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The Evangelist
Saturday, December 15, 2018

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  • Unlike the written word which, read, chewed and digested, commands the reader’s active, sometimes reactive engagement, graphic images enter our consciousness unfiltered: they leave their imprint in our mind, swallowed whole, before we can even decide whether it is good for them to be there
  • No one really likes crowds, but they seem hard to avoid this time of year. Yet, to make a good Advent, we have to find some time away from the crowd.
  • If there is one thing that unites us, it is the realization that all of us could fill at least one waking day with acts of thanksgiving.
  • The denigration and, one might even say, desecration of human sexuality that we have become so painfully aware of in our time has roots that go right back to the fall in the garden of Eden.
  • We are quickly approaching the end of the liturgical year. Sunday Scripture readings will be reminding us about being alert to God, especially in consideration of our preparedness for God’s coming — not if, but when.
  • It keeps coming back: the prodigal son and the son who is always at home...Martha and Mary...the Apostles fighting among themselves about who is the greatest. Different people, different settings, but the same issue: How can I earn God’s approval?

  • “Why isn’t God answering my prayers? Am I not praying right?” These are very serious questions and deserve honest answers.
  • Mother, model or mentor, there is something about Mary that has always evoked the highest of human aspirations. Her image is probably among the most artistically rendered throughout the course of Christian history, leading some to wonder whether Mary is even more important than Jesus to Christians.
  • “Mens sana in corpore sano” — “a sound mind in a sound body” — was the ancient Roman ideal of good health or, from that dualistic viewpoint, a life worth living.Christians have always embraced an even broader and deeper perspective on the value of every human life.

  • Writing as I am on the feast of the Archangels and as the month of October is upon us, I am thinking of the words of Pope Francis on “Ha-Satan” — the Great Accuser — who “prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” You may recognize this reference to the one of the so-called Leonine prayers, once said at the end of Mass.
  • How many times have we heard, "Jesus Christ suffered and died for us." How important it is to look at the cross and thank him for this. It is only right to thank someone who loved us so much that he gave up his very life.
  • “Welcome” is an appeal that most church communities seek to display in their signage and gestures to attract faithful and seeker alike. Yet, the brutal reality of the cross looms over our ecclesial life, forcing sobriety over any ephemeral glee.
  • Miracles happen daily. They do. Sometimes we see them, sometimes we don’t. Often, we do, but we downplay them — because they happen so often. Like Jesus, whose townspeople even dismissed him: “Oh, this is just Jesus. We know him because we know his parents.”
  • With God to trust in, each and every one of us is — unbreakable! We are called to live in God forever, and nothing can kill or destroy us if we trust in the one who punched a hole in the tomb that even he himself was wrapped up and thrown into. Death could not contain him; nor will it overpower us who believe.
  • The sins of fathers who abuse their families mock the love and holiness to which Christian faith calls us. Such lying lives give testimony not to the honor of God — and the person God loves — but to the idolatry of the sinful self and its own pursuits and pastimes.
  • No, it’s not quite Christmas yet, though it will be soon enough. The beginning of the school year is just around the corner; it won’t be long before the leaves start to turn, pumpkins are set a-grin and turkeys (or the Tofurkey) are getting dressed for the Thanksgiving table. Then you know what’s next....
  • You have certainly heard the age-old question, “What would Jesus do? (WWJD),” during some retreat you took, at a conference or in a guidebook or meditation you read on how to become a good disciple of Christ.

  • In case you haven’t yet noted the date and time of our Diocese-wide “Hearts Aflame” Eucharistic Congress on your busy calendar, it’s on Sat., Sept. 22, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville. The shrine is also known as the “Shrine of the North American Martyrs,” because it is where the first Jesuit martyrs shed their blood, proclaiming the name of Jesus. Now, here’s why you, your whole family and your friends should go.
  • Pastoral letter from Bishop addresses McCarrick’s abuse
    Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger has issued this letter to diocesan clergy in response to sexual abuse allegations made against now-former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington.
