Bulletin (December 4, 2005)
I’d like to start with an Advent reflection by St. Ephrem the Deacon:
When the Lord commands us to be vigilant, he meant vigilance in both parts of man: in the body, against the tendency to sleep; in the soul, against lethargy and timidity. As Scripture says: Wake up, you just, and I have risen, and am still with you; and again, Do not lose heart. Therefore, having this ministry, we do not lose heart.
All of us know how easy it is to become lethargic or timid. We need to be watchful, especially today, because we live in a world that in many ways attacks the basic teachings of Jesus. Usually the attacks are not direct, but subtle and full of emotional appeals. Recently, two issues have been in the news which merit some special attention: homosexuality and immigration. Both are complicated issues, which require a lot of study and reflection before making a judgment. As Christians, our starting point for these questions is the teaching of Jesus. In other words, we must ask what the Bible and the Catechism say. I include the Catechism because it distills two thousand years of Christian teaching and applies them to current questions.
Regarding homosexuality, we can see two basic things in the teachings of Christ. The first is the dignity of every human person – without exception. We are all created in God’s image and He calls us to an eternal relationship with Him. God does not define us by our temptations. If that were the case, we would all be doomed. I don’t know about you, but every day, I am bombarded by temptations: anger, rash judgment, laziness, lust, etc. Those temptations are not who I am. Similarly, if a person experiences same sex attractions, that does not define who they essentially are.
The second part of Jesus’ teaching is that we must ask his help to resist disordered desires. We all have desires, which, if we acted upon them, would be harmful to ourselves and to others. Some of them are deep seated and must be resisted at every turn. And if a person falls, they must not give in to despair, but seek forgiveness, healing and prudent means to avoid the occasion of sin in the future. Some people experience temptations which others do not experience in the same way. For example, some people, for whatever reason, have a deep-seated tendency to abuse alcohol. For them, to take one drink is to court disaster. In an analogous way, a person who becomes aware of same sex attractions (whatever their origin) must also take certain precautions. The Catechism sums it up this way:
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (#2357)
The second issue, immigration, of course, is a very different issue than homosexuality. Still, Jesus does offer us some guidance by way of the Catechism. Both issues must begin with the affirmation of the dignity of each human person. In next week’s bulletin, I want to write about immigration as it impacts the pastoral life of our parish. Holy Family has always been, and continues to be, a parish of immigrants and children of immigrants. For that reason, it is urgent for us to reflect on what the Catechism says:
The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him. Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens. (#2241)
How to apply this teaching to the current situation in our country is a complicated matter. I would like to make two points. First, we should be cautious about using the blanket term “illegal” to describe immigrants who do not have full documents. There is a bewildering variety of legal categories which immigrants fall under, and most of the immigrants I know are in some kind of process to get their status rectified. Secondly, it is simply incorrect to say that immigrants are not taxpayers. For example, they pay sales tax, property taxes and income tax. The best studies indicate that they pay much more into the public coffers than they receive from them.
These of course are social and political questions that will be discussed for a long time. I hope that as Catholics we will do all we can to inform ourselves and enter into this discussion. In relation to the immigrants who are among us, especially those who are in our parish family, we have a clear duty to love and support them. The Catechism gives this quote from the second century apologist, St. Justin. Writing about the Sunday Eucharist, he said: Those who are well off, and who are also willing, give as each chooses. What is gathered is given to him who presides to assist orphans and widows, those whom illness or any other cause has deprived of resources, prisoners, immigrants and, in a word, all who are in need. Speaking of supporting the needy, I want to thank you for your response to the Thanksgiving collection of food and financial resources for the needy in our parish. Also, I encourage you to take a tag from our Giving Tree and bring back a financial offering or Scrip to help poorer families in our parish have a beautiful Christmas. Also, this weekend we are taking up a two-bit collection for Tuition Assistance. We want our parish school to be available for families with limited resources. In relation to this collection, teachers and families from Holy Family School will be participating in all seven of our weekend Masses.
En la parte en ingles he escrito sobre dos asuntos de mucha importancia actual: las enseñanzas cristianas en respecto a homosexualidad e inmigración. Desde luego, son dos cosas muy diferentes, pero tienen en común la necesidad de reconocer la dignidad de todo ser humano como hijo de Dios y llamado a una relación eterna con la Santísima Trinidad en la Comunión de los Santos.
Y hablando de los santos, ya hemos comenzado la novena en honor de la santa más bella y pura de todos los santos: la siempre Virgen Maria. Invito a todos a la participación en la novena, las misas y las mañanitas en honor a Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Durante la novena tenemos la misa de la Inmaculada: este jueves, 8 de diciembre a las 7:15 en español. Habrá el rezo del rosario antes de comenzar la misa.
Este fin de semana habrá participación de los profesores y familias de nuestra escuela parroquial en las misas como lectores y ayuda durante el ofertorio y colectas. La segunda colecta es para “Ayuda de Colegiatura” (Tuition Assistance) para familias necesitadas. Gracias por su apoyo.