Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 5, 2016

"The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother." -- Luke 7:15

“The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” — Luke 7:15


June 5, Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) 1 Kings 17:17-24

      Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13

      2) Galatians 1:11-14a, 15ac, 16a, 17, 19

      Gospel: Luke 7:11-17


By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service

Across the decades since I came into the church in 1974, I have seen many instances where God was at work in the world. I’ve seen healings and many more instances of God bringing about good results in situations for which there was no reasonable hope.

But there are abuses of the belief in miracles. The worst I ever heard about came through a friend who was teaching in East Texas. While there, she heard of the death of an infant for whom a Pentecostal church had prayed fervently. At the funeral, it was reported, the pastor lifted the lifeless infant in the air and declared, “This is lack of faith!”

That horrible moment must have caused some in the community to question their authentic faith in and love of God. The preacher’s arrogance and self-righteousness confused “faith” with human will as he suggested the people’s prayers weren’t good enough to save the infant.

Today’s readings hold the antidote to such flawed thinking by pointing out that God, not human strength, has miraculous power.

In the passage from Kings, the prophet Elijah cries out to God to restore life to the only son of the widow who was providing him shelter. Elijah, in service to God, pleaded the widow’s case and her son was saved — not by Elijah’s action, but by God’s.

When Elijah restored the child to his mother, she responded. “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God. The word of the Lord comes truly from your mouth.”

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is “moved with pity” when he witnesses a mother, also a widow, who has lost her son. He steps forward, touches the coffin and says, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” He is restored to life and to his mother.

The crowd, witnessing these events cries out, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.”

God was glorified in action in the first case by the faith-filled holy man, Elijah, and in the second by the acts of Jesus, the God-man. The people were not looking to the strength of their prayers but to their faith that a loving God would act. God acted and love of him increased.


Have you ever witnessed what you believe was a miracle?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, May 29, 2016

"Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people." -- Luke 9:13

“Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” — Luke 9:13


May 29, Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Genesis 14:18-20

      Psalm 110:1-4

      2) 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

      Gospel: Luke 9:11b-17


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

One day, just after starting my first job on a parish staff, I went searching for paper stock and wandered into the wrong supply closet, where I stumbled onto the church’s stash of sacramental wine.

I know it’s not really a “stash,” but to me, a recent convert at the time, it seemed like it. I stood staring at several stacks of common corrugated cardboard boxes that contained large bottles of wine — ordered from a wholesale distributor. But I knew the bottles’ secret.

My initial reaction was that I’d exposed them, opened the door on them before they became the blood of Christ. It was like unwittingly finding Superman’s Clark Kent clothes.

This week’s readings recall the covenant of Christ’s body and blood, transformed from ordinary bread and wine and given for our nourishment and salvation. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul recollects Jesus establishing that covenant at the Last Supper.

But the Gospel story of the multiplication of loaves and fish emphasizes the infinite supply of the Lord’s offering. We witness on the mountainside Jesus beginning with a small amount of bread and feeding thousands of his hungry followers. When all were satisfied, there was plenty available for whoever would come later.

The message is that an endless supply line will continue everywhere and forever, as long as people come seeking Jesus.

Since the Last Supper, Christians have provided bread and wine from sources in their own communities throughout the world and throughout the centuries — from vineyards and wheat fields to casks, jars and ovens to bottles and boxes to storehouses and closets.

From there, they are brought to altars, where they are consecrated as Jesus’ body and blood to nourish and save the faithful again and again.

I found one tiny store of ordinary wine in an appropriately unremarkable closet in a church office building. But as I received it in Communion the next Sunday, it was not the same, and neither was I.


What goes through your mind during Mass at the moment of the consecration? How do you relate the changed substance of bread and wine with a change in you?

Insights into Vatican II from St. John XXIII’s secretary

Cardinal Loris Capovilla, St. John XXIII’s secretary and the oldest member of College of Cardinals, has died at the age of 100.

Four years ago we interviewed then-Archbishop Capovilla, who shared his insights on the Second Vatican Council and his memories of the future saint.



We also spoke to Archbishop Capovilla about St. John XXIII’s hometown of Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo, where the saint’s secretary died May 26.


Investors pushing ExxonMobil to respond to climate change

Faith-based investors will ask ExxonMobil to change some of its corporate practices to better address climate change during the company’s annual general meeting in Dallas today.

(CNS/Gustavo Amador, EPA)

(CNS/Gustavo Amador, EPA)

Working through the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and advocacy groups, the shareholders have introduced a series of resolutions meant to change how the world’s largest publicly traded energy company responds to global warming.

Dominican Sister Patricia Daly, executive director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, said the resolution that her group of 34 institutional investors has introduced seeks a “moral response” from the company through a policy acknowledging the need to limit global average temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Speaking during a teleconference with reporters May 23, Sister Patricia said the resolution, like others pertaining to climate change, “have always been grounded in justice and good business.”

Six resolutions related to global warming are on the agenda for the meeting in Dallas. In a letter to shareholders, a company official has called for their rejection, saying the firm has long addressed global warming concerns.

The company had tried to remove the resolutions from the annual meeting agenda; however, the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled in March that shareholders must be allowed to vote.

While efforts such as the one from the investment coalition have been soundly defeated in the past, this year’s proposals come as ExxonMobil is under scrutiny for its long-standing policy of failing to publicly acknowledge how climate change was impacting its operations.

Seventeen state attorneys general are investigating ExxonMobil and other energy producers for fraud in concealing the impact of climate change on the world.

Another resolution proposed by Capuchin Father Michael H. Crosby, executive director of the Wisconsin/Iowa/Minnesota Coalition for Responsible Investment, asks that the ExxonMobil board of directors nominate at least one candidate with expertise in climate change and environmental matters.

Father Crosby explained during the teleconference that the resolution was introduced because the company “won’t give us access to board members.” He said that by having an environmental expert on the board, the company would be better able to managing the risk of climate change to its business model.

This year’s annual meeting will give Exxon Mobil “a chance to restore the public trust,” Father Crosby said.

Company spokesman Alan T. Jeffers told The New York Times in mid-May that ExxonMobil welcomed discussions with shareholders to help them understand that the firm sees the risks of climate change and that it is working on technology to lower carbon emissions.

UPDATE: None of the resolutions related to global warming and climate change were approved by ExxonMobil shareholders May 25.

The ICCR said in a press release afterward that the collective votes in favor of eight climate-related proposals “sent a clear message that shareholders are dissatisfied” with how the company is “managing climate risks, responding to the moral imperative and political reality of the 2-degree Celsius target, and aligning lobbyist activities and trade association memberships with its stated positions on climate change.”

The resolution submitted by Sister Daly on acknowledging the 2-degree Celsius target received support from 18.5 percent of shareholders.

Sister Patricia in the statement challenged a claim from CEO Rex Tillerman that ExxonMobil’s energy outlook is aligned with the climate change agreement reached in Paris in December, saying it was “misleading at best.”

“What the world needs and what shareholders demanded today is for ExxonMobil to acknowledge the  2-degree Celsius target and to begin to move their business sin that direction.”

A push also was made at Chevron’s shareholder meeting in San Ramon, California, Wednesday, where a similar shareholder  resolution received more than 41 percent support. Another proposal from the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia called on the company to report assessing the impact of hydraulic fracturing — fracking —  to produce natural gas on communities and water supplies. It received 31 percent support.

Sister Nora Nash, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis and a fracking expert, said in the ICCR statement the vote was encouraging and that efforts to press Chevron for greater disclosure will continue.

“Standing with Pope Francis we are shaping ‘the future of our planet.'” she said.


Bishop treads the boards in high school musical

Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, California, says his cameo role as a gambler, dapperly dressed in a striped suit and fedora, in the final theater production of the season for Santa Margarita Catholic High School brought back memories.

Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, Calif., makes cameo appearance in Catholic high school musical. (Photo/Orange County Catholic)

Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, Calif., center, makes cameo appearance in Catholic high school musical. (Photo/Orange County Catholic)

His brief stint in the school’s performance of  the hit Broadway musical “Guys and Dolls” last month reminded him, he said, of when he portrayed the story’s Nicely Nicely Johnson in a community theater version of the  musical when he was a pastor in the Midwest.

“Thanks to all of them, after a couple of more serious months of ministry and decisions, I found that I still could sing, laugh, and yes, even still dance a few steps, even at now nearly 65 years old! I had played the role of Nicely Nicely Johnson in an abridged version of that musical when I was a pastor back in Decatur, Illinois,” Bishop Vann told the diocesan newspaper, the Orange County Catholic. “So my time with the Santa Margarita production of that musical helped me to connect with that important time in my life and ministry!”

The story in the Orange County Catholic about his performance includes a video clip. The Orange County Register, the daily paper, covered it too.

“What was most impressive to me in that month of singing and practicing and performing,” Bishop Vann said, “was the hard work, dedication and the faith of our young people in the cast and crew! I truly enjoyed being with them, and ‘hanging with them,’ perhaps more than they know, and they made me, and all of us proud.”




Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, May 22, 2016

"Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth." -- John 16:13

“Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” — John 16:13


May 22, The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Proverbs 8:22-31

      Psalm 8:4-9

      2) Romans 5:1-5

      Gospel: John 16:12-15


By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

One of my favorite memories from my years as a youth minister was teaching the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults adapted for youth. There was always such an interesting group of teens who either needed to catch up on their sacraments of initiation or, once in a while, there was a teen who wanted to become Catholic totally on his or her own initiative.

