"Listening to the Word"33th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This Sunday of the liturgical year reminds us not only of the end of the liturgical year but also of the end of all things and of the preparations we need to make to reach Heaven. The main theme of the three readings is an invitation to live in such a way that we make the best use of the talents God has given us, so that at the hour of our death Our Lord will say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant!... Come and share the joy of your master” Mt 25: 21).
The First Reading suggests that we should be as diligent and industrious as a loyal and faithful wife, in the use of our God-given gifts and talents with “the fear of the Lord.” Unlike the one-talent man, she takes her gifts and “brings forth good, not evil”; she “reaches her hands to the poor and extends her arms to the needy.”
In today’s Responsorial Psalm, Ps 128, the Psalmist echoes the concept of the blessedness of the faithful servant of the Lord. The Psalm affirms that the fear of the Lord is the key to human happiness and success.
In the Second Reading, Paul advises us to keep awake and be sober, encouraging and building each other up as we wait for the “Day of the Lord.” He challenges the Thessalonians to turn fear of the Lord into positive, constructive and life-affirming action.
Today’s Gospel challenges us to ask some questions: Are we using our talents and gifts primarily to serve God? Are we doing everything we can to carry out God’s will? The parable of the talents challenges us to do something positive, constructive and life-affirming with our talents here and now.
We need to trust God enough to make use of the gifts and abilities we have been given. We may be especially talented in teaching children or cooking meals or repairing homes or programming computers. So, we should ask ourselves how we are using our particular gifts in the service of our Christian community and the wider society.
We need to make use of our talents in our parish. In addition to our homes and families, the best place to do this is in our parish. This means that we should be always willing to share our abilities in creative worship in the church and in various ministries of our parish, such as altar server, lector, usher, Sunday School teacher, singer in the choir, volunteer and member of one or more parish organizations and community outreach programs.
All of us in the Church today have received at least one talent namely, the gift of Faith. Our responsibility is not just to preserve and “keep” the Faith, but to work with it. We need to promote and add value to Faith by living it out. The way to preserve the Faith, or any other talent that God has given us, is to put it to work and make it bear fruit.
(Reflection based on: "Listening to the Word" @ bvmc.org)
Sharing Your Catholic FaithFr. Gary Spencer’s blog
Why is it that Catholics seem to find it difficult to share our Catholic Faith? That is a question we Catholics, and especially we National Catholics, need to ask ourselves. It doesn’t seem to be a problem for Protestant Christians, however. They can be seen on street corners handing out pamphlets, flyers and other reading materials to passersby, or shouting questions such as, “Have you taken Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?!”, or “Are you saved?!” or some other type of in your face question or statement. But we don’t see Catholics doing the same.
I don’t know about you, but I am turned off by this type of evangelism. I think, ‘Of course I have taken Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I have also taken Jesus Christ into my very being through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.’ To me this is a personal relationship with Christ that I need not shout to the world on a street corner. And as for the question of 'am I saved?' well, I’m working on it. You see, I don’t believe Jesus ever told us that once we take Him as Our Lord and Savior that’s it! We are saved and cannot be denied entry into heaven no matter what sins we commit? A reading of St. Matthew’s Gospel says otherwise.
So, how do we Catholics spread the Word? Well, I read an interesting article in an issue of St. Anthony’s Messenger magazine from a few years back by Father Martin Pable that dealt with what he called “Relational Evangelism”. Relational Evangelism is a simple method of sharing our Catholic faith through three guiding principles: Listening; Sharing; and Inviting.
Father Martin explains that we Catholics need to learn how to evangelize in a whole new way. First and foremost, Fr. Martin states that we Catholics must continue to be prayerful people, and we must nourish our faith through scripture study and participating in the Sunday Eucharist. We must treat people with dignity and respect; we must share our time and resources with the less fortunate; we must not gossip or backstab; and we must be peaceful and positive.
Next, we must know who our target audience is. Basically, there are two groups: the UNCHURCHED and the DECHURCHED. The unchurched are those people who have never really known God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The dechurched are those people who used to attend Mass and have fallen away.
Once we zero in on our targets all we have to do is three things: First, we LISTEN. Most people encounter problems in their lives. Problems that cause them much stress or anguish, and just talking about these problems gives some people comfort. They just need someone to listen to them. By listening carefully, and responding to them in an empathetic, non-judgmental way the person feels understood and a little bond of trust grows between that person and you.
Next, we need to SHARE our own story. Most of us have had a spiritual experience of being in the presence of God. At some point in our lives God has touched us by guiding us, or healing us, strengthened us by the Holy Spirit, or opened our eyes to some truth. If we truly look at our lives, we will find a time when God was with us.
