Category Archives: Fr. Cusick’s Corner

Science and the Judeo-Christian Difference – May 20, 2019

Returning to the question of technology: During the Middle Ages, there was a great debate among Islamic theologians about Allah’s relation to the created order. The opinion that won the day was that the universe is sustained at every instant by his will, without which everything would be reduced to nothingness. And if he willed that the sun should rise in the West tomorrow, then that is what would happen. With everything determined, at every moment, by Allah ’s all-powerful, inscrutable will, how could the scientific method, which presumes a certain regularity in the material world, be applied? There would be no fixed laws of nature, because everything could change at any moment.

In Hinduism (or even Western paganism) the patterns of the forces of nature may be even more difficult to discern, because everything – trees, rivers, rocks, mountains – has its own particular divinity attached to it. In Buddhism, nearly everything that we experience is an illusion. In the religious and philosophical traditions of China and elsewhere, the past was worshiped, so there was little incentive to discover and make new things.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, however, the universe was seen as having been given a limited autonomy by its Creator – sustained by Him, yes, but with a certain stability and order.  In addition, history was going somewhere, to the Messianic age and beyond, to the culmination of all things in God. For humanity, this means that there is always more to learn, always more ways to shape the world God has entrusted to us.

This vision inspired scientists down through the centuries, from St. Albert the Great (d. 1280), Roger Bacon (d. 1292), Copernicus (d. 1543), Galileo (d. 1642), Newton (d. 1727), Mendel (d. 1884, a Catholic friar known for his work on heredity), Georges Lemaître (d. 1966, a Catholic priest and physicist who proposed the “Big Bang” theory of the origins  of the Universe), and many others formed by the Judeo-Christian worldview.

Some readers of this column may see the word “Galileo” (and perhaps “Copernicus”) and claim that the Catholic Church  opposed his work and treated him ruthlessly, for which the Church finally apologized in 1992. The historical record is  rather more complex – Galileo was not subjected to torture, for example, and his work was originally supported by the Pope, who was a personal friend and mentor until Galileo publicly mocked him. The major point of the affair, however, is that the Galileo case was a scientific debate among Catholics, who were seeking the truth about both God and nature. (For more on this case and other instances of anti-Catholic propaganda, see such books as Rodney Stark’s Bearing False Witness:  Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History; Stark, it should be said, is a Protestant!)

From the Catholic perspective, the “war between science and religion” is a myth, promoted by those who want to remove God – and His moral law – from public debate. As we have seen, however, science developed in a Christian context, in an understanding of the world shaped by theology. Science is extremely effective at discovering how things work – but it is not able to tell us why things are. Some claim that scientific truth is the only truth – but what scientific experiment can prove this claim? When we sincerely seek the truth of things, we discover that faith and reason are both necessary – for all truth comes from God, and truth cannot contradict truth. We simply need to think harder, and more clearly.

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Catechism Corner

What was the role of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost?

As the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the 2nd Vatican Council states, “When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church.” Then, as the same council’s Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church adds, “the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun” – assisted, of course, by the Spirit’s gift of tongues (cf. paragraph 767 of the Catechism).

 

Where Did Jesus Go? May 13, 2018

Where Did Jesus Go?

He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.     (Acts 1:9)

How far did Jesus have to be “lifted up” to reach Heaven? What is Heaven’s altitude? Is it somewhere in the remote reaches of space?

These questions arise because we tend to think of Heaven primarily as a physical place, rather than a state of being. But the Bible uses figurative language to express spiritual realities, without erasing the historical events through which God communicates them to us. So Jesus was physically “lifted up” as a sign of His exaltation and glorification following the Resurrection, and the “cloud that took Him from their sight” both hid His presence from us and signified His entrance into the presence of His Father.

Clouds represent the glory and power of God in the Scriptures, as well as the veil that keeps us from gazing into the depths of His being. But Jesus has both revealed the Father to us (John 14:9 – “He who has seen me has seen the Father”) and brought us with Him into the Father’s presence, for He continues to share our humanity.