A story that sticks in my memory comes from three sisters from a blended family. They were each around 13 years old. They had never been to church before and they knew nothing about God, the Bible, the Catholic Church or what we believed.

They had heard of God, but they understood God as being only what we would call God the Father. When I was teaching them the sign of the cross, they wanted to know who the Son and the Holy Spirit were. I said the Son is Jesus and together with the Father and the Holy Spirit this is God.

The looks on their faces were priceless. They argued that God was God, so Jesus cannot be God, too. They had no idea what to do with the Holy Spirit. We went round and round, with me using every analogy I could think of to try to get these teens to understand how three separate persons could share one divinity and together be the triune God.

It took the better part of our next four classes for them to just begin to grasp the concept that most Christians learn from an early age. I had the same feelings that Jesus expressed in this Sunday’s Gospel, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”

Whether one is a teenager who knows nothing about God or holds a doctorate in theology, there is always more to know about God, and especially the mystery of the Holy Trinity. But as I tried to explain to those three sisters, it is not important that we totally understand every mystery. Faith is the bridge that begins where our knowledge ends and connects us to the heights of the truth.


How would you explain the Trinity to someone who had never heard of it? What is a mystery of the Catholic faith that you would love to know more about?

Nuclear disarmament seems distant as world faces new uncertainties

Demonstrators in Washington gather around an inflatable nuke to protest nuclear weapons while world leaders were in the U.S. capital for the Nuclear Security Summit in April. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Demonstrators in Washington gather around an inflatable nuke to protest nuclear weapons while world leaders were in the U.S. capital for the Nuclear Security Summit in April. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Prospects for a new round of nuclear disarmament worldwide are bleaker than just a few years ago because governments have lost the willingness to shrink their arsenals in the face of rising security threats.

Heightening tensions between the United States and Russia, North Korea’s drive to develop intercontinental missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads, and a growing desire among non-nuclear states to build their own lethal weapons were cited as roadblocks to deeper reductions in the world’s nuclear arsenals during a May 17 webinar sponsored by the Pax Christi International Washington Working Group.

Presenters Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, an author and speaker, Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, distinguished professor of ethics and global development at Georgetown University, and Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, painted a grim picture of the prospects for nuclear disarmament and urged viewers to step up their activism if they want to change the scenario.

Offering a moral vision for disarmament, Sister Joan said that the world has lost sight of the God of peace and the life of a savior in Jesus, who brings the fullness of God to the human spirit.

Sister Joan said the world has turned away from seeking true peace, instead finding its “security” in its dependence on sophisticated and dangerous weaponry. She recalled the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in which civilians became the primary victims, exposing how “the immorality of war was clear for everyone to see.”

Since World War II nuclear politics has threatened all life on earth, she said, “either by mass murder or conscious suicide” and has even “replaced democracy” because “nobody asked us to vote on this because they’d (the country’s leaders) be afraid of what we’d say.”

From there, Kimball offered a pessimistic view of prospects for disarmament despite the course toward that goal set by President Barack Obama in a 2009 speech in Prague, and multiple comments from the Vatican questioning the morality of possessing nuclear weapons.

Although Obama and the Pentagon have said the U.S. could unilaterally reduce its nuclear arsenal by one-third and maintain an effective deterrence from a foreign attack, Kimball explained that the current political environment makes such a reality difficult to achieve.

In addition, the U.S. is pursuing a $348 billion, decade-long upgrade of its nuclear weapons network rather than pursuing a new round of arms negotiations with Russia, Kimball said.

Without the U.S. and Russia — which possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons — leading the way, it’s unlikely other countries will commence their own plans to disarm, he said.

U.S. uncertainty over Russia’s intentions, especially because the country has backed insurgents in Ukraine and occupied the Crimean peninsula, makes any near-term arms reduction agreement difficult to achieve, the arms control expert said. The countries remain guided by the New START agreement of 2010 that calls for reductions in their strategic arsenals — weapons deployed on long-range missiles, bombers and submarines — to 1,550 each.

It will take “courageous political and moral leadership,” greater public awareness and meaningful international dialogue to head off another arms race, Kimball said.

“We are currently losing the debate,” he said, “and need public education to turn the tide.”

Father Christiansen outlined how popes and other Vatican officials for decades have questioned “the guise of security” that nuclear weapons provide, and more recently have cited the immorality of such weapons systems because they strip money from human needs.

For 20 years, popes have called for the abolition of such weapons, he said, and in 2013, the Vatican took a new turn in calling for an end to the policy of nuclear deterrence that has guided military planning since the Cold War.

The Vatican remains just as concerned about political stability in some nations that could open the door to extremist groups obtaining nuclear material or even a nuclear weapon.

Evident in all three presentations was a concern that the world is headed toward renewed nuclear proliferation, a dilemma that humanity can ill afford.


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