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October 27, 2005 Edition

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Cafeteria Christians:
Not the way to be true followers of Christ

photo of Gina Pignotti

Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

Gina Pignotti 

Let's take a short journey back to our beloved school cafeteria days . . .

Arriving in the lunchroom, you notice the aroma of fried food filling the air. You grab a plastic tray from the dispenser, place it on the metal rails, and begin to peruse your options. The "Special of the Day" looks good, but you waited for it yesterday, so you make your way to the pizza - cheese, cheese and sausage - not exactly what you are looking for.

On to the sub sandwiches, vegetables wrapped in cellophane, and the tray of cookies. You grab a cookie, contemplate the sub, but move on to the burgers and fries. The line is almost out the door, so you double back for the sub, finish with a Gatorade, and make your way to the cashier.

31st Sunday
in Ordinary Time
(Oct. 30, 2005)
Mal 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10
Ps 131:1, 2, 3
1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13
Mt 23:1-12

Reflecting on the Sunday Scripture readings, the first thing that came to my mind was "the cafeteria Christian," an individual who peruses all that Christ has to offer and selects only a few things for his/her "tray" - love looks good, but I showed it yesterday, Servant Leadership . . . not exactly what I'm looking for.

Patience, peace, hope - okay, I'll grab some hope. Forgiveness, knowledge, piety . . . takes too long, back for some peace, grab a bit of fear and cash out.

The cafeteria visual can help us begin to understand what both the prophet Malachi and Jesus are saying to us in today's readings. In the first reading, Malachi explains how many who call themselves faithful "show partiality in decisions." In the gospel, Jesus says nearly the same thing when He calls out those who do not practice what they preach.

We all have a great calling to live as followers of Christ and we preach that we are so by simple acts like calling ourselves Christians or attending Mass on Sunday. To be true followers of Christ, we must strive to love unceasingly, forgive and serve each other, and follow His commands.

With His help, through a personal relationship in prayer and the gift of the sacraments, we can strive to live this way all the time, not just when others around us confirm it or when it is convenient. We cannot be "cafeteria Christians."

If we do show partiality as disciples, or do not practice what we preach to be, as Malachi states, we cause "many to falter by [our] instruction." In other words, we send people away from Jesus. C.S. Lewis called this type of Christian "the greatest cause of atheism in the world."

Reflection question

• In what ways does my life show partiality as a follower of Christ?

When we live loving, forgiving, serving, and obedient lives, we accomplish something beautiful - our greatest mission in life, which is to help others understand God's love manifest through Jesus Christ and his offer of eternal life. Let us seize the challenge given to us by the One who loves us and live as we truly were meant to live.

Father God, help us to live fully as your disciples. Guide us in our quest to practice what we preach and in doing so, bring others closer to you.

Gina Pignotti is a fifth year student in the School of Education at UW-Madison. At St. Paul University Catholic Center, she works with the high school retreat team, a women's prayer and discipleship training group, and is a member of the Christian Block Party planning team. She also works at Camp Gray.

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

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Faith Alive!

Faith Alive! logo

In a Nutshell

  • The biblical books have several levels of meaning, and there are approaches we can take to open our minds and hearts to them.

  • The Bible passes on the living tradition of faith, the experience of God.

  • When we take up the Bible in faith and with some knowledge of what stands at its core, it will tend to come alive for us.

    Catholic News Service
    3211 Fourth St NE
    Washington DC 20017
  •  Food for Thought
    "We are grateful to God that in recent times ... the fundamental importance of the word of God has been deeply re-evaluated," Pope Benedict XVI told a group of Scripture scholars in September 2005. They were participating in a congress commemorating the 40th anniversary of Vatican Council II's document on divine revelation, titled "Dei Verbum."

    "The church does not live on herself but on the Gospel," and in the Gospel the church always "finds the directions for her journey," the pope said. Every Christian needs to understand and apply this point to himself or herself, he advised.

    "The church and the word of God are inseparably linked," said the pope. "The church lives on the word of God, and the word of God echoes through the church, in her teaching and throughout her life."

