First Reconciliation July 13, 2013
Like A Shepherd
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock,
And gathers the lambs in his arms.
Holding them carefully close to his heart,
Leading them home.
1...Say to the cities of Judah prepare the way of the Lord
Go to the mountain top lift your voice
Jerusalem here is your God.
2...I myself will shepherd them
For others have led them astray.
The lost I will rescue and heal their wounds
And pasture them giving them rest.
3...Come unto me if you are heavily burdened
And take my yoke upon your shoulders,
I will give you rest..
May 2013 GOF Take Home Packet - Faithful Citizenship
May is a busy month - for schools, communities and for the Church. Mother’s Day, May Crownings, Confirmations and first Communions, exams, school board elections, weddings …. You’ll need your Bibles for this month’s lessons.
I had something all prepared for this topic when I got an e-mail from a Jewish organization from which I often get great ideas for Hebrew Scripture and Jewish History information. Two of the topics discussed fit right into this month’s topic. Remember that being a “citizen” means being part of something - like the Body of Christ (Church), your family, your school, your neighborhood and your country.
The first is the analysis of the importance of the ten commandments to us today. This will be attached with notes of explanation for younger children in bold italics. Parents can further explain wherever there are additional questions - use stories and examples. I will set this up as a blog at www.CatholicChurchesOfCentralBuffalo.com under the parenting page. If you have any questions, you can leave a comment and receive an answer.
The second topic is “Pentacost.” Most Catholics believe that Pentacost is a Christian celebration; however, it is also an old Jewish celebration of the gift of the Torah ( or Pentateuch - the first five books of the Hebrew Scripture - a celebration of the Covenant between God and his people made at the time of Moses - known as Shavout - it comes up later.) “I will be your God and you will be my people.” (Exodus 6:7) In the Torah, we get the law. This old Jewish celebration is the day Christians celebrate the new Covenant and the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles who were waiting in the Upper Room. (Mat 28:20 “I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” John 14:16 “I will pray the Father, and he will send you another Paraclete, to be with you forever") After Pentacost, the apostles went out and established churches (Antioch, Jerusalem, Athens etc.) With each of these new churches came the need for organization and decision-making. We believe that the Holy Spirit has been with the Church ever since. But the Spirit is working with humans and our ability to receive the Spirit requires that we be ready for him. When the Spirit is working in us, our decisions will reflect not what Jesus would do, but what we should do. Our faith is a guiding principle on which we make decisions.
When we act in society, our job as citizens is to make the very best decisions we can. Our consciences are formed by our faith. I’ve attached a little exercise that you can try at home to understand citizenship. You might also want to, in Jewish fashion, study some Old Testament readings and eat cheesecake to celebrate Pentacost this year! You can also read more about the Jewish feast here: http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefeastsandholidays/p/pentecostfeast.htm . As St. Paul said in his letter to the “Colossians 2:16-17 that the Jewish feasts and celebrations were a shadow of the things to come through Jesus Christ.”
Saint-in-the-Making: Pope Pius XII
The last step before the announcement that a person is to be canonized is: In order for the candidate to be considered a saint, there must be proof of a second posthumous (after death) miracle. If there is, the person is canonized. Our Saint-in-the-Making is Pope Pius XII, although he has not reached this step, he has been declared venerable. He is a controversial - means not everyone agrees about him - Pope with great defenders as well as people who believe that he did not do nearly enough. Let me explain. Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli was born March 2, 1876. He became Pope Pius XII upon his election in 1939. Pope Pius served during World War II and part of what became known as the Cold War. Terrible things happened in Europe when a man named Adolph Hitler became the leader of Germany. At first, people thought that Hitler had some good ideas, but it did not take long before he was murdering people who did not fit into his plan. Those people were mostly Jews and some people from a group called gypsies. Since Catholics, especially priests tried to hide Jews, they were often arrested, too. This time of war shaped the 20th century popes from Pius to John Paul II. Pius XII wanted to stay out of the politics of it all, preferring not to be officially on one side or another, but he helped to hide many of the Italian Jews. Was he a coward for not speaking out against the Germans or a hero for staying neutral and quietly saving the lives of many others? Some of you who are a little older might find it interesting to read what a 21st century Jewish website has to say about this: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/pius.html . Here is some of what happened according to this Jewish website, “Pius XII knew that Jewish deportations from Italy were impending. The Vatican even found out from SS First Lieutenant Kurt Gerstein the fate of those who were to be deported.(20) Publicly, the Pope stayed silent. Privately, Pius did instruct Catholic institutions to take in Jews. The Vatican itself hid 477 Jews and another 4,238 Jews were protected in Roman monasteries and convents.(21) On October 16, the Nazis arrested 1,007 Roman Jews, the majority of whom were women and children. They were taken to Auschwitz, where 811 were gassed immediately. Of those sent to the concentration camp, 16 survived.” “A pre-war critic of Nazism, as Pope at the outbreak of war, Pius issued Summi Pontificatus, expressing dismay at the invasion of Poland, reiterating church teaching against racism and calling for love, compassion and charity to prevail over war. He maintained Vatican neutrality, used diplomacy to aid the victims of the war, and spoke out against race based murders and other atrocities. … In the process toward sainthood Pope Benedict XVI declared Pius XII Venerable in December 2009.” (Wikepedia) He was staunchly anti-communist and authored dozens of encyclicals. He is most famous authoring Humani generis (Church’s position on theology and evolution - read it here http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html) and spoke ex cathedra - sometimes a Pope will declare that he is “speaking from the Chair of Peter” also known as papal infallibility (not every papal encyclical is declared this way. It is very rarely used.) - when he declared that Mary the mother of Jesus had been assumed into heaven, body and soul. So saint or sinner what do you think? Did Pius XII’s faith influence how he acted when faced with the terrible things going on in Europe?
