A Hope that Gives Life

Posted on August 2, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The Kingdom of God in Our MidstFor Sunday, August 06, 2017
The Transfiguration of the Lord

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
2 Peter 1:16-19
Matthew 17:1-9

The death of Chester Bennington, lead singer for the popular group, Linkin Park, has stunned the music world. His alarming death by suicide follows that of another popular singer of his generation, Chris Cornell, who fronted the seminal grunge rock groups Soundgarden and Audioslave.

While such deaths have not been uncommon in the world of music, the suicides of the rich and famous shock us because we think they “have it all.” In fact, they only prove that success, money, fame, and power do not ultimately fulfill us and cannot shield us from life’s difficulties. (more…)

The Law within Us

Posted on May 31, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Midweek Reflection: The Law within UsFor Sunday, June 04, 2017
Pentecost Sunday

(Vigil Readings)

Genesis 11:1-9 or Exodus 19:3-8a, 16-20b or Ezekiel 37:1-14 or Joel 3:1-5
Romans 8:22-27
John 7:37-39

When we are children, we need our parents to watch over us. We haven’t learned yet that we’ll get burned if we touch the stove or that it’s dangerous to run into the street. As we grow older, though, we start learning how to protect ourselves and how to stay out of trouble. The discipline that our parents imposed on us, often against our will, eventually comes to be an almost automatic way of thinking and living for us. We absorb from our parents values and attitudes that will be with us for the rest of our lives. We know how true this is because so often we catch ourselves saying something to our children or grandchildren that our parents used to say to us. We internalize the messages we received from our parents and act on them as we mature.

When Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as a river of living water that flows from within a person in the Gospel reading for the vigil Mass, he is describing much the same reality. When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, then we have Jesus’ values and attitudes operating within us. We see things as he sees them. We begin to recognize him in the people we meet. We begin to understand that it is Jesus speaking to us when we read the Bible. Just as we absorb our parents’ attitudes and values by the discipline they imposed on us, so Jesus’ word begins to penetrate our hearts and minds through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we begin to change from within. (more…)

Someone to Stand by Us

Posted on May 17, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Midweek Reflection: Someone to Stand by UsFor Sunday, May 21, 2017,
6th Sunday of Easter

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 3:15-18
John 14:15-21

In difficult times, we all need someone to stand up for us and to be at our side. We all know how disappointed we feel when we are abandoned by our friends because of something someone may have said about us or something we may have done. We also know how encouraged we feel when someone has the courage to stand by us.

Jesus promises the apostles in today’s Gospel that he will never abandon them. He promises that, even though they will not see him, he will still be active among them. How does he plan to do that? Jesus tells the disciples that he will send them “another Advocate.” An advocate is someone who stands up for you, who pleads your case, who defends you against a prosecutor who has brought up charges against you. Jesus is the first advocate. He is our first defender. By offering his body on the cross, he took away the charge against us, serving the sentence in our place. Jesus is continuing to advocate for us in heaven. He is continuing to pray for us before the Father until the day we are finally with him in glory. (more…)

Breath of Life

Posted on March 28, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, April 02, 2017, 5th Sunday of Lent

Ezekiel 37:12-14
Romans 8:8-11
John 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

We are familiar with the story of how God created the first man, Adam. After forming him from clay, he blew into his nostrils the gift of life. This is different from the way God created any of the animals or any of the plants. By giving Adam his very breath, God was sharing his life with him. Breath is life. We are aware that someone is alive if he or she is breathing. To stop breathing—or to be unable to breathe—is to die.

The word “spirit” is closely related to the word for breath. We call breathing “respiration.” To stop breathing or to breathe out is to “expire.” Both of those words are related to the word for “spirit.” In this way we can understand the Holy Spirit to be the breath of God, the life of God. We have that life not only because we have been created by God, but also through the gift of faith. Through baptism and confirmation, in particular, God breathes the Holy Spirit into us. God shares with us his very life. (more…)

The Path of Our Choices

Posted on February 7, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, February 12, 2017, 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

We have all had the experience of telling what we thought was a harmless white lie. It may have been to spare another person’s feelings or simply to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. Later on, however, it turned out that we had to tell other lies to cover our tracks or that others discovered the truth on their own. As a result, feelings were hurt or a friendship was damaged. What we thought was a harmless lie ended up causing us needless anguish.

On the other hand, we have also had the experience of doing a good deed. We may have given someone a hand with a project or listened to a friend’s problems. At the time, it seemed like a small gesture. Then, months and sometimes years later, that person reminded us of our good deed and told us how much it meant. What we thought was a trivial act of kindness turned out to touch someone profoundly. (more…)

Pleased as Man with Men to Dwell, Jesus, Our Emmanuel

Posted on December 20, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, December 25, 2016, The Nativity of the Lord

God created the world out of nothing the power of his Word. He spoke and it came to be. He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. He caused the mountains to rise up from the sea. He filled the sea with fish and the land with animals. Finally, by the power of his Word, he created man and woman to be the crowning achievement of his great work. He created in us hearts to hear his word and mouths to proclaim it.

