Today it was announced that the Holy Father had appointed Bishop Blase J. Cupich as Archbishop of Chicago, one of America’s largest Dioceses. Bishop Cupich was originally a priest of Omaha, Nebraska, and served most recently in Spokane, Washington. As I was researching the new Archbishop I found a wonderful explanation of Christian marriage that he wrote to the good people of Spokane.


What We Believe About Marriage

The vocation of marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures and spiritual attitudes. Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1603

Marriage: Bookends of the Bible, the Story of Our Life with God
It is striking that the Bible begins and ends with a reference to marriage – the union of man and woman in Genesis and “the wedding feast of the Lamb” in the Book of Revelation. How appropriate, for the Bible is nothing less than God’s call for us to enter into a relationship with Him, to become His partners and co-creators in bringing about the salvation of the world. The union of man and woman, then, is not only a good for the couple but for the entire community of the Church and of humanity, for marriage serves as a model and a point of reference for all that God calls humanity to be.

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Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Every year on September 14 the church celebrates the finding of the true cross by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine. The cross was an instrument of torture and oppression. But Jesus has turned it into a sign of God’s great love. In fact the cross teaches us that love is stronger than violence and hate, stronger than force or fear, stronger than money and power. Love wins. In the game of life, hearts are the trump card. Don’t be tempted by spades, clubs, or diamonds. If you are holding the King of Hearts, you will always win.

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Ordinary Time, 23rd Sunday. The NFL punished Jim Irsay under its “Personal Conduct Policy.” The same policy applies to owners, coaches, players and officials. They expect good behavior on and off the field. The Commissioner makes the final decision.

Jesus has given his Disciples a Personal Conduct Policy. He holds all of us to a higher standard, in church and outside of it. Every Christian is expected to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and Love your neighbor as yourself. The 10 Commandments give us the specifics.

Jesus doesn’t appear to punish us for violating his Personal Conduct Policy. The truth is that He will be the final judge, but for now he asks us to hold one another accountable. Take someone aside and politely tell them they are capable of more and worth more. Jesus intends to help us every step of the way: Mass, Confession, prayer, the Church, and our brothers and sisters. Let’s encourage each other to play to the best of their ability.

(7 Sep 2014)

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Ordinary Time, 22nd Sunday. Our expectations can get us into trouble when they aren’t realistic. Peter has expectations for the Messiah but they don’t match God’s plans. Too often we find ourselves in Peter’s shoes. We have expectations for our own life but they don’t match God’s plans for our life. We expect life to be free of struggles. God gives us struggles because he wants us to love more deeply, live more courageously, and to become better people. When you follow Jesus, your life will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

(31 Aug 2014)

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The scene plays out in Catholic parishes all over America. The cantor stands up and announces, “Our opening hymn will be number 666 in your hymn book, Please sing.” By the time you’ve found the song they are already half-way through the first verse. You follow along the best you can in a half-hearted mumble. After two verses, the priest has reached the altar. With a sigh of relief you close the hymn book. To your horror, the choir just keeps on singing. Now you open the book again and just mouth verse 3. As you have grudgingly accepted the terrible sentence of “singing all the verses”, the choir suddenly drops out without singing verse 4.

Vatican II seems to have converted the old penances, like fish on Fridays, to something far more dreadful: “Congregational Singing.” Catholics everywhere wonder how those other churches can pull off much better music. Some say we need to try harder, with drums, a “band”, and more contemporary music. Others say our music is too new, too loud, and should be replaced with chant. But none of the these are the problem. The reason Catholics don’t sing is both simple and profound:

Catholics don’t sing because they think that no one is listening.

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Ordinary Time, 21st Sunday. The pagan city of Caesarea Philippi forms the dramatic backdrop to the Church’s first great confession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter is humbly open for God to reveal the truth to him. As Peter struggles to be faithful we see God using fallible humans to accomplish His infallible will. The gates of Hades have not prevailed, as the authority of the Church has been passed down from generation to generation until today with Pope Francis, the 266th “Rocky.”

The world saw Simon the Fisherman, but Jesus saw the Rock on which he would build His Church. Only God knows who you truly are and what you are truly capable of. You may see yourself as a nobody, but God sees the incredible gifts he has given you. Be open to Jesus revealing himself to you. But also, be open to Jesus revealing yourself to you. Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” We should be asking Jesus, “Lord, who do You say that I am?”

(24 Aug 2014)

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Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant contained three things: the sign of the true priesthood, the law, and the manna. The new Ark is Mary and she contains Jesus, who is the true Priest, the Lawgiver, and the Bread of Life.

The Feast of the Assumption shows us our true dignity as children of God. Mary also helps her children realize their true dignity. In the book of Revelation she faces off against a huge red dragon. Who wins? The woman, because God is on her side.  Be faithful like Mary and you will see the triumph of God.

(15 Aug 2014)

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Christians being forced to leave their homes in Mosul, with their goods confiscated. Christians caught in the cross-fire between Moslems and Jews in the Holy Land.
Christian children kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Christians feeling pressure from secularist legislation.
A Christian woman in Sudan sentenced to death for being Christian…
We usually think of all these as isolated incidents, and we tend to assume that Christianity is generally welcomed and tolerated. Not true. According to a recent piece in The Independent:

Most people in the West would be surprised by the answer to the question: who are the most persecuted people in the world? According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. (The Independent, Christians: The world’s most persecuted people, 27 July 2014)

This means that, even today in the modern world, following Jesus is still an unpopular choice. Jesus never said following him would be easy. In fact, these are his words:

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospelwho will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

Christians can and must stand up against persecution. We must condemn acts of religious discrimination against fellow Christians, and we must support and defend our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted. We must stand up for justice and demand fair treatment. But we also must follow the example of Jesus. This means that we must oppose violence and hatred with peace and love. Most importantly, we must remain faithful to Jesus no matter what. They key to our religion is an unconditional “Yes” to following our Master wherever he leads us, even when we must join him on the cross. The greatest tragedy is not persecution, confiscation of goods, even the loss of our lives. The greatest tragedy for a Christian is to succumb to the pressure and deny our master.

Please join me in praying for persecuted Christians around the world. We pray that they may remain faithful to Christ and be able to answer violence and hatred with peace and love. Beginning tomorrow, August 14th, the feast of St. Maximillian Kolbe, I will be praying a novena for persecuted Christians. It will end on August 22, the Queenship of Mary. May the Queen of Heaven give us victory in every struggle.

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Ordinary Time, 19th Sunday. Jesus made the disciples sail into a storm. Don’t be afraid if you have followed Jesus into a storm. Peter knows he can walk where Jesus goes. As long as he keeps his eyes on Jesus, he can walk on water.

Elijah has the same secret. He is only moved by God, and afraid of nothing else. We are moved by everything but the voice of God. We need to practice keeping our eyes on Jesus. It puts everything into perspective.

We can practice this by looking people in the eyes and trying to notice their eye color. You stop noticing the unimportant things and start noticing what really matters. Keeping looking for Jesus and you will see the Lord. Keep listening for the voice of God you will hear: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

(10 Aug 2014)

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