  • Don’t envy the Apostles! Does it ever seem that the Apostles were so much better off than us because they actually saw Jesus, heard him speak and had him in their physical presence?

  • Our faith is really so simple. Sure, there are traditions and rules, regulations and rituals that we follow because they are meant to keep us focused. Every human society and organization that, like the Church, has a history, has them.
  • Ever notice that we don’t live in a perfect world? Ever get disappointed and angry with other people — or even yourself — that we don’t quite live up to expectations? It just seems that nothing is ever quite enough. The more we have, the more we want. When we get what we want, then we want something else.

  • The New Testament Greek name for Church, “ekklesia,” means “those called forth, summoned for an assembly.” What’s in a name? In this one, at least, quite a lot!
  • Recidivism — the temptation to revert to proven-to-fail former ways — is perhaps the most common and dangerous threats to the spiritual life.
  • In this month of June, in which we honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we may naturally want to focus on the heart as the symbol and center of love.
  • A song that was quite popular some 50 years ago described how, “Step by step, I fell in love with you.” The first step was “a sweet hello;” the third was, “I took a chance;” and the fourth was “true romance.” It’s graduation time again, and time for the next step.

  • The Confessions of St. Augustine make for some interesting reading. His plea as a young man — “Lord, make me pure [sexually chaste], only not yet!” — is emblematic of his struggle to find his true path, to live an authentic life. How is God to answer such a prayer?
  • Happy Birthday! Last Sunday, we observed the solemnity of Pentecost, the day on which the Holy Spirit affirmed the apostolic foundation and the apostolic mission of the Church, which is to go out to world and make disciples of all.
  • Some good friends of mine have been struggling with their nine- and 11-year-olds, who do not yet grasp the point of Sunday Mass. “We know that already,” they protest.
  • Christians take the incarnation very seriously. Not just as something that happened to Jesus Christ — “the Word was made flesh” (Jn 1:14) — but as a reality that affects all of us profoundly even now: who we are and our eternal destiny. It is something that defines and shapes our humanity — every aspect of it, body, mind and soul.
  • The Holy Spirit has sometimes been described as the love between God the Father and the Son — a love so real and eternal that it is perpetually generated in that divine relationship as a person. It is this Holy Spirit that dwells in the hearts of the baptized and inspires the many gifts and callings that we receive every day, throughout our lives.
  • This week marks the 55th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations (April 22). We continue our prayer through­out the week. We also thank and honor the members of our presbyterate who are celebrating jubilees in this season.
  • “May the Force be with you!”
    No doubt, many of us remember that greeting from the “Star Wars” movies. It is one of many theological themes that run through that series.
    Belief in a supreme authority or some higher powers is almost universal, even if such forces are regarded as nothing more than an impersonal reality, which is still above our comprehension — or perhaps forever beyond it.

  • “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust” (Lk 8:50).
    With these words, Jesus dispelled the din of the mourners who assumed “the obvious:” that the life of a dead 12-year-old girl — the daughter of Jairus — was over and done with. Nothing more could be done.
  • The extended eight-day celebration of Resurrection Sunday -- the octave of Easter -- illuminates not only how important this solemnity is, but also its true meaning. Important because, without the resurrection, our faith is without content, for "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins" (1 Cor 15:17).
  • As we are about to enter Holy Week, we may begin with a prayer that the Holy Spirit will give us a deeper understanding and appreciation of the meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ. It would be good to pause for a moment to ask for this grace.
  • Things are not always as they seem. We can be led by lures -- sometimes, deliberately, from without; sometimes, compulsively, from within -- that dazzle our senses even as, wolf-like, they stalk us, endangering our souls. We are always searching for "the real deal" that satisfies what we long for, but do not find it.
  • In the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shootings and other violent incidents, there is, understandably, no absence of passion and rage. Nor should a community, even a nation, in the face of such brutality, withhold its compassion for innocent victims or its outrage against those responsible.
    But none of this is likely to stop the next incident.
  • Has this ever happened to you? Just when everything seemed to be going so well, suddenly calamity strikes.
