Vocations find their true meaning in Christ
Three young men share their stories as they are just days away from receiving an irreversible grace of being ordained priests. They speak about how they were influenced by others and how they could not avoid the call from God to be men who serve others.
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Keeping the Light Burning
Your prayers, service and donations help us to keep the flame of Dominican Vocations bright in the Western United States. Please do consider making a regular contribution for future preachers for the salvation of souls.
Fear of or Faith with God
33rd Sunday Ordinary Time
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Salt Lake City, Utah
Mark 13, 24-32
Fr. David Orique, OP
Focus: Dwelling in Fear of God or Walking in Faith with God.
Function: To remind hearers to walk in faith with God rather than to dwell in fear of God.
A. My name is Fr. David Orique, O.P. I am a member of the religious Order known as the Dominicans; in the past few years other Dominican priests have also visited you. Your pastor, Fr. Wayne invited me here this weekend to celebrate the Eucharist with you, and to ask for your support for our overseas missionary activity—an effort that benefits many.
B. The Dominicans are a missionary Order and serve in many countries around the world. The particular region of Dominicans with whom I serve, the Western Dominican Province, has friars—priests and brothers— serving throughout the Western United States, particularly working in higher education, such as at the University of Utah Newman Center. Our Western Dominican Province also has friars in Mexico—Mexicali, Chiapas, and Ciudad Juarez, in Guatemala, and overseas in Kenya and in Lithuania. These are the particular friars that I ask you to consider supporting faithfully by your prayers, and generously by your donations.
C. The particular work that our friars (priests and brothers) do abroad is sharing the faith with and generously serving those they meet. All Christians are called to serve—to offer service by walking in faith rather than dwelling in fear. How about us? Do we dwell in fear or do we walk in faith with the God of life and love? Today's readings evoke images that could illicit a response of dwelling in fear or walking in faith.
II. Dwelling in Fear of God
A. As we prepare for the Advent Season, the liturgical preparation to celebrate Jesus Christ's birth (It is not the beginning of the Catholic shopping season), we hear a number of ominous readings, like today's Old Testament reading and the Gospel. If we were to read them in isolation, they could cause us to dwell in fear of God, rather than to walk in faith with the Creator.
B. Mark's Gospel speaks about the future Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ will return trailing glory with trumpet blasts and angel flashes! He will come to judge the living and the dead—to judge them according to how they walked their life of faith. Yet, this future Second Coming is not the only coming of Jesus Christ.
C. We will meet Jesus Christ in the future, either at the end of time or when we die. Either way, we are going to experience a "Second Coming." In the end, Jesus Christ, source of all creation, will draw us to Himself, to reward each of us according to our responses both to the lessons He left us and to the price He paid on the Cross for our redemption. This future meeting with Jesus Christ is echoed in today's first reading from the Book of Daniel. For some it will be "overflowing with splendor" for others it will be "full of horror." In any case, "everyone who is found written in the book... shall escape." At either Second Coming, what will be written in the book about our lives? Will the written pages describe how we walked by faith or dwelt in fear?
D. As Christians, if the novel of our lives is punctuated by faithful action, especially on behalf of those most in need, we have nothing to fear of either Second Coming of Jesus. If we have walked a life of faith in response to God's goodness in ourselves and in the lives of others, there will be no fear. Do we walk by faith or do we dwell in fear? If we dwell in fear, apathy, or indifference, especially toward those most in need, the pages of our lives will be blank, there will be nothing for Jesus Christ to read. Yet, we know how to walk by faith so that we can write in the book of our lives; so that we can write an exciting novel, a real page-turner, because Jesus Christ, during His First Coming taught us the way to live and to walk by faith.
III. Walking in Faith with God
A. In addition to the Second Comings of Jesus Christ, there was a First Coming. Jesus Christ, God made flesh, the Incarnation, the Eternal Word of God wrote on the pages of human history. Our God in human form was born as a little child, lived as a great prophet, and died as a perfect offering, to teach us the way to walk in faith and to open for us the way to eternal life. Jesus Christ wrote these dynamic chapters in human history for us to read and from which to learn from—so that we can walk in faith rather than dwell in fear.