Finally, we need to INVITE. For instance, if someone shares their troubles with you ask them if they ever considered turning to God for help. If they seem receptive to what you say to them offer to say a prayer for them, and even ask them to join you. Some people are reluctant to pray, so invite them to pray in their heart while you pray aloud. Explain to them how prayer is a beautiful way to build a relationship with God. We can also invite that person to an activity at the parish, or, better yet, invite them to Mass with you on Sunday. The author mentions, however, that you must promise to meet that person outside of church before Mass as some people are uncomfortable going into a strange place on their own.
The author concludes by saying that Catholics need to break the habit of keeping our faith to ourselves!
The beauty of this approach is that it is simple and can encourage others to seek God. If you feel unsure of attempting to evangelize in this manner the next time you receive the Holy Eucharist ask Jesus to help make His word like a burning fire in your heart, and to empower you with courage and confidence to tell others about His Good News.
In the PNCC we have wonderful traditions and celebrate a beautiful liturgy, so we all need to ask God to help us become evangelists for Christ and bring others to Him through our Catholic Church. Relational Evangelism isn’t hard, so lets all give it a try. After all, Jesus did tell us to go forth and make disciples of nations, and we can never go wrong by following Our Lord’s instructions.
May God’s blessings be with you all.
"When Our Thoughts And Prayers Are With You Is Not Enough"Fr. Gary Spencer’s blog
A good number of terrible things have been happening in the U.S. and U.S. territories lately: A terrorist attack in Charlottesville, VA., three hurricanes hitting the Southern U.S. and Puerto Rico, tremendous wildfires in California, and a madman gunning down concert goers in Las Vegas, NV. have cost many people their lives and devastated many families. Of course our thoughts and prayers are with them, and in most of the cases our support too.
In the scenarios mentioned above that involve a natural disaster our thoughts and prayers were accompanied by support of some type. An action, or works, occurred following the tragedies. The Federal government sent FEMA in to help with the hurricane recoveries, and PNCC parishes and other organizations gave monetary support through donations collected during Sunday Mass and other types of contributions to help those suffering the consequences of the catastrophes. The terrorist who drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA. was apprehended and is awaiting trial, and the mayor of that city has put stricter guidelines and increased police presence for rallies since that deadly incident.
U.S. citizens and the U.S. government implemented the teachings of Jesus who told us to help those in need, and thank God for that. Good people know that while thoughts and prayers are very important they are not always enough. Granted, for many that is all they can do not having the means or wherewithal to do more. And prayers are always a good and important way to show our care for others and to petition Our Lord for help, so we must always pray for others in need. Novenas and praying the Rosary are, in my opinion, great means of petitioning Our Lord in times of distress. But those that can do more should do more. Yet, whenever a mass murder takes place in the U.S., and they occur more frequently than any civilized nation should accept, all we hear from those that can do something is that their thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the victims families.
Many people apparently think that thoughts and prayers are enough, but I don’t. I am praying and speaking out that those who can do something act on this matter. My hope is that enough people are as fed up with these mass murders as I am, and will pray, and take action, so that some sort of remedy can be implemented. I wonder what Jesus would do in this situation?
May God’s peace and love of God be with you all.
"A Word About the Word"FR. GARY SPENCER'S blog
On Sunday last (the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time) Our Lord gave a mandate for all of His disciples to follow: forgive one another! In response to St. Peter asking Our Lord how often we should forgive those who wrong us Jesus told the parable of the servant who was forgiven a large debt he owed his master, but would not even allow a fellow servant a little more time to pay back the debt owed him. When his master found out how he treated his fellow servant he was very displeased and threw him in jail where he was tortured.
The act of loving and forgiving one another is a basic teaching of Jesus. As I stated above it is more than just a teaching, it is a mandate from Christ. Jesus warns us that if we do not forgive those who wrong us there will be a price to pay. Jesus states that His heavenly Father will treat us the way the master treated his servant unless we forgive one another from our heart. The parable from Sunday’s gospel is not the only warning Jesus gives us regarding how we treat out brothers and sisters either. Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to treat us the way we treat others. Think about that for a moment. If we go through life refusing to forgive some offense that was perpetrated against us we are asking God to deal with us in that same manner.
To be good disciples of Jesus Christ we must always try our best to truly forgive those who wrong us, or hurt us or those we care about. Sure it is hard to forgive – it is one of the hardest things Jesus asks of us – yet we must try! Thankfully, we have a loving God who will help us be better Christians. God gave us His only begotten Son who, along with His Holy Spirit, will help us be more forgiving. All we have to do is ask sincerely from our heart and God will give us the strength to forgive and to love. It’s either that, or stop praying the Lord’s Prayer, and calling ourselves Christians. The choice is up to us, but the mandate is from God.