Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gospel for Today: Christ the King

REMINDER:  In place of our normal Credo discussion after Mass today (4:00pm) we will instead car pool over to St. Mary's to hear a special presentation on Byzantine Advent traditions by Fr. Deacon Matthew Hanes, a visiting Ukrainian Catholic deacon from the St. Basil the Great Greek-Catholic mission in Charlotte, from 5:30-6:30.


THE SOLEMNITY OF JESUS CHRIST KING OF THE UNIVERSE (A)

Today the Church celebrates the great Solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe, often called simply "Christ the King."  This solemnity was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to the secularism that he saw rampant in the world during his time.  He believed the world needed a reminder of Who was really in authority (a reminder which is still needed today).

It is fitting that this great feast falls on the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, before we begin our Advent season of preparation in anticipation of the birth of a newborn King in Bethlehem.  Jesus Christ was King of the Universe already at His humble birth, but very few recognized Him as such at the time.  When Christ comes again in glory at the end of time, His authority will be universally recognized.  All will live in the light of His reign.

Today in our gospel we are given a preview of that that day will be like (Mt 25:31-46).  Jesus speaks of the Son of Man (one of His many titles) coming in glory and sitting upon His throne, with all the nations assembled before Him.  We tend to think of kings and other powerful figures of basking in the limelight.  But not in this case.  Christ the King is the light, and He shines His light upon us.  This is why so much attention is given in today's gospel reading not to Christ, but to you and I.  We see all peoples from every nation, every last one of us, being judged.  The King will separate us out, the sheep from the goats.  The sheep will go to His right, into eternal life, while the goats will go to the left, into eternal punishment.  

How will the King determine who is a sheep and who is a goat?  He will judge us according to the love we have shown our neighbors during our lives -- specifically, the least of our neighbors.  Have we clothed the naked?  Have we fed the hungry?  Have we visited the sick and those in prison?  Have we ministered to their needs?  For, as Christ tells us, whatever we do for the least of His people, thus we do (or do not do) for Him.  We will be judged according to how we loved.

Most Christians know this gospel passage.  It is a poignant reminder for us to love our neighbors.  But why does the Church present it to us here, on the Solemnity of Christ the King?  Shouldn't the readings be something about Christ's glory and might and power and divinity?  Where is the triumph?  Where is the kingship?  This gospel reading seems to be more about us and how we ought to behave.  And that is rather the point.

Pope Pius XI established this feast to combat secularism.  Secularism is a way of life that leaves God out of man's thinking.  The secular person organizes his or her life as if God did not exist.  Christ makes no difference to his or her actions.  Today's celebration reminds us that we cannot allow our lives to become secularized.  We must always and everywhere remember that Jesus Christ always was, is now, and ever shall be King of all Creation.  He is ruler over all, and that makes a difference as to how we live our lives.

Living our lives as subjects of Christ the King means ever striving to be a sheep in His flock (not a goat).  Living in the light of Christ means seeing Jesus in the least of our brethren and treating them with the love that Christ has for them.  It makes a difference in our behaviors and actions, in how we relate to others, each and every day.

We become different when we acknowledge Christ as our King. We treat others differently.  We love differently.  Today, let us renew our commitment to serving the King of the Universe, the King of us all.  


A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King. A plenary indulgence is granted, if it is recited publicly on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ King.

Prayer:
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

Prayer Source: Enchiridion of Indulgences , June 29, 1968

--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Good morning, students!  Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ on this frigid Tuesday!  Our prayers especially with all of our freshmen as they register for classes today for freedom from anxiety.  Today is also the memorial of the dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome.  Let us pray to these two saints that the faith espoused by the Apostles be alive in our hearts this day.

Here is this week's schedule...

TUESDAY (TODAY)
Adoration in the chapel from noon till 12:30.  Thirty minutes of silent prayer time before the Lord.

Community Table volunteer service from 3:30-6:00.  Meet at CCM by 3:15 to ride over with us.  

Small Group Scripture Study from 6:30-7:30 in the Balsam Lobby.  Open to all (bring a friend)!


