Branching-Out

Charles Paolino

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The Everyday Gospel: Keeping Clean

Posted by Charles Paolino on Aug 25, 2021 6:00:00 PM

In the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson plays Marvin Udall, author of more than sixty romance novels. Udall lives alone in an upscale New York City apartment where he writes love stories.

He also washes his hands again and again during the day, each time peeling the shrink wrap off of one bar of antiseptic soap after another, passing each one across his hand only once and then throwing it out, because it has been contaminated. And he rinses his hands in water that is as hot as he can stand.

When he ventures outside of his apartment onto the busy Manhattan streets, he uses all kinds of maneuvers to make sure that he doesn’t come in contact with the other pedestrians.

So, from that point of view, Marvin Udall is clean, but there are other aspects to his personality. He is not interested in anything or anyone that does not serve his needs. He is rude. He is insulting. He is openly abusive of people he doesn’t approve of, such as homosexuals and Jews.

If Jesus had known about Marvin Udall—clean on the outside, on the inside not so much—he might have used him as the subject of a parable to answer the critics we read about in the synoptic gospels­—asking why Jesus’ disciples or, according to Luke, Jesus himself did not follow the Jewish practice of washing their hands before eating.

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Topics: RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino, interior life, say yes to God's will

The Everyday Gospel: Rushing to Jesus

Posted by Charles Paolino on Aug 18, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When we visited Krakow in Poland many years ago, our guide pointed out a monument to Thaddeus Kosciuszko.

I mentioned to the guide that there is a street named after Kosciuszko near my home in Whitehouse Station. She was surprised, but I don’t know why.

Kosciuszko came to the American colonies to take part in the revolution against Great Britain; he was one of the best engineers in the Continental Army.

He went back to Europe and led military resistance against attempts by Russia and Prussia to overrun their neighbors.

It would take hours to describe what Kosciuszko achieved and what he endured over 40 years of campaigning for human freedom.

Because of his passion for democracy and religious tolerance, he is the only person in human history to be a national hero in four different countries.

There are cities named after him in Mississippi and Texas; a county in Indiana; an island in Alaska; two bridges in New York and one in Connecticut; a park in East Chicago; a museum in Philadelphia; a mountain and a national park in Australia; numerous monuments and statues and uncounted streets, and a portrait in the lobby of the Polish-American Citizens Club about a mile from my house.

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Topics: RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino, renewing our faith

The Everyday Gospel: '... to the point of folly.'

Posted by Charles Paolino on Jul 14, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Rabbi Leon Klenicki wrapped up an interfaith-dialogue meeting I attended by saying, “We all believe that the Messiah is coming. Whether it’s the first coming or the second coming we can sort out after he arrives.”

The remark got a good-natured chuckle from the Jewish and Christian people in the room.

Of course, Rabbi Klenicki, a leader in interfaith dialogue, knew that differences between the two religions were more complex than his comment expressed, but still, his message was important.

His point was that in order for Jews and Christians—or any two or more communities—to coexist in peace there must first be good will. Another way to say that is that in order for any two or more communities to coexist in peace there must first be love.

Amid the information flying past me on the internet recently, I noticed a post by the magazine Commonweal with this statement attributed to Dorothy Day: “We must love to the point of folly.” That is not a soft-soap message from a Hallmark card. That is the unvarnished reality that governs our successes or failures as civilized people, and, for us, as disciples of Jesus.

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Topics: RENEW International, The Everyday Gospel: Deacon Charles Paolino

'Hear the Word!' by Deacon Charles Paolino: Solemnity of the Ascension

Posted by Charles Paolino on May 15, 2021 6:15:00 AM

Note: In some dioceses, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord is moved from Thursday to replace the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 

(Chapter 1:1-11)

This reading describes the episode in which the risen Jesus, who had appeared alive to his apostles on several occasions, finally disappearing. The author reports that “he was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight.’’ The apostles, as one might expect, were dumbfounded, having never witnessed or even imagined such a thing. Then, the account goes on, two men in white confronted the apostles and asked, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” The men went on to say that Jesus would return, which is part of our faith. That abrupt question—“Why are you standing there looking at the sky?”—didn’t imply that they should go back to their former trades and wait for Jesus to reappear. On the contrary, it implied that they should get busy spreading the word that Jesus had conquered sin and death, was alive, and was inviting all people to encounter him and carry on his work of healing, generosity, and justice. It’s the same invitation he extends to us.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 47)

This is an exuberant psalm that urges those who believe in God, “clap your hands, shout to God with cries of gladness.” God has given us existence itself, life, the earth and everything in it, and he has given us spirits that will live forever. Do we believe this? No wonder we should clap and shout!

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Jesus Christ, RENEW International, solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, spread the Gospel, The Ascension

Moonstruck

Posted by Charles Paolino on Feb 17, 2021 6:00:00 AM

So, like a lot of other people, we have to watch Moonstruck every six months or so.

Someone asked me, how can you watch the same movie over and over again? I said, because every time I watch it, I notice things that I didn’t see before. This time, for instance, I noticed that, in that movie, there are several messages for Ash Wednesday and Lent.

One of those messages is in a remark that Rose Castorini makes to her husband:

“Cosmo … I just want you to know that, no matter what you do, you’re going to die, just like everybody else.”

To which he replies, “Thank you, Rose.”

And, of course, that’s what the ashes remind us of today. The liturgy provides two formulas for the minister to use when applying the ashes. The one used most often these days is, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” but the old classic that is still used in some places confirms Rose Castorini’s statement: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” — you’re going to die, just like everybody else.

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Topics: Ash Wednesday, Lent, God's love, prayer life, RENEW International, repentance, spirituality

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