By Fr. Daniel E. Doctor:
Thank a Priest
Today let us recognize the greatness of God’s generous gift to His people when He instituted this Sacrament of Holy Orders.
So when you see a priest, even if you don’t like him, thank him for his service to the priesthood of Jesus Christ,which saves your soul. St. John Vianney, the great Cure of Ars, the Patron Saint of Priests, wrote some things about the priesthood which is very timely and appropriate for us to hear. He wrote:
“What is the priest? A priest is a man who holds the place of God, a man clothed with all the powers of God. Go, Our Lord said to the priest, as my Father has sent me, so I also send you.
At the consecration the priest does not say, This is the Body of our Lord. He says, This is my body.
At the sight of the spire (or the steeple) you may say, What is there? The body of our Lord – Why is it there? Because a priest has been there and has said Holy Mass. The priest is everything, after God!”
Did you hear what this great Patron Saint of priests said? The priest is everything, after God!!
But St. John continues with a even more keen insight especially relating to our day and time in history. He said:
“When men want to destroy religion they begin by attacking the priest, because where the priest is no more, there is no more sacrifice of the Mass, and where there is no sacrifice, there is no more religion. The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. When you see the priest think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So after hearing these words on how without the priesthood there is no Catholic Faith, and that only a person who is incredibly evil would ever gossip about, conspire against, or even think (let alone) carry out an attack on a priest’s good name or reputation, or even think, as a lay person, that they would have a right to tell their priest anything about their vocation or how it should be lived. And then when we look at this diocese and see an ever increasing lack of priests. I don’t think those of you who are unhappy with the priests you have fully understand that those of you who wish to practice the faith in the next few years may not be able to find a priest for miles, because you’re sure not going to find one here because there won’t be any
And with that in mind, let us wholeheartedly pray.
“O Lord, may your people come to understand the gift they have in the priests that You, Yourself have sent them and may they come to show them the respect they deserve for being and acting in person of your Son by always treating your priests with the same love and care in which we would hope they would treat your Son.” Amen.
Have we had Enough?
By Fr. Daniel E. Doctor:
Speaking out of turn. We all do it. Remember when the Spirit of God came down on certain individual Israelites that were chosen to help Moses lead the people. One of Moses’ aids, Joshua is amazed by all of this and speaks out of turn saying that it was an insult to Moses that others now have the Spirit of God like he does – But Moses responds; “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow His Spirit on them all!”
These prophetic words of Moses have come true in our day and time for God has bestowed His Spirit on us by the power of the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. We, the baptized and confirmed, are now God’s prophets in this world and in this age. All of us are prophets of the Good News of salvation. Now, all of us, are
Fr. Daniel E. Doctor
bestowed with His Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life.
So, what is a prophet?
“A prophet is a person who is regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of God’s will;” So that means we need to get to work learning our faith so we can teach it and praying daily so we live it. A prophet is one who:
- “advocates or speaks for God”
- “has the ability to see the course of human behavior and how it is pleasing or displeasing to God”
- “calls back those who have become lost in sin and selfishness.”
This is the work of all the baptized not only those who are priests and religious.
A prophet is also a witness that is a person who displays their own discomfort or distress in the way things are going in the culture and in the world. A prophetic witness is one who suffers for righteousness, for things to be better and gives voice to their discontentment, their restlessness with the way things currently are.
It is important for the prophet to remember when things get rough that suffering and even martyrdom is the prophet’s lot in life. Speaking the word of God has good and bad consequences. The good consequence is conversion from sin and a greater holiness among the people of God. The bad consequence is from those who revolt against God and His prophets by lies, detraction, gossip, backbiting, slander, calumny and even murder.
Now as Christians, as prophetic witnesses of God to a world and culture whose behaviors have become increasingly anti-God, Pope Francis in his new encyclical, is asking us to take a firm stance against this culture of atheism and individualism that has permeated every aspect of our lives – as well as the widespread mentality of our “throw away culture.”
When we violate human dignity, treat others without respect, as well as violate their God-given rights – and treat them for our own immoral means we do evil. When we protect human dignity and serve the rights of all we do good.
And therein lies one of today’s many American ironies. We now live in a society that speaks about protecting the environment, Global warming, and rescuing species on the brink of extinction – all good things. But then we tolerate the mass killing of the over 53 million unborn children and contemplate the killing of the sick and elderly in the name of their own “dignity. We continue to disregard our young people and their future, leaving them a legacy of broken homes, destroyed relationships, poverty, addiction, unemployment, suicide and shattered dreams for their future.
This culture of indifference is born from the fact that most in our world are neo-pagans. Why would I say that? Because most of us know more about the world and the culture than we do the teachings of the Church or the Bible.
