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October 15, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 25

COLUMNS

Believe as you Pray »

Social Matters »

In Light of Faith »

photo: Genevieve McQuade

believe as you pray

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
October 21, 2012

Isaiah 53:10-11
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Hebrews 4:14-16
Mark 10:35-45 or Mark 10:42-45 (shorter reading)

Who among us doesn’t appreciate getting special treatment, deserved or not, at least once in a while?

It’s nice to receive it but it’s not likely that we would be so pushy as to ask for it unless necessary.

Not so for two of Jesus’ Apostles, James and John, who asked Jesus for a place of honor with Jesus in heaven.

Correcting their misunderstanding, Jesus replied: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them. . . whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

(If this sounds at all familiar, similar words were proclaimed four weeks ago from Mark 9.)

For the most part, most of us really don’t aspire to greatness nor do we think we could be great without much effort, and surely, we don’t like the mere thought of slavery. Many are happy to be good enough to get by, whether in school, work — or even spiritual life!

Worldly greatness often does come to those who humbly evaluate themselves, but they are also dedicated to improving their knowledge and experience first, with success as the product of talent, time, effort, and motivation.

We can’t help but admire dedication towards achievement and certainly wouldn’t want to suppress it. Dreams of success motivate a person.

On the other hand, it is an ambitious person who craves greatness at the very outset, like James and John, who did not yet realize the cost towards final reward.

Leadership is yet another layer on the totem pole of upward mobility and success. Some qualities for effective leaders overlap with qualities helpful for servant leaders, such as competency, creativity, inspiration, dedication, interpersonal skills, and more.

Jesus calls us to be his servant leaders, first and fundamentally motivated by his Holy Spirit; humble; virtuous; teachable by pursuing Christian formation; building community; and willing to sacrifice self-centered ways. . . and passionate about their call.

Their inspiration and inclinations originate from God and not mere human influence. Eager donation of their time, talent and giftedness for the community we know as the Body of Christ is necessary too. Our humble service bonds with that of Christ to “ransom many.”

So, in this light, Jesus inquires of James and John, as well as of each of us, “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

This is not a glory ride that Jesus proposes, but rather serious business.

Living into Jesus’ model for our lives necessitates the cross of sacrifice and self-denial, being open to God’s will, endurance, and putting personal goals at His service, for His glory, for the sake of the gospel.

This is not easy, no matter what the extent of our gifts. Nor is this is simply a donation of time and activity as if we could earn glory, but a gift of one’s self that expresses our mutual love with our Lord.

There’s a world of difference between impolitely expecting a revered position and petitioning God by confidently approaching the “throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Hebrews 4:16). In faith, mercy and grace will bring us the undeserved glory we desire, for He has ransomed us. Let us realize the price of discipleship.

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photo: Tony magliano

SOCIAL MATTERS

Respect Life Month and the elections

Picking the best man for president and voting for the best candidates for other elected offices may seem easy — that is, if you’re a single issue person.

For instance, if the economy or the issue of abortion is what’s driving you to the polls, then the choices may appear to be quite clear for you. But even here, there’s more that needs to be considered than just simply liking what a candidate says.

A politician’s record, not rhetoric, is what really counts. And even if a politician has proved his or her commitment to the issue of concern, how much will that person likely be able to accomplish?

A governor has to win the approval of the majority of the legislature. The president needs the consent of most of Congress. And even Supreme Court justices appointed by him, can and have, sometimes changed their positions on issues once they have been seated on the bench.

Voting for a candidate who will probably not be in a strong position to significantly move a particular issue forward may make one feel good, but it won’t make much difference.

Furthermore, many politicians who support the Catholic Church’s stand on one issue often work against the church on other issues.

Single issue voting has serious flaws, and is not the Catholic position. Instead, Catholics are called to consider the big picture.

“As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support” (“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”/U.S. Catholic bishops).

Respect Life Month puts the spotlight on Catholic social teaching, which instructs us to work and vote for the protection of all life — especially the poor and vulnerable.

Not just the unborn, not just the poor, not just the hungry, not just the homeless, not just the war-torn, not just the undocumented, not just the medically uninsured, not just condemned prisoners, not just the environment and not just future generations, but all of the above deserve our care. Everyone’s life and dignity needs to be fully protected and respected.

The social doctrine of the Catholic Church links social justice, peace and pro-life issues — it doesn’t rank them!