WEDNESDAY (TOMORROW)
Vespers (Evening Prayer) in the chapel at 6:00pm.

Supper @ the Center from 6:30-8:30.  Olivia is making a special spaghetti recipe for us, which you don't want to miss.  Our program after dinner will be led by Pasquale.  The topic is "The Meaning of Life."  Do you know your purpose?  What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?  (Hint: It's not "42"). 


THURSDAY
Adoration in the chapel from noon till 12:30.

Small Group Scripture Study from 5:30-6:30 on the UC Balcony (or inside if it is too cold). Invite a friend!


FRIDAY
Our very own Joseph Coca's senior recital is this Friday in Coulter at 2:30.  Let's all come to show our support!

This Friday is also the start of our College Discipleship Retreat in Black Mountain.  Those who signed up for the retreat should receive an email later today with information.  Please pray for all students on retreat this weekend.


SUNDAY
Confession/Rosary at 3:30.
Mass at 4:00.

Special "Byzantine Advent" presentation at St. Mary's from 5:30-6:30.  Instead of our usual Credo discussion this week we are taking a field trip!  Immediately after Mass everyone is invited to ride with us to St. Mary's to hear a special presentation by Fr. Deacon Matthew Hanes, a deacon in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Rite, serving the St. Basil the Great mission parish in Charlotte.  Fr. Deacon will be speaking about the customs and traditions of celebrating Advent in the Eastern Churches.  This talk will be an excellent way for us to begin to prepare for our own observance of Advent, which will begin the following Sunday.


NEXT MONDAY
Simply Stitched meets at Alex Cassell's house from 8:00-9:30.  Meet at CCM by 7:45 if you need a ride over.


LOOKING AHEAD...
Thanksgiving break!  Our regular weekly schedule will by and large be suspended the week of Thanksgiving break. However, we will still have Adoration on Tuesday and provide service to Community Table that afternoon if anyone is still around and can help!

St. Nicholas Party!  Father Voitus is inviting us again to join him at his rectory for a St. Nicholas party the evening of Friday, Dec. 5.  We are still working out the details so stay tuned for a time.


FAITH FACTS
Today is the optional memorial of the dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul.  These basilicas are built upon the tombs of these Apostles.  Because of the primacy of St. Peter, and the prominence of the ministry of St. Paul to the Gentiles, the See of Rome has always enjoyed a primacy of authority in the Church.  To learn a little more about the history of these two basilicas and why we celebrate their dedication, click on this link.

Defend your Church, O Lord, by the protection of the holy Apostles, that, as she received from them the beginnings of her knowledge of things divine, so through them she may receive, even to the end of the world, an increase in heavenly grace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Gospel For Today: 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (A)

Today's gospel (Mt 25:14-30) relates the parable of the talents. A man going on a journey entrusts three of his servants with a number of talents (valuable coins worth more than fifteen years' wages for the typical laborer).  To one servant he gives five talents, to another two, and to a third servant only one.  The servants who received five and two talents traded and invested them and so when the master returned they were able to give back to him more than they were first given.  They multiplied their master's treasure.  To these men the master says, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  The man who was given only one talent buried his in the ground.  He did nothing productive with the talent with which he was entrusted.  To him, the master warns that he will be "cast into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

What is the lesson of this parable?  That we should wisely invest our money so as to make a profit?  I would suggest that this parable actually has very little to do with money.  In fact, when it comes to money, Jesus tells us that it is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Mt 19:23-24).  I suggest that this parable has to do with talents.  

A talent in ancient Greece was a measure of value.  The word entered into ancient and medieval Latin and ultimately became part of our modern English vocabulary.  We think of a talent today as something we are good at.  But the way the word was used in medieval Latin was a bit different.  A talent was an inclination, a desire, or a leaning of the will, irrespective of whether one was actually good at a thing.  We sometimes speak of someone having a "natural talent," but very rarely does a person acquire great skill without great effort.  One may have a natural inclination to play basketball, but it is only through hard work and practice that one becomes a great player.  If one does not develop the talent it will go to waste.

