Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Feb. 14, 2016

"Jesus ... was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil." -- Luke 4:1-2

“Jesus … was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.” — Luke 4:1-2

 

Feb. 14, First Sunday of Lent

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Deuteronomy 26:4-10

      Psalm 91:1-2, 10-15

      2) Romans 10:8-13

      Gospel: Luke 4:1-13

 

By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

The most frequently asked question of Catholics at this time of year is, “What are you giving up for Lent?” Giving things up and doing extra things is definitely a big part of the Lenten season. I suppose another big question is how long will we keep firm in these intentions before totally failing at Lent.

I think one of the best reasons to give something up or do something extra in Lent is that it helps us grow in discipline. We are a culture that lets our emotions and feelings dictate our action or inaction.

Discipline can act as a balancing factor in our life. If we do what we do when we want to do it because we want to do it with no thought of self-control, we fall into the sin of gluttony or sloth. But if we can tame our passions with a little discipline, we can achieve greater heights of spiritual joy.

Strange as it may seem, there is more joy in discipline than in indulgence. One would think that giving in to temptation and enjoying the creature comforts would bring more satisfaction than denying ourselves or employing restraint, but this is not the case.

This week’s Gospel makes this abundantly clear when Jesus, in the middle of a 40-day fast, is tempted by the devil to give in to the moment and indulge his emotions. Yet, in the face of such temptation, Jesus reveals the truth that standing firm brings us closer to the will of God.

The word “disciple,” not coincidentally, has the same root as “discipline.” A disciple is one who follows the teachings of another person. When we discipline ourselves, we allow another’s teaching to guide and direct our paths. To be sure, disciplining ourselves is not easy. It takes, well, discipline.

So, when week two of Lent comes and we are tempted to abandon our resolve — eat the piece of cake or skip that daily Mass — let us be disciples of Jesus who disciplined himself in the desert and did not give in to temptation.

May this be our constant prayer: Jesus, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil!

QUESTIONS:

How do you avoid giving in to temptation? What are ways you can be a better disciple of Jesus this Lent?

CCHD honors interfaith group for efforts to improve workers’ lives

Father Gerry Souza, Catholic Chaplain at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Massachusetts, speaks at a Massachusetts Communities Action Network rally in September at the facility before sending leaders on a pilgrimage to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia. (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Communities Action Network)

Iolanda Silva de Miranda, left, listens to Father Gerry Souza, Catholic chaplain at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Massachusetts, at a Massachusetts Communities Action Network rally in September. (Photos courtesy of Massachusetts Communities Action Network)

Leaders from Brockton Interfaith Community hold boxes of petition signatures for the minimum wage and earned sick time campaigns in 2014, preparing to present the signatures to state election officials.

Leaders from Brockton Interfaith Community hold boxes of signed petitions for minimum wage and earned sick time campaigns in 2014.

Iolanda Silva de Miranda believes the Gospel calls people to act when injustice is present.

Massachusetts Communities Action Network, a congregation-based community organization, came to her parish, St. Edith Stein in Brockton, to talk about the need to raise the state’s minimum wage, Silva de Miranda knew she had to step up.

After hearing how some people work two or three jobs to make ends meet and feed their families, she got involved.

“That’s what God calls us to,” the native of Cape Verde said. “Mary was about to have Jesus and all the doors were closed. Nobody wanted to let her in to have a baby. Sometimes we don’t see those (people). We close the door to the people. We close the door to the more needy and we exclude people.”

It has been a few years since Silva de Miranda, 52, joined the Brockton Interfaith Community, a member of MCAN. She now is co-president of BIC and serves on the MCAN board.

MCAN, an affiliate of the PICO National Network founded in 1972 by Jesuit Father John Baumann, spearheaded the statewide initiative to raise Massachusetts’ minimum wage. It took time to organize, educate, seek signatures on petitions and seek endorsements, like the one from the Massachusetts Catholic Conference representing the state’s bishops.

But Miranda de Silva said the work was worthwhile, especially when voters approved the minimum wage ballot measure in November 2014. By January Massachusetts will have the highest minimum wage in the country at $11 an hour.

For its minimum wage campaign and efforts to gain medical leave for low-income workers, MCAN received the Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development during the recent snowbound Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington.

MCAN, a recipient of CCHD national level grants, has worked for more than 30 years to better the lives of low-income people in Massachusetts through congregational organizing and education, said Lew Finfer, the organization’s director.

