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Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Church expert on gravity of US’s worst-ever drug addiction crisis

(Vatican Radio) Father John Stabeno, one of the U.S. Church’s leading experts on drug abuse, said America’s opioid drugs epidemic is getting "much more serious every day" and "is tearing families apart" across the nation. Director of Catholic Charities’ Addiction Healing Ministry in Camden, New Jersey, Father Stabeno has dedicated the last 30 years of his life to helping addicts and their family members. He was interviewed by Susy Hodges.

 

Listen to the interview with Father John Stabeno:  

 

The U.S. is struggling with the worst drug addiction crisis of its history and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50. 

"Killing more Americans than the Vietnam War"

Currently over 90 Americans are dying each day from an opioid overdose, four times as many as two decades ago. Father Stabeno said while the causes for this growing epidemic are complex, much of the surface blame can be pinned on pharmaceutical companies who have been marketing these powerful opioid painkillers as well as doctors who have been prescribing them “too easily” to patients. “It’s a money maker” for both of them, he said.  Doctors have become, in essence, “drug dealers.”

Asked about the Church’s role in providing help to the victims of this drug addiction epidemic, Father Stabeno explained that the Church “is now getting there” after becoming more aware of the seriousness of this crisis but still needs to ramp up further its outreach to the addicts and their families.

“It’s hitting everywhere”

Contrary to what many might think, this opioid addiction crisis is not just contained to small deprived segments of society but is affecting all social, economic and ethnic groups, Father Stebano said.   

He talked of how he has come across parents who have lost not just one son or daughter as a result of a fatal drug overdose but two or occasionally even three of their children.   

When it comes to the recovery program, Father Stabeno explained that one of the root causes fuelling the current drug addiction  epidemic among young people is a spiritual void and said the healing program they promote helps addicts to connect or reconnect with God. 

Courage/EnCourage annual conference to open in US

(Vatican Radio) The annual conference of the international apostolate, Courage, which ministers to Catholics who experience same-sex attraction and are interested in living Christian lives, is being held this week at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Il., in the United States.

Conference participants have the opportunity to attend talks on various topics, including pastoral ministry, psychology, and understanding family members and loved ones who experience same-sex attraction.

Included among the speakers will be Daniel Mattson, Courage member, and author of the book: Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace; Bishop Frank Caggiano, of Bridgeport, Ct., where Courage headquarters is located; Andrew and Annette Comiskey, co-founders of Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries; Matt Fradd, founder of The Porn Effect; and Fr. Paul Scalia, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Courage International.

The Executive Director of Courage International, Fr. Philip Bochanski, says, “This event is always a moment of grace for our members and chaplains, as we renew old friendships and make new ones. The spirit of fellowship and support is palpable, and the time we spend praying, learning and growing together will bear much fruit throughout the year.”

Courage chaplains and other clerics interested in the Courage ministry are invited to attend a special day of study, free of charge, on July 26th, the day before the opening of the general conference.

The study day will explore anthropological and psychological aspects of same-sex attraction and ministry to people who experience it, and will feature talks on the medical side of transgenderism. Talks are also scheduled on preaching and other aspects of spiritual care, with a view to helping pastors recognize and meet the particular spiritual needs of persons living with same-sex attraction.

Click below to listen to our conversation with Courage President, Fr. Philip Bochanski

US Bishops urge Senate not to repeal ACA without replacement plan

(Vatican Radio) American Bishops have urged Senate members to oppose any effort to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act without a concurrent replacement plan that protects poor and vulnerable people, including immigrants, safeguards the unborn, and supports conscience rights.

In a letter addressed to the Senate, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterates its belief that health care should be truly universal and genuinely affordable.

The letter, signed by Bishop Frank Dewane, Chairman of Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, follows a statement by President Donald Trump this week who tweeted that  the new Republican healthcare policy should be to allow the current law to collapse.

Support for the Republican Senate bill fell apart on Monday when two more senators said they could not back it.

