Evangelii Gaudium – “The Joy of the Gospel”

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Pope Francis has just released an apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, which means “The Joy of the Gospel.”  Over the next few weeks, we will examine the document to pull out the key points and see how they relate particularly to young adults.   In the meantime, we highly encourage everyone to read it since the Holy Father has continued the focus of his predecessors on the New Evangelization.  Here click here to read Evangelii Gaudium in its entirety.

Here are some links for initial commentary.

A Summary of Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel): Pope Francis’ First Apostolic Exhortation by Kevin Cotter

Pope Francis’ new document, Evangelii Gaudium: 9 things to know and share by Jimmy Akin

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Periodic Scripture Reflection: John 14:30

saint-john-the-apostle“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming.  He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

This passage from the Gospel of John comes from a long exhortation from Jesus. It fits nicely around famous verses like “I am the vine and you are the branches…” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” and therefore could be easily overlooked. These are two simple sentences that reveal much about Jesus’ posture and relationship with the Father. The first line serves as a warning to Christ’s disciples that the Passion is quickly approaching. Even though they have spent countless hours with Jesus, they still don’t fully realize what is to come. The coming days will be filled with confusion, fear, and sadness as Jesus is taken from them and He wants to give them reassurance. He warns that the “ruler of this world” (Satan) is coming but the power of darkness does not control Him. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Guys, our time together is coming to a close, and it’s going to look bad, but don’t worry, I’m doing what the Father wants me to do.” The final phrase reveals so much about the heart of Jesus towards His Father: “…but I do as the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” Jesus goes to the cross to save us, rescue us, bridge the gap between God and man, to become the sacrificial lamb, to redeem mankind, to open the gates of Heaven, and to show the world how much He loves His Father. Jesus endured the worst suffering, embraced humiliation, and accepted total rejection to demonstrate His love for us and for His Abba.

This is the ultimate example of how Christ wants us to act towards the Father. We need to embrace the Father’s plan, not out of fear or obligation, but to show the world that we love the Father. When someone asks you why you go to Mass on Sunday or why you don’t use contraception, I bet they won’t expect you to say, “I do as my Father has commanded me, because I love Him.”

Intentional Disciple: St. Jean de Brebeuf

In this post I would like to feature St. Jean de Brebeuf, a lesser-known saint whose courage and unwavering allegiance to Christ as a disciple is worth noting and emulating.

Although most of our missions won’t be to foreign countries – each and every one of us is called to a mission. May we all be as radically devoted to it as this man. This excellent video from Chris Stefanek can do all the talking.

You can find more videos and articles by Chris Stefanek here.

True Love – Part II

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*This is the second part of an article written by Peter Herbeck entitled True Love.  To read Part I click here*

What the Church Teaches

The teaching of the Catholic Church is presented clearly and with genuine compassion in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2357-2359):

“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Here the Church is teaching the truth in love. She is fulfilling the command of the Lord to “love your neighbor as yourself.” She knows that she must communicate the objective truth about human sexuality and marriage as an expression of her love for persons with homosexual attractions. Homosexual acts are described as “intrinsically disordered.” Note, it does not say persons with homosexual attractions are in themselves intrinsically disordered. They are, in the eyes of the Church, children of God, who bear the image of God, persons with inherent dignity who are called and destined to live with God forever.

It is the homosexual act that is intrinsically disordered because it violates the objective goods or the essential truth of the sexual act. The sexual act is, by nature, in its essence, the one flesh union of two persons, which is open to life. As Dr. Janet Smith puts it, “sex is for babies and bonding.” It is ordered to reproduction and union which are both made possible by “sexual complementarity.” Homosexual acts fail to recognize the essential, objective, unchanging truth about the purpose of the sexual act.

The Church recognizes that marriage is an institution that the Church did not create. Every society known to man has recognized marriage as an institution that unites children with their parents. It is the fundamental building block of human civilization. The Church has no power to change its teaching on homosexual activity or marriage. She didn’t create or design the fundamental purpose for either one; she simply recognizes the intrinsic meaning of both.

What motivates the Church’s teaching is love. There is no hate, bigotry or animus toward homosexual persons. Certainly, there are some in the church who are bigots, but that isn’t the source of the Church’s teaching. It’s the same love the Church expresses when she speaks against premarital sex, masturbation, prostitution, adultery, fornication, and pornography. Each one of these acts, in some way, suppresses the truth about the meaning, purpose and design of human sexuality.

So it is with tough love that the Church passes on to us the teaching of the Scriptures, as well as the truth revealed in the natural law. To fail to teach it, or to promote what is contrary to it, is to “rejoice in what is wrong,” and to promote a “destructive lie.”

My Truth

Finally, what makes the Church’s teaching such a challenge in these days is the cultural dominance of what Pope Benedict XVI described as the “dictatorship of relativism.” It is essentially the rejection of any standard of truth outside my own personal experience or subjective understanding. The only truth that is decisive, especially in the sexual realm, is “my truth.” The ultimate standard or measure of truth is my own personal choice, what I determine to be true for myself.