B. We walk in faith and write our part of this dynamic story when we are mindful of Jesus Christ's future Comings, and when we prepare for His First Coming during Advent and celebrate it during the Christmas season. We prepare for and celebrate these Comings when we serve others— especially the most in need. Then our writing is inspired by Jesus Christ who is present among us in the people we serve.
A. One of the ways that we write a dynamic faith story is by sharing with others. There are those in need in the world who cannot make it without the support of people of faith. As a Christian people, Jesus calls us to share with our needy sisters and brothers. Today, you are being asked to share with those who live in the areas that our Dominicans serve.
B. You can share in two ways: financially and spiritually. You can share financially by donating today during the second collection or by returning the blue envelope to our Mission Office with a donation. Many individuals donate regularly to this ministry. If you are unable to share financially, you can share spiritually by praying daily for those who serve the most in need. Ultimately, it is prayer that sustains us.
C. So, I invite you to share in faith, financially and spiritually, with our efforts. This sharing will write beautiful lines in the pages of your life and will allow others to write on the pages of their lives too.
The Claims of the Gospel of Judas
Catholic World Report - June 2006, pp. 32-36 (C) Bernhard Blankenhorn, OP
The manuscript was buried in the Egyptian sands for over 1,700 years, seemingly lost forever. Not surprisingly, the recent publication and translation of the ancient Gospel of Judas by the National Geographic Society has caused a veritable sensation in the news media. Its public appearance has also re-opened a host of critical questions: Does the Gospel of Judas reveal something about the real Jesus of history? Were the first Christians already split between pro- and anti-Judas camps, each with radically different teachings? Did the Bible and the people who chose its books deliberately exclude a legitimate tradition about Jesus' teachings? Should the Church re-open the canon of the Bible and add another Gospel? We can find some answers to these questions by looking at the Gospel of Judas itself.
Problems of dating and style
Thirty or more years ago, an ancient codex or collection of manuscripts that included the Gospel of Judas was discovered in Egypt. After years on the black market, the National Geographic Society was able to acquire and restore this fragile artifact. The Gospel text is in Coptic, a language commonly used in ancient Egypt. We are fairly certain that it was written in the 3rd or 4th century AD.
We are also quite certain that the Coptic manuscript is a translation of a 2nd-century Greek composition. There are many good reasons for this date, of which we will mention two for the moment. First, the Gospel of Judas refers to a well-known account from the Book of Acts: Judas' replacement after his death (Acts 1:15-26). While it's not impossible that the account came from a source other than Acts, since the rest of the evidence points to the 2nd century for the composition of the Gospel of Judas, it is probable that it was taken from the Book of Acts. Since the Book of Acts was probably written between 80 and 100 AD, the Gospel of Judas would therefore have been written after that time. Second, the early Christian bishop, St. Irenaeus, refers to the Gospel of Judas in his Treatise Against Heresies (Book 1, chapter 31). He also accurately describes two of its central claims about Judas. Irenaeus wrote his book about 180 AD, so the Gospel of Judas was likely written between 100 and 180. Many other historical facts that we will mention below confirm that this Gospel was first written in the 2nd century. Of course, this also means that Judas did not compose or dictate it.
Also, when we think of the term "Gospel," we think of a long, complex biography about Jesus with many stories and discourses. But the Gospel of Judas is much shorter (only seven single-spaced pages) and quite different in style. It begins during the last week of Jesus' life, three days before his last Passover. The Gospel of Judas gives us some dialogue between Jesus and his disciples. But the bulk of the text presents Jesus' monologues to Judas revealing the greatest secrets of the universe. The style already suggests that we are far from the religious world of the Bible.
Jesus and Judaism
The beginning of the Gospel of Judas already reveals a relationship between Jesus and his disciples that is far different from what the Bible tells us. The disciples are depicted as saying the customary Jewish table blessing, something that all good ancient Jews did at every meal (probably also symbolizing the Eucharist). Jesus laughs and exclaims: "It is through this that your god will be praised." (Gospel of Judas [henceforth GJ] 35) The disciples seem to worship a God other than the God of Jesus. They respond that he is the son of the God that they worship. Jesus answers: "How do you know me? ... no generation of the people that are among you will know me." (GJ 35) Jesus draws a clear separation between the God of the Old Testament and the true God, and (symbolically) a separation between the Christian followers of the eleven disciples and those who accept the Gospel of Judas. The religion of all the disciples (except Judas) is completely different from that of Jesus. They are pious Jews practicing their faith, or (symbolically) pious Christians celebrating the Eucharist. The Jewish religion and its God (as well as mainstream Christianity) have no relation to Jesus.