In this sense, Jesus has never really left us, but rather raised us to a new way of life and opened a pathway to a higher spiritual state. If Heaven is simply where God dwells, if God is love    (1 John 4:8), and if Jesus has brought our human nature to Heaven in His glorified Body, then Heaven can be discovered whenever we, with His help, love as God loves.

Jesus was not simply taken away from us; He has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). He is with us through His Body, the Church, and especially through the Eucharist. And by the perfection of His love, He has made the presence of God – Heaven – accessible to all.

But wouldn’t everything have been easier if Jesus had stuck around? He could simply have revealed His resurrected glory to everyone, and everyone would have responded by believing in Him and worshiping Him. All people would have the same faith, and the world would have been a peaceful and holy place.

But at what cost? At the cost of our freedom. Our response to the Risen Jesus might come from fear or even awe, but it would likely not be one of freely-offered love. What’s more, if Jesus had not returned to the Father, we would have lost the opportunity to be truly healed and restored to the condition we enjoyed before sin entered the world.

Jesus came to us to lead us back to the Father, to heal our wounded nature, and to allow us to share the loving communion of the Blessed Trinity. This is done through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who incorporates us into the Body of

Christ, sharing in the restored and divinized human nature of Jesus, true God and true man. We become dwelling-places of God, and are enabled to act in accordance with God’s will, even as Jesus did.

By descending on believers, the Spirit forms the Church, which extends the presence of Christ throughout the world. While on earth, Jesus was limited by His physical existence as an individual in a particular time at a particular place. After His Ascension, He sent His Spirit so that His presence might extend to the ends of the earth and touch all of history. Through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to continue Christ’s saving mission in the world!

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A First Mass at Holy Family: Newly-ordained Fr. John Sollee will celebrate Mass here at Holy Family this Wednesday, May 16th, at 9:00 am.

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Catechism Corner

Why is Pentecost called the “birthday of the Church”?

It is called the Church’s birthday because on that day the Holy Spirit was sent by Christ to sanctify the Church by transmitting the graces Jesus had won through the cross and his resurrection. The Catechism teaches:

“The Church was made manifest on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit…. On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom [of God] announced by Christ has been open to those who      believe in him: In the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the ‘last days,’ the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited, though not yet consummated.… The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This joint mission henceforth brings Christ’s faithful to share in his communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit” (Paragraphs 1076, 732, 737).

 

 

Church and State – and Family – May 6, 2018

Alfie Evans has died, shortly before what would have been his 2nd birthday. Suffering for much of his young life from an undiagnosed neurological disorder, Alfie was the subject of a dispute between his parents and the Liverpool hospital that had been treating him. Eventually the British courts became involved, ruling several times – in agreement with the hospital – that further treatment was “inhumane,” and insisting that life-support be withdrawn.

These rulings came despite Alfie’s parents desire to continue to seek help for their son. Pope Francis offered his support, Italy granted Alfie citizenship, and the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital had a helicopter ready to transport him to their facility in Rome. Citing potential risks from travel and the supposed “futility” of another hospital’s treatment, the courts refused to allow Alfie to leave the hospital – or even to go home.

Whatever one’s judgment may be about Alfie’s medical condition and the possibility of improvement, the most disturbing aspect of this case is that the hospital and courts determined that it was better for Alfie to die. And they did this, they claimed, in the best interests of the child, even though his parents wished to fight for his life, to care for him as best they could, even though his prospects were dim indeed.

We should all be disturbed when a national government, from an officially Christian nation (the Church of England is still the established Church of the United Kingdom), determines that some lives are not worth living, and usurps the will of parents so cavalierly. A similar situation occurred in Britain with Charlie Gard last year. We should also be reminded of the  turmoil surrounding the Terry Schiavo case in 2005, in which the woman’s parents, who wished to take care of her in spite  of her severe cognitive disability, were overruled; Terry was deprived of nutrition and hydration for almost 2 weeks before finally dying.

