Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 30, 2016

"You spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!" -- Wisdom 11:26-12:1

“You spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” — Wisdom 11:26-12:1


Oct. 30, Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Wisdom 11:22-12:2

      Psalm 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14

      2) 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2

      Gospel: Luke 19:1-10


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

Amid last summer’s series of tragic shootings in cities across the country, a news story reported that the alleged gunman who killed several police officers in Dallas had received tactical instruction at a private self-defense academy two years earlier.

According to the story, an instructor at the school recalled that the man had attended training there, but said, “I don’t know anything about Micah … he’s gone. He’s old to us. I have thousands of people.”

Naturally, this school spokesman wanted to distance the academy from the tragedy. But someone he’d once called by name in his class now had become to him a nonperson forgotten in a faceless crowd.

That gunman is an extreme example of a person lost from God.

While society no longer desires to claim him, today’s Scriptures tell us that God still does.

As unbelievable as that may seem, the Book of Wisdom explains the Creator’s unconditional love: “You love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made.”

Whether it is an extreme case or a mild case of someone turning away from God, Wisdom says God has “mercy on all” and “overlook(s) people’s sins that they may repent.”

It is unimaginable to the human mind, but the depth of God’s love and mercy is such that he forever seeks out the fallen and failed of his children to lift them free of evil and redeem them for a new life.

Simply put, that’s why he sent Jesus.

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus embraces the reviled, sinful tax collector Zacchaeus, who then, transformed by love, responds by becoming the good man God created him to be. Jesus explains, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

He wants us to believe it — and to be part of it — even today when we see our world rocked and riven by meanness, violence and hatred.

Because we ourselves are blessed and redeemed by God, when we encounter a person in the throes of evil or otherwise lost from God, we need to remember here is someone who was preciously made by him in love. Then Jesus’ mission becomes ours: to seek and save the lost.


What are some specific examples of God’s love and saving grace in your life that inspire you to more intently seek out and embrace others who are lost? Who do you know who is lost from God?

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 23, 2016

"Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner." -- Luke 18:13

“Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner.” — Luke 18:13


Oct. 23, Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18

      Psalm 34:2-3, 17-19, 23

      2) 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

      Gospel: Luke 18:9-14


By Deacon Mike Ellerbrock
Catholic News Service

When I pointed out in a homily that not all saints are officially canonized, a woman said to me after Mass, “That may be true, but the great saints get to wear a crown in heaven, like St. Paul in today’s epistle!” It got me to thinking: Are there trophies for us in heaven, blue ribbons as eternal accessories?

The real underlying issue in today’s Scriptures is: Why is it OK for Paul to boast of his faith, but not for the Pharisee in the Gospel to declare his virtues superior to the tax collector? Actually, the distinction is clear.

Paul boasts of his unwavering trust in the Lord, not of his own earthly merits. Conversely, the Pharisee believes that his diligent efforts obligate God’s praise and eternal reward, especially relative to the despised tax collector.

Like Paul, the humble tax collector gets it. Unable to proudly raise his face to God’s, he simply bows and begs for God’s mercy.

We cannot make deals with God, punching our ticket to paradise. Salvation is attained not by virtuous acts — adherence to the law — but by our acceptance of Jesus’ redemption on the cross, which was perfect and complete. We could never do enough good works to demand eternal residence with God.

Our task is to humbly accept God’s gratuitous love and respond by living a life of gratitude. Hence, we are eucharistic people: The Greek term “eucharisteo” means to give thanks. We must do good works, not to earn salvation, but because it is the only logical response to Jesus’ free and unmerited gift to us.

Note that Paul proclaims the crown is available to all, whereas the arrogant Pharisee bases his self-righteousness relative to other sinners.

The heavenly crown, trophy or ribbons we might receive upon crossing that threshold may be the sacred privilege of seeing firsthand the wounds Christ bore for us. What greater testimony do we need of his love for us?

It has been said that the Bible can be summed up in one word: trust. Salvation history is written by the Author of Life. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament, God constantly promises his covenant with humanity and never fails us. Of that we can boast.


Is doing good works out of guilt or fear a help or hindrance to our spiritual growth? How can we improve our consciences to better understand our motivations?

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In the midst of debate nastiness, a nun provides relief on Twitter

While some are letting out a sigh of relief that the last of the presidential debates — and the prime time nastiness that’s accompanied them — is over, part of me will miss the running debate commentary of @onegroovynun.

If there’s a tweet that describes how most voters feel this presidential election season, Sister Miriam James captured it here:

I first heard about her tweets from Michele Dunne, a lay Franciscan during a Washington reception. If I need a laugh and distraction from some of the particularly disagreeable language, egregious allegations and bitterness the election has sown, a quick glance at @onegroovynun and her, perhaps, unintentional Twitter ministry makes me smile, at least briefly.

Her low-budget cast of characters employs sidekick Sister Mary and various bobbleheads of saints of the pope to make her point.