The hostility between Jesus and his disciples only intensifies as the Gospel progresses. They become angry with him and blaspheme him in their hearts. Jesus responds with a challenge: "Let anyone of you who is [strong enough] among human beings bring out the perfect human and stand before my face." (GJ 36) But they cannot, for "their spirits did not dare to stand before him." (GJ 36) The true man is spiritual, and only certain men have spirits able to interact with Jesus.
Judas alone can stand before Jesus, for his spirit is stronger than that of the other disciples. But he cannot look into Jesus' eyes. Judas exclaims: "You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo. I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who has sent you." (GJ 36) This "realm of Barbelo" is a common phrase in 2nd- and 3rd-century literature belonging to a certain religious movement often called "the Sethian sect," a group that constructed religious teachings around elaborate allegorical interpretations of the descendants of Adam's third son, named "Seth." For the Sethians, Barbelo is the realm of the divine, beyond the earth. Barbelo is often a kind of sub-deity or perhaps emanation of "divine stuff" that comes from "the Father" or "the Great One." We find the same teaching in the 2nd-century text called the Secret Book of John, which is considered the classical work of the same "Sethian sect" that produced the Gospel of Judas. Jesus is either an inferior god, or from the "sphere" of an emanation of the divinity, or a container of a partial "divine emanation". The Gospel of Judas remains vague on his identity, since it uses mythological language to express a belief in a complex series of divine emanations.
This spiritual being or god who is Jesus then tells Judas to step away from the other disciples so that he can impart secret knowledge. He foretells Judas' replacement as the twelfth disciple.
Who will be saved?
The next morning, Jesus returns to his disciples, who inquire about his recent activities. He says he has gone to a "great and holy generation," which apparently means Jesus had some kind of mystical ascent into the heavens. The disciples ask him about this realm, but Jesus laughs and says: "No one born of this aeon will see that generation." (GJ 38) It seems that some souls have their origin in the heavens and will return there. Others do not: "No person of mortal birth can associate with it. The generation of people among you is from the generation of humanity." (GJ 38) All the disciples (except Judas) are supposedly of purely human origin. They have no immortal souls, and they will not gain the secret knowledge that leads to salvation because they cannot, no matter how much they desire or ask for this grace, not even with divine help. Jesus later explains this to Judas:
"God ordered Michael to give the spirits of people to them as a loan ... but the Great One ordered Gabriel to grant spirits to the great generation with no ruler over it, that is, the spirit and the soul." (GJ 54)
The god of this world, the creator (called "God"), gives a temporary spirit or life to some people. Others have their spirits or life from "the Great One," the true God, and not from the creator. In addition to possessing a spirit, these chosen ones also have a soul, meaning they will live forever. Those people who only have a spirit cannot be saved. They are doomed to eternal destruction. This has nothing to do with their moral goodness or behavior. Human freedom has nothing to do with salvation. Many people are destined for eternal destruction simply because that is how they were made. Those who have a soul from the one true God will attain eternal life once they reach the secret knowledge. The others are doomed.
Jesus then proceeds to initiate Judas into an elaborate cosmology that recounts the gradual unfolding of the spiritual universe, beginning with the "Self-Generated" Being, probably the divine offspring of "the Great One" and "Barbelo" who conceives "the divine Self-Generated" (Secret Book of John II, 6). From the latter proceed many ranks of angels or spiritual beings and heavenly spheres. Two of these angels rebel: Nebro and Saklas. They create other angels as well as Adam and Eve (GJ 51-3). This is quite similar to the teachings of other 2nd-century pseudo-Christian religious texts such as the Letter of Peter to Philip, where the creator of the world is "the Arrogant One." A common theme in this literature is that an evil god is responsible for imprisoning spirits in mortal bodies.
According to GJ, Jesus has the same problem. He is a spirit or lower god or emanation of divine "stuff" imprisoned in the flesh. The way to salvation is two-fold: gaining secret knowledge and escaping the body. God gave knowledge to Adam and others so that they may attain freedom from the evil gods or angels. (GJ 55) Jesus himself is filled with this knowledge already.
