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Mar 252018
 

Abraham going up to offer Isaac as a sacrifice
One of the more interesting fights in Christianity is between the concept of salvation through faith and/or  works. Many in the protestant denominations, basing their understanding in the teachings of Martin Luther, maintain that we are saved by faith and therefore, since we are saved by faith, we have no need to engage in works.

 

St. James’ Epistle, which is a letter that Martin Luther disputed, explains that it is through our works that faith becomes evident. We may say we love God, but if we do not act out of that love, then we demonstrate that we do not actually love God. We can argue for the existence of God, for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but this proves nothing more belief that even the devil has. In fact, the devil believes in God more than any saint does. But he refuses to love God.

 

St. James explains that when we live our faith then we demonstrate our love.

 

This leads me to ask about our weekly Mass attendance. Many Catholics believe but do not attend Mass and believe that they do not have to attend Mass to be saved. Others Christians will condemn Mass attendance as a sign of putting faith in works more than grace. If we return to the Letter of James, which we can consider the ultimate authority on faith and works, we see a powerful admonition that we can use as the foundation of our question about attending Mass. He writes about Abraham and Isaac. Abraham proved his love of God when he began to sacrifice his only son Isaac at God’s request. Many today are scandalized by the passage asking what kind of God does this?

 

What this passage is actually about is that the surrounding cultures practiced human sacrifice to worship their gods and our God called Abraham to this same standard to prove his love because that is the only way he understood how to prove love to the divine. Once Abraham begins to act obediently, God sends an angel to stop him and, through this, God teaches him that his faith is actually proven not by sacrifice, even of his son, as it is for the pagans, but by obedience to God and by the works of serving God and doing His will.

 

James explains, therefore, that by Abraham’s works, his faith becomes apparent.

 

Cannot the opposite be also true? If the Lord calls us to weekly Mass and we choose not to attend, are we not proving our lack of faith through our lack of obedience to God.

 

One reason for this dichotomy is that many believe that it is through good works that we are saved. James explained that we do not earn Heaven through our good works, but through them prove our relationship with God.

 

Jesus also says, “if you love me you will keep my commandments”, but that means that proof of our lack of love is in ignoring the commandments including the third. So it is here that faith and works play themselves out again.

 

The protestants think that we believe that we earn Heaven through our works and rightfully they condemn that attitude. However, James explains that we demonstrate our faith through our works. We are saved by faith and live by it in our works. If we have no works, he explains then our faith is truly dead. Indeed, he compares faith without works to a body with no spirit and such a body is likewise dead he teaches.

 

So can you call yourself a faithful Catholic and not attend Mass? Those who embrace the protestant understanding of faith and works will say, “Of course you can!” But St. James would reject this. He would explain that attending Mass is just one aspect of our life that demonstrates our faith and love.

 

If you do not attend  Mass on a weekly basis, can you say that you truly have faith and in fact love God?

Fr. Robert J Carr

 Posted by at 01:01
Dec 242017
 

Today is a unique one because this one day is the shortest week of the year. It is only 24 hours. We call it the fourth week of advent. However, from another perspective this Sunday celebration brings us to the Monday celebration that begins the Christmas Season. It is a time of celebration.

 

If you heard all the Christmas music and saw all the decorations in the celebration of the secular definition of Christmas, you can see that it is supposed to be a happy time when people are friendly to each other and celebrate charity. It does not always pan out that way, but that is the way people look at it.

 

However, that is not it at all. It is bigger than that and you will never find that information out at the mall.

 

What is it all about?

 

Well, think of it this way: God does not give up on His people.

 

Today’s Gospel is the annunciation where the Angel Gabriel asks Mary to be the Mother of Jesus. She who was predestined to this position says “Yes” in reverse of Eve’s “No” to God. But this is all part of God’s plan to fix what was broken by our first parents. Why? So that you could be saved.

 

Now think of that message you heard while you were Christmas shopping.

 

You heard it is the most wonderful time of the year, you heard of joy to the world, you heard of peace on Earth,

Your heard that the Lord has come, you heard that we need to adore him and you  heard more. But if there  is one message you do not hear, it is God does not give up on us.

