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The traditional Catholic view is that human beings are the only creature God willed for its own sake as they were created in God's image and likeness. This puts animals and plants on a lower plane of being, a view reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church's statement, "Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present and future humanity" (n. 2415).
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Every year at the first hint of the waning of summer, the Church celebrates the feast of Mary's assumption into heaven. I have heard cynics refer to it as "the blessed assumption" – a tenuous belief that Mary was taken bodily into heaven when there is no direct scriptural support for such a belief. The Assumption, however, is one of the Church's oldest feasts, the celebration of which is attested to as far back as the fourth century.
In human history, the world has never seen anything like it. In June, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported "a staggering crisis." The number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 as a result of war, conflict and persecution had risen to 59.5 million, compared with 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.
The renowned spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, made no secret about the fact that he was emotionally over-sensitive and that he suffered, sometimes to the point of clinical depression, from emotional obsessions. At times, he, a vowed celibate, was so overpowered by the feeling of being in love with someone who was hopelessly unavailable that he became psychologically paralyzed and needed professional help.
His sky-blue eyes twinkled. Chuckles rumbled up from his generous tummy. "Oh come now, Lasha," said the kind-hearted rabbi. "Surely you would forgive a man for one little mistake?" I was taking a Mishna class – the study of Jewish law – and the topic of unfaithfulness in marriage came up. All in the class said yes they would forgive their partner if they strayed.
A friend and I were talking about Baptism for infants. Many Protestant churches do not baptize infants. We discussed the Catholic concept of limbo and having infant Baptism to avoid having a baby or child go to limbo. She wanted to know if there are any biblical references to limbo. Are there any?
This Sunday's readings are all about bread. In our day, bread is maligned as a dangerous source of deadly carbs. But for at least 10,000 years, bread, as opposed to meat, was the food of civilized humans. Bread was the staple food of humanity and thus became a powerful symbol of goodness, plenty and also of home.
In this week's Gospel Jesus says, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." The simple truth is that all of us need this heavenly bread. We are hungry. We are broken. We are needy. Just think of all the ways we try to deny and hide this great hunger in our souls. Alcohol and drugs. Saturating our life in media. Distractions and entertainment of all kinds.