May the Lord receive Alfie Evans into his loving arms, console his parents, and inspire us to build a Culture of Life that supports families and sees every human life as precious, regardless of physical or mental condition.

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Please pray for our young people who will be making their    1st Holy Communion on Saturday, May 12th, at 10:30 am.  May they discover a great love for Christ, present to them in the Eucharist, and learn to bring His presence to others.

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Catechism Corner

Is salvation possible outside of the Catholic Church? (Or asked another way, can non-Catholics go to heaven?)  Short answer: Yes, through the grace of Christ.

Outside the Church there is no salvation.

How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, this Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; He is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. (Lumen Gentium, Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” §14)

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no  fault of their own, do not know Christ and His Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will   as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation. (Lumen Gentium §16)

“Although in ways known to Himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is  impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.” (Ad Gentes Divinitus, Vatican II’s “Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity,” §7)

(The above is from the Catechism, paragraphs 846-48.)

 

Christ and Technology – April 29, 2018

Christ and Technology

Jesus, we are told, was a carpenter – and the son of a carpenter (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55); in fact, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker this Tuesday, May 1st. The Greek word used in the New Testament is tekton, which can generally mean “craftsman,” although it also refers to woodworkers specifically. As was noted in last week ’s column, our word “technology” comes from a similar Greek word denoting the arts and crafts. Our Lord, then, spent much of His earthly life employed in the skillful working of wood and other materials, surely creating things of both utility and beauty. Based on His saying that “my yoke is easy” (Matthew 11:30), one commentator suggested that over His shop he had hung a sign, “My yokes fit well.”

In His labor, Jesus can show us the purposes of our work – in particular, how we take the goods of God’s creation (like wood), shape them according to ideas formed by our reason, and realize them using our physical abilities. In our complex economic world, these elements are often separated, but it is helpful to remember that all of them are necessary: the divine and the human, the physical and the intellectual – and even the spiritual, when considering the highest works of art.

And is not Creation itself the greatest work of art? The Gospel of John tells us that the universe was created through the Logos – a word usually translated from the Greek as “Word,” but also meaning “order,” and “reason.” This implies, then, that there is order, purpose, and meaning in the cosmos – it is rational, able to be comprehended by human beings, who are created in the image of the God who is Logos. The Judeo-Christian tradition, therefore, has at its core a vision which is at the root of modern science: the human ability to recognize the patterns woven into the fabric of creation. This view is not found in all religious and philosophical traditions. We will look at this in more detail in the next column.

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My heartfelt gratitude goes out to Nina Isla, Kitty Iannotti, and all those who worked so hard to plan and organize our Multicultural Celebration last weekend. A beautiful multilingual Mass, wonderful food, amazing performances, and so much more made this a tremendous and joyful experience. What better way to show our unity in Christ with all of our unique gifts and backgrounds. Thank you all!

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Our final 5:00 pm Mass before the summer hiatus will be on Sunday, May 27th. As usual, this will be a “Teaching Mass,” during which I will pause at several points to explain the meaning and history of various elements of the Mass. I will also celebrate a Teaching Mass this Wednesday, May 2nd, at 7:00 pm, with our Religious Education students. Please join us as we seek to deepen our understanding of the Eucharist!

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Catechism Corner

 Can adults who have not been baptized achieve salvation?  Short answer: A qualified Yes.

“Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” (See Vatican II, “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” §16, and “Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity” §7) Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity. (Paragraph 1260)

The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God had bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His sacraments. (Paragraph 1257)

 

 

 

Technology and the Bible – April 22, 2018

This week’s “Ask a Priest” question concerns the place of technology in our faith:

Does the Bible mention technology? For good or evil?

The Bible is composed of materials dating from 2000 BC  to AD 100. The ancient communities described in the  Scriptures (even the sophisticated Roman Empire with its tremendous feats of engineering) were much different from the tech-saturated society we live in. But the Bible – and the Catholic tradition as a whole – have much to teach us about the proper place of science and technology in our lives.