 

Do you know someone who is beyond salvation? The only people who are beyond salvation are those who reject the gift of salvation. There are others who feel they are beyond the reach of God’s love. They feel they are beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness and that God cannot forgive them; but the true message is that God does not give up on us so we cannot give up on ourselves or anyone else.  

 

This also means that our message is not just for the people celebrating Christmas, but those who feel Christmas is passing them by. They are unable to get into the spirit because of their great pains and they feel they cannot be saved because of their great sins. These are the people to whom the message is most addressed and these are the ones to whom we must preach with our lives. They are also the most difficult ones. But, as Jesus later points out, it is easy to preach to those who accept the message easily. It is to those who are on the spiritual highways and byways who most need to hear the invitation.

 

We must make sure that we pass the word on to them, them especially.

 

This then is our message. This is why the Church exists to proclaim that message to all we do that by following the example of Mary. That is why we are called to be obedient to the call of Christ as was Mary.

 

It is not that we are earning our way to Heaven. Unfortunately, that heresy was profoundly taught in 20th Century, it is rather our living our faith is how we communicate that message: That Christ is alive and offers salvation to all who seek it. That in a sense everyday is Christmas, not a day to receive gifts. But to communicate that message of salvation to all.

 

However, do not forget that Christ came to destroy Satan’s power whose message is that there is no God and if there was, he condemns you.

 

There are many who have accepted that message so they remain focused on this world for they see no alternative.

 

Our call is to bring the true message of Christmas to the world. Satan lies. Christ lives and he offers you  eternal life and salvation. Come encounter Christ and be in communion with Him at mass and throughout your life.

 

This is a far more powerful message than what we hear in store PA systems while people are battling with each other over parking spaces and special discounts. Christ has come to save you.

 

It is important to note that this message has only existed with the coming of Christ. Prior to his coming God only spoke to the Jews and worked through them with few exceptions. Christ came at the  fullness of time, prior to that it was not time for his message to become universal. Mary’s Annunciation in Today’s Gospel was the beginning of making God’s plan of salvation  universal for all.

 

So we wait expectantly this fourth Sunday of Advent for God’s next move which could come anytime or long after we are gone, but his message is still our message: Salvation has come to you if you choose to accept it because God does not give up on you.  That is the message we live today, tomorrow and everyday.

 

Fr. Robert J Carr

 

 Posted by at 01:01
Nov 192017
 

Jesus reminds us that we are the light of the world and we are the salt of the Earth. When we forget that or even reject that, then not only are we not doing any good, we are not doing anything worthwhile for our neighbors around us.

In today’s Gospel we can see that Jesus is showing us that he gives us a treasure for which we are responsible to make a return on His investment in us. If we fail to make a return, even if the return on investment is no less than the original principle, then we have failed in the vocation to be salt and light.

Our second reading today comes from St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. We read this passage at this time of year because the focus is on the end times and at the end of the liturgical year, December 2, we also focus on our own ends.

If you look carefully at this passage, it reveals an often forgotten or even lost understanding of the teaching of our faith.

The more we embrace Christ the more we grow in the wisdom of God. This means that as we grow in the wisdom of God, we see things differently than those who reject God’s wisdom. In fact, we have an understanding of the bigger picture of the way the world works around us than those who do not believe have.

This is where St. Paul reminds us that we are not of darkness nor of night. Keep in mind that darkness in St. Paul means minds that are not enlightened by Christ. They are darkened. This means that the most educated and  smartest person in the world, who also rejects Christ, is one whose mind is darkened, despite his or her status and education.They are incapable of seeing the bigger picture that those in the light can see and incapable of understanding the world through the eyes of faith.

He or she may know skills and theories beyond our ability to understand them but the person still does not see the world through the wisdom of God, which is greater than this.

To grow in the wisdom of God, we need to live our faith in Christ in daily prayer and divinely inspired action. We will see the world through the eyes of faith and when we do, we look at the signs of the times and see them in this context.