Bishop Dewane strongly affirms “that a repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act ought not be undertaken without the concurrent passage of a replacement plan that ensures access to adequate health care for the millions of people who now rely upon it for their wellbeing”.

“To end coverage for those who struggle every day without an adequate alternative in place would be devastating” he said.

Dewane concludes saying that  reform is still needed to address the ACA's moral deficiencies and challenges with long-term sustainability, and while a law is needed that protects the conscience rights of all stakeholders in health care as well as religious freedom, it is imperative to “remove current and impending barriers to access and affordability, particularly for those most in need”.  

 

Indian Christians set Martyrdom Day on July 22 ‎

A group of Indian Christians have decided to observe Martyrdom Day on July 22 in memory of ‎Christians who are persecuted and killed for their faith.  It was the initiative of Shibu Thomas who ‎through his ecumenical movement, “Persecution Relief” said special prayers were offered in Churches ‎across the country. The observance is "part of a concerted effort to encourage those who continue to ‎struggle to cope with persecution and challenge to live a true Christian life," Thomas told ‎UCANEWS.‎
Thomas explained that July 22 was chosen as it marked the first anniversary of the rape and murder of a ‎Christian schoolgirl in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh after her family refused to abandon their Christian ‎faith despite several threats.  "This was an act of revenge and intimidation, to get her family to ‎renounce their faith, but they are still firm in their faith despite continuing threats," Thomas said. "The ‎day is a moral boost for such persons who suffer for the sake of Christ," he said.  ‎

Growing persecution

Christian leaders like him say attacks against Christians have increased since 2014 when the right-‎wing pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in a landslide victory. ‎Fundamentalist Hindu groups, who consider BJP as their political wing, took the election victory as a ‎mandate to step up their action to make India a Hindu-only nation.‎
Data collected by Persecution Relief shows that in 2016 alone, Hindu extremists destroyed 106 ‎Christian places of worship, most of them belonging to Protestant and neo-Pentecostal groups.  

Kandhamal, the worst persecution
In one of the worst persecutions against Christians in Indian history, nearly 100 ‎Christians were killed in the orchestrated riots that Hindu extremists unleashed in Kandhamal ‎district of eastern India’s Odisha state in August, 2008.  (Source: UCANEWS)‎

Asian inter-faith meeting studies women’s role against human trafficking ‎

An Asian level inter-faith conference held in the Philippines last week underscored the role of women in preventing the modern day scourge of human trafficking.  The Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ACRP) organized the International Conference of Women Empowerment Against Modern Day Slavery at the University of Santo Tomas in Sampaloc, Manila, from 20 to 22 July 2017 in the run-up to the United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons, July 30.  ACRP is the part of Religions for Peace, the largest international coalition of representatives from the world’s religions active in more than 90 countries. 

At the meeting, representatives of various religious communities, faith-based organizations, and human rights advocate groups, talked about the complexities and the dehumanizing adverse effects of modern day slavery.  For the first time, the role of women in multi-faith traditions was stressed as key to reviving family values and, as consequence, preventing the trafficking of vulnerable women and children. 

Poverty fuels modern-day slavery

According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index (GSI), there are nearly 45 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, nearly two-thirds of them in Asia. Because of their poverty and vulnerability, millions continue to be forced into bonded labour, commercial sex and child soldiering.   

“We are aware that the advancement of technology, the rise of globalization and the increasing economic divide between rich and poor countries have exacerbated the demand-supply of the modern-day slavery,” said the organizer of the event, Lilian Sison, secretary general of Religions for Peace Philippines.  “We are saddened by the fact that traditional protectors such as parents, mothers, grandparents and relatives have fallen prey to the lure of economic gain due to abject poverty thereby becoming conduits to the abuses done to their own children and family members.” Sadly, “the breakdown of traditional values has made the home, the first line of care for the children and women, as the very site of abominable abuses,” she noted.