This new kind of paganism rejects the use scripture, the Catechism, or even God’s inspiration to make choices in our lives. Instead we use the media, Hollywood, dumb luck, or “our own evil passions” as St. James put it, as the sources to legitimize our actions.
And so as Pope Francis explained, “we lose hope, choosing to live self-absorbed, self-centered lives. To live by one’s own passions and throwing aside those who we think have no value to us….we destroy hope.”
“We have had enough.”
We need to state definitively, that as Catholics, we will not allow or be partakers of these evils. Or, as Pope Francis has boldly stated it in his encyclical; “We have had enough.”
We are not just going to stand by and watch our love ones become victims of someone’s political agenda (OR) stand by and watch the beloved teachings, that good and courageous Catholics sacrificed their lives for, become watered-down, lifeless, irrelevant . . . a thing of the past. (OR) throw away our children, our youth, our elderly as worthless disposable problems.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, the new Perfect on Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments, put it this way during his keynote address to the World gathering of Families in Philadelphia, “Even members of the Church can be tempted to soften Christ’s teaching on marriage and the family, to varying degrees, the idea would consist in placing the Magisterium in a pretty box and separating it from pastoral practice.”
We, as Christ’s prophetic witnesses, need to know the Truth if we ever hope to live it. “The world today needs saints with heroic witness to defend and nurture the family,” stated Cardinal Sarah, “by opening ourselves to God’s grace and His Holy Spirit living in us, our homes and families.”
As Pope Francis reminded the Bishops of the United States, just a few days ago, “This kind of witness is a beacon whose light can reassure men and women sailing through the dark clouds of life that a sure haven awaits them, that they will not crash on the reefs or be overwhelmed by the waves.”
Therefore, we need to be that strong “light to the world” because as Pope Francis warned us, “the light of Christ is flickering.”
So, we need to get serious about our spiritual life – like the prophets and saints of old. How?
- Family Prayer,
- reception of Holy Communion more that once a week,
- frequent confessions,
- Eucharistic Adoration, (most especially at night),
- daily rosary in hands
PLEASE REWORD These are our Catholic weapons! That’s right, weapons! They are the means to destroy this world of evil, this culture of death and indifference. They are the means to make Saints of all of us. They are the means to strengthen and protect us in this mortal combat, that we find ourselves in, for our souls.
We are called to be Prophetic Christian Soldiers. . .
We are called to “see and hear” so let us wake up to the truth of the matter that we are called to be prophetic Christian Soldiers. Let us take our rightful place on the battlefield of life, next to Christ our Lord…our King…and His Bride, Our Mother the Church. We need to become again the ever-victorious Church Militant!
We need to get fired up about our Catholic Faith to be joyful because we are greatly loved. And, as Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati said, “I have nothing to fear, I have Jesus with me.”
These fearless words of a Saint in the midst of the battles and struggles of life give us courage to follow this loving God with our whole hearts, minds, and souls these words should give us Life…and invincible hope in His promises.
Therefore, one of those ways we prove our metal as Christians is how we live. So live like a heroic Catholic! Let us put an end to the evil we encounter by living the Christian virtue of charity…by truly loving your neighbor. Be a courageous prophetic witness who fearlessly turns your life over to this everlasting Father of incredible love and radical mercy, who wants nothing more than to fill us, His children with His very Spirit of Life, because His Son gave His life for you.
The Danger of “Using Secular and Cultural Forms of Knowledge to
Guide our Lives Instead of the Bible or the Teachings of the Church”
By Father Daniel E. Doctor:
Jesus was moved with pity when He saw the large crowd because “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Most of us are not shepherds, or have not been around sheep. So, we have no way of knowing what sheep are like when there is no shepherd. First off, they are easily confused if they can’t find the shepherd. They scatter, they do not form one group, they are frightened, unsure. Sheep will eat all most anything and they get into everything. They follow anything that makes noise or any shiny thing that attracts them. They are easy prey for any predator because they like to
follow whatever leads them. They are one of the dumbest farm animals, which gets them into all kinds of trouble and danger. They have such a bond with their shepherd, that if He is gone for long the sheep can become sick and even die.
Are You Following the Good Shepherd?
Jesus sees us behaving the same way. We are confused and are scared easily. We don’t form a single group. We are easily distracted, behave foolishly, and can easily fall prey to sinful behaviors and evil influences.
Jesus understood that good and caring shepherds have been gone from Israel for too long. The sheep, His people Israel, are sick in their sin; unhealthy spiritually because of their immorality so much so some have become so sick in their evil behavior they are in danger of a spiritual death and are incapable of a good moral act. Christ, is the Chief Shepherd, and all who follow Him have life. When Christ, the Good Shepherd, is near, the sheep grow in holiness and develop in the virtues. They become healthy and holy. They bear much fruit. They love in word and deed. They worship in Spirit and in Truth.