God gives each of us certain talents -- that is, certain inclinations.  Our proper response to this gift is first of all gratitude.  But we also have a responsibility to invest in the talents He gives us.  We need to put in the work to develop those skills, whatever they may be.  To discover your talents requires self-examination.  What are your inclinations and desires?  (I speak not of sinful inclinations that come from the devil or our fallen nature).  Do you have an inclination to music?  Then learn how to sing, or play an instrument.  Do you have an inclination to art?  Learn how to paint.  Are you comfortable speaking in public?  Perhaps you have a gift to be a preacher or debater.  Whatever your talent is, you have a responsibility to develop it so that it may increase.  Do not hide it away and let it go to waste.

The servant who buried his master's talent in the ground was cast into darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (an obvious reference to hell).  Jesus is warning us that we can actually damn ourselves if we don't use the talents God gives us.  That's a pretty harsh judgement!  But it is a just judgement because those talents don't really belong to us.  They belong to God, and He gives them to us for a reason.  He gives them to us so that we may return them to Him magnified.  Like the first two servants in the parable, we are expected to multiply the Master's treasure.

Now you may be thinking, I don't have any talents.  I am not a scholar, artist or athlete.  What do I have to offer God?  This is thinking like the wicked servant.  Why did he bury his talent in the ground?  Could it be the sin of envy?  The other servants received more talents than he and so he grew resentful of them and hateful toward his master.  He buried his talent so that his master would not benefit from it.  In the end, even that one talent was taken from him.  Some days we may feel like the wicked servant.  We look at others around us who seem to have so many gifts and think, by comparison, that we are rather limited.  We can grow resentful and refuse to develop our own gifts.  But the talents that God gives us are not always the ones that appear spectacular in the eyes of man.  In fact, I would say those talents are the exception rather than the rule.  There are talents which the world does not value but which are priceless in the eyes of God.

Consider the worthy wife in today's first reading (Prv 31).  She works with wool and flax to make yarn on the spindle -- a basic craft that requires some skill but is certainly not the dazzling talent of a Michelangelo or a Mozart.  But with that yarn, her family is clothed.  Moreover, she "reaches out her hands to the poor."  She "extends her arms to the needy."  She "fears the Lord" and "brings good, and not evil."  In other words, she exhibits a Christ-like love of neighbor.  She may not have a lot of talent as the world understands talent.  But she performs simple tasks with great love. (This is the "Little Way" of St. Therese of Lisieux).  For that, the scripture says "her works praise her at the city gates" with a "value far beyond pearls."  

It is not our business how many talents others around us have.  Our business is to invest the talent God gives us and return it to Him with increase. The worthy wife from Proverbs did not waste her talent.  The world may not look upon her as one who does great things.  But the Master will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibility.  Come, share your Master's joy."   May we each be so blessed as to hear those words at the end of our journey.

--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Weekly Update from CCM

Good morning, students!  Today is the memorial of St. Martin of Tours, a fourth century bishop who helped to evangelize Gaul (present day France).  One of the ways he accomplished this was making sure that the clergy received a good education.  May the prayers of St. Martin today encourage you in your education, and may your increase in knowledge be for the glory of God.

Here is this week's schedule:

TUESDAY - TODAY
Adoration from noon till 12:30, in the chapel.  Thirty minutes of silent prayer before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Community Table volunteer service from 3:30-6:00.  If you plan on coming with us, please be at CCM no later than 3:15 for a ride over.

Knights of Columbus Information Meeting at CCM at 6:00pm this evening.  Membership in the Knights is open to any Catholic male age 18 or over.  Anyone is welcome to attend this information meeting to learn about the Knights, who they are and what they do.

Small Group Bible Study from 6:30-7:30 in the Balsam Lobby.

WEDNESDAY - TOMORROW
Vespers at 6:00pm.  Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, in the chapel.

Supper @ the Center at 6:30pm.  Jackie is cooking for us this week!  After dinner, Bekka will lead us in a program of fun and games!  Come relax with your CCM friends (or make new ones)!


THURSDAY
Adoration from noon till 12:30 in the chapel.

Small Group Bible Study from 5:30-6:30 on the UC Balcony.