But Jesus is still trapped in a body. As he compares Judas to the other eleven disciples, Jesus says: "But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." (GJ 57) Judas' greatness will come by betraying Jesus unto death. He will allow Jesus to escape the prison of his body by handing "the man that clothes" him over to his enemies. Jesus' body is not truly his, but a separate entity that is foreign to him. In reality, Jesus is a purely spiritual being or an inferior god who appears as a man. The Incarnation is an illusion. Judas' great act of love for his friend is the betrayal.
Jesus concludes by promising Judas' future glorification: "Lift up your eyes and look at the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star." (GJ 58) Thus, each soul has a star assigned to it, symbolizing the future greatness of the soul in the heavens after escaping the body. Judas will be glorified in the heavens because he betrayed Jesus. The Gospel ends with Judas betraying Jesus to the high priests for money.
A summary of the teachings found in the Gospel of Judas
And so we have a survey of the entire teaching of the Gospel of Judas. The rest of the Gospel simply fleshes out the details. Let us summarize its essential doctrines:
The true, good, eternal God ("the great One") is different from the creator of matter. There are inferior spiritual beings or emanations from the divinity that are responsible for material creation. Matter is evil, the result of inferior gods making mistakes. Knowledge of a secret teaching is the key to salvation. This teaching is revealed through a particular spirit who intervenes in human history (in this case Jesus). Salvation comes by the soul's escape from the body. Soul and body are essentially opposed. The soul is a spark of the divine trapped by the creator in matter. Self-conscious liberation of this spark unites it with the realm of Barbelo.
The Gospel of Judas and 1st century Christian literature
But how do these teachings relate to 1st-century Christianity? Do they represent the true teachings of Jesus? Are they similar to the beliefs of the first Christians? Let us compare this Gospel to 1st-century sources about Christianity.
We should compare the Gospel of Judas to the New Testament, which is the bulk of extant 1st-century Christian literature. The human authors of the New Testament not only portray the life and teaching of Jesus in their own ways, but they also sometimes argue against opponents in or close to the Christian community. Along the way, the New Testament writers give us valuable clues about the first dissenters from mainstream or orthodox Christianity. We find three instances where a biblical author alludes to ideas that may relate to those of the Gospel of Judas.
The first instance is found in the middle St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. Some in Corinth have asked Paul about the goodness of marriage and the sexual relations of spouses (1 Corinthians 7:1). Some members of the Corinthian Church seem to be proposing a very rigorous sexual asceticism, thus implying a rather negative view of the human bodily condition. Paul answers that marriage is good, as are the sexual relations of husband and wife. Yet remaining unmarried and a virgin is to be preferred for the sake of the Lord. Spouses may abstain from sexual relations for a time out of spiritual motives, but not for too long (7:2-7). Both Paul and his opponents seem to have strong apocalyptic expectations, unlike the Gospel of Judas, which has no notion of Christ's return.
The second instance involves Paul's teaching on the resurrection of the body at the end of the same letter (chapter 15). Some Corinthian Christians seem to be denying this doctrine. Paul goes to great lengths to argue for the reality and nature of the bodily resurrection. The source of the dispute could be the attempt of some Christians to adjust their theology as they expound it in a Greek setting where the dominant philosophy would be quite closed to the idea of bodily resurrection.
The third instance is found in the Letters of St. John. Both 1 John and 2 John offer polemics against certain persons who refuse "to acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh" (1 John 4:2-3, 2 John 7). They are "the Anti-Christ." Does the Christ preached by "the Anti-Christ" save simply by imparting secret knowledge? John does not say. We simply learn that certain former members of the Johannine Christian community are preaching that Jesus is a purely divine or spiritual being.
We therefore find three New Testament clues about the teachings of "dissident Christians" in the 1st century that may be similar to the message of the Gospel of Judas:
A critique of the goodness of human marriage and sexuality (1 Corinthians 7); The denial of the bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15); The denial of Jesus' bodily or human reality (1 and 2 John).