Pope Francis, has a wonderful observation about our culture, in his new encyclical, Laudato Si, (“C”) “Nature is filled with words of love,” he said, “but how can we listen to them amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearance? Many people today sense a profound imbalance which drives them to frenetic activity and makes them feel busy, in a constant hurry which in turn leads them to ride rough-shod over everything around them”(p164/#224) be it morality or ethics, the environment, or other people. All who are members of Christ’s flock are to be like minded so we, like Christ, do not offer false philosophies (like relativism, individualism and materialism) as means to solve our world’s problems; or offer
different lifestyle (like living together outside of marriage, or same sex unions) to indulge our depraved human passions.
His Church is not a Democracy
We offer nothing that is contrary to our Lord or His teachings because we realize that Christ’s flock, His Church is not a democracy. The Good Shepherd is our monarch, our King, our Lord only His opinions, His behaviors, His teachings, His virtues matter to us. Therefore, Pope Francis, as a Good Shepherd too, directs us to “continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything” (p85/#113). Christ’s Church, passed down to us from the Apostles, followed the Divine Shepherd where He leads which is away from things that can harm us. “We, [the church],” says Pope Francis, “were not faithful to the treasures of wisdom which we have been called to protect and preserve”(p147/#200). We are so busy that we sometimes don’t fully think or understand – what we are doing is harmful, or immoral, or wrong. We just do, because we want to, without ever thinking of the consequences to ourselves or others, or the world around us.
This is how and why we are like sheep because we have rejected Christ and His ways of doing things. We use secular and cultural forms of knowledge to guide our lives instead of the bible –
or the teachings of the Church found in the Catechism. And in that, we prove to be much more “neo-pagans” than Roman Catholic. This “neo-pagan” cultural belief system no matter how conscious or unconscious leads us down the road to reject any and all objective truths about God, ourselves, our world, and our place in it.
The Church Needs to Get With the Times?
Pope Francis continued to explain this in his encyclical, “when we excluded God from our lives or replace Him with our own ego, [we then] think that our subjective feeling can define what is right or what is wrong.” Truly, the problem in our thinking arises when we think the Church, with all its moral laws is too controlling, backwards, or old fashion, and the Church does not relate to me and my everyday situation or my particular circumstances. The Church needs to get with the times, and adapt to the new ways of thinking.
G.K. Chesterton observed the truth of the matter when he wrote, “the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, (but that the Christian ideal) has been found difficult; and left untried.”
The really sad thing is, we Catholics go through life wondering what it would be like to be a Saint. We question, is it truly possible to become God’s holy sons and daughters in a way that is defined by His closest friends? This kind of a “grace filled life” is open to us but we have to choose it.
A Decision Must be Made
We have to make a definitive decision. We have to follow the Good Shepherd and His Vicar on earth, and admit to ourselves that we don’t know the way, and we have lied to ourselves for so long, we have become blind to the truth and its consequences. We have to admit that mortal and deadly sins exist and we are capable of committing them because of our inability to control ourselves. We have to admit that following after our own emotions and appetites has in the end made us more tired, and more hungry, and less joyful.
“These feelings of instability and uncertainty” said Pope Francis, while quoting St. Pope John Paul II, become, “a seed for collective selfishness.” Pope Francis explained, “when people become self-centered and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume.” This unchecked greed becomes an “addiction” or as Pope Francis observes, an obsession. “Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction,” because we have forgotten the simple truth that only God can fill the empty void and restlessness that is within us. Material objects, “things”, cannot replace or fulfill our relationship with God or the
others around us (p150/#204).
Haven’t we grown tired of living in a way that does not fulfill us, or bring us lasting happiness, or make us better people? Aren’t we tired of the guilt and the shame, being confused and afraid of what’s next? Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, prophetically stated in the 1920’s, “modern society is sinking into the sufferings caused by human passions and is moving away from every ideal of love and peace. As Catholics, we must bring that breath of goodness which can only come from faith in Christ.”
This means we have to choose Christ, because He is our Shepherd . . . we have to choose to have faith in Him, to trust Him and His ways, to love Him more than we fear of the world, follow Him more than the shiny material objects that capture and bind us in our hearts and souls. Pope Francis offers us some guidance, “we must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we
have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.” Therefore, He forcefully warns the world, “We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty” (p151/#205).
Christ Jesus, Our Lord, knows what is best for us. He created us and has given us good shepherds to help us on our way to finding His truth and His life. For in God alone, do our human desire and needs find completion. For we must imitate our shepherd Jesus Christ in all things until He is fully and perfectly formed in us. This is why, Pope Francis in his latest encyclical, has the courage to say, “Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on a new path to authentic freedom. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true, and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to His grace at work deep in our hearts” (ibid).