Mary the Mother of God
You may know that some people of other Christian denominations think that Catholics worship Mary in the way that we worship God in the Trinity. We do have a significant devotion to Mary. Her “Yes” to God and her mothering of Jesus are examples to us today. There was a big fight more than 1,000 years ago over the title “Mother of God.” This title is so common today that we wonder what all the fuss was about and why some people think Catholics worship Mary. Even though God existed before Jesus was born, we call Mary the “Mother of God,” not because he comes from her, but because Jesus comes from her. God entered into our humanity - he became a person like us when Jesus (both God and man) was born of her. None of this is very easy to understand. We call her the Mother of God, because she is the Mother of Jesus who is both God and man.
Our devotion to Mary is good, because of the great example she has given as obedient daughter, mother of Jesus, disciple and wife of Joseph. Our May Crowning puts a crown of lovely flowers on the head of a statue - we know that it is only an image, but the image is a reminder to us of Mary’s “Yes” to God.
If you do not already know the “Hail Mary” (based on two passages from the Gospel of Luke 1:28-35, 42-48. ) it is a good time to learn it. Look up these passages and read how they are used. What was happening? This prayer is the basis of the Rosary. (See “How to Pray the Rosary” attached.)
Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with you! Blessed art you amongst women and blessed
is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at
the our of our deaths. Amen.
The Ten Commandments for Our Times by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
(The original article quoted here is from a Jewish website - http://www.aish.com/ci/s/The-10-Commandments-for-Our-Times.html -; therefore, the translation is slightly different. The notes for children in bold italics are added by me.)
As we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, commemorating the day God gave us the Torah on Mount Sinai, it’s appropriate to reflect on the contemporary messages of The 10 Commandments.
1. I am the Lord your God…
Catholic Christians put these two together, but it does not change anything in the meaning.
We live in an age of cultural relativism. Secularism has turned morality into no more than a personal preference.
This means that so many cultures live together that we sometimes water down the truth so that no one gets mad - sort of like adding water to the soup every time more people come to the table. Sooner or later the “soup” is nothing but water and no one has anything to eat!
Sin, evil, wrongdoing are words that have lost all meaning in a world where there are no absolute truths. Today it is the critic of depraved actions who is condemned for his bigoted lack of tolerance.
How did all this happen? Dostoyevsky understood it well when he wrote in The Brothers Karamazov “Without God, all is permissible.”
“I am the Lord your God” is number one on the list of 10 because without that as #1, all you have left is zero. So too without a belief in God mankind loses its rationale for acting as noble beings created in the divine image.
2. You shall have no other gods before Me…We worship false gods when our heroes are determined not by their values but by their financial worth. We idolize people of wealth – and so we pursue lives that will fill our bank accounts and leave our spirit barren.
Have a chat with your children about what they think success means. Name some heroes and give some examples of who you think might be a hero. Make a habit of doing this in your everyday interactions with your children. Let them know what you feel is important. Do your actions match your words?
We impress upon our children the goal of success – and then define it in ways that will leave them spiritually unfulfilled.
We compare the salaries of our educators and our spiritual leaders to the titans of Wall Street, the stars of the sports world and the famous entertainment figures and we have no trouble discerning what the world round about us most reveres.