These three disputed issues may have some relation to two of the five basic teachings in the Gospel of Judas: matter as evil and salvation as an escape from the body. Yet no biblical text ever reveals the existence of a dissident teaching that actually includes one of those five essential doctrines. Other 1st-century Christian texts such as the letters of Clement, Ignatius of Antioch, and the catechetical tract The Didache never propose or mention the teachings contained in the Gospel of Judas. These are the only non-biblical 1st-century Christian texts that have survived. Nor are there any other 1st-century texts by or about dissident Christians with references to those five basic teachings.
What does this tell us about the relation between the Gospel of Judas, the historical Jesus, and the first Christians? Using purely historical criteria, the theory that the Gospel of Judas reveals the real, historical Jesus or the authentic beliefs of the first Christians is without foundation. The acceptance of such a claim would be analogous to writing a history of the American Revolution using strictly 20th-century sources while ignoring or contradicting everything written in the 18th and 19th century.
Finally, the notion that the Gospel of Judas is rooted in the preaching of some dissident 1st-century Christians that the institutional Church then suppressed is equally without foundation. We do not have a single piece of historical evidence that a religious group like the one that produced the Gospel of Judas existed before the 2nd century.
Philosophical and religious context
The Gospel of Judas clearly reflects a belief system whose origins the best of recent historical scholarship confidently places in the 2nd century. Like the ancient Christians, today's historians call this movement "Gnosticism" (from the Greek word meaning "knowledge"). The Gospel of Judas fits very neatly into this category. The historian Christopher Marschies of the University of Heidelberg, a leading scholar in the field of ancient Gnostic literature, offers eight key teachings that can be found in the ancient writings of or about the "Gnostics." All five central doctrines of the Gospel of Judas that we named above are found in this list of teachings. In fact, the Gospel of Judas perfectly fits all eight of Marschies' criteria for identifying Gnostic texts.
As Irenaeus already recognized 1,800 years ago, the Gospel of Judas uses language and ideas that clearly associate it with the "Barbelo-Gnostics." We have some other ancient manuscripts that this movement produced, such as the Secret Book of John and the Letter of Peter to Philip. The doctrines that we consistently find in these three texts may have some Platonic influence. The distinction between the good God and the evil creator may be related to the distinction between Plato's eternal "One" and the craftsman of the universe in his Timaeus. One also finds a clear soul/body dualism in Plato, although certain ancient Oriental religions also propose it. Yet on both counts, the pessimism of the Gnostics concerning the goodness of the universe's creator and the goodness of the human body was significantly greater than that of Plato and the Platonists. Overall it remains extremely difficult to identify the historical roots of the theology found in the Gospel of Judas.
The more certain historical conclusion we can draw is that the content of the Gospel of Judas is strikingly similar to the religious and philosophical ideas that had spread through many circles in the 2nd century. The doctrine that matter is evil had been clearly expounded by the Roman teacher Marcion, starting in the 140s, and can easily be found in other 2nd-century Gnostic texts such as the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip. The doctrine of "Barbelo" in the Secret Book of John is also revelatory of this movement's inspiration. The Secret Book gives nineteen sacred names of Barbelo. All of them come from the pop philosophies of contemporaneous Alexandria. Gnostic movements such as the one that produced the Gospel of Judas seem to have emerged from Christian circles that tried to express their faith through some of the more popular philosophical and religious concepts of the time. Their endeavor may have included a certain syncretism with other Oriental religions. The people who promoted the Gospel of Judas were products of their age, adopting popular religious beliefs and philosophical assumptions that had no relation to the historical Jesus or his first followers and presenting them in Christian trappings.
Judging by the literature of the Gnostic group that produced the Gospel of Judas and other texts, their teaching lost anything that is distinctively Christian. Marvin Meyer, one of the National Geographic Society's own major commentators on the Gospel, admits this: "The major instruction given by Jesus about cosmology and the secret things of the universe contains very little that could be considered specifically Christian." Of course, that cosmology is the very core of the Gospel's teaching. Meyer goes on to state that the Christian element of this cosmology consists of nothing more than the use of the name "Christ."