The first direct mention of technology in the Bible occurs in the 4th chapter of Genesis, in describing the descendants of Cain:

Adah gave birth to Jabal,

the ancestor of all who dwell in tents and keep cattle.

His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the ancestor

of all who play the lyre and the pipe.

Zillah, on her part, have birth to Tubalcain,

the ancestor of all who forge instruments

of bronze and iron. (Genesis 4:20-22)

Earlier, however, we hear of perhaps the first form of technology – agriculture – when we are told that “Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil.” They both made an offering to God, but only Abel’s was accepted (Genesis 4:2-5). Is this evidence that God prefers a less “advanced” form of life? After all, the chosen people of Israel, beginning with Abraham, originated as a nomadic tribe; perhaps they were inclined to view “city folk” with a certain amount of disdain (compare ranchers and farmers to this day!). In the case of Cain and Abel, however, we are told that Abel offered “one of the best firstlings of his flock,” while Cain simply “brought an offering.” It seems that the intention, rather than the occupation, of the giver is what matters to God.

[Interestingly, the Bible makes no mention of the invention of fire, so significant in many mythologies and stories of civilizational origins. But the ability to till the soil and forge metal presumes the use of fire. The first reference to fire in Genesis seems to be when Noah offers sacrifices following the Flood (8:20-21).]

In the Book of Exodus, we are introduced to Bezalel, a gifted artisan who takes the lead in constructing the Tabernacle in the desert, which will hold the Ark of the Covenant during the  Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land:

Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and has filled him with a divine spirit of skill and understanding and knowledge in every craft: in the production of embroidery, in making things of gold, silver or bronze, in cutting and mounting precious stones, in carving wood, and in every other craft” (Exodus 35:30-33).

Centuries later, Solomon uses the skills of many – architects, stonecutters, foresters, carpenters, metalworkers, artists, and others – in the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

You may ask, “What does this have to do with technology?” When we think of technology these days, we usually start with advanced electronics and computing power – everything that’s “high-tech.” But the word “technology” comes from the Greek word techne, which simply means “art” or “craft.”  Combined with the suffix –logia, meaning “knowledge” or “study of,” it came to mean the application of scientific or other knowledge to practical concerns.

As human knowledge develops, so does technology. In this, it is morally neutral. But the purpose to which it is put makes a large moral difference. We will examine this further in the next column, especially in the light of a certain carpenter from Nazareth.

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Catechism Corner

Can children who have not been baptized achieve salvation? Short answer: Yes.

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them” (Mark 10:14), allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism.  All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism. (Paragraph 1261)

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UNBOUND at St. Joseph’s: Deacon Mike Holmes is part of a prayer ministry at St. Joseph’s Parish called Unbound, a safe, loving, effective prayer model that helps people find spiritual healing. After an hour session, which is conducted by a prayer leader and an intercessor, many participants have expressed feelings of peace, forgiveness, healing, goodwill and happiness. Issues that kept them unhappy, fearful, sad, or lonely seemed to melt away, and they were no longer held prisoner by addictions, persistent sin, or emotional or spiritual wounds.

The next Unbound session at St. Joseph’s is on Monday, May 14th, from 7:00-9:00 pm. Please contact Deacon Mike at mholmes@holyfamilyjax.com to make an appointment. For more information about this Catholic prayer ministry, please visit the Heart of the Father Ministry website at www.heartofthefather.com.

 

 

 

 

The Gospels of the Sundays of Easter

At Easter, we think especially of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. But the Lectionary (which contains the readings for Sunday Mass) only spends a little time during the 7 weeks of this holy season on the appearances of Jesus to His disciples after He returned to life. In fact, the Gospel for Easter Sunday, which is the same every year, gives us only St. John’s account of the empty tomb! Our own faith in the Resurrection is challenged as we hear how Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter,   and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (thought to be St. John himself) reacted to this remarkable occurrence (John 20:1-9)

The Second Sunday of Easter again leads us to consider the depth of our faith as we hear about “doubting Thomas.”  Thomas comes to believe when he encounters the Risen Lord, but Jesus tells him (and us) that those who have not seen and yet have believed are more blessed than he (John 20:19-31).