Justice and law - ineffective

One of the issues that raised concerns among the conference delegates is Asia’s seemingly weak criminal justice system and ineffective law-enforcement, which have favoured large-scale modern-day slavery.  Participants decided to stand together in solidarity and observe the United Nations’ World Day against Trafficking in Persons. 

Slavery - offence against God

“We declare that modern day slavery is contrary to the teachings and values of all religious traditions,” said Dominican Sister Cecilian Espenilla, who works with Talitha Kum, an organization of Catholic women established by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) in 2009. “Modern day slavery is a crime against humanity, and a grave offense against God,” Sr. Espenilla stressed.   (Source: AsiaNews)

Indian diocese’s peace programme for Kashmir school students

The Catholic diocese in India’s troubled Jammu and Kashmir state has launched a programme to educate young people on the need for peace on the Indian side of the India-Pakistan border where hostilities between the two countries have killed hundreds of people. 

India-Pakistan rivalry since partition

Jammu-Srinagar Diocese covers the entire state, of which the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley has been claimed by both India and Pakistan since their partition by the British in 1947, and over which the two nuclear-armed rivals have fought at least three major wars.   The border between the two countries in Kashmir is one of the world’s heavily militarized, with frequent cross-fire shelling between them.   

The peace project of Jammu-Srinagar Diocese is "an effort to foster friendship and oneness by accepting that we belong to one human family," explained Father Saiju Chacko, director of Catholic Social Service Society, the social service wing of Jammu-Srinagar Diocese.  The project funded by Caritas India called "Maitri Abhiyan" (peace movement), focuses on school children. "So far, we have 12 schools from Jammu and in border areas…,” project coordinator, M. Tongpang Longchar told UCANEWS.  "We also provide a platform for children to explore diversity and encourage relations within and across the region," he said.

Kashmir seccionist movement

Besides cross-border tensions, India’s Kashmir Valley has been embroiled in a violent ‎secessionist movement. In the last 30 years, an estimated 100,000 people have died in Jammu and ‎Kashmir, including civilians, militants and army personnel, after groups began an armed struggle for ‎freedom from Indian rule or to merge with neighboring Pakistan.‎   Separatist violence and street protests have surged in Kashmir since July last year after security forces killed a popular separatist commander. Separatists accuse Indian forces of rights abuses.

Mutual love

Deepak Kumar, an eighth grader from Kristu Jyoti School in Samba, said programmes associated with the projects are fun to attend because besides lectures they also include exhibitions and essay competitions and painting.  "We only will achieve success when we love each other irrespective of religion, caste and creed. This is what I have learnt from these programmes," he said.

According to Father Premful Tigga, assistant director of the social service wing, 30-35 children from various schools are grouped under teachers to help them discuss and share their knowledge and experience of peace.  Currently they are focusing on high school students to form such "peace clubs," Father Tigga told UCANEWS. 

Longchar said a major challenge is to make school principals understand the need for such a project because they are already pressed for time to finish their routine syllabus.  "Disturbances along the Indo-Pak border often results in school shutdowns, which are slowing the project flow. But I hope we will be able to overcome some of these challenges," he added.  (Source: UCANEWS)

Green Pakistan Programme ‎

The Pakistani government on Sunday approved a monsoon campaign which aims to plant more than 100 million saplings across the nation.  Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid accorded the approval of what is called the Green Pakistan Programme at a meeting in which targets suggested by various government entities and non-governmental organizations were evaluated and discussed.  

Spokesman for the Ministry of Climate Change, Mohammad Saleem later told media that a ceremony would be held in August to launch a full-fledged monsoon plantation campaign sponsored by the federal minister for Climate Change.  He explained that the various entities have already made preparations for kicking off the monsoon plantation with enough stocks of saplings in nurseries in various parts of the country.

Trees mitigate impact of flood

Saleem explained that the government was committed to boosting the country’s forest cover in order to mitigate the impact of floods in the most effective way.  In this task all provincial and federal government organizations, educational institutes, corporate sector, the NGOs and media were being approached and engaged.

