Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Nov. 8, 2015

"They have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had." -- Mark 12:44

“They have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had.” — Mark 12:44


Nov. 8, Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B. Readings:

1) 1 Kings 17:10-16

Psalm 146:7-10

2) Hebrews 9:24-28

Gospel: Mark 12:38-44 or Mark 12:41-44

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

Once when I was visiting the administrative offices of a large organization that serves the poor, a veteran staff fundraiser remarked, “Our experience has been that when it comes to actual donations, it is always the people who are only a step out of poverty themselves who are the most generous as a percentage of what they have.”

His comment would have us believe that today’s Gospel story, comparing the widow giving from her want with the wealthy giving from their surplus, is an example of something that happens all the time.

“It makes sense,” the staffer said, “because these are people who have experienced firsthand what it is like to be in poverty. They know the struggle, so naturally they want to help anyone who is in that situation.”

It’s fundamental solidarity.

I’ve witnessed it in my periodic visits to my church’s twin parish in Haiti: At the offertory during Mass, there’s no passing the plate. Instead, altar servers stand in the aisles holding small wooden boxes, each with a lock on the side and a money slot in the lid.

All at once (this is not an orderly procession), the people make their way to a box, crowding around to place coins and small bills — crumpled and grimy from the transactions typical of a poor, hard-labor economy — into the slot. The scene looks like a widow’s mite flash mob.

Here is a poor community’s members giving from their want out of their love for God and their ardent trust that he will care for them together as a body of his people. Indeed, their shared life as a church community is what sustains them, both spiritually and materially, and gives them hope.

They exemplify this week’s Old Testament reading in which a widow and her son, themselves a step away from starvation, share their last bit of flour and oil with the hungry prophet Elijah. Drawn together by mutual trust in God, they survive.

We are all called to this kind of solidarity in which we join in our brothers’ and sisters’ struggles. Sharing the hardship, we learn by necessity to trust — and survive — in God’s care.


When has your trust in God come up short of offering all you have? How can you be more “invested” in your faith community or the hardship of others?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Nov. 1, 2015

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." -- Matthew 5:9

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” — Matthew 5:9

Nov. 1, Solemnity of All Saints

      Cycle B. Readings:

      1) Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14

      Psalm 24:1bc-6

      2) 1 John 3:1-3

      Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12a

By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service

In June, I had the privilege of hearing a talk by a nun who will probably be one of the saints that future generations will honor.

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe spoke of her work with women brutalized by the Lord’s Resistance Army and other violent groups in Uganda and South Sudan. She and her sisters have provided a pathway for more than 2,500 of these women and their children to rebuild their lives.

It has been redemptive, as the sisters have helped these women, often rejected and blamed for what happened to them when they returned to their villages, to regain their dignity through work, faith and forgiveness.

On this solemnity of All Saints, we honor all the saints the church has recognized. In the reading from Revelation, John, in a vision, stands “before the throne [of God] and before the Lamb.” There he sees a crowd so large that he cannot count its members, coming from every tribe and nation, washed clean by the blood of Jesus. They have prostrated themselves before God and are worshiping him.

In the second reading from 1 John, John writes, “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”

That one statement reveals the power that enables some of us to rise to the level of heroic self-sacrifice on behalf of God for others — sainthood. That one statement gives the impetus to all of us to seek to rise to that level in our love of our families, our neighbors and the stranger.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives definition to what it means to be a child of God, with an extensive listing of the “blesseds,” among them, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Sister Rosemary stands as one example, along with a multitude of others, who have gone before and been recognized as saints. May we seek to be among the blessed as well and find ourselves, washed in the blood of the Lamb, before the throne of God, among the worshippers.


How is God calling you to enter more deeply into the spirit of the beatitudes?

‘Wicked City’: murder most foul, acting most riveting, morality most questionable

In most cases, television networks provide to critics a copy of the premiere episode of a new series in advance of its airing with enough time for the critic to write about the show so readers can know what to expect by the time the episode airs. Such wasn’t the case with ABC, which held the debut of “Wicked City” quite close to its vest. As a result, CNS freelance reviewer Maria Macina barely had time to digest the premiere installment for its aesthetic and moral qualities, let alone write about it. Here is Macina’s review in full.

Every viewer must be well aware by now of the tremendous impact the popularity of cable television has had on the networks.

The steady rise of their rivals over the past few decades has not only lowered these older outlets’ prestige by diminishing their share of industry awards. Far more vitally, it has also deprived them of ratings and, therefore, of advertising-based revenue.

As if such a long-term trend weren’t challenging enough, more recent years have seen the advent of a fresh threat to the networks, one that has gathered momentum far more quickly than anyone would have guessed. Websites such as Hulu, Amazon and Netflix — not one of which even existed 25 years ago — are now thriving sources of original programming.

The seemingly exponential growth of viewing choices — some of them of such high quality that many informed observers now regard this as a second “golden age” of television — confronts the networks with ever greater difficulties as they search for loyal customers to sustain their business model.

