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EPISODE #248
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: THE ‘BREAD OF LIFE DISCOURSE’ FROM THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

Join Deacon Steve Greco as he welcomes Fr. Tim Peters to the studio. Fr. Tim is a biblical theologian who, among his many duties, is a professor at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, CA.

Our focus today is on the Eucharist and the “Bread of Life Discourse,” from the Gospel of John.

Give a listen and SHARE this podcast!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 7/5/2020

EPISODE #230
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: YOU ARE CALLED

Host Deacon Steve Greco interviews guests on a variety of topics. On this week’s program, Steve welcomes two key team members of the Spirit-Filled Hearts ministry, Katie Hughes and Michael Aimola.

Our discussion today centers around the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 25) and the power of the Word of God.

What does it mean for us to “live out our Baptism?”

Join us for a lively discussion!

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 2/2/2020

POPE FRANCIS: NATIVITY SCENES SHOW A ‘DOMESTIC GOSPEL’

Vatican City, Dec 18, 2019 / 03:12 am (CNA) – Pope Francis Wednesday called Christmas nativity scenes a “domestic Gospel,” which helps to make the Holy Family present in one’s home.

He also encouraged every family to have one in their home at Christmas time.

During his last general audience of 2019, Francis said Dec. 18 that gazing at the nativity, with the baby Jesus, Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph “we can imagine the thoughts they had while the Child was born in poverty: joy but also shock.”

“And we can also invite the Holy Family to our home, where there are joys and worries, where every day we wake up, get food and sleep close to our loved ones,” he said. “The nativity is a domestic Gospel.”

Pope Francis explained that the word ‘manger’ has the same meaning as trough, and Bethlehem means “house of bread.”

“The manger scene we make at home, where we share food and affections, reminds us that Jesus is the essential nourishment, the bread of life,” he said.

“It is He who feeds our love, it is He who gives our families the strength to continue on and to forgive each other.”

The pope quoted from his Dec. 1 apostolic letter Admirabile signum, saying “the nativity, in fact, ‘is like a living Gospel,’” and urging everyone to have nativities at their homes, schools, workplaces, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and town squares.

A nativity points to the essential: that God became man, he said.

He explained that “setting up a nativity scene is celebrating the closeness of God: God is always close to his people, but he was really close, very close, extremely close” at his birth at Christmas.

Noting that Christmas is just one week away, Francis also encouraged Catholics, in the midst of running around to complete the final preparations, to ask themselves: “How am I preparing for the birth of the celebration?”

Setting up a manger scene is “a simple but effective way to prepare,” he advised. “In today’s frenetic rhythms it is an invitation to contemplation. It reminds us of the importance of stopping.”

The pope also emphasized the tenderness of God as exhibited in a nativity; it shows God not as “distant lord or a detached judge,” he said, but as “humble Love, descended to us.”

He also recalled how some figures of the baby Jesus, called “Bambinelli” in Italian, have open arms, illustrating “that God has come to embrace our humanity.”

Speak to the Lord in the nativity scene, telling him about your cares and concerns, expectations, and the year which has passed, he urged.

“In everyday life we are no longer alone, He lives with us. It does not magically change things but, if we welcome Him, everything can change.”

“I hope for you then that setting up the manger scene is an opportunity to invite Jesus into your life,” he said. “When we make a nativity at home, it opens the door to Jesus. It makes this closeness concrete.”

FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF SAINT PETER, APOSTLE

February 22, 2019

Today, we celebrate the teaching authority that was vested in not only Peter, but to his successors. In our #FrSpitzerHomily he connects how the keys to the Kingdom of heaven, shared in today’s Gospel, is also referenced in the Old Testament.

 

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022219.cfm

 

VIDEO SERIES OFFERS CATHOLICS GOSPEL GUIDANCE FOR THEIR LENTEN JOURNEY

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — One of the biggest challenges of Lent, for many people who are caught up in the demands of everyday life, is to set aside meaningful time during the penitent season to forge a deeper connection with Christ.

“Despite our busy-ness, we need to find a way to pay attention to God” during Lent, said Father Ed Steiner, rector of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville.

Lent is an ideal time to build new spiritual habits, Father Steiner said, and could include reading Scripture or simply taking a few meditative moments of silence during the daily commute. “You can devote yourself to a handful of small things that take a few minutes a day.”

There are a plethora of apps and websites that offer daily or weekly reflections via email. And this year, for the first time, the Diocese of Nashville is producing a weekly series of reflections by local priests that aim to give a deeper understanding of the Sunday readings during Lent.

