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EPISODE #257
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRIST IN TODAY’S SOCIETY

Hosts Deacon Steve Greco and Rick Howick of the OC Catholic Radio Show team up for a timely conversation about how we can truly reflect Jesus Christ in our lives to the society at large.

This is such an important conversation to have during this election season.

 

Listen in – and you will want to SHARE this podcast with others!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 9/6/20

POPE FRANCIS: TO KNOW CHRIST BETTER, CONTEMPLATE HIS ‘HOLY FACE’

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2020 / 06:26 am (CNA) – Meditating on the Gospel and on Christ’s holy face is a good way to know Jesus better, especially as the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself for the sins of the world, Pope Francis said Sunday.

Reflecting on John the Baptist’s testimony in the Gospel of John is an invitation “to start afresh on our journey of faith: to start afresh from Jesus Christ, the Lamb full of mercy that the Father has given for us,” he said Jan. 19.

“We learn from the Baptist not to presume that we already know Jesus, that we already know everything about him,” he continued. “It is not so. Let’s stop on the Gospel, perhaps even contemplating an icon of Christ, a ‘holy face.’

The Holy Face of Manoppello, held in a church in an Italian village, is believed to be an image of the face of Christ, perhaps from the Veil of Veronica.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, celebrated Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello Jan. 19. At the conclusion of the Mass, the cardinal led a procession with the image.

The Mass and procession were to mark the feast of “Omnis Terra,” which recalls Pope Innocent III’s procession with the Holy Face in 1208, when the image was held at the Vatican.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the protectors of the Holy Face of Manoppello, were also present at the Mass and procession with Cardinal Koch.

At his Angelus address, Pope Francis said we contemplate Christ with the eyes but even more so with the heart. We “let ourselves be instructed by the Holy Spirit, who tells us inside: It is He! He is the Son of God made lamb, immolated for love,” he said.

“He alone suffered, atoned for sin, the sin of each of us, the sin of the world, and also my sins, all. He carried them all on himself and took them away from us, so that we could finally be free, no longer slaves to evil,” Francis stated. “Yes, we are still poor sinners, but not slaves, no, not slaves: children, children of God!”

The pope explained that the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time is a continuation of the feasts of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord. It continues to speak about Jesus, who after his baptism was “consecrated by the Holy Spirit,” he said.

He urged Catholics to “be surprised again by God’s choice to be on our side, to be in solidarity with us sinners, and to save the world from evil by taking charge of it totally.”

After the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reminded Catholics that 2020 has been designated the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” by the World Health Organization.

“Nurses are the most numerous health workers, and midwives are perhaps the most noble of the professions,” he said. “Let us pray for all of them, so that they can do their best at the valuable work.”

The pope also expressed his desire that a high-level summit in Berlin on the crisis in Libya “will be the start of a path towards the cessation of violence and a negotiated solution that will lead to peace and the much desired stability of the country.”

A FOUNDATION OF FAITH

The word “rock” refers to anything foundational, anything unmoving or unyielding during a challenge. In this context, a rock is a dependable mainstay, an anchor in a storm. 

St. Peter was – and forever remains – a rock of the Catholic Church. Jesus had confidence in him when He renamed Simon, a fisherman from Bethsaida, Peter; the Greek equivalent, “Petrus,” means “rock.”  

Appointed by Jesus to lead the Apostles, Peter is considered to be the father of the Church. In following Christ’s wishes, Peter nurtured Catholicism the same way a loving father nurtures a newborn. His life and legacy will forever be at the very foundation of the Church. 

“We believe that Peter is the first pope,” says Msgr. Stephen Doktorczyk, Vicar General of the Diocese of Orange. “Jesus gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” 

Peter was called to be a disciple during the early days of Christ’s ministry. Along with his brother Andrew, another disciple, he was influenced by the preaching of repentance by John the Baptist. Peter and the other disciples followed Jesus throughout the region. Returning to fishing for a brief time, he and Andrew became two of Jesus’ permanent disciples, after Jesus said, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men.”  

Peter soon stood out as the Apostle with the strongest faith and love of Jesus. The Lord promised that Peter would eventually be the leader of His flock. Despite his faith, he wasn’t perfect.  

“The Bible points out Peter’s humanity,” says Msgr. Doktorczyk. “He wasn’t saintly all the time. It would have been easier for the Gospel writers to ‘sanitize’ the lives of those appearing in Sacred Scripture, but they included their flaws. This should strengthen our faith in the reliability of Scripture. … On three separate occasions, Peter denied knowing Jesus. But Jesus gave him an opportunity to renounce his denial.”  

In John 21:15, during the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter answered. “You know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 

Msgr. Doktorczyk notes that the reference to “these” is open to interpretation, though, he adds, “What makes sense to me is, ‘Do you love me more than you love things such as your fishing nets and other equipment?’ That is to say, ‘Are you going back to your former trade or will you continue to follow me?’” 