According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forests hold back flood water by nearly 72 hours.  Forests reduce intensity of the deluge water, lower chances of deaths and damages to roads, building infrastructures, bridges as well as standing crops from being washed away or wiped out, the spokesman for the Ministry for Climate Change explained.   He said the 4-month long monsoon season was the best time for the growth of the country’s forest cover as the wet season provided the much needed rain water for the  saplings to grow fast and take a strong grip on the soil. 

Sunday XVII - July 30, 2017

1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52

Anecdote: The Pink Diamond of Tanzania Dr. Williamson was a geologist doing some archeological excavation work in Tanzania. One day he found himself driving in a deserted area, slipping and sliding along a rain-soaked road. Suddenly his four-wheel drive vehicle sank up to its axles in the mud and got stuck. Pulling out his shovel, Dr. Williamson began the unpleasant task of digging the car out of a mud hole. He had been at it for a while when his shovel uncovered something strange. It was a pinkish stone of some sort. Being a geologist and naturally curious about rock formations, he picked it up and wiped away the mud. The more mud he removed, the more excited he became, and he could hardly believe what he saw. When the stone was finally clean, Dr. Williamson was beside himself with joy. He had discovered the diamond which became known as the famous Pink Diamond of Tanzania and is now set in the royal scepter of Great Britain. In today’s two parables, Jesus tells of two other men who unexpectedly discovered treasures

Introduction:   Today’s readings teach us that accepting Jesus as our God and Savior and sacrificing everything in life to do the will of God are equivalent to discovering and possessing the most valuable treasure or the pearl of great price. In other words, keeping a personal relationship with Christ and sharing his view of life are the most beautiful, the most precious things in the world. 

Scripture lessons: The first reading tells us how the young King Solomon opted for the great treasure of accepting God to rule his life and doing God’s will. That is why he requested God for “an understanding heart” to distinguish right from wrong, so that he might govern the people properly. Yahweh was pleased with his request and granted him a wise and discerning heart which enabled him to surpass everyone in wisdom. In the second reading, Paul teaches that the wisdom to perceive God's grace is essential for those who want to follow Him and to do His will, thus remaining in His kingdom. He assures Rome’s Christian community that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” In the Gospel, Jesus teaches that God’s Kingdom (the rule of God in us, accepting Jesus as our God and Savior and putting our Faith in him, doing His will), is something of extraordinary value, like a hidden treasure or costly pearl, and that its possession calls for total commitment. The Kingdom of God is God’s reign in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes, in our society, and in our world. Only those who develop a searching mind and are willing to give up everything for the great treasure of God’s Kingdom will be rewarded. Through the first and second parables of the treasure and pearl Jesus teaches us identifying God’s will  with His help and living  according to the Gospel are the most precious and worthwhile things in life.  Through Jesus and his Gospel we come to know and understand what the real meaning of life is and what are the most important things in          life which would secure our eternal salvation.

The first reading explained (1 Kings 3:5, 7-12): In the Old Testament, dreams were the accepted means of Divine communication, especially for rulers seeking God's guidance. In our first reading, God appears to young king Solomon with an undeserved, generous offer: "Ask something of Me and I will give it to you.” The ancient Semitic belief was that people think with their hearts and feel with their kidneys. The latter were considered the source of our emotions and the former, the source of our thoughts and insights. Thus, when Solomon says, “Give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people and to distinguish right from wrong,” he’s simply requesting a mind capable of seeing what others overlook. He asks for an understanding heart so that he will be able to deal well with people, act compassionately and discern right from wrong. He selflessly asks for "a heart with skill to listen" - sensitivity in understanding his subjects' needs, skillful decision-making – in order to build a just society. Wisdom gives us insight into what is truly important in life, an awareness of the meaning and purpose of living, of what really matters. Wisdom is an understanding of where our real well-being and happiness lie.  Wisdom is indeed the “pearl of great price," that Jesus speaks of. While Solomon discerns and follows the right way, he is a model and a challenge for us. His request here invites us to cultivate his prayer for a heart and mind attuned to God's word and docile to His desires. Prayer means asking for what God wants to give, what makes us better able to do his will of loving service to others. In this reading, Solomon recognizes two things: i) wisdom ultimately comes from God and  ii) with wisdom, all other blessings will flow. Using the language we find in today’s parables, we could say that Solomon asked for a “treasure” or a “pearl of great price.” And he got it. The reading teaches that when we fulfill our duties as God would want us to do, we are then in His presence and on the threshold of the Kingdom.