This is why I have always advocated for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration and even the construction of an Eucharistic Adoration Chapel at my previous parish . . . dedicated to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Because after 51 years of being a Catholic, 11 years of Catholic higher education and 9 years of priesthood, I have come to know, like Giorgio, and Pope Francis, as well as a whole host of other Saints, that the only thing that can truly help us (as individuals; as a parish; as well as citizens in this country) to truly grow deeper in our faith, the moral virtues, and Christian holiness (is and has always been) the daily reception of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion and Adoration of His Lasting presence, with us in this, the Sacrament of His Love.
As Pope Francis explained, “The Eucharist is the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life, an act of cosmic love” (p171/#236). Something we are called to be a part of…for Christ, our Good Shepherd, is present is this wonderful Sacrament, calling to us, searching for us, longing for us to accompany Him. For only God suffices. Only God loves us right through . . . and therefore, He is the only way, the only truth, that leads us, His sheep, to everlasting life.
Unveiled: The Vital Role of the Priesthood
By Fr. Daniel E. Doctor:
Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of two of the most important sacraments; the Holy Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. For without the Holy Eucharist we would have no priesthood and without the priesthood we would have no Holy Eucharist.
“Jesus Christ is the great High Priest who has passed through the heavens. Let us hold fast to our profession of faith. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness. But one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor and to find help in the time of need.” These are the words of the Letter to the Hebrews – these are the wo
Priesthood: God’s Gift to You
rds of faith and hope that were preached to these first followers of Christ by their priests.
This Great High Priest Jesus Christ has not left us and His Church alone but has provided for our spiritual well-being with His very self. Let us hold tightly to this teaching of the Apostles. Let us profess it with great devotion and love.
St. Paul tells us, “what I received from the Lord I also handed on to you … proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”
Our Lord was not a priest because He was begotten eternally of the Father … the Second Person of the Trinity. He was a priest because of the human nature He assumed and then offers on the Cross, as a priestly sacrifice with Himself as both the victim and as the One who offers the sacrifice. He does this out of love for us and our salvation.
Every priest is an alter Christus “another Christ” because he has a vertical relationship to Christ in heaven and a horizontal relationship to every person on earth. This then forms the cross of Christ in every priest. The priest is called by the Holy Spirit and has the responsibility, according to Church Teachings, to teach the Catholic faith. Not his own beliefs does he teach, but that of Christ, the High Priest as revealed and passed on to us in both Sacred Scripture and Tradition.
The priest is called to govern, to regulate, and to celebrate the sacraments with the same love that Christ instituted them. The priest is called to sanctify not only his own life but the lives of sinners and saints, to make holy all who come to him in their need of the Church’s Sacraments and God’s sanctifying graces. It is a very true statement that, to the point that others see Christ in His priests, depends on whether His priests act like Christ their Master …. The reason the priesthood has lost its influence in the world is because in many circumstances we, priests, don’t appear to the world as different from anyone else. It is in direct proportion in which the priest seeks what the world can give that the priest will become unable to give the world what it really needs most and that is Jesus Christ Himself.
Christ came to serve not to be served. And, through His priests He has assured that He will be able to do this here on earth until the end of time sanctifying us, teaching us, and governing us as though He had never left.
Just as the Eucharist Lord is pure gift of Himself so too is His priesthood by which the Eucharist remains with us. And what has been true is always true. God gives holy priests to holy people. So we all play our part in the kind of priests that we will have.
Through our prayers, devotions, penance, reverence, and worship of the Eucharist, by following the teachings of the faith we inspire young men to live their faith and in this way we truly ask God for good holy priests.
The Great Archbishop, Fulton Sheen said, “The search for priestly vocations begins on our knees in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament.”
We your priests need your prayers. We need your kind words of support, too. Three out of every four seminarians indicated that their mothers were a major inspiration in the development of their vocation, a major inspiration! We need to be good Catholic mothers and fathers who influence their children with more than just material successes.
Every priest realizes some time in his priesthood the words of Jesus, “You have not chosen me; but I have chosen you.” And, He has chosen His priests to go out and bear much fruit to offer the
Church’s Sacraments and to offer Her sacrifices for the salvation of souls; to absolve sinners from sin and to cast out evil; to lead sinners to Christ and in Him find salvation and peace for their souls; to preach and teach a Gospel that is firm, truthful and counter cultural that “comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”
Priests are meant to be instruments in the hands of Jesus Christ for the education, sanctification, and salvation of souls. For it is in the Consecration and Elevation of the Body and Blood of Christ at every Mass that the priest exercises fully the power of his priesthood.
Bishop Fulton Sheen continued, “Every woe, every wound in the world is ours as priests … every soul is either a potential convert or a potential saint. No priest is his own he belongs to Christ, to the Church, to his people.” There is a dangerous tendency among many of us in these modern times to divorce Christ from His priests.
