Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“Go and make disciples of all nations!”
World Youth Day 2013

In December, Cinema Catechism will be showing The Indispensible Men – Peter, Paul and the Missionary Adventure, Episode Five of Father Robert Barron's Catholicism series. As is especially emphasized in the New Evangelization, ours is not a faith that we are expected to selfishly keep to ourselves. Rather, we are called by Jesus to receive the power of the Holy Spirit in order to go and be His witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8), as happened with the Apostles at Pentecost and as happened with our own young people at Blessed Sacrament who received the Sacrament of Confirmation this past Monday.

This was the theme of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, and Pope Benedict has decided to revisit it for the upcoming World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro during the Year of Faith. During His ministry, the disciples of Jesus enthusiastically went out to preach that the Kingdom of God was at hand. (Lk 10:1-17) Yet when He was arrested, most of the Apostles ran and went into hiding, fearing that they too might be arrested and executed. Even after He rose, the Apostles largely remained inside, keeping a low profile. It was during this time after His Resurrection that Jesus called them to a certain mountain in Galilee.
When they saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Mt 28:17-20)
They saw the Risen Christ, but still there was this measure of doubt, they still had this measure of fear that they had after His arrest and Passion -- they were not yet ready or prepared to fulfill their mission. Instead, after His ascension to heaven, they stayed in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, as Jesus had instructed them to do.

Yet despite this fear and doubt and hesitancy, once the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, once they received His graces, their hesitancy and doubt were gone, and Peter immediately went out into the street and began to fearlessly proclaim the Good News of the redemption of man by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, of which they were witnesses. And many were made disciples and baptized right there and then.
Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to the people . . . "Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. . . . God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. . . .

"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call." He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. (Acts 2:14, 22-24, 32, 38-41)
Then and for the rest of his life Peter proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, the former Saul of Tarsus, a zealous persecutor of the Church, was converted to the Love and Truth of Jesus and he became instead a zealous promoter of the Christian faith. Peter and Paul each traveled extensively, preaching and making disciples of all nations before both coming to Rome, where they made the ultimate witness of Jesus Christ, the witness of the martyr.

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses." "Go and make disciples of all nations."

These were not words directed only to the Apostles of 2,000 years ago, but they are directed to all the faithful of Jesus Christ, to all of His disciples. All of us have this duty -- this honor -- to be His servants in the work of salvation; all of us are called to be His witnesses to go and make disciples of all nations. Such a mission is not easy, but we take heart in knowing that, although ascended to heaven, Jesus is with us always, He walks with us along this journey, the Holy Spirit fills our hearts so that His Truth and Love might shine and act through us so that all men and women, boys and girls, might know Him.

"Go and make disciples of all nations!"
Message of Pope Benedict for World Youth Day 2013
Dear young friends,

I greet all of you with great joy and affection. I am sure that many of you returned from World Youth Day in Madrid all the more “planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). This year in our Dioceses we celebrated the joy of being Christians, taking as our theme: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). And now we are preparing for the next World Youth Day, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2013.

Before all else, I invite you once more to take part in this important event. The celebrated statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking that beautiful Brazilian city will be an eloquent symbol for us. Christ’s open arms are a sign of his willingness to embrace all those who come to him, and his heart represents his immense love for everyone and for each of you. Let yourselves be drawn to Christ! Experience this encounter along with all the other young people who will converge on Rio for the next World Youth Day! Accept Christ’s love and you will be the witnesses so needed by our world.

I invite you to prepare for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro by meditating even now on the theme of the meeting: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf. Mt 28:19). This is the great missionary mandate that Christ gave the whole Church, and today, two thousand years later, it remains as urgent as ever. This mandate should resound powerfully in your hearts. The year of preparation for the gathering in Rio coincides with the Year of Faith, which began with the Synod of Bishops devoted to “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. I am happy that you too, dear young people, are involved in this missionary outreach on the part of the whole Church. To make Christ known is the most precious gift that you can give to others.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Handmaid of the Lord:
Mother of God, Daughter of her Son

A. The Major Marian Doctrines
(1) Immaculate Conception – “Full of Grace”
Mary is the “New Eve,” who was redeemed and given the life of grace from the first moment of her conception, so that she was preserved from Original Sin or other sin in her life. The grace won by Christ on the Cross was applied to Mary in anticipation of this saving event. In this way, Mary could be a proper and pure “living temple” for the Son of God in her womb. "She is the living house of God, who does not dwell in buildings of stone but in the heart of living man." – Pope Benedict XVI. It was this fullness of grace that gave Mary the total freedom, unimpaired by the errors of sin, to say “yes” to God at the Annunciation and throughout her life.