The second reading explained (Romans 8:28-30): In this lesson from the Epistle to the Romans, there are two important statements: i) "All things work for good for those who love God," and ii) "and those He predestined He also called; and those He called He also justified; and those He justified He also glorified." The second statement simply means that God is calling people through the stages of spiritual growth needed for enjoying eternity with Him: we are predestined, called, justified and glorified.  When Paul speaks about those whom God has predestined, he doesn’t mean that God chooses some to be saved and others to be lost. God’s plan is for all to be saved. This means it is God’s active will that all be saved, but God’s passive will permits individuals to accept or reject God’s salvation. In other words, God’s original intention (and still existing desire) is for all mankind to be with Him in heaven; but only those who fulfill what is asked of them will reach the throne of God. The first statement means that it is the “Kingdom of Heaven” when all things somehow work together for good for those who love God.  It’s the “Kingdom of God” when we know that there is absolutely nothing in this world or out of it that can separate us from the love of Christ.  If we are following in the footsteps of Christ then they will head us to the Kingdom of the Father. The Kingdom of God is a treasure worth selling all that we have in order to possess. This treasure is of such great value that anything else we may own pales by comparison. It would be easy to give up everything else in order to have the Kingdom of God, and, unlike the treasure hidden in the field, the love of Christ is a treasure everyone is invited to possess.

Exegetical notes on the gospel: What is the “Kingdom of Heaven” like? Jesus continues his teaching on the “Kingdom of Heaven” using little stories based on the experiences of rural Galileans. Like Jesus’ mini-stories of the mustard seed and the leaven, those of the treasure and the pearl form a pair of His “Kingdom parables.” Jesus tells us that true wisdom involves recognizing a pearl of great price and being willing to sacrifice all to purchase it. The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is “a society on earth where God's will is as perfectly done as it is in Heaven.” By “Kingdom of Heaven” Jesus is referring to a triple reality: a) a group of people sharing the Divine life of sanctifying grace and friendship with God by doing His will, b) participation in God’s life through the Eucharistic celebration in the Church and c) eternal bliss in Heaven. This triple reality is worth more than anything else in our lives. In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares the “Kingdom of Heaven” to a treasure hidden in a field, to a pearl of great value and to a net thrown in the sea collecting all types of fish. The "Kingdom of Heaven," synonymous in these parables with the "Kingdom of God,” is hidden, but it is of surpassing value. The parable of the pearl (45-46) makes the point that the sacrifice of everything must be made for this one thing of immense value. Those who have not sacrificed everything for it will not have this treasure and will come to know how much they have lost.

The parable of the treasure hunter: Frequent battles and foreign invasions encouraged the people of Palestine to bury their treasures like money and jewelry in their fields. For example, the great religious treasure – the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” discovered in the caves at Qumran in 1947 – was hidden there over 2,000 years ago. Sometimes unclaimed and forgotten, the hidden treasures awaited some lucky finder. Jesus tells the story of one such lucky treasure-finder who sold everything he had in order to get ownership of the field. According to the Palestinian laws of that time, the mere finding of buried treasure did not entitle the finder to possession unless he also owned the property in which it was found. In the parable of the treasure in the field and in the parable of the merchant who sought fine pearls, we see the image of one who recognizes the value of the kingdom of God and gives everything to possess it. Matthew, a tax-collector, might have experienced something like this when he discovered the eternal value of the kingdom preached by Jesus of Nazareth.  When he discovered Jesus and his vision of life everything else became secondary. Having a personal relationship with Christ and to have made his view of life one's own,  is the most beautiful, the most precious thing in the world. But most of the time, we are chasing false treasures like money, social status and pleasure. Jesus our true treasure may come tor lives unexpectedly through some daily experience as he did with Mathew.  

