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Our God Speaks to Us
By Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.

We Catholics believe in a God who speaks. Our God is not a silent, distant God but a God who wants us to know who he is and who we are and what life is all about. We believe in a God who freely chooses to reveal his mysterious plan to create us, love us and take us to himself. We believe in the God who spoke to Abraham, who spoke to the patriarchs and the prophets and who spoke his definitive word in Jesus Christ.

And just what did God say? God didn't waste a lot of time talking about incidentals: "The earth is round." Or "Today is Wednesday." God got right to the point and said, "I love you!" And we hear God's most emphatic "I love you" in the birth, life, preaching, healing, passion, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

This kind of revelation demands more than a "yes" of agreement to a proposed fact: "Yes, the earth is round." "Yes, today is Wednesday." The Word of love that God speaks in the Bible demands more of us than "Yes, that's true."

It calls for a total yes—a yes of commitment—the kind of yes that couples exchange in their wedding vows. "Margaret, do you take Joseph to be your husband?" "Yes, I do." Saying "Yes, I do" to the proposal of love that God offers us in Jesus Christ is what being Catholic is all about.

That is why the Bible is essential to Catholicism. How can we say yes to Jesus, how can we be a disciple of Jesus unless we know Jesus? And to know Jesus we must know the Scriptures, for as St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." The Scriptures are not a list of propositions to be believed. They are an encounter with a Person to be loved.

From Generation to Generation

God has not appeared to me as he did to Abraham. I was not there by the Sea of Galilee with Peter and Andrew, James and John, when Jesus walked by and said, "Follow me." I wasn't knocked to the ground in a blaze of light like St. Paul. I received the faith quietly, gradually. My parents (and teachers, neighbors and friends) handed on the tradition they had received from their parents, spouses, teachers, friends. And the members of that former generation handed on what they had received from the generation before them, all the way back to the apostles. Even St. Paul says that he handed on what he had received.

Those who knew Jesus and witnessed his death and resurrection were commissioned to preach and make disciples. Some disciples handed on the message orally and some, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote down their faith experience. Catholics treasure God's self-revelation in both its written and oral forms. Catholics cherish Scripture and Tradition. Both reveal the same Divine Mystery. Both bring us into contact with the living God.

And the word of the living God is a living word. When the Scriptures are proclaimed at Mass we believe that Christ is present. It is Christ himself who speaks to us.

Ongoing Conversation

I keep a file of my Sunday homilies in the hope that, three years from now when the same readings are used, I will be able to use the same homily over again. But it never works out that way. Each time the passages are proclaimed, God says something new. When I hear Jesus tell Peter and Andrew, "Come after me," the words imply something different—something more—for me now than they did back when I was 15, or when I was 25, or even when I was 50.

God speaks to us in the Scriptures and in the Tradition handed down to us from the apostles. And if we respond to God's word with lives filled with God's Spirit and lived in imitation of Jesus, the definitive Word of the Father, we can be confident that the message will continue to be passed on—generation after generation—until all the ends of the earth hear God's great "I love you."

Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., has a doctorate in liturgy and sacramental theology from the Institut Catholique of Paris. A popular writer and lecturer, Father Richstatter teaches courses on the sacraments at Saint Meinrad (Indiana) School of Theology. His latest book is The Sacraments: How Catholics Pray (St. Anthony Messenger Press).

Next: Our Church Is Universal

Questions for Reflection:
• What Scripture readings have helped you to form your perception/image of God?

What Church teaching or Tradition has helped you to form your perception/ image of God?

Sharing Perceptions
By Judith Dunlap

The stories my father told about my paternal grandmother have always been a source of inspiration to me. What I find interesting is how my perspective on those stories has changed over the years.

My grandmother came alone from Poland, traveling steerage with three small children. My dad was just five and remembered waiting in long lines for the food and drink he brought back to his mother and two siblings. I loved thinking about that story when I was raising my own small brood (a-six-year-old and three under three). I took comfort in the hope that perhaps my grandmother—s strength was also in my genes.

Today when I remember that same story I find myself reflecting on my great-grandmother, who was left behind in Poland. I think of her now as I experience the sadness of watching my own son move his family hundreds of miles away. I can identify with the sense of loss she must have felt even though I know I can see my son and his family in a couple of months.

This change in viewpoint is not surprising. The lessons we learn from stories are the ones we need at the time. It is the same way with Scripture. Passages read to a child have a different meaning than they do to a teen or adult. Each interpretation is valid and is often valuable to persons outside the observer—s age group. That—s why intergenerational faith sharing is fruitful.

When parents and children read the Sunday Scriptures together and talk about what the readings mean to each of them, individual perceptions can affirm and challenge all family members. It makes me wish I could have reflected on my grandmother—s experience with my own mother years ago, when I moved with my growing family three states away.

For Family Response:

Have two family members read next Sunday's Gospel. Ask each person to share what the reading means to him or her.

