Monday, July 22, 2013

Cassini's Picture of Our Home - from 900 Million Miles Away!

A photo by the Cassini spacecraft shows the rings of Saturn, with Earth a faint blue dot in the distance. (NASA/JPL/Cassini/Guillermo Abramson

“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there -- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

From Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space."

Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I hope everyone was able to survive the terrible heat wave this week. I am sure most of you have passed by the small white clapboard Watchung Presbyterian Church on Watching Ave. The minister there has a knack for posting witty short announcements on the bulletin board in front of the Church. I really enjoyed this weeks post “if you think it’s hot now”. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

In my homilies I usually make mention of saints, those holy people who have gone before us.  Maximilian Kolbe, Mother Teresa, Therese the Little Flower.  Their life example helps us to become saints. Recently I came upon the name of a living saint. His name is Dr. Tom Catena. Dr. Tom hails from Amsterdam, New York. As a young man, he joined the US Navy, where he served as a medic. When his military service ended, he attended medical school and became a surgeon. As a devout Catholic, he wished to serve the Lord as a missionary. He was, and is, very much influenced by Francis of Assisi, whose idea was to radically live the gospel. Since 2008, Dr. Tom has volunteered with the Catholic Medical Mission at the Mother of Mercy hospital in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, a land of horrors, where families cower in caves to avoid aerial bombings by the Sudanese government.  There is no one better qualified to describe what the leaders of Sudan do to their own citizens. He is the only surgeon at Mother of Mercy H. that is capable of dealing with severe war injuries, mostly amputations. He also treats conditions like malaria and pneumonia, leprosy, stroke, meningitis, and shell-shocked women who walk days and hours with their babies, alive and deceased, to the clinic for help. Dr. Tom says “The most rewarding part of the job is seeing sick people get better.”  “We have a good number of patients with serious but treatable conditions. To be able to offer a good service to care for a wide variety of diseases is a real joy.” Dr. Tom, as the saints I mentioned before, has much to teach us about discipleship. He says “Our FAITH is what motivates us to keep pushing on with the work - despite the isolation and daily frustrations of working in a remote, undeveloped region with little support.” “Christ’s call to serve the ‘least of these’ is a tonic to encourage us in the work. Our faith helps us in that we know we are not the masters of life and death and that God is in charge of all things. We know that our lives here are temporary, and that there are promises of greater things to come.” This by the way is exactly what Pope Benedict wrote about in his encyclical “In Hope we are saved.”

Dr. Tom lives inside a small compound with a few religious sisters and a few priests. At 5:30AM he wakes up to the alarm of roosters crowing, donkeys braying, and cows mooing. With the sisters and priests, he moves from the living compound, across a dry riverbed, to a small chapel where he attends daily Mass. The Eucharist is his strength – the strength to go on in the midst of chaos – the cries of children dying and mothers wailing. Sometimes he feels he cannot continue. But he does.

Dr. Tom always wanted to serve. “The idea is to serve,” he says. “You use Christ as your guide, your mentor. This is what Jesus did. He came to serve, not be served, and I try to follow that. “I just wanted to be in a position where I could be of service to others.” “I had always wanted to do some type of mission work where I could put my FAITH IN ACTION.

I bring up this story of Dr. Tom today because it has a direct correlation with today’s Gospel, the story of Martha and Mary – a story of faith, then action.

Jesus visits with his dear friends Martha and Mary. Martha greets Jesus at the door. She is a good friend, cleaning house, preparing the food - but while Martha is doing all the work, all good work, what is her sister Mary doing? - sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Martha is not happy – maybe for two reasons. One: Martha is working, Mary is resting. Martha’s irritation is obvious. Two – Martha sees Mary as being arrogant. When Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, she is taking the position of a disciple learning from the teacher. In this particular instance, the teacher / disciple relationship is quite unusual, for Mary is a woman. Mary assumed the stance of a man – in a man’s space. In the first century, a woman would not be accepted by a teacher as a disciple. So there is a significant teaching here, that ALL are invited to sit at the feet of Jesus – to enjoy full participation in Christ’s call to discipleship.

So Jesus puts it to Martha straight. You - Martha - are anxious and worried. Mary is doing something more important here. She has taken the “better part.” Now Jesus is not saying what Martha is doing is unimportant. Her actions are indeed important and beautiful– as they are acts of love. Maybe Martha, like you and me, needs to spend more time in prayer. 