The parable of the pearl hunter:  A well-to-do merchant on the lookout for quality pearls finds a very precious pearl ("pearl of great price"), and he immediately "sells everything" to buy it. In our day, pearls have lost much of their value. Firms have learned to culture them in vast pearl beds and even to make them artificially. However, in Biblical times, the pearl was probably the costliest and most sought-after gem. Jesus wants us to know that the Kingdom of God is worth all we have.  He has come to offer us God's Kingdom, a unique pearl of the greatest price. The genuine disciples are those who respond to this opportunity with joy and selfless commitment, eagerly giving top priority to life in the Kingdom by doing God’s will, whatever it may be. This parable teaches us that, although we are baptized Christians, we still need to pursue the true and full meaning of the Gospel which can escape us for many years.  We always need to understand more, to love more, and to serve more. The first and second parables also remind us that the most precious things in life are to know God and to live according to the Gospel.

The parable of the fishing net: In Palestine there were two main ways of fishing. The first was with the casting-net, which required a keen eye and great skill in throwing the net at the correct moment. The second was with a drag-net or seine, as it is sometimes called. Galilean seine-nets were tied to two boats and drawn through the water. The catch was sorted only afterwards, with edible or kosher fish going to market and the unacceptable fish being thrown away. Just as a drag net collects good and bad fish indiscriminately, so the Church is a mixture of all kinds of people, good and bad, useless and useful, saints and sinners.  Like the wheat and weeds parable, this parable is a warning against premature judgment, but also a warning which tells us judgment will take place. This parable encourages the Church to adopt an open approach to evangelism, by accepting "the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame" (Luke 14:21) and by leading them to the treasure and the pearl of great price. It instructs us to be tolerant, compassionate and understanding of those who seem to fall far below the requirements of the Gospel and the Kingdom. The parable also teaches that a time of separation will come when the good and the bad will be sent to their respective destinies. This parable pictures that separation as happening in the final judgment. This parable is thus a counterpart to the parable of the weeds and the wheat.

The teaching: The three parables illustrate the opportunity as well as the challenge of discipleship.  The first and the second parables speak of the total commitment and dedication which are the ideal of every follower of Christ.  What the parables really teach us is that, when one discovers Jesus and his vision of life, everything else becomes secondary.  That is what St. Paul meant when he said: "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8), and again "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 2:21). To have a personal experience of Christ and personal relationship with Him – in other words, to have made his view of life one's own – is the most precious thing in the world.  

The concluding parable or simile. Jesus concludes his parables by advising the listeners to imitate wise scribes (Jewish scholars -- the experts in the Law and/or Scriptures). Hence, a scholar need not give up his scholarship when he becomes a Christian; rather he should use it for Christ. A businessman need not give up his business; rather he should run it as a Christian would. Christians are also expected to be like scholars who know how to value both the old and the new. In this paragraph, Jesus refers to those, who like Matthew himself, now serve as the scribe trained for the Kingdom of Heaven, who brings from his storeroom both the old and the new: stories and sayings that date back to the historical Jesus, combined with his own arrangement of this material to apply the Gospel to new believers. This third and concluding parable teaches that Jesus' teaching about the kingdom of heaven does not replace the Jewish tradition; it interprets it in a different light. Jesus is not replacing what we call the Old Testament with the New Testament. He is combining the best of the Hebrew Scriptures with the New Way, the Kingdom of God. The wise one, the scribe of the Kingdom, therefore, knows how to use what is old and what is new.