On the Third Sunday, the process continues. The Gospel texts, which are different during each of the 3 years of the Lectionary cycle (Luke 24:13-35; Luke 24:35-48; John 21:1-19), show how the disciples did not recognize the risen Jesus at first. In each case, however, they came to accept that He had returned from death when they shared a meal with Him. In other words, it is above all by partaking of the Eucharist (“the breaking of the bread,” Luke 24:35) that we come to know the presence of the risen Lord dwelling among us.

During the rest of the Easter season, we contemplate the effects of the Resurrection rather than the appearances of the Risen Lord to His disciples. Each year, the Fourth Sunday of Easter offers us a different passage from the 10th chapter of John’s Gospel, in which Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd, who opens the way to the Father’s presence and  protects us from death. This is echoed the following week, when Jesus is presented as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14, Year A); as the true Vine from Whom we draw life (John 15, Year B); and as the One Who gives us the new commandment to love one another as He has loved us (John 13, Year C).

On the Sixth Sunday, Jesus assures His disciples that He “will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18, Year A), that He wishes them to “remain in my love” (John 15:10, Year B), and that “whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (John 14:23, Year C). This repeated promise of His continued presence prepares them for His apparent departure at the Ascension (which is celebrated on the 7th Sunday of Easter in our part of the world).

As the 50 days of Easter conclude, we celebrate Pentecost and the fulfillment of the promise of Christ’s continued presence in the Church—and within us—through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are then sent forth, as were the Apostles, to joyfully proclaim the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus.

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Please pray for our young people who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop Estévez this Thursday, April 19th, at 7:00 pm. May the Lord fill them with His grace, help them to know the power of the Holy Spirit acting in their lives, and open their eyes to the path in life He has laid out for them.

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I do hope you can join us next weekend for our first-ever Multi-Cultural Mass and Festival, beginning with the  11:30 am Mass. We have a wonderfully diverse community here at Holy Family, a gift worth celebrating!

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Catechism Corner

Is a person who is baptized in another Christian (non-Catholic) church properly baptized?

Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: “For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put  in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church”

(see Vatican II’s “Decree on Ecumenism, §3). “Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn” (see “Decree on Ecumenism, §22). (The above is taken from the  Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 1271)

Pastor’s Note: All those who are baptized using pure water and the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit” are considered validly    baptized, no matter who performs the action. Some churches, however, which use a different formula do not validly baptize in the view of the Catholic Church.

 

 

Easter Duty – April 8, 2018

Many Catholics still recall the emphasis that was once placed on making one’s “Easter duty.” They knew that one of the  precepts of the Church required them to go to confession around Eastertime. What many people don’t realize is that the notion of the Easter duty came into being not because people were failing to go to confession, but primarily because they weren’t receiving Holy Communion!

By the Middle Ages, the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist was understood by most Christians as something so sacred that hardly anyone was worthy to receive it. In many cases, they limited themselves to making a “visual Communion” when the priest elevated the Host at the Consecration, often invoking St. Thomas’ words, “My Lord and my God!” (This is one reason why a bell was rung at this time – the Eucharistic Prayer was said in a low voice, in Latin, so the people needed a warning that the Consecration was occurring.) Finally, the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 decreed that the Christian faithful must, by law, receive Holy Communion at least annually, during the Easter season – the season celebrating the Resurrection as the foundation of our entire faith. This was later confirmed by the Council of Trent in the 16th century in response to the Protestant Reformation’s claims that the Eucharist was merely symbolic and that confession to a priest was unnecessary.

Both the Lateran Council and Trent understood that in order to receive Holy Communion worthily, one must be in the state of grace. As St. Paul says, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the Body and Blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the Body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). So linked to the requirement to receive Holy Communion annually is the necessity to confess grave sins at least once      a year. These are listed in the Catechism as the 2nd and 3rd precepts of the Church. (In the United States, this twofold “Easter duty” can be fulfilled any time from Ash Wednesday through Pentecost.)