This is a game the Church cannot play. It’s a lie. It’s not only the suppression of the truth about the meaning of human sexuality; it is a form of idolatry. To live in the truth is to be rightly related to reality. It means to live in the real world, not the world I create for myself. The reason we have become so confused about things that are so obvious is that we have decided to shape reality according to our own design. We don’t want God’s design for reality; we want reality on our terms. We want to be gods.

This is the root of our confusion and current struggle. The only way out is repentance. We must turn again, wholeheartedly toward God. We must welcome reality on his terms, to humbly and gratefully receive his design for human life, and to live in His truth with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. It’s the only way to love. It is true love.

Unanimous Response to HHS Mandate

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At the end of their yearly meetings, the American Catholic Bishops issued unanimous statement regarding the HHS Mandate.  It is a powerful and unified message that makes it clear that the Catholic Church stands ready to defend our religious liberty.  For more on the Bishops’ meetings and other statements please visit www.usccb.org.  
Special Message from the Bishops of the United States

The bishops of this country have just concluded their traditional fall meeting in Baltimore and have spent time on issues important to them and their people: help to those suffering from Typhoon Haiyan; an update on the situation in Haiti; matters of worship and teaching; service to the poor; and comprehensive immigration reform. Among those priorities is the protection of religious freedom, especially as threatened by the HHS mandate.

Pope Francis has reminded us that “In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”

We stand together as pastors charged with proclaiming the Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel calls us to feed the poor, heal the sick, and educate the young, and in so doing witness to our faith in its fullness. Our great ministries of service and our clergy, religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful, especially those involved in Church apostolates, strive to answer this call every day, and the Constitution and the law protect our freedom to do so.

Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.

Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.

The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.

As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths, and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.

This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.

True Love – Part I

Macklemore-Ryan-Lewis-Same-Love-Music-Video By Peter Herbeck

“We press play, don’t press pause, Progress, march on! With a veil over our eyes, we turn our back on the cause. ‘Till the day that my uncles can be united by law…a certificate on paper isn’t going to solve it all, but it’s a damn good place to start…whatever God you believe in we come from the same one, strip away the fear, underneath, it’s all the same love. About time that we raised up! Love is patient, love is kind. Love is patient, love is kind…”

These are some of the lyrics of an enormously popular song by hip-hop artist Macklemore called Same Love. The song, which has gone viral with nearly fifty million views of the music video version, is about homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Over the past few weeks a number of young people have brought up the song in conversation. Just yesterday a twenty-two year old relative of mine, asked me if I had ever heard the song. He raised the question in the context of a discussion we were having about same-sex marriage. He pointed out that it is not only a very catchy song and fun to listen to, but that it is confusing because the story it tells is that true love, God’s love, embraces same-sex marriage.

In fact, Macklemore ends the song by repeating words from 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind,” which is arguably the most famous passage on love in the entire Bible. In essence, what he is saying is, to love like Jesus loves, the love that is patient and kind, the love that is the opposite of “hate,” is a love that celebrates homosexual acts and fights for the legalization of same-sex marriage. That’s the argument.

It’s essentially the same argument, without explicit appeal to the New Testament, that Justice Anthony Kennedy presented in the decision of the majority of justices on the Supreme Court who struck down DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which recognized marriage as being defined by one man and one woman. Justice Anton Scalia summarized the majority opinion this way: “In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us. The truth is more complicated.”

Indeed, the truth about love is more complicated. From a Catholic point of view, there is no love without the truth. Love and truth always go together. In his homily during the canonization of Edith Stein, Pope John Paul II said that St. Teresa Benedicta, the “martyr of love,” taught us all that “love and truth have an intrinsic relationship,” and that “love and truth need each other.”

The truth love seeks is the good of the other. That is, to love someone means that I will their good. I want what is best for them. What is best for every person is what will lead to genuine human flourishing and this only happens when we “live the truth.” That is, when live the life we were made to live, when we recognize how God made us, and live in accord with his plan for our lives.

Pope John Paul continued: “St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross says to us all: Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie.”

This is why St. Paul, in the very passage Macklemore quotes, says that love “does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right” (1 Corinthians 13:6). What Macklemore and so many others are demanding is that in the case of active homosexuality and same-sex marriage, in order to love, we must “rejoice in what is wrong.”

*Stay tuned for True Love – Part II which will focus on the Church’s Teaching and the ‘Dictatorship of Relativism*

Communion in Holy Things

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During his weekly audience on November 6th, Pope Francis elaborated on the purpose and importance of communion.  i.d.916 hopes to foster communion and this teaching succinctly describes an aspect of this pillar.  Below is the first paragraph of the exhortation, click here for the full version.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Last Wednesday I spoke about the communion of saints, understood as a communion among holy people, that is among us believers. Today I would like to go in depth into the other aspect of this reality: you will remember that there were two aspects: one is communion, unity, among us, and the other aspect is communion in holy things, in spiritual goods. These two aspects are closely connected; in fact, communion among Christians grows through the sharing of spiritual goods. In particular we will consider: the Sacraments, charisms and charity (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 949-953). We grow in unity, in communion, through: the Sacraments, the charisms given to each of us by the Holy Spirit, and charity.

Click here for the rest of the text.