(2) Ever Virgin
The virgin birth of Jesus goes beyond merely demonstrating that the true Father of Jesus is God, not a man. Mary gave herself to God completely, in the entirety of her being, soul and body, including her perpetual virginity. This means that Mary was a virgin before the conception and birth of Jesus, during these events, and after these events. At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church, our pure and holy mother of all on earth.

(3) Theotókos, the Mother of God
Mary is not merely mother of Jesus in His humanity or merely mother of the Christ, but is rightly called the Mother of God because Jesus is one, both fully human and fully God. The Lord dwelling within her, she is a living temple and Ark of the Covenant.

(4) Bodily Assumption into Heaven
At the end of her earthly life, Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. She did not experience the corruption of the grave. Jesus being eternal, just as He is forever on the Cross, so too is He forever in the womb of Mary, and she is forever joined to Christ, so that if He is in heaven in the entirety of His being, soul and body, so too must Mary be in heaven in the entirety of her being, soul and body. The bodily assumption of Mary also points the way to all the faithful in the resurrection of the body.
B. Mother of the Church, wholly united with her Son
(1) The Annunciation
"This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God's relationship with his people. During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel's message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said ‘yes.’” – Pope Benedict XVI
In Jesus, God literally merged into mankind, becoming small, defenseless, and vulnerable while dwelling within the Virgin Mary’s womb, in the most intimate of relationships. Just as the first Eve was formed out of the first Adam, so Jesus, Son of God and the new Adam, was formed out of the new Eve, flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone.

(2) The Nativity of Our Lord
In the birth of Jesus, we not only see a God who has made Himself small, we see a God who has a face, and it is the face of His mother, Mary, who had carried Him in her womb. To show that such an intimate relationship with Jesus was not meant to be Mary's alone, to show that all the faithful are called to intimately receive Him into our own bodies, the newborn Jesus was placed in a manger. As with the straw that was food for the animals, so too Jesus is shown to be food for us in the Eucharist. And by becoming small in this way, the all-powerful God who needs nothing chose to need us, chose to need our help in bringing about the salvation of man.

(3) The Hidden Life of the Holy Family
The persons closest to Jesus are Mary and Joseph, who raised Jesus, fed Him, clothed Him, taught Him, including instruction in the Faith, and who comforted Him when He needed comforting. They devoted the entirety of their lives to guarding and protecting Jesus, and thereby join in His mission of redemption.

(4) Wedding at Cana
Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, by becoming His mother, became our mother too. As our Mother, like at Cana when the wine ran out, Mary is sensitive and attentive to our needs, and she intercedes and asks her Son to provide for us. (Jn. 2:1-5)

(5) Mother of Sorrows – Mother of Mercy
When the baby Jesus was presented to the Lord in the Temple, the righteous Simeon came to Mary and prophesied that a “sword would pierce her heart,” that is, she would know sorrow. Indeed, soon thereafter, Herod sought to kill Jesus and they were forced to flee to Egypt. During the Passion of her Son, Mary and faithfully persevered in her union with Him. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of His suffering, joining herself with His sacrifice in her mother's heart.

(6) Pentecost and the Early Church
Mary is the New Eve, the mother of all who live according to the life of grace. Jesus gave Mary to His followers to be our mother. She is the mother of the Church. Mary was present, praying with the Apostles and other disciples at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the faithful and the Church was born. “Mary is so interwoven in the great mystery of the Church that she and the Church are inseparable, just as she and Christ are inseparable. Mary mirrors the Church, anticipates the Church in her person, and in all the turbulence that affects the suffering, struggling Church she always remains the Star of salvation.” – Pope Benedict XVI

(7) Mary and Us
“Dear young people, we too must remain faithful to the ‘yes’ that we have given to the Lord's offer of friendship. We know that He will never abandon us. We know that He will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord's ‘proposal’ in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us. She is our example and our inspiration, she intercedes for us with her Son, and with a mother's love she shields us from harm.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Episode Four of Catholicism:
Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast - Mary, the Mother of God

This Thursday, November 8, 2012, Cinema Catechism returns with a showing of Episode Four of Fr. Barron's Catholicism series, Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast - Mary, the Mother of God, together with further discussion and reflections on Immaculate Mary, the Virgin Mother, assumed body and soul into heaven: the New Eve, Full of Grace, who carries the Lord within her and points us toward her Son while also pointing us toward our true selves, the people that God intended and intends for us to be in the fullness of Love and Truth.

