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March 24, 2005 Edition

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Living the Scriptures
Faith Alive!
This week's readings
Pope's Prayer Intentions

Resurrecting my understanding
of God's love

photo of Brad Stuczynski
Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

Brad Stuczynski 

As the priest raised his hand over my bowed head, and began to speak the prayer of absolution, I eagerly awaited the Lord's pardon from this one shameful sin that needed closure.

As he began, "God, the Father of mercies . . . ," my heart felt uneasy. Would God send me away from this sacrament with an unfinished load of laundry, and leave me with a stained and unforgiven soul? Perhaps I just needed more prayer, more penance, more fasting, more confession, and more time to sit with my sin.

Easter Sunday
(March 27, 2005)
Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6b-8
Luke 24: 13-35

The priest continued his prayer, " . . . through the ministry of the Church may God give you peace and pardon . . ." Where's the peace? Where's my pardon?

Was it the ministry of Reconciliation that was failing? Was Jesus Christ really working through this priest, in persona Christi? Did the earthly forgiveness this priest offered truly correspond to heavenly forgiveness? Were all the angels in heaven rejoicing over my repentance, or were they doubting also?

Mary of Magdala came to the tomb expecting Jesus to be dead, and I began thinking that I came to confession also expecting Jesus to be dead, and void of his healing powers and radical mercy. She asked Peter and John, "We don't know where they put him?" and I wondered where the priest put Jesus, because I just didn't feel his presence that day through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

They did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead, and I was at a loss as to how I was ever going to rise from the death of this sin.

What Scripture did I fail to understand? I failed to understand the radical love of God, the Father of Mercies. This Father of Mercies seeks out the lost sheep, invites sinners to dine with him, knocks persistently at the doors of our hearts, waits for His prodigals to come home, gives His disciples life to the full, works for the good of all who love Him, and gives every spiritual blessing to those in Christ.

He did not condemn the woman at the well who had five husbands, nor would He allow the stoning of the prostitute. His love is so tremendously scandalous that He gave himself up as a sacrifice and atonement for my sins, and those of the whole world.

Reflection questions

• Where might you be underestimating the healing power of God's mercy?

• What image or Scripture verse reminds you of God's unconditional love? Perhaps you could reflect on this passage the next time you don't feel God's forgiveness and mercy.

• Who could you bring hope and healing to by deepening their understanding of God's love?

Yet, with all this promise of resurrection and new life, my blurred spiritual vision trapped me in the clenches of death and unforgiveness. I battled to overcome the mis-belief that God had a Brad Stuczynski exemption clause that prohibited forgiveness from this one shameful sin, and that I still needed more of my own effort to overcome.

Whether I felt pardoned or not, the priest concluded, " . . . and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

God's word was spoken. His love would not rely on my effort; His forgiveness would not wait for my feelings. My understanding of God's merciful love was resurrected.

Brad Stuczynski is an alumnus of UW-Madison and St. Paul University Catholic Center. He is now working and living in Baraboo with his wife Laura, and is currently the proud papa of their six-month old daughter, Clare.

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

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Faith Alive!

Faith Alive! logo

In a Nutshell

  • Our Christian ancestors saw the dismissal at the end of Mass as more than a simple ending for the liturgy.

  • Responding to the dismissal, we say "Thanks be to God." We're thankful that God entrusts us with his mission and gives us the grace needed to carry it out.

  • We're sent from the Eucharist to bring the new life of Easter to the world.

    Catholic News Service
    3211 Fourth St NE
    Washington DC 20017
  •  Food for Thought
    Easter returns weekly on Sunday, Pope John Paul II wrote. Every Sunday is a time to celebrate "the dawn of 'the new creation'" that arrived with the first Easter, he said in a 1998 message to the church.

    So Easter pervades the entire year for the church's people. You might say Easter is the norm, its message basic. And every Sunday is a time to reflect on Easter's impact.

    This reflection could assume a very wide scope, of course. I'd like to ask what might be involved in reflecting Sunday by Sunday on what Easter means for day-by-day living. If Easter signifies the arrival in Christ of a new creation, what does "new creation" imply for how we go about things?

    Isn't a new creation a new beginning, a starting -- or restarting -- point? That would make the time of a new creation a time for hope -- hope that important dimensions of life can experience a new, more positive direction.

    full story

    How We Bring Easter's New Life Into the World
    By Father Lawrence E. Mick

    Catholic News Service

    There's a lot to be said about the simple words of the dismissal at the conclusion of the Mass. Curiously, the dismissal casts light for us on the meaning of Easter.

    In Latin, the formula for the dismissal says, "Ite, missa est" and the people respond "Deo gratias." Our current English missal offers three variations for the presider: "Go in the peace of Christ"; "The Mass is ended, go in peace"; or "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." The people's response to each is the same: "Thanks be to God."

    full story 

    The Many Ways Our Parish's "Foot Washers" Serve
    By Jean Sweeney

    Catholic News Service

    "It is not by chance that the Gospel of John contains no account of the institution of the Eucharist but instead relates the 'washing of feet' (cf. Jn. 13:1-20)," Pope John Paul II said in his apostolic letter for the current Year of the Eucharist. He said that by bending down to wash the disciples' feet, "Jesus explains the meaning of the Eucharist unequivocally."

    I've been "studying" life in our parish to see how people do this. What have I noticed?

    full story 

    Bread of Life, Bread for Life
    By John Hart

    Catholic News Service

    While visiting a church in Mexico some years ago I noticed ahead of me in the courtyard a kneeling woman carrying a baby on her back. I thought she was a pilgrim fulfilling a "promesa" -- a promise to God to travel from home to church on her knees if her prayers were answered. When I got closer, I was deeply moved upon seeing what she was doing. She was gathering into a cloth bag the grains of rice that had been scattered on the stones outside the church after a wedding.

    Outside a church where the bread of life had been shared during Mass, a hungry woman was harvesting bread for life for her infant and herself.

    full story

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

    "Concern for those in need" identifies us "as true followers of Christ," Pope John Paul II said. Today, who is "in need"?

      Selected Response From Readers:  
    Copyright © 2005 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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    This week's readings

    Week of March 27 - April 2, 2005

    Sunday, March 27, 2005
    Easter Sunday
    Reading I: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
    Reading II: Col 3:1-4
    Gospel: Luke 24: 13-35

    Monday, March 28, 2005
    Reading I: Acts 2:14, 22-33
    Gospel: Mt 28:8-15

    Tuesday, March 29, 2005
    Reading I: Acts 2:36-41
    Gospel: Jn 20:11-18

    Wednesday, March 30, 2005
    Reading I: Acts 3:1-10
    Gospel: Lk 24:13-35

    Thursday, March 31, 2005
    Reading I: Acts 3:11-26
    Gospel: Lk 24:35-48

    Friday, April 1, 2005
    Reading I: Acts 4:1-12
    Gospel: John 21:1-14

    Saturday, April 2, 2005
    Reading I: Acts 4:13-21
    Gospel: Mark 16:9-15

    Pope's Prayer Intentions

    March General Intention

    Development programs: That governments of every nation always take account of the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.

    March Mission Intention

    Holy Christians for the new evangelization: That each church be aware of the ever greater urgency of preparing holy Christians, capable of confronting challenges to the new evangelization.

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