Friday, August 28, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI - "Will you also go away?"

At the Sunday Angelus on August 23 Pope Benedict XVI gave the following talk on the 6th chapter of John's gospel. What I ran through my mind after reading it is that the question Jesus asks, "Will you also go away?", can be a question we ask ourselves all the time. When faced with difficult issues and questions in our own minds we can use Jesus question to remind us to use our informed conscience when developing our answers.

Here is the text of his talk:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
You see my hand, it is free of the plaster cast but it is still a bit lazy: I shall have to remain for a while at the school of patience, but we are making progress!

You know that for several Sundays the Liturgy has proposed for our reflection Chapter Six of John's Gospel, in which Jesus presents himself as the "Bread of life... which came down from Heaven", and, he adds: "if anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever: and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (Jn 6: 51). To the Jews who were arguing heatedly among themselves, questioning: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (v. 52) and the world still debates it Jesus replies in every age: "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (v. 53). We too should reflect on whether we have really understood this message. Today, the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, let us meditate on the last part of this chapter in which the Fourth Evangelist mentions the reaction of the people and of the disciples themselves. They were shocked by the Lord's words to the point that having followed him until then they exclaimed: "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" (v. 60). After this, "many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him" (v. 66) and the same thing has happened over and over again in various periods of history. One might expect Jesus to seek compromises to make himself better understood, but he does not mitigate what he says. On the contrary, he turns directly to the Twelve and asks them: "Will you also go away?" (v. 67).

This provocative question is not only addressed to listeners in his time, but also reaches the believers and people of every epoch. Today too, many are "shocked" by the paradox of the Christian faith. Jesus' teaching seems "hard", too difficult to accept and to put into practice. Then there are those who reject it and abandon Christ; there are those who seek to "adapt his" word to the fashions of the times, misrepresenting its meaning and value. "Will you also go away?" This disturbing provocation resounds in our hearts and expects a personal answer from each one; it is a question addressed to each one of us. Jesus is not content with superficial and formal belonging, a first and enthusiastic adherence is not enough for him; on the contrary, what is necessary is to take part for one's whole life "in his thinking and in his willing". Following him fills our hearts with joy and gives full meaning to our existence, but it entails difficulties and sacrifices because very often we must swim against the tide.

"Will you also go away?". Peter answers Jesus' question on the Apostles' behalf, and in the name of believers of every century: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (vv. 68-69).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, at this moment we too can and want to repeat Peter's answer, aware of course of our human frailty, of our problems and difficulties, but trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit which is expressed and manifested in communion with Jesus. Faith is a gift of God to man and at the same time man's free and total entrustment to God; faith is docile listening to the word of the Lord who is the "lamp" for our feet and a "light" for our path (cf. Ps 119[118]: 105). If we open our hearts to Christ with trust, if we let ourselves be won over by him, we can also experience, like, for example, the holy Curé d'Ars, that "our only happiness on this earth is to love God and to know that he loves us". Let us ask the Virgin Mary always to keep awake within us this faith imbued with love, which made her, a humble girl of Nazareth, the Mother of God and Mother and model of all believers.

God Bless!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cardinal Justin Rigali Addresses Addiciton in New Book

I recently learned that Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, has written book entitled “Let the Oppressed Go Free - Breaking the Bonds of Addiction.” An August 6 article in the Catholic Standard & Times (Philadelphia's weekly Catholic newspaper) describes the book, its background and a possible "conference based upon the book and its topic of addictions through the lens of Catholic teaching, most likely to be held in Spring 2010 in the Philadelphia Archdiocese."

I am trying to get an update on the planning for the conference and hope to get the word out about the Calix Society and the success we are having in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Stay tuned for more information........

UPDATE: I actually found a copy of the book in the local religious store today (8/28). I'll be reading and posting a review in the next few days!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Have you ever had a theme seem to constantly come up over time?

Awhile back I had a friend call me out of the blue asking me if the alcoholic has a choice when it comes to the first drink.

The book "Alcoholics Anonymous", on page 24, states, "The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink". After much thought I came to the conclusion that the power lost is not so much in the "choice" but our ability to see more than once choice. As drinking alcoholics we have few choices when it comes to the drink, if we even have more than one. When things are going good we celebrate with a drink. When things are not going so good we drink for relief. When we are numb, we drink. We decide to drink because either the drink is the only choice or the choice we believe that will work for us in any given situation.

By putting down the drink and working the 12 steps of AA one of the first gifts we get is more choices. The first choice I added was ice cream! Seriously, though, I found I immediately learned there were other choices besides alcohol. As a result I began to make better decisions and better decisions helped me to not desire the drink.

Since then I have come to learn that life is nothing more than a series of decisions. I decide whether or not to get out of bed in the morning; whether or not to go to work; whether or not to go to Church; whether or not to eat and, more importantly, whether or not to eat healthy; and, greatest of all, whether or not I will take that first drink. All of these decisions determine whether or not I become happy, joyous and free! So sobriety isn't a decision, sobriety is what gives me more choices when making a decision.

Which leads to the reason for "blogging" this topic. Today's readings at Mass (Joshua and John) speak directly to choices and decisions. In today's first reading, Joshua makes the Israelites make a decision as to which god(s) they will follow and offers them a couple choices: "the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling" or the Lord. They choose the Lord.

In John's gospel we continued the Bread of Life discourse. After Jesus tells them that (v53) "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you". Now his apostles and disciples must decide whether or not they will continue to follow Jesus. In the New American Bible v66 reads "As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him". In addition, in v64 it states that "For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him". Many made the decision to no longer follow Jesus; and verse 64 may even imply that Judas made his decision to betray Jesus because he could not understand Jesus teaching.

As Catholics this is a very important lesson for us on the Eucharist. If the host/bread we receive in Church is only a symbol why didn't Jesus call out to all those that left him immediately following this sermon and tell them so? He knew they would not understand it and nothing he said would convince them that we needed to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Fortunately, the apostles, less Judas, did believe, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, and in the Catholic Church we now have the Eucharist available every single day!

So take a few moments and think about how many decisions you made today and what the choices were when you made them. Were there choices available that you were not aware of? What did you base your decisions on? Were you happy with all of your decisions? Did you learn from any of them.

For me - I am starting to look at all the decisions that are automatic and determine what the other choices are. In doing so I can change my life in little ways, hopefully for the better!

God Bless!