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Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

  

                                                                                                                                                                         World Mission Sunday takes place this year on    October 23rd.

Have a look at the Missio website for more information.
Below is the Pope’s official message for this year’s World Mission Sunday:

As the Father has sent me, so I send you (Jn 20:21)

On the occasion of the Jubilee of the year 2000 Venerable John Paul II, at the beginning of a new millennium of the Christian era, forcefully confirmed the necessity of renewing the commitment to bring the Gospel proclamation to all with the enthusiasm of the very first Christians (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 58). It is the most precious service that the Church can render to humanity and to every individual seeking profound reasons for living his or her existence to the full. Therefore that same invitation is re-presented every year in the celebration of World Mission Sunday. In fact the ceaseless proclamation of the Gospel also revitalises the Church, her fervour, her apostolic spirit; it renews her pastoral methods so that they may be ever more suited to new situations  also those that require a new evangelization  and animated by missionary thrust: Missionary activity renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. Faith is strengthened when it is given to others! It is in commitment to the Church’s universal mission that the new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support (JOHN PAUL II, Enc. Redemptoris Missio, 2).

Go and proclaim
This objective is constantly renewed by the celebration of the liturgy, particularly by the celebration of the Eucharist, which always ends by reiterating the risen Jesus command to the Apostles: Goᆭ (Mt 28:19). The Liturgy is always a call from the world and a new sending into the world to bear witness to what one has experienced: the salvific power of the Word of God, the salvific power of Christs Paschal Mystery. All those who have met the risen Lord have felt the need to proclaim him to others, as did the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. After recognising the Lord in the breaking of bread, they set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled and told them what had happened to them on the road (Lk. 24:33-34). Pope John Paul II exhorted us to be watchful, ready to recognize his face and run to our brothers and sisters with the good news: ‘We have seen the Lord!’ (Ap. Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 59).

To all
The beneficiaries of the Gospel proclamation are all peoples. The Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father (ECUM. COUNCIL VATICAN II, Decr. Ad Gentes, 2). This is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelise (PAUL VI, Ap. Ex. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14). Consequently, she can never withdraw into herself. She is rooted in particular places in order to go beyond them. Her action, in obedience to Christs command and under the influence of his grace and his love, becomes fully and truly present to all men and women and to all peoples in order to lead them to faith in Christ (cf. Ad Gentes, 5).

This task has not lost any of its urgency. Indeed, the mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion. An overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service (JOHN PAUL II, Enc. Redemptoris Missio, 1). We cannot be content when we consider that, after two thousand years, there are still peoples who do not know Christ and have not yet heard his Message of salvation.

Not only this: but there is an ever greater number of people who, although having received the proclamation of the Gospel, have forgotten it or abandoned it and no longer associate with the Church; and many sectors, even in traditionally Christian societies are today reluctant to open to the word of faith. Cultures are changing, nourished also by globalisation, by movements of thought and by the prevailing relativism, a change that leads to a mentality and a life-style that disregard the gospel Message, as if God did not exist, and that exalt the search for well-being, easy money, a career and success as the aim of life, even to the detriment of moral values.

The joint responsibility of all
The universal mission involves everyone, everything and always. The Gospel is not an exclusive possession of those who have received it, but it is a gift to be shared, good news to be passed on to others. And this gift-commitment is entrusted not only to some, but to all the baptised, who are a chosen race ᆭ a holy nation, Gods own people (1 Pt 2:9), in order that they may proclaim his marvellous works.

All activities are also involved in this. The Church’s attention and cooperation in missionary activity in the world cannot be limited to some particular moments or occasions, nor can they be considered as one of many pastoral activities: the Church’s missionary dimension is essential; therefore it must always be kept in mind. It is important that both individual baptised persons and ecclesial communities should be involved not only spasmodically and occasionally in mission, but constantly, as a way of Christian life. World Mission Sunday is not an isolated moment in the year, but a precious occasion for pausing to reflect on whether and how we respond to the missionary vocation: an essential response for the life of the Church.

Global evangelisation
Evangelization is a complex process and includes various elements. Among these, in missionary animation particular attention has always been given to solidarity. This is also one of the objectives of World Mission Sunday, which, through the Pontifical Mission Societies (Missio in England and Wales), appeals for help to carry out evangelising activities in mission territories. It involves supporting institutions necessary for establishing and consolidating the Church through catechists, seminaries, priests; and also giving ones own contribution to improve the living conditions of people in nations where poverty, malnutrition, above all infantile malnutrition, diseases, lack of health care services and education are most serious. This, too, is part of the Church’s mission. Proclaiming the Gospel she takes human life to heart in the fullest sense. It is unacceptable, the Servant of God Paul VI declared, that in evangelization the themes of human promotion, justice, liberation from every form of oppression, obviously with respect for the autonomy of the political sphere, should be neglected. To ignore the temporal problems of humanity would be to forget the lesson which comes to us from the Gospel concerning love of our neighbour who is suffering and in need (Ap. Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 31.34); it would be inconsistent with the behaviour of Jesus, who went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness (Mt 9:35).