Here are other goodies from her Twitter feed:

Posted in CNS

Duterte’s war on drugs: Filipinos weigh in with mixed reviews

Images from the Philippines' war on drugs. (CNS layout/Images by Reauters, EPA)

Images from the Philippines’ war on drugs. (CNS layout/Images by Reauters, EPA)

By Tyler Orsburn

Filipino American History Month is October in the United States. Feelings between the Philippines and the United States have been good for a long time, although the U.S. military presence has been an ongoing source of tension among some Filipinos.

Legend has it when U.S. troops liberated the mostly Catholic country from Japanese occupation during World War II, locals swapped their home-cooked meals for GI MREs. This simple gesture of camaraderie may have been the beginning of Filipinos’ legendary fascination with corned beef and canned meats.

Today, another topic of conversation among Filipinos in and outside the country is President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, and several shared their thoughts with Catholic News Service. Reuters reported Oct. 17 that Philippines police killed nearly 2,300 people since June 30, with another 1,300 murders by vigilantes.

Ariel Turalio, a small-business owner in Antipolo, supports Duterte’s drug policy. He told CNS his country has a massive drug addiction problem and that people want to earn easy money by pushing drugs.

“Filipinos are lucky to have a president who has the will to fight illegal drugs,” he wrote. “What will become of future generations if everyone is addicted to drugs?”

Jesuit Father Joel Tabora in Mindanao echoed those sentiments.

An alleged drug user is arrested during a police operation against illegal drugs in Manila Oct. 6.(CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)

An alleged drug user is arrested during a police operation against illegal drugs in Manila Oct. 6.(CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)

“Are the means unnecessarily illegitimate?” he asked the British news agency Reuters from Davao, where Duterte was mayor for 22 years. “People are dying, yes, but on the other hand, millions of people are being helped.”

Many islanders think like Turalio and the Catholic priest. According to a recent survey, Reuters reports, Duterte and his drug war command a 76 percent satisfaction rating.

But for those old enough to remember President Ferdinand E. Marcos and the 1970s, martial law may be just around Duterte’s domestic policy corner.

“Filipinos’ compassionate culture is now being corrupted by Duterte’s counterfeit war on drugs, which I suspect is just a prelude or dress rehearsal to a more violent form of martial law,” a parishioner at Santisima Trinidad Catholic Church in Manila told CNS. He said his father was incarcerated during martial law in the 1970s and ’80s, and that he will oppose it through peaceful means when it returns.

“I’m against extrajudicial killings,” wrote a former Catholic college student from Sibuyan Island. She said she believes people have the right to defend themselves through legal matters.

Back in Seattle, Washington, an 84-year-old Filipino-American is baffled by what’s going on in her motherland.

“Like most of my peers I am appalled with the way the Philippine president has dealt with the drug problem in his country,” said Dorothy Laigo Cordova, who, with her late husband, founded the Filipino American National Historical Society. “(I) seem to see a parallel with Duterte and other dictatorial leaders. He fails to realize that the Philippines needs the U.S. to help with the growing encroachment by China in the China Sea.”

On Oct. 19, the Philippine president, accompanied by hundreds of business leaders, was in Beijing to discuss what he called a new commercial alliance.

Posted in CNS

Pop art pope wins graffiti game of peace

UPDATE: After being up less than half the day, the city’s waste collectors came to scrape everything off. Like two years ago, spray paint graffiti, trash and unsanitary mementos of a canine kind remain…

Screengrab from Twitter feed of Rome-based journalist @FrancoisVayne

Screengrab from Twitter feed of Rome-based journalist @FrancoisVayne

VATICAN CITY — In a clandestine graffiti game of Tic-Tac-Toe, an artistic rendition of Pope Francis turns the O’s into peace signs and makes the win while a Swiss Guard acts as the lookout.

A removable paper art piece by Rome artist Mauro Pallotta. (CNS photo/ Carol Glatz)

A removable paper art piece in the “Borgo” historic neighborhood near the Vatican by Rome artist Mauro Pallotta. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Mauro Pallotta, who signs his work, “Maupal,” pasted his latest creation to a corner store wall near the Vatican today in the historic neighborhood of “the Borgo.”

The Rome-born artist draws and paints removable street art onto paper that he then glues to building walls with a water-based adhesive in an effort to display street art in a way that doesn’t damage the buildings that become his canvas.

"Super Pope" by Mauro Pallotta appeared briefly near the Vatican in January 2014. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

“Super Pope” by Mauro Pallotta appeared briefly near the Vatican in January 2014. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

The easy removal of his works, however, meant an early demise for his “Super Pope” piece from 2014.

Affixed in the same “Borgo” neighborhood on a side street, that wall art only lasted a few days when city “decorum police” had it peeled off and repainted the wall. Its mere three-day “exhibition” still attracted a large amount of international attention.


p.s. Can you find the “mistake” in the new piece? While lots of passersby praised the work, one older gentleman immediately saw an anomaly that I didn’t catch until he mentioned it.



