Our community decided in 2008 that the mission of our parish was life-long learning. Everything we do centers around teaching the depth and richness of the Roman Catholic Faith. Our weekly 3-Minute Catechesis is read from the Ambo prior to Mass beginning. A written copy is made available in our weekly bulletin along with additional information for those who want to learn more. Visit us online at www.risensaviorcc.org for more information.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Confession in the 21st Century

Even if you don’t know what one is, you’ve probably heard the commercials that promise, “There’s an app for that.” An app is application software that runs on a computer, a mobile device, or other platform like an iPhone, iPad, or Facebook. There are apps for word processing, downloading music, and tracking your expenses.

Why are we talking about apps at church? Because of the technology explosion in recent years, developers are now creating apps aimed at one of the largest demographics in the world – Roman Catholics. There are rosary apps, Liturgy of the Word apps, and now, there is an iPhone app being advertised as a Confession app with Vatican approval.

According to news reports, the Pope himself had given permission for confession to be done via cell phone using this new app, with the only restriction being that the penitent had to actually go to a priest for absolution. The Catholic world was excited at the prospect of not having to confess sins aloud, but simply type them into a password-protected program on a phone!

This excitement was short-lived. The Vatican qualified its support for the app a day after the program’s developer announced it was the first app to have official Church sanction. A Vatican spokesman said, “It is essential to understand well the sacrament of penitence requires the personal dialogue between the penitent and the confessor and the absolution by the confessor. This cannot in any way be substituted by a technology application.”

A spokesman from the company that designed it said, "Our desire is to invite Catholics to engage in their faith through digital technology." He goes on to quote Pope Benedict XVI's message from last year’s World Communications Address, in which the pope encouraged Christians to interact with the digital world in service of the faith.

So how can this app be used by faithful, technologically-savvy Catholics?

For those who have not celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation recently – perhaps not since their first time – this app features three parts: an Examination of Conscience “to help you figure out what your real sins are;” step-by-step instructions for what to do inside the confessional; and a space to record any absolution or penance from the priest.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation has changed over the years. The priest hearing your confession is less likely to ask you “how many times” and more likely to help you understand your failings and give your some spiritual guidance to go with the grace you receive from the sacrament. But all of that still needs to be done in person!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Grateful Giving

When a church starts talking about giving, there is a tendency to tune out because, first of all, you expect the talk to be about giving more money, and secondly, your wallet is empty! It’s an unhappy reality that many parishes have to beg their parishioners for the funds needed to keep a parish afloat, and that, in addition, we are asked to financially support the Archdiocese and other worthy causes as well. But the truth is that “treasure” is only one-third of the concept of stewardship, and Risen Savior is embarking on a mission emphasizing the grateful giving of your time and talent.

We can’t really talk about time and talent without talking about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. These are actions and practices expected of faithful Catholics. Though the list of the works was formalized later – at least by the time of St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century – the importance of performing these duties was emphasized from the earliest days of the Church. They do, in fact, stem from living according to Christ’s declaration of the two highest commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… (and) You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Fulfilling both the spiritual and corporal works of mercy fits hand in hand with loving God and your neighbor.

What are these Works of Mercy? There are fourteen of them, beginning with the seven corporal works, which relate to the needs of the body: Feed the Hungry; Give Drink to the Thirsty; Clothe the Naked; Visit the Imprisoned; Shelter the Homeless; Visit the Sick; and Bury the Dead. There are also seven spiritual works, those actions that feed the soul: Counsel the Doubtful; Instruct the Ignorant; Admonish Sinners; Comfort the Afflicted; Forgive Offenses; Bear Wrongs Patiently; and Pray for the Living and the Dead.

As Lent approaches, instead of “giving up” something, we are being asked, in a spirit of grateful giving, to DO something, something that conforms to one of those works of mercy. For example, instead of giving up chocolate, you could pray daily for those who are suffering with cancer, or visit the lonely in nursing homes. Instead of giving up television, you could take some time to figure out what your gifts are and then find a church ministry that would appreciate your time and talent.

Grateful giving is not just about being a good steward of our money. It is about being a good steward of everything God has given us, including time and talent, and giving back to Him in gratitude.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

True Christian Love

As we approach Valentine’s Day, our thoughts and hearts turn to love. People often use the word love casually in everyday conversation: "I love this weather.” “I love football.” “I love chocolate." Love can be defined in many different ways. As Christians, we have a somewhat unusual definition of love based on the example of supreme love we find in Jesus.

The Bible indicates that love is from God. In the 1st letter of John, we are told that “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) If God is love, and we are made in the image and likeness of God, then we are capable of loving in a Christian way.

Greek, the language of the New Testament, uses different words to describe and define love. The most commonly used Greek word translated love in the New Testament is agape. This is the kind of love God has for us: it is a non-partial, sacrificial love, best described in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The gift of God's Son as a sacrifice for sin was for all humans, regardless of who we are, that we might live with Him for eternity.

The term agape is rarely used in ancient manuscripts, but was used by the early Christians to refer to God’s love for humanity, which they were committed to reciprocating and practicing toward God and within their community.

Love in the secular world is usually conditional and based on how other people behave toward us. Agape love, on the other hand, goes deeper: It requires a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; it gives and sacrifices, expecting nothing back in return.

Perhaps the best-known biblical chapter on love is 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…”

This is a description of agape love. The description perfectly fits God's love toward us, and should be the way we love each other and God.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blood and the Greatest Commandment

Did you know that blood is mentioned over 400 times in the Bible? And that, in the days of the Old Testament, to simply touch something that a bleeding person had touched made you ritually unclean? The topic of blood rarely comes up in normal conversation these days, except perhaps in discussions about the recent release of a vampire book, or movie! Vampires aside, many world religions share the belief that the spirit of an animal or person resides in its blood. Because of that belief, in late twentieth-century Zaire, people objected to blood transfusions because it meant “putting your spirit into another spirit.” This was turned around in other cultures, which held that if blood contained the life force, then drinking it or mixing it with one’s own blood might convey the special qualities of that being, like the strength of a lion or the compassion of a respected person.

This is not unlike the Eucharist we share. As Catholics, we understand that Jesus instructed us, over and over again, to eat His Body and drink His Blood in order to have His life in us. He also directed us to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, which is why Risen Savior sponsors a Blood Drive every year. This annual event is our Love Your Neighbor initiative for February. It is in memory of one of our priests, Father Edward Rivera, who, as he was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, required blood transfusions, prompting the Risen Savior Community to give blood. The Blood Drive is on Sunday, February 20th in the Youth Center, and you can sign up for your appointment on Risen Savior’s web site.

One blood donation by one donor can save the lives of up to three patients. In today’s world, physicians and medical personnel have determined that nine out of ten people who live to age 70 will require a blood transfusion at some point – that person could be you or a loved one.

The act of donating blood is similar to that of tithing. Because donors can give only 10% of their blood, it is a ‘Good Samaritan’ act of “tithing our blood.” Giving blood is a simple Christian act of caring for others that doesn’t cost us anything more than a little time to give others a lifetime. We see it from a Christian point of view: Jesus gave His lifeblood for me and, out of gratitude, I share mine with others.