One obvious response to this situation is to try to shift the accepted, but already far too broad, boundaries of taste and morality.

wickecitytrythisoneJust as foreign movies were once seen as offering both racier and more thoughtful content than Hollywood films, so nowadays the networks seem envious of the ability of cable and Web-based shows to cross controversial lines they themselves have traditionally been forced to respect — or at least skirt.

All the more so, since such envelope-pushing has often won both a wide audience and critical favor.

The success of Fox’s drama “Empire,” which began airing in January, provides just one example of the apparent benefits of loosening network standards still further. Now ABC seems intent on following Fox’s lead as it introduces its new police procedural, “Wicked City.”

Based on the show’s Oct. 27 premiere — the series is slated to run 10-11 p.m. EST Tuesdays — the phrase “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” pretty well sums up what audiences can expect to encounter. More specifically, in its opening episode alone this serial-killer themed drama showcased, along with the violence inherent in its subject matter, adultery, oral sex, narcotics use and necrophilia.

Set in 1982 Los Angeles, the initial storyline of “Wicked City” focuses on deeply flawed LAPD Detective Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto) as he struggles to stop a prolific murderer’s bloody rampage. His adversary, Kent Grainger — played to perfection by Ed Westwick — is an attractive psychopath who targets the young women of the Sunset Strip.

Grainger preys on his victims by pretending to be the VIP of their dreams, whether that’s a talent agent, a movie producer or a real estate mogul. Having lured his latest quarry into captivity, he then decapitates her to the tune of a song he has asked to have dedicated to her on the radio.

Grainger meets his match, however, when one of his potential victims becomes instead his homicidal ally.

Betty Beaumontaine (Erika Christensen), a nurse and single mother with what turns out to have a rather terrifying dark side, quickly becomes the Bonnie to Grainger’s Clyde. The pilot leaves us wondering just what black magic this dastardly duo might conjure up together as the series proceeds.

Needless to say, this is not a program for younger viewers or for any but the hardiest of their adult counterparts. Those willing to engage with its ensemble of morally vacant characters and endure their parade of seamy behavior, however, will find at least partial compensation in the form of a strong cast playing a variety of complexly drawn characters. And for those of a certain age, twinges of nostalgia will be set off by a soundtrack full of familiar tunes from the 1980s.

For most, however, such aesthetic redress will seem all too slight when weighed against the show’s flagrant ethical trespasses.

Philippine president says his faith is stronger since pope’s visit

By Simone Orendain

MANILA — Philippine President Benigno Aquino said his Catholic faith is stronger and remains so, nine months after Pope Francis visited his country.

Aquino was a guest Oct. 27 at a two-hour forum in Manila with Philippine-based foreign correspondents who asked him a wide range of questions.

Pope Francis arrives in the rain at the cathedral in Palo, Philippines, Jan. 17. Fourteen months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of the central Philippines, the pope braved a tropical storm to encourage survivors in their ongoing work of recovery. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Pope Francis arrives in the rain at the cathedral in Palo, Philippines, Jan. 17. Fourteen months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of the central Philippines, the pope braved a tropical storm to encourage survivors in their ongoing work of recovery. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

“There is so much simplicity in the pope,” said Aquino. “Even (with) the vestments that keep on flying into … his face, that doesn’t seem to faze him. That carrying of that small bag, by himself, at his age.”

Aquino remarked on the fact that 78-year-old pontiff appearing fatigued, yet still toted his black briefcase at the end of a packed five-day visit to the Philippines in January.

Pope Francis came with the express purpose of showing solidarity with the survivors of the November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing. The typhoon kicked up 15-foot storm surges that slammed shores of the east central part of the country and generated 295-mile per hour winds that cut a path of destruction across the middle of the country.

Aquino said he could see the impact the pope was having on the church, which he said was playing a more active role “in worldly matters, not just (being) a church that mouths the nice things, but actually engages everybody into tackling the problems of the day.”

Aquino, who in 2011 said he was willing to be excommunicated over a controversial reproductive health law that he pushed hard to get passed in Congress, said, “Even my own faith has really been strengthened and renewed that there is a church that is not just talking but actually walking the talk.”

Simone Orendain and Philippine President Benigno Aquino pose for a selfie in Manila. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

Simone Orendain and Philippine President Benigno Aquino pose for a selfie in Manila. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

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Follow Orendain on Twitter: @sorendainnews.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Oct. 25, 2015

"The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad indeed." -- Psalm 126:3

“The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad indeed.” — Psalm 126:3

Oct. 25, Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle B. Readings:

      1) Jeremiah 31:7-9

      Psalm 126:1-6

      2) Hebrews 5:1-6

      Gospel Mark 10:46-52


By Sharon Perkins
Catholic News Service

In the popular Lerner and Loewe musical, “My Fair Lady,” Eliza Doolittle — tiring of her suitor’s flowery declarations of devotion — impatiently sings, “Don’t talk of stars, burning above; if you’re in love, show me!” A popular adage similarly suggests, “Actions speak louder than words.” Today’s readings offer several illustrations of just how loudly God’s actions proclaim his love for his people.