Mary has chosen, in Latin, the “Unum necessarium” the one thing necessary. Mary is sitting at the feet of Christ - and she is “listening.” What does it mean to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen? Our soon to be canonized Holy Father – Blessed John Paul II - said that “Listening to the Word of God is the most important thing in our lives. Christ is always in our midst and desires to speak to our hearts. We can listen to him by meditating with faith on Sacred Scripture, by recollection in private and communal prayer, by silent meditation before the Tabernacle, from which he speaks to us of his love. Christians, especially on Sundays, are called to meet and listen to the Lord. This happens most completely through participation in Holy Mass, during which Christ prepares the banquet of the Word and of the Bread of Life for the faithful. 

And now the most important line;

“Through the action of the Holy Spirit, God takes up his dwelling in the heart of the believer; it becomes easier for him/her to serve the brethren.

So first let we let Jesus enter into our hearts, then we can serve the brethren.

Dr. Tom’s “listening” is his daily reception of the Eucharist. This is his strength to do the impossible. First he “listens”, and then he “acts”.

Brothers and sisters, we are living in hard times, religious freedom is under attack. We must not let anyone or anything deprive us of “the better part”, for we are all called to discipleship – to do great acts of love in Jesus’ name. And this will not be taken from us.

God bless you.

Deacon Brian J. Murphy

* Thanks to Fr. Robert Barron for the inspiration

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A LIFE Message from Pope Francis

A LIFE Message from Pope Francis to Catholics in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales - and really, to all the world !

“Calling to mind the teaching of Saint Irenaeus that the glory of God is seen in a living human being, the Holy Father encourages all of you to let the light of that glory shine so brightly that everyone may come to recognise the inestimable value of all human life. Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live for ever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect. His Holiness prays that the Day for Life will help to ensure that human life always receives the protection that is its due, so that “everything that breathes may praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).”

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Good News out of Texas, Late Term Abortions BANNED!

Some good news out of   Of course, not the best news...

After a day filled with pro-abortion threats, pro-life people hiding in secure areas of the capitol fearing for their safety, jars of feces and urine and protestors disrupting the Senate proceedings, democracy finally prevailed.

Members of the state Senate approved the bill to ban late-term abortions on a 19-11 margin on second reading. The chamber then approved the bill in third reading by the same 19-11 vote.

The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks and hold abortion clinics accountable by making them meet basic health and safety standards that have closed facilities in other states that are unable to comply. The bill also requires all abortion clinics to meet the same health and safety regulations as an ambulatory surgical center, requires a doctor providing abortions to secure admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and lastly, requires a doctor to personally administer the abortion-inducing drugs to the patient.

Before the vote, Texas police issued a statement confirming they confiscated numerous jars of feces and urine that abortion activists planned to throw at pro-life legislators today who are debating the late-term abortion ban.

As LifeNews reported, abortion activists also planned to throw tampons and feminine pads at lawmakers, but the Texas Department of Public Safety statement below confirms the planned assaults on legislators were much worse than that.

The last attempt to pass the bill was halted in the state Senate with a pro-abortion filibuster but state Sen. Wendy Davis said she would not filibuster the bill a second time. This week saw a death threat issued to the Texas Lt. Governor and abortion activists screaming “F— the Church.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry issued a call for a special session of the Texas legislature to pass the bill that a pro-abortion mob prevented the legislature from passing last week.“I am calling the Legislature back into session because too much important work remains undone for the people of Texas. Through their duly elected representatives, the citizens of our state have made crystal clear their priorities for our great state,” Perry said.

“Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn. Texans want a transportation system that keeps them moving. Texans want a court system that is fair and just. We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do.”
A recent national poll by The Polling Company found that, after being informed that there is scientific evidence that unborn children are capable of feeling pain at least by 20 weeks, 64% would support a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, unless the mother’s life was in danger.   Only 30% said they would oppose such a law. Polling from Texas also shows support for the legislation.

Even a Huffington Post poll found a majority of Americans support banning late abortions — on a 2-1 margin.

The bill relies on the science of fetal pain to establish a Constitutional reason for Congress to ban abortions late in pregnancy.

The science behind the concept of fetal pain is fully established and Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for it. He has testified before Congress that an unborn child could feel pain at “eight-and-a-half weeks and possibly earlier” and that a baby before birth “under the right circumstances, is capable of crying.”

