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, May 31, 2012

Church and Politics

The word politics and the word church both relate to people. Politics comes from a Greek word meaning “of, for, or relating to citizens” and is applied to running a government and state business. Church, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “the liturgical assembly,” including “the whole universal community of believers.”  Should the two be mixed? 

As Americans, we respect the First Amendment of the Constitution which says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…"  The difficulty for followers of Christ has to do with dual citizenship.  We are simultaneously citizens of heaven as well as citizens of an earthly nation.  This also means dual allegiance. We must be loyal to God but also have a duty to the State.  How do we balance that?  To whom do we owe obedience?  What happens when God and the State are not in agreement?  How do we, as Christians, follow the law of the land and remain true to our Christian convictions?

Even the temple leaders in the first century struggled with this dilemma.  This is evident in the trap the Pharisees set for Jesus regarding his stand on payment of the census tax.  The question they pose is intended to force Jesus to take either a position contrary to that held by the majority of the people, especially those not even considered Roman citizens, or one that will bring him into conflict with the Roman authorities.  Jesus shows in his response that he is not concerned with the popular vote nor Roman law.  His response is "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."  In other words, those living in country or empire should support the good work of the government but a larger concern is God’s expectation that we follow the Greatest Commandment and love our neighbor by acting for the common good.

But how do we distinguish what belongs to Caesar – the government – and what belongs to God’s realm?  The answer is found through education, formation, reflection and especially through forming our consciences with the light of the gospel.  The Catechism says that, “When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.”  It also says that “The education of the conscience is a lifelong task.”  This involves faith and prayer and opening ourselves to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the witness or advice of others, and the authoritative teaching of the Church.  As election time approaches, more information will come to you via the bulletin, newsletters, and the 3-Minute Catechesis to help all of us make informed decisions, based on our Catholic values, which promote the common good.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Role of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the last of the Persons of the Trinity to be revealed.  St. Gregory, writing in the 4th century, explained how this revelation unfolded: “The Old Testament proclaimed the Father clearly, but the Son more obscurely.  The New Testament revealed the Son and gave us a glimpse of the divinity of the Spirit.  Now the Spirit dwells among us and grants us a clearer vision of Himself.”
The fact that the Holy Spirit is God – consubstantial, with the Father and the Son – took time to be recognized and proclaimed. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is hidden but is at work.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that, “When the Church reads the Old Testament, she searches for what the Spirit, ‘who has spoken through the prophets,’ wants to tell us about Christ.”  Both the Hebrew word and the Greek word for the Spirit originally meant “breath” or “air” or “wind.”  This is why the Spirit was understood to be the source of inspiration, life, and movement within God’s people.
The Gospels show us the dynamic action of the Holy Spirit.  “By the power of the Holy Spirit,” Jesus is conceived by Mary.  It is the Spirit, in the form of a dove, who appears at Jesus’ baptism and, after His baptism, prompts Jesus to go into the desert to face temptation before He begins his public life.
Even though the Holy Spirit is the last Person of the Trinity to be revealed, the Spirit has been, from the very beginning, a part of the plan of salvation.  The Catechism tells us that “When the Father sends his Word” – Jesus – “He always sends his Breath” – the Spirit.  “In their joint mission, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable.”
The Holy Spirit continues to give us knowledge of God, living and active in the Church.  The Catechism says that we sense His presence in several ways: when we read and study Scripture; when we allow ourselves to be motivated to holiness by the examples of the saints; when we abide by the teachings of the Magisterium; when we participate in Mass and receive the sacraments; when we pray; when we engage in service and missionary efforts; when we recognize our gifts and the gifts of others that can be used to build the Church; and when we contemplate the Tradition and history of the Church.
It is the mission of the Holy Spirit to help us draw near to God.  When the Holy Spirit is present and active in our lives, we experience the presence of God.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Ascension and Resurrection of the Body

Before His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus spent 40 days on earth, preparing his apostles for their mission.  In the story of the Emmaus journey, two of the disciples walk with Jesus but do not initially recognize Him.  Why is this?  Did His resurrected body really look that different?
The resurrection of the body has been doctrine for Christians for 2000 years.  In the Apostles’ Creed, we state that we believe in “the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.”  We say the words, but when it comes to the afterlife, do we really believe in the resurrection of our bodies?  Or do we believe that only our souls count?
The idea that the physical world is bad and only the spiritual is good is a heresy.  This mistaken teaching is one that church leaders have tried to eliminate from Christianity from its earliest days.
It is easy to understand why the elderly and sick look toward an eternity without a body that has become a burden for them.  But we must remember that after death, God transforms our mortal bodies.  When will this happen?  As Catholics, we believe that immediately after death, a person’s soul goes through the particular judgment, and depending on the state of the person's soul, goes to heaven, purgatory, or hell.  The general judgment, also called the last judgment, will happen at the end of time.  Jesus, in Scripture, tells us that no one, except the Father, knows when this will happen.  When it does, Christ will come in His glory and each person who has ever lived will be judged with perfect justice.  This is when the resurrection of the dead and the reuniting of people's souls with their physical bodies will occur, and those in heaven will remain in heaven; those in hell will remain in hell; and those in purgatory will be welcomed into heaven.
The sight of zombies roaming the earth in their corrupted bodies makes for entertaining books and movies, but for Christians, that is fiction.  The book of Romans tells us that once the Kingdom of God arrives in its fullness, “Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay.”  And the Catechism says that, “By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul.  Just as Christ is risen and lives for ever, so all of us will rise at the last day.”  We don’t know how God will accomplish this, but in faith, we know He will.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Blessed Mother Teresa