Nowadays most Catholics don’t have to be encouraged to   receive Holy Communion regularly. In fact, some feel that if they fail to enter the Communion line that others will make assumptions about their spiritual condition! This leads to situations in which members of the faithful who are conscious of serious sin receive the Eucharist even though they know that they should refrain.

But no one is required to receive the Eucharist at any particular Mass. (Of course, one can always approach the minister with arms crossed, signaling that they wish to make a spiritual  communion without actually receiving the Host.)

And one should be sure to confess any mortal sin before receiving Holy Communion. In some cases, one’s state of life (e.g., marriage outside the Church) might mean that you should refrain from receiving Holy Communion until you have spoken to one of our priests or deacons.

The Eucharist is a great gift, and a great responsibility.  Trusting in the Lord’s great mercy, always available to us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, let us ask the Lord that we may always receive Holy Communion with devotion, reverence, and gratitude.

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So many people contributed to the beauty and success of our Holy Week celebrations that it would be impossible to list them all. I am immensely grateful to our parish staff, music ministers, lectors, ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers, ushers, and sacristans for all of their hard work and dedication. I also thank God for the faith and   devotion that all of you demonstrated throughout this sacred time, and for your warm welcome of our many visitors. May the Lord continue to enrich us with His grace!

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Thanks as well to Don Moynahan and our Cooking Ministry for preparing the receptions following Living   Stations and the Easter Vigil. They also help out with our wonderful Rectory Dinners; the last two that I’ll being enjoying with you will take place on May 5th and June 9th – please call the parish office if you’d like to join us!

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Please pray for Eric Stelzer and the 3 other seminarians from our Diocese who will be ordained deacons next Saturday, April 14th, at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton. May God bless them abundantly as they enter ordained ministry in preparation for the priesthood!

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As recently announced, Fr. David Keegan officially arrives at Holy Family on July 1st. However, in order to prepare for my move to Catholic University, I will no longer be taking appointments after June 1st. I will still celebrate Mass through the weekend of June 23rd-24th before departing on pilgrimage to Scotland and Ireland on Tuesday, June 26th.

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Catechism Corner

 I was baptized a Protestant; can I be baptized again as a Catholic?

Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated. (Paragraph 1272)

As the Creed says, “I believe in one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” Baptized Protestants who wish to become Catholic are received formally into the Church, but they are not “rebaptized.”

 

Fr. Cusick’s Easter Corner – April 1, 2018

This weekend our parish welcomes 15 new Catholics: 5 of them baptized at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night, and 10 others, already baptized, who completed their initiation into the Catholic Church with the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion. After a long period of prayer, discernment, and formation through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), they responded with a resounding “yes” to God’s gift of faith and communion. I thank Maria  Petrotta, Deacon Doug, Fr. Matthew, Jared De Leo, the sponsors of our newest members, and all who helped to prepare the candidates for this joyful moment.

As we rejoice with these newest members of our community, we also recall that the season of Lent has given each of us an opportunity to renew our own commitment to faith, culminating in the renewal of baptismal promises on Easter Sunday. Baptism is the “gateway” sacrament through which we enter the Church: It makes us members of the Body of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, and beloved children of God, freed from all our sins through the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. Let us give thanks for this gift of God’s grace – and let us pray for one another, as we continue to discern how to respond to our baptismal call to holiness.

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Some of the visitors joining us for worship today may have been away from the Catholic Church for an extended period of time. Holy Family welcomes you! You are invited to learn how to reestablish a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church through the Catholics Returning Home program, beginning Wednesday, April 11th, at 7:00 pm. For more information, go to our website, www.holyfamilyjax.com, or contact Deacon Doug at dnullet@holyfamilyjax.com. May the Holy Spirit draw us to a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior, and with one another.