Following his admission of denial, Peter became the perfect example of the forgiven sinner. Befitting his role as the leader of the Apostles, he was the first person to enter Christ’s tomb and declare Him the Messiah. After His Ascension, Peter designated the replacement of Judas, delivered a significant outdoor sermon to a huge crowd during Pentecost, led the efforts to assist the poor and was the first to perform miracles – such as healing the sick – in the name of Jesus.  

“Peter knew that his gift of healing was through Jesus, that Jesus was performing these miracles through him,” Msgr. Doktorczyk says. “In Acts 5:15 and 16, the sick were brought out into the street hoping that the shadow of Peter would fall on them and heal them as he walked by. According to Scripture, this worked.” 

As the rock of the Church, some of Peter’s miracles were downright brutal. 

“There’s the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who sold their land but withheld a portion of their money to the Apostles. Followers were supposed to give all of their proceeds to the Apostles, who would distribute them to the poor. When Peter caught Ananias lying about the amount of the proceeds received from the sale, and after Ananias failed to be honest with Peter, Ananias suddenly dropped dead. When three hours later his wife visited Peter looking for her husband and recounted the same inaccurate account as Ananias, she was struck dead on the spot.” 

Peter took great pains to help keep the Church unified, actions that affected Catholicism through the centuries.  

“He knew that there were going to be some growing pains in the Church, and he worked on what traditions at that time should be kept. Today, the teaching, sanctifying and governing that bishops and pastors do, these are the very elements that were stressed by Peter.” 

Peter was crucified in the Year 64 or 67, Msgr. Doktorczyk says. “Peter said, ‘I’m not worthy to die in the same way as my Lord.’” 

So Peter’s killers turned him upside down. He was first buried in a shallow grave on Vatican Hill.  

Recognizing the far-reaching influence that Peter had on the world, the Roman Emperor Constantine ordered that a basilica be constructed around Peter’s permanent place of burial.  

“St. Peter’s Basilica was built on a hill, to ensure that Peter’s place of burial would be in its exact center. However, it would’ve been far easier to construct it on flat land close to the burial place,” Msgr. Doktorczyk says. “Constantine wanted to be precise to honor Peter.” 

Any structure built on a hill that would last for centuries would’ve required an extremely strong foundation – which is befitting of St. Peter, the rock of the Catholic Church.  

CHRIST IS VICTORIOUS OVER ALL THAT DIVIDES PEOPLE, POPE SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Easter is a feast that calls Christians to gather together, make a commitment to dialogue and to work for the common good, Pope Francis said.

In Italy and in other countries, Easter Monday is a day for relaxed family gatherings and picnics because “after having celebrated Easter, one feels a need to gather again with loved ones and friends to celebrate,” the pope said April 2, before reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer at noon with visitors in St. Peter’s Square. 

In a short talk before the prayer, Pope Francis said Easter promotes fraternity because “with his death and resurrection, Christ has defeated the sin that separates human beings from God, from themselves and from their brothers and sisters. We know that sin always separates, always creates enmity.”

Pope Francis said it is important today to rediscover the value of fraternity and community that the first Christians lived, “rediscovering how to give space to Jesus who never separates, but always unites.”

“Without fraternal sharing,” he said, “there can be no ecclesial or civil community; there would exist only a collection of individuals moved or grouped by their own interests.”

Christ’s resurrection from the dead unleashed a new commitment to dialogue, “which for Christians has become a responsibility,” the pope said. “In fact, Jesus said, ‘This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ That is why we cannot close ourselves off in our own group, but we are called to be involved in the common good, take care of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are weakest and most marginalized.”

After reciting the “Regina Coeli,” Pope Francis urged Christians to show support and care for people who are fragile, and he made special mention of day’s celebration of World Autism Awareness Day.

For the occasion, the Vatican published a message from Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

“With its works the church witnesses to its care for persons with symptoms on the autism spectrum,” he said. “In our communities, there is a general attitude of welcome, even if there is still difficulty in exercising real inclusion.”

For such inclusion to occur, he said, every parish and community must make sure all who enter are treated with the dignity that is theirs as children of God and they must welcome with compassion any family that is struggling and exhausted.

ME VS. WE

 

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

—Proverbs 22:6

 

Teachers and parents must teach their kids the value of sharing, the importance of knowing how their actions affect others, and why thoughtfulness is so important for Christ-like living.

A sense of social responsibility furthers the Catholic belief that the other person is as valuable as I am and deserves respect as an individual and someone who is loved by God, says Principal Brad Snyder of St. Joseph School, a Catholic preK-8th grade school in Santa Ana.