Early in its history MCAN focused on affordable housing, gang violence and improving conditions in schools. As the economy faltered, especially during the Great Recession, basic family concerns such as hunger, jobs and wages rose in importance. There are also efforts afoot related to reforms in immigration law and criminal justice sentencing.

The minimum wage campaign reached beyond congregations to include tens of thousands of people in neighborhood organizations and labor unions. If the coalition had not been built, Finfer said, the initiative would have failed.

The end result: More than 300,000 people are benefiting.

MCAN affiliates include Catholic parishes in the Boston Archdiocese and the Fall River, Springfield and Worcester dioceses.

Silva de Miranda said the work is important coming from people of faith.

“You know what’s going on in the community. You learn the pain and suffering the families and the people are living. And sometimes you live the pain,” she said. “Being part of this is healing yourself and you’re helping others understand what’s going on.

“You are with them in the change. You are suffering with them. Maybe you show them (policymakers) a part of society is not right, people are not being treated equally of fairly.”

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Feb. 7, 2016

"Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." -- Luke 5:10

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” — Luke 5:10

 

Feb. 7, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

     Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8

      Psalm 138:1-5, 7-8

      2) 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 11

      Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls his first disciples to follow him and join his mission to bring all people to God’s way of life.

His offer is convincing: Having the audacity to teach experienced fishermen how to fish, he demonstrates that if they follow his direction they’ll achieve a greater haul than they could attain themselves.

Jesus’ message is to all of us: Trust that by following his way you will draw people into his fold.

By contrast, a refrain we often hear in our social enterprises today, “Build it, and they will come,” is based on a belief in the pre-eminent power of our own will — through marketing.

However, any city planner will tell you: Build it in the wrong place and “they” won’t come, no matter how slick your marketing.

I learned how wise planning creates healthy, vibrant communities from my friend Joel, a longtime city planner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Indeed, communities hire planners to direct development and growth to best serve the people’s needs. Build to enhance their lives and they will not only come but they’ll participate.

No wonder Joel, also a devoted Christian, understands how to respond to the call to build and develop Jesus’ community. He knows that Jesus’ instruction to “put out into deep water” means to go where God is most needed.

Joel and his wife chose for their faith community not a well-established congregation but a small church in a struggling low-income neighborhood where the people were open to God’s grace and just waiting to be “caught.”

Indeed, Jesus’ way brought in a large haul there.

Joel showed me a small neighborhood park that he and fellow church members developed, with the city’s blessing, on city property across the street from the church.

A local landscape architect volunteered to design the park. Then at-risk teens from the neighborhood joined with the church youth group to do the landscaping with plants and materials donated by local suppliers. Children from the nearby grade school created and installed small outdoor sculptures, and other businesses contributed a sprinkler system and benches.

As the park became a center of neighborhood pride and activity, more people came to the church, drawn by the congregation’s embrace and care for its community.

QUESTIONS:

Following the ways of Jesus, by what means might you bring others to a life with him? What have been your most effective methods of evangelizing?

Telling the story of Catholic home missions in the U.S.

By Tyler Orsburn

WASHINGTON  — Today Catholic News Service launched its Catholic Home Missions Project, a project inspired by the canonization of St. Junipero Serra back in September.

More than 20,000 people attended the Sept. 23, 2015, canonization Mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the Spanish Franciscan at the Basilica of National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The Franciscan Monastery in Washington had a Mass of celebration the following day.

A painting of St. Junipero Serra hangs in the Santa Barbara Mission Archives-Library in Santa Barbara, Calif. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) See SERRA-IMAGES Aug. 17, 2015.

A painting of St. Junipero Serra hangs in the Santa Barbara Mission Archives-Library in Santa Barbara, Calif. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

St. Junipero Serra is credited with founding nine missions in California, and one in Baja California, Mexico. Friars under his tutelage founded many others across California, in a territory that was then part of New Spain.

Steven Hackel, a history professor at the University of California at Riverside who has written a biography, “Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father,” told CNS he thinks St. Junipero Serra as one of the little-heralded “‘founding fathers’ of the United States,” because he helped settle areas beyond the East Coast and was a contemporary of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Last spring we did a series of video stories on the life and ministry of St. Junipero and his evangelizing mission, and we included the views of some critical of the friar over his treatment of native peoples and their culture.

But what is a modern-day mission in the United States? Is it still just about evangelizing and baptizing? And how does the mission experience differ from St. Junipero Serra’s day in 1769 when he walked from Baja California, Mexico, and into what would become San Diego?