Beginning March 2, new Lenten reflection videos are to be available every Thursday during Lent at www.dioceseofnashville.com and on YouTube.

“We are hoping it helps the people of the Diocese of Nashville to prepare for Sunday Mass and helps them apply the readings to their daily lives,” said Joan Watson, director of adult formation for the diocese. “Our hope is that these reflections help people prepare for the liturgy they are about to celebrate with their parish, and nurtures their Lenten journey.”

The Lenten reflection series builds on Watson’s weekly “Three Minute Theology” video mini-lessons on different aspects of the Catholic faith. For Lent, Nashville Bishop David R. Choby “suggested that we create a series of videos featuring local priests reflecting on the themes of Lent and the Sunday Mass readings,” Watson said, and she and her team were busy preparing the videos over several weeks.

The short videos, which also were to be posted on the bishop’s Facebook page, feature a different diocesan priest offering reflections on the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday. The priests were each recorded where they serve, Watson said, “to bring the people of the diocese into these places and connect them to their fellow Catholics through the mid-state (area of Tennessee). We hope to continue to do more series like these and feature more priests and parishes.”

One of the priests featured in the videos is Father Michael Baltrus, pastor of St. Patrick Church in McEwen, who offers a reflection on the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. He said he wanted to talk about how “when we face some of the most difficult things in life, that’s an opportunity for our faith to grow.”

“As part of our human nature, we tend to try to avoid uncomfortable situations,” Father Baltrus told the Tennessee Register, Nashville’s diocesan newspaper. “The church encourages us to look for discomfort, look for ways to be sacrificial, be more monastic.”

Lent, he said, “is an opportunity for each of us to step out of the ordinary.” During those times, Father Baltrus said, “is when we see the hand of God in a more powerful and beautiful way.”

The true focus of Lent is Good Friday, said Father Steiner, who also is featured in a video. “All the fasting, abstinence and sacrificial acts, we do that so we can identify with Jesus on the cross.” The challenge, he said, “is to put ourselves in a position of real sacrifice.”

In addition to renewing spiritual practices during Lent through reading Scripture, attending an extra daily Mass each week, or going to confession, people could also volunteer with their parish or another worthy cause, Father Steiner said. But the focus should always be beyond ourselves, he added. “Lent is more than motivation to do the right things, it’s motivation to improve our spiritual lives.”

Father Steiner, Father Baltrus and the other priests offering reflections in the Lenten video series “help us find consolation, encouragement, and guidance in the Gospels,” said Watson. “The Scriptures are not dead, but living, and continue to speak to us anew today,” she added. “Each reflection features very practical ways to make the teachings of Jesus part of your daily life.”

GO IN HASTE! BE AMAZED! TREASURE!

 

By now most of you are probably aware of the depressing statistics regarding the “nones,” that is to say, those in this country who claim no religious affiliation. The most recent survey showed that now fully one fourth of Americans belong to no religion at all—that’s approximately 80,000,000 people. And among those in the 18-29 age group, the percentage of nones goes up to 40! This increase has been alarmingly precipitous. Fifty years ago, only a fraction of the country would have identified as unreligious, and even a decade ago, the number was only at 14%. What makes this situation even more distressing is that fully 64% of young adult nones were indeed raised religious but have taken the conscious and active decision to abandon their churches. Houston, we definitely have a problem.

I have written frequently regarding practical steps that religious leaders ought to be taking to confront this rising tide of secularist ideology, and I will continue to do so. But for the moment, I would like to reflect on a passage from the Gospel of Luke, which was featured on the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, and which sheds considerable light on this issue. It has to do with the visit of the shepherds to Mary and the Christ child in the stable at Bethlehem, and it hinges on three words: haste, astonished, and treasured.

We hear that, upon receiving the angel’s message, the shepherds “went in haste” to visit the holy family. This echoes a passage from a bit earlier in Luke’s Gospel: having heard the news of her own pregnancy and that of Elizabeth, Mary, we are told, “went in haste” to the hill country of Judah to help her cousin. The spiritual truth that both of these pericopes disclose is that energy, verve, enthusiasm, and a sense of mission come precisely from a good that is perceived to be both objective and transcendent to the ego. If I might borrow the language of Dietrich von Hildebrand, it is only the objectively valuable—as opposed to the merely subjectively satisfying—that fills the mind and soul with passion and purpose. When the sense of objective and transcendent value is attenuated—as it necessarily is within the context of a secularist worldview—passion and mission fade away. John Henry Newman said that what gives a river verve and movement is precisely the firmness of its banks. When those banks are broken down, in the interest of a supposed freedom, the once energetic body of water spreads out into a great lazy lake. What we have in our secularist culture, which denies the transcendent good, is a subjectivism that gives rise to the “whatever” attitude. Toleration and self-assertion reign supreme; but no one goes anywhere in haste. Rather, we all rest on our individual air mattresses in the midst of the placid but tedious lake.