To believe in God requires us to reject all the false gods of our society that seek only to still the voice of our conscience and the stirrings of our soul.
Let’s look at an example: Judy is a good ice skater, and she has a good chance of being in the Junior Olympics. Her skating partner can only skate during the time of her religious education class. What could Judy do to honor this commandment and also practice for the Olympics?
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
It is not just using God’s name in anger, but it is also wrong for us to try to justify doing bad things by claiming that we are doing them in the name of God. Suppose that someone is doing something that you believe is wrong - maybe even something that your religion teaches you is wrong - like stealing from a store - it would NOT be right for you to steal from that person or to hurt him in any way. Sometimes whole groups try to do this. Examples for older children - protesting funerals of soldiers, throwing eggs at the windows of homosexuals, killing abortion doctors, or bombing innocent people because they do not agree with the country’s policies.
It is more than tragic when evil is perpetrated in the name of God. It is a crime that besmirches all religion because it attributes wickedness to the Almighty.
It is the third commandment that is so brazenly violated by all the acts of terrorism ostensibly committed in the name of God.
No truly pious person could ever believe that a good God would sanction placing explosives at the finish line of a marathon race so that innocent runners would have their legs blasted off and blameless bystanders be permanently maimed or killed. No true servant of God could ever defame His holy name by using it to justify the suicide bombings and the horrific murders that have become the 21st century examples of religious fanaticism.
God has commanded us in no uncertain terms never to misuse his name for evil or to justify wickedness.
4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holyThe Sabbath is far more than a day of rest. Six days a week we are concerned with the world round about us. They are the days of the six directions – East, West, North, South, above and below. The seventh day turns us inward, a day to be occupied with our private selves. For six days we give emphasis to our bodies. The seventh day belongs to our souls. The Sabbath, a day dedicated to a loftier vision of our true selves as seekers of contemplation and union with God, enables us to realize the purpose of all our efforts. The burgeoning world of technology offers no rest or time for introspection. The unceasing barrage of emails, texting, surfing are weapons of mass distraction. Can we ever call a halt to their seemingly unlimited control of our lives? The law of the Sabbath tells us it is not only possible but mandatory. The Sabbath not only enables us to become reacquainted with God but with ourselves as well.
For Catholic Christians this becomes even more important, because we celebrate Eucharist, the Body of Christ, on the Sabbath (for us late Saturday afternoon through Sunday) as a community.
5. Honor your father and your mother…It’s been reported that today the one thing people fear more than death is old age. “Ageism” is the word that’s been coined to identify our societies negative stereotyping of the elderly. When the Bible spoke of “the elders of Israel,” it was meant to compliment those with greater wisdom. Today, age is identified with a period of incompetency as well as physical and mental deterioration. To be old in our culture is very often nothing less than a curse. How far from the biblical view that demands respect for the aged and honor for one’s own parents. How is it that all teenagers today are so certain they know far more about life than the ones who raised them? And why is it that every child is automatically entitled to everything by parents – but when parents years later find themselves in need so often are denied the help they so freely gave to their children? Honoring parents appears on the same tablet set aside for commandments between man and God. Why? The Rabbis answer because just like God, our parents shared in creating us.
Mother’s Day is only a week behind us, today we honor our Blessed Mother, and soon it will be Father’s Day. What does God want from us? I think that it is important for us to respect our parents and those in authority. Sometimes people use this to hurt others. Children should never be afraid to tell their parents if someone is hurting them - no matter who it is or how important that person seems to be - there is no excuse for bullying or injuring a child - ever. Children should have another person that they can also go to - just in case they need to. Parents do not need to give their children everything that they ask for - that is not good for the parents or the kids, but being the parent should never be an excuse to hurt a child. And, don’t forget your folks when you grow up - remember that even as Jesus was dying, he cared for his mother - giving her into the care of a beloved apostle.
6. You shall not murderMurder is forbidden, no matter what the motive. The 20th century witnessed the legitimization of murder on racial grounds. Only pure blooded Aryans were granted the right to live by the barbaric leaders of the German Third Reich. The 21st century finds civilization threatened once more by those who justify murder on the basis of religious conviction. Both of these threats to the survival of civilization were clearly addressed and outlawed by the sixth commandment.
Let’s remember that not only should we not kill, but we should not hurt other people in other ways - like bullying or forcing them to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable.