One difference is population density. No longer is west of the Mississippi River considered the Wild, Wild West. Another difference is cultural diversity. Native Americans no longer populate the landscape as they did in the 18th century. What would become the United States is now a mosaic of cultures that represents all continents.

Now, 247 years after St. Junipero Serra’s first mission was established in Southern California, the Catholic Church is firmly interwoven into the fabric of the land of the free and home of the brave.

Starting today — with stories, videos and photos — our reports on Catholic Home Missions take us to North Carolina, Texas, Idaho and Puerto Rico — four of the U.S. Catholic churches mission dioceses. The U.S. bishops’ define a “mission diocese” as having limited resources for funding both basic and essential pastoral works and ministries, and covering a vast territory served by small number of priests, religious sisters, lay ministers and other pastoral workers.

The vastness of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, is on full display. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth) See MISSION-CHURCH Feb. 1, 2016.

The vastness of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, is on full display. (CNS/Chaz Muth)

From Raleigh, North Carolina, we share the experience of Iraqi refugees who say the church has helped them establish community in a new land; in Beaumont, Texas, we look at marriage, family life, and campus ministry at Lamar University; in Idaho, we talk to parishioners who drive nearly one hour to get to their church community two or three times per week and who say the time sacrifice is worth it for them and their family; and in Puerto Rico, we give an account of a physician-turned-priest who helps the disenfranchised struggling with poverty, drug addiction, cancer and mental illness.

According to the 2014 annual report on the U.S. church’s Catholic Home Missions Appeal, a national collection, 41 percent of all home mission dioceses in the United States received grants from the appeal. The report showed that U.S. Catholics contributed over $9.3 million for home missions in 2014; and the fund earned more than $1.6 million in income on investments.

Details about the Catholic Home Missions are available here.

The Catholic Home Mission Appeal this year is April 24, and always falls on the last Sunday in April. Jessi Pore is director of Catholic Home Missions, which is part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of National Collections and Office of National Collections.

“Catholics in the United States are incredibly generous to the needy dioceses here at home each year,” she told CNS. “Over the last 10 years, American Catholics have helped provide nearly $100 million to strengthening our church here at home.”

Mission dioceses interested in applying for grants must do so by April 1 of every year. A Catholic Home Mission subcommittee reviews the grants and makes decisions on funding in the fall based on review criteria, Pore said.

21ST-CENTURY MISSION CHURCH

St. Augustine Mission in the Pueblo of Isleta in New Mexico. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

 

 

First Communion in Cebu: ‘Jesus with me’

A girl receives Communion during a children's first Communion Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 30. The Mass included about 400 extremely poor children, some living on the streets. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

A girl receives Communion during a children’s first Communion Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 30. The Mass included about 400 extremely poor children, some living on the streets. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

By Simone Orendain

CEBU, Philippines — Row after row of fidgety children, mostly flanked by their parents, filled the track infield of the Cebu Sports Complex. A few children were eating snacks, some were walking quickly with their parents, perhaps to find the nearest bathroom. Others sang hymns, and many chattered away.

The children’s first Communion Mass at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress included about 400 extremely poor children, some of whom live on the streets.

I don’t know what I was thinking when I expected children at the Mass to quiet down and take on some sort of serene quality once they received the Eucharist.

They received Communion alongside their parents, and many did all the kid things that they had been doing beforehand. One girl bypassed the kneeler and the eucharistic minister altogether and was led back into place. Another boy darted back to his row, chomping on the host.

But as I looked around this low-level chaos, I noticed one tiny girl with her hands together in prayer, kneeling on the dry brown grass in her white tights. She was praying intently. Then she crossed herself and sat back on her plastic chair with a very serious, solemn expression on her face.

“They are from Tacloban,” said Jocelyn Ala, a church lector at St. Joseph Parish, sitting behind her. “They survived the typhoon.”

First communicants carry flowers during a children's first Communion Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 30. (CNS photo/Katarzyna Artymiak)

First communicants carry flowers during a children’s first Communion Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 30. (CNS photo/Katarzyna Artymiak)

Ala, her sister and one other parishioner were taking care of the 10 children who all came to Cebu without their parents. She said the parents could not afford to make the trip. The children traveled to Cebu with the help of Dilaab, a Catholic foundation that seeks to catechize children, especially those from poor backgrounds.

Ala said all of these children’s families were intact after the Typhoon Haiyan ravaged its way across the central Philippines, killing or leaving missing some 7,300 people, mostly from the Tacloban area.

The little girl, 8-year old Joelle Marie Vito, told me she was “happy” after taking Communion because she had “Jesus with me.”

