When we face pain, distress, challenges, and disasters – our Catholic Faith makes it possible for us to keep a certain measure of tranquility. Jesus was very close to those who were suffering. In His Beatitudes, Jesus taught that those who were poor, sorrowing, or under persecution were among the “Blessed.” “They will see God,” He promised (Mt 5:8). “Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:3).
If we experience a warlike attack such as “9/11,” a loss through a natural disaster (a storm, or fire, or earthquake), or some personal tragedy (a sickness or accident), how do we maintain our trust in God?
When we read about the abuses and cover-ups that have become public among anointed leaders in the Church, or the omissions or deceptions of shepherds entrusted with the protection of the flock, how do we stay faithful to the Church, when some of Her leaders have failed?
On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!
Jesus was traveling in the northern part of Palestine, at Caesarea Philippi , (Mt 16:13 ff) when He asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?"; then, "Who do you say that I am?” Peter makes his extraordinary profession of faith.
“Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’” (Mt 16: 16-18)
God’s call to us as human beings – our “vocation” - involves giving our self completely and forever in a lasting commitment.
Indeed the first great commandment of the Old Testament – repeated in the Gospel - is expressed in this way: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deut 6: 4-5; Mt 22: 37; Mk 12: 29-30) God wants everything from us, and love is fulfilled when we give everything.
Priests are ordained forever. Consecrated Religious make perpetual vows. Married couples also promise themselves to each other “until death.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the irrevocable bond, “… established by God Himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. “ (Catechism of the Catholic Church. no. 1640)
We cannot – humanly speaking – make up for the wrong we have done. If I strike someone, they feel pain, perhaps rejection or aggression. These things are forever part of their experience. I can say, and mean it when I say, “I am sorry.” The physical reality doesn’t change.
The Seventh Commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2401), and the virtue of commutative justice requires the restitution of stolen goods to their owner. (CCC. No. 2412) But can we ever completely restore and repair the loss inflicted by our selfishness? Is anything the same even when later we have had our belongings returned?
On December 9, 1531, St. Juan Diego was hurrying to celebrate the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception (then celebrated on December 9), when he was met by the Blessed Mother of God on Tepeyac Hill.
Three more apparitions would lead to the dramatic December 12 revelation of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan’s ‘tilma’ or cloak – a convincing sign to the Bishop to build the church requested by Mary.
The Dogma of Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception would be formally proclaimed nearly 325 years later in 1854, by Blessed Pope Pius IX, in the Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus: