Thursday, October 27, 2016

“The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil.”

“Let us always remember… that the Adversary wants to keep us separated from God and therefore instills disappointment in our hearts when we do not see our apostolic commitment immediately rewarded. Every day the devil sows the seeds of pessimism and bitterness in our hearts. … Let us open ourselves to the breath of the Holy Spirit, who never ceases to sow seeds of hope and confidence.”  - Pope Francis (Speech, 6/18/2013 – Text)

Scripture Text: (EPH 6:10-20)
Brothers and sisters:
Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm
against the tactics of the Devil.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood
but with the principalities, with the powers,
with the world rulers of this present darkness,
with the evil spirits in the heavens.
Therefore, put on the armor of God,
that you may be able to resist on the evil day
and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
So stand fast with your loins girded in truth,
clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,
and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace.
In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield,
to quench all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.

With all prayer and supplication,
pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.
To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication
for all the holy ones and also for me,
that speech may be given me to open my mouth,
to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel
for which I am an ambassador in chains,
so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.

Here's how to put on this armor St Paul notes today in the passage above:

1) Pray unceasingly! - We need to adapt a daily and disciplined prayer life

2) Receive the Sacraments frequently! – Go to Mass every Sunday as well as go to Confession once a month.

St. Paul teaches us how seriously we need to prepare ourselves here on earth if we want to reach Heaven. The imagery he uses to describe our earthly battle against evil forces is military in nature. It’s a fitting conclusion to the Letter of St. Paul in which he describes at such length our need to love our neighbors within the Body of Christ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

“The greatest barrier to knowing God’s will is simply that we want to run our own lives. Our problem is that a battle is going on in our hearts”

'More determination is required to subdue the interior man than to mortify the body; and to break one's will than to break one's bones.--St. Ignatius of Loyola: (1491 – 1556: was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) )

Gospel Text: (LK 13:22-30)
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.’
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

It takes effort -- spiritual strength -- to submit to God's will, especially when our will contradicts his. Selfish desires pull us toward sin, and spiritual strength is needed to resist that pull. While the world floats lazily downstream in the currents of self-serving whims and immoral trends, we have to swim against the tide if we want to remain with Jesus and follow him to heaven.

Only those who rely on the Lord for strength can swim upstream successfully. This requires daily determination. If we stop and rest, if we take any sort of break from spiritual growth and repentance from sin, we get caught in the downstream currents.

Notice that Jesus did not say that few are strong and most are too weak to enter through the narrow gate. He never answered the question, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" Instead, he pointed the listeners toward the narrow gate. The reason the gate is narrow is not because it's used only rarely. Rather, it's narrow because there are many ways to reach hell but only one path into heaven. Jesus said, "I am the way...."

We don't need to be perfect to get into heaven; we only need to desire forgiveness for our sins and to seek God's help in being holy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

“To be faithful in little things is a great thing.”

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”  - St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 –1897) was a Roman Catholic French Discalced Carmelite nun widely venerated in modern times. She is popularly known as "The Little Flower

Gospel Text: (LK 13:18-21)
Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like?
To what can I compare it?
It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden.
When it was fully grown, it became a large bush
and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.”

Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God?
It is like yeast that a woman took
and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”

Thoughts are little things, but they have power.  Thoughts lead to action.  Thoughts place before our eyes a goal.  Thoughts focus our attention.  Thoughts mobilize our energy.  And then our bodies and emotions go to work.

Norman V. Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you can change the world.”  To pray “Thy kingdom come” is to ask the Lord to direct our thoughts to justice, peace and love.  Then our actions will follow so that on earth “His will is done.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

The "divine and natural" law shows man the way to follow so as to practice the good and attain his end.

When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society. 
-- Pope John Paul II: (120 –2005: was Pope from 1978 to 2005)

Gospel Text: (LK 13:10-17)
Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.”
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?”
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

There is a great confusion in the phrase "letter of the law." Many Christians believe this to mean that we are not under God's Law anymore, and that we are free to disregard God's Law (such as the Ten Commandments), as long as we keep the spirit of the law. However, it is a scriptural truth that if one is truly keeping the spirit of the law, then one will not break the letter of the law.

If we can justify breaking the letter of the ten commandments, and determine that what God defined as evil is not really evil, then we would be determining for ourselves what is good and what is evil. We can justify breaking any law of God if we convince ourselves we are keeping the spirit of the law, which is impossible to do.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

It is often easier to fight for your principles than to live up to them.

I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end... I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me. ~Abraham Lincoln: (1809 – 1865: was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865)

Gospel Text: (LK 18:9-14)
Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity --
greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

As we move to Election Day in the U.S., I think Jesus’ words may give us pause and a caution not to fall into the “heresy” of the Pharisee in the parable. Once again, I am reminded of Martin Luther Kings’ take on agape, which he gave in a speech on November 16, 1961:

Agape is understanding, creative redemptive good will to all men. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that it is the love of God operating in the human heart. So that one rises to love on this level, he loves men not because he likes them, not because their ways appeal to him, but he loves every man because God loves them. And he rises to the point of loving the person who does an evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said “love your enemies.” I’m very happy that he didn’t say like your enemies, because it is pretty difficult to like some people. … But Jesus says love them, and love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive creative, good will for all.

To follow Jesus is to live in the whole truth: Not only does God love us, God loves all. May God’s love strengthen us, as it did St. Paul, which we hear in our second reading from 2 Timothy (4:6-8, 16-18) today at Mass, and like St. Paul, may the proclamation of the truth of God’s love for the world in Jesus Christ be “completed” through us!