I pointed at her heart and I said, “Where, here?”

She nodded.

So then I asked what she liked about Jesus. She paused, thinking carefully for a good while, undeterred by Ala whispering into her ear.

“He’s smart … and he’s a really hard worker!”

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, a Public Peace Prize laureate

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, the Catholic peace organization, has been named a Public Peace Prize laureate.

The Washington resident learned of the honor last week from the Quebec-based organization sponsoring the honor.

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

“For me the most delightful part of it is that it acknowledges the fact that there are so many peacemakers all over the world who don’t get a lot of notice who are nevertheless doing worthwhile work,” she told Catholic News Service.

Dennis was named an awardee in the Global Peace and Reconciliation Internationally Reputed Peacemaker category. She shared the prize in that category with the Rev. Michael Lapsley, an Anglican priest from South Africa, who founded the Institute for Healing of Memories to help in reconciliation efforts in the former apartheid-ridden country.

Public Peace Prize laureates are chosen by the public. Individuals can nominate people for consideration and winners are chosen based on letters of support that arrive for each nominee.

“I’m really touched by it especially because of the way that they gather the comments of people from all over the world,” Dennis said.

The Public Peace Prize fosters greater recognition of the work of peacemakers and peace initiatives locally, nationally and internationally. It evolved from the online 24 Hours for Peace in 2013-2014 to celebrate Jan. 1, the World Day of Peace.

Among its partners are L’Arche International, Global Network of Religions for Children, Faith and Light International, International Youth Advocacy Foundation, Pax Christi International, Organization for Peace and Social Cohesion in Ivory Coast and several Quebec-based organizations.

“The goal of it is to be very grass roots, very engaging with people all over the world,” Dennis said. “Not only are there a lot of people doing peacemaking, but we need a lot more.”

Other 2016 recipients include:

— Suzanne Loiselle, a peace and justice activist in Quebec. She is being awarded in the Justice and Solidarity Activist and Peacemaker category.

— Antoinette Layoun of Quebec province, a former child soldier in Lebanon who today teaches people how to achieve inner peace through constructive, loving lives. She is being awarded in the Personal Peacemaker and Social Peacemaker category.

— Narine Dat Sookram, a native of Guyana now living in Canada, has demonstrated how immigrants can provide rich social and economic contributions to society. He is being awarded in the Social Integration and Community Peacemaker category.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Jan. 31, 2016

"If I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." -- 1 Corinthians 13:2

“If I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” — 1 Corinthians 13:2

Jan. 31, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19

      Psalm 71:1-6, 15-17

      2) 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 or 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

      Gospel: Luke 4:21-30

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

A day after our family celebrated my husband Tommy’s birthday, he sat looking back through a collection of photos that we reprinted as a retrospective of his life to date. He enjoyed remembering again the highlights we tried to capture in just 30 pictures.

The birthday party was small — just our immediate family sharing brunch and the memories the photographs triggered: him as a child, our wedding, his school years, smiling with his Army buddies in Vietnam, good times with friends and posing with each of the children during special moments of their own lives. The most recent is of him hugging his grandson.

There also was a photo of the newspaper office where he began his career. It recalled his life’s work, mostly as an editorial writer, dedicated to advocating human rights and dignity, justice, common purpose for the common good and holding community leaders accountable. Noble work, but he suffered plenty of slings and arrows for his efforts in the public square.

Tommy would never call himself a prophet, but I’m sure he’s taken some comfort over the years from the message in this week’s Scripture where God tells the prophet Jeremiah that although he will suffer for speaking the truth, God will carry him through.

Looking at our family photos and listening to our children’s joyful recollections of life with their dad, I realized just how it was that God strengthened him to fulfill his fundamental vocation.

The key is in today’s second reading, in which Paul teaches the Corinthians that truth and goodness are manifested through love. Love bears, believes, hopes and endures all things, he says.

Tommy’s moral truths are based on his deep Catholic faith. He handed those ideals on to his children who witnessed the personal costs of his public stance. But they accepted his high standards because they also experienced him living those values in how he loved them and me and others — friends and strangers alike.

On his birthday, that’s what we celebrated in his life: the love. The newspaper clippings are in the family files, a record of Tommy’s fine writing and public commitment to make the world a better place.

But in his children, grandchildren and generations to come, it is the love that endures all things and that will never fail.

QUESTIONS:

What characteristics of Paul’s definition of love are hardest for you to sustain? How does a commitment to selfless love enliven your vocation to share the word of God?

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