Deacon's Corner
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July 8, 2018, 12:00 PM

If I offered you an envelope containing 168 one-dollar bills, as a free gift, no strings attached, would you accept it?

Then if I asked you for $1 back, would you give it to me? How about if I asked you for $2? How about 10%, $16.80? These shouldn’t be difficult decisions since the entire $168 was a free gift. I’ve used the example before and so did Father Havey during last year’s Parish Mission. Each week contains 168 hours. Each hour is a free gift from God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (para 2043) says, “the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.”

But how much are we obliged to give? The Church has never stated a specific amount or percentage. But the standard in the Bible was always the tithe, or 10 percent of everything. “For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:32). God challenges His people to challenge Him on this. “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8).

So, how can we cheerfully give nearly 17 hours each week to God? It’s easy if we put God first and follow His commandments of love God and love neighbor. Attending Mass counts. Praying counts, especially the Rosary. Adoration counts. Reading Sacred Scripture, such as Mass readings and reflections, and the Catechism counts. Doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy, such as visiting the sick counts. Participating in adult faith formation, such as a Cell Group, counts. And the list goes on. Think about it. Pray about it. Come up with a plan that allows you to start with a daily effort that grows to 10% of your time, talent, and treasure given to God. Refusing to do this means robbing God and, even more important, could lead to refusing the gift giver Himself. Now you know!

July 1, 2018, 12:00 PM

Happy Anniversary!

Father John was ordained a priest and I was ordained a Deacon 10 years ago on the same day, June 28. He was in the Cathedral of St Peter, Scranton, with Bishop Martino, and I was in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC, with Cardinal Wuerl. Both Masses began at 10:00. We joke that we had hands laid upon us at nearly the same time, depending on the length of the homilies, since the laying on of hands occurs in the same place in the Rite of Ordination for Priests and Deacons.

Happy Anniversary to our Nation! On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence and on July 4th formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia held the first annual celebration of independence on July 4, 1777. The tradition of patriotic celebration became widespread and in 1870 Congress made July 4th a federal holiday. The Fourth of July became a major focus of leisure activities, festivities, concerts, and parades, and an occasion for family get-togethers.

Each Mass we celebrate our independence and gather as the family of Christ. Through the Penitential Act and the reception of Holy Communion we receive God’s grace and gain our independence from the slavery of sin. The Code of Canon Law (CIC can. 1246) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2192) tell us that “Sunday is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the Universal Church.” So, we are bound to participate in the Mass. Jesus instituted the Eucharist and ordained His priests at the Last Supper. For nearly 2,000 years the successors of the Apostles have laid hands on priests who have celebrated the Mass so we can receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. What possible reason could there be for anyone to willingly not celebrate this independence? Now you know!

June 24, 2018, 12:00 PM

Happy birthday John the Baptist!

This is a special Feast! Ordinarily the Church celebrates the day of a saint’s death because it is their entrance into heaven. St. Augustine wrote, "For all these the final day of their lives, the day on which they completed their earthly service is honored.” But today we celebrate a birthday! The Church only celebrates three birthdays: the Nativity of Jesus (December 25); of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8); and of John the Baptist (June 24). These three were born without Original Sin. Jesus and Mary were conceived without Original Sin and John was cleansed of Original Sin in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, at the Visitation. Notice, at the Annunciation (March 25), the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, is in her sixth month. So, it makes sense that John the Baptist’s birthday is 3 months later.

St Augustine also wrote, “But for John the day of his birth, the day on which he began this mortal life is likewise sacred. The reason for this is, of course, that the Lord willed to announce to men His own coming through the Baptist, lest if He appeared suddenly, they would fail to recognize Him.” Jesus honored John above all when he said: “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John.” (Lk 7:28) It’s pretty awesome that throughout the centuries, the Church perpetually honors Saint John the Baptist on his birthday.

We can celebrate this Feast because we have freedom of religion. For the past 6 years, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsored the Fortnight For Freedom, the 14 days from June 21 to July 4, to pray for Religious Freedom. It changed this year. Now we are encouraged to pray and act in support of religious liberty during Serving Others in God's Love: Religious Freedom Week 2018, which began June 22, the Feast of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, and ends June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. The USCCB said, "Religious freedom allows the space for people of faith to serve others in God's love in ministries like education, adoption and foster care, health care, and migration and refugee services.” How are we doing? Now you know!

June 17, 2018, 12:00 PM

This season following Pentecost reminds us of our mission to manifest the kingdom of God and witness the love of Jesus in our lives.

This time reminds us of the vital need to protect and sustain our Catholic identity. As Saint John Paul II wrote, “Since the ‘Good News is Christ, there is an identity between the message and the messenger, between saying, doing and being” (Redemptoris Missio, 13). Being Catholic means to recognize a unique and special relationship with Jesus risen. We are not bystanders. We are participants in this sacred work so we cannot allow worldly distractions, temptations, or the contrary demands of others to keep us from this great work.

The Gospel mandate, which is also the call to holiness, is given to each of us in the way proper to our state of life (Gaudete et Exsultate, 10-11). This month the Church of Scranton celebrated the mission of Holy Orders with the ordination of two men to the priesthood on June 9. Please offer your own prayers for these men who have answered God’s call. At a Mass of Priestly Ordination in April, Pope Francis urged the men before him, “Remember that you are chosen from among mankind and appointed to act in their favor by attending to the things of God. Carry out the work of Christ’s ministry with genuine joy and love, seeking only to please God and not yourselves and others, nor seeking other interests. Only at the service of God, for the good of the holy faithful People of God.”

This is also a time when our local Church traditionally celebrates the joy of enduring love in marriage. Just as priests are called to wholly love and devote themselves to the Church, the Holy Bride to whom Christ has given His own life, married couples are called to love one another. Human marriage and family encounter many challenges and difficulties. But many couples have persevered as visible signs of divine love.

Finally, the month of June concludes with Religious Freedom Week 2018, June 22-29, with the theme of Serving Others in God's Love. Operating and living according to the teachings of our Catholic faith is our fundamental right, yet we still encounter attempts to force us to accept contrary moral views or suggestions that the Church needs to water down her teachings. This is a time to be vigilant and renew our commitment to God first. Now you know!

June 10, 2018, 12:00 PM

How about a brief history lesson?

Do you know that today is the first day of National Flag Week this year? The week containing June 14, Flag Day, is designated as "National Flag Week." Flag Day is a celebration of the adoption on June 14, 1777, by the Continental Congress, of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States. For 240 years we have celebrated June 14 as Flag Day, however, it wasn’t officially recognized until President Truman signed it into law in 1949. In 1966, Congress requested that the President annually issue a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as National Flag Week. The President calls on government officials to display the flag on all government buildings and urges us to observe Flag Day.

The flag of the United States represents freedom and has been an enduring symbol of our Nation’s ideals since its early days. Many people honor this day by displaying the American flag at homes and public buildings. Other popular activities include: flag-raising ceremonies; Flag Day services; school quizzes and essay competitions about the American flag; musical salutes; and parades.

With this significant focus on a symbol of our nation, why not spend time each day this week to focus on the symbol of our Faith, the Sign of the Cross? It has been around nearly 2,000 years and is the Gospel in one simple motion. With it we believe, without explanation, the central mystery of our Faith, Three Persons in One God. In this country, we have the freedom to live our Faith. Why not begin and end each day with a Sign of the Cross? Of course, prayers in between would be a joyful plus. Now you know!

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