The second word I want to emphasize is “astonished.” Luke tells us that those who heard the shepherds’ testimony were “astonished” at the news. The King James Version renders this as “they wondered at” the message. Wonder, amazement, and astonishment happen when the properly transcendent power breaks into our ordinary experience. The findings of the sciences delight and inform us, but they don’t astonish us, and the reason for this is that we are finally in control of the deliverances of the scientific method. We observe, we form hypotheses, we make experiments, and we draw conclusions. Again, this is all to the good, but it doesn’t produce amazement. Dorothy Day witnessed to the astonishing when she said, upon the birth of her first child, that she felt a gratitude so enormous that it would correspond to nothing or no one in this world. Mother Teresa was properly amazed when, on a lengthy train journey to Darjeeling, she heard a voice calling her to minister to the poorest of the poor. The apostles of Jesus fell into wonder when they saw, alive again, their master who had been crucified and buried. These are the most precious kinds of experiences that we can have, and if St. Augustine is right, they alone can satisfy the deepest longing of the heart. A secularist ideology—the worldview embraced by the “nones”—produces the clean, well-lighted space of what we can know and control. But it precludes true astonishment, and this leaves the soul impoverished.

The final word from Luke upon which I’d like to reflect is “treasured.” The evangelist tells us that Mary “treasured these things, pondering upon them in her heart.” Newman said that Mary, precisely in this contemplative, ruminative frame of mind, is the model of all theology. I’d press it further. She is the real symbol of the Church in its entire function as the custodian of revelation. What is the Sistine Chapel? What is Notre Dame Cathedral? What is The Divine Comedy of Dante? What is the Summa contra gentiles of Thomas Aquinas? What are the sermons of John Chrysostom? What are the teachings of the great ecumenical councils? What is the liturgy in all of its complexity and beauty? These are all means by which the Church stubbornly, century in and century out, treasures the astonishing events of God’s self-manifestation. Up and down the ages, the Church ponders what God has done so that the memory of these mighty deeds might never be lost. As such, she performs an indispensable service on behalf of the world—though the world might not have any sense of it. She keeps holding up the light against the darkness.

So to the “nones” and to those who are tempted to move into secularism, I say, don’t float on the lazy lake; rather, go in haste! Don’t settle for something less than astonishment; be amazed! Don’t fall into spiritual amnesia; treasure!

 

Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.

 

 

POPE URGES VISITORS TO GET TO KNOW JESUS BY READING GOSPELS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis asked thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to be quiet for a moment and ponder the question, “Who is Jesus to you?”

After the moment of silence Aug. 23, the pope introduced the midday Angelus prayer by asking Mary to help Christians purify their faith, removing “worldly incrustations and fears.”

Commenting on the day’s Gospel reading from St. John, the pope said people were scandalized when Jesus told them he was the “bread of life” and “clearly alluded” to the fact that he would sacrifice his life for them.

The people were upset, he said, because such talk did not fit in with their idea of the Messiah. They thought “he should speak and act in a way that his mission would have success immediately.”

“They understood Jesus’ words so well that they did not want to listen to him because they were words that put their mentality in crisis,” he said. The words of Jesus challenge people’s ideas today, as well, he said.

In the Gospel passage, when people started to abandon Jesus, he asked the disciples if they, too, wanted to leave. Peter responded, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Pope Francis told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square that like the disciples, Christians must realize that “everything we have in this world will not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus. We need to stay with him, to nourish ourselves at his table and with his words that are eternal life.”

The disciples made their statement of faith, he said, and Christians today should ask themselves: “Who is Jesus for me? Is he a name, an idea, just a historic figure? Or is he truly a person who loves me, who gave his life for me and who walks with me?”

Recognizing Jesus as the “bread of life” is only one step, the pope said. “Do you try to know him through his word? Do you read the Gospel, a passage each day to get to know Jesus?”

“The more we are with Jesus, the greater our desire to stay with him,” Pope Francis told the crowd, which included a group of U.S. men dressed in black — seminarians about to begin their studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. They received a special greeting from the pope after the Angelus prayer.