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April 1, 2004 Edition

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Living the Scriptures
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Power of words: Use them well

photo of Annie Vorhes
Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

Annie Vorhes 

"Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you." If you've ever been wounded by unkind words, you may beg to differ.

Think of a time when someone said scathingly, "You just don't get it," or recall the crushing disappointment of hearing, "You're not my best friend anymore."

Well-chosen words can curse, belittle and destroy, but they can also comfort, affirm, and encourage. Remember how it feels to hear the words, "I love you" or "You're doing a great job!" Words have power.

Palm Sunday
(April 4, 2004)
Lk 19:28-40
Is 50:4-7
Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
Phil 2:6-11
Lk 22:14--23:56 or Lk 23:1-49

Words, written or spoken, are a primary means of communication. We use words to speak to God and God also uses them to speak to us.

We hear God speaking to us in a variety of ways. We hear him in the Scriptures proclaimed in speech and song at Mass. We hear him through the collection of inspired words handed down to us as the Bible.

We hear God speak when we encounter Jesus - he is, after all, the Word of God that took on flesh and lived among us. We hear him speak in the sacraments ("I baptize you." "Receive the Holy Spirit." "This is my Body." "I absolve you from your sins.")

We may hear God "speak" in other ways, too - in the glory of a sunset, the patter of rain, the stillness of snow-filled woods. We hear him speak through the gentle admonishment of a friend or kind words from a stranger.

"I will speak to the weary a word that will rouse them," God says to his people through the words of the prophet Isaiah. God wants to encourage us, but sometimes we may experience his words in ways that are far from comforting.

The Gospel is challenging and often God's words rouse us from our complacency. We are shaken up and deeply troubled.

We are led to ponder again who God is and who we are. We, as followers of Jesus, should not be surprised when we experience persecution - Jesus has told us as much - but we don't always remember that our exultation comes through humility, that the path to glory entails suffering. Sometimes we need to be reminded.

The words of Isaiah also remind us that God uses the people he created to help communicate his message. We may readily admit that God continues to speak through the church and its leaders, but sometimes we forget that God continues to speak through each of us as well.

Reflection questions

• How have you heard God speak?

• How do you use the gift of words?

Words are a gift, and we are entrusted with them to use them well. As people of God, we are called to encourage and comfort, to bless and edify, to admonish and teach, and to share with the world the good news we have received.

The Word of God was given freely to the world, but Jesus was often misunderstood, even by those closest to him. We can expect no less. Yet Jesus himself shows us that a word can truly be our salvation in dark times.

Annie Vorhes is the liturgy intern at St. Paul University Catholic Center, Madison.

St. Paul's Web site is www.stpaulscc.org

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Faith Alive!

Faith Alive! logo

In a Nutshell

  • "Baptism is the sign that God has joined us on our journey, ... that he transforms our history into a history of holiness," Pope John Paul II once said.

  • Whether people were baptized last year or years ago, the sacrament's effects live on in them.

  • Along with baptism, people become Jesus' apprentices, learning to be his disciples in their own circumstances.

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    Washington DC 20017
  •  Food for Thought
    The church focuses in a special way these days on the sacrament of baptism, and it makes a difference.

    Bishop James Moynihan of Syracuse, N.Y., pointed out two years ago that a renewed understanding of baptism has inspired and opened "new avenues of involvement for everyone in the life of the church." He wrote:

    "The diocese is different in this post-Vatican II era. Much of the change may be directly attributed to the renewed emphasis on discipleship born of baptism."

    Emphasizing baptism goes hand in hand with emphasizing the gifts God gives to all who are baptized into Christ's life. All baptized people are viewed as disciples who are called to holiness and who bear a responsibility for carrying out Christ's work in the world.

    full story

    What a Difference
    Baptism Makes!
    By Sister Katherine Howard, OSB

    Catholic News Service

    "Water, water, cool, clear water!" The water longed for by "Dan and I" as "they faced that barren waste" in the old cowboy song is the water of life we all along for.

    We cannot live without water. We would not have come to birth without the water of the amniotic fluid in which we grew. The earth would not have brought forth living creatures without water. That's what we are looking for on Mars: traces that may show there once was water and so the possibility of life there in outer space!

    full story 

    Adult Disciples/Apprentices: Where Baptism Leads
    By David Amico

    Catholic News Service

    Adult faith formation essentially is the lifelong journey of entering more fully into the wondrous mystery of baptism.

    Through baptism we become apprentices to Jesus Christ. And we will learn to be his disciples "in our own time, place and circumstances," as the U.S. bishops said in "Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us," their document on adult faith formation.

    full story 

    What Makes Water Such a Powerful Symbol?
    By Father Lawrence E. Mick

    Catholic News Service

    Looking anxiously at the darkening sky, the farmer began to smile as the first rain drops fell. After weeks of drought, the moisture brought by the storm would revive his drooping crops and ensure his family's income for one more season.

    Miles away, a hiker lost in the mountains and near death from dehydration cupped her hands to gather life-giving moisture sent from above. A storm literally saved her life.

    full story

    Faith Alive! logo
     Faith in the Marketplace
    This Week's Discussion Point:

    How -- and why -- do you participate in the church's work?

      Selected Response From Readers:  
    Copyright © 2004 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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    This week's readings

    Week of April 4 - 10, 2004

    Sunday, April 4, 2004
    Palm Sunday
    At the Mass
    Reading I: Is 50:4-7
    Reading II: Phil 2:6-11
    Gospel: Lk 22:14--23:56 or Lk 23:1-49

    Monday, April 5, 2004
    Reading I: Is 42:1-7
    Gospel: Jn 12:1-11

    Tuesday, April 6, 2004
    Reading I: Is 49:1-6
    Gospel: Jn 13:21-33, 36-38

    Wednesday, April 7, 2004
    Reading I: Is 50:4-9a
    Gospel: Mt 26:14-25

    Thursday, April 8, 2004
    Holy Thursday
    Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

    Reading I: Ex 12:1-8, 11-14
    Reading II: 1 Cor 11:23-26
    Gospel: Jn 13:1-15

    Chrism Mass
    Reading I: Is 61:1-3a, 6a, 8b-9
    Reading II: Rv 1:5-8
    Gospel: Lk 4:16-21

    Friday, April 9, 2004
    Good Friday of the Lord's Passion
    Reading I: Is 52:13--53:12
    Reading II: Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9
    Gospel: Jn 18:1--19:42

    Saturday, April 10, 2004
    At the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter
    Reading I: Gn 1:1--2:2 or Gn 1:1, 26-31a
    Reading II: Gn 22:1-18 or Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
    Reading III: Ex 14:15--15:1
    Reading IV: Is 54:5-14
    Reading V: Is 55:1-11
    Reading VI: Bar 3:9-15, 32--4:4
    Reading VII: Ez 36:16-17a, 18-28
    Gospel: Lk 24:1-12

    Pope's Prayer Intentions

    April General Intention

    Live according to the Spirit. That those who hold positions of responsibility in the Church may offer a shining example of a life which is always responsive to the guidance of the Spirit.

    April Mission Intention

    The universal call to holiness. That the clergy and the laity, and the religious, both men and women, who work in missionary lands, may live and courageously bear witness to the universal call to holiness.

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