Therefore through co-responsible participation in the Church’s mission, the Christian becomes a builder of communion, of peace and of the solidarity that Christ has given us, and he or she collaborates in fulfilling Gods plan of salvation for all humanity. The challenges it meets call Christians to journey together with others, and mission is an integral part of this journey with all. In it, albeit in clay pots, we bring our Christian vocation, the priceless treasure of the Gospel, the living witness to Jesus dead and risen, met and believed in the Church.

May World Mission Sunday reawaken in each person the joy and desire to go out to meet humanity taking Christ to all. In his name I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing, especially on those who toil and suffer most for the Gospel.

From the Vatican, 6 January 2011, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.
Benedictus PP XVI

(translated by Agenzia Fides 25/01/2011)

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   Were I to take hold of the Spirit’s stirrings from within, a grace-filled sense of awe, gratitude and wonder would continually surface…

Yea, there is the sense of awe, gratitude and wonder at the multi-colored and varied ways by which one could concretely perceive God’s Touch – personally or individually, communally or as church.

God touches most intimately and uniquely in moments of prayer before his Presence before the Blessed Sacrament… His ‘touch’ is in the (inspiring) witness of a prayer life in actual praxis: in communion with God, self and others… His ‘touch’ that spiritually strengthens and heals is in the gift of the sacraments.

God’s touch is concretely experienced and felt in an-other’s ‘touch’: a smile; a kind, appreciative and affirming word; a hand extended to welcome or help; a friendly or encouraging pat on the arm/shoulder; sincere gestures of care, concern and love – through emails, textmessages of ‘hello’s’ or ‘hi’s’; the listening ear; the time generously shared to be ‘present’ to the other; and, many more besides!

Finally, God’s Touch is made all the more present and visible in the beauty of all his creation: in man (woman) created in God’s image and likeness; in nature and all its creatures (great and small) who unceasingly and endlessly sing, praise, honor and give glory to God round-the-clock, 24/7…

Truly and verily, God’s Touch permeates the troubled world we live and move in… if we only but open all our senses to see, to hear, to smell,to  touch and to hear…

Dear God, grace and bless us all with an awareness and appreciation of your ‘renewing’ touch. Dispose us to allow ourselves to be touched by You. May our touch likewise be transforming and a blessing for ourselves, to one another, to the Church and the world we dwell in…

May it be so.

Deo Gratias.

[Ours is the CALL and the challenge to spread and share God’s (manifold) touch in our day-to-day life. Would we DARE RESPOND to the challenge? It’s just a thought!]

 

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   O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the potter: We are all the work of your hands.” (Isaiah 64:7) This well-known image from Scripture gives us a good idea of the way God wants to shape our lives with his grace. Just as a potter shapes a lump of clay into a vessel, so God wants to shape us into vessels of his grace—vessels that can hold his divine grace and pour that grace out to the people around us.

We are the crown of God’s creation. We are wonderfully and beautifully made. But we also have our fair share of imperfections. Wise and patient potter that he is, God is always working to make us more perfect. He is always working to shape us into the image of his Son, Jesus. While it may seem like an impossible goal, this is God’s dream, his grand plan for each and every one of us. And so he continually pours out grace to make this dream into a reality.

Abnormally Born. By the grace of God I am what I am. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Paul wrote these words as a response to some people in Corinth who felt that he was a lesser apostle, not worthy of the same respect that Peter or John deserved. Paul told them that, because of the way he was before his conversion, he probably was most undeserving and most unworthy of being an apostle: “I persecuted the church of God.” But then he went on to say: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:9,10). His encounter with God changed him from what he was—a persecutor—to what he is now—an apostle.

The other apostles knew Jesus when he walked the earth. They lived with him; they heard him preach; they saw him heal people and drive out demons. They even saw him as the risen Lord on Easter Sunday! Paul, on the other hand, was “born abnormally” (1 Corinthians 15:8). He didn’t have a three-year apprenticeship with Jesus. He didn’t hear the Sermon on the Mount or sit at the Last Supper or witness Jesus’ Ascension. Quite the opposite: He persecuted the people who did these things!

And so Paul’s message is clear: God can touch anyone with his grace—even people who persecute and kill. We don’t have to be scholars or saints to be touched by God. We don’t have to be perfect. We might be overly zealous or violent like Paul. We might be a dishonest tax collector, like Zacchaeus. We might be in an improper sexual relationship like the Samaritan woman in John 4. It doesn’t matter. God can still touch us with his grace. He can change anyone’s life!