The canon of the Christian Bible
A careful look at the contents of the Gospel of Judas and its historical context makes evident the reason for this Gospel's exclusion from the early Church's list of New Testament books. The Gospel of Judas denies the goodness of the Creator, the goodness of material creation, the identity of the God of the Old Testament and the one true God, the humanity of Jesus, the possibility that anyone who accepts the grace of God can be saved, the relevance of moral behavior for the Christian life, and the resurrection of the body. Every one of these teachings that the Gnostics denied was deeply rooted in the faith of the first Christians. The living faith of the Church received through the preaching of the Gospel (i.e. oral tradition) was one of two essential elements used to determine whether a particular work could be accepted as part of the inspired Scriptures. Apostolicity was the other main criteria, yet each of these two standards had to be met in order for any piece of literature to gain acceptance as part of the New Testament.
Finally, in denying so many essential elements of the early Christian faith, the Gospel of Judas simultaneously denied the heart of the ancient Jewish faith, completely dismissing the Old Testament and the Old Covenant as the products of an evil god. One can hardly imagine a more complete expression of anti-Semitism! The early Church was profoundly aware of its deep roots in Judaism and in the revelation of Israel. The first Christians consistently recognized their identity as true children of Israel. This identity required the complete rejection of texts such as the Gospel of Judas and other Gnostic Gospels (e.g. the Gospels of Mary, Philip, and Thomas) as utterly foreign to the true faith handed down by Jesus' first disciples. The striking anti-Semitism of the Gospel of Judas is perfectly exemplified by its characterization of Jesus as neither human nor Jewish, a Jesus who mocks his disciples who practice the Jewish faith, Jews who cannot be saved because they were created by an evil god, thus being automatically destined for eternal destruction.
Fruits of the discovery
The media hype surrounding the Gospel of Judas has indeed been immense, yet this 2nd-century Gnostic text offers few new insights into ancient religious teachings. The same doctrines were already propounded by other Gnostic texts that have been accessible for decades (e.g. Secret Book of John). Secondly, many educated Christians of antiquity and modernity could or did know through St. Irenaeus that a certain Gospel of Judas claimed that Judas had knowledge of the true teaching and attributed the end (i.e. salvation) of the world to his betrayal. Perhaps the two greatest novelties in the Gospel of Judas are Jesus' request to Judas to help him escape the trap of his body and the image of Jesus mocking Judaism.
From a theological and historical perspective, the Gospel of Judas adds little to our knowledge of ancient Christianity and pseudo-Christian sects. Perhaps its greatest contribution is that it raised the radical anti-Semitism of 2nd-century Gnosticism to new heights. Ironically, the greatest contribution of the Gospel of Judas may be to help today's Christians rediscover the importance of their own Jewish spiritual roots.
(c) Bernhard Blankenhorn, 2007
God's Faithfulness and Generosity
32nd Sunday, Ordinary Time
St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Salt Lake City, Utah
Mark 12, 41-44
Fr. David Orique, OP
Focus: God's Faithfulness and Generosity.
Function: To remind hearers of God's faithfulness and generosity and our call to respond likewise.
A. My name is Fr. David Orique, O.P. I am a member of the religious Order known as the Dominicans; in the past few years other Dominican priests have also visited you. Your pastor, Fr. Javier invited me here this weekend to celebrate the Eucharist with you, and to ask for your support for our overseas missionary activity—an effort that benefits many.
B. The Dominicans are a missionary Order and serve in many countries around the world. The particular region of Dominicans with whom I serve, the Western Dominican Province, has friars—priests and brothers— serving throughout the Western United States, particularly working in higher education, such as at the University of Utah Newman Center. Our Western Dominican Province also has friars in Mexico—Mexicali and Chiapas, in Guatemala, and overseas in Kenya and in Lithuania. These are the particular friars that I ask you to consider supporting faithfully by your prayers, and generously by your donations.
C. The particular work that our friars (priests and brothers) do abroad is sharing the faith with and generously serving those they meet. Most of the people that our friars serve are very materially poor. I say "materially" because often those who have few possessions are the most generous; they are rich in faith and they share generously from what little they might have materially. As a Dominican, I have visited our brothers abroad and have traveled a great deal, especially to materially-poor areas of the world. So when I speak of the faithfulness and generosity of the materially poor, I am sharing my own personal experience with you. These materially poor are often like the two widows that we heard about in today's readings.