Let me give you a great example. Pope St. John Paul II warned back in 1993 that one of the greatest dangers facing our society worldwide is where freedom is set up in opposition to truth. So freedom becomes the greatest treasure of a society, but we learn that when freedom is opposite to truth then it becomes a standard of division not unity.

This US Bishops in their semi-annual meeting this week discussed that next year is the fiftieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae which is the document that defined the Church’s  teaching on such things as artificial contraception and marriage. The fruit of rejecting that document and other forms of Catholic teaching is to create a world that separated faith from morality and freedom from truth. This leads to a world that is not rooted in the wisdom of Christ, but in a secular way of thinking. Those families that embrace and live Catholic teaching including Humanae Vitae, according to Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco, have a 2% divorce rate. They embrace the light and produce the fruits of it.

Further, In the wisdom of God what becomes the standard of unity? It is:  charity also known as love.

When this divine oriented love becomes the standard the one fruit is a true freedom which grows in a community, and the community grows in love and peace in Christ. When freedom trumps charity then the community starts to divide because the standard of freedom is defined on an individual basis not a communal basis.

Let me give you an example. One of the greatest freedoms enjoyed in this country is the freedom of speech. I have the freedom to say anything I want, legally, but I, through the wisdom of God, understand that although I have the freedom to say anything, I must in charity only say that which is the best thing to say or I may be in sin for saying which is legal but unholy. As St. Paul commands: “Say only the good things man needs to hear.”

This means that the freedom is there, but does not mean that we should express it outside of charity.

When I obey these words of St. Paul, I grow in my witness to Christ and I am a blessing to the community. When I reject them and live in a community that does the same, I become part of the end of the community through creating factions and divisions.

Those who are not so enlightened will happily express their freedom over charity and they will watch the community in which they live become divided by lack of charity and not understand where the destruction  came from. In fact, any war manual will tell you that the way to defeat a nation is get the people against each other and one of the tactics described is exactly what I just said. Cause division and the nation will weaken and eventually fall. I am sure you realize that there are forces trying to accomplish this in this country as we speak.

A house divided cannot stand and neither can a nation divided.

Those of us who seek to grow in Christ will seek to live in a freedom that is rooted in Christ because we see the bigger picture. We know that a world in division will end, but a kingdom united in Christ will exist forever.  Those who reject Christ are blind to this bigger picture and they will not see the destruction that is coming their way.

This is why we need to understand that we know, what we know and live in that wisdom for the benefit of our loved ones and more. The more we do that, we can easily discern those who are living in light and those who are living in darkness.

This will lead us to live in such a way that we will give the Lord a return on His investment in us which is the salvation of souls. 

God Bless You, 

Fr. Robert J Carr

 Posted by at 18:11
Nov 122017
 

Today’s Gospel is the famous story of the wise and foolish virgins. It comes to us at a time in the liturgical year in which we focus on the second coming of Christ and the question given to us in the readings at this time is: Are you ready to meet Christ when He comes?

What  we will read over the next several weeks is all about being ready to encounter Christ. The “being ready” refers to His second coming but it also can refer to our own judgement at the end of our own lives. Are we ready to meet Christ if we were to stand in front of Him tomorrow? Putting it another way, it does not matter whether He comes here or we go there, what matters is whether or not we are ready to meet Him.

This particular reading has an interesting focus in it because unlike others, the crux is that the groom’s arrival is delayed. This is a common theme in much Biblical and other Catholic literature: the delayed coming of the Lord.

But we have to remember some things about Christ and His coming The first thing is that Christ reminds us that the Kingdom of God is within. It is not about just believing in the existence of God, after all the devil believes in God better than you do and he can quote scripture and church teaching better than the greatest theologian.  it is about our relationship with God transforming us from within and that transformation then is reflected in how live as an external sign of that internal transformation.

However, if there is no internal transformation there will be no external sign. Again, the devil believes, but he rejects any relationship with Christ and therefore his belief is mute.

This brings us to the Gospel reading. We have two groups of virgins, the wise and the foolish. Remember, the key to living our faith is being immersed in the wisdom of God, as we see in the first reading. So the fruit of our relationship is the wisdom of God and if there is no such fruit then we have at best a superficial relationship.