But we must remember it is the priest’s unity with Christ’s death, His sacrifice on the cross, that gives all the sacraments their power. It is from the very side of our Savior that the Church and all her sacraments were born, including the priests who serve you.
St. Catherine of Siena taught that contained in the Sacred Heart of Jesus before His death was the Church, all of us, and His Sacraments. When His side was pierced so was His Sacred Heart, and flowing out from His wounded Heart came His bride, the Church, and all of us as her children. In one instant, “all we need was provided for us by so great a redeemer.”
But Christ’s lifeless body was dead on the cross Who would now bring these sacraments that He borne for us by His suffering and death? Who would go out in loving service to bring these sacramental graces to the world? to those in need of His grace, His healing?? Who would go out to all the world and provide these sacraments of Christ for His Bride?
“Do this in memory of me” has echoed through the centuries. Do these mystical things that Christ did that bring us life. Jesus says in the Holy Thursday’s Gospel, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” With these words the apostles were ordained His first priests, given the task of completing the work He started. A life of administering the sacraments, a life of preaching His Gospel, a life of being the new ministers of this new covenant. His Bishop’s/His Priest’s chosen to lead, to govern, to ordain to make holy all those who will come to them through the sacraments, He gave us, to give us this holy and abundant Life.
This is the vocation of every priest who is ordained by a bishop who follows in the apostolic linage back to Christ Jesus Himself that on this night, Christ being “fully aware” as the gospel tells us. He instituted the sacraments of the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist so that His sacramental graces would continue to flow from His side through His Church, first and foremost, for our for sanctification and resulting in the final act of our salvation.
This is what we celebrate on this holy of nights this is our faith as Catholics. That the night before He died; He left us two of His greatest gifts; Himself in the Blessed Sacrament and His sacred and royal priesthood to continue this unbloody sacrifice of the Mass in remembrance of Him for the remission of sins until He comes again in glory.
Remember “My Brothers and Sisters in
Christ, Heaven Comes with a Price.”
by Fr. Daniel E. Doctor:
Starting with Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, the beginning of Christ’s Paschal mystery – His death and Resurrection. This should be a day of great mystery and deep reflection as we contemplate the great things Christ did for us and our salvation.
Jesus humbly enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. He knows that many of the same people who welcome Him with great joy will in a few days being crying our for His crucifixion and death – but He also knows that He is doing His Father’s will and nothing will impede His faithful fulfilling of it.
It was not easy for Jesus to enter the place of His death but He did it with courage and confidence – with His head held high – because He knows His Father will ultimately save Him from evil men.
He bravely moves forward facing whatever lies ahead and we are no different from Jesus in this respect – we don’t know for sure what lies ahead in this life for us; it maybe illness, or major health or family problems, financial difficulties, uncertainties of all kinds. But Jesus is an example to us on how to move ahead and to bravely face whatever comes – knowing and trusting the Father is with us too.
Taking the Easy Road
Sure it is difficult to be strong and courageous in a world that is telling us to take the easy road and indulge our disordered appetites, immoral passions and self centered feelings….Sure it is difficult to be a good example of Christian values; to stand and defend life, liberty and marriage and then to be made fun of – or completely ignored – or considered irrelevant, irrational, and unreasonable because of them . . . . Sure it is difficult to stand against the culture of death that surrounds us and to stand for life unconditionally like the Church asks of us . . . . Sure if is difficult to have a moral conscience in a world that has lost its ability to know right from wrong or the courage to stand firm in its own moral convictions.
Sure it would be much easier if the Church would stop preaching against the tide of evil that is overwhelming us and our culture and just give in and give up and embrace sin and vice.
These are all excellent arguments, why the Church should compromise with the world and its evil; why the Church should give up and give in, go with the tide. But, the fact remains that, when it does – when the Church or . . . you or I . . . as its members chooses the world over what is right, good, or true – Christ is sadly betrayed again!!! Take a deep look at our 2000 year history as a Church – the Christians of the first through the fifth century – could not refuse to worship the Roman Emperor as a god. If they did – they were punished with death and martyrdom and even if their life was spared by some miracle – they would be ruined financially. Since this time – it has been the case century after century – that Christians had to made a real choice between material success and loyalty to Jesus Christ. But chose Christ anyway!!!
Remember the words of Jesus and let them sink into your hearts and give you hope – “If they did it to me – they will do it to you also.”
What a great gift this is that Christ’s gives to us – to allow us to suffer like Him – to imitate Him – to be abused by the world like our Savior was. How excellent a thing to be treated like the thousands of saints and martyrs that have gone before us – our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters in the faith – whose blood and example are the seeds for the future, fruitful, lasting growth of the Church. How wonderful a thing it is to be a Catholic – always be proud of it and learn it, live it, love it – it’s your salvation and the greatest joy in this life.
