living and helping in the area for 12 years will tell you that it’s because the people of God here have a deep faith that is not daunted by poverty or other hardships they may endure.

Father Michael Montoya, a Missionary of Jesus priest, is pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Peñitas, Texas and its three missionary churches. He said the idea of connecting the youth in the area to the more global event in such a personal way started off as an idea to help the young people in one of the poorest areas in the country see how they are connected with the church and other young people from around the world.

Given the poverty levels in the community and their immigration status, it is impossible for most to travel. For those in Peñitas, explains Father Montoya, traveling from their homes to church comes with risk. Some fear that if they are pulled over for something such as a minor traffic infraction, they could be deported. Father Montoya points to what he refers to as a “military presence” in the area. There is a no shortage of local police, sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, U.S. border patrol agents and National Guard patrolling the area located just miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s a constant reminder to the people that something is not right. We live so close to the wall that divides families, it affects self-identity. All the images we receive from the outside are negative. It’s always connected to the border, always connected to the things we cannot do,” said Father Montoya.

Add to this the poverty and lack of basic infrastructure in some neighborhoods that do not even have a sewage system or water lines.

“There are many circumstances,” said Father Montoya “that make it difficult for the people. They think they are forgotten.”

But they are not forgotten. Today they are celebrating the Holy Father who prepared a personal message for the youth of the diocese.

“The parish of St. Anne is beyond happy. Things like this don’t happen to a place like Peñitas,” said Father Montoya. “The pope is sending a message to us! I think that is proof enough, that the love of the church for our poor people is really palpable, it’s real.”

“God has certainly worked wonders,” said Sister Carolyn Kosub, one of the three missionary sisters who arrived in the area along with Sister Emily Jocson and Sister Fatima Santiago in 2004 to help rebuild the community after it was devastated by a tornado.

A project they started in an under-served area blossomed and eventually led to the building of St. Anne Catholic Church in 2009. They never dreamed it would become a mother church of a parish four years later, or that one day, on the feast of St. Anne, the Holy Father would send a personal message to the youth of that parish.

Father Montoya says when thinking of the honor the area has received, we need to be reminded that the infant Jesus chose to be born in the small town of Bethlehem and not a city center. So, a great event can happen in an “out of the way” place.

“Not everyone can travel to Poland for World Youth Day,” said Father Montoya, “but we believe that even in our area, a profound and meaningful encounter with the world’s youth can be organized.”

“It’s a reimagining,” said Father Montoya, “of who we are. We are not defined by the border, we are defined by our culture and by our faith.”

This is truly a testament that the mercy of God knows no limits. It should also serve as a reminder to each of us that no matter where God places us, no matter where we stand in the world, we each matter and must do what we can to foster a “culture of encounter,” as Pope Francis has often said.

Father Montoya said “the mercy of God knows no limits within a church that knows no borders,” and the encounter in the rural town in Texas shows that mercy and grace can reach “even the remotest part of the world. We don’t have to be in the center of power to be recognized by the church.”

– – –

Nettles Riojas is the editor of The Valley Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Brownsville.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 24, 2016

"Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us." -- Luke 11:3-4

“Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us.” — Luke 11:3-4

July 24, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Genesis 18:20-32

      Psalm 138:1-3, 6-8

      2) Colossians 2:12-14

      Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

 

By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service

I’m currently reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”

Reading this week’s Scriptures on God’s generous dealings with his people, I can’t help but think of Lincoln and his tremendous desire to be at peace with all men.

The book is framed around the way he built his cabinet, primarily from men who had run against him for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase and Edward Bates, from New York, Ohio and Missouri, respectively. None had respect for Lincoln when they began their cabinet positions, yet only one ended up being disloyal to him. Seward, the one who had lost the most to him, ended up as his secretary of state and perhaps his closest friend and confidant.

But Lincoln’s team-building, reconciling ways were not limited to these three. He had built relationships within his home state of Illinois, prior to his nomination, that involved reaching out and offering an olive branch to anyone who might have been estranged from him.

Throughout his political career, Lincoln continued to exercise this magnanimous wisdom sincerely and consistently.

It would seem there is no great public figure in human history who has so pervasively modeled his behavior on Jesus and his teachings.

Abraham’s bargaining for the salvation of Sodom and Gomorrah would have sounded reasonable to Lincoln.

Jesus’ assurance that God would grant the Holy Spirit to those who ask him — for “what father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish” — probably governed Lincoln’s relations with the many supplicants who sought favors, positions or reconciliation from him.

This man who sought to preserve the Union fought equally hard to bring reconciliation with his separated brethren, the estranged Southerners, even as the bitter Civil War came to a close. Striving for reconciliation with all parties made him a target for an assassin’s bullets.

Much good literature includes a Christ figure, and we should be able to recognize this one in our own country’s story.

QUESTIONS:

Can you recognize any statesmen or stateswomen with a similar desire for reconciliation on the current political scene? Who would you name or why do you believe there is none?

‘Praying for our nation and for our God’ a reason to join thousands in Washington

A man holds a cross during the "Together 2016" event in Washington July 16. (CNS photo/Ana Franco-Guzman)

A man holds a cross during “Together 2016” July 16. (CNS photo/Ana Franco-Guzman)

By Ana Franco-Guzman

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Sunscreen, water, a bag, Bible, notebook, money to purchase food and a good singing voice were all on Loren Soto-Barrios’ “what to bring” list for last weekend’s “Together 2016” in Washington.

