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Sunday, January 1, 2017
An Appeal for the Heart that Conquered Death: Reflections for a Catholic New Year
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As the world dives further into a century of “progress” and uncharted horizons, mankind continues its dissent from God, which is eerily reminiscent of the words of Jesus Christ: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:36-38).

This dissent can be blamed in part on numerous evils afflicting our world from abortion to homosexual marriage to artificial contraception and to poverty.  Yet, blame should not hold a central part in the debate on our world’s fate.  We must never allow blame to become our primary mode of response to anything.  Blame first surfaced in the Garden of Eden as Adam sought to shift the blame for his disobedience.  Yet, the technicalities are of no importance – Adam suffered the same fate as Eve.

Our world is above all suffering from a lack of love, and each one of us must fulfill our baptismal promises to love.  In my personal observations, atheists lack two characteristics – humility and love for others.  Catholics are called to love everyone even those that insult and attack ourselves.  For Christ said the greatest of all the Commandments was to love the Lord our God and the second greatest to love our neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).

While society may ignore the reality of this lack of love, we can blame no one except ourselves.  We must be beacons of the Light of Christ.  We must become mirrors of His love to “bring the Gentiles from darkness.”  The Lord will judge each of us per our works (Romans 2:6), and unfortunately, society ignores the inevitably reality of Judgment.

Do not be disheartened when men rebuke you and insult you for preaching the truth.  For the Light of the World dispels darkness and in turn reveals ourselves completely – sin and all.  And many people in our world do not want to admit their sins.  They wish to live in darkness because in darkness they can hide from the truth of their own sinfulness.  But, as St. John of the Cross has said, "In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”

Of course we can ignore the spread of sin in society and seek shelter in darkness, but we can blame no one else when more people die from new and deadly viruses or when thousands starve to death in Western Africa.  And, at Judgment we can blame no one except ourselves for refusing to accept Jesus as the Light of our life. The light is the true refuge of the world and the world must return to that refuge.  First, we must individually return and pledge to love and honor Christ.  Only after this first pledge can we go out into the wilderness and seek the lost sheep of the Kingdom of God.

Each one of us can only grow closer to Jesus Christ through prayer and the Sacraments – the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.  We all are obligated by our Baptism and Confirmation to go out and proclaim the Truth, but we must first grow interiorly.  We must read Sacred Scripture, frequent the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Penance, and understand what the Church truly teaches on a matter, which does require extensive mental prayer, studying from approved Catholic sources, and personal penance. Without the Sacraments and finding the oasis of prayer in a desert of sin, we will wither up and die.  We must all learn to balance our zealous urge to teach with a desire to learn from the one true teacher, the Lord.

Most supreme of all Sacraments is the Most Holy Eucharist, the consecrated bread and wine from Mass, because It truly is Jesus Christ.  The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.  And since Jesus Christ, being the eternal Son of the Father, has the same soul and divinity as the Father and Holy Spirit, we can say that the Eucharist contains God completely.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Eucharist “…the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324).

As the Church progressed through the centuries, many divisions have separated the people of God.  The Church fought heresies nearly as long as Christianity has existed.  Against Gnosticism and Arianism, the Church has fought for hundreds of years and continues to fight.  In 336 AD, Arius began to teach that Jesus Christ was not divine claiming He was inferior to the Father.  Thus, Arianism became the first great heresy against the faith.  Other heresies including Manichaeism had occurred before, but the impact of Arianism was far more widespread; it still seeps into modern culture.  Through God’s providence, notable saints like St. Anthony of Padua and St. Boniface emerged to preserve the Church and the authentic teachings of Jesus Christ, including His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

After an extended period of differences, the Church broke into two bodies, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholic in the West.  While this did not certainly occur in one year, 1024 AD is the officially recognized date of the Great Schism.  By this action the people of God were first split.  Following this in 1517, Martin Luther ripped open God’s Church.  Through his 95th Thesis, many souls would leave the Catholic faith and the authentic Sacraments.  Luther would teach justication through faith alone, encourage private interpretation of the Scriptures, deny the Mass, abolish Confession, and deny the Supremacy of the Pope.  Lutheranism was condemned as a heresy in the Council of Trent between 1545 and 1563.

But, Martin Luther also taught against the Most Holy Eucharist.  Catholics believe in transubstantiation meaning that at the words of Consecration, the bread and wine truly become Jesus Christ. After the words of Consecration, which Jesus gave us from Scripture (cf. Matthew 26:26-28), the only thing remaining of bread and wine is called the "accidents", which is the appearance of bread and wine.  Lutherans believe in consubstantiation meaning that the Eucharist is both Christ and bread and wine.  The Eucharist to Protestants is like a sponge that soaks up the divinity of Christ.  After their service, they believe the bread and wine become bread and wine fully again.  In Catholicism, the Eucharist becomes Christ at the moment of Consecration and remains Christ.