Posted in art, CNS, media, Vatican Voices | 6 Comments

Poet and pope — or laureate and saint

Pope John Paul II greets American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1997. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via EPA)

St. John Paul II greets American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1997. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA)

So Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Some folks would have much preferred someone else had won. To others, it’s a welcome recognition of his lyric gifts.

Nineteen years ago, Catholic New Service ran a guest commentary by Ivan Kubista, then editor of The Courier, the newspaper of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota, who recalled his college days when he and Dylan were classmates. Kubista also was a struggling folk singer trying to land a few gigs to pay for college tuition. He sometimes shared a stage with Dylan in their native Minnesota. When Dylan announced he was dropping out of school to head to the West Coast to get a job as a backup musician, Kubista tried to discourage him. A couple of years later Dylan released an album of his own songs. “It was already apparent to me, if not to the rest of the world, that Bob’s genius was in his compositions, not his performing,” Kubista noted.

He described following Dylan’s career over the years and had high praise for his lyrics at least: “He has become a poet of the highest caliber, articulating the human condition with a clarity unmatched by any of his peers.”

Kubista’s reflections came on the eve of Dylan performing before St. John Paul II — and about 350,000 of the pope’s closest friends — at a concert in Bologna, Italy, as part of an Italian eucharistic congress in 1997. It was heralded as the first rock concert ever attended by the pope, or any pope for that matter. There was a to-do over the appropriateness of Dylan being invited to perform at a religious gathering, but it never reached the controversy of Dylan “going electric” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Dylan was invited because his music was “true and beautiful” and “the church welcomes whatever is true and beautiful and good,” said Msgr. Ernesto Vecchi, a vicar of the archdiocese. Dylan sang “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Forever Young” in his set, and shook St. John Paul’s hand. The pope acknowledged the true of the refrain of one Dylan staple, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” “Not, however, in the wind that blows everything away into nothingness,” he said, “but in the wind that is the breath and voice of the Spirit, the voice that calls and says, ‘Come!'”

Then there was Dylan’s “born-again” period. Sometimes people turn to religion when they’ve reached a low ebb. His 1978 studio album, “Street-Legal,” was poor compared to the  masterwork “Blood on the Tracks” just three years prior, and his “Live at Budokan” followup was nearly unlistenable. But then comes a new Dylan, and his “Slow Train Coming” garnered at least as much debate as it did sales, reaching No. 3 on the U.S. charts and gaining platinum status. “Saved,” which mined the same field of Christian rock,” didn’t fare as well, and “Shot of Love” sold even fewer copies.

But “Infidels” got Dylan back to gold-record status. Although he didn’t do such overtly Christian albums again, you could still see elements of faith every now and again in his subsequent work.





Posted in CNS

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 16, 2016

"All Scripture is inspired by God ... so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work." -- 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is inspired by God … so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” — 2 Timothy 3:16-17


Oct. 16, Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1) Exodus 17:8-13

Psalms 121:1-8

2) 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2

Gospel: Luke 18:1-8


By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

There’s a saying that I hear fairly frequently these days, especially in response to someone who is asked to take on a ministry or mission for which he or she feels unprepared: “God doesn’t call the equipped; he equips the called.”

In other words, we can usually expect to feel inadequate and assume that when God invites, the “yes” comes before the preparation. For most people this is a scary proposition.

Today’s readings give some insight into how God alleviates those fears that come with saying “yes” — and how he equips us to become fully engaged in the work he gives us to do — much like Joshua unhesitatingly engaging Amalek and his armies in battle.

First, we must always recognize that we’re not alone, but that “our help is from the Lord,” the very creator of heaven and earth. Lifting our eyes to him when we’re in trouble, or even long before we sense trouble, is an exercise of trust that becomes habitual with practice.

A sure way of becoming “equipped for every good work” is through the consistent learning and application of sacred Scripture. A surprisingly small percentage of Catholic adults are familiar with the Bible, and yet we have so many excellent resources at our disposal to help us overcome our ignorance that there’s really no excuse for remaining uninformed.

Scripture is inspired by the very breath of God so that we can trust it to form us toward competency.

Finally, the readings today emphasize the importance of persistence in proclaiming the word “whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” Tenacity in the face of difficulty and discouragement, grounded in the confidence that God always desires to sustain us, is simply what faith in action looks like. It’s what kept Joshua fighting Amalek all the way to a victory, and it’s what kept the persistent widow petitioning the judge until he delivered a decision on her behalf.

God is asking us to be his partners in the work of salvation. Are you willing to become equipped for his work?


Have you ever been asked to do something for which you have felt unprepared, even while knowing it was the right thing to do? How has knowledge of Scripture equipped you for being a disciple of Christ?

Posted in Word to Life