Heaven Comes with a Price
If we get right down to the heart of the matter, wouldn’t we rather stand for something – to become something real – to be holy? than to fall for everything that lacks any real lasting value? Don’t we want to gain a crown of glory and have eternal life with God? Well, my brothers and sisters in Christ – heaven comes with a price. It cost Christ everything to save us . . . . the reading of the Passion of Christ today – should show us just how important our salvation is to Jesus Christ and exactly what He did to obtain it.
Now, it is our turn to show Christ by our actions, prayers, and example to others – that His passion and death- does mean something to us.
Ascension of Jesus, Ascension Thursday
Fr. Daniel E. Doctor: We come to the liturgical celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. This is the second glorious mystery of the Holy Rosary and signifies not only Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, but also the triumphal ascent of our Lord to the right hand of the Father.
Of course, we affirm this every Sunday, in the Nicene Creed when we say – that Jesus Christ “ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father,” just like billions of Catholics have done for some 2000 years. But just because we affirm this week after week, year after year, it still remains a mystery of faith which we find hard to understand or even to explain.
So, how are we to make sense of this core mystery of our Catholic Faith? Most especially in the early 21st century? How are we even to understand what it means to be”at the right hand of God?” These are tough questions. But most of the time we ignore these spiritual realities or we are to busy to think of them or even to rectify them with the material world we daily live in.
Even some Catholics, accept this Dogma because they are not willing to reject something simple. Because they cannot explain it, they still tend to downplay it or ignore it, as a kind of embarrassment, in our post-modern Age as something more magical than real.
So what is so reasonable about this event? Why do we celebrate it? And what should it mean to you and me?
First of all we have to get back to our Jewish roots in terms of how we are to understand Heaven and Earth.
Whether we realize it or not, most of us, especially Americans, are heavily influenced by Greek philosophy. By this I mean we set up as Plato, the great Greek philosopher once taught, a sharp dichotomy between the material and the spiritual, between the realm of appearance and the realm of true reality, between subjective truth and objective reality, between this fleeting earth and the infinite heavens. To Plato and all of the hundreds of generations of thinkers he influenced, life here on earth is nothing but an illusion and that we have to try and escape from the prison of our bodily experiences our senses which keeps us prisoners to these illusions, trapped in our senses, never perceiving true reality – never knowing the Truth.
Many, many people have been influence by Plato’s philosophy in fact -everyone who thinks that spirituality is nothing more than a means to escape from this world – are Platonic in their thinking. People who think that when they die they will be forever free of their bodies in Heaven where they will become angels are Platonic in their thought. They are also wrong too to think that a human becomes an angel when they die, is the same as thinking that a frog becomes a human when they die. The point here is that this kind of dualistic thinking has more to do with Platonic thought, than it has to do with the revealed truth in the Bible. When we think about anthropology and cosmology from a biblical perspective we find a unity between the spiritual and material, that the spiritual flows into the material and the material responds and is elevated.
From a biblical perspective, Heaven or the spiritual realm is where God and Angels dwell. Earth, or the material realm, is where humanity and animals dwell. The two touched each other, they penetrated and influenced one another, and they are never separated.
This makes more sense when we think about the prayer taught to us by Christ the Our Father “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done; on earth as it is in Heaven.” You see, there is not a hint of Platonic thought here at all. If there were, we would say, “bring me to Thy kingdom; free me from this earth and bring me to heaven.”
The “Our Father” is rooted in Jewish thought that acknowledges the connection of the material and spiritual and that the spiritual must permeate the material and lift it up so that the two are more perfectly united. And of course this unity takes place in the Will of God and when we execute His Will here on Earth by living our Catholic Faith. But, this unity of the spiritual and material began with the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ. After Jesus died, He did not come back as a pure spirit. He rose embodied (in the flesh,) Incarnated perfect in the Spirit. Jesus died and united Heaven and Earth through His Divine Spiritual Nature and His Human Material Nature. What becomes the vehicle, the instrument for this unity is the very Body of Christ because Christ taught us nothing can separates us from Him. How does this instrument of our salvation work in and through us? this is described in the Acts of the Apostle when the Lord says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
With the Spirit of Christ in the flesh of the Apostles, and in the Church – and in our flesh too – through Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination we are empowered to bring Heaven to Earth and Earth to Heaven – because the God of Heaven and Earth is within us! But how could any of this be called real or even possible? or even truth? When we read in scriptures on this Solemnity, “as they (the apostles) were looking on, He (Christ) was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight,” In this, we realize that a real exchange did take place, that a little bit of Earth went into Heaven and during Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit descends, a little bit of Heaven will come down and remain on the Earth…in His mystical body in His Bride, in the Church in us!