However, theologically, the Communion bread and wine from any non-Catholic service can not be Jesus Christ.  Catholics do not view Protestant Communion as legitimate.  We realize that Jesus Christ gave the power to consecrate bread and wine to His disciples alone.  He did not give them to everyone of His followers but a select few.  This is clear at the Last Supper recorded in the Gospels.  And, these men passed down the power to consecrate the bread and wine through the ordained priesthood.  Through the imposition of hands, a man can be made a priest of Our Lord and can consecrate bread and wine.  No protestant church has this power. 

Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic faith and could no longer celebrate the Sacraments along with all other people that broke away.  An excommunicated person is forbidden “… to have any ministerial part in the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist or in any other ceremonies of public worship; to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments; [and] to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, functions or acts of governance” (Canon 1331 of the Code of Canon Law 1983).  The power of excommunication is a power given to the Apostles and their successors, the bishops. Excommunication is alluded to in Matthew 18:18. 

Consequently, the Sacraments of all Protestant denominations except baptism are considered illegitimate. Thankfully, the Roman Catholic Faith remains still bearing the essential four marks of the Church of Jesus Christ – It is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  These four marks are all qualities of His True Church on earth.  If any denomination is lacking one of the marks, it is not the Church of Christ.  This does not mean the denomination teaches complete lies; it means that it does not teach all of the truth.  And we are called to the complete truth in Jesus Christ.

The time for humanity to return to God and His laws is long past.  Our Lady of Fatima told three young shepherd children in 1917 that war was the result of sin.  Namely, she said that if the world did not repent than a second great war would erupt.  Sadly, the world did nothing.  It is long past the time for action – we must act immediately. Yet, what is the appropriate cause of action?  Our world is suffering from an array of calamities from natural disasters to deadly influenza strands such as the H5N1 Virus.  But the answer is simple – we must return to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Only in the pierced Heart of Our Redeemer can the world find lasting peace.  The Sacraments and prayer all converge on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

How truly ironic that the Heart encircled with thorns is the center of the entire world.  The same event occurred after the Resurrection as the greatest tragedy would become the richest source of grace.  Jesus even said that after His death he would life up all men to himself: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

From the sacred side of Jesus on the Cross, the Church was born.  And this grace continues to gush forth from the wounded heart of Christ to everyone in the entire world.  And He is met with dwindling congregations, increased abortions, and violations of His most supreme Commandments.  We should be grateful that our world is not yet destroyed by our own selfishness!

Remember that God is Divine Mercy but He is also perfect justice.  Our world must return to the Sacred Heart of Our Redeemer or plunge further into a dark chasm without the light of salvation.   The read to Hell is wide and full of attractions and comfort but caves in to a never-ending chasm of despair.  But, the road to Heaven is laden with rocks, and thorns, and many Crosses.  However, it is only through the Cross that one can reach the royal road to the Resurrection.  For us, that road has been blockaded and roped off by the temptations of the world.

Between 1673 and 1675, Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque asking her to receive Him in Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month and to meditate on His passion from 11:00 PM to 12:00 midnight each Thursday.  He also revealed to her twelve promises for all that are devoted to His Sacred Heart.  This new year, let us resolve to observe each month the First Friday Devotions, the First Saturday Devotions, and devotion on the 13th day of each month from May through October in honor of the apparitions of Our Lady 100 years ago in Fatima

In honor of this event, a special indulgence has been granted:
1. Make a pilgrimage to the shrine

The first way is for "the faithful to make a pilgrimage to the Fatima Shrine in Portugal and participate in a celebration or prayer dedicated to the Virgin."

In addition, the faithful must pray the Our Father, recite the Creed, and invoke the Mother of God.

2. Pray before any statue of Our Lady of Fatima

The second way applies to "the pious faithful who visit with devotion a statue of Our Lady of Fatima solemnly exposed for public veneration in any church, oratory or proper place during the days of the anniversary of the apparitions, the 13th of each months from May to October (2017), and there devoutly participate in some celebration or prayer in honor of the Virgin Mary."

Regarding this second way, the rector of the Fatima Shrine told CNA that the visit to the statue of the Virgin, "does not necessarily have to be only at Fatima or exclusively in Portugal," but can be done anywhere in the world.

Those seeking an indulgence must also pray an Our Father, recite the Creed and invoke Our Lady of Fatima.

3. The elderly and infirm

The third way to obtain a plenary indulgence applies to people who, because of age, illness or other serious cause, are unable to get around.

These individuals can pray in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and most spiritually unite themselves to the jubilee celebrations on the days of the apparitions, the 13th of each month, between May and October 20017.

They also must "offer to merciful God with confidence, through Mary, their prayers and sufferings or the sacrifices they make in their own lives."
I write this as an earnest appeal for the new year for all to return to the Heart that won our salvation.  With the recent failure of the blood of St. Januarius to liquefy as a sign, we must repent now as danger and disaster is imminent.  Our Savior is being insulted, offended, and blasphemed each and everyday.  We must repent and believe in the Gospel. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

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