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Bible Reflections View Comments

We Preach the Gospel with Our Lives
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 12, 2013
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St. Paul tells the Ephesians, “May the eyes of your heart be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.” It reminds me of the line from Antoine St. Exupery’s classic story The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

It’s easy to talk about the things that Jesus said and did while he was here on earth. We understand his parables; we grasp the significance of the things he tells us about God the Father, about the kingdom of heaven; we marvel at his healing touch. But in this Easter season we wrestle with the transition from this earthly ministry to something that we can’t see and hear and touch. And it’s this very transition that makes our belief more than merely following a good man or a wise teacher.

It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in this. After Jesus’s return to his Father, the apostles are still trying to see him with their earthly eyes, so much so that an angel asks them: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking up at the sky?” They have been sent to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth, but their hearts haven’t accepted that message yet. They’re still not quite sure that they can do what Jesus did.

Luke’s Gospel for the Ascension tells us that Jesus cautioned his followers to return to the city until they were “clothed with power from on high.” Throughout the Easter season, we find the apostles gathered in Jerusalem for prayer as a community to wait for the Holy Spirit Jesus promised to send. They know they’re on their own now, that the task is theirs, but they also know that they’re never truly alone. The Lord watches over us as we do his work in the world. We may not see him, but faith tells us he’s there.

Wisely, they follow the advice to spend time in prayer, to spend time with one another puzzling out the marvelous things they have experienced. They know what they’re up against. They know that they will need to go back to face the very people who executed Jesus. It’s no wonder they’re confused and even afraid. But they remember what Jesus said when he was with them. And they wait for the inspiration of the Spirit.

So it is with our call to go out and proclaim the Gospel message in our own day. We will always encounter those who doubt and who criticize us for our beliefs. A memorized presentation of facts and doctrines will do little to persuade most people. Like the first disciples, we need to let the spirit animate us. We need to let the words of Jesus sink so deeply into out hearts that our lives show forth their meaning.

The core of the message will always be the words and deeds of Jesus in the Gospel. But the real proof will lie in the way that our own actions show love for others and service to the little ones and the least ones. If we strive to do this consistently, people around us will begin to and wonder at what moves and inspires us. We can bring them along with us gradually, attentive to the Spirit working in them as well as in us.

The days between Ascension and Pentecost give us a marvelous opportunity to reflect on the work that we’ve been called to do, on the Spirit that empowers us for that work, and on the difference it can make in our world. We may be a bit cautious at first, but before long, we, like the apostles, will be going out with great joy to praise God.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but she oon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p>
American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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