SATURDAY
Football Event Parking - our last home game of the season, and our last chance for an event parking fundraiser!  If you can help us with parking before the game, please contact me!

Byzantine Liturgy at Immaculate Conception Church in Canton, NC.  It is a little drive from WCU but some of you may be interested.  This will be celebrated by the same Ukrainian Rite clergy who came to Sylva a few months ago.  Vespers will be prayed at 4:00pm with the Divine Liturgy (Mass) at 5:00pm.  


SUNDAY
Confession & Rosary at 3:30pm.
Mass at 4:00pm
Credo after Mass: the topic this week will be "Morality & the Natural Law."  We begin now to look at how we know the difference between right and wrong.  Please join us, and come with questions!


NEXT MONDAY
Simply Stitched meets at Alex Cassell's house from 8:00 to 9:30pm.  If you need a ride, be at CCM by 7:45pm.  


FAITH FACTS
Today, as I mentioned at the top of this email, is the memorial of St. Martin of Tours.  In many parts of the world, this day used to be known as "Martinmas." How did this fourth century bishop develop such a strong following that his feast would be celebrated by Catholics across the globe?  You can learn more about this saint and how the traditions of Martinmas came to be in this article:
Honoring the Real St. Martin of Tours

Until next week!
Pax Christi,
Matt

--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Gospel For Today: Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

FEAST OF THE DEDICATION OF THE LATERAN BASILICA IN ROME

Today is a special feast day, but unlike most feast days, today does not celebrate the life of a saint or a major event in the life of Christ.  Today we celebrate the day on which the Lateran Basilica in Rome was dedicated.  Why would we do such a thing?  The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral church of the Bishop of Rome, first consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324 AD.  This makes it the oldest and the highest ranking of the four basilicas in Rome.  It is an historically significant church, and so it makes sense that the anniversary of its dedication would be celebrated locally in Rome.  The reason why this celebration is extended to the universal Church is to show the union of the churches world wide with the successor of St. Peter.  Because it is the official cathedral of the Pope, it is considered the mother cathedral of the whole world.

But why celebrate a church building at all?  Why does a building get a feast day?  Today's readings help us to understand why.  First we hear of the prophet Ezekiel being brought by an angel "to the entrance of the temple of the Lord" (Ez 47:1), where Ezekiel saw water flowing out from its sides.  In our gospel reading Jesus goes into the temple where He chases out the money-changers and tells them, "stop making my Father's house a marketplace" (Jn 2:13-22).  

This is one of the only times we see Jesus angry.  His anger is righteous because the integrity of the temple -- His Father's house -- was being violated.  The temple was constructed specifically to house the presence of God.  The temple in Jerusalem is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, containing within it fragments of the stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments, as well as pieces of manna that fell from heaven during the time of the Exodus.   The Word of God and the Bread from Heaven signified God's presence in a very tangible way.  This is why the temple was built.  This is why Jewish people, no matter how far they were scattered, would return to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices and give worship to God in the temple.

Of course the Jewish people knew that God exists everywhere.  As David reflects in Psalm 139, whether we ascend to the heights of the heavens or descend to the depths of hell, God is there.  God is omnipresent. Yet the temple represented a place where God dwelt in a very specific way.  We today, as Catholics, can understand this.  We recognize that God is always present to us, but sometimes that presence is in a more tangible form.  God is present whenever two or more are gathered in His name, as we pray and worship (Mt 18:20).  God is present to us in His Word when we read the sacred scriptures.  But we recognize that God is present in a very specific and special way in the Holy Eucharist.  So the Bible, which we revere as God's word, may be kept on a shelf along with other books.  But the Eucharist would never be kept in the pantry with other bread.  Because it is the Real Presence of God we house it in a special place, in a special way, out of respect for its sacredness. 

Though God is present everywhere, and we can pray and worship God anywhere, the Jewish people dedicated the temple especially as a place of worship which would house God's presence.  We today dedicate churches to house the Eucharist and where we gather each day -- most especially on Sundays -- to worship God.