Life messages: 1) We should live every moment in view of our precious goal. Most of the time, we are chasing false treasures such as money, status or pleasure.  Often we are locked into regrets over the past, or focused too much on the future.  As a result, the enriching present passes us by, and the treasure is never discovered.  Thus, the really valuable pearl of sharing in God’s life through Jesus here on earth and later in Heaven is never found. Let us always remember that Heaven is within the reach of all of us who try to do the will of God, following the ordinary vocations of life and enjoying this world's joys and pleasures within the framework of God's Commandments. Right now, it is for us to use the time given to us to go in search of the pearl of great price and to help others in their search. We are challenged to search and discern where the Lord is calling us so that we may know what path to take.  Let us remember that whenever we fight against discrimination, whenever we trust completely in God, whenever our selflessness conquers selfishness, whenever our love overcomes sin and our Faith overcomes suffering, whenever we render humble service to others, we are doing the will of God as it is done in Heaven, and, hence, we are already living in the Kingdom of Heaven while we are still on earth. The pearl of great price in this life is also found in our human relationships: the pearl of a happy family, good friends and people who love and accept you, even if none of them is perfect because we can lose through departure, falling out and  through death.

2) We need to take all precautions to keep our greatest treasure safe: We will be able to keep our treasure of personal relationship to Jesus by accepting him every day as our God and Savior, by allowing him to have total control over our lives by doing his will, by asking for the daily strengthening and guidance of his Holy Spirit, by talking to him daily in prayer, by listening to him by meditative reading of the Bible, by getting reconciled to him and others every day asking pardon and forgiveness for our sins, by offering our lives on the altar during the Holy Mass  and by nourishing our souls receiving Jesus in  Holy Communion.

3) A lesson in tolerance and compassionate understanding. The lesson of this parable is similar to that of the weeds growing up with the wheat, namely, that the kingdom is a mixed body of saints and sinners (good and rotten fish).  There will be always a temptation for those who feel they are more "faithful" to separate themselves from the “weeds”/”bad fish.”  But Jesus reminds us that the final judgment resulting in reward or punishment is God’s work.  Thus, we must   learn to be patient, compassionate and understanding with those who seem to fall far below the requirements of the Gospel and the Kingdom.  Let us humbly admit the fact that there are only a very few of us who are not a mixture of good and evil.  Let us admit as St. Paul did, “I am what I am with the grace of God.” (Prepared by Fr. Anthony Kadavil)

Italy drought: Vatican turns off fountains to save water

(Vatican Radio) The drought that is affecting the city of Rome and the surrounding areas of the capital has led the Holy See to take measures to save water.

The Governorate of Vatican City State has decided to turn off all the fountains, both the external ones located in St. Peter's Square, and the interior fountains including those in the Vatican Gardens.

The move is in line with the teachings of Pope Francis in his Encyclical on creation Laudate Si.

Bishops call for prayers as Charlie Gard's parents end legal battle

(Vatican Radio) The parents of terminally-ill British baby Charlie Gard have ended their legal battle to take him from London to the U.S. for experimental treatment. The decision was announced on Monday after scans confirmed the 11 month old child had suffered from irreversible brain damage.

Following the decision, a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales expressed deepest sympathy and prayers for the family.

In a statement, the bishops said “at this moment it is important to remember that all involved in these agonising decisions have sought to act with integrity and for Charlie’s good as they see it”.

Pope's heart touched by tragedy

Calling for Charlie’s parents to be given support and space “to find peace in the days ahead”, the bishops said: “Their farewell to their tiny and precious baby touches the hearts of all who, like Pope Francis, have followed this sad and complex story. Charlie’s life will be lovingly cherished until its natural end”.

Praise for Great Ormond Street Hospital

The bishops added that “the professionalism, love and care for severely ill children consistently shown at the Great Ormond Street Hospital is also to be recognised and applauded”.

The Gard family’s lawyer said that Charlie’s  father and mother would hold talks with doctors at the hospital about how to end the baby’s life- support treatment. Charlie was born with a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.