January 2021

One of the beauties of the Catholic Church is the wholeness, the totality, so to say. The faith which Jesus Christ calls us to is all encompassing of creation and the human heart. And so much of it can be understood by a reading of Sacred Scripture. Just a cursory glance can change our deepest selves, but an in depth study can seem as if one is diving into the deepest depths of humanity and creation.

That’s why I really encourage a better understanding of Sacred Scripture. The points and parables, the connections and the fulfillments, all are exposed with a sincere reading of Scripture. We as Catholics are a people with a richness of resources which is unrivaled. Not monetary riches, but scholarship and prayer. The resources abound which allow everyone who can read to study THE faith, in parts or totality. The whole, the totality, is important with our identity as Catholics, understanding that the fullness of the One Church Jesus began subsists in the Holy Roman Catholic Church. So it is vitally important that whatever we do, we proceed with the proper context as to not deny the richness and completeness of what God reveals to us. Like Jesus says, “Let those with ears hear.” I urge you all to consider picking a book of the New Testament to read and study. A Gospel would be great.

I want you to consider purchasing a commentary from this series, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. They are written as individual paperback books focusing on each individual book of the New Testament. Top theologians and scholars, many who teach and lead seminary departments, have written the individual volumes. You can get them online easily, and they range between $11 and $18 per volume. They are top-notch works written for the beginner to the intermediate level reader, written for the lay person who’s never studied Scripture to the priest who’s studying for a weekend homily. Several of my own professors wrote volumes. I wholeheartedly encourage you to spend a few dollars on one of these volumes and commit to reading through it. They aren’t dry, I PROMISE. They are quite interesting to read and thereby enrich our learning about the fullness of the Scriptures we hear and proclaim. It’ll help you in your prayer and in you understanding of the faith.

– Father Mark Schoffner, January 31, 2021

“When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks. to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel. Therefore, the readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently by everyone, for they are an element of the greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture the Word of God is addressed to all people of whatever era and is understandable to them, a fuller understanding and a greater efficaciousness of the word is nevertheless fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, by the Homily, as part of the liturgical action.” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM], no. 29).

When we hear the Word of God proclaimed at Mass, the TODAY of the scriptures comes alive to our time, our era, and God speaks to US, his people. We are able to hear the God who created each of us speak to each of us. Our hope is nourished, and we are encouraged. In listening to the Word and hearing it explained in the homily, we are drawn into the study of Scripture and more able to use it. We then are becoming evangelists, able to tell ourselves and others the Good News.

The Word of God reminds us what matters, the love of God, the wisdom of God’s perspective in trial and success. Hearing and reading Scripture, too, teaches us how to pray. We hear the lament of the apostles; we hear of Jesus’ teaching, and the providence of the Old Testament. Combined in the Mass and the prayers of the faith, we hear God’s voice, sometimes blaring, and at other times as soft as a whisper.

The more we take to heart the necessity of the Word of God in our daily lives, not just on Sundays, the more God speaks to us each day. Today. Are you listening?

– Father Mark Schoffner, January 24, 2021

I’m gonna try not to make this explicit. In terms of language at least.

In the Letter to the Corinthians this Sunday, Paul tells his listeners, US, to avoid ‘immorality’ three times. The Greek word that ‘immorality’ is translated from is ‘porneia.’ Porneia, this immorality that he’s calling us, isn’t some vague and bland immoral behavior or activity, rather the sexual kind. It’s pretty evident what modern scourge uses this same root word, pornography.

“It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense.” (CCC 2354) I bring this us because I worry about our children. I am around them nearly every day and grow increasingly worried about what they see on their phones, tablets, and home computers. According to a 2019 report, 70.7% of tweens and 84.0% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature online. (www.bark.us/annual-report)). THE AVERAGE AGE A CHILD VIEWS THIS MATERIAL IS 11 YEARS OLD. ELEVEN! We’re not talking about some swimsuit model on the beach, I’m talking about vulgar and explicit images and movies which are toying with their brains. This type of imagery alters the chemical and neuropathic structure of their brain. We have to do something to save and protect our children.

We have to be aware of the dangers that not just a unprotected device can lead to, but an uninformed parent or guardian can be if we enable this scourge to claim more children. There are resources available, CovenantEyes (www.covenanteyes.com/catholic-resources) has some you can sign up for and download free e-books. Y’all, we have to do something. We have to pray for strength and wisdom and it starts with knowledge there’s a problem, research of methods, and talking with our kids, modeling to them good behavior, and teaching them particularly the virtue of chastity.

We all are called to chastity by our baptism, it's not just for someone else. “Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man's belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.” (CCC 2337) It is a practice of self-mastery, maintaining the totality of the gift of each person, in freedom for our good and the good of the other.

– Father Mark Schoffner, January 17, 2021

June 7th, 1987 was the day I was baptized. When were you baptized? Do you know? Why should you?

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord and the end of the current Christmas Season and Epiphanytide. It’s more than just a bookend of the Christmas Season; it’s a day where we can call to mind the reality of Jesus’ baptism by John. We can call to mind as well the revelation of Jesus as God, the Holy Trinity, and just how John speaks of him when we hear him proclaim one mightier than I.

Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ and are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word." (CCC 1213).

The Good Lord submitted to John’s baptism to make it clear that he intended to commit to the cross and accomplish the Father’s Will on the cross. It was an act of self emptying to guide and show us how to truly participate in the way in which God desires us to know him and love him. It is how he joins us to himself in a way that is accessible to all times and seasons and in every culture. It allows us to call out A bba, Father and to pray THE Our Father as sons and daughters.

So, as sons and daughters, wouldn’t it make sense to know when we were born again of the Spirit? To know when we became adopted sons and daughters? It would make lots of sense to know the day we were baptized and not just celebrate the Baptism of the Lord today, but the Baptism of _____, who on that day became a Son or Daughter of God Almighty.

– Father Mark Schoffner, January 10, 2021

When someone is longing for something that they do not know, they will inevitably take up ways to find the thing for which they long. Modern people will save money, search the internet, or the ‘old souls’ out there even look in a book or a library. People will explore new lands and take a journey to seek out what is special. Like taking a trip to the Holy Land with Fr. Scott or myself.

Are we even looking for that which is important to us? That which is our fulfilment and hope? This weekend we celebrate a pivotal moment in our history and our faith when three men went searching and found that thing for which they so desperately searched. The Epiphany is not just the celebration of three Magi, or men from the East, who came to see the babe in the manger. The Epiphany is the zenith, the high point, the great feast of the Christmas season. Quite often, the Epiphany takes a backseat to the Nativity. The Nativity in its real sense and purpose serves the great feast we celebrate today, the Epiphany. It is here that the people, the nations, the gentiles, US, acknowledge Christ the babe as KING and worthy of theirs and our veneration.

Here with the arrival of the Magi, man, who has longed and searched for ages beyond ages, comes to see and bring offerings to his king. If the star of Christmas promised hope to the Magi, I hope it inspires hope even for us. And if that hope brought those men to the place in their lives where they would undertake a no doubt arduous journey to find that which they didn’t even know, I hope it spurs us on to take a journey for the Lord. This week, look to see the star, and not the planets aligning in the southwestern sky. Look for the Lord, and make a journey whether kneeling at home or coming to the nativity scene in the Basilica and kneeling there contemplating God. All in order that you will know Christ the King, Lord of all nations and peoples, Ruler of the House of David and Son of God.

– Father Mark Schoffner, January 3, 2021