Believing that this exchange really happened, beginning with the Ascension of the Lord, is not the belief of myth or being unreasonable. But it is the belief that there is a greater reality just beyond my limited perceptions. That I can come to understand, not to contradict, my conception of reality or of the material world, but to fill myself with ultimate happiness in the concept of a boundless realm of possibilities in the presence of God in and through me! We call this Heaven. And it is Heaven that we are made for!
This wonderful exchange between God and humanity began with Christ, in His Incarnation, through His Resurrection, by His Ascension to the Father UNTIL it finds its fulfillment in you when you proclaim the Good News, when you make beautiful, sacred music and art, when you carry out the spiritual and corporal acts of mercy, when you pray, and fast, and do penance for the conversion of sinners when you choose to fight instead of running away or remaining indifferent.
And of course when you accept the commission of the Angels to stop looking up to Heaven and get to work here on earth by bringing a little bit of Heaven -everywhere you go and to everyone you meet…
“Be Careful with the Precious Gift of Your Faith . . .
Believe in the Truth of the Gospel”
Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Fr. Daniel E. Doctor, December 1st – St. Paul takes up this theme that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will encourage and strengthen our hearts to perform every good work, even if that means we have to endure the slow martyrdom of our daily lives or the quick martyrdom of death.
Christ “will deliver us from perverse and wicked people,” and why do we need to be delivered? Because as St. Paul reminds us; “not all have faith.” This may shock you or it may not, but there are some who claim to be Christian that are nothing more that wolves in sheep’s clothing. Some who claim to be Catholic and are faithless, lazy, lukewarm – good for nothing but burning to paraphrase Jesus and these people want nothing more than the demolition of the Christian community and destruction of the male sacramental priesthood of Jesus Christ.
This evil has become so widespread into today’s culture that it has even infused itself onto the Church. Even we priests, have to be on guard against our brother priests who have lost the faith and who have become so inculturated with society’s evils to the point that it is questionable if they Catholic anymore.
I remember being at a retreat for young women, and the Mother Superior of the Convent, pleading with these young ladies to be careful when they go home.
She said, “you will need to find a good, holy, prayerful priest – who has the faith – to talk too.”
She continued, “Don’t trust any priest, and any priest will not do because all priests aren’t good or holy or prayerful
or even have the faith anymore – search for a good one when you get home.”
What great advice!! Advice we all need to start taking to heart!!
Times have changed and the Church has been infested by a whole host of sinful, corrupt, and evil clerics – be careful with the precious gift of your faith that God has given you – protect it, cherish it, and nourish it and don’t expose it to the evils of this world.
St. Paul instructed us that if we want to increase our faith, then we must “continue to love God and our neighbor and believe in the truth of the Gospel – then we need not fear anything – not even death because with Christ we can endure and overcome all things.” In the scriptures it says 365 times; “Do not be afraid.” Once for each day of the year – shouldn’t that give us courage to face each and every day regardless of the outcome.
With God’s grace – we can endure those people who hate us, we can endure those who want to kill us, even endure the painful search for what is real and true or endure the search for a good priest who still has the faith to leads us and can act like a fearless man of God.
Because God is the God of the living – He will watch over us, protect us, and leads us home to Himself as long as we are willing to remain faithful to Him even in the midst of persecution, suffering and even martyrdom.
We hear part of the story of seven wise, brave, young [Maccabes] brothers – who gave up their earthly lives to obtain a heavenly ones. May we too have the courage to be faithful – and in that courage – to truly live holy lives and to endure whatever God may send us for it is always for our greater good.
Fr. Daniel E. Doctor
By Fr. Daniel E. Doctor: Today is Respect Life Sunday. That means as Catholics we are to called to mind our Catholic Faith which teaches that all human life, from conception to natural death, is to be protected, cherished and loved as a wonderful, precious gift of God, the Lord of Life. We are also coming to the end of the Year of Faith, only about another two more months before the start of Advent and the new liturgical year. Also we are in the start of another 40 days for life campaign by the American Bishops to pray and fast for the protection and defense of all human life and the striking down of the HHS Mandate.
With all these attacks on Life, Liberty and Marriage; with our Catholic morality mocked, made fun of, and even ignored; with the destruction of individual decent moral conscience through the relativistic and materialistic world; with the culture of death we live in; with the government becoming more of a totalitarian state instead of a government of the people, by the people, for the people; and with all the many scandals and confusion over doctrine and liturgy within the Church, it can feel like a really bad time to be faithful, moral Catholic in the good old US of A.
At the very beginning of His new encyclical, The Light of Faith, Pope Francis reminds us of the Easter Candle blessed at the Easter Vigil celebrated each year – “those who believe, see: they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets.”
We can see in scriptures that when this light was not present – the world was full of darkness and sin. Humanity wandered in this absence of light, driven by blind emotion, unable to please God in any of its actions. Humanity’s future remained in the shadows and riddled with fear of the unknown.
