Friday 21st September 2018

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March 9, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. In St. Matthew’s account of the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, he says that when the disciples saw Jesus and worshiped Him, some of them “doubted” (Matt. 28:17). I thought only Thomas doubted that Jesus had risen, but that he was convinced otherwise at the second appearance of our Lord on the Sunday after Easter. So what is Matthew talking about? — P.H., New Jersey.
A. Although all of the disciples saw Jesus after His Resurrection, perhaps the faith of some of them was not as strong as you might think. We know that ten of them saw Jesus on Easter and eleven of them on the following Sunday, but only seven were present at the Sea of Tiberias when Jesus prepared breakfast for them and three times asked Peter if he loved Him (cf. John 21:1-19).
Is it possible that the faith of the four who were missing on that occasion, which John describes as the “third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead” (21:14), had waned? This could be true if they hadn’t seen the Lord between the Sunday after Easter and the Ascension more than 30 days later.
In any case, if all doubts were not resolved at the Ascension, they certainly were erased when the Holy Spirit came down upon them on Pentecost. They left the safety of the Upper Room and went out into the streets of Jerusalem boldly proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead and that if the people wished to be saved from “this corrupt generation,” they should “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Q. What can you tell me about the Neocatechumenal Way? Also, is the Human Life Review still being published? — M.S., Connecticut.
A. Answering the last question first, yes, the Human Life Review is still being published four times a year. A subscription to this excellent publication is available for $40 a year by writing to the Human Life Foundation, P.O. Box 574, New York, NY 10157.
As for your first question, the Neocatechumenal Way was founded in Spain in 1964 by Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez to evangelize the poor. It is organized into parish-based communities of 20 to 50 people, claims a worldwide following of more than one million members in 124 nations, has about 2,000 priests, operates some 100 Redemptoris Mater seminaries, sends thousands of families to spread the faith around the world, and has been praised by recent Popes.
In 1990, for example, St. John Paul II recognized the Way “as an itinerary of Catholic formation valid for our society and modern times.” He expressed the wish that the evangelical work of this new movement “may be realized according to the guidelines proposed by its initiators, in the spirit of service to the Ordinary of the place and in communion with him, and in the context of the unity of the particular Church with the universal Church.”
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI praised them for helping “those who have already been baptized to rediscover the beauty of the life of faith, the joy of being Christian.”
And in March 2015, Pope Francis received members of the Way in audience and expressed “my appreciation and my encouragement for the great benefit they bring to the Church….I always say that the Neocatechumenal Way does great good for the Church.”
The Holy Father said that “our meeting today is a missionary commissioning in obedience to what Christ asked us: ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature’ (cf. Mark 16:15). And I am particularly glad that this mission is carried out thanks to Christian families, united in a community, who have the mission to give witness to our faith that attracts people to the beauty of the Gospel. In the words of Christ: ‘This is how all will know that you are my disciples’ (cf. John 13:24), and ‘be one that the world may believe’ (cf. John 17:21).
“These communities, called by the bishops, are formed by a priest and four or five families, with children, including grown-up ones, and are a ‘missio ad gentes’ with a mandate to evangelize non-Christians. Non-Christians who’ve never heard about Jesus Christ and the many non-Christians who’ve forgotten who Jesus Christ was…baptized non-Christians but who have forgotten their faith because of secularization, worldliness, and many other things. Reawaken that faith!”
However, the Way is not without controversy as it has been accused of becoming a disruptive faction in parishes by acting contrary to the wishes of the pastor, looking down on those whom they deem not as Catholic as they are, and insisting that their members attend their own services rather than the usual Sunday Masses. The group has also introduced certain novelties into the liturgy, such as lay preaching, standing during the Eucharistic Prayer, receiving Holy Communion while sitting down, and passing the Precious Blood from person to person.
Pope Benedict may have been thinking about these criticisms in 2012 when he said that “the progressive growth in faith of the individual and of the small community should promote their integration into the life of the greater ecclesial community, which finds its ordinary form in the liturgical celebration of the parish, in which and for which the Neocatechumenate is implemented.”
He said that “it is important not to separate oneself from the parish community, and particularly in the Celebration of the Eucharist, which is the true place of universal unity, where the Lord embraces us in our various states of spiritual maturity and unites us in the one bread that makes us one body.”

Q. I think you would agree that many faithful Catholics are frustrated when so many Church leaders overlook political leaders’ support for abortion. I understand that President Trump has many flaws, but anti-life is not one of them. I believe that many Church leaders have accepted the premise that if you believe in balanced budgets and limited government, if you would rather help people help themselves rather than rely on the government, that you are somehow mean-spirited, unfeeling, uncaring.
I believe Church leaders are also trying to retain and attract more members by being popular rather than worrying about what is right. It is always going to be easier and more popular to buy things on credit than to work and save to pay for them. But Christ did not tell us it would be easy to enter into Heaven. What do you think? — R.J.S., via e-mail.
A. We think that you are correct. Just recently, on May 19, 2017, the heads of six USCCB commissions sent a letter to all members of the U.S. House and Senate on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The letter was about the proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2018.
Among other things, the letter said that “sharp increases in defense and immigration enforcement spending, coupled with simultaneous and severe reductions to non-defense discretionary spending, particularly to many domestic and international programs that assist the most vulnerable, would be profoundly troubling. Such deep cuts would pose a threat to the security of our nation and world, and would harm people facing dire circumstances. When the impact of other potential legislative proposals, including health care and tax policies, are taken into account, the prospects for vulnerable people become even bleaker.”
The letter went on to say that instead of increasing defense spending, “our nation should elevate diplomacy and international development as primary tools for promoting peace, regional stability, and human rights. The USCCB has repeatedly called for robust diplomatic efforts to end longstanding conflicts in a range of countries, including Syria and Iraq. It is hard to reconcile the need for diplomacy and political solutions with significant cuts to the State Department budget.”
This letter is a classic example of what happens when you replace the general principles of Catholic social justice with the talking points of the left-wing of the Democratic Party on particular issues, about which reasonable people may disagree.
The U.S. government has over the years wasted trillions of dollars on the very programs that the bishops say should not be cut. The problems that this spending was supposed to solve are worse than ever, but the six bishops are opposed to cutting them back when, in fact, many of them could be eliminated without impacting the most vulnerable among us.
But how to do that is the responsibility not of the U.S. Catholic bishops, who cannot possibly comprehend what is in the vast 2018 budget, but of our elected officials. Holding the line on current spending is a recipe for economic and social disaster for all Americans.

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