Let us consider the word "dedicate."  When we speak of someone as being dedicated we mean he is especially devoted to one particular task or area of interest.  If I am a dedicated student, that means I do not allow anything to distract me from my academic studies.  If I am dedicated to my family, that means that I am not going to allow any outside pursuits to take my focus away from familial responsibilities.  If you are involved in IT you might speak of a "dedicated server," meaning that server is to be used for one purpose only.  A dedicated server is more reliable, because its resources and capacities are not divided.

To dedicate something is to set it apart for a specific use or function.  It is a way of recognizing the importance or significance of something.  When we dedicate a church we are setting that building aside for sacred use.  We are saying that this space is to be used for the worship of God and not as a place of business, a dining hall, a dormitory, or a dance studio.  Those are all fine things, but the worship of God is so important that it merits a place exclusively for that purpose.  To be dedicated involves exclusivity.  A husband and wife are dedicated to each other.  Theirs is an exclusive relationship.  Violating that exclusivity does harm to the sacredness of their marriage.  This is why Christ gets upset at the money-changers in the temple.  They were violating the sacred integrity of that dedicated space.

The temple in Jerusalem is not the only temple mentioned in the gospel today.  Christ says, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it up again." The gospel writer tells us, "He was speaking about the temple of His body."  Jesus Christ is also a temple.  He is the Word of God.  He is the Bread from Heaven.  The presence of God dwells in Him.  If this is true of Christ, then those who receive Christ make their bodies into temples, as well.  St. Paul says in today's second reading, "Brothers and sisters: You are God's building... Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor 3:9-17).  

If we are temples of God that means that we, like our churches, have been dedicated to God and should not be used for profane things.  Our relationship with God is exclusive.  We have been set aside for holiness and love.  Anything that runs counter to that purpose should be cast out of our lives the way Jesus cast the money-changers out of the temple.

In Ezekiel's vision, he saw water flowing out of the sides of the temple.  Wherever that water flowed, there was found life.  We enter our churches so that we may be in the presence of God and offer Him worship.  When we leave, we should be like those flowing waters, bringing God's life to the rest of the world.  One of the dismissals that the deacon or priest may use at the end of Mass is, "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."

Our sacred spaces exist for the purpose of worshiping God.  They also remind us that we, too, are sacred spaces and exist for that same purpose.

  • Learn more about the Lateran Basilica here
  • TRIVIA:  Who is St. John Lateran?  No one!  The basilica is named after St. John the Evangelist, and is called "Lateran" after the Laterani family who originally owned the land it was built on.   

--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

CORRECTION - Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

Mea Culpa!  Due to an error on my part, I mistakenly had the Knights of Columbus meeting on the wrong week on the calendar.  The actual meeting will be NEXT Tuesday, not today!  My apologies for the confusion.

Pax Christi,
Matt

--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Weekly Update from CCM

Good morning, students, and praised be Jesus Christ!  Photos from our beach retreat have been uploaded and you can now access the photo album here.  Thanks to all who worked so hard to make the retreat a reality.  We have another retreat coming up, this time joining in with Catholic college students from across the Diocese.  The deadline for registering for our College Discipleship Retreat in Black Mountain, NC, is this Friday.  The retreat is Nov. 21-23.  You can get more information and register online at this web site:
http://www.catholiconcampus.com/retreat

And now our schedule this week.

TUESDAY (TODAY)
Eucharistic Adoration in the chapel from 12:00-12:30.

Community Table volunteer day.  Meet at CCM at 3:00 and we'll ride over to Community Table, where we will work from 3:30 till 6:00 serving meals to all comers.  Remember to wear close toed shoes and tie back any long hair.  No tank tops (not really an issue in this chilly weather).  Note: we will be volunteering at Community Table every Tuesday this month.

Knights of Columbus info meeting.  Representatives of our local Knights of Columbus will be at CCM at 6:00pm to talk about the organization and answer any questions.  Membership in the Knights is open to any Catholic male age 18 and over.  All are welcome to come to this information session.

Small Group Bible Study from 6:30-7:30 in the Balsam Lobby.