A Noble, Godly Character. After his conversion—after he was “born abnormally”—Paul found his life beginning to change. The most obvious change was that he stopped persecuting Christians! But beyond that, Paul found his whole character undergoing a shift. Jesus had shown him that in persecuting Christians, he was really persecuting the Lord (Acts 9:4-5). Imagine the shock that must have been! All this time, Paul thought he was serving God by arresting these people, and it turns out he was hurting God instead! That realization must have been painfully humiliating and personally devasting.

How did this change Paul’s character? It taught him not to trust his instincts but to examine his thoughts, his motives, and his assumptions (2 Corinthians 10:5). It turned him into a servant of God instead of a defender of his earlier convictions. Now, rather than trying to protect what he considered to be the purity of Judaism, Paul devoted himself to learning from the Lord and serving God’s plans. He discovered the joy of being led by God rather than by his ideas about God. He saw the pride and self-centeredness that were behind his old approach, and he knew he needed to live a different way.

While it may sound like all this happened overnight, that’s not really accurate. And neither did it happen automatically. No, Paul had an important part to play, and he had to work at it over time. He had to choose to walk away from his former life as a Pharisee and persecutor of the church. He had to learn how to read the Hebrew Scriptures in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. He began to pray in a new way. He had to examine his heart and his motives in a new light. He began to put away the pride, self-righteousness, and violence that were part of his old way of thinking and put on the mind of Christ, the model of humble self-sacrifice.

In short, Paul cooperated with God’s grace.

God’s Grace and Our Work. Brothers and sisters, we all need God’s grace if we want to see our character become more like Christ. At the same time, we also need to practice our faith every day, relying on the power of God’s grace to change us in ways that we simply can’t change ourselves.

Medical students become doctors because they study, learn, and pass their exams. From the moment they begin medical school, they are expected to take on a doctor’s mindset. They are expected to think and act like doctors. The harder they work at it, the more their character is shaped, and the more they become real doctors. The same is true for us, but with one major difference: We have God’s grace lifting us up, inspiring us, and filling us with hope and confidence.

Before his conversion, Paul was a passionate Pharisee. He loved his Jewish upbringing and he treasured the Law of Moses above all else. In his attempt to be faithful to God, he knew he was living a demanding but rewarding life. But once he experienced the grace of God, Paul put all his skill and training to work for the sake of the gospel. He used his understanding of theology, logic, and philosophy to form his arguments about Jesus and the new way of Christianity. He used his innate determination to spread the good news of the kingdom. And his skill, talent, and determination were all magnified by the power of divine grace!

Just as he did for Paul, God wants to give us his own dreams and desires—the dream of seeing people brought to the Lord, the desire to change the world. If Paul were with us today, he would tell us that a noble, Christlike character comes as we allow God’s overflowing grace to fi ll us—in prayer, through the sacraments, and through the Scripture—and as we work hard at building our character and serving the Lord. If we do this, we too will be able to say with Paul: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

It’s a Mystery. Grace is a free gift that we have to cooperate with. We can’t earn it, but we must embrace it. Grace is God’s work in us, but at the same time we have to work with that grace if we want it to have an effect on us. It can sound confusing, can’t it?

In the end, the best word to describe grace is probably “mystery.” Somehow, God pours his grace into us, and somehow this grace moves us to change our lives. Somehow, often when we least expect it, we come face-to-face with God, and this encounter changes our lives dramatically. This is the real mystery behind God’s gift of grace.

Think about St. Paul. He wasn’t looking for grace. He was actually fighting against the Lord. But then one day, as he was walking down a road, a fl ash of light appeared to him out of nowhere, and Jesus asked: “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Paul didn’t just have a vision that day. Along with that vision came a flood of grace, mysteriously changing Paul’s heart.

It’s not just the great saints of the past whose lives were changed by grace. Think about the last retreat you went on. That retreat wasn’t just a nice time away from your everyday routine. It was an encounter with God’s grace. It was Jesus reaching out to you and offering you a deeper experience of his love—an experience that helped you become more like him. The same can happen during Mass, at Adoration, as you are caring for a sick child, or even as you are taking a walk. God never stops reaching out to us!

As we said in our first article, grace is all around us. It flows around us like a river, lifting us up and carrying us to the Lord. Most of the time that river flows quietly and gently, but there are times when it rushes over us and engulfs us in God’s love and mercy. Those are the moments when God is offering us something special. We can’t control them. We can’t predict them. We can only welcome them when they come, and try our best to cooperate with them.

We hope that the articles have helped show you how gracious God is. We hope they will help you embrace the moments of grace that God offers to you. If you remember nothing else from the articles, just remember this one promise: God’s grace—his free, unmerited, gift of his own life and love—never fails!

Source:  Word Among Us, September 2011 Issue

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