Thursday, February 23, 2017

Happy Are We

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But why does the world pity, rather than celebrating, those who model the four counter-intuitive traits? “Thomas Aquinas,” Fr. Barron tells us, “said that the four typical substitutes for God are wealth, pleasure, power and honor.”

And so we see that the four “counter-intuitive” Beatitudes directly contradict these four false values. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” says Jesus, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. And blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In each case, Jesus explains the puzzling attribute by describing the heavenly reward which awaits the man who embraces that biblical value.

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But beyond the Beatitudes, Jesus is a storyteller—teaching important faith lessons through parables. Father Barron cites the parable of the Prodigal Son, which inverts our ordinary perception of the nature of God. In the story of the father with two sons, we see that God is a Father who doesn’t know how to do anything but love.

Another highlighted parable is drawn from Matthew 25, where Jesus talks about the separation of the sheep and the goats. Here Christ draws those on his right toward him: those who will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the beginning of the world. And who are those just men? Those who, Jesus teaches, saw that he was hungry and gave him food, thirsty and they gave him a drink, naked and they clothed him…. In essence, what they did for the least of the brothers of Christ, they did for him. We learn that in helping those in need, we are truly helping God himself.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is one saint who embodied the gospel values of Matthew 25. So, says Father Barron, did Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, co-founders of the Catholic Worker Movement.

And so must we. We must come to see that God is love, and we must gladly resolve to give our lives away as a gift of love. The teaching of Jesus is a call to embrace this vision of God, and to willingly conform our lives to His will.

Happy Are We: Father Robert Barron Unpacks the Teachings of Jesus
April 1, 2014

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pope Francis & the elderly

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The Church regards the elderly with affection, gratitude, and high esteem. They are an essential part of the Christian community and of society: in particular they represent the roots and the memory of a people. You are an important presence, because your experience is a precious treasure, which is essential if we would look to the future with hope and
responsibility. Your maturity and wisdom, accumulated over the years, can help younger people in search of their own way, supporting them on the path of growth and openness to the future. The elderly, in fact, show that, even in the most difficult trials, we must never lose confidence in God and in a better future. They are like trees that continue to bear fruit: even under the weight of years, they can give their original contribution for a society rich in values ​​and for the affirmation of the culture of life.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the participants in a gathering of senior citizens and their caregivers on Saturday, in the context of Italy’s national Grandparents’ Day celebrations. Grandparents’ Day in Italy – the Festa dei nonni – is marked each year on October 2nd, with events continuing throughout the month.
Junk Mail from Voyager on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Holy Sepulchre

EXCLUSIVE: A Closer Look Inside Christ's Unsealed Tomb 

By Kristin Romey

JERUSALEMFor the first time in centuries, scientists have exposed the original surface of what is traditionally considered the tomb of Jesus Christ. Located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, the tomb has been covered by marble cladding since at least 1555 A.D., and most likely centuries earlier.

"The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it,” said Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, a partner in the restoration project. “It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid."

According to Christian tradition, the body of Jesus Christ was laid on a shelf or “burial bed” hewn from the side of a limestone cave following his crucifixion by the Romans in A.D. 30 or possibly 33. Christian belief says Christ was resurrected after death, and women who came to anoint his body three days after the burial reported that no remains were present.

The shrine that houses the traditional burial place of Jesus Christ is undergoing restoration inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

This burial shelf is now enclosed by a small structure known as the Edicule (from the Latin aedicule, or "little house"), which was last reconstructed in 1808-1810 after being destroyed in a fire. The Edicule and the interior tomb are currently undergoing restoration by a team of scientists from the National Technical University of Athens, under the direction of Chief Scientific Supervisor Professor Antonia Moropoulou.

The exposure of the burial bed is giving researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study the original surface of what is considered the most sacred site in Christianity. An analysis of the original rock may enable them to better understand not only the original form of the tomb chamber, but also how it evolved as the focal point of veneration since it was first identified by Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine, in A.D. 326.

"We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule," Moropoulou said. "The techniques we're using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ."


The doors to the church were shut early—hours before normal closing time, leaving a bewildered crowd of pilgrims and tourists standing in front of the towering wooden doors. Inside, a scrum of conservators in yellow hard hats, Franciscans in simple brown robes, Greek orthodox priests in tall black hats, and Copts in embroidered hoods surrounded the entrance to the Edicule, peering into its reaches. Rising above all of them was the fa├žade of the early 19th-century shrine, its elaborate carvings obscured by iron beams and orange safety tape.

Inside the tomb, which usually glows with a faint constellation of wax candles, bright construction lighting filled the small cell, revealing tiny details that are usually overlooked. The marble slab that covers the holy bench—roughly 3 by 5 feet and carved from creamy marble—had been pulled away from the wall. Beneath it was a grey-beige stone surface. What is it? a conservator was asked. "We don’t know yet," she replied. "It's time to bring in the scientific monitoring tools."

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (also known as the Church of the Resurrection) is currently under the custody of six Christian sects. Three major groups—the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Armenian Orthodox Church—maintain primary control over the site, and the Coptic, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syriac communities also have a presence there. Parts of the church that are considered common areas of worship for all of the sects, including the tomb, are regulated by a Status Quo agreement that requires the consent of all of the custodial churches.

Outside the Edicule, Thephilos III, the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, stood watching the events with a serene smile. "I'm glad that the atmosphere is special, there is a hidden joy," said the patriarch. "Here we have Franciscans, Armenians, Greeks, Muslim guards, and Jewish police officers. We hope and we pray that this will be a real message that the impossible can become the possible. We all need peace and mutual respect."


The structural integrity of the early 19th-century Edicule has been a concern for decades. It suffered damage during a 1927 earthquake, and British authorities were forced to shore up the building in 1947 with unsightly exterior girders that remain to this day. Difficulties among the Status Quo representatives and a lack of financial resources have hindered its repair.

In 2015, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with the agreement of the other two major communities, invited the National Technical University of Athens (which had previously led restoration projects on the Athenian Acropolis and the Hagia Sophia) to study the Edicule. The communities of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre agreed to restore the structure in March 2016, with work to be completed by the spring of 2017. Major donors to the $4-million-plus project include a royal benefaction from Jordan's King Abdullah II, and $1.3-million gift from Mica Ertegun to the World Monuments Fund in support of the project.

The National Geographic Society, with the blessing of the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem and the other religious communities, formed a strategic alliance with the National Technical University of Athens for cultural heritage preservation. For an exclusive look at the restoration project, watch Explorer on National Geographic Channel, coming in November.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

God's abundance

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Walter Brueggemann writes extensively about abundance:

"We who are now the richest nation are today's main coveters. We never feel that we have enough; we have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us. Whether we are liberal or conservative Christians, we must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God's abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity -- a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly. We spend our lives trying to sort out that ambiguity."

--Walter Brueggemann, "The liturgy of abundance, the myth of scarcity"