  • "Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return:" words you may have heard last Ash Wednesday. You may also have noticed the ashes are ritually imposed in the sign of a cross.
  • Most Catholics are familiar with admonitions "to avoid the near occasions of sin." This is one of the resolutions every penitent makes prior to receiving absolution in the sacrament of penance.
  • Last Friday, I was driving home south along Western Avenue after a particularly grace-filled day. I almost passed the intersection where I make a left turn, because the traffic light was out.
  • The Scriptures in recent days have been narrating a number of instances in which Jesus confronts the presence of devils and demons.
  • This is the second of two columns by Bishop Scharfenberger on Catholic education in celebration of national Catholic Schools Week, which is being celebrated Jan. 28-Feb. 3. Part I appeared in the Jan. 18 issue.
  • This is the first of two columns by Bishop Scharfenberger on Catholic education in celebration of national Catholic Schools Week, which will be celebrated Jan. 28-Feb. 3. Part II will appear in next week's issue.
  • We have all had the experience of getting stuck in a rut somewhere. Our car sinks into a ditch full of mud or (perhaps more recently) backs into a bank of snow. We know right away we are trapped.
  • What will 2018 be like? A lot of unpredictables, to be sure: the weather, the economy, health, politics, family fortunes -- you name them.
  • The "12 Days of Christmas" are still upon us. Actually, there are 13, but counting in the Epiphany (traditionally Jan. 6) might ruin the song.
  • The birth of our Lord Jesus was certainly no Christmas -- not, at least, as we know it, or as we dream Christmas might be each year.
  • We live in the time that St. Bernard calls the "intermediate coming" between the first and the second coming of Christ.
  • "I haven't taken leave of my senses, Bob; I've come to them." So Ebenezer Scrooge said to Bob Cratchit in the final moments of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.
  • As I write this article, I am filled with joy, pride and gratitude, surrounded by 274 young, vibrant and evangelizing people from throughout our beautiful Diocese. We are in Indianapolis at NCYC 2017: the biennial National Catholic Youth Conference.
  • Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger participated in an Oct. 28-Nov. 8 trip to ­Eastern Europe with a group from Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany. He visited Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; Krakow, Poland; and Prague in the Czech Republic.
  • Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger is on an Oct. 28-Nov. 8 trip to Eastern Europe with a group from Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany. He is visiting Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; Krakow, Poland; and Prague in the Czech Republic.
  • "Jesus must have been a very happy man to be around. He was always attracting children. And children don't follow a cranky person."
  • Of the many titles of Mary, "Morning Star" best seems to capture her guiding role in our personal and ecclesial lives as the one who lights the way to the Way. She is our sure and steadfast beacon of hope, because she leads us to the only way to happiness, which is Jesus Christ.
  • By its very nature, illness is a destabilizing, isolating experience. Even without a diagnosis, feeling sick interrupts the ordinary flow of events, including sleep, meals, traveling and the work routine.
  • We are embarking on a campaign to secure the foundation for our future, which will fuel our larger vision of growing and enhancing our Catholic community of faith for current and future generations.
  • Speaking from experience, the one thing I can say for sure about marriage is that it is not easy, but it can be beautiful.
  • Did you know that the Rosary is a Christ-centered, Scripture-rich prayer? Of course you did, but here are some good reasons why.
  • Imagining everyday life in "the missions" probably evokes heart-wrenching scenes like malnourished children with soulful eyes posed at entries to humble shacks, barefoot women bearing heavy loads along muddy roads -- and clerics in white cassocks and sandals.
  • School is back in session, no doubt to the relief of many parents who are happy to share their duties of educating their children with the professionals.
  • "The tongue is mightier than the sword!" No one knows for sure who first came to this conclusion. Maybe he or she was inspired by Scripture, which tells us, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (Proverbs 12:19).
  • At some point in the American psyche -- and not so long ago at that -- looking and acting "cool" seems to have overtaken character and virtue as a prized personal identifier.
  • "Let whoever has ears to hear, hear!" (Mark 4:9).