Media Watch
Pieces of April
By Frank Frost

"It was a day when they realized that they all needed each other...that they couldn't do it alone." So the title character of Pieces of April describes the first Thanksgiving to a family of Asian immigrants in her apartment building, summarizing one of the main lessons contained in this compelling movie about hope, love, redemption and the connections that bind families, friends and even strangers.

April (Katie Holmes), a heavily tattooed and flamboyantly dressed young woman, lives with her African-American boyfriend in New York City. Estranged from her white suburban family members, she nonetheless takes on the herculean task of preparing a full traditional Thanksgiving Day meal for them, having invited them all to her cramped Manhattan apartment. We soon learn that behind April's efforts is an attempt at reconciliation in the wake of her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer.

April's supportive boyfriend, Bobby (Derek Luke), is anxious about the dinner preparation and wishes to help, but April, confident that she can handle it on her own, sends him out of the apartment to run his own errands. Once she is alone, however, she encounters a major problem: Her oven is broken. She discovers that she must put all her trust in the generosity of strangers, as she is reduced to knocking on one door after another in her run-down apartment building in search of someone who will "loan" her an oven. As she encounters the colorful mix of personalities and families in her building, she is faced with the same challenge her family faces with her. She must learn that appearances, and even first impressions, can be deceiving.

While April struggles with cooking chores, her family members also struggle with their journey to join her. Her mother (Patricia Clarkson) experiences a wide range of emotions as she contemplates her reunion with her estranged daughter. She constantly entertains the option of turning back and heading for home. It is the love and support of April's father (Oliver Platt) that seems to hold the family together and keep them moving forward.

Between April's epic struggles in the kitchen and her family's consistent reluctance to believe in her, things seem poised to fall apart. It is Bobby, in a surprisingly touching moment, who puts into words what it is that allows each character to keep going. Love, he tells a friend regarding April, "gives you strength to do things you didn't ever think you could do."

Funny, moving and intensely believable, Pieces of April draws a poignant picture of the struggles individuals can face as they attempt to reach out to each other and reminds us of the importance of the connections we build in our own lives.

This is an excellent film for family viewing and discussion, but some rough language and a few sexual images make it unsuitable for young children.

For Media Watch:

What values do you find in this film?

By Judy Ball

St. Charles Lwanga (d. 1886)

When Charles Lwanga was born in Buganda (now known as Uganda), Catholic missionaries hadn't yet reached that part of the African continent. As he grew into young manhood the White Fathers arrived from France to establish missions among the people. Not everyone welcomed the efforts. Some saw the influx of "foreigners" as threatening. Among them was Mwanga, the young king whose irrational and undisciplined behavior made him a source of great fear.

As a page in the king's court, Charles saw firsthand just how dangerous the king was. Mwanga regularly made sexual demands of the young men in his court. When the master of the pages—an avowed Christian—dared to chastise him, Mwanga had him executed and launched an anti-Christian persecution. That evening, Charles asked to be baptized.

He began playing an increasingly important role in the court—serving as head of the pages, encouraging them to guard against the king's sexual advances, instructing interested ones in the faith. When it became clear their lives were in danger he baptized some of them. The final showdown came in 1886, when King Mwanga challenged the Christian pages in his court to declare their loyalty to him or to their God. When Charles Lwanga and the other pages professed their faith, the king ordered them bound in ropes and chains.

On Ascension Thursday 1886, Charles Lwanga was the first one brought forward to the funeral pyre. Among those martyred that day were Protestants as well as Catholics. Pope Paul VI praised all of them when he canonized St. Charles Lwanga and his Companions in 1964. Their feast day is June 3.

Ryan Turnage

Holy Week was over, and Ryan Turnage had switched gears—again. After completing a marathon weekend as choir director at Sts. Teresa and Brigid Parish in St. Louis he was back on campus at St. Louis University to finish up his junior year as a political science and English major.

Multi-tasking is easy for Ryan. "I do fairly well at school," he told Every Day Catholic by telephone. As for his weekend parish work, he said, it typically "only" involves one Saturday rehearsal and one Mass on Sunday.

Understatement comes naturally to Ryan, 21. So does living his faith. His choir ministry, he noted, helps him and others "to come closer to God through music." While some his age may resist regular church attendance, "to not go to church is unnatural for me," said Ryan, giving credit to his parents for "laying the foundation" of his faith life.

He also gives credit to the St. Charles Lwanga Center in St. Louis. At age 16 he participated in a Kujenga leadership retreat for African-American youth sponsored by the Center at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville, Illinois. During that weekend experience he learned about such African values as family, faith and unity as well as self-esteem and cooperation. Already a lector and server at his parish, Ryan became a leader and officer in its youth group. Since his first Kujenga experience several years ago, he has helped plan the weekends for other young African-American girls and boys eager to identify and use their God-given gifts.

Ryan hopes to use his as an attorney. "You have to be faithful just to go through life," says Ryan. "If you don't have faith, it's empty."

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