WEDNESDAY (TOMORROW)
Vespers (Evening Prayer) at 6:00pm in the chapel.

Supper @ the Center at 6:30pm.  This week Jessica McLawhorn is making lasagna for us (one of my favorites!) and Joseph has our program after dinner.  This week's topic is Mary.  Have you talked to your mother lately?  Come learn about our Catholic devotion to the Mother of God and the important role she plays in leading us to Christ.


THURSDAY
No Adoration this Thursday

Small Group Bible Study from 5:30-6:30 on the UC Balcony (or just inside if the weather is bad).


SUNDAY
Confession/Rosary at 3:30.
Mass at 4:00
Credo at 5:15-6:30.  This week's Credo topic is "Last Things."  What do we know about eternity?  And where would you like to spend it?  Bring your questions about heaven and hell!  This week we will also have a guest priest, Fr. Peter Shaw, pastor of St. Joseph's in Bryson City.


NEXT MONDAY
Simply Stitched meets at Alex Cassell's house at 8:00pm.  If you need a ride there, meet at CCM at 7:45.  Simply Stitched knits and crochets items to donate to local charities, including the Pregnancy Care Center.  If you don't know how to knit or crochet, they will teach you how!


ROCK YOUR SOCKS OFF
Rock Your Socks Off is a student organization that is collecting donations of new cotton socks for men, women and children to donate to Haywood Pathways Center, a homeless shelter and halfway house in Waynesville.  Their most needed item -- and least received item -- is socks!  Rock Your Socks Off's goal is to collect 200 pairs of socks to donate by Nov. 14.  You will find donation boxes in the lobbies of Scott and Walker, and in Killian 104.  Please support them in this ministry to help those in need, especially as the weather grows colder.  You can't imagine the difference a pair of clean new socks can make in someone's life.


FAITH FACTS
Today is Election Day and so many people are talking politics.  Did you know that our bishop, Peter Jugis, and his brother bishop, Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Raliegh, have a web site called CatholicVoiceNC.org?  Catholic Voice North Carolina is the non-partisan voice of the state's two Catholic Bishops. CVNC monitors legislation and other matters of public interest that intersect with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Under the guidance of the two Bishops, participants in CVNC are asked to contact  legislators and government officials when important matters are under consideration. On this website you can Look Up your elected representatives, read background material on our issues and join CVNC. Membership is free and open to anyone living in North Carolina.  So if you are an NC Catholic who cares about what is going on in our state and how our Catholic faith impacts our civil life, please consider visiting the web site and signing up for their email bulletins.  It's a great way to stay informed about important issues you may not otherwise be aware of.


Until next week!
God bless,
Matt

--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Gospel For Today: All Soul's Day

THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED (ALL SOULS)

Yesterday the Church celebrated the solemnity of All Saints, the day on which we celebrate those Christians who have gone before us in sanctity and are now in heaven enjoying the beatific vision of God.  Though we celebrate individual saints on feast days throughout the year, not all of the saints of God are known by name to us and so the Church has set aside this day since the eighth century to honor all of the saints, known and unknown.  An archaic word for "saint" is "hallow," (as in "hallowed be thy name" in the Lord's Prayer) and so All Saint's Day used to be known as All Hallows Day, and the evening before it as All Hallows Eve, from which we derive the name Halloween.

Today, Nov. 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.  Today we recall the faithful departed, but rather than celebrating the lives of those now in heaven, and asking for their prayerful intercession on our behalf, today we recall those souls who are not yet in heaven and pray for them, that they may soon join the saints in the beatific vision of God.  I speak, of course, of those souls in Purgatory.

Both the Old and the New Testament speak about offering prayers for the dead.  In 2 Maccabees 12:44-46, we read, "for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.  But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.  Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin."  In the New Testament we read of St. Paul offering prayers for his deceased friend, Onesiphorus.  "May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus because he often gave me new heart and was not ashamed of my chains... May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day" (2 Tim 1:16-18).  

