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Catholic Church / Pacoima, CA

Grace is Everywhere

Painting by / Pinturo por Erik Feather

Painting by Erik Feather

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Grace is everywhere; people of faith act on this belief. As Christians we are called to reach deeply into ourselves and find God’s presence there. We are called to reach outside ourselves and find God there, too. The reality of grace has sustained and nourished people beyond numbering. The church never tires of telling the story of the loaves and fishes. It is narrated no less than six times in the four Gospels. We imagine the hesitant apostles reaching into the baskets and finding bread, always more bread. We anticipate the ending. The apostles will wear out before the bread runs out. At another time and place, Isaiah also spoke of abundance, this time of water, sweet honey, and rich milk. Always, always God is a gift-giver, and we the receivers. Our response is doxology, or praise. In the second reading Paul provides the words and attitude. Praise is everywhere.

“The soul hungers for God, and nothing but God can satiate it. Therefore He came to dwell on earth and assumed a Body in order that this Body might become the Food of our souls.” — Saint John Mary Vianney

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Let’s reflect on God’s Word

When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat’.” (Mt 14: 14-16)

This week the Gospel offers as a point of reference for our lives the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and the fish. We have chosen, from this lovely story, the phrase of Christ, addressed to his disciples and referring to the multitude that was hungry: “You give them something to eat”. This is a current mandate, since there are still multitudes suffering of hunger. We, as those surprised apostles, usually respond by saying that we have virtually nothing with which to fulfill this mandate; we are not rich, we have no ability to influence major political decisions, we cannot create jobs. However, the Lord is predisposed to make miracles as long as we just put a little bit, as long as we just put what little that we have. As such, do not fix your attention so much on the immensity of the needs but on what you can do. Mother Teresa said that we can do very little, but that little is what gives meaning to our lives. It may be a drop of water in the desert, but we will at least have quenched the thirst of one person.

Intention: Examine our possibilities to help others: money, time, culture. Make concrete intentions and then at the end of the week, go over what you have done.

Living God’s Word

In the Gospel we hear that Jesus “was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick” (Matthew 14:14). Then we hear Jesus say to the disciples, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves” (Matthew 14:16). How do these statements speak to your heart today?

Readings for the Week

Monday: Jer 28:1-17; Ps 119 (118):29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102; Mt 14:22-36
Tuesday: Jer 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22; Ps 102 (101):16-21, 29, 22-23; Mt 14:22-36
Wednesday: Dn 7:9-10, 13-14; Ps 97 (96):1-2, 5-6, 9; 2 Pt 1:16-19; Mt 17:1-9
Thursday: Jer 31:31-34; Ps 51 (50):12-15, 18-19; Mt 16:13-23
Friday: Na 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7; Dt 32:35cd-36ab, 39abcd, 41; Mt 16:24-28
Saturday: Hb 1:12 — 2:4; Ps 9:8-13; Mt 17:14-20
Sunday: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Ps 85 (84):9-14; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33

Saints & Special Observances

Monday: St. John Mary Vianney
Tuesday: Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
Wednesday: The Transfiguration of the Lord; Hiroshima Memorial Day
Thursday: St. Sixtus II and Companions; St. Cajetan
Friday: St. Dominic
Saturday: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross; Blessed Virgin Mary; Nagasaki Memorial Day

The Immaculate Conception of Mary

Proclaiming the dogma of the Immaculate (December 8, 1854) put an end to a long struggle in the heart of the Church and to an intense theological debate. On the one side, there were those who, loving the Virgin, considered that she must have been born with original sin, since Christ, her Son, was the redeemer of us all. On the other side, there were those who, loving Mary even more so, sustained that not even that sin could be attributed to our Mother, above all because the Son of God would take his flesh from her. The Franciscan theologists, singularly Duns Scoto, found the solution when they agreed –and there are still many years to go until the vaccines are discovered—that a person could be cured in two ways: by eliminating the illness and, by preventing the illness from being contracted. Therefore, Christ is the redeemer of us all, including His mother, but she, in face of her future maternity, was granted the privilege of being conceived without original sin. If this, however, is the genesis and content of the dogma, the consequences of such are many. I would like to highlight one of them in order to thank God for what it implies: the possibility of conquering sin, with the grace of God.

We mustn’t forget that there was another woman who did not know original sin: Eve. And, nonetheless, she sinned. Therefore, the fact of being born without that stain does not, in itself, imply that afterwards, throughout the course of life, one is unable to sin. In fact, the temptations concerning Adam and Eve, though of another type, were also experienced by Jesus, as the Gospels tell us, and we can assume that the same happened to Mary. However, the Immaculate did not sin; she remained stainless, rejecting the enemy when he intended to separate her from her own delivery unto God. The new Eve stepped on the serpent’s head every time it tried to seduce her and it tried many a times. This was understood by the people of God when, for so many centuries, upon defending the immaculate conception of Mary another concept was added: that she not only was free of original sin but also that she never knew sin and thus she is referred to as the “Purest”. In Spain, in fact, these two names – “the Immaculate and the Purest– are often used indistinctively when referring to the Virgin. But though the first refers only to her conception, the second covers her life as a whole, including the first. Consequently, and following the popular sense which achieved the approval of this dogma, we can assert that the pureness of our Mother means that it is possible to triumph over sin; that we are not irremediably condemned to sinning; that if a woman –of our lineage—was able to achieve this, with the grace of God, we may also achieve it.

With the new Eve, with Mary, with the Immaculate, a new creation began. From her Christ, the Son of God and son of Mary, was born, He too immaculate and pure –he never knew original or personal sin. The followers of the Incarnated Word, Christians, are called upon to imitate him and reject sin and
Mary’s example –who unlike her Son, true God, was but a woman—encourages us to fight to achieve it, because we know that it is possible. Let us thank God for this, for the hope He gives us upon contemplating the Immaculate and Purest, Mary, who, with the grace of God, triumphed against all sin. Let us thank Him because we know that we too may do so and that keeps us struggling to do so.

Intention: Thank God for the model of Mary “without sin”, which indicates a road to follow; the absence of any interest in our relationship with God, full of grace, full of love.

Treasures from Our Tradition

Most parishes are now aware of the catechumenate and the journey of new faithful in the RCIA, but this form of sacramental initiation disappeared from view in the thirteenth century along with many other ancient practices. Life back then was hard, and often too short, and priests were increasingly insistent about the responsibility of parents to baptize children in danger of death. Since everyone in that society was under unimaginable threat from famine, warfare, and plague, the liturgical rites changed quickly. Everyone was in danger of death all the time. No longer were babies immersed in fonts, being lowered into the water, although the ritual books never backed down from immersion. Infusion was the new way, a simple pouring of a few drops of water on the child’s forehead. The catechumenate collapsed, being reduced to the recitation of the Creed and an Our Father at every baptism. Amazingly, any provision for adult baptism was shelved, so that as late as the 1950s, a person being baptized was presumed to be an infant, unable to answer for him or herself. Questions of creed and commitment were put to the godparents, not to the person being baptized. Even Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, famous adult converts, remained mute at their baptisms while their sponsors answered for them. In hindsight all this appears strikingly odd, yet it was accepted as the way things were. We have good reason to give thanks for the vigorous reforms of the last fifty years!

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