In his powerful encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), Blessed Pope John Paul II is crystal clear on this. He wrote, “As disciples of Jesus, we are called to become neighbors to everyone (cf. Lk. 10:29-37) and to show special favor to those who are poorest, most alone and most in need. In helping the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned — as well as the child in the womb and the old person who is suffering or near death — we have the opportunity to serve Jesus.

“Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias or discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good. We need then to ‘show care’ for all life and for the life of everyone.”

Sadly, since very few politicians are committed to caring for all life and the life of everyone, our morally difficult task is to try to figure out who is going to do the most good for the most people — especially the vulnerable and poor — and the least harm.

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photo: barbara hughes

in light of faith

What will you do during the Year of Faith?

The Year of Faith began October 11 and will conclude November 24, 2013 on the Feast of Christ the King. So. . . my question to you is: What will you do during the Year of Faith?

It’s a legitimate question; especially since the last time the Holy Father set aside an entire year for renewal was in the year 2000 when a Year of Jubilee was declared to prepare for the new millennium.

If you recall, events marking the 2000 Jubilee were held at almost every parish, culminating in a grand diocesan celebration, during which people from parishes around the diocese gathered at the University of Richmond.

It was an impressive sight as hundreds of representatives from every parish around the diocese paraded around the arena being led by someone holding their parish banner.

Reminiscent of the parade of athletes at the Olympics, there was a real sense of pride about being a Catholic.

As an aside, the “Year of Jubilee” also served as the genesis for this column, which I first began writing under the title: “Living Jubilee.” Little did I realize at the time that more than 13 years later the column would still be around, albeit under a different title (“In Light of Faith”). Nevertheless, its continuation highlights an important aspect of renewal.

Renewal calls us to re-commit ourselves, not just for a year, but on an ongoing basis. Hopefully, what we learn about our faith this year will provide a stronger foundation on which to build.

The call to renewal is a reminder that conversion is ongoing. Since we can never know all there is to know about God or love God perfectly, we never graduate from the school of faith. The more we know about God, the more we realize we don’t know.

Conversely, the less we live our faith, the less we realize how little we know. With the Sacraments, Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and spiritual books so readily available, there is no excuse not to grow in our faith. It is the height of ingratitude to not return to God through prayer and study that which belongs to God, which is our very self.

Growing in faith is about more than simply acquiring knowledge; it is about falling in love with the God who first loved us.

As we grow in faith, we gradually acquire an attitude of gratitude in response to God’s love and mercy. As St. Paul said, “When I was a child, I talked like a child and acted like a child, but when I became a man, I put childish ways aside.”

As a child, I viewed God as a combination of Santa Claus and Superman. I believed that God would right every wrong and grant my every wish. Sound familiar?

But if our understanding of God remains at that level, when life’s disappointments come along, and eventually they do, all we have left are disillusionment and disbelief because childish versions of God are as mythical as Santa or Superman.

As Catholics, we have more than 2,000 years of wisdom and tradition to sustain us. Unless our faith is rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus, not simply as a profession of faith but as a lived experience, we are Christians in name only.

God became Incarnate because in creating the universe, He became the fulfillment of all of creation. As imperfect people, we stumble, we fall and we sin. Therefore, God sent His Son, to be our Way, our Truth and our Life so that we can realize the goal for which we were created, which is union with God.

I’ve heard it said, “I am spiritual but I don’t need religion.”

The reality is we need both. We need the grace of the Sacraments and the support of Church community. We need one another because that’s how we live our faith.

How can we be in communion with God without being in communion with the Church Jesus gave us through his Holy Spirit and which was handed down to us through his followers?

Can anyone read the Acts of the Apostles and not appreciate the importance of Church?

Last Easter, I made the decision to read the Scriptures in their entirety. I began with Acts since it was the Easter season and I am now into the Gospels. Next I plan to read the Old Testament.

After eighteen years of Catholic education, attendance at several Scripture studies and numerous continuing education seminars, not to mention hearing the Scripture read at daily Mass for most of my life, I am amazed by how my faith has been deepened by reading and reflecting on the Scriptures in this way.

No wonder, Jesus said, “To those who have more, more will be given and to those who have little, even that shall be taken away.”

This was not a threat. It is a consequence of not practicing our faith. There is no such thing as a vacuum. When our lives are so full that there is no time for God, we have Edged God Out, an appropriate anachronism for EGO.

We can never find happiness if we choose self over God, for as St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are made for you O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in You.”

And so I repeat: What will you do during the Year of Faith?

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