A study of many of the saints who commented on this reading such as St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome and St. Augustine all indicated that the meaning of the oil for the lamps was good works that we do in response to our relationship with Christ. In other words, as I say above it is the relationship that is key that transforms us.

But notice the key element in this is light and light is always the wisdom of God. It is when darkness abounds that light shines more brightly. Darkness is always representative of those who do not have God’s wisdom. So what we see here is two groups those represented by having oil in the their lamps and their lamps were burning brightly and those represented by not having oil for their lamps and had no light when darkness came.

This is the question pointed to you. Do you believe in God? That really does not mean anything. I can show you scientifically how lack of belief makes no logical sense. But, does your relationship with God transform you and conform you to do his will? Are you a different person because you embrace Christ, or are you just like you would be except that you believe in Christ as you may believe in Thomas Paine. Don’t laugh, there are churches built on that exact idea.

Notice the defining point at the end, the wise virgins go to the wedding feast, the foolish do not. They are locked out and the words that the groom says to them is that I never knew you.

Those who obey the commandments who do not also do the will of God are the ones that Jesus condemns. They do not kill, they do not steal but they treat others as inferior beings and dismiss them from their lives. They do nothing that leads others to know the power of the wisdom of God, the light of Christ in their lives. That is because their superficial understanding of God prevents them from understanding God’s wisdom. This is what the saints explain is the defining point.

You do not have to believe in God to consider murder wrong. But are you able to treat the homeless, the criminal, the mentally ill in a way that is different than the atheist does because you believe in God. Do you see an unborn child as just as human as anyone sitting next to you? How about the severely mentally handicapped. What about the neighbor who has no one to clear his or her snow covered driveway. This includes that grouchy neighbor who no one likes and all ignore.

The people to whom Jesus speaks  believe, they follow the commandments and they attend synagogue, but, then they go home and act like everyone else. These are represented by the foolish virgins.

A line that is commonly used and attributed to legions of leaders: “There is never a traffic jam on the extra mile,” We must treat others as we would want to be treated. This, Jesus reminds us, sums up the law and prophets. Allow ourselves to see Christ in others and to treat them as Christ would want them to be treated. In order to do that, you need to go beyond the extra mile.

Let me give you an example. People often are expressing some real concern about the way our world and our country is going. It seems to be going down an ominous path. What leads us down this path? Rejecting the ways of Christ. How do we fight the effects this path? We fight evil by doing the good that Christ calls us to do. We do not fight evil by doing a counter form of evil but by doing good as servants of Christ. So what is it that we as Catholics must do if we are to be the lights of wisdom that Christ calls us to be?

We need to be in daily prayer, minimum weekly mass attendance, to know our scriptures well and to live the faith in treating others as Christ wants them to be treated.  We need to be lights to others. Then when we encounter Christ face to face, He will welcome us as good and faithful servants.

 Posted by at 01:01
Sep 172017
 

What is the most anti-Christian thing you can say? You may think it is some form of blasphemy, or even some form denying that Christ exists and those would be anti-Christian. But I said what is the most anti-Christian thing you can say? What can you say that goes against the total core of Christianity?

 

What is the most anti-Christian thing you can say? You may think it is some form of blasphemy, or even some form denying that Christ exists and those would be anti-Christian. But I said what is the most anti-Christian thing you can say? What can you say that goes against the total core of Christianity?

 

It is this sentence. You offended me and I will not forgive you.

 

Forgiveness is the essence of Christianity. It is what Christ does for each and every one of us and demands that we do for others. It is the reason why he died on the cross so that your sins may be forgiven. In fact, as we see in the Gospel today it is the sine qua non of our salvation. If we do not forgive, we cannot be forgiven. This means forgiveness in all its forms.

 

It reminds me of the comedian who tells the story of giving a toll taker a twenty-dollar bill to pay a one dollar toll. The toll taker complained until the comedian pointed out that making change is what toll takers do, so how can he complain.