The Inexhaustibly Rich Figure of Mary
Fr. Robert Barron
Word on Fire Catholic Ministries
Mary is a rich and multivalent figure in all of the Gospels. In Luke’s infancy narrative, she emerges as the spokesperson for ancient Israel, speaking, in her Magnificat, in the words and cadences of Hannah; and as the recipient of an angelic announcement of a miraculous birth, she calls to mind not only Hannah but also Sarah and the mother of Samson as well. In Matthew’s Christmas account, she is compelled to go into exile in Egypt and is then called back to her home, recapitulating thereby the journey of Israel from slavery to freedom. She is thus the symbolic embodiment of faithful and patient Israel, longing for deliverance. In John’s Gospel, she is, above all, mother—the physical mother of Jesus and, through him, the mother of all who would come to new life in him. As mother of the Lord, she is, once again, Israel, that entire series of events and system of ideas from which Jesus emerged and in terms of which he alone becomes intelligible. Hans Urs von Balthasar comments in the same vein that Mary effectively awakened the messianic consciousness of Jesus through her recounting of the story of Israel to her son. So in the Cana narrative, Mary will speak the pain and hope of the chosen people, scattered and longing for union.

(excerpted from: Robert Barron, The Priority of Christ)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints' Day

Throughout the liturgical year, the Church observes feast days for the various saints individually. We celebrate today the Solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of "Obligation," rejoicing in the Lord with a festival in honor of the entire multitude of the faithful who now live with and in Him in heaven, including the canonized saints and those whose names are known only to God.

In our previous post at Adoramus Te, the blog of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Santo Subito: Answering the Call to be a Saint, we discussed the universal call to holiness, how we are all called to be a saint. Many people resist this call, believing it to be a great burden, a cumbersome obligation that they are not at all comfortable with. Sure, they would like to go to heaven -- and they expect that they will go to heaven -- but they are rather hesitant to fully embrace the holy life now or even aspire to it; they fully expect to receive God's grace of salvation at the end, even if they are not all that enamored of seeking and accepting His grace now. They believe that the road to sainthood will be too arduous and difficult and deprive them of their freedom.

But the call to sainthood is neither a burden nor a cumbersome obligation. Rather, it is a call to set down one's burdens and to embrace authentic freedom. The call to sainthood is nothing other than a call to be true to the person that you were made to be, one who loves God and others in truth.
Sometimes, people think that holiness is a privileged condition reserved for the few elect. Actually, becoming holy is every Christian's task, indeed, we could say, every person's! The Apostle writes that God has always blessed us and has chosen us in Christ "that we should be holy and blameless before love" (Eph 1:3-5). All human beings are therefore called to holiness, which ultimately consists in living as children of God, in that "likeness" with him in accordance with which they were created. All human beings are children of God and all must become what they are by means of the demanding process of freedom. God invites everyone to belong to his holy people. (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 1 November 2007)
The call to holiness is a call to stop wandering in the desert and finally accept God's invitation to enter into the Promised Land. Yes, it will be difficult (love always is), but it is what were made for, that is the meaning of life: to love and be loved in truth -- a love that is so full that we enter into communion with God and others, and so dynamic and fruitful that life is made ever new in Him.

This Year of Faith provides a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the saints while seeking to be one ourselves by conforming our lives every more closely to the Lord. This might include learning more about those saints whose names we took in Baptism and/or Confirmation, those saints whose feast day we celebrate on a particular day, those saints for whom we already have a certain affection, and those saints who we know little or nothing about.

Where might one go to learn more about particular saints and sainthood in general?

Many books on the lives of the saints have been published and are available in libraries and bookstores. There are also many sources available on the Internet:
Catholic Community Forum
Catholic Culture (you'll need to know the saint's feastday or do a name search to get the information)
Catholic Information Network
Catholic Online
New Advent
Wednesday Audiences of Pope Benedict, Catechesis on the Saints

Litany of the Saints at the funeral for Blessed Pope John Paul II

(cross-posted at Adoramus Te)