Finding Christ in the Movies

I have mentioned Fr. Robert Barron, A Chicago Priest, to you in a previous post. Among the things that he does very well is to comment on current movies with a particular goal to describe how Christ or some aspect of Jesus’ teachings are found there. In the clip just below Fr. Barron comments on the latest Clint Eastwood movie Gran Torino and describes how the main character goes from being a violent man to manifesting the saving love of Jesus Christ. SPOILER ALERT: Fr. Barron describes all aspects of the movie, including how it ends.

One of my favorite movie commentaries by Fr. Barron is his commentary on the movie The Matrix. I had a hard time understanding that movie until Fr. Barron decoded it for me and described how The Matrix is really a very rich study of Christ.

The Beauty of the Mass

The following video is a brief but beautiful tapestry of the Mass.

The video invites you to visit the website www.catholicmass.org, which contains inspriational and instructional material on the Holy Mass.  A full DVD can also be purchased, and it is a wonderful resource for those either returning to the Mass or wanting to learn more of the Sacred Liturgy.

Ask a Question

Some folks who have been away for a while have questions and concerns to express. (Even Catholics who have never been away have many questions!) Please feel free to use the comments section of this blog to ask questions and state concerns. All of us who contribute to this blog are pleased to answer your questions and address your concerns. Your questions will help this blog to get its wings and really fly. Ask and ye shall be answered!

Discovering God in a Snowstorm

There is a heavy snow falling in Washington this March evening. Not every one likes snow but it is an amazing work of God. He takes a barren winter landscape and creates it anew. In the Book of Sirach there is a beautiful and poetic description of God and the majestic work he creates, even in the “dead” of Winter. Enjoy this excerpt from Sirach and reflect on the glory of winter.

 

God in Winter:

A word from God  drives on the north wind.

He scatters frost like so much salt;

It shines like blossoms on the thornbush.

Cold northern blasts he sends that turn the ponds to lumps of ice.

He freezes over every body of water,

And clothes each pool with a coat of mail.

He sprinkles the snow like fluttering birds.

Its shining whiteness blinds the eyes,

The mind is baffled by its steady fall. 

 Sirach 43, selected verses

Sermon for the 1st Sunday of Lent

If I may be so bold, I am posting my sermon online in two forms.

The mp3 recorded version is HERE.

The written outline summary in PDF is HERE.

Note that the sermon was preached at Holy Comforter–St. Cyprian Parish in Washington D.C.  We are a Catholic parish that is predominantly African-American. What this means in practical terms is that this sermon is LONGER (about 1/2 hour in duration) than the typical Catholic sermon. 

The Title of the Message is “Four Habits of Effective Evangelizers”. It is a meditation on the Gospel for Today’s Mass, the text of which can be found HERE.

Why Does the Church Not Ordain Women as Priests?

Here is another question that was sent to us via e-mail:

The Catholic Church does not ordain women as priests. Why is this so and how can the Church continue in a policy that seems so unfair and at variance with the fact that most other denominations now have women ministers?

 

This question is frequently asked today and seems more urgent when, as you note, other denominations have women ministers. There is also today a stronger sense that all opportunities should be available to everyone.

 

The most immediate answer as to why the Church does not ordain to the priesthood is that the Church cannot do so. Sometimes we think today that our Church is free to do whatever she wants. But the fact is that the Church is bound to hand on what she has received. When Jesus established the priesthood, he chose from among all his many disciples (which included many prominent women) twelve men whom he named “Apostles.” This call of the Apostles is the origin of the priesthood. Jesus called only men to this office. It is hard to argue, as some do, that Jesus had to comply with the norms of his day and thus had no real choice. The fact is that Jesus broke many conventions of his time and exhibited considerable freedom in interpreting the Law. He was more than willing to engage in controversy where necessary. Jesus himself established the priesthood calling only men and the Church has no authority to overrule Jesus, Sacred Scripture, or the established Apostolic Tradition in this regard. Both John Paul II and Paul VI indicated this very clearly. Here is What Pope John Paul wrote in 1994: “Therefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4).  Therefore, the Church must hand on what we have received from Christ and the Apostles even if this teaching is not currently popular or in conformity with other modern practices.