 

Forgiveness is what we do. It is the core of everything we do as Christians.

 

If you want to see how essential forgiveness is to the mission of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that forgiveness of sins is such a great power that priests and bishops have that not even angels have that power. It is the central ministry. Jesus died that all may be saved and they can only be saved through forgiveness. If we are to be Christlike, we are not just be nice to others, we must not just act in social justice, we must be in a ministry of forgiveness even of the one who did what we consider unforgivable.

 

You see, we often teach people that God forgives all sins, so if we are going to be Christlike, we must forgive all sins against us as well.

 

Here is how it goes with us. According to the law, anyone who violates so much as one modicum of the law is guilty of breaking the entire law of God. So unless one is sinless, he or she has no recourse but to be condemned to Hell. That is the spiritual law of the universe. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, is able to forgive our sins. He does not deny that they happened, but he releases us from the sentence that is incurred through our sins, provided we repent against them. This is what forgiveness is, it is not something that denies the offense occurs, but after someone repents of that offense, the punishment is suspended. We may ask for restitution in justice, but we do not demand our will in retribution. So when Aunt Mary says that the gift you give her is the stupidest thing she ever received and later she apologizes for being so callous you can ask for it back, or maybe encourage her to exchange the gift, but you cannot choose to never speak to her again. You are punishing her in your demand for your justice to fall upon her head.

 

The Catechism also teaches that this is a central ministry of families. It is in families when children are being brought up and even when couples are starting out that they learn the skill of forgiveness of each other so that they can be forgiving. Meanwhile the family grows in love, for forgiveness also helps us to grow in love. It is in fact a loving choice.

 

These are strong indications of what it means to be a Christian. Knowing the forgiveness of God through the sacrament and being forgiving of others.

 

We can be the most active Catholic on the planet, we can go to Church two three times a weekend. We can be involved in every ministry. We can fight against every injustice and speak up for every marginalized person in the world. However, if we are not forgiving offenses, then we are not being Catholic and we are not a shoe-in for salvation.

 

The parable speaks it well.

 

The first man who owes a huge amount of money, he actually owes in today’s dollars $8,077,800,000 which despite the servant promising to pay back it all is actually forgiven of the entire debt. You know and I know that there is no way anyone could pay back that debt.  Bill Gates could not even pay back that amount of money. I mention Bill Gates for a reason. He is the richest man in the world with over eighty six billion dollars. Taking all the money he has, according to Forbes Magazine, if he earned all that same amount of money every year, used it to pay the debt, all of it. It would take him 93 years to pay the king back. Obviously, we are talking about an amount of money that is more than anyone could pay back. This is what the king forgave the man who then owed nothing.

 

He then throttles the next servant who in today’s money would have owed a significant amount but even manageable. Basically in today’s money the cost would be a low model car: $13,346.

 

Each of our offenses against God are beyond our ability to make restitution, but He forgives our offenses completely, on the condition that we treat others the same way. If we do not forgive others, He will not forgive us, but if we do forgive others, He will forgive us.

 

How do we forgive when we find it virtually impossible. We pray for them to God, even offer the hurt they make against us as an offering to God. In time we will forgive, because even if the action is difficult the intention is there and the intention when we work with it, will give way to the action.  

 

Notice what Jesus also says, if we were to act like the first servant, we would be punished until we paid back the last penny, at the amount of money we are talking about, you can see that this is an eternity.

 

Forgiveness is the core of our faith; if we are not forgiving then we are in graver sin than anyone who has sinned against us. The exception is of those who do not want to be forgiven, then, as the gospel teaches, we still do not act in retribution, we just treat them like an outsider.

 

 

God bless you, 

Fr. Bob Carr

 Posted by at 06:41
Sep 052017
 

One of the most destructive heresies the world has ever seen is called Pelagianism. It is still quite alive today. You hear it anytime you hear someone say that a person earns his or her way to Heaven or when people talk about being good enough to go to Heaven. The problem is that our going to Heaven is not about whether or not we are good enough, but how we express our love for the Christ who loves us.