Why do we pray for the dead?  We do not pray for those in heaven, for they have no need of our prayers.  Indeed, we ask for their prayers as they see God face to face and can intercede on our behalf.  We do not pray for those in hell, as hell is an eternal punishment and there is no release from it.  Prayers would be ineffective and pointless.  But the Bible tells us, and the tradition of our faith affirms, that it is "a holy and pious thought" to pray for the dead.

We offer prayers for the souls who are in Purgatory, a temporary state of purification that many souls must endure before they enter heaven, and where our payers can help to ease their suffering and speed along their purification.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that "all who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.  The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" (CCC 1030-1031).  

Here are a few things to know about Purgatory.  First, every soul in Purgatory is saved.  Every soul in Purgatory will make it to heaven.  Purgatory is a temporary place.  In the end there are only two options for eternity: heaven or hell.  At the end of time, Purgatory will cease to exist.  Second, Purgatory is a place of purification, not punishment.  We often think of Purgatory as a place of pain and suffering because sometimes purification hurts (think of putting alcohol on a wound).  But the suffering in Purgatory is redemptive suffering, not punishment.

What does all this mean, and from where does the Church derive this teaching?  We have already seen how the Bible speaks of praying for the dead.  That implies that there must be a state after death where our prayers can do some good.  The Bible also assures us that nothing unclean can enter heaven (Rev 21:27).  Different translations render this as impure or defiled or profane.  This means every soul in heaven is perfectly pure.  

The Bible also tells us that there are varying degrees of sin.  Both James 1:13-15 and 1 John 5:16-17 speak about the difference between sin which is deadly and sin which only wounds (we refer to these today as mortal and venial sins).  All sin is bad, but not all sin is deadly.  So what happens if you die and are guilty only of venial (non-deadly) sin?  You still have eternal life, but you are not perfectly pure.  Something has to happen to purify you before you enter heaven.  That something is Purgatory.

There is also the concept of accountability for our sins.  Every sin has multiple consequences.  The most important of these are the eternal consequences.  Venial sin wounds our relationship with God, while mortal sin breaks that relationship.  That relationship is restored through repentance (including the sacrament of Reconciliation) and forgiveness.  But there are also temporal (in time) consequences for our sins.  There is harm done to our human dignity.  There is harm done to our human relationships. There is harm done to the health of our souls.  If we repent of our sins, God forgives us, and that is the most important thing.  But there is still penance that needs to be done on our part to remedy the damage done by our sin.  

Think about it this way: if you sin against me by slashing the tires on my car, and later repent and ask my forgiveness, I may forgive you and so our relationship is healed.  But my car still has four flat tires that need to be replaced.  If you are truly sorry you will be willing to make reparation for the damage you caused and replace my tires.

The repentant sinner knows he or she is forgiven in Christ but still desires to make atonement for sin by suffering along with Christ.  This is our Christian doctrine of redemptive suffering (what we mean when we say "offer it up").  If the suffering and penance we undergo in this life is not sufficient for the sins we have committed, we will complete that redemptive suffering in Purgatory.  As Christ says in Matthew 5:26, we will not be released from prison until we have paid the last penny.  But we will be released.

Purgatory is both a realistic teaching of the Church (in that it presents a realistic view of the effects of sin and our fallen human attachment to sin), and a merciful teaching of the Church.  I am grateful for Purgatory.  I know and I trust that I am forgiven in Christ.  But I know I am not perfect.  I know I am not pure.  By God's grace I hope to be made so, but until that day I am not fit for heaven.  I can only be made fit for heaven by God's grace.  And that is what Purgatory is.  If I have not cooperated fully with God's grace so as to be perfected in this world before I die, then God will continue His work in me after death until I am pure.  So long as I die in God's friendship and repent of my sins, I know God will take care of me both in this world and the next.

Our faithful prayers here in this world can assist in that ongoing work of purification.  This is why we pray for one another here, and pray for the souls in purgatory.  Prayer for the souls in purgatory is considered a work of mercy by the Church and is something we should remember to do each day.  But let us especially pray for them, as a united Church, today as we commemorate all the faithful departed.  And let us ask the intercession of all the saints in heaven to join in our prayers so that they may soon be joined by their brothers and sisters still being made perfect.





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WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723