II. The Widows' Faith and Generosity
A. Today's first reading and Gospel offer us two examples of faithfulness and generosity. In the Old Testament reading from First Kings, the widow and her son are materially poor—so poor that they are going to die of hunger. (Gandhi said that there is a difference between poverty and misery. Those in poverty may lack what they desire, but those in misery lack the basic necessities of life. Food and water are basic necessities.) Yet, even in her misery, this faithful widow responds generously to Elijah's request. Elijah asks from her two basic necessities—her water and her food. Her faithful and generous action is rewarded; she is blessed by God.
B. In the Gospel of Mark, another widow is also faithful and generous; she too offers all she has to God. She does not offer food and water, but two coins—two coins that represent all that she has, maybe even what she needed for food and water. She offers to God, and to those who see her, an example of faithful generosity—this is what God asks from everybody. The widow's gesture—giving everything—is an example that Jesus uses to teach his disciples about what it means to be faithful and to be generous; it is an example and lesson for us, his disciples, too. Jesus' lesson is about what this widow did, but it is also about what Jesus did for us.
III. Jesus Christ God's Faithfulness and Generosity Incarnate
A. Jesus Christ—fully human and fully divine—is God's faithfulness and generosity made flesh, incarnate, among us. Our God, who was, is and will be ever faithful generously shared divine life with us. By taking on our human form, He taught us a way to live and offered his life on the Cross for our sake. We are invited to learn from and to live Jesus' lesson of faithfulness and generosity.
B. We learn Jesus' lesson of faithfulness and generosity when live the two-fold command: love of God and love of neighbor. This two-fold command is our true food and drink; it satisfies us. This two-fold command is like the two coins or two sides of the same currency for eternity; it satisfies others. We live a life of faithfulness and generosity when we respond to God's call to care for the needs of our brothers and sisters, especially those materially need. How is Jesus inviting us to faithfulness and generosity?
A. We are approaching Advent (it is not the beginning of the Catholic shopping season), the time of year when we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent is the preparation time before and for Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of God's faithfulness and generosity made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Yet, unfortunately, too often Advent becomes a time of excessive materialism and consumerism— excesses that culminate on Christmas morning with a consumption-debt- laden hangover. How often do we buy things we do not need, with money we do not have, to impress people who do not care? Can this year be different—a year of renewed faithfulness and generosity? Before the spending binge begins, can we decide to spend less money on Christmas, a lot less? (The average U.S. citizen has $10,000 of credit-card debt! A lot of that debt is the result of over-spending. Has all that debt bought and/or brought us happiness?) Why not spend less on "stuff" and invest more on what truly matters: faithfulness and generosity, especially toward those most materially poor?
B. Hopefully, our lives are examples of daily faithfulness and generosity, faithfulness to Christian values, and generosity toward the most needy in our world—both spiritually and materially. We are called to pray for and share with others. We are called to be like those two widows, faithful and generous.
C. Please share prayerfully—by praying for those who extend themselves to the most materially poor in the world, like our Dominican friars. Please share financially—by giving to those who work in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who became poor that we might become rich in what truly matters.
Campaign for Dominican Friars
Support the Western Dominican Province
Mission West: Campaign for Dominican Friars is a capital campaign to raise critical funds for the support of our mission of evangelization and preaching the gospel in the Western United States, Mexico, South America and other places world-wide. Our mission begins by forming and educating our novices and student brothers to become good priests and brothers, zealous for Christ and His Gospel.
We must also care for our aged friars who, having dedicated many years in service to the people of God are now offering their continued service in prayer during their retirement, often requiring specialized care. This is why our new, three-year effort to raise $15 million is subtitled Campaign for Dominican Friars. We need and greatly appreciate your generous support. Can you help today?
A pledge of $25.00 a month from each person served by the Western Dominican Province over a four year period would make the total reach at least $15m. Some might be able to give more, others less, but if all could participate our goal would be easily reached.
Fill out the pledge cards at your local parish or Newman Center served by the Western Dominican Province or make a recurring donation now at our donation page.
|TOTAL as of Mar 30:||$945,617|
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Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology
At DSPT we are a community engaged in study that is rooted in tradition and provides answers to today's challenges.
"Undoubtedly one of the strengths of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology is the ability it fosters in its students to dialogue, on the intellectual level, with contemporary society ....The faculty is both academically prepared and doctrinally sound."
- 2008 report of the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education.