The primary definition of “mother” is “a female parent,” but “mother” can be an affectionate term for any woman who acts in the place of a female parent, even if there are no biological or legal ties.  As we take time today to honor the mothers in our lives, including Mary, the Mother of God, we look at a woman who inspires us to truly live as disciples of Jesus.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born in 1910 in the country of Albania, directly east from Italy’s boot heel, across the Adriatic Sea.  The Vatican website quotes Mother Teresa as saying, “By blood, I am Albanian.  By citizenship, an Indian.  By faith, I am a Catholic nun.  As to my calling, I belong to the world.  As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
Mother Teresa was the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which now has over 4500 sisters in 133 countries.  Members of the order take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and a fourth vow:  to give "wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor."  For over 45 years, she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity as they expanded throughout India and beyond.
As the recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa refused the banquet given to winners, and asked that the almost 200 thousand dollars in funds be given to the poor in India.  When asked, "What can we do to promote world peace?" she answered "Go home and love your family."  Her many other awards include the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize, the Albert Schweitzer International Prize, and, from the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
During her lifetime, Mother Teresa’s name was often included in lists of “Most Admired Women.”  After her death in 1997, she was ranked first in the Gallup Poll's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.  Even before Risen Savior’s youth building was finished and dedicated in 1998, the youth of this parish so admired this inspirational woman that they voted to name the building the Mother Teresa Youth Center.  She was beatified by Pope John Paul II and given the title "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta."
Mother Teresa singled out abortion as “the greatest destroyer of peace in the world.”  To that end, Risen Savior has begun a new Dignity of Life Ministry and supports Birthright, an organization that  helps women choose life for their unborn children.  As you honor your mother today, also remember all of those holy women like Mother Teresa who guide us in our Catholic Faith.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

St. Irenaeus, A Father of the Church

The feast of St. Irenaeus (pronounced “ear-uh-NAY-us”) is celebrated in the summer. The first teachers of Christianity are collectively spoken of as "the Fathers,” and Irenaeus was one of the first Fathers of the Church. It is the extraordinary writings of this man that earned him a place of honor, works which laid the foundations of Christian theology and kept the young Catholic faith from the corruption of heresy.

Irenaeus was born around the year 125, in one of the maritime provinces of Asia Minor, in present-day Turkey. This is an area where the memory of the Apostles was strong and where Christians were already numerous. Irenaeus had the privilege of sitting at the feet of men who had known the Apostles. Of these, the one who made the deepest impression on him was St. Polycarp, a direct pupil of the apostle John. All through his life, Irenaeus told a friend, he could recall every detail of Polycarp's appearance, his voice, and the very words he used when telling what he had heard from John the Evangelist and others who had seen Jesus.

Irenaeus was sent to Gaul, modern-day France, to serve as a priest, and he eventually became a bishop.

The spread of a heresy known as Gnosticism led Irenaeus to thoroughly examine Gnostic doctrine. Gnosticism taught that the creator of the world of matter, the God of the Old Testament, was dark and brutal and was separate from the pure and spiritual God of light, depicted in the New Testament, from whom Jesus emanated. It taught that Jesus only appeared to be born and die, because He never would have allowed Himself to be contaminated by taking on human flesh. The Gnostic movement, with its denial of Christ's humanity, was problematic to the Church in one form or another for several centuries.

Irenaeus’ five-book discourse, Against Heresies, talks about the rebellious sects and the doctrines they promoted. Irenaeus utilized a systematic method of disputing heresies, ultimately contrasting them with the words of Scripture and the teachings of the Apostles. Above all, he cited the authoritative tradition of the Church of Rome, handed down from Peter and Paul through an unbroken succession of bishops. His books, written in Greek and quickly translated into Latin, were widely circulated, and from this time on, Gnosticism was no longer considered a serious threat.
While St. Irenaeus died around the year 203, his writings were used to dispute heretical teaching for many years after his death, earning him the title of “Church Father.”

The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity

When we enter the church, we dip the fingers of our right hand into the holy water font and bless ourselves “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” as we make the Sign of the Cross.  We end by saying “Amen,” a word which expresses hearty approval: “I believe.”  What we are doing then and every time we make the Sign of the Cross is affirming our belief in the Trinity.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of the Christian life.”  God reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This doctrine teaches that God exists in the co-equal persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who share a fully divine essence or being.
Where did this concept come from?  The doctrine of the Trinity was described by great theologians, like Augustine and Athanasius who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries.  These Church fathers explained the concept, but they did not create or invent it.  Even though the word Trinity cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, Church theologians discovered the doctrine of the Trinity in their reading of the New Testament.  There are several passages which illustrate this.  One example is found in the Gospel of Matthew.  At the baptism of Jesus, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were present as soon as Jesus emerged from the water: "…he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’"  Peter begins his first epistle by saying that the people of God have been chosen according to “the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification by the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ.”  It is clear from this verse that each person of the Trinity has a role in the world:  the Father chooses, the Spirit sanctifies, and Jesus redeems people with His blood shed on the cross.
St. Patrick famously described the Trinity to the people of Ireland by using the analogy of the 3-leaf clover.  Each leaf on the plant appears whole and independent, but they are indivisibly part of a single stem.  This explanation helped the people develop a basic understanding of this mystery.
Understanding of and believing in the doctrine of the Trinity may be difficult but it is a truth of our Faith.  Our response, as followers of Christ, is to look at this revealed truth through the eyes of faith, and say “Amen.”