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EPISODE #249
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: “BE NOT AFRAID” – TURNING TO FAITH AMIDST FEAR

Today’s podcast is an important and timely edition of Empowered by the Spirit, as Deacon Steve Greco welcomes two very enthusiastic guests to the studio (Katie Hughes and Martha Garduno).

Our topic of discussion is primarily about Deacon Steve’s brand new book which is hot-off-the-press and so needed for today. It’s called “Be Not Afraid,” which encourages all of us to turn to our faith amidst the pandemic and all the challenges we currently face.

Listen in.. and you’ll surely glean some wonderful insights and encouragement!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 7/12/2020

EPISODE #237
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: FAITH IN TRYING TIMES – THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC OF 2020

Where do we go in times of trouble and distress? Is there anyone who can help us shoulder our burdens? Deacon Steve Greco welcomes a very important guest to talk about it on today’s program. He is the Most Reverend David G. O’Connell, the Episcopal Vicar of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

So many people are living in fear and anxiety. Still, our Lord Jesus tells us very clearly in scripture to “dismiss all anxiety. . do not fear. I am with you..”

Be sure to SHARE this important and timely podcast with others.

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 3/29/2020

FEAR BECOMES SIN WHEN IT LEADS TO HOSTILITY TOWARD MIGRANTS, POPE SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Being afraid and concerned about the impact of migration is not a sin, Pope Francis said, but it is a sin to let those fears lead to a refusal to help people in need. 

“The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection,” the pope said Jan. 14, celebrating Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. 

While fear is a natural human reaction, he said, “the sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.” 

Thousands of migrants and refugees now living in Rome, but coming from more than 60 countries, joined Pope Francis and an international group of cardinals, bishops and priests for the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Sixty of the migrants and refugees carried their homeland’s national flags into the basilica before the Mass and hundreds wore the national dress of their countries, including many of the people who read the prayers of the faithful and brought up the gifts at the offertory during the multilingual Mass. 

While care for migrants and refugees has been a priority for Pope Francis, the World Day for Migrants and Refugees has been an annual celebration of the Catholic Church for more than 100 years. St. Pius X began the observance in 1914. 

After reciting the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square after the Mass, Pope Francis announced that “for pastoral reasons” the date of the annual celebration was being moved to the second Sunday of September. The next World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he said, would be marked Sept. 8, 2019. 

According to the United Nations, an estimated 258 million people are living outside the country of their birth. The number includes 26 million refugees and asylum seekers, who were forced to flee their homelands because of war or persecution. 

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ response to the disciples who asked him where he lived. “Come and you will see,” Jesus tells them, inviting them into a relationship where they would welcome and get to know each other. 

“His invitation ‘Come and see!’ is addressed today to all of us, to local communities and to new arrivals,” the pope said. “It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her.” 

For the migrants and refugees, he said, that includes learning about and respecting the laws and customs of their host countries. “It even includes understanding their fears and apprehensions for the future,” he added. 

For people in the host countries, he said, it means welcoming newcomers, opening oneself “without prejudices to their rich diversity,” understanding their hopes, fears and vulnerabilities and recognizing their potential. 

‘In the true encounter with the neighbor, are we capable of recognizing Jesus Christ who is asking to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated?” Pope Francis asked. 

“It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences,” the pope said. That is one reason why “we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves.” 

People in host countries may be afraid that newcomers “will disturb the established order (or) will ‘steal’ something they have long labored to build up,” he said. And the newcomers have their own fears “of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure.” 

Both set of fears, the pope said, “are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view.” 

Sin, he said, enters the equation only when people refuse to try to understand, to welcome and to see Jesus present in the other, especially “the poor, the rejected, the refugee, the asylum seeker.”  

IN THE FACE OF FEAR AND VIOLENCE, THERE IS A LOVE THAT CASTS OUT FEAR

We are writing to you as brothers and ministers in the Lord who have had the grace of friendship, prayer and worship together in our respective faith communities. Our hearts are heavy after the senseless loss of precious lives in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas. Every human life has inestimable value. We pray for the families of those who have lost their loved ones, whether those protecting and serving others at a nonviolent protest in Dallas or those caught up in the racial and structural injustice. This is a moment of personal concern for Bishop Vann, who was a neighbor and friend to many in Dallas for a number of years, and who is in regular communication with Bishop Kevin Farrell in Dallas.

As Christians we suffer with those who suffer, grieve with those who grieve, and also stand in solidarity with those most vulnerable. In an atmosphere of anger, mistrust, and hatred, we must recover the ability to weep with those who weep, to comfort those in pain, and to make space for those who need healing. It seems our society is often fractured by a negative view of diversity rather than celebrating the beauty of each member of the human family and recognizing that we are all one body and one heart. Bishop Farrell wrote after the Dallas shooting, “Our community has to be a stained glass window, where we all come together in peace and harmony.” Indeed, we must find a way to halt what Dr. King called the “descending spiral” of violence. He famously wrote:

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

What is the love that can drive out violence? As Christians, we proclaim that love came into the world in the Word made flesh: Jesus the Lord. There is a love that casts out fear. There is a love that is willing to make room for others. There is a love that does not insist on its own way. This love can freely assert that all of our lives together matter and are created in the image and likeness of God.   This declarative, inclusive statement, stands on its own and must be said, given that there was a time in our American history we declared that “all Men are created equal” while counting enslaved blacks as three-fifths of a person. Such an acknowledgement can be made – and must be made – while simultaneously valuing and mourning the loss of those persons working in law enforcement , whom we count on daily for our security and safety, as well as the loss of the most vulnerable and oppressed members of our society. There is a love that worked a miracle for the centurion as well as a man living in the tombs whose demons were legion.

We refuse to pit one community against another, to scapegoat individuals or whole communities, and we also refuse to abandon the preferential option for the poor, the defenseless, the outcast, and the downtrodden. There is a fear that these tragedies will lead to a chilling effect on nonviolent witness to the truth and a backtracking on so many of the good strides that police departments have made to train in and focus on community policing. May it not be so!

In California we are engaged in significant efforts to pursue criminal justice reform, to move more towards restorative justice and a system that better respects the dignity of the human person. We have a long way to go to protect all life at its beginning and end and every stage in between. In Orange County bridge building efforts are not just across black-white divides but Latino, Vietnamese, and many other communities. We are beautifully diverse and we are better together. We hope our efforts in recent years to pray and worship together in one another’s communities have helped to build some of these bridges and we look forward to building many more.

Dorothy Day once said: “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” There is no room for prejudice among the people of God but there is all the space in the world for one another. So let’s redouble our efforts to walk in the path of Dr. King, Dorothy Day, and Mother Teresa, who summed up so many of the great saints in saying: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” There is a love that walks the way of the cross in hope of the resurrection.

Please know of our prayer, love and our commitment together to the Lord’s ministry for our brothers and sisters in our communities.