“Together 2016” was an initiative by Nick Hall, founder of the PULSE movement, who said the underlying message of the event was to “awaken culture to the reality of Jesus.”

“Francis Chan and Hillsong United,” 22-year-old Soto-Barrios told me when asked who she was most excited to see. They were among a number of speakers and recording artists who headlined the gathering, held near the Washington Monument.

She and her friends Michael Herelle, 22, Caitlyn Sass, 24, and Steve Nieves, 24, were four people in a crowd of about 350,000 people at the event. Soto-Barrios talked to me about the experience and what it took to get here for it.

On the Friday before, Herelle, Sass and Soto-Barrios left New Jersey and drove to Delaware to pick up Nieves. They were out of the house Saturday morning at about 7:30 a.m. to drive to Washington.

They then took a Metro subway train from The Catholic University of America stop to arrive at the National Mall by 9 a.m. It was at the Metro that we unexpectedly crossed paths.

“Once at the event, I saw that the line lasted for miles (but) I was not upset,” Soto-Barrios told me. “I had the opposite reaction, I was rejoicing. I could not believe this many people were waiting in line for this event. Everyone was there for Jesus, and it blew my mind that there were that many people there. I thank God for moments like that.”

In line the group of four split up, so that it would be easier to reserve a spot on the lawn. Herelle and Soto-Barrios waited in a security line, carrying the bags for all four. The other two went through an entrance for those without bags.

Soto-Barrios said at that moment she thought of “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” by Joanna Weaver, saying that “like the man in the book,” Herelle would carry everyone’s “burdens” (bags) and would not be able to keep going. But Herelle told her it “was much easier to do this and that this was not the case.”

Once inside the fence, it was hard for Herelle and Soto-Barrios to find their friends because of the amount of people. Via their cellphones, they had to describe their surroundings in detail so they could find each other — and eventually they did.

“At the event we were asked to split into groups to pray, and it was so nice for all of us to come together and pray together. All from different races, ages, we got together and prayed for this event, this moment, our nation and for our God,” said Soto- Barrios.

It may sound silly, she said, but “I have had dreams of coming to Washington, of being there in that moment where we were over the weekend. Dreams of being there with that many people for God,” Soto-Barrios said.

One takeaway from the event for Soto-Barrios was to follow 1 Corinthians 13, the way of love. “We need to act with a spirit of love,” she told me. For her this means acting with love and not judgment toward everything.

“This weekend was a confirmation that it’s all the Holy Spirit that helps me in every situation to act in the name of Jesus. When we welcome him, everything just becomes clearer to you. God has a plan for me and has saved me. I want to figure out what that plan is,” Soto-Barrios said.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 17, 2016

"Now that you have come this close to your servant, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves; and afterward you may go on your way." -- Genesis 18:5

“Now that you have come this close to your servant, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves; and afterward you may go on your way.” — Genesis 18:5

July 17, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Genesis 18:1-10a

      Psalm 15:2-3, 5

      2) Colossians 1:24-28

      Gospel: Luke 10:38-42

 

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

My mother never ceases to amaze me. Any time I come for a visit, even on short notice, she’s got some sort of homemade treat ready in a matter of minutes. Whether it’s a piece of blackberry pie or chicken noodle soup, scratch-made spaghetti sauce or my favorite klobase sandwich, she’s able to produce something out of her freezer or pantry that makes me happy to sit at her kitchen table for a nice long visit.

I’m not the only one. Mom has a large “extended family” that includes parish priests, her kids’ former college roommates, retired army buddies and their wives, or old friends just passing through. And if she’s visiting their home, she never arrives empty-handed. And she makes it look so easy!

I think that Mom simply plans for generosity. As with Abraham and Sarah’s fine flour or tender, choice steer, Mom has already stocked up her supplies, and, even more important, she has the attitude that nothing is too good for guests. Nor are her visitors considered an imposition, for in welcoming them and seeing to their comfort, she welcomes the Lord.

In today’s Gospel, Martha and Mary illustrate both sides of that hospitality coin. Martha honors the tradition of her ancestors Abraham and Sarah by fussing over the preparations, the food, a comfortable environment. Mary attends to the guest in a different way, extending personal welcome and attention. Jesus isn’t unappreciative of Martha’s efforts, but her anxiety and worry are evidence that her focus is off-kilter.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are asked to reflect anew on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. At the root of each of them — whether visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the sorrowful or instructing the ignorant — is an attitude of hospitality, of welcoming our Lord — the guest, as he comes to us in need of mercy and compassion.

This doesn’t just happen. Each of us must prepare and predispose ourselves to be mercifully hospitable, not only in giving material aid, but especially by engaging those to whom mercy is offered, as one would encounter Christ himself.

We don’t have to make mercy look easy, and we don’t have to worry about performing acts of mercy perfectly. But mercy is not an option.

QUESTIONS:

Which of the spiritual or corporal works of mercy have you practiced lately? How have you encountered the living Christ more deeply in that action?

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