    Even Jesus had a communication problem! Why else would He have to say this so forcefully, so many times?
  • As summer turns to fall, our hearts go out to our young people, many of whom will soon be leaving home. We hope your summer has been fun and relaxing, but also one of spiritual growth and renewal.
  • It's easy to disagree on theological fine points, but it's hard to argue with experience. In attempting to evangelize both active and inactive Catholics, no one set a better example than Christ the Good Shepherd, who would look for the one sheep when He had 99.
  • Perhaps you remember, many years ago, when someone from your family -- a parent or grandparent, or maybe an aunt or an older sibling -- first took you to church.
  • Did you know that God is calling you?
    I am not talking about a specific state-in-life vocation like priesthood, religious life or marriage, but something even deeper and much more vital to your life right now.
  • In recent and upcoming Sundays and in the weekday readings, we are hearing many parables about the two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Man. Jesus is contrasting how God is with how the world operates.
  • Though the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" we attended was only four days, July 1-4, the insights, faith witness and experiences that we and thousands of Catholic leaders shared is sure to bear abundant fruit in all of our dioceses and parishes throughout the country.
  • Jesus sent His disciples out "two by two," never alone. Two men on the road to Emmaus encountered Jesus, and they recognized Him "in the breaking of the bread" (Lk 24:3-35). As promised, "where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them" (Mt 18:20).
  • Corpus Christi, or the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which we just celebrated last weekend, was the fulfillment of one woman's dream.
  • You stand at a crossroads. You have to make a choice. You are about to become history or to make history.
  • Follow my logic: Christ is always good news for sinners. That, we know from the Scriptures.
    People in any kind of trouble were always better off for meeting Christ. Those who were the most down and out, the most marginalized people in society -- lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and so on, all presumed sinners -- not only found acceptance in the presence of Christ, but welcome and deep healing.
  • Following up on last week's reflection on the Mass and how revolutionary it really is, we might say that the Mass represents an invitation to live on Earth as if we are already in heaven -- and it gives us the power to do this.
  • A point needs to be made about the Mass.
    I'm not talking about any "kind" of Mass in particular, like the "traditional Mass" or the Novus Ordo; nor the language of periodic revisions or translations; nor even the culturally-adaptable modes through which the Mass engages the five senses.
  • A maxim attributed to St. Francis of Assisi -- "Preach the Gospel always; use words if necessary" -- remains relevant today. It is another way of saying that actions speak louder than words. Nowhere are the consequences of ignoring such wisdom more visible than when Christians, who preach the love of God for all, refrain from showing it themselves to the least of their brothers or sisters.
  • Nothing can replace the influence of the example of parents on the spiritual lives of their children. In fact, research has shown that the consistent presence and guidance of the father is key to whether children will continue to practice their faith throughout their lives.
  • All too few resources are devoted to supporting women in vulnerable socioeconomic circumstances or unstable relationships who do not want to deprive themselves or their children of life and the gift of motherhood.
  • A jubilee is a milestone, a time to pause and to take time, looking back and looking forward.
  • God's mercy is a lot like light.
    This should not surprise us. Jesus reveals Himself to us as light: "I am the light of the world." In His light, all things are revealed in the splendor of original grace -- how things were meant to be.
  • The sorrowful events of Holy Week lead to an unexpected and explosive outburst of joy on Easter Sunday.
  • Penance is one of the two great healing sacraments. Along with the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, it is an invitation to a personal encounter with none other than Jesus Christ Himself -- in the flesh, one might even say -- to experience His healing touch as the divine physician.
  • The story of the woman at the well (Jn 4:5-42), the subject of the Gospel last Sunday (the third Sunday of Lent), might be called a primer on evangelization.
  • This column is the last in a three-part series on marriage and on support for those in marital stress or collapse.
  • This column is the second in a three-part series on marriage and support for those in marital stress or collapse. Read last week's column at Next week, Bishop Scharfenberger will address ecclesiastical annulments and other remedies for people struggling with family-life issues.