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God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4). We experience this mercy in Baptism, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and by approaching the fountain of God’s Mercy –Jesus Himself. Please join us in a celebration of Divine Mercy next Sunday, April 8th. We will have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament beginning at the conclusion of the 11:30 am Mass, priests will be available to hear confessions at 2:00 pm, and we will chant the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3:00 pm, concluding with Benediction. Join us and be refreshed at the wellsprings of salvation!

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Many, many thanks to Staël Dantes, Victoria Kutch, and all who worked so hard to make our Senior High Youth Ministry’s recent presentation of the Stations of the Cross such a beautiful and moving experience. It was truly a  wonderful expression of faith and devotion by our Young Church!

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From a Discourse on the Psalms by St. Augustine:

Because there are these two periods of time – the one that now is, beset with the trials and troubles of this life, and the other yet to come, a life of everlasting serenity and joy – we are given two liturgical seasons, one before Easter and the other after. The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now, while the time after Easter which we are celebrating at present signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future. What we commemorate before Easter is what we experience in this life; what we celebrate after Easter points to something we do not yet possess. This is why we keep the first season with fasting and prayer; but now the fast is over and we devote the present season to praise. Such is the meaning of the Alleluia we sing….

We are praising God now, assembled as we are here in church; but when we go on our various ways again, it seems as if we cease to praise God. But provided we do not cease to live a good life, we shall always be praising God. You cease to praise God only when you swerve from justice and from what is pleasing to God. If you never turn aside from the good life, your tongue may be silent but your actions will cry aloud, and God will perceive your intentions; for as our ears hear each other’s voices, so do God’s ears hear our thoughts.

I wish you and all those you love a blessed and joyful Easter.

Fr. Cusick’s Palm Sunday Homily

Readings:

Isaiah 50:4-7

Psalm 22

Philippians 2:6-11

Mark 14:1-15:47

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22:1)

On the eastern slope of Mount Zion, just outside the Old City of Jerusalem, stands the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. Gallicantu is Latin for “cock-crow”, and refers to Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus “before the cock crows twice” (Mark 14:30). Peter had followed Jesus to the house of the high priest Caiaphas, and it was here that he distanced himself from the Lord when he was identified as one of the disciples.

Beneath the church are caves hollowed out of the rock. Some were used as cisterns, but there is evidence that others were used to hold prisoners. If the church is indeed at the location of Caiaphas’ house, then Jesus was held here the night before His crucifixion – perhaps in the deep dungeon now known as the Sacred Pit.

When reading the Passion, things seem to move quickly from Jesus’ arrest to His trials, first before the Jewish leaders of the Sanhedrin and then by Pontius Pilate. But what of the night in between? Betrayed, denied, and abandoned by those closest to Him, Jesus likely spent hours confined in this stifling prison. Perhaps the words of Psalm 88 sprang to His mind: “My soul is filled with troubles and my life draws near to the netherworld. I am numbered with those who go down into the pit…. You have plunged me into the bottom of the pit, into the darkness of the abyss…. Friend and neighbor you have taken away; my one companion is darkness.”

Perhaps this image of the pit can help us better understand the depths of Jesus’ isolation during His entire Passion.

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

And now, on Good Friday, Jesus seems to have lost everything. Rejected by His own people, no one has come to His defense – and in the last moments of His earthly life, it seems that even His Father has left Him. Was it all for nothing?

No – because it was done willingly, out of His love for us. “Though He was in the form of God … Jesus emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:6-7). Stripped of His glory, left without companions, deprived of all He possessed, renouncing even His own will, Christ entered into the deepest darkness of abandonment, even into the pit of despair – in order to fill it with His presence. His Passion means that God has entered into everything we experience. Whatever suffering we endure – He is there. Whatever burdens we bear – He is there. Whatever emptiness we experience – He is there. Whatever losses we undergo – He is there. When we are rejected or condemned, if we feel that God has abandoned us, even if we have denied Him – He is there.

By His pain, our pain is transformed from an experience of isolation into one of union with Him. In His desolation, He has made Himself the source of our hope. He has brought His light even into the darkness of our sense of godforsakenness. He has become the Man of Sorrows, so that He might lift us out of the pit of despair to the heights of joy.