Jeremiah the prophet conveys to the exiled remnant of Israel a vivid description of all the ways that God their Father will rescue them from enslavement and restore them to their home. Verbs such as “deliver,” “gather,” “console,” “guide” and “lead” make it clear that their God is one of action.

In the Gospel, Jesus encounters a blind man who begs for pity. Jesus doesn’t merely pat the beggar on the back, mumble a few platitudes and continue on his way. He asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” and then he does it.

On Dec. 8 this year, the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy will commence with the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica, inviting all to enter it as a “Door of Mercy.”

Pope Francis’ explanation of the jubilee, “Misericordiae Vultus,” describes how God’s mercy — or his “loving concern for each one of us” — is indicated by “God’s action toward us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete.”

The Holy Father goes on to say that “this is the path that the merciful love of Christians must also travel. … As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.”

How can flawed and sinful human beings be vessels of the Father’s great mercy? The writer of Hebrews gives us a clue by observing that the high priest, a human being also, “is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring for he himself is beset by weakness.”

We open our doors of mercy toward others when we honestly and sincerely recall our own need for God’s mercy — and then act accordingly, in the way that God acts toward us.


How have you most recently experienced God’s mercy and loving concern for you? To whom is God inviting you to show mercy through concrete action?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Oct. 18, 2015

"So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." -- Hebrews 4:16

“So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” — Hebrews 4:16

Oct. 18, Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B. Readings:
1) Isaiah 53:10-11
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-20, 22
2) Hebrews 4:14-16
Gospel) Mark 10:35-45 or Mark 10:42-45


By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

A well-known adage says that only two things are guaranteed in life: death and taxes. I would like to offer a third certainty, struggle. If my own life is not evidence enough, the daily newspaper and my Facebook newsfeed confirm the truth that we all go through hard times.

Another adage says that it is how we respond to adversity that defines our character. I would suggest that this also speaks to our life of faith. It is easy to believe in God in the times of blessing, but it is another thing entirely to cling to him in times of struggle.

When my mother died, I was 26, and I wrote these lines in my journal:

Faced with an enemy and run, it will follow;

Faced with an enemy and turn and embrace, one will melt.

Love is stronger than fear,but the fear of love comes close.

I wrote this because I was struggling to embrace the reality of the loss of my mother. I wanted to run from my feelings and “be strong,” but I was failing at this. So my only alternative was to embrace the struggle and, well, struggle!

Jesus gives us the perfect example of the power of embracing struggle when he tells his Father that he wishes the “cup” of his suffering and death to pass by him. But as we know, he surrenders to the Father’s will and embraces the perceived enemy of suffering and death, and through that act he brings about the salvation of the world.

In this week’s readings, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way. … So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (4:15-16).

The fact that our High Priest knows what it is like to suffer gives us a reason to be confident in coming to him in prayer in our own suffering.

To be sure this does not usually take the suffering away, but it does give us strength to bear the load and make it through our own suffering all the way to new life.


How have the struggles of your life helped you grow in faith? How does knowing that Jesus suffered help you in your own struggles?

Plowshares witnesses to receive Nuclear-Free Future Award

Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed stand with banners and the tools they used to enter the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 2012. (CNS/Courtesy Transform Now Plowshares)

Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed stand with banners and the tools they used to enter the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 2012. (CNS/Courtesy Transform Now Plowshares)

The three plowshares activists who broke into the government’s Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in 2012 and served 19 months in prison will be honored for their action on behalf of peace.

Sister Megan Rice, a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and military veterans and Catholic Workers Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed will receive the Nuclear-Free Future Award in ceremonies on Capitol Hill Oct. 28.

The award was established by the Munich-based Nuclear-Free Future Foundation. It has been presented since 1998 to people around the world working to resist, educate and act to rid the world of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

Calling themselves the Transform Now Plowshares, the three were convicted in 2013 on sabotage and depredation of property counts for breaking into the Y-12 plant, where nuclear weapons are assembled, and defacing walls. They were sentenced in February 2014 to 35 months on each count, to be served concurrently. However, on appeal, they were resentenced in September to time served and two years of unsupervised probation, and were ordered to pay $52,000 restitution for the damage they caused.

The trio will receive their awards during ceremonies in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill Oct. 28. The program moves to cities around the world and this year it is in the United States.

Other winners include Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, a Swiss scientific illustrator who studied, collected and painted images of deformed insects since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown; Tony deBrum, foreign secretary of the Marshall Islands, who has advocated widely for the world’s nuclear weapons powers to abide by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; Alexander Kmentt, ambassador and director for disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation in the Austrian government; and youth members of the Cree Nation of Mistissini in Quebec, who led a successful campaign to ban uranium exploration, mining and waste storage on tribal land.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California are honorary co-hosts. Beyond Nuclear and Green Cross International at the nongovernmental organization co-hosts.


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