“We talk about Catholic social justice and we start at the beginning with 4-year-olds,” Snyder says. “We do it through our religion classes and the stories we tell from the Bible about the Good Samaritan and how we take care of our neighbors.”

Because St. Joseph’s students come from very diverse, impoverished backgrounds, Snyder says it’s important that they learn how to be there for each other, and how they can look beyond themselves to be the change they want to see in their community.

Teaching children values can begin when they are still quite young, agrees Louise Valdez, faith formation coordinator for St. Junipero Catholic School in Rancho Santa Margarita, which has more than 1,000 PreK-8th grade students.

“As an educator, I start at the beginning and, knowing the stages of development, ask ‘where is this child right now as far as their viewpoint?’” Valdez says. “It is critical because we are a Catholic school to also assess where they are in relation to God.”

Elementary school students are learning as youngsters that two-way relationships are beneficial. “If I’m nice on the playground, others will be nice to me,” Valdez uses as an example. “You can’t start too early to teach kids to be empathetic with each other.”

Teaching kids empathy is vital, Valdez notes, referring to “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” in which author Wendy Mogel uses Jewish teachings to teach parents to raise self-reliant children. “It talks about how our mission of perfection sets our kids up to fail and encourages parents to let their children be unique and ordinary.”

From a Christian point of view, Valdez notes, parents and educators must be channels of grace. “God is constantly communicating His grace through us so we can share it. He shows us how to be charitable to others, give each other hope, and pray over others. No child is too young to participate in that, to learn to be a channel of grace.”

Praying as a family at every opportunity and counting blessings together teaches kids that their needs are part of the family’s priorities.

In elementary school, Valdez says, kids see that everyone wants to be valued. “When the teacher is praying, they light up because they know those prayers from praying at home and they want to lead them.”

Learning the parts of the Mass introduces children to the concept that much of the Catholic faith is tradition. “Explaining tradition and teaching them to understand faith is important. It also can be difficult. Sometimes parents don’t understand presence of Jesus themselves.”

Valdez notes that all of us need to be involved in some way in someone else’s life. “Middle school is the perfect time to open students’ eyes to service,” she says. “By taking advantage of service opportunities, such as participating in delivering food to the homeless or visiting a facility for the elderly, we teach children about the important of being aware of other people.”

MULLIGAN TIME

f you play golf long enough, you develop a favorite shot. Some people delight in a solidly struck five-iron, others a long curving putt, still others a smoothly executed sand shot that lands on the green with little cat feet.

I love the mulligan.

An artfully played mulligan has saved me dozens of times from beginning an otherwise splendid round of golf with a hideous pratfall. Instead of being forced to play the result of my initial tee shot from somewhere deep inside the fifth circle of hell (where, according to Dante, the wrathful suffer), the mulligan allows me to re-tee a nice fresh ball and crush it joyously down the center of the fairway, straight into the land of milk and honey.

A mulligan is a do-over. When it’s agreed upon, it’s usually taken on the first tee. It got its name, as one version of the story goes, from a fellow named Mulligan, who had the only car in his regular foursome and was forced to pick up all the other golfers on the way to the course. For his exertions (or maybe because he was just bad at the game) he was allowed to take a second shot on the first tee when his first shot inevitably went horribly astray.

I always think of Mr. Mulligan, and his invaluable and inspired contribution to the game of golf, about this time every year. Two things serve as reminders: the turn of the new year, and the birth of Jesus.

Many people, of course, see every new year as a classic do-over, the nearly perfect clean slate. We’ve just emerged from the glow of the Christmas season, the days are already beginning to get longer, and life seems full of exciting possibilities. We may have made a bit of a hash out of the previous year, but chucking the old calendar into the dumpster is an act that glistens with happy symbolism.

For a real do-over, however, for the ultimate mulligan, you can’t beat the arrival of Christ on the scene and everything that it portended. Because for quite a long time, humankind had been getting it wrong, to one degree or another. We either were fixated on false gods, or vengeful and angry gods, or no gods at all, or a set of odd and arbitrary rules thicker than the California Vehicle Code. But now: a God who loved us, delighted in us, wanted only good for us, answered prayers and wanted us to be blissfully happy? And when we transgressed was eager, almost impatient, to forgive us? And who wanted so much to prove it that he became one of us? And how about the do-over of all do-overs: the Resurrection?

Here’s your brand-new Titleist, world. Tee it up.

It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but Christianity, in one of its more appealing aspects, is all about the mulligan. It’s about second chances and forgiveness. If we sincerely want to play the game straight, if we keep stepping up and trying for the best result and sometimes fail, we get another try, cheerfully guaranteed. The occasional mistake will not ruin the entire round.

And that’s not some fast-and-loose guideline. That’s in the rule book, in indelible ink.