7. You shall not commit adulteryThere was a time when people understood that marriage meant commitment and vows of mutual fidelity were the greatest guarantors of lifelong happiness. There was a time when people understood that true love was a necessary prerequisite for intimacy and that kiddushin, the Hebrew word for marriage meaning holiness, was the ideal way to describe the perfect union between a man and a woman. It takes courage to defy a culture that glamorizes sexual promiscuity and glorifies its obsession with pornography. Our over-sexualized society teaches our young to believe that physical pleasure is our greatest good and sexiness trumps character, intelligence and all other human achievements. From casual sex and hookups to adulterous unions, contemporary America has traded the seventh commandment for licentiousness and immorality – only to pay the price of broken homes, unfulfilled fantasies and the grief that comes from breaking the divine laws God taught us for achieving true happiness.
What does this mean for kids? It means that parents owe it to their children to love each other whenever possible, and that children should seek a husband or wife that shares the same values. Children should take their promises seriously and parents need to encourage the habit of commitment. They need to be at the ball game when they promised, or sell the candy bars for their Boy Scout Troop or be on time for play rehearsal or do their homework - all of these small things teach children the importance of living up to their commitments.
8. You shall not stealFor the Talmud, theft means far more than the taking of someone else’s property. We steal from others whenever we don’t live up to our obligations, whenever we do not give full value for any work for which we receive payment. No wonder that sociologists tell us that stealing has become a national problem of epidemic proportions. The Robert Half Personnel Agencies has calculated that “Time-theft will cost the American economy as much as $70 billion a year.” Time-theft is defined as “those deliberate employee actions which result in the massive, growing misuse and waste of time. Estimated time-theft are: arriving to work late, leaving early, taking unjustified ‘sick’ days, extensive socializing with co-workers, turning the water cooler into a conversation pit, inattention to the job at hand, reading novels and magazines on the job, operating a business on the side during working hours, eating lunch at the desk and then going out for the ‘lunch hour,’ excessive personal phone calls, on-the-job daydreaming and fantasizing, long, frequent coffee and snack breaks, etc.” No matter what our job, if we’re not conscientious enough to fulfill it to the best of our ability we are in violation of the eighth commandment.
Wow, this one seems so simple, but think of all the ways that we “steal” from each other - we might take someone’s dignity by being mean or making fun of them (remember the Image and Likeness of God), we might take away someone’s time by misbehaving in the grocery store and keeping our Moms from getting the shopping finished - or embarrassing Dad when he says, “No,” by having a tantrum. We steal when we take something that is not ours - like gum from the teacher’s desk or toys that belong to someone in the neighborhood. Can you think of other ways that we “steal” from someone?
9. You shall not bear false witnessWords are weapons. They can heal but they can also kill. Bearing false witness belongs on the same tablet as the sin of murder. And it is a mistake to assume that the commandment concerns itself only with testimony given in a courtroom. Far more frequently it is a sin committed on a daily basis by way of harmful speech, spiteful slander, malicious rumors and hurtful gossip.
Words can destroy reputations. They can kill friendships. They can hurt the victims of their cruel barbs more severely than a prison sentence handed down by a judge in a court of law. Gossip, it’s been aptly said, is no less than social sewage for the ears. Yet our culture today makes it the major focus of our media and a constant theme of our conversations. For the Torah, it was more than sin; it was sickness – a disease similar to leprosy that required those guilty of slander to be punished with isolation. It’s a good idea to remember this famous aphorism of Eleanor Roosevelt: Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
This is not just about lying! It is about hurting other people! It all comes back to the “Image and Likeness of God.” If we could remember that we will always be on the right track.
10. You shall not covetIt is the last commandment that commentators explain is meant to bring us to the highest level of holiness. It demands not only that we control our actions and our speech, but even our thoughts. It addresses a universal human failing and obviously believes that we can overcome it. If the desire for something is based on need, then fulfillment brings contentment. If the goal, however, is simply to have more than everyone else, then we are doomed to disappointment and to ever-greater dissatisfaction. There’s always somebody who has something we don’t — which is enough to stir up within us envy to prevent us from being content with what is ours. That’s why coveting consumes its practitioner. In the most profound sense, those who covet fail to acknowledge the powerful truth that there is enough in this world to satisfy everyone’s need but there’s never enough to satisfy people’s greed. Shavuot brought us this gift of the Decalogue. No other summary of law has so brilliantly encapsulated a prescription for living a life that is both personally fulfilling and spiritually rewarding. And that is almost certainly why these laws were given as commandments, not as suggestions.
I know that sometimes you will think about something wrong and you did not do it on purpose - what is really wrong here is when you continue to think about those things rather than thinking about the good that God and the people who love you have done for you. Learn to be grateful and to be generous to others and you will be happy and never need to worry about being jealous!
God is good! Have a great summer.
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