    The pope encouraged people to turn to Scripture when they pray. Christ lives in Scripture, the pope said, which is why the church always has venerated Scripture, as it always has venerated the body of the Lord. "It should never be forgotten that the word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path," the pope told his audience.

    full story

    Reading the Bible is useless! Or is it?
    By Katherine Howard, OSB

    Catholic News Service

    Yesterday a friend complained, "I'm trying to read the Bible but I just can't get anything out of it! And yet I know that the Bible is supposed to be important for us Christians, and some people seem to find a lot of meaning in it!"

    Maybe you also feel like this. Let me assure you this isn't strange. It may help you to know that sacred Scripture has various levels of meaning and that there are approaches we can take to open our minds and hearts to them.

    full story 

    Impediments to studying
    the Bible
    By Dan Luby

    Catholic News Service

    For most of us, there are plenty of people -- friends, family, casual acquaintances -- offering suggestions on ways we might improve ourselves. They urge us to embrace new exercise programs, stop-smoking plans for weight-loss strategies. There are always books we must read, Internet sites we have to visit, retirement seminars we absolutely need to attend. The possibilities for genuine self-improvement are endless, yet we let them go by with discouraging frequency.

    Why do we admire good ideas but so often not put them into action?

    full story 

    How one parish helps people know the Bible
    By Father Dan Danielson

    Catholic News Service

    There are people in every parish who have a great hunger for Scripture. If their parish does not offer a Bible-study program, they will seek it out in other churches where, while learning about Scripture, they frequently absorb a good deal of "fundamentalist" teaching as well.

    It is also clear to me that one cannot teach the Bible simply by lecturing about it. People love the information and are excited to know more about the word of God, but lectures are not calculated to help them grow in faith or change their lives to be more in conformity with the word.

    full story

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

    Describe how a small parish group you're familiar with utilizes the Bible.

      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 Oct. 30 - Nov. 5, 2005

    Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005
    Reading I: Mal 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10
    Reading II: 1 Thes 2:7b-9, 13
    Gospel: Mt 23:1-12

    Monday, Oct. 31, 2005
    Reading I: Rom 11:29-36
    Gospel: Lk 14:12-14

    Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005
    Solemnity of All Saints
    Reading I: Rev 7:2-4, 9-14
    Reading II: 1 Jn 3:1-3
    Gospel: Mt 5:1-12a

    Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2005
    The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
    Reading I: Wis 3:1-9
    Reading II: Rom 5:5-11
    Gospel: Jn 6:37-40

    Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005
    Reading I: Rom 14:7-12
    Gospel: Lk 15:1-10

    Friday, Nov. 4, 2005
    Reading I: Rom 15:14-21
    Gospel: Lk 16:1-8

    Saturday, Nov. 5, 2005
    Reading I: Rom 16:3-9, 16, 22-27
    Gospel: Lk 16:9-15

    Pope's Prayer Intentions

    November General Intention

    Holy marriages. That married people may imitate the example of conjugal holiness shown by so many couples in the ordinary conditions of life.

    November Mission Intention

    Permanent training of missionaries. That pastors of mission territories may recognize with constant care their duty to foster the permanent formation of their own priests.

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    Prayer for victims of Hurricane Katrina

    Merciful and ever-living God,
    since the very dawn of creation
    the waters that you created
    have brought life from death:
    the Great Flood purified our world
    and brought forth a new generation;
    you led your people Israel from bondage to freedom
    through the Red Sea;
    from the side of Christ, sacrificed for us on the cross,
    water flowed with his precious blood;
    and through the waters of baptism
    you call us from darkness into your wonderful light.

    Look with pity on your people
    affected by the waters of Hurricane Katrina.
    Calm their fears, comfort their sorrow,
    heal their pain and mercifully welcome those
    who have perished into your heavenly kingdom.
    Strengthen all who are helping them,
    and thwart all who seek to create chaos.

    Inspire us to reach out to those who are afflicted
    from the bounty you have bestowed on us
    and, like you once did with the loaves and fishes,
    increase our gifts far beyond what we can imagine.

    We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
    who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
    one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    The above is a prayer from the Diocese of Madison's Office of Worship. For more prayer resources for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, visit the Office of Worship's Web page at www.straphael.org/~office_of_worship/
    (Click on the link on the main page.)

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    Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
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