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March 23, 2006 Edition

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Living the Scriptures
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'Keep your chin up': Lift your eyes to God

sketch of St. Paul University Catholic Center

Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

James Stanley 

"Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14-15). I love this image.

It points to that passage in Numbers where God instructs Moses to sculpt a bronze seraph and set it upon a pole, promising that all who look up and behold it will be healed of the serpent's sting. In this Old Testament sign, the Lord prefigures the Cross of Christ, on which He would eventually set his Son, that all might look to Him and be healed of the stain of sin.

Two thousand years later, more than ever, we must remember to look up. For despite the growing secularization of our time, the sign of Moses can still be seen on any screaming ambulance, and as for the sign of Christ - the fulfillment of this and all Old Testament signs - it cannot be ignored.

Fourth Sunday
of Lent
(March 26, 2006)
2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23
Ps 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
Eph 2:4-10
Jn 3:14-21

Even in modern Madison, it takes a mere glance heavenward to glimpse a whole horizon of shimmering steeples, each blazing the triumphant symbol of the Divine Physician.

Yet all too often, our eyes turn inward, straining to find and fix all of our problems by ourselves. Downcast, we disregard the world which desperately needs us to look love into it, and, centered within ourselves, the universe becomes infantile and infuriating.

Every day, like the wandering Israelites, we find a dozen little snakes snapping at our ankles, biting and stinging and boiling our blood with sin's tinier toxins - anger at traffic, petty grudges, hasty judgments, gossip, etc.

Sometimes we may encounter the cobra and the viper, fangs dripping with venom, and be tempted toward serious impurity, grave alcohol abuse, or worse. Sometimes these deadly serpents may strike. Even so, we must always remember to look up.

We must lift our eyes to Jesus, who always gives us the antidote when we show him our wounds. He gives us himself - quite literally. In the Eucharist, the Divine Medic becomes our divine medicine.

And Christ's words - "so must the Son of Man be lifted up" - are fulfilled daily when Father lifts the Precious Body and Blood, and we sigh, "I am not worthy to receive you, Lord, but only say the word and I shall be healed!"

As each Sacred Species is presented to us, we whisper in awe, "Amen!" Honest contrition, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is the only requirement for a full prescription.

Reflection questions

• What are our "little snakes"?

• What, specifically, keeps us from looking up to Jesus?

But we must not look to ourselves for even contrition. Rather than brooding on our darkness, let us look to the brilliant universe and bright-eyed God whom we have failed.

For we must remember-especially on sad, serpentine days - to keep our chins up and gaze with love into the eyes of our passing neighbor, the panhandler, the pedestrian, and, in all of them see the Divine Physician.

James Stanley, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, plans to major in English. He leads a Bible study at St. Paul University Catholic Center and helps prepare the Newman Dinner each week.

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

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Faith Alive!

Faith Alive! logo

In a Nutshell

  • Lent and Easter reassure us that sin, death and evil have been conquered. This is a time to cultivate hope.

  • The virtue of hope does not deny that darkness exists. But hope is built on the conviction that goodness is stronger than evil.

  • Can we present at least the possibility of hope to others? Doing so means sharing hope gently and without reproach.

    Catholic News Service
    3211 Fourth St NE
    Washington DC 20017
  •  Food for Thought
    Few doubt that hope is a necessity. But can we give hope to others when they appear not to have it?

    Many psychologists say we can really "make" others happy. But maybe we can point them toward happiness, invite them to happiness. Similarly, I doubt we can "make" others hopeful, but perhaps we can invite them to hope, to consider the possibility of hope.

    It could be that someone who lacks hope suffered a devastating blow, perhaps long ago. Maybe this person hasn't been respected, maybe others have unrealistic expectations of him or her. Maybe this person is being exploited, or doesn't feel loved, or lacks confidence, or suffers from an addiction, or isn't able right now to manage money and bills, or suffers clinical depression.

    It could be many things, which suggests that inviting someone into hope will require a willingness to listen, to respect the person and to wait patiently for a new outcome, honoring each small step the other takes toward hope.

    full story

    To give hope, we need
    to experience hope
    By Sister Miriam Pollard, OCSO

    Catholic News Service

    How can we hope -- we, the ones who want to help the hopeless? We have to admit there is such a thing as hope and that it is possible for all of us. But we need also to experience a passage into the real thing.

    What is hope -- not just any old hope, but the theological virtue? It is a poured-in willingness to grasp God's promises, to rely on the one who promises. Hope relies on the "what" and "who" of the mystery of God.

    full story 

    Firing the flame of hope
    in families
    By Mary Jo Pedersen

    Catholic News Service

    The new dad held his son's tiny hand between his own two fingers. In the pediatric neonatal intensive care unit, fear and hope traded places on his face and the faces of other parents of fragile babies. Will he live? Is permanent disability in store for him? When can he go home?

    These fears, like the fears of all families for their loved ones, are familiar territory on the journey of parenthood. Will my 6-year-old ever learn to read? Will asthma cripple my 11-year-old's dream of playing soccer? Will our teenager take dangerous risks with drugs or alcohol?

    full story 

    Hope is a journey into light
    By Father Herbert Weber

    Catholic News Service

    Very early one cold February morning Glenn Benner was transported from the Ohio State Penitentiary, Youngstown, to the "death house" at the Southern Ohio Corrections facility in Lucasville. It was the day before he was to be executed.

    Later that morning I met with Benner as his minister of record. We'd known each other for more than five years, during which I saw him weekly for prayer, Eucharist and discussion.

    full story

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

    Tell of a time you tried to offer hope -- through words or action -- to a suffering person.

      Selected Response From Readers:  
    Copyright © 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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    This week's readings

    Week of March 26 - April 1, 2006

    Sunday, March 26, 2006
    Fourth Sunday of Lent
    Reading I: 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23
    Reading II: Eph 2:4-10
    Gospel: Jn 3:14-21
    Reading I: 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
    Reading II: Eph 5:8-14
    Gospel: Jn 9:1-41 or 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

    Monday, March 27, 2006
    Reading I: Is 65:17-21
    Gospel: Jn 4:43-54

    Tuesday, March 28, 2006
    Reading I: Ez 47:1-9, 12
    Gospel: Jn 5:1-16

    Wednesday, March 29, 2006
    Reading I: Is 49:8-15
    Gospel: Jn 5:17-30

    Thursday, March 30, 2006
    Reading I: Ex 32:7-14
    Gospel: Jn 5:31-47

    Friday, March 31, 2006
    Reading I: Wis 2:1a, 12-22
    Gospel: Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

    Saturday, April 1, 2006
    Reading I: Jer 11:18-20
    Gospel: Jn 7:40-53

    Pope's Prayer Intentions

    March General Intention

    Young people. That young people who are searching for the meaning of life may be understood, respected and accompanied with patience and love.

    March Mission Intention

    Missionary Collaboration. That throughout the Church there may grow an awareness which favors the collaboration and exchange of those who work in the missions.

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    Prayer for St. Raphael Cathedral

    O God,
    Whose word is like fire,
    who spoke to Your servant Moses in the burning bush;
    who led Your people Israel out of bondage
          with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night:
    hear Your people as we call upon You
    in both need and gratitude.

    May the Cathedral fire purify Your Church
    in the Diocese of Madison
    so that our hearts may burn with the knowledge
          that Your Church is built upon the bedrock
    of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

    Through the intercession of Saint Raphael,
          Your messenger of healing,
    in union with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,
    and with our Bishop, Robert C. Morlino,
    may we find comfort in our affliction
    and the courage to proclaim
          the Good News of Jesus Christ,
    who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
    one God forever and ever.


    For more prayer resources 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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