When he called Israel out from among the nations to be a people peculiarly his own, he sent them prophets to proclaim his word among them. Such was the prophet Isaiah who speaks to us in today’s first reading. He proclaimed to the people of Israel—and to us today—the good news of peace and salvation from God. Through the prophets, God promised Israel a mighty savior who would forgive them their sins and lead them in the ways of peace. Not only would this great Messiah lead Israel to freedom, but all the nations would witness the great power of God at work through this Savior. (more…)

The Gift of Time

Posted on November 22, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, November 27, 2016, 1st Sunday of Advent

Before a football team signs a new player, it spends hours scouting his performance on the field. The scouts want to see not only if he can make plays, but whether he works hard at practice and how willing he is to listen to the coach. Not only are the player’s skills important but also his character. And so, not only do they monitor his performance on the field, but they investigate what he does with his free time. When he is not at practice or at the game, is he studying and spending time with his family? Or is he going to parties and getting himself into trouble? (more…)

Choosing Hope over Fear

Posted on November 8, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, November 13, 2016, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

There are many unpleasant facts of life we try to avoid thinking or talking about. First among these is our own death. Our life is precious, and we cannot bear the thought of losing it. Nonetheless it is a reality that we need to be aware of and come to terms with. As unpleasant as it may be to think about, it is unavoidable.

Every year in November with the days growing darker and winter fast approaching, we as a church reflect upon some disturbing and sometimes terrifying realities—our death and the end of the world. (more…)

The Courage that We Need

Posted on November 1, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, November 6, 2016, 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

For about five years now, a new translation of the Mass has been implemented in parishes throughout the English-speaking world. It has been the most important change to the liturgy since it was first translated into English after the Second Vatican Council. The hope has been that by presenting a translation that is closer to the original Latin, we will gain a deeper understanding of the words we pray during Mass.

One of the interesting changes in wording that has taken place is to the Nicene Creed, which we pray together after the homily. The words “We believe” have been changed to (more…)

The Value of Religion

Posted on September 20, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, September 25, 2016, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

What contribution does the practice of religion make to our society?

Many would say that it provides a moral code that inspires people to look beyond themselves to the needs of others. Others might argue that faith provides meaning to those who might otherwise despair over the challenges of life. Still others might argue that faith does no good at all but only creates divisions that perpetuate strife and violence.

A new study seeks to put a price tag on the contribution of religion to the economy as a whole. It estimates that the goods and services provided by churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith-based communities totals 1.2 trillion dollars. Putting that staggering figure in perspective, Christopher White, in an article posted on
Crux, writes, “Impressively, this figure is more than the top ten tech companies combined—including Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Or, put in another perspective, if that figure was measured in GDP, U.S. religion would be the 15th largest national economy in the world.”

Faith-based charities provide an enormous service to those who would otherwise not be served by government programs. This would include not only congregations but faith-based institutions such as the Knights of Columbus whose nearly two million members provide relief to the poor members of their communities. It would also include parish-based groups such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which serves the poor after the example of their founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam.

On a larger scale, Catholic Charities provides disaster relief and resources to lift people out of poverty. Catholic schools educate children of all faiths, many of whom are poor, preparing them to be more productive citizens. Some twenty percent of all hospitals in the United States are Catholic Health Care Facilities reaching underserved communities and providing free services to those who would otherwise go without.

As people of faith, not only should we feel proud of the accomplishments of our brothers and sisters, we should also not be ashamed to tell the world about it. Though the tax exempt status of religious groups and nonprofits is always being challenged, we can confidently assert that society receives much more in goods and services from people of faith than it would if it were to tax our institutions out of existence.

Furthermore, when the government seeks to force groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor to use their resources to fight off burdens to their religious liberty such as the HHS mandate, it diverts time, energy, and money that could be better used to assist those who are suffering.

As Pope Francis reminds us, “The Church is not an NGO.” Our ultimate value is not in the goods and services we provide but in our witness to Jesus Christ. All the good works that flow from faith are a response to Jesus’ call to serve the poor, as we hear in today’s readings. Though we might be able to put a dollar value on the goods and services provided by people of faith, the witness to the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ is beyond measure.?

Douglas Sousa, STL

PRAYER

Lord God,
we marvel at your goodness and generosity.
You provide us with this vast universe
and all its wonders.
Just as you have provided for us
you call us to provide for one another.
May we ever be mindful of those who go without,
especially those at our doorstep.
May our desire for comfort
never keep us from comforting others.
May our search for riches
never make us impoverish them.
But keep our arms free to embrace the poor
and our hearts open to loving them
as you have loved us.
Through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

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