As to the question of fairness, I would point out that it is possible to observe differences in regard to roles in the Church without an indication of inequality. Whatever roles individuals fill in the Church, all are equally baptized, all are equally children of the Father, and all are equal in dignity. This is what Paul wrote in First Corinthians 12:

14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body… 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be… 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

Not long ago I was interviewed on CNN in a kind of debate with another priest who dissents from Church Teaching in this matter. If you wish, you can view the exchange here:

 

 

I encourage you to use the comments section if you would like further clarification of this teaching.

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What About Catholics and Mary?

The following came into our question box from a reader:

 

I know the Virgin Mary was the mother of Jesus but why do Catholics pray and honor her?  It sometimes seems she is equal to Jesus.

 Thanks for this question. It is our first!

Catholics often hear questions like this. Sometimes we are even told, much to our  surprise, that we  “worship” Mary and “pray to statues.” The vivid devotion that many Catholics have for Mary should not be construed to mean that we consider her to be equal to Jesus. She is not God and it is the clear Catholic teaching that to ever think of her in this way would be seriously wrong. Our Catholic teaching and belief is clear: to worship Mary would be a serious sin, for worship belongs to God alone. We do ask Mary and all the Saints in heaven to pray for us, but this is no more wrong than if I were to ask you to pray for me. Nor would doing so be a denial of the fact that I can talk directly to God on my own behalf.  

 

So what is the proper way to understand  Catholic reverence and teaching regarding Mary and all the Saints? How can such practices be properly understood and appreciated? Let us consider two things: first, to honor Mary is a very Biblical thing to do, and second, to honor and love Mary is a very Christ-like thing to do.

 

Biblical Basis – In the first place the veneration of Mary is Biblical. The Scriptures themselves describe the honor that will be given Mary. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (Lk 1:48-49) Thus each time we call to mind the dignity and blessedness of Mary, we fulfill this biblical prophecy. And when we do this, we also glorify God for he alone is the source of all that is good and holy. The Blessed Mother is surely His masterwork and she herself acknowledges it. Note also that the most common prayer in which we honor Mary and seek her intercession is the Hail Mary. It is also a biblically-based prayer. The entire first half of this prayer is drawn from Scripture. The Angel Gabriel praised Mary: Hail full of grace the Lord is with you! (Lk 1:28-29) Elizabeth also praised her: Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. (Lk 1:48). Thus our Catholic traditions about Mary both echo Scripture and fulfill its prophecies. And while we pray this prayer, we meditate on biblical stories about Jesus.

 

An Imitation of Jesus – We also  imitate Jesus himself when we give honor to Mother Mary. Think first about the way Jesus entrusted himself to Mary’s care. He could have chosen to enter the human scene in ways other than He actually did. Perhaps He could simply have appeared as a full grown man. Yet He did not. When God chose to enter human history He chose to do so through Mary. And not only did Jesus dwell nine months in her womb, He also entrusted himself to her ongoing care. She nursed him, sang to him, comforted him, and clothed him. In time she taught him to walk and to talk. He shared a family resemblance to her. They spoke with the same accent and probably shared many mannerisms. Mary was also present during Jesus’ public ministry and had an important influence in the working of his first miracle at Cana. She was at the foot of the cross as Jesus accomplished His greatest work—our redemption. In all of these ways, God instructs us that Mary’s role is far more than ceremonial. A truly biblical view does not downplay or minimize Mary’s role in God’s plan. Instead we seek to learn the rich meanings of what Jesus said and did in regard to Mary by His word as well as His example.  Hence when Catholics are asked why they  honor Mary a rightful answer may be, “I love Mary, I honor her and entrust myself to her care because Jesus did all these things and I want to be just like Jesus.”  

 

I hope this answer helps to answer your questions. Please feel free to comment.