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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fourth Sunday (Good Shepherd) of Easter

April 25, 2010

Many people in the world are now looking at the spiritual shepherds of the Catholic Church and concluding that some have not been caring, protective shepherds to the flock. The sexual abuse scandal and its subsequent response by bishops are not isolated to the U.S. as some thought. Since last fall, three Irish bishops have resigned; a Belgian and a German bishop just offered their resignation and some suggest that others throughout the world should probably follow suit. This week theologian Hans Kung wrote an open letter to the bishops urging them to consider his six points including calling for a council who could address the problematic issues of the day. Theologian Gerald O’Hanlon wrote a similar letter in February that was published in Furrow magazine. Many are impatiently waiting for the Church leaders to respond as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, would. The media and the church’s critics will keep their focus of the pastoral response of bishops, including the Bishop of Rome who promises to take action in this matter.

We have to be careful not the throw the baby out with the bath water. We do have many good bishops and religious leaders who care for their flock and we need to affirm those who are providing good ministry. We also know that there is a widening gap between some bishops and their people because complicated social and moral issues are not allowed to be discussed in conversation. Dialogue is essential for understanding another’s viewpoints and for enriching one’s own conscience. We all have an obligation to develop and form our conscience and in this fast-paced, ever-changing world, we need dialogue to help us maneuver through this rugged terrain. True dialogue is often a loving response because one is able to listen attentively and also feel heard by the other. It is satisfying even if it does not solve any problems. Notice the style of one’s way of proceeding. It can say much about their openness and generosity.

Being besieged by forces within or outside the church ought not to bother us. It has always been there and always will be. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas preaches the grace of God in raising Jesus from the dead to both the Jews and the Gentiles. The Gentiles gratefully receive the message, but many Judaizers become violent towards the disciples who leave joyfully because the word of God was being spread to many others. The first reading and the Gospel remind us to keep our eyes fixed on the joy of knowing Christ who is our ultimate Good Shepherd. He will give us the protection we need. We need not be afraid of the forces of the world because he will give us eternal life, and we might want to notice all the good people who are with us in the flock – lay people, priests, religious and bishops. We are all in this together because Christ has called us to himself. In this entire maelstrom, we have to return to the voice of the Shepherd and first and foremost listen to what he has to say, and we have to tell him what is on our mind as well, including what we deeply feel. He will take care of us for sure, but he is showing us remarkable love when he converses with us. Let’s find some time to dialogue with our true Shepherd in prayer this week. It can make all the difference in the world.

Quote for the Week

From Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, December 18, 2005:

The silence of Saint Joseph is given a special emphasis. His silence is steeped in contemplation of the mystery of God in an attitude of total availability to divine desires. It is a silence thanks to which Joseph, in unison with Mary, watches over the Word of God, known through the Sacred Scriptures, continuously comparing it with the events of the life of Jesus; a silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of the adoration of His holy will and of unreserved entrustment to his providence. It is no exaggeration to think that it was precisely from his "father" Joseph that Jesus learned -- at the human level -- that steadfast interiority which is a presupposition of authentic justice.... Let us allow ourselves to be "filled" with Saint Joseph's silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God's voice.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: We see how the church begins to move outward from Jerusalem as Peter visits the house of uncircumcised Gentiles and eats with them. Peter realizes that it is the same Holy Spirit that falls upon the Gentiles and Jews, so they all glorified God. During the persecution that followed because of Stephen, the new Christians were scattered and began to talk with Greeks and they proclaimed the good news to them. While in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas are set aside to bring the word of God to the Gentiles. Paul tells the story of the Jews culminating in the life of Jesus and the promise that God fulfilled among them.

Gospel: From Good Shepherd Sunday, we continue with John 10 as he describes the good care that a true shepherd provides his flock. Jesus is the gate for the sheep and he gives eternal life. His statements end with his proclamation that he and the Father are one. He came in to the world as light and whoever receives and believes in Jesus believes in the Father. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and all who come to him will have eternal life with the Father.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Mark, the Evangelist is celebrated on April 25th, which falls on the Lord ’s Day this year. Mark is regarded as the author of the first Gospel and is associated with Peter whom he heard preach. Mark was originally a companion of Paul, but is later associated with Peter’s ministry. He was sent to Alexandria and formed a church that is now known as the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Tuesday: Peter Canisius, S.J., priest and Doctor, is attributed to have stopped the spread of Protestantism in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. The restoration of Catholicism in Germany after the Restoration is attributed to his work. Declared a doctor of the church in 1925, his feast day was moved to December 21st, the date of his entry into eternal life.

Wednesday: Peter Chanel, priest, missionary, martyr, is the first martyr of the Pacific South Seas. Originally a parish priest in rural France, he joined the Society of Mary to become a missionary in 1831. At first the missionaries were well-received in the New Hebrides as they recently outlawed cannibalism. When the king’s son wanted to be baptized, his anger erupted and Peter was clubbed to death in protest.

Thursday: Catherine of Siena, Doctor, had mystical visions as a girl that continued during her 3rd Order of Dominican profession at age 16. She persuaded the Pope to go back to Rome from Avignon in 1377 in order to heal the great Western Schism. She is said to have a brilliant theological mind. When she died at age 33, she was found to have the stigmata.

Friday: Pius V, Pope, led the church through the Reformation (1566-1572). He was ordained a Dominican priest and taught in seminaries, became master of novices and a prior to several houses, and eventually became the General of the Inquisition. His excessive zeal led to his publication of Trent’s decrees on the Roman catechism, breviary, and missal. His alignment with European monarchical forces stopped the decline of Islamic advances by the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 in the gulf of Patras in the Ionian Sea.

Saturday: Joseph the Worker, was honored by Pope Pius XII in 1955 in an effort to counteract May Day, a union, worker, and socialist holiday. Many Catholics believe him to be the patron of workers because he is known for his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities which believers should adopt.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Apr 25, 1915. Pierre Rousselot, Professor at the Institute Catholique in Paris, is wounded and taken prisoner during World War I.
• Apr 26, 1935. Lumen Vitae, center for catechetics and religious formation was founded in Brussels.
• Apr 27, 1880. On the occasion of the visit of Jules Ferry, French minister of education, to Amiens, France, shouts were raised under the Jesuit College windows: "Les Jesuites a la guillotine."
• Apr 28, 1542. St Ignatius sent Pedro Ribadenaira, aged fifteen, from Rome to Paris for his studies. Pedro had been admitted into the Society in l539 or l540.
• Apr 29, 1933. Thomas Ewing Sherman died in New Orleans. An orator on the mission band, he was the son of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. He suffered a breakdown, and wanted to leave the Society, but was refused because of his ill health. Before his death he renewed his vows in the Society.
• Apr 30, 1585. The landing at Osaka of Fr Gaspar Coelho. At first the Emperor was favorably disposed towards Christianity. This changed later because of Christianity's attitude toward polygamy.
• May 1, 1572. At Rome, Pope St. Pius V dies. His decree imposing Choir on the Society was cancelled by his successor, Gregory XIII.

Plans for the Week

I am heading to Hervey Bay, a four-hour drive north of Brisbane, Australia to give a three-week retreat called the Exercises in Daily Life. Please pray for the Xavier Catholic College participants who will make this retreat and please pray for their director that I may stay out of the ways of God’s communication with them.

Prayers for Chile and Haiti

Let’s continue our prayers and generosity to the people of Chile and Haiti who are still recovering from earthquakes and natural disasters. While the world’s cameras may have turned their lenses to other news, let’s remember those who silently reconstruct their lives amid great hardship.

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