Sunday, November 23, 2014
All we do as the People of God centers round the Pascal Mystery – the Life, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our rhythm of celebrating the Pascal Mystery occurs in three clocks: daily in the Liturgy of the Hours, weekly on the Lord’s Day, and annually in the Liturgical Year.
By recalling the mysteries of our redemption in this way, the Church opens us to the riches of her Lord’s powers and merits, so that they are made present to us. It’s as if the Pascal Mystery is too much for us to take in all at once, and we need to break it into bite-sized pieces.
Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent and ending with the Feast of Christ the King the Church celebrates the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The year itself is broken down into three distinct periods.
The first of these periods is Advent and Christmas. We anticipate, then celebrate God coming into human history. The second period is Lent and Easter where we enter into the events that led up to Jesus’ death and then celebrate his resurrection and ascension into heaven. The final period we call “Ordinary” Time, but there’s nothing ordinary about it. The word “ordinary” comes from the word “ordinal,” which is how the weeks are numbered: first, second, third, etc.
Each of these seasons have a different feel to them and we can recognize the change of season by the different color vestments the clergy wear as well as the colors of our banners and altar decorations.
The use of colors to differentiate the liturgical seasons became a common practice about the fourth century. Today, four colors are used to express the emotions and ideas that are associated with each of the seasons of the liturgical year.
Purple is the ancient royal color and is a sign of repentence. We wear it during Advent and Lent.
White reminds us of the brightness of day and that Jesus is the Light of the World. We wear it during the Christmas and Easter seasons as well as for the great feasts of the year.
Red evokes the color of blood, and is the color of martyrs and Christ’s death on the cross. It is also worn on the feasts of the Apostles.
And the rest of the year, when we’re counting out our Ordinal Time? We wear green which represents living things and the promise of new life.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Most of us are aware that we cannot celebrate Mass without a priest. While this no doubt makes our priests feel needed, it can have the unfortunate side effect of leading some of faithful to think that Mass is something that the priest “does” for the rest of the Church. In reality, the Mass is something that we all do together. A priest is here to lead the community, but they need you to worship with, too.
The first part of the Roman Missal, the big red book which contains the prayers we use at Mass, is called the “General Instructions.” It says that “the celebration of the Eucharist is an action of the whole Church,” all of us. It goes on to say that “this people nevertheless grows in holiness by its conscious, active, and fruitful participation” in the
The Second Vatican Council called everyone who gathers for Mass; be it priest, deacon or the lay faithful, to “full, conscious, and active participation.” As a matter of fact, the world’s bishops said that this was to be the, “aim to be considered before all else,” in our celebration of the
The bishops were so concerned about this
because they recognized that this kind of participation “is the primary and
indispensable source from which [we] are to derive the true Christian
spirit.” It is by our taking part in the
offering of the Mass that we are to become more and more like Christ. It is our primary path to holiness. Mass.
The Council fathers insisted that our participation in Mass is both a right and a duty by reason of our baptism, because through baptism, to quote St. Peter, we have become “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” We all share in the priesthood of Christ; you as the royal priesthood and the priest in the ministerial priesthood, and it is Christ who offers his sacrifice to the Father whenever we, all of us, celebrate the Mass. The priest is the Presider of the Mass; but we are all the celebrants.
Sometimes we may think that our presence or our participation doesn’t much matter. But each one of us is important to the celebration of the liturgy. We each have a job to do that no one else can do for us. Only together can we offer God proper worship.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Angels are in. Angels are hot. Images of winged creatures are appearing on greeting cards, gift wrap, pins, pendants, book covers and bumper stickers. Manufacturers and merchants are cashing in on the public's renewed interest in these celestial beings, but how much of what is being said, written and illustrated is fact? And how much is fiction?
Here's what the Church teaches.
Angels are real. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 328-336) teaches us that God created the spiritual, bodiless beings we call angels. The Church bases this teaching on both Scripture and Tradition. Each angel has intelligence and will, and each is a personal and immortal creature. In other words, each heavenly angel is a unique being who has chosen to love and serve God, its Creator. It is a being who will never die.
Angels are different from humans. Angels are 100 percent spirit; humans are both spirit and body. A human’s soul is immortal, but our body is not. At death our soul leaves our bodies, but just because we don’t have a body for a while, it doesn’t mean we become angels. We will receive glorified bodies at the end of time when Jesus comes again. The angels are and always will be spirits with no bodies.
Just like us, angels are capable of temptation. We know, as the Catechism teaches us, that some angels turned away from God – they sinned. We don’t know exactly what they did wrong, but their “fall” was a result of their rejection of God and His reign. We also know that since the beginning of humans’ time on earth, the devil, a fallen angel, has encouraged us to also reject God.
Throughout our lives God's angels are there to offer care and intercession. St. Basil the Great (who died in A.D. 379) said, "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life." Many of us grew up praying to our Guardian Angel for protection and Catholic school children were taught to scoot over in their seats to make room for their guardian angels.
The word “angel” comes from a Greek word meaning “messenger.” The word doesn't describe what these beings are, but what they do. They deliver.
The current craze fueling the angel marketing bonanza may fizzle out before too long, but it's a safe bet that angels are going to be around for a long, long time. They are, after all, immortal.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
The Catholic Church encourages everyone who can vote to vote. The Church does not say for whom to vote but it does tell us how.
How are we to vote? Unlike some Congregational Churches that are handing out sample ballots marked with the candidates they suggest you vote for, the church calls us to use an informed conscience. We are called to look past the flyers that are in our mailboxes each morning and the ads that fill our television hours in the evening. We are called to read and research, listen and think, and to make up our own minds.
We are a nation founded on "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," but the right to life itself is not fully protected, not for the unborn, not for the elderly, not for prisoners. We are called to be peacemakers in a nation at war. We are a country pledged to pursue "liberty and justice for all," but we are too often divided across lines of race, ethnicity, and economic inequality. We are a nation of immigrants, struggling to address the challenges of many new immigrants in our midst. We are a society built on the strength of our families, called to defend marriage and offer moral and economic supports for family life. We are a powerful nation in a violent world, confronting terror and trying to build a safer, more just, more peaceful world. We are an affluent society where too many live in poverty and lack health care and other necessities of life. We are part of a global community facing urgent threats to the environment that must sustain not only us but also the generations to follow.
These challenges are at the heart of the pursuit of the common good. And these are the challenges that we face when we begin to consider how to use our vote.
Our faith teaches that we have an obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of our society. We are our brothers’ keepers, and our neighbor is everyone we encounter.
Some may question whether it is appropriate for the Church to play a role in political life. But the obligation to teach about moral values that shape our lives, including our public lives, is central to the mission given us by Jesus Christ.
Inform your conscience. Cast your vote. Make a difference.