Read the rest of the article HERE

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Flower Gathering, Peck's Lake, New York

I left you in the morning,
And in the morning glow,
You walked a way beside me
To make me sad to go.
Do you know me in the gloaming,
Gaunt and dusty gray with roaming?
Are you dumb because you know me not,
Or dumb because you know?

All for me  And not a question
For the faded flowers gay
That could take me from beside you
For the ages of a day?
They are yours, and be the measure
Of their worth for you to treasure,
The measure of the little while
That I've been long away.
                                                        Robert Frost

 Above image ©Brian Murphy 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

St. Thomas, The Wounds of Christ

Here is an excerpt of today's homily by Pope Francis. I find his words very interesting. He speaks of meditation, penance, social ministries - not they are bad...but that we get so caught up in them that we lose focus. What is our Christian vocation? To heal the wounds of Christ, as the Holy Father says, "to go out into the streets."                 “In the history of the Church there have been some mistakes made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God, the God of Christians can be found on the path of meditation, indeed that we can reach higher through meditation. That’s dangerous! How many are lost on that path, never to return. Yes perhaps they arrive at knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that. It is the path of the Gnostics, no? They are good, they work, but it is not the right path. It’s very complicated and does not lead to a safe harbor. ”

“Others – the Pope said – thought that to arrive at God we must mortify ourselves, we have to be austere and have chosen the path of penance: only penance and fasting. Not even these arrive at the Living God, Jesus Christ. They are the pelagians, who believe that they can arrive by their own efforts. ” But Jesus tells us that the path to encountering Him is to find His wounds:

We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to our body – the body – the soul too, but – I stress – the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he’s in jail because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today. And Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards Him, but through these His wounds. ‘Oh, great! Let’s set up a foundation to help everyone and do so many good things to help ‘. That’s important, but if we remain on this level, we will only be philanthropic. We need to touch the wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus, and this literally. Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed. ”

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

From the Pastor, Rev. George W. Rutler, on Evil

Here is the latest homily written by Pastor George W. Rutler. It is one of the finest homilies I have read. This is one that you should copy and send to your families and friends.

With my parents at a performance of Gounod's Faust at the opera some years ago, when Marguerite went mad in Act V after killing her baby, my mother let out a gasp that embarrassed me, for we were in a box over stage left and conspicuous. Now I bless my mother because that maternal empathy is the heart of civilization. “A voice was heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children” (Jeremiah 31:15). Stifle the mother, and you stifle the child, and the world dies. Our Lady, being a take-charge kind of woman, as was evident at the wedding in Cana, may have been a midwife often in Nazareth, weeping at the loss of infants as she surely did when the innocents were massacred in Bethlehem.

   In the opera, the repentant Marguerite is taken by angels singing “Salvation!” But Faust, who bartered his soul to Mephistopheles before fathering Marguerite's child, is bound to that Satan who, in the words of Milton, bids “Evil, be thou my good.” Anyone who calls evil good, moves discourse about infanticide to a very dark place.

   On April 26, President Obama, the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood, not only thanked that organization which aborts around 300,000 children a year, but added, “God bless you.” Evil, be thou my good.

   On June 13, Nancy Pelosi said that the abortion issue is “sacred ground.” Evil, be thou my good.

   On June 20, a New York Times Op-Ed contributor described the aborting of her 23-week-old son, who had a heart defect: “I felt my son’s budding life end as a doctor inserted a needle through my belly into his tiny heart. As horrible as that moment was — it will live with me forever — I am grateful. We made sure our son was not born only to suffer. He died in a warm and loving place, inside me.” Evil, be thou my good. 

   Our merciful Lord will hear the cry of those who make terrible mistakes, especially those who have not had the grace of being taught right from wrong. To them he offers real angels, and not singers on a stage. But he also predicted that “a time is coming when anyone who kills will think he is offering service to God” (John 16:2). Like Faust, such people ask God to bless destroyers of life, and call the killing fields “sacred ground,” and even describe the womb of a mother who kills her child as a “warm and loving place.”

   Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said that no one is safe around a mother who would kill her own child. Anyone who makes a Faustian bargain knows that even Christ is not safe around such a mother: “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Satan calls evil good. Christ calls it crucifixion.  

“Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Satan calls evil good. Christ calls it crucifixion.