Veiling and Unveiling

The Fifth Sunday of Lent begins what was formerly known as “Passiontide”, a time of more intense focus on Christ ’s sacrifice on the Cross for our redemption. Traditionally, crosses and images in the church were veiled during this time. This might appear to be counterintuitive: why cover the cross when we are meditating more deeply on it?

One reason has to do with the pre-Vatican II liturgy: before 1970, the Gospel reading for the 5th Sunday of Lent was John 8:46-59, which concludes with the words, “Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the Temple.” At that time, Jesus’s conflict with the religious authorities was increasingly tense – they were threatening to stone Him – culminating in the Crucifixion. Jesus would soon be departing the Temple of His body, hidden in the tomb. As Lent approaches its climax, we symbolically enter into this mystery. All during this holy season, our liturgy itself has entered into the dying process – the Alleluia and Gloria are buried until Easter, and the simple chants used during the Mass offer a simpler and starker atmosphere. Now with the covering of images, the altar of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross stands revealed as the central symbol of our faith.

The veiling of crosses is thus connected to the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, when the Cross itself, not the altar, is the focus of our worship. (Good Friday is the one day of the year when the Eucharist is not consecrated, since it sacramentally re-presents the death and resurrection of Christ.) Before the Veneration of the Cross at the Good Friday liturgy, the cross may be gradually unveiled before the congregation. The cross then stands revealed as the “Tree of Life” and the instrument of our salvation, worthy of adoration. The veiling of the cross in the days preceding this celebration increases our anticipation of this act of worship. In addition, the unveiling of the cross reminds us of the veil of the Temple that was torn in two as Jesus died – the presence of God, which had been hidden in the Holy of Holies, is now revealed to all through the victory of the Cross.

Other images in the church (e.g., statues of the saints) are also covered until the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night to remind us that sanctity is the result not of our own efforts, but of the abundant grace brought forth by Christ’s Passion. The Church is born from the wounded side of Christ, from which blood and water flowed (John 19:34); this represents the sacramental life of the Church, especially Baptism and Eucharist. As our newest members celebrate these Sacraments for the first time at the Easter Vigil, they participate in the Death and Resurrection of Christ, become members of the Body of Christ, and are given the promise of glory in the company of all the saints, whose images now stand unveiled as a sign of what we are called to become.

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Holy Week Schedule

Please be aware of the changes in Mass times for Palm Sunday and Easter. In order to properly celebrate these great liturgies and allow sufficient time for the clearing of the parking lot, the first morning Mass on these Sundays will begin at 7:30 am. In addition, on Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil begins at 8:30 pm – there is no 5:30 pm Mass that day (there also no confessions on Saturday); there is also no 5:00 pm Mass on Easter Sunday. In addition, there are no morning Masses on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or Holy Saturday; we will celebrate Morning Prayer each of those days. So the Holy Week schedule is as follows:

 

Palm Sunday:

Saturday, March 24th: 4:00 pm Confessions;

5:30 pm Vigil Mass

Sunday, March 25th: 7:30 am, 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 5:00 pm

 

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week:

6:00 pm Confessions, 7:00 pm Mass

 

Wednesday, March 28th: Tenebrae Service, 8:00 pm

 

Holy Thursday:

Morning Prayer, 9:00 am

Mass of the Lord’s Supper, 7:00 pm

Night Prayer, 10:00 pm

 

Good Friday:

Morning Prayer, 9:00 am

Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, 3:00 pm

Confessions, 5:00 pm

Youth Ministry Living Stations of the Cross, 7:30 pm

 

Holy Saturday:

Morning Prayer, 9:00 am

(followed by the Blessing of Easter Food)

Easter Vigil, 8:30 pm

(No 4:00 pm confessions, no 5:30 pm Mass)

 

Easter Sunday:

Masses at 7:30 am, 9:30 am, and 11:30 am

(No 5:00 pm Mass)