  • "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), a so-called "apostolic exhortation" Pope Francis issued last spring, celebrates the many ways in which divine and human love engage and intermesh.
  • Ash Wednesday is March 1, less than a week away. During the Lenten season, it's customary and spiritually beneficial for Christians to "give up" something good in which we take material pleasure: typically, something we like to eat or drink, such as alcoholic beverages, chocolates or even sweets altogether. It might also be some wholesome but time-consuming form of entertainment, like movies or video games.
  • Ads in these northern climes are filled with fantasies of trim, tanned, bathing-suited twosomes, sauntering blithely along edens of coconut palm-fringed beaches. Cruise ships sporting banners like "Carnival Sunshine" and "Regal Princess" beckon us to paradise, offering celestial banquets of rum punch and exotic fruits, magic carpets of crystal-blue waters and sun-drenched sands, and all at painless prices.
  • Watching the halftime show at the Super Bowl telecast last Sunday, I was wondering, like many Americans, whether Lady Gaga was going to hijack her performance by careening off her strong points into a political diatribe.
  • Last Friday, I joined the March For Life, the 44th since its inception following Roe v. Wade (Jan. 22, 1973), the landmark decision of the Supreme Court legalizing abortion on demand.
  • Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Albany is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Throughout its entire existence, providing food for the hungry has been one of the pillars of its Gospel-inspired mission.
  • Were it not for the Catholic schools I attended in my formative years, in all likelihood I would not be writing this column.
  • Last weekend, I had the joy and pleasure to confirm 13 young disciples from the Catholic community of St. Patrick's parishes in Athens and Catskill.
  • In his message for the World Day of Peace (Jan. 1), Pope Francis calls attention to the effects of war and violence on those human beings who are most vulnerable. Among them are migrants, the infirm, the unemployed, those imprisoned and the unborn.
  • The Christmas story continues, as it always has, to fascinate and to disturb, to inspire and to irritate both people of great faith and people of little faith, depending on how it is heard and how seriously heeded.
  • No wonder Mary is so controversial: a human being who dared to say, "Yes," to give birth to a divine being as her child!
  • Finding the treasure of Advent is the key to getting into the Christmas spirit. Even with Advent almost half over -- or perhaps especially because of that -- claiming the time to accept its graces will deepen both the joy and peace Christmas promises.
  • Each Advent come exhortations from Christian pulpits to "slow down." Just when every other force and fury around us is screaming, "Hurry up!" the Church is out there being its counter-cultural self, ever the sign of contradiction in the world.
  • Not everyone enjoys a welcome home at Thanksgiving, but on that day there is hardly a soul who does not long to be with family and friends.
  • We are drawing to the close of both the liturgical year and the "Year of Mercy" that the universal Church has been observing.
  • The new evangelization is not about what we know, but whom we know.
    What is evangelization? It is spreading the Gospel. "Gospel" means "Good News:" the good news that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He is everyone's Savior, my Savior, the Savior of the world.
  • So, you can't vote because you're not old enough? Nonsense. Everyone can vote!
  • The focus this week in The Evangelist on vocations invites us to thank God for the blessing of the vocations of the ordained -- in particular, priests -- and to thank them for following freely God's invitation.
  • Yuri Gagarin -- the first Soviet cosmonaut in space -- is said to have commented while in orbit, "I don't see any God up here." It may never have occurred to him that God could still see him.
  • During my 20-odd years of service in a diocesan Tribunal, assisting people with marital difficulties, the many heart-wrenching stories of emotional and family devastation taught me much about the paradox we call love.
  • It is well recognized -- our experience confirms it -- that the nurse or doctor with the better bedside manner is all the more likely to find both patient and family responsive. That is why successful professional people almost always cultivate a welcoming, affirming demeanor in their practice.
  • If there is something that might be called, with a certain measure of ironic humor, a Catholic "heresy," something that can really separate us from the communion of faith in which we are united with God and one another, it is none of the hot-button issues which are typically all over the media: abortion, say, or sexual ethics, or the ordination of women.