Sunday, October 15, 2017

"Be Not Afraid"

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"Be Not Afraid"
Respect Life Month, October 2017

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Chairman

USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities

OCTOBER 2017

My dear friends in Christ:

Once again, we mark the month of October as Respect Life Month. Looking back over the last year, there's been a lot of uncertainty, suffering, and heartache. Between tragedies that occur in the public eye and trials that take place in our personal lives, there's no shortage of reasons we cry out to God.

At such times, we may feel alone and unequipped to handle the circumstances. But we have an anchor of hope to cling to. With words that echo through thousands of years into the corners of our hearts, God says to us, "Do not fear: I am with you" (Isaiah 41:10).

The 2017-2018 Respect Life theme, "Be Not Afraid," reminds us of this promise.

God isn't a detached, distant observer to our pain; the Eternal Son became man and Himself experienced immense suffering—for you and for me. His wounds indicate the very essence of our identity and worth: we are loved by God.

There are times we may doubt the value of our own lives or falter at the thought of welcoming and embracing the life of another. But reflecting on the healed wounds of the Risen Christ, we can see that even our most difficult trials can be the place where God manifests his victory. He makes all things beautiful. He makes all things new. He is the God of redemption.

That's powerful. That's something to hold onto.

And, He is always with us. Jesus promised this when he gave the disciples the same mission he gives to each of us: Go.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we know that our identity and our mission are two sides of the same coin; like the apostles, we are called to be missionary disciples. We are not only invited to follow and take refuge in God, our stronghold, but we are also commissioned to reach out to one another, especially to the weak and vulnerable.

Building a culture of life isn't something we just do one month of the year, or with one event or initiative—it's essential to who we are. It happens through our daily actions, how we treat one another, and how we live our lives.

How do we respond when our aging parents are in failing health? Do they know how much we love them and cherish each day given? Do we ensure they know they are never a burden to us? In our own challenging times, do we ask for support? When others offer a helping hand, do we receive it? When our friend becomes pregnant in difficult circumstances, do we show compassion that tangibly supports her and helps her welcome the life of her new little one?

Sometimes, we may not be sure exactly what to do, but let's not allow the fear of doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing keep us from living out our missionary call. We don't need to have everything figured out all at once. Let's remember the guidance of Our Blessed Mother, the first disciple: "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5).

Also, I encourage you to visit www.usccb.org/respectlife to see the U.S. bishops' new Respect Life materials centered on the theme "Be Not Afraid." There are articles, bulletin inserts, prayers, action ideas, and more! This Respect Life Month and always, let's walk with each other; let's help each other embrace God's gift of human life. Whatever storms or trials we face, we are not alone. He is with us: "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Chairman
USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities
October 2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Thanks you, Lord!

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There is a classic Dennis the Menace cartoon that depicts an irate Margaret haughtily proclaiming to Dennis as he walks by, "I'm not speaking to you, Dennis Mitchell!" 

The next frame shows Dennis, his eyes rolled heavenward, breathing a heartfelt, "Thank you, Lord."

When confronted with an unexpected grace or an unforeseen groan, is your first response to turn towards God in prayer? The very reason we can be anxious in nothing, that we can rejoice in the Lord, is that God is powerfully present for us in prayer, always. Saint Paul recognizes that a good percentage of our "prayers" are more correctly seen as "supplications" and "requests." Sometimes, when we are feeling spiritually strong and centered, our souls do turn toward God in true prayer, seeking nothing more than a feeling of the holy presence.

Other times, we approach God on our bellies. When our spirits are parched and dragging, we come to God as supplicants _ admitting our own inadequacies and recognizing God as the source of all wholeness. Often, however, we seek out God in prayer with specific requests. Sometimes we know our requests must seem childish and simple to God _ like the two little boys who in early September hopefully donned all their mittens, coats and hats, and perched their sled on the top of a hill and requested of God, "We're ready .... Let 'er rip!" But other times our requests are deeply serious: "Heal her," "Help him," "Hear me."

God wants our prayers, supplications and our requests.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Rejoice

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If we were trying to get Saint Paul's point across with both power and poetry, the best, if not the most linguistically literal translation of this text has to be : "Anxious in nothing, prayerful in everything, thankful in anything .... Then the peace." Only when a Christian has achieved a state of faith that allows those three attitudes to guide his or her life does the "peace of God" settle quietly over the mind and heart.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Don't worry, be happy"

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Saint Paul's urges us, "Rejoice in the Lord always," He coontinues, "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Do this, Paul says, "and the peace of God ... will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." 

We could label Saint Paul's listing in Philippiansas "Don't worry, be happy," probably a reference to the Bobby McFerrin song of the same name.

We doubt, however, that Paul intended his words to be taken in such a carefree and silly way as that song intended. Saint Paul wasn't urging his readers to be mindlessly happy; he was telling them to "rejoice in the Lord," to be in touch with the One from whom real peace and well-being flows. When he spoke of letting our requests be known to God in prayer, he was not prescribing some kind of quick-fix formula or talking in prayer as a tool for feeling better; rather he was pointing his readers toward the One who hears our prayers and loves us. And when Saint Paul talked of the peace of God, he wasn't referring to the state of being without concerns, but to the state of being in harmony with God and the order God has built into our world.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Think on these things

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In the Sunday's second reading,Saint Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord, to pray with both supplications (requests) and words of thanks, and then, to let their minds dwell on "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable ... and ... anything worthy of praise."

At the end of that list, he adds these words: "think about these things."

If we were to stop reading Saint Paul's letter right there, we might conclude that all he was attempting to do was to give us "something to think about," but, in fact, Paul does not stop there. He adds, "Keep on doing these things." In terms of thinking, he was telling them to fill their minds with virtuous concepts and high-quality motivations, but he went on to say that they should do them too; they should express their high-minded ideals in actions.