 

What does Jesus teach: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” I can give all I have over to charity and even give myself over to back breaking work to help people. But if I am not loving God and neighbor then I am not doing the will of God. That by the way is a paraphrase of 1 corinthians 13. However, what this means is that I cannot really do anything to earn my way to Heaven. I can only seek to experience God’s love in my life and in return love God and neighbor more and more everyday.  When I am trying to do that, then I am announcing my role as an agent of the kingdom of Heaven, not as someone doing a tryout for it.

 

There is a reason why this is important: Many people consider suffering as a form of earning our way to Heaven. You have heard the expression: “We all have our cross to bear” which is based on our Gospel reading, that too comes from the idea that it is through bearing our cross that we earn our way to Heaven. If we patiently bear our cross, we will go to Heaven because we earned it. This is a complete misunderstanding of our suffering as people of faith and of this Gospel.

 

First, we all know that suffering is part of life. We all know that each of us have suffering in our lives, we also have joys there as well, but suffering is a key element of life. It is what we do with it that determines who we are as Catholics.

 

Suffering is something we join to Christ for our mission as a Church: the salvation of souls. It is not about earning our way to Heaven, it is about joining in Christ’s mission and joining our suffering to His so that souls may be saved. In a sense it is a form of prayer.

 

It does not matter what it is, difficulty in work, disease, frustration, financial problems. They can be made worse by our seeking to live our faith. St Paul actually described it this way:

 

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 NABRE

 

We all have our crosses to bear, but we bear them in service to Christ, not to earn our way to Heaven.

Where does this come from? Check out the baptismal rite. When you were baptized in the anointing after the pouring of water, you were anointed in the ministry of Christ as priest, prophet and king. Just as Christ suffered for our salvation so are we united in Christ’s work to further the work of salvation. Therefore, we become engaged in the process of redemptive suffering that all maybe saved. That is our work. 

 

Notice something else, that mentality runs counter to that of our culture. Our culture is about avoiding suffering and there is nothing wrong with this. Obviously, we are not to go looking for suffering. But our faith is about self-giving and even total giving to others. It is about praying for others, it is about doing for others all in an acts of love of God and neighbor. That means even realizing that when we suffer, we can offer that for others as well.

 

What is most interesting is that sometimes we can find ourselves suffering from some reality and discover that we suffer just because we did say yes to Christ. Go back and read the words of the Gospels in which Jesus says that if you seek to follow Him, you will have difficult times. Expect them to happen. What is also interesting is that if you truly seek to have a deeper relationship with Christ, you may experience some unexpected suffering that is so severe you realize all you can do is rely on God, to pray for his assistance and then to offer that suffering up. However, that painful experience will lead you to know Christ in ways you never would before and why, because you used it to become a stronger disciple in Christ.

 

One of the most powerful teachings in the Old Testament is that the disciple suffers because it is in suffering he or she is purified. Sirach teaches that difficult trials are the fire that purify our faith as fire purifies gold. St. James teaches that we are to consider it pure joy when we suffer for the faith, we grow in endurance and maturity.

 

St. Rose of Lima, the first saint of the Americas taught that if people knew how much their sufferings led them closer to Christ, they would ask for more of them.

 

It is not that we seek suffering, but when we encounter it, we use it to draw close to Christ and we allow God to use it to draw us closer to Him so that we will serve him more.

 

Probably one of the best lessons on this very subject is none other than the children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit,  a basic teaching for children and a powerful parable for adults. It is the one who allows him or herself to suffer in the name of love who truly comes to experience the fullness of love.

 

But this does not mean that suffering is easy. If it was it would not be suffering. There are times that suffering can bring one to his or her knees figuratively or literally and when that includes offering up prayers during this time one discovers the powerful presence of God in the whole matter.

 

But those realities lead us to serve Christ in many ways, not the least of which is enduring our suffering and then helping others who cross our path who experience the same thing

 

We do not bear our cross to earn Heaven, we do so to Christ in His mission of saving souls.

Fr. Carr is member of the Segundo Elo  of the Canção Nova Community.

 Posted by at 01:01
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