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Table of contents

Even certain sectors of the medical profession, which by its calling is directed to the defence and care of human life, are increasingly willing to carry out these acts against the person. In this way the very nature of the medical profession is distorted and contradicted, and the dignity of those who practise it is degraded. In such a cultural and legislative situation, the serious demographic, social and family problems which weigh upon many of the world's peoples and which require responsible and effective attention from national and international bodies, are left open to false and deceptive solutions, opposed to the truth and the good of persons and nations.

The end result of this is tragic: not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.

The Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals held in Rome on April was devoted to the problem of the threats to human life in our day. After a thorough and detailed discussion of the problem and of the challenges it poses to the entire human family and in particular to the Christian community, the Cardinals unanimously asked me to reaffirm with the authority of the Successor of Peter the value of human life and its inviolability, in the light of present circumstances and attacks threatening it today.

In response to this request, at Pentecost in I wrote a personal letter to each of my Brother Bishops asking them, in the spirit of episcopal collegiality, to offer me their cooperation in drawing up a specific document.

In so doing they bore witness to their unanimous desire to share in the doctrinal and pastoral mission of the Church with regard to the Gospel of life. In that same letter, written shortly after the celebration of the centenary of the Encyclical Rerum Novarum, I drew everyone's attention to this striking analogy: "Just as a century ago it was the working classes which were oppressed in their fundamental rights, and the Church very courageously came to their defence by proclaiming the sacrosanct rights of the worker as a person, so now, when another category of persons is being oppressed in the fundamental right to life, the Church feels in duty bound to speak out with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice.

Hers is always the evangelical cry in defence of the world's poor, those who are threatened and despised and whose human rights are violated". Today there exists a great multitude of weak and defenceless human beings, unborn children in particular, whose fundamental right to life is being trampled upon. If, at the end of the last century, the Church could not be silent about the injustices of those times, still less can she be silent today, when the social injustices of the past, unfortunately not yet overcome, are being compounded in many regions of the world by still more grievous forms of injustice and oppression, even if these are being presented as elements of progress in view of a new world order.

The present Encyclical, the fruit of the cooperation of the Episcopate of every country of the world, is therefore meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability, and at the same time a pressing appeal addressed to each and every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness! May these words reach all the sons and daughters of the Church!

May they reach all people of good will who are concerned for the good of every man and woman and for the destiny of the whole of society! In profound communion with all my brothers and sisters in the faith, and inspired by genuine friendship towards all, I wish to meditate upon once more and proclaim the Gospel of life, the splendour of truth which enlightens consciences, the clear light which corrects the darkened gaze, and the unfailing source of faithfulness and steadfastness in facing the ever new challenges which we meet along our path.

As I recall the powerful experience of the Year of the Family, as if to complete the Letter which I wrote "to every particular family in every part of the world", 8 I look with renewed confidence to every household and I pray that at every level a general commitment to support the family will reappear and be strengthened, so that today too-even amid so many difficulties and serious threats-the family will always remain, in accordance with God's plan, the "sanctuary of life".

To all the members of the Church, the people of life and for life, I make this most urgent appeal, that together we may offer this world of ours new signs of hope, and work to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed, for the building of an authentic civilization of truth and love. For he has created all things that they might exist God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it" Wis ; The Gospel of life, proclaimed in the beginning when man was created in the image of God for a destiny of full and perfect life cf.

Gen ; Wis , is contradicted by the painful experience of death which enters the world and casts its shadow of meaninglessness over man's entire existence. Death came into the world as a result of the devil's envy cf.

Cultural Anthropology/Ritual and Religion

Gen , and the sin of our first parents cf. Gen , And death entered it in a violent way, through the killing of Abel by his brother Cain: "And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him" Gen This first murder is presented with singular eloquence in a page of the Book of Genesis which has universal significance: it is a page rewritten daily, with inexorable and degrading frequency, in the book of human history. Let us re-read together this biblical account which, despite its archaic structure and its extreme simplicity, has much to teach us.

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had not regard.

So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain,? Why are you angry and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?

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And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it'. Let us go out to the field'. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain,? Where is Abel your brother? I do not know; am I my brother's keeper? What have you done?

The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.

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And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth'. Cain said to the Lord,? My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me this day away from the ground; and from your face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me'.

Then the Lord said to him,? Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold'. And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden" Gen Cain was "very angry" and his countenance "fell" because "the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering" Gen The biblical text does not reveal the reason why God prefers Abel's sacrifice to Cain's.

It clearly shows however that God, although preferring Abel's gift, does not interrupt his dialogue with Cain. He admonishes him, reminding him of his freedom in the face of evil: man is in no way predestined to evil. Certainly, like Adam, he is tempted by the malevolent force of sin which, like a wild beast, lies in wait at the door of his heart, ready to leap on its prey.

But Cain remains free in the face of sin. He can and must overcome it: "Its desire is for you, but you must master it" Gen Envy and anger have the upper hand over the Lord's warning, and so Cain attacks his own brother and kills him. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "In the account of Abel's murder by his brother Cain, Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history.

Man has become the enemy of his fellow man". Brother kills brother.

Using the Bible for Writing Ideas

Like the first fratricide, every murder is a violation of the "spiritual" kinship uniting mankind in one great family, 11 in which all share the same fundamental good: equal personal dignity. Not infrequently the kinship "of flesh and blood" is also violated; for example when threats to life arise within the relationship between parents and children, such as happens in abortion or when, in the wider context of family or kinship, euthanasia is encouraged or practised. At the root of every act of violence against one's neighbour there is a concession to the "thinking" of the evil one, the one who "was a murderer from the beginning" Jn As the Apostle John reminds us: "For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother" 1 Jn Cain's killing of his brother at the very dawn of history is thus a sad witness of how evil spreads with amazing speed: man's revolt against God in the earthly paradise is followed by the deadly combat of man against man.

After the crime, God intervenes to avenge the one killed. Before God, who asks him about the fate of Abel, Cain, instead of showing remorse and apologizing, arrogantly eludes the question: "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper? This was and still is the case, when all kinds of ideologies try to justify and disguise the most atrocious crimes against human beings.

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We cannot but think of today's tendency for people to refuse to accept responsibility for their brothers and sisters. Symptoms of this trend include the lack of solidarity towards society's weakest members-such as the elderly, the infirm, immigrants, children- and the indifference frequently found in relations between the world's peoples even when basic values such as survival, freedom and peace are involved.

But God cannot leave the crime unpunished: from the ground on which it has been spilt, the blood of the one murdered demands that God should render justice cf. Gen ; Is ; Ez From this text the Church has taken the name of the "sins which cry to God for justice", and, first among them, she has included wilful murder.

Indeed "the blood is the life" Dt , and life, especially human life, belongs only to God: for this reason whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself. Cain is cursed by God and also by the earth, which will deny him its fruit cf. Gen He is punished: he will live in the wilderness and the desert. Murderous violence profoundly changes man's environment. From being the "garden of Eden" Gen , a place of plenty, of harmonious interpersonal relationships and of friendship with God, the earth becomes "the land of Nod" Gen , a place of scarcity, loneliness and separation from God.

Cain will be "a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth" Gen : uncertainty and restlessness will follow him forever. And yet God, who is always merciful even when he punishes, "put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him" Gen He thus gave him a distinctive sign, not to condemn him to the hatred of others, but to protect and defend him from those wishing to kill him, even out of a desire to avenge Abel's death.