The Holy Father explained, that in “the absence of light everything becomes confused. It is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destruction from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.” The Holy Father clearly asks us to recover this light of Christ in our lives because, as he warns; “there is an urgent need to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim. The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence.”
A light this powerful, a light capable of such guidance for the human intellect and will cannot come from any other source than from God. And so faith is born when we encounter this light, Who is Jesus Christ, alone.
Pope Francis clarifies that “all faith is born of an encounter of the living God who calls us and reveals His love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives.” He continues that once we are “transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens before us. Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time.”
We need to call this to mind and reflect on this wonderful gift of faith that God has given to us, because it can and will open before us “vast horizons” which guide us beyond personal isolation and societal fragmentation. Faith is a light in darkness and at this time in our human history Pope Francis clearly declares that, “mankind is in particular need of light.”
With God’s light, with this gift of faith, The Holy Father assures, “we realize that a great love has been offered to us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh,” the Holy Spirit who is the Lord and giver of life, “transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along the way on wings of hope.”
You see, we need not be worried about our salvation, we need not worry about the weak economy or our failing investments for the future. We need not worry about our sick violent world and how will our children develop into good people amidst this confusion and violence. But what our Holy Mother, the Church, is asking of us, Her Children – and it is all we need to do – all we have to do is have faith. Faith that is born from our many encounters with God in our prayer life, our virtuous life, and most especially in the Sacraments we celebrate.
What is God saying to you? What is He showing you? Because strong faith is born from hearing and seeing. It is in this interplay of faith, hope and love within the soul, mind and heart of a person that, as our Holy Father teaches, becomes the “driving force of a good Christian life as it advances us towards” our ultimate goal in life – total and “full communion with the God” we love.
There are some of the pitfalls we Catholics fall into and need to be on the look out for as we journey to union with God, Pope Francis warns us, comes from “our culture” which “has lost its sense of God’s tangible presence and activity in our world. We think that God is found in the beyond, on another level of reality, far removed for our everyday relationships.”
So our Holy Father calls for all Catholics, to “profess their faith in God’s tangible and powerful love which really does act in history and determines it final destiny; a love that can be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.” “Faith” Pope Francis explains, “does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus Himself sees them, with His own eyes; it is participation in His way of seeing.” As even St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians chapter 2, verse 8; “By grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your doing; it is the gift of God.”
So as we begin to see like Christ, we see how necessary it is to avoid the evils of this world, by keeping our eyes open to see this culture of death which has such a hold on it. This vision of the way things really are is meant to open us to this transforming love of God that calls out of this world of darkness into His own wonderful world of light.
The Holy Father presses us onward in our understanding of faith by saying, “faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion; it comes from hearing and seeing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed by our actions.” this is why the Holy Father proclaims; “for those who have been transformed in this way, a new way of seeing opens up, faith becomes light for their eyes.”
So if our Catholic faith is weak and we are not sure why the Church teaches respect for life from conception to natural death, and you find it hard to follow Her teaching on contraception, abortion, or euthanasia and the death penalty. If you have allowed the culture, the society and its constant push of “political correctness” and the acceptance of anything and anyone no matter how immoral, deprived, evil or sick and then calling that normal, tolerable, bearable and decent, then we should be able to see how blind we have become and far from God’s ways we have fallen.
Faith relies on the virtues of knowledge, truth and justice to uphold its principles. If our culture has moved to a point that knowledge is subjective, truth is relative, and justice is optional, it is no mystery why our faith, as Catholics, has surely been weakened and for many even destroyed.
Because our culture has moved in this direction, we can see its effects on us. As Catholics we have become lukewarm and mediocre in the practice of our faith. As Pope Francis appraises the current situation of our world, “when faith is weakened, the foundations of humanity also risk being weakened” and all we have to do is look around and see how right he is.
“If we remove faith in God for our cities,” Our Holy Father warns, “mutual trust would be weakened, we would remain united only by fear and our stability would be threatened.” Making himself clear, Pope Francis adds, only true faith in Jesus Christ, “illumines life and society.”
Faith “possesses a creative light for each new moment of history. It is because it sets every event in relationship to the origin and destiny of all things in God our Father.” The Holy Father continued, “the movement of love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit runs through our human history, and Christ draws us to Himself in order to save us.” He does that through our ability to hear and see so that He can inspire faith in us to see as He sees and act as He acts.
This is why we celebrate life and respect it, this is why we Catholics do and believe a whole lot of things that no one else does. Because in a real spiritual sense, we have had an eye transplant and we no longer see with our eyes but with His eyes of faith and that becomes the cause of all our joys in the midst of this